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It's been a dynamic two seasons on Star Trek: Discovery for Sonequa Martin-Green's Commander Michael Burnham. From mutiny to redemption and even mirror worlds, Burnham's already lived a myriad of experiences that far exceed the mere 29 episodes of the show's still-young existence. But this month she's taking the character where she's never gone before … to Star Trek Online: Legacy.
As of March 3, a brand-new, two-episode game arc features Sonequa Martin-Green's Commander Michael Burnham and the return of actress Jeri Ryan voicing Seven of Nine. The Measure of Morality places the women in Excalbia, a now-iconic location from the Original Series episode "The Savage Curtain."
Martin-Green got on the phone with SYFY FANGRRLS this week to celebrate the fact that, via Legacy, Burnham gets to dip her toe into classic Trek history with non-Discovery cast. "It's so humbling and it's so enlivening at the same time," she says of her character's translation into the Trek gaming universe. "I love that something this huge, that has had this much reach, for so many decades, can still go to new places. I feel that having Star Trek go into even more mediums is just still facilitating that innovative vision that [creator Gene] Roddenberry had all those years ago."
Voicing Burnham for the game is a first for the actress, who to date has only played the character traditionally in Discovery episodes. She hasn't even voiced characters for prior video games. Because of that, she admits she wasn't sure what to expect going into this experience. To prep, she was given the scripts for the game episodes early so she could tailor her vocal performance ahead of the recording sessions.
"I was also given files of some pre-visualization, early animation," she details. "That was to get an idea of what she's going to look like and a general overview of what's happening in the scenes. And then once I had a moment to digest all of that stuff, we actually scheduled the studio sessions a little bit after that."
The actress says that while being in the recording booth was a relatively solitary experience, she was relieved that overall, the entire experience with the game directors was extremely collaborative. "It was actually a very communal experience because we were all there, me and those creators, in the room. It did feel like we were all around the table doing all of this together. And they made it very clear that 'Hey, you have created [her], and we trust you. We want you to feel that this is right to you, so if there's anything that doesn't ring true, let us know.'"
"But it was so well written that I didn't have to do that much at all," she continues. "There were just a couple of things where I said, 'I wouldn't quite say it that way, or I think I would use this grouping of words rather than that,' but the ideas remain the same. The tone was the same. I knew where I was as Michael Burnham. I knew what was needed of me in the story. And I knew where I was placed in the story, not just physically, but also just emotionally. It was a great coming of minds because everybody involved had so much love and passion for it. And you could feel that."
She also appreciated that her episodes help bridge the gap between Trek eras, with her Discovery character participating in a story that Original Trek fans will recognize immediately. "That's automatically going to take people to a place," she enthuses. "They're going to say, 'I know what this is! Yes, yes, yes, I remember this!' But the way that it's played out, it was a new experience for me. And it's going to be a new experience for them as well."
Because of her busy shooting schedule and family life, Martin-Green admits she doesn't have much time for gaming. But she deeply appreciates that Star Trek Online allows the morality and stakes of the Trek universe to become personal for fans and players.
"A lot of times in the press, we talk about the fight that this kind of world requires," she says of the complexity of the Trek universe. "It's not just about things being great. We have to fight for this greatness. You see this world, but you see the sacrifice, you see the cost. And it's because of those tough, moral decisions. So, what a tremendous thing to have people be able to make those decisions themselves."
She continues, "They can have a first-person experience in the world, because when people are watching this story, they are coming along with us on this journey, right? We're in it together. But being able to experience it from a first-person point of view in a video game, as deep as this may sound, I think that it sparks empathy even more. It makes the person feel that they're there even more than just watching it on their TVs. That's magnificent! And that's one of the huge benefits of the gaming world, is its ability to do that."
Martin-Green is also thrilled that Legacy leans into what she thinks makes Trek storytelling so special. "As always, we're saving the world. We're defending the future. We're using love as a weapon, because nothing's more powerful than love in action. That's the other really cool thing, that there's a transcendence of iterations with this game. There's lots of people from lots of points in the franchise that are coming together. I think this is providing something that previously would have only lived in fans' imaginations."
Star Trek Online: Legacy is available to play now on PCs, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4.