Star Trek Discovery’s Anthony Rapp on the series’ legacy

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Wenlei Ma
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Star Trek Discovery's fifth season will be its last.
Star Trek Discovery's fifth season will be its last. Credit: Paramount

Star Trek fans might face the occasional snigger or bit of mockery, but they know that in their heart of hearts, the franchise they love champions the best of us.

Since Gene Roddenberry