Star Trek: Discovery aired its fifth episode of Season Two and several of the actors from last night’s episode speak about the episode and its significance for the future of their characters. Note: Major spoilers for the episode.
There are major spoilers below, so don’t read this until you’ve seen Saints of Imperfection.
OK, back to business. There were several welcome returns in last night’s episode but the most significant one was the return of Dr. Hugh Culber to the USS Discovery. Wilson Cruz, who plays the character, and Anthony Rapp, who plays his partner Paul Stamets, spoke about knowing what was going to happen, and they gave some hints as to the future of the duo.
When Cruz found out in Season One that his character was going to die, it wasn’t good news for him. “I was really disappointed,” he said. “I’m not going to lie to you. I had to pull it together and get to work.”
“I was told that things were going to go sideways for Stamets, but they didn’t get specific,” said Rapp. “It wasn’t until we were shooting the episode [before his death] that they reached out to me personally to let me know this was coming.”
But they soon found out that Culber would return. “We were also told pretty soon after that there was going to be a way for Hugh to come back,” said Rapp.
“We shot the episode in which Culber was killed off, and while we were shooting that episode, the producers let me know that I would be coming back within the season,” said Cruz. “I came back the very next episode where I met up with Stamets in the mycelial network and we got to say an official goodbye. When we shot that episode, they let me know that I would be coming back in season two in some capacity. But I didn’t find out I would become a series regular until we started season two.”
Both actors wanted the return to be satisfying. “My first concern was if we were going to give the fans a return that is worthy of this show and character,” said Cruz. “I wanted to make sure that it was as epic as I was being told it would be. And I think we have delivered on that. Because I know where we’re going with the story, I feel like we really set up the rest of the season for this relationship.”
“Initially, I didn’t know how, and I didn’t want to know how,” said Rapp. “Since Stamets didn’t know how, it wouldn’t help me play in the present. I didn’t know until I read the script for this episode. I was very satisfied. I felt it rang true to thematic threads that have been running through the story. It made sense in a fantastical way but felt grounded in real science.”
For Rapp, the storyline had personal relevance. “Stories about loss and grief are really important to me,” he said. “I lost my mom when I was in my twenties, so it’s always really meaningful when those types of stories get told.”
So what’s next for the couple? “We find a really interesting way to explore the idea that if you come back [to life],” said Rapp; “what is that like? What you’re going to learn is that he’s Hugh, but it’s a new body. What is it like to be the same person inside of a new body? And what is it like to have your consciousness be in a different realm for a while? It’s like someone coming out of a coma. What is it like to live and breathe again in this universe when you’ve been living and breathing in such a traumatized manner?”
“We will find out not just about who are they are to each other, but who they are individually,” said Cruz. “Last season, it was fair to say that Culber was very much in service of Stamets’ ambition. But this season, we really get to see who Hugh Culber is, why he does what he does.
“I want people to imagine what it’s like to have gone through all of that [in the network] and to now be back where it all started. That experience has affected how he feels about his life, career, relationship, and who he is. We will learn there are consequences for him, as there should be. We don’t pull any punches, and I think we deliver a love story that is worthy of this relationship.”
On TV Insider, Cruz spoke again about the consequences of what had happened to his character. “What I love is that they really captured that shock in the end, and it really sets us up for what happens to this person throughout the season,” he said. “There are consequences and there are ramifications, and so I think we get a glimpse of that at the very end. There is no tidy bow. I think anybody who’s been through a trauma like that can’t just wake up and act as if everything is all right. This guy goes on a journey, and this show is called Discovery for a reason, and I need people to remember that. It’s not just the name of the show.”