Co-showrunner Michelle Paradise talks to ET about Thursday's sophomore closer and challenges of aligning the show with 'Trek' canon.
Warning: Spoiler alert! Do not proceed if you have not watched Thursday's season two finale of Star Trek: Discovery, titled "Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2."
Star Trek: Discovery is turning over a new leaf.
After a season filled with mysteries, family reunions and lingering questions, it all culminated in dramatic fashion with the two-part finale, "Such Sweet Sorrow." In a reversal of the freshman finale, which introduced the iconic USS Enterprise into the Discovery universe, the sophomore closer saw the Enterprise crew return to their starship -- with a newly-shaven Spock back on board -- to venture off on their next galactic mission. The farewell came after the crew helped Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and the USS Discovery team eradicate Control, the villainous artificial intelligence wreaking havoc for all, in an epic firefight and ensure that they arrived safely at their intended destination, as outlined by the Red Angel (aka Michael's mother) and the seven mysterious red bursts, the last of which appeared to the Enterprise crew in the finale's final moments, confirming Discovery's successful arrival centuries into the future. 950 years, to be more specific.
With the Enterprise's path now aligning itself with Trek canon, the "loss" of Michael and the USS Discovery, which Starfleet believes to be true (though we know is merely a protective move by Enterprise and its crew), leaves many unanswered questions for the future direction of the series. With Michael and Discovery essentially going rogue as they venture off to destinations unknown centuries down the line, where do they go from here? And, is this the last Discovery will see of the Enterprise crew, namely Spock (Ethan Peck), Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) and Number One (Rebecca Romijn)?
With the sophomore run now in the books, ET spoke with executive producer and co-showunner Michelle Paradise, who co-runs Star Trek: Discovery with Alex Kurtzman, about the final scene of the season, the decision behind debuting Spock's iconic look now and an early look ahead at what may be in store for season three.
ET: What was your goal going into the two-part season finale?
Michelle Paradise: We approached it from the perspective of absolutely wanting to wrap up all of the stories in a satisfying way. We wanted to answer all of the questions from the season. Everything that we had tossed up in the air, the signals, the Red Angel, we wanted to be able to answer those questions in a way that viewers would enjoy. We wanted to pay off the critical relationships in the season, particularly Burnham and Spock. We wanted to pay off those things that we also owe for canon. Getting back onboard the Enterprise, flying off into the distance, what is the next mission that the Enterprise is going to be on and that exchange between Pike and his Number One, and putting Spock back on the Enterprise. The reason that our Discovery characters, Burnham in particular, have not been discussed and weren't discussed on [Star Trek: The Original Series] and aren't part of that canon, why is that? We talked a lot about how to do all of that.
When Pike, Number One, Ash Tyler and Spock are being interrogated about the cataclysmic event that led to Michael and the USS Discovery's disappearance, it's revealed that the reason why no one speaks of their existence in future Trek canon is that it would be considered treason by the Federation. Was that a difficult explanation to land on?
It was interesting, because there are a list of things that you owe, especially when you get to the end of any season. In this case, we also have to honor and adhere to canon. Figuring out how to do that was something that we always had in the back of our minds as we were figuring out our story. And this is the way that came organically from the story that we were telling. Certainly from the very beginning of discussing the episode, even long before we discussed the episode, we knew that by the time we got to the end of the season we would absolutely have to wrap all of that up in a satisfying way and in a way that honored canon.
With the way the story wraps up, it seems like season three could be viewed as a bit of a reset of sorts for Star Trek: Discovery, especially after Pike and the Enterprise crew members don't tell the truth about what actually happened to Michael and USS Discovery and where they went into the future as a protection mechanism. Is that how you're looking at the new season?
