Star Trek: Discovery Showrunner Michelle Paradise Explains What That Game-Changing Finale Means For the Show's Future

Star Trek: Discovery closes out its third season with today's season finale episode, 'That Hope Is [...]

Star Trek: Discovery closes out its third season with today's season finale episode, "That Hope Is You, Part 2." (SPOILERS for the episode follow.) The episode sees Burnham, Book, Tilly and other members of the Discovery's crew retake the ship from Osyraa, whose death causes the Emerald Chain to fall. Saru returns to Kaminar with Su'Kal, the sheltered Kelpien who cause the Burn. In his absence, Admiral Vance promotes Michael Burnham to captain and gives her command of Discovery. The Federation is on the road to recovery, with Trill rejoining and Ni'Var considering doing the same. The 32nd century is looking bright.

Star Trek: Discovery's co-showrunner Michelle Paradise wrote the season finale episode. spoke to her over the phone about what the big changes in the episode mean for the show going forward.

Star Trek Discovery Season 3 Episode 13 008
(Photo: Michael Gibson/CBS)

I think the first thing on fans' minds is this: we're happy Saru's story came full circle. We're glad Michael finally fulfilled her ambition. But, please don't take Doug Jones away from us. What does this finale mean for Saru's future on the show?

Michelle Paradise: No, no, no, no, no. Doug Jones is not going anywhere. Saru will be back, a hundred percent in season four. So rest easy, sleep well. We're not letting Doug go anywhere. We're holding onto him.

It feels like this finale wrapped up the character arcs that most of the show's leads have been on since the series began. Michael's a captain, Tilly proved she's worth of command, and Saru came to terms with leaving home. You've created almost a narrative blank slate the same way jumping into the future gave you almost a canon blank slate. Was that something that you considered while writing the finale? Could Discovery's fourth season be almost like a new first season?

Oh, interesting. Well, a couple of the stories It felt like, for example, for Burnham and Tilly in particular, those felt like natural places to go with their stories. I mean, we've been waiting for Burnham to take the captain's chair and this felt like absolutely the right season to do that. And for Tilly, and also for Saru, those directions really came from, as we came into this new season, how can we push our characters in new directions? How can we continue to dig deeper into each of them? How can we find new layers? How can we give the actors new things to play?

And so I don't think it was a conscious thing, at least for Saru, for example, to take him full circle, but we were, for all of those characters and the others, looking for how can we push them in new directions and what does that mean for them? So that was really very much on our minds from the beginning of the season and as we moved forward.

One of the things that Alex Kurtzman and some others talked about when Discovery was first coming out was how Burnham being something other than a captain set the series apart from past Star Trek shows. A lot of the drama has come from her relationships with her commanding officers. How does Burnham now being a captain change the show's dynamic? Is it something more traditionally Star Trek?

In some ways, yes, and in some ways, no. Burnham, it feels like when you cast someone like Sonequa [Martin-Green] in the number one role you're just waiting for the day when she's going to take the captain seat. And we knew going into season three that that's where we wanted to take her at the very end of the season.

But I think being captain, in some ways you don't answer to people in the same way, but in some ways, you still have to answer to people. And so I think what's exciting for the Burnham character is that season three takes her on this journey from essentially rejecting the chair in episode three when she and Saru are having that conversation, to taking it at the end of 13.

And then the question of, "Now, what?" She's grown in many ways over the course of these three seasons and in new ways over the course of season three and what does that mean for her now? And how can she continue to grow moving forward, even as she's a captain? Those are the things that we get to explore now moving forward that I'm super excited about.

The finale really hammered home the big theme of this season being the importance of personal connection, with Michael's closing monologue and the Gene Roddenberry quote at the end. I know the season was written before COVID-19 and came out later than expected, but it certainly feels timely in that regard. How has been for you to see it go out into the world at a time like this?

I don't quite have words for it. It's really incredible. We've talked about that quite a lot. Just how this season resonates with this present moment in such an unexpected way. Even prior to all of this, it felt like it would resonate because when we wrote the episodes, there was and remains such a profound disconnect in our society and more globally as well. So we felt like it would resonate on that level, but with the pandemic, which of course we never could have seen coming at the time. It's resonating at a deeper level, I think.

I'm not super articulate when it comes to this question because it's really moving to me and I'm so grateful that it's touching people in the way that it is and that it may be helpful in some even small way at a time when we all really need help. We do need connection now more than ever. And I love that we're able to be part of, maybe part of facilitating that or helping people feel that in some way, especially right now.

When did you decide to add the Roddenberry quote to the end of the episode?

It emerged closer to the end of the post process as we were finishing post for the season and just recognizing that this was going to be airing at this particular time. And we just felt like it would be appropriate to have something from him. I mean, Gene Roddenberry, we're only here because of what he did and because of the show that he created and there's the baseline, the template that he established. And so it felt appropriate to have something from him, a quote from him at the end of our season. And that was one that resonated with us.

