‘Star Trek: Discovery’ embraces diversity

Anthony Rapp says he’s proud to add to the diversity of the “Star Trek” TV franchise. The “Discovery” actor plays Lt. Stamets, the first openly gay character in a “Star Trek” TV show. Listening to Rapp is “Discovery” actress Mary Wiseman. (Photo by Dave Mason)

Second and last of a series.

By Fleet Capt. Dave Mason
SAN DIEGO — “Star Trek: Discovery” is going where no TV series in the franchise has gone before.
“My character is the first openly gay character in the history of the TV show,” actor Anthony Rapp told several thousand fans during a Comic-Con International panel. “I’m very proud of that.”
Rapp, who acted in the Broadway musical “Rent,” plays Lt. Stamets, a science officer, in the series set in the mid-2250s during the Klingon-Federation cold war and before Capt. Kirk and company. The first episode will air Sept. 24 on CBS-TV, and subsequent stories will stream on CBS All Access.
Rapp said his character’s love interest will be played by Wilson Cruz (“My So-Called Life” and “13 Reasons Why.”) “We’re both officers on the ship.”
The series is embracing diversity in other ways, including the casting of the first black woman as the lead character of a “Star Trek” TV series. Sonequa Martin-Green (AMC’s “The Walking Dead”) stars as Lt. Cmdr. Michael Burnham, a human raised by Spock’s parents on Vulcan.
Producers told Comic-Con fans that diversity has been a hallmark of “Star Trek” since its beginning and encouraged fans to embrace that fact. (I was among the fans in the audience at the San Diego Convention Center.)
“We accept each others’ differences and find common ground for love,” Executive Producer Alex Kurtzman said.
Executive Producer Aaron Harbarts said the series will add dimensions to a classic alien race: the Klingons.
“They’re not just the villains of the universe,” said Harbarts, one of the writers.
As the Federation faces tense moments with the Klingons, the series will strive to demonstrate conflict is best solved by peace.

The producers discussed how the series differs from previous versions  of “Star Trek.”
“There were 700 (episodes) of ‘Star Trek’ already, and how do we make our ‘Star Trek’ different. Why would people watch this version vs. all the other versions?” Executive Producer Heather Kadin said. She explained that’s why the producers decided to go with a continuing storyline instead of simply stand-alone episodes. The arc emphasizes the characters’ emotional journeys.
Kurtzman noted the producers faced the challenge of setting “Discovery” before the original “Star Trek,” filmed in the 1960s, in the timeline.
“We were all fans of the original series, so obviously we wanted to be accurate in canon,” Kurtzman said. “At the same time, we have to recognize we are now in an age that if we gave you a four-wall set, you would not be very happy, particularly because you have to pay for the show.” (CBS All Access charges a fee.)
So the series is done with effects and sets more modern than those available in the 1960s.
“It’s a bit larger than the original series in terms of scope and scale,” he said, but added, “We are very consistent with our origins.”

Dave Mason

Commanding Officer, USS Angeles NCC-71840