Bryan Fuller Named The 'Star Trek: Discovery' Lead And Redesigned The Klingons [TCA 2017]

Bryan Fuller met the Television Critics Association last summer to talk about his plans for Star Trek: Discovery, but then left the show to focus on his Starz series American Gods. Today, CBS All Access presented a full panel with Discovery's cast and producers, which revealed two significant elements that remain from Fuller.

The first is naming the character played by Sonequa Martin-Green, Michael Burnham. "It's a motif," producer Aaron Harberts said. "It's his signature move to name his lead women with names that would typically be associated as male. So Jaye [on Wonderfalls, Chuck on Pushing Daisies]. We were going through male names, and we all sort of hit on Michael because I have only known of, I think, two Michaels, Michael Sneed that was a gossip columnist for the Chicago SunTimes and Michael Steele who played the bass for The Bangles. That's a deep dive on female Michaels. And, of course, an archangel is named Michael as well, and it just had a lot of potency for us."

Marin-Green commented, "I appreciated the sort of statement it makes all on its own to have this woman with this male name, just speaking of the amelioration of how we see men and women in the future. But I also just decided for my creation and for my background and whatnot that I was named after my father. So we get a little bit of exploration of the father-daughter dynamic."

Michael Burnham was revealed to be the half-sister of Spock at Comic-Con. Harberts clarified. "We don't necessarily call her the half-sister," Harberts said. "We tend to refer to her as more Sarek's ward or Sarek's almost foster/adopted daughter. And the relationship between Michael and Sarek plays a huge part, not only in her backstory, but in where she was raised and what she brings to every ship she serves on. Her time on Vulcan causes her to make several choices in our first episode, choices that will really have aftershocks throughout the entire series. Much in the way that they did with Spock and Sarek in the films and on the show, we are able to tell father-daughter stories, and we are able to really drill down on particularly what's interesting about a Vulcan raising a human child, and how that affects her and how she's grown up with that."

The other Bryan Fuller contribution that remains is his redesign of the Klingons. "One of the things he really, really wanted to do was shake up the design of the Klingons," Herberts said. "One of the first things that he ever pitched to us when we were deciding whether or not to come on the show was his aesthetic for the Klingons and how important it was that they be aesthete, that they not be the thugs of the universe, that they be sexy and vital and different from what had come before."

The Klingons are different from each other as well, said producer Heather Kadin. "Some have white skin, some have dark skin," Kadin said.

Creature designers Neville Page and Glenn Hetrick designed Star Trek: Discovery's Klingons to Fuller's specifications.

"They drilled down in such a deep way to redundant pieces of anatomy, to the different plates on the head," Herberts said. "We were in discussions that got so deep into biology and into sculpture. From the time that Neville brought in the 3D printout into the writers' room of the Klingon, that design really hasn't changed. The Klingon ship, the flagship of the Klingons, which you'll see in some of the stills, that design, again, very important to Bryan, very hands-on, worked with Mark Worthington for months and months to get it right. We think that it's unique, and we saw no reason to change his vision for those Klingons."

Akiva Goldsman joined Star Trek: Discovery after Bryan Fuller left, so he could not speak specifically to Fuller's vision. But Fuller told Entertainment Weekly that he envisioned an anthology series that could visit other Star Trek eras. Goldsman said they took elements from both approaches as development continued.

"From what I'm hearing and what we're doing, it's kind of a hybridized approach," Goldsman said. "I don't think we're looking for an endless, continuing nine or 10 year story. We're looking at arcs which will have characters that we know and characters that we don't know. That's even true over the course of this season."

Star Trek: Discovery premieres on CBS All Access on September 24 with an 8:30 P.M. premiere on CBS. Episode 2 will be available on All Access immediately, with new episodes arriving every Sunday.