Official casting details for Star Trek: Discovery finally began emerging from CBS today, in the form of three supporting characters: a captain, an alien, and - possibly - a gay dude.
Anthony Rapp, who built a career from originating the role of Mark Cohen in Rent, will play Discovery’s science officer and astromycologist Lt. Stamets, apparently named for real-life mycologist Paul Stamets. Based on his job title, Stamets studies space fungus, which has got to be the most specialised field yet explored in Star Trek. Rumour is that Stamets will be the Trek's first LGBT character (unless you count a brief nod to Hikaru Sulu’s sexuality in Star Trek Beyond), but in terms of official word, we only have evidence of show creator Bryan Fuller’s broad desire to put a gay character in the show. Stamets is certainly the first openly gay actor cast in the franchise, as George Takei and Zachary Quinto came out in 2005 and 2011, respectively. Either way, it’s another step forward for a series for which diversity is a central, load-bearing pillar.
Also joining the cast: genre legend Doug Jones, who will be playing science officer Lt. Saru. It should come as no surprise that Jones will be playing an alien - from a brand-new alien species, no less - given his history of playing bizarre creatures in films Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth, and countless horror films. It’s good to see that aliens will be making an appearance in the regular cast, and that the show’s sizeable budget will contain some likely-impressive makeup effects. Jones is obviously a strong physical performer, but he's also underrated as an actor. Hopefully he'll get a chance to flex both of those muscles on Star Trek.
Additionally, the great Michelle Yeoh has been confirmed as joining the cast, as rumoured last week. Notably, Yeoh’s character, Captain Georgiou, is listed as “the Starfleet captain aboard the starship Shenzhou,” and not as the captain of the Discovery. Will we be following multiple starships in this show? Or will the Discovery crew end up comprised of multiple other crews, forced together following some sort of dramatic event, a la Voyager? It’s an interesting detail for a character I can’t wait to see in action.
Still remaining to be cast, according to an old Hollywood Reporter piece: “a female admiral, a male Klingon captain, a male admiral, a male adviser and a British male doctor,” minus whichever of the above characters fill those roles. More importantly, the lead character of Number One, a female lieutenant commander and the show’s main character, remains shrouded in mystery.
Star Trek: Discovery premieres in May 2017 on CBS All Access in the United States, through Bell Media in Canada, and on Netflix in 188 other countries. Speaking as someone from one of those “other countries,” I’m doubly excited that I won’t have to subscribe to another service just to watch this now oddly fungus-centric show.