I can't say anything about season three. Wrapping this story up and being clear that because of the danger that Control presented, because of the spore drive, because of this time-traveling technology... for those reasons and to prevent any dangerous entities from trying to access these things again, we must nip it in the bud. The lying about it is a protection for Starfleet. That's the reason that they do it and it is also to make sure that if Section 31 has any designs on doing the next version of Control, that it can't get out of control -- no pun intended -- and create a similar problem in the future. It was about answering the season two story, eliminating the threat of Control so that we, as viewers, understand Control has been eliminated. The goal of this season was to take care of this problem and we have taken care of this problem successfully. And at the same time, that also puts us in line with canon. Those were the reasons that we did that.
Spock sported a beard for most of the season, up until the finale, when he reunites with the Enterprise crew and debuts the clean-shaven, iconic Spock look everyone is familiar with. What was the decision behind doing that now?
That was 100 percent where we going to go. It was part of the discussion back when we were talking about bringing Spock on to the show and how we wanted to see him. He is such an iconic character and has been played so masterfully by Leonard Nimoy and Zachary Quinto that when Ethan came on, we had an opportunity to tell a different story for Spock, a Spock before he became that iconic character that we have all come to love. The physical change -- the beard, seeing him in a different way -- was a really wonderful visual way of signifying that this is a different character. This is a man who is on the road to becoming the man that you will come to know and love later. We always knew by the end of the season, in lining up with canon and putting Pike, Number One and bringing Spock back to the Enterprise, we knew we had to show him in his iconic glory. Minus the beard.
The finale seemed to set the Enterprise crew on a very specific path, with their arcs nicely tied up on Discovery. And there were recent reports that Anson Mount and Rebecca Romijn would not be returning for season three. Are their stories done on Discovery?
I can't [comment]. I don't know about any reports that may or may not be out. I'm not familiar with that, but I can't say anything about season three because I would be flogged. Literally! (Laughs.) There are people standing outside my office right now.
You don't mention Captain Kirk by name, but you drop several Easter eggs alluding to the future Enterprise captain. In Michael and Spock's final goodbye, Michael advises him to find his "opposite," who can guide him. Can you confirm that's Kirk you're alluding to?
Absolutely. That is definitely Kirk.
What did you want to accomplish with that final scene between Michael and Spock?
We had done a lot of work on the Burnham and Spock relationship over the course of this season. We knew from the beginning that we wanted to start them in a place where they were fractured and that the journey of the season would be to bring them back together and heal the wounds between them. Of course, he has to go on the Enterprise at some point, so you bring their relationship to a satisfying conclusion where the hurts of the past have been healed and where they have been able to help, support and influence one another. We talked a lot about what Spock could give to Burnham and what Burnham could give to Spock. Over the course of the season, we see that play out in a number of different episodes, leading to this culmination where they share with one another the ways in which they're better and the ways in which they need one another and the ways in which they are OK knowing that she must go on to do this mission and he must return to the Enterprise. We were trying to find the best possible way to honor their sibling relationship and end them in a positive way.
Pike started out the season boarding Discovery with a mission to complete and by the end of it, it's clear he considers the crew family and says as much in the end.
Anson, all season long, killed it as Pike. I would go on a starship anywhere with him as my captain. When he joined the Discovery crew, it's a little bit "Hey, we've got a mission and I'm going to be your captain now." It takes the crew a beat to go "OK." But over the course of the season, he again shows that he is the captain that they need throughout this journey, throughout this mission. And if he came on board to do a mission by the end of the season, he is part of this family and they are part of his family. That's one of the things we wanted to honor at the end of the season is how close he had become with all of them, how much they'd all gone through together, how much they had all grown and learned together and the impact that he had on them and vice versa. In that final moment, I thought he did an incredible job playing that moment and playing all of the love and pride and gratitude and everything that Pike would feel in that moment. I feel Anson conveyed beautifully.
Since you can't say much about the third season, what can you tell us?
I can't say anything about season three except to say that I'm excited for it. I think fans will be excited for it and I'm so thrilled with season two. I'm so proud of how it turned out. Hopefully everyone finds the last episode as satisfying as we did and we did really work hard to pay off all of those character arcs over the course of the season, and the little character moments like the Stamets/Culber [scene in the medical bay]. I'm super excited to see where our characters go in the future and hopefully everyone else will be too.