The episode has two major narratives going on, with the one very intimate story taking place with Saru and Su'Kal and something closer to Die Hard on a spaceship with Burnham and Book and Tilly. Was it challenging to write such tonally different portions of the script?

They are very tonally different and it was definitely a challenge finding the right balance. You don't want the audience to feel whiplash between these stories and ultimately they're all coming to the same place and both stories, however different tonally they may be, are treating the same themes and driving toward the same place. It was really a balance in the writing and in the editing to try and find the right way to do that and the right way to transition between those stories so that the audience could be along for both of the rides and go back and forth, hopefully smoothly.

One other thing that had people talking from last week's episode was the DOT-23s showing up last week speaking with the voice of the sphere data, which is also now the voice of Zora from the Star Trek: Short Treks episode "Calypso," set in Discovery's future. What can you say about the relationship between what is going on in Discovery and that episode?

Well, first of all, "Calypso" is incredible. I mean, it's just, we love it. And it is now a part of Trek canon, but specifically our show's canon. It takes place many, many years beyond where our heroes are right now, and at some point, we will absolutely have to match up with that so that Discovery as a whole, including "Calypso," all fits together as a piece.

So certainly bringing in that voice in episode four and having -- we'll call her Zora, she doesn't have a name at this point -- but having her hide in the DOTs and be part of the story in 12 and 13 is the beginning of driving toward that. And eventually -- who knows when? -- we will absolutely have to make sure that we sync up with that.

As mentioned, the theme of this season was personal connection. I know you don't want to spoil much, but can you say anything about what themes fans should be looking forward to seeing as you guys are working on season four, whenever that finally gets to us?

I don't want to speak specifically to themes, but we do have them (laughs). I think season four will absolutely continue the kinds of things we were doing in season three, in that we do have very strong themes that we're exploring. Star Trek: The Original Series explored present-day things via sci-fi. And that's what we did in season three, and I think that's just baked into what Star Trek does, and he places where we were really focused on season three in terms of digging into the characters, finding ways for our characters to grow and change and yet obviously still feel like the characters we know and love. Those smaller character moments that sometimes mean everything in a scene or in an episode, digging deeper in the relationships, all of those things that were strong areas of focus for us in season three, continue and will always be part of the show.

Ultimately, those are the things that really resonate I think with people is, what are our characters experiencing? What are they going through? How are they connecting with one another? What are the challenges they're facing and how do they overcome those and how do they overcome them individually and then as a family? So all of that I think will continue.

That will always be part of the show. Those are the things that really resonate with people. What are our characters experiencing? What are they going through? How are they connecting with one another? What are the challenges they're facing and how do they overcome those and how do they overcome them individually and then as a family? So all of that I think will continue.

I don't know if you're aware of the number of fans who had noted that almost all Starfleet admirals tend to be jerks.

I didn't know that.

Vance has really stood out for being less a jerk and more just very, very tired. I was wondering if you could talk a bit about your goals with that character and what his role going forward will be.

Vance, like Book, served as our eyes into this new world. And for Vance in particular, one of the things that we were really working on this season is just wanting to make sure that, yes, we're playing in a realm of sci-fi and all of that, but we wanted the emotional experiences to be very grounded.

Our characters have flown 930 years in the future and they crash land on a planet. They're going to have an emotional response to that. And with the character of Vance, who is our introduction into what is Starfleet 930 years later, it felt important that for someone who was born into a world post-Burn, has grown up in that world, and is now trying to lead when every day is a new fire, that he be a character who is strong and dedicated and empathetic, and yes, also a little bit tired, because it's a slog for him. And yet he believes, and he's doing his best.

And you need someone like Oded [Fehr] to play a character like that. You need someone like that who can deliver all of those layers. And Oded is just phenomenal as Vance. And so yeah, we wanted Vance to be all of those things. Who would an admiral be in this world post-Burn where people are disconnected and he's trying to reconnect, but in this new world, it's just very, very difficult. There aren't ways to reach one another. And he hasn't grown up in a world in which reaching one another is possible, which fuels partly his response to our heroes when they land in episode five because their idea of hope and connection is in some ways a bit foreign because he's never experienced it.

And so being able to watch him grow over the course of the season, due to his connection with Burnham and our heroes on Discovery, was really fun for us to explore and to write. And I really love where he gets to and yes, he's absolutely still a presence moving forward. So I'm excited to see what's to come for him too.

Anything you want to say to fans before we wrap up?

Just thank you so much for your support of the show. We work to live up to what Star Trek has been and what it can be, and we really honor that and appreciate how supportive they are.


Star Trek: Discovery is streaming now on CBS All Access.