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Director/Producer Olatunde Osunsanmi on What’s Next for ‘Star Trek: Discovery’

Finally, the mystery of Species Ten-C has been resolved. In a stunning finale, Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and her crew of the USS Discovery figured it out with galaxy-spanning ramifications. In this race to the finish with her lover Clevand Booker (“Book”) (David Ajala), who had gone renegade this season in his own pursuit of justice, Star Trek: Discovery delivered yet another stunning finale, with limitless pathways to pursue in Season 5. After this finale, I’m incredibly excited for the next journey of Discovery.

We were lucky enough to speak once again with the series Executive Producer and director Olatunde Osunsanmi on all things in the finale and Season 4. We discussed Species Ten-C, the characters’ journeys, and yes, that cameo at the end of the episode.

Spoilers for all of Star Trek: Discovery, Coming Home, follow. This interview has been edited for length and clarity

So I absolutely loved the finale. Bravo to the whole team. Discovery always manages to parallel real-world events, and I think especially right now in this season which is all about the value of diplomacy. Why do you think diplomacy remains important in our chaotic world?

Well, I think that’s an excellent question. And I think diplomacy is critical in what we do in the world because we are always looking for some sort of connection and connection doesn’t happen with war. It doesn’t happen with hurling insults. It happens with a very thoughtful conversation between two parties or more. And I think we all understand that as human beings at a very intimate level. And we see it now with what’s happening with Ukraine and Russia. Ultimately the solution to that is diplomatic, we see that the peace that we’ve seen in Europe, for some time, was achieved through diplomacy. And we see now that the quite considerable power that the United States wields that we’ve I think must have forgotten isn’t really our bombs. It’s our diplomacy. It’s our relationships and our ability to connect with the rest of the world. So soft power. It doesn’t mean that we were you soft or hard it just means that people are trying to talk and connect to find common ground. So I think that’s why diplomacy within Star Trek still resonates because it is what I think is most important to asleep, living a peaceful existence.

Absolutely agreed. So the character during that really resonated the most with me this season was Book. He went on an amazing during the season and David Ajala’s performance was incredible. What was behind the idea to have Book go renegade this season and also in what capacity will he be back next season? Because I’m sure he will be.

Yeah, he is. You’re absolutely right, David gave a powerful performance this season and was a tour de force, and every possible emotion a human being can have good and bad is what he experienced. And I thought Michelle and Alex and the rest of the writing team did an unbelievable job writing his character. And trusting that David would has the chops to be able to go to those places, which he clearly does. I think David was thinking he is what the other half of the population is thinking, which is, I’m going to react emotionally of hell or high water. This is what they deserve. And it’s really interesting seeing his art, go there and then kindly come back to listening to himself. I mean, that last monologue about what needs to be done with the Ten-C to do, and yeah, I think with next season who knows? That is a great mystery, but hopefully, we’ll see a lot more.

Pictured: David Ajala as Book of the Paramount+ original series STAR TREK: DISCOVERY. Photo Cr: Marni Grossman/Paramount+ © 2021 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved.

Book had an amazing speech to the Ten-C about putting down walls and how we all share the same space. That also seems to play into today’s politics when we know there are so many in the world who would like to see us divided. Was that intentional, and what does Star Trek have to say about that unity?

Yeah, I think it was intentional by Michelle. I think she’s always talking about connections. That’s a very important part of how she looks at the world. I think Book’s speech is a very important part of how she looks at the world and how Trek looks at the world, how we look at the world and trying to do the right thing and make things right. The other thing I love about his speech was when he says “That’s not good enough, you got to dismantle the whole [DMA].” It’s not good enough to not drop nuclear bombs on each other. Really, we got to dismantle the whole thing, right? So that it’s not always a threat of every time we disagree, we’re gonna destroy the world. So yeah, I think it’s that history tests repeat itself, and what Star Trek stays pretty steady. And what it talks about, that’s just one of the themes of talks about, and so I think it can often feel very real because those themes keep repeating themselves in real life as well.

Absolutely. So onto more of a fun aspect with different characters. Saru, and President T’rina seem to have begun romance blooming. What was behind the decision to have Saru go out of his comfort zone in this way?

