Stars in Her Eyes: Star Trek: Discovery Panel – New York Comic Con 2017

By | October 9, 2017 at 5:00 PM

Michelle Yeoh makes a surprise visit during the New York Comic-Con 2017 panel for STAR TREK: DISCOVERY held at Madison Square Garden Theatre on Saturday, October 7th. Ca. Photo Cr: Lisette M. Azar/CBS © 2017 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved.

It rained on my face inside The Theater at Madison Square Garden on Saturday. It wasn’t a faulty roof. It was Michelle Yeoh. The international superstar popped up in a surprise visit during the Star Trek: Discovery panel at New York Comic Con. Yeoh had disguised herself as a fan to ask the panelists, “Are you going to bring her back?” (her = Captain Philippa Georgiou, Yeoh’s role in the new series). We’ll come back to the answer to her question later.

Since the early 90s the fabulous Ms. Yeoh has been a symbol of female heroics for women EVERYWHERE. All over the planet.

Some people ask why a female lead? Why a female captain and first officer pairing? Why women of color? I know why. Because I cried. Because the biggest audience reaction in that theater was the appearance of Michelle Yeoh. As one fan said, “Oh my freakin’ god: Michelle Yeoh.” Since the early 90s the fabulous Ms. Yeoh has been a symbol of female heroics for women EVERYWHERE. All over the planet. That’s powerful and she wears “hero” like most women wear cashmere—it looks good on her.

(l-r): Shazad Latif; Dr. Mae Jemison; Sonequa Martin-Green during New York Comic-Con 2017 for STAR TREK: DISCOVERY held at Madison Square Garden Theatre on Saturday, October 7th. Ca. Photo Cr: Lisette M. Azar/CBS © 2017 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved.

Some people still won’t get it. They’ll ask why a female lead? Why Sonequa Martin-Green from The Walking Dead? I know why. It doesn’t start with Martin-Green whose Michael Burnham is the most heroic and clever officer on that show. But it goes back long before the lead actress was born. The answer is: Because Nichelle Nichols, our beloved Uhura from the original series, actually worked with NASA. Which inspired Mae Jemison, chemical engineer, physician, and all around brilliant woman who grew up loving Star Trek. Mae Jemison is also the first black-American woman astronaut to travel to space.

That’s real space travel y’all. That’s part of the magic of Star Trek. It is a show in which we can each see ourselves, and as Mae Jemison said in her introduction to the panel, “[Star Trek] said we made it through our nuclear wars and all the things that would keep us from understanding our purpose, it was just an incredibly hopeful story.”

Moderator, Dr. Mae Jemison with the Cast and Executive Producers of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY during New York Comic-Con 2017 held at Madison Square Garden Theatre on Saturday, October 7th. Ca. Photo Cr: Lisette M. Azar/CBS © 2017 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved.

Check the “we” and the “us” in that quote. That’s what Star Trek does. The franchise and its ideologies are unifiers, a notice that we make it through together or we don’t make it at all. That tradition was clear in the cast assembled at New York Comic Con: Sonequa Martin-Green (Michael Burnham), Doug Jones (Saru), Mary Chieffo (L’Rell), Jason Isaacs (Captain Lorca), Shazad Latif (Ash Tyler), Mary Wiseman (Sylvia Tilly), Anthony Rapp (Paul Stamets), Wilson Cruz (Dr. Hugh Culber) *swoon*, and executive producers Alex Kurtzman, Gretchen J. Berg, Aaron Harberts, Heather Kadin and Akiva Goldsman.

“[Star Trek] said we made it through our nuclear wars and all the things that would keep us from understanding our purpose, it was just an incredibly hopeful story.”

Moderator, Dr. Mae Jemison during the New York Comic-Con 2017 panel for STAR TREK: DISCOVERY held at Madison Square Garden Theatre on Saturday, October 7th. Ca. Photo Cr: Lisette M. Azar/CBS © 2017 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved.

“Wait a minute, this isn’t going to be the show you thought it was. Even though it looks a lot like it, there’s new ground that we’re paving.” That’s how Kurtzman described the setup of Discovery and why the show focuses on the franchise’s first mutineer. Martin-Green followed up with, “I find it quite visceral, my emotions inform my logic rather than impede them… I decided my emotions help me carve out new paths of logic on Vulcan. So I really love this path is one of self-discovery and redemption as well.”

