The women of Star Trek: Discovery on Starfleet, sisterhood, and being Klingon

Contributed by

Ever since the last episode of Star Trek: Enterprise disappeared into deep space, Trekkies across the universe have been wondering whether the intergalactic series would ever come back to Earth — and it finally will when Star Trek: Discovery debuts on CBS Sunday night Sept. 24, before the show jumps to the CBS All Access streaming service.

What puts this iteration of Star Trek in another galaxy is its crew of fearless female characters, whose relationships are unlike those we have seen in past versions of the show that boldly goes into the future, as we found out while speaking to the cast and creators at the show's red carpet premiere.

“They have a sort of sisterly relationship,” says executive producer Heather Kadin of the human and alien women who navigate the trials of life in space. “I think you haven’t seen that before on Trek ... there were always women, but ... you weren’t really able to delve into those relationships the way we are.”

The Walking Dead’s Sonequa Martin-Green is First Officer Michael Burnham, aka Number One, a wink to Majel Barrett’s character who went by the same title in the original pilot for Star Trek: TOS. This may surprise some fans who were hoping for another female captain to succeed (technically precede, since this is supposed to be a prequel) Kathryn Janeway. There is an upside to this. Martin-Green’s character has the unique perspective of a high-ranking official who forges relationships with both her superiors and subordinates. The transition from a zombie plague to a starship has also been something of a journey for the actress.

“As Sasha. I was very sort of hunched over sort of always in protective mode,” Martin-Green says, “but as Michael, I’m straight up all the time, you know, [because there is] always a constant pressure to present a certain image.”

So are they forgetting Janeway? Uhura? Beverly Crusher? Guinan? Jax? K'Ehleyr? Deanna Troi? Seven of Nine? Tasha Yar before she was devoured by that extraterrestrial ooze? Hardly. Star Trek: Discovery is only building on the legacy launched by these unforgettable female characters who could command a starship, cure the incurable, read minds, and withstand the challenges of being an interplanetary species.

“It’s very inspiring to me to be surrounded by so many women, and also to have really the focal point of the show to be women,” says Mary Wiseman, who plays Sylvia Tilly, a Starfleet cadet in her last year at the Academy. “The writers and directors and producers are really into that.”

Discovery will also examine the Klingon race and its deeply ingrained patriarchy, as Mary Chieffo reveals with her character, L’Rell. She kind of says it all: “What I really found about L’Rell is that she is so fierce and so intelligent and such an incredible warrior, but as she is a part of this patriarchal species, she didn't quite realize her own strength. I think that’s going to be a really beautiful evolution.”


Elizabeth Rayne contributed to this report.

Show more comments

More Stories