When we first see Star Trek: Discovery's newest interstellar villain, she’s holding an antique, seemingly broken Starfleet badge. Like the most famous Trek villain ever, Khan Noonien Singh, we might think Osyraa is pondering converting this Starfleet badge into a piece of gaudy jewelry. But, she puts the badge down. She’s not going to make a DIY space necklace out of a Starfleet badge the way Khan did right before his famous wrath. As a character, and as a Trek villain, she’s way too cool to be over the top like that. And the actress behind Osyraa, Janet Kidder, tells SYFY WIRE that the low-key quality of the character is intentional: "Scarier people are sometimes the most understated."
Kidder spoke with SYFY WIRE to let us know how she crafted Osyraa for Discovery, what she thinks about joining the Star Trek "family," and why her new baddie is "on a journey."
**Spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Season 3, Episode 8, "Sanctuary."**
As a green-skinned, wicked ruler of an outer space crime syndicate called "The Emerald Chain," it would be easy for Discovery to play Osyraa as the Wicked Witch of the West Quadrant. In an early scene from the latest episode (watch an exclusive clip below!), we're introduced to Osyraa, who mercilessly punishes her nephew for letting Burnham and Book escape from the planet Hunhau. But she doesn't cackle or quote Shakespeare or even really grimace. The villainy of Osyraa scans more like a real crime boss would in real life. Later in the episode, she just shrugs her shoulders and starts firing photon torpedoes at a planet. Oysraa is not a comic book villain — and in the pantheon of Star Trek villains specifically, Kidder's naturalistic approach is as refreshing as it is terrifying.
Kidder thinks part of the reason why this works is that because when she auditioned for the character, she had "no idea" that the series would be set in space.
"When I auditioned for this project it wasn’t called 'Star Trek.' It was very secretive for obvious reasons," Kidder explains. "In the scene, she was just a strong character who just wasn’t taking it from this other very high-up person. But it wasn’t in any way sci-fi-ish or spacey at all. It was just a very well-written scene between two very important people. It was just good drama. The audition scene could have been set in any number of realms and worlds."
Although she's been alluded to throughout Discovery, Season 3, Episode 8, "Sanctuary," marks Osyrra's first actual appearance. For Trek fans, it's fairly obvious that Osyraa is an Orion, a species of green-skinned aliens whose history is as old as the Star Trek franchise itself. And while casual fans might be familiar with the "Orion Slave Girls" from The Original Series, in the 2005 prequel series Enterprise, it was revealed that the women of the old-school Orion Syndicate were actually secretly running the show. In Star Trek 2009, Uhura had an Orion roommate named Gaila (Rachel Nichols), and, earlier this year, Orion stereotypes were broken down further by Ensign Tendi on Star Trek: Lower Decks, who insisted, that they weren't all pirates. Kidder wasn't a "sci-fi person" before being cast, but she did her homework and says that various elements of Star Trek research were important to make Osyraa come to life.
"I looked into the green Orion people," she says. "I did do the research in terms of who she was, and as a people, how she got the helm, and why this is all happening. The team was also very helpful in filling me in on how Star Trek got to this point. " Kidder adds that unlike some of the Orions of the past — like Susan Oliver or Yvonne Craig in TOS, or Rachel Nichols in Star Trek 2009 — this isn't just green body paint. "That's a full prosthetic head," Kidder says. "It takes about four hours to put on!"
Still, for those who remember Janet Kidder from the sci-fi series Continuum, or The Man in the High Castle, she's instantly recognizable as herself, green prosthetic or not. For longtime genre fans, she also bears a striking resemblance to her aunt, the late Margot Kidder, best known as Lois Lane in the Superman films from the '70s and '80s.
"I was on the set of Superman when I was 7. I was besotted with the whole thing," Kidder says of her aunt. "Margie was my number [one] fan and mentor and idol throughout my years as an actor. Her influence was imperative to me."
What happens next for Osyrra on Star Trek: Discovery isn't quite clear. At the end of "Sanctuary," she swears revenge on Captain Saru and the crew, telling them they will feel the "full weight of the chain," making her more like Trek's own personal Lex Luthor rather than Lois Lane. Kidder hints that there is more to come. And she credits director Jonathan Frakes for trusting her to tackle the character with the exact tone she chose.
"I’d be happy to work with Jonathan Frakes on something for the rest of my life. Incredible man. Incredible director. He knows these shows inside and out. What a gift to have him directing me in my first ever episode," Kidder enthuses. "He and I hit off right away. We decided this kind of mid-Atlantic calm, in-control woman was the way to go. He was supportive right off the bat. Osyraa is how she presents in this first episode. And you’ll see more later, there’s a journey she goes on. She’s confident with herself and that journey. She’s just like 'take it or leave it. This is how it is.'"
Star Trek: Discovery has five more episodes to go in Season 3. The series is streaming on CBS All Access.