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For Star Trek fans around the world, the wait is over. Star Trek: Discovery premieres on September 24th 2017 on CBS. Then, after that, it can be found on its streaming service, CBS All Access. The second episode of the series will stream directly following the show’s premiere.
The series takes place 10 years before Gene Roddenberry’s original series, Star Trek.
Sonequa Martin-Green (The Walking Dead) heads a new crew as First Officer Michael Burnham. Leading during a time of war, she is assisted by Captain Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs, Harry Potter franchise) as they command a coalition in the face of danger.
Also starring on the show is Doug Jones (Lieutenant Saru) Michelle Yeoh (Captain Philippa Georgiou) and James Frain (Ambassador Sarek).
Sonequa Martin-Green and Jason Isaacs joined the TV Critics Association at CBS Studios to talk about their new venture into space.
Star Trek: Discovery - TCA: Sonequa Martin-Green, Mary Chieffo, and Jason Isaac
Star Trek: Discovery – Sonequa Martin-Green, Mary Chieffo, and Jason Isaacs at the TCA presentations at CBS Studio Center in Los Angeles, August 1st 2017 ©2017 CBS Broadcasting, photo by Monty Brinton

Were you both fans of Star Trek?

Sonequa Martin-Green: It was on the TV. I never sat down and deliberately watched it, but for some reason I still feel it was part of my upbringing and a part of me.

Jason Isaacs: I come from a family of boys, and we used to fight, we still do fight all the time. In England, when I was 8, there were only three channels, and the thing we fought most about was which channel we were going to watch at night.

“There was never an argument when Star Trek was on”

There was never an argument when Star Trek was on. The whole family crammed onto the couch watching it. I don’t know that I thought about being an actor, but the notion that I would get to stand one day and say, “Energize,” and point phasers (is unbelievable). (And when the ship is) being hit by a torpedo, we run in the same way they did 50 years ago. We run to the left run and run to the right. There’s no CG way to look like you are being hit by a torpedo, other than an embarrassing way.

It’s unimaginable that we are doing it, and that we get paid for messing around like children in the backyard.

Star Trek: Discovery - Sonequa Martin-Green
Star Trek: Discovery – First Officer Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) ©2017 CBS Interactive, photo by James Dimmock

Sonequa, why does your character have the male name?

Martin-Green: I appreciated the statement it makes all on its own to have this woman with this male name; the amelioration of how we see men and women in the future. But I also decided for my creation and for my background that I was named after my father. I think it’s a lovely symbol.

Star Trek wasn’t just characters, weapons and crazy forms of life, but a philosophy. How much do you think your characters are expressing that philosophy?

Isaacs: I think we live in troubling times, dark times where this extraordinary prism of sci-fi and fantasy and Gene Roddenberry’s vision (is there) to examine the craziness that’s going on. The world is getting more divisive. Groups being pitted against each other and we are separating and isolating. I don’t know how to explain it to my children. I don’t know how to tell them why there are people in power who say and do these awful things and create this much division.

“It can all be harmonious”

There’s no question that we are part of a story that shows not just how it can all be harmonious, but how you get there. (On the series) there’s a lot of conflict between us, we are complicated characters for complicated times. Our journey through the struggles that we have together, whether we make poor or good decisions, are everything the show was always about, but for the 21st Century.

Star Trek: Discovery - Jason Isaacs
Star Trek: Discovery – Captain Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs) ©2017 CBS Interactive, photo by James Dimmock

Martin-Green: But I think you see that aspiration because, while we are in a more utopian society in Star Trek, and that has always been the case, in our iteration there is the conflict. There’s the inner conflict, there’s the collective conflict, there’s the universal conflict.

Isaacs: We are at war.

Martin-Green: Absolutely.

Isaacs: So it throws out difficult choices.

Martin-Green: Obviously, war is the greatest conflict of all. But it’s also just about asking those deeply profound questions of “Who am I? Who are you, and how do I relate to you? How do we live with each other? How do we make acculturation a two?way exchange rather than me dominating you or you dominating me?” That is one of the most beautiful pillars of Star Trek in my opinion.

“Utopia”?

I think that it’s one thing to speak of a utopia; it’s one thing to tell our kids, “Oh, this is what a utopia looks like”. But to be able to see us aspiring to it, we haven’t reached this perfection yet, but we are trying.

So I think it’s going to be really compelling, because you are seeing us try and fail and try again and fail and try again.

Star Trek: Discovery - TCA: Sonequa Martin-Green, Mary Chieffo, and Jason Isaac
Star Trek: Discovery – (L-R): Akiva Goldsman, Executive Producer, Heather Kadin, Executive Producer, Gretchen Berg, Executive Producer, Aaron Harberts, Executive Producer, Alex Kurtzman, Executive Producer, James Frain, Sonequa Martin-Green, Mary Chieffo, and Jason Isaacs at the TCA presentations at CBS Studio Center in Los Angeles, August 1st 2017 ©2017 CBS Broadcasting, photo by Jon Endow

The late Gene Roddenberry was the true visionary and was enormously proud of the Star Trek legacy. Why would he be proud of this generation of Star Trek?

Isaacs: What would Gene Roddenberry think? He would say, “It’s the best Star Trek series by far”. I just spoke to him.

Martin-Green: And he said that (to you)?

Isaacs: Yes! (They both laugh)

Star Trek: Discovery - Key Art: Sonequa Martin-Green
Star Trek: Discovery – Key Art: First Officer Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) ©2017 CBS Interactive, photo by James Dimmock

Star Trek: Discovery Soundbytes

The new series has been compared to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, which was more serialized than the others in the franchise. Jason was asked about that – click here to listen to his reply.

After the panel, I asked Sonequa about the moment she heard that she got the role.