Star Trek: Discovery‘s Executive Producer Akiva Goldsman spoke about what makes Michael Burnham tick and her relationship to the important Vulcans in her life.
“We asked what was she like as a child, what was she like after she had been on Vulcan for a long period of time, what was she like when she first arrived, which we see in episode two,” said Goldsman. “Then what is she like at the end of episode two? What is she like at the beginning of episode three, and what is she like at the end of the first season? We played around. To find her voice was sort of a delightful adventure, because we knew that we wanted to hybridize those things that are often a dialectic in Star Trek, Vulcan culture and human culture, to do it in a way that was unique to this idea of a character that Bryan Fuller and Alex Kurtzman came up with, which is a human raised by Vulcans — which is very different from Spock, who is half human, or Saavik who is a Vulcan who has affected a more typically human countenance, or somebody like Sarek who is Vulcan but clearly attracted to humans. We have the complications between humans going back to T’Pol and Jonathan Archer.
Burnham’s relationship to Sarek will change as the season goes on. “The meat of that relationship, which is foster child to foster parent, is honestly one of the significant stories that we’re telling,” said Goldsman. “As character stories go, it is one of the spines of the narrative. And like all parent-child relationships, evolving. I think that in [episodes] one and two we start to see that we’re going to be dealing with a period of external conflict and crisis, and how that motivates character decisions throughout the course of the show. It also creates intense strains-slash-enhancements in interpersonal relationships. How Sarek deals with his daughter is different in [episode] one than it is in two than it is in subsequent episodes. Burnham’s role has changed, so Sarek’s view of her continues to change.”
Will Discovery address Burnham’s relationship with Spock? “Right now we are really trying to be very gentle about any kind of direct intersection with what we would consider hero components of TOS,” said Goldsman. “It’s certainly mentioned, but it’s not explored.”