On Sunday, March 10th, 2024, Comics Beat attended a virtual roundtable in support of Star Trek: Discovery season 5. Over Zoom, The Beat got the chance to ask questions for co-showrunners and Executive Producers Alex Kurtzman and Michelle Paradise, as well as series stars Blu del Barrio, David Ajala and Sonequa Martin-Green. Here’s what The Beat had asked and answered at the roundtable!

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

AVERY KAPLAN: Is there anything you accomplished (as either an actor or behind the camera) of which you are particularly proud?

SONEQUA MARTIN-GREEN: In front of the camera, I’m particularly proud about making television history. In front of the camera, I’m proud of how bold we were, as an interation. That we did things that no other Trek has done. 

Saru and Michael Burnham look at each other warmly. They are standing on a forested planet. Both wear 32nd century EV suits.
Doug Jones as Saru and Sonequa Martin-Green as Burnham. Photo Credit: Michael Gibson/Paramount+

We were serialized to a degree that no other Trek has been. We went to a future beyond any Trek has gone. We made television history with diversity in a way like never before. So I hope that “boldness” is a part of our legacy. And you know, being the first Black female lead first, and then being the first Black female captain in a lead… 

And even behind the scenes, being able to be a producer on the show, and then an executive producer for season 5. The evolution, it had a butterfly effect, and it went outward; it wasn’t just between “action” and “cut.”

KAPLAN: Book is an important part of Disco seasons 3 through 5, but he’s not a member of the Starfleet crew. I’m curious what it’s like to play a character who’s sort of an outsider among such a tightly-knit crew?

DAVID AJALA: What’s really special and a gift for an actor, is to be able to have that peripheral or outside perspective. 

Booker, Burnham and Culber on the surface of a rocky planet. Book and Burnham have phasers.
David Ajala as Book, Sonequa Martin-Green as Burnham and Wilson Cruz as Culber. Photo Credit: Marni Grossman/Paramount+

With Cleveland Booker, he’s somebody who operates on the underbelly of society. And being able to have that experience, and then to be able to come into this world — where things are done in a certain particular way — he’s able to weigh up the two. The contrast between the two is so extreme, he’s able to look at the two and see the benefits of both.

And I think the glorious thing which happens in Discovery season 5: he is able to see — without being prompted, without being persuaded — to see the benefits of being part of Starfleet. And I think that is a testament to what Starfleet stands for, that someone who can be so tunnelvisioned in their perspective can kind of humbly fold under the togetherness of Starfleet.

KAPLAN: Have you had any especially memorable experiences with Trekkies you can share?

BLU DEL BARRIO: Oh gosh, yes. First of all, the best possible interactions, because the fans of our show and Trek fans in general are just the best people in the world, and are so kind and caring and compassionate. 

Adira looks at someone with long white hair. A red robed character stands behind him. They're in a cave.
Blu del Barrio as Adira. Photo Credit: John Medland/Paramount+

The best experiences that I’ve had are something that I did not expect to happen. Because I would get messages from other trans people, which is amazing. What I was not really anticipating was getting messages from parents of trans kids, who would watch the show and say that it was helping them to better understand their kid, or have more transparent interactions with their kid or with their family member. 

That to me, means more than anything else I’ve ever heard has meant. It’s just not something I ever expected, especially struggling with my own parents as a kid (and still now, a little bit). That’s crazy to me that I had some small part in that, and that it could have that kind of effect. But that’s definitely the most meaningful to me.

KAPLAN: From direct references to outright spinoffs, what’s it been like to see Discovery grow?

MICHELLE PARADISE: Oh, it’s been amazing. It’s been wonderful to be a part of that, and to get to see the new iterations that are coming out. The Star Trek universe is only growing; Alex can certainly speak better to that. But it’s been exciting to be a part of that.

ALEX KURTZMAN: When we made Discovery, we weren’t actually setting out to build a universe. We were just setting out to make a new Star Trek show. 

And I think that in tacking along the different roads that Discovery gave us, the fact that we were able bring Pike and Spock and Number One into the show… one of the writers I had worked with, Akira Goldsmith, before we even cast Pike, said, “You know, there’s a great Star Trek show with Pike in the lead, and the entire era on the Enterprise before Kirk takes over.” 

And I said, “Why don’t we cast a good Pike first, see how that works, and then we’ll go from there.” And that ended up becoming Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. But that could never have happened without season 2 of Discovery. Never.

Poster for Star Trek: Discovery season 5 featuring the ship and Burnham in a modernist cut-out style.
Sonequa Martin-Green as Burnham. Photo Credit: James Dimmock/Paramount+

I think that one of the things that we have really loved, is I believe strongly that every single Star Trek show to each have its own very unique identity. I don’t want you to ever think you can watch one show and get your fill of Star Trek and therefore don’t have to watch the others. Each one has to have its own identity. 

But the key to that is not making one show that’s supposed to please everybody. If you make one show that’s meant to please everybody, you’re ultimately not going to please anybody. So each of the shows is really designed and targeted to access a very specific part of the fandom.

And there’s a real misnomer about Trek fandom, which is that its this generic term that can be applied to everybody. There are so many different subsets of Trek fans. So the idea with the rainbow of shows that we’re doing is to appeal to each subset without necessarily having to get everybody in the door.

Discovery led the way in so many ways. It really pointed us as a compass towards what was possible. And that has been incredibly exciting for us. So now we’re on this wild adventure. We’re in the middle of shooting Star Trek: Section 31. and we’re halfway through the writing of the first season of Star Trek: Starfleet Academy and we start shooting that at the end of the summer. And then there’s more up behind that. So it’s been pretty amazing.

In advance of the premiere of the first two Star Trek: Discovery season 5 episodes on Thursday, April 4th, 2024, you can catch up with the show’s first four seasons, currently available for streaming on Paramount+.

Keep up with all of The Beat’s Star Trek coverage by clicking here.