Back in Season Three, Doug Jones had a conversation with Michelle paradise and said, “President T’rina, do I have feelings for her? Because I feel like Saru may have feelings for,” and that was the beginning of a wonderful ride. She took that and ran with it. It’s been amazing that we make a lot of jokes on set, like, “Is this a scene where they’re gonna kiss? Are we gonna have a Vulcan baby? Do you know what’s gonna happen?” Like it’s all the things we would want to see but are dangerous to kind of shoot because of a variety of reasons. Which kind of means we probably should do it? So yeah, well, it’d be really fast. It’d be really cool to see whether we take those chances.

And now on our main captain, Captain Burnham, she has been through so much this season. How would you say this experience overall experience with the tendency has changed Michael, especially going into Season Five?

Well, Michael, she’s probably been more prepared to Captain than anybody, any captain in the history of Star Trek ever and ever come. And so, so it’s like, so when she became captain, okay, well, what does that mean? Like, what is she gonna grow when she gonna learn? I think while she’s been the most experienced, she is the most experienced person to have ever taken the job. I think what’s kind of cool is to see okay, now that she’s now that the buck stops with her, how she reacted that, she’s rising to the challenge. And I think what we see is her being able to balance. Okay, this is when you need to be a disrupter. And this is when you need to toe the line. And now she’s not that down to a science. She’s had to be the disrupter all along in order to pull the Federation, pull Starfleet, pull the Galaxy into the right place to put them in the right position to succeed. Multiple times, right. We’ve recently jumped to the future. And so it’d be interesting to see how she continues with that as well going forward.

That ending with Stacey Abrams! How did you all get her on the show was the President of United Earth and what was it like with her on set?

Your reaction was my reaction when I found out! Wilson had a previous relationship with her and I suggested that she and Alex and Michelle jump on the phone and so they did.
And they pitched to her being on the show because just she’s a fan of the show. “So Stacey, would you come to want to be on the show?” And she said, “Yes, absolutely.” So they figured out a role for her before she might fit into it, and she came to set and it was a big deal. It was a big deal because you have these two worlds colliding. You have this same world that’s in politics and you have this world that’s film, and everybody’s great at their job. And now they’re in the same spot. And she couldn’t have been more natural and more comfortable being there. In one or two takes you got it just like everybody else. And then we moved on. And it was very simple and very easy and very comfortable. The experience that I’m going to remember for a long time.

I think that it’s going to go down Star Trek history and you and the rest of the team should be so proud of it and everything else you achieve this season. But I also want to say congratulations, properly, on Season Five! That is incredible. I hope Discovery goes to Season 100! But I guess we’ll see what happens but we’ve gotten so big with Species Ten-C, this extragalactic species and the DMA, and the threat that presented, Where does Discovery go from here?

Yeah, that’s a great question because we were really outside of the box of Star Trek with the Ten-C of what we’ve done, particularly on Discovery, we try to make it the most unique creature of all time. I don’t know if we got there, but it’s certainly got to be one of the most unique creatures. Yeah, I think Star Trek, what we want to do in Season Five is to keep pushing showing new things in the future. But also keep reaching back into the past, since, as far as you know, we got into a lot of science in Episode 12. And a little bit of 13 with how we translate the communication because the translator doesn’t work and we brought in people to help with that. And I think I think I think all this takes on more realism.

We can base Star Trek on real events, we now know UFOs are real. We now know the Pentagon acknowledged they don’t know what these are. Okay, so all that needs to happen now for Star Trek to be literally legitimate, like to be real is is for us to go to the next step which is to ask questions. “That’s not China. It’s not Russia. It’s not us who’s driving it?” And that’s Pandora’s box. Once we open we just closed it again. Right. So, so who’s driving? And once that answer is well, whatever is driving is not human, whatever that means. We are now crossed over to the reality of Star Trek. So I don’t know what Season Five is going to be. It’s a total mystery. But I do like that we now can pull from reality enough to pull from the past and of course, all the wonderful canon that Discovery’s made along the way.

The possibilities are endless.

You can stream all of Star Trek: Discovery on Paramount+

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