“Wait a minute, this isn’t going to be the show you thought it was. Even though it looks a lot like it, there’s new ground that we’re paving.”

Sonequa Martin-Green during the New York Comic-Con 2017 panel for STAR TREK: DISCOVERY held at Madison Square Garden Theatre on Saturday, October 7th. Ca. Photo Cr: Lisette M. Azar/CBS © 2017 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved.

From there the panel talks to Jason Isaacs about his Captain Lorca—a character I’m beginning to suspect isn’t human, which isn’t a problem except it seems Lorca is hiding his true nature. One moment his eyes are injured and can’t handle light. In another episode he was born with a natural aversion to light. Which is it, Jason, huh, huh? Before we got to that answer Isaacs had a question for his host. He wanted to know if Jemison, from the vantage of space, felt more proudly American or did she feel less a member of one nation and more a member of planet earth?” After giving Isaacs a hard time for flipping a question back on her, Jemison said, “I grew up during the 60s…People talk about the 60s as being really anarchic but I thought it was people claiming that they had a right to be involved and so when I went up into space I had no expectation that I wasn’t already an earthling and part of this planet. What actually happened to me is that I started to feel closer to the universe at large, I felt I had as much right to be here as any speck of stardust. We’re made of the stuff of stars.”

“I started to feel closer to the universe at large, I felt I had as much right to be here as any spec of stardust. We’re made of the stuff of stars.”

Jason Isaacs during the New York Comic-Con 2017 for STAR TREK: DISCOVERY held at Madison Square Garden Theatre on Saturday, October 7th. Ca. Photo Cr: Lisette M. Azar/CBS © 2017 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved.

Isaacs was so into Jemison’s answer he momentarily forgot her question. What drew him to his role is how different from the captains that came before Lorca is. He didn’t feel he could approach the foothills of what the other actors did in their roles, but with fresh territory he felt he could carve his own space in the canon. He also said everyone else on the Discovery are happy-dappy idiots and Lorca needed Martin-Green’s Burnham to help him get things done—to go about the business of ending the war.

“I can talk about the fact I’ll be seeing you tomorrow night on Star Trek: Discovery,” quipped Wilson Cruz. “With my boo, my space boo… I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of Star Trek TV’s first gay couple.”

(l-r): Anthony Rapp; Wilson Cruz; Executive Producer, Aaron Harberts during the New York Comic-Con 2017 panel for STAR TREK: DISCOVERY held at Madison Square Garden Theatre on Saturday, October 7th. Ca. Photo Cr: Lisette M. Azar/CBS © 2017 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved.

This was a great panel with far too much goodness to cover in this story. Another standout moment was when Wilson Cruz spoke about his reunion with Anthony Rapp (both from the original run of Rent on Broadway). The pair are the first gay couple on any Star Trek television series, and the first gay couple we’ll get to see live their daily lives anywhere in that universe. Wilson called Rapp his “Space boo” and now that will be lexicon. It must. Let’s make “space boo” happen.

“I can talk about the fact I’ll be seeing you tomorrow night on Star Trek: Discovery,” quipped Wilson Cruz. “With my boo, my space boo… I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of Star Trek TV’s first gay couple.”

My favorite part among many moments of laughter and illumination was just after Michelle Yeoh said the most amazing journey “has been with Sonequa” afterwhich, in her capacity as Captain Philippa Georgiou, she threatened Jason Isaacs, telling him that his Lorca better treat Michael Burnham right. “So I’m telling you, Captain Gabriel Lorca, if you don’t take care of my baby girl I will come and kick your ass. And you know I can do that.”

“So I’m telling you, Captain Gabriel Lorca, if you don’t take care of my baby girl I will come and kick your ass. And you know I can do that.”

Sonequa Martin-Green, Michelle Yeoh, and Doug Jones.

And according to producer Gretchen Berg, Captain Georgiou will be back. “You will see more of this woman on the show,” Berg said. “You don’t have THIS and just let her go.” Which means we’re going to be getting more of that aforementioned magic on Star Trek: Discovery and please, please, please, let her be back in the living and not in flashback because when Michelle Yeoh promises to kick some ass, that promise should always be honored (although I’m a bit skeptical after last night’s “clean skull” comment). And isn’t it fabulous that women will be sticking together and running the show well into the future, throughout the universe and beyond.