Paramount+’s Star Trek: Discovery is the flagship of the modern-day Star Trek television franchise, premiering in 2017 and about to launch its fourth season on November 18.
Mary Wiseman has been with the series from the beginning as Sylvia Tilly, once Michael Burnham’s neurotic, over-sharing roommate, and now her best friend.
In contrast, David Ajala was a new face on Star Trek: Discovery Season 3. His character, Cleveland Booker, encounters Burnham when she first arrives in the 32nd century and becomes both partner and lover over the course of the season.
Speaking with the press via a digital roundtable, Wiseman and Ajala are a delightful duo, cracking jokes between thoughtful answers to plot and character questions.
As the series centers on Michael Burnham, now captain of the Discovery, how much interpersonal tension there is between the captain’s bestie and her boyfriend.
Wiseman leads off with a tongue-in-cheek dig. “We don’t have that many scenes together, but there’s a lot of tension between us just as actors and personalities (laughs). Oh, the TENSION. Argh. I can’t relax!”
Ajala, with good humor, agrees, “Legit. It’s still very palpable here.”
Settling into the question, Wiseman admits that there isn’t that much interaction between Tilly and Book on Star Trek: Discovery Season 4. “Maybe in the future, there’s room for some protective best friend-boyfriend energy.”
Ajala agrees that it’s a relationship facet that should be addressed.
“I think there’s room for it. I hope we’re able to explore it because there’s potential for great levity, but then also really important conversations to be had because when you care about someone, you don’t want to see them go through pain.
“I can see completely how Tilly would be very protective of Michael Burnham.”
WARNING: the following segment is both titillating and hilarious.
As Book and Burnham’s relationship began as a working partnership, entirely outside the realm of Starfleet and the Federation, how does Ajala think Book feels about Burnham now being his captain?
“I think it’s made Cleveland Booker even more attracted to Michael Burnham. Cause I think he looks and goes, ‘Oooh, scrumptious! That’s a crumpet I want to butter.'”
At this point, Wiseman completely loses it, laughing hysterically, “That’s so British! ‘She’s a cuppa tea I’d like to stir!'”
Ajala takes it one step further, “She’s a cuppa tea I’d like to stir. With my pinkie!”
We all take a moment to collect ourselves.
Pinkie aside, what does Season 4 hold in terms of Book’s special abilities (i.e., his affinity with living creatures.)?
Ajala is cagey with his answer to remain spoiler-free. “With his skill and abilities, we will see how he may use them in a way that may affect his relationship with Michael Burnham.”
On Star Trek: Discovery Season 1, the crew found itself in the Mirror Universe where Prime Tilly’s earnest ambition was twisted into the dominatrix-sadist Mirror Captain “Killy” Tilly.
What would Mirror Universe Cleveland Booker be like?
This stumps both Ajala momentarily.
Ajala looks to Wiseman for input. “I’ve never thought about that. What do you think it looks like?”
Wiseman brainstorms, “What is the same root of Book but the polar opposite expression of it?”
Ajala takes that and runs with it. “The first thing that comes to mind is borderline narcissist, very egotistical, self-absorbed. All those wonderful things that don’t make you a good human being.”
Endowed with the same special abilities as Book mentioned above, how would a Mirror Universe version utilize them?
Both Wiseman and Ajala are horrified at that possibility.
“That would be very dangerous. Because Book is someone who doesn’t just have a cerebral intellect [and] intelligence, he also has emotional intelligence. If you’re able to use that against someone, that could be very, very dangerous.”
Wiseman concurs, “Right. When you use empathy for evil, it’s manipulation.”
Ajala is deadly serious at this point. “Yeah, absolutely, and for your own gain. You can just imagine how that could be.”
Wiseman states somberly, “[He’d be a] very powerful person in the Mirror Universe.”
But the gravitas doesn’t last long.
Ajala postulates, “What about Grudge in the Mirror Universe?”
Wiseman shoots back, “A dog,” and they both lose it laughing again.
“You answered that too quickly. A dog. Very licky, friendly dog,” Ajala expands the description.
During Season 3, Tilly found herself in the position of Saru’s First Officer and, later, as acting captain in his absence. Wiseman confirms that the time in command profoundly changed Tilly.
“That experience [as captain and first officer] affects her so much this season, having to step up to the plate before she was ready.
“I think she intellectually knows that she didn’t fail, that it’s not her fault that Osyraa took the ship, that she didn’t have all the information, didn’t know what that ship could do to them. All that stuff.
“The fact that she took command and lost the ship would be an enormous blow to her confidence and make her question a lot of stuff.
“Some time has passed since the events of that season, but [she’s] still sort of not really sure what to make of it.
“Everything that used to be comfortable isn’t sitting as comfortably as it used to.”
Season 4’s challenge is a new space anomaly unlike anything ever seen before. It threatens the galaxy, both Federation and non-Federation planets.
Discovery leads the charge to deal with the anomaly, and Wiseman agrees that Tilly’s scientific skills are vital to solving the mystery.
“She’s one of the go-to people when there is hard science stuff to crack. It’s her, Adira, Stamets, and Reno, maybe. [They] are the really hard science people.
“[Tilly] definitely goes to employ those skills, but I think one of the things that leaves everyone feeling unmoored in this situation is they don’t even know how to use their skills to deal with this because it’s something they’ve never seen before, and they can’t predict it.
“‘They don’t know by which rules it’s operating and how to even engage. So when very capable people feel incapable, crazy things happen.”
Star Trek: Discovery Season 4 premieres on Paramount+ on November 18, with new episodes streaming every Thursday after that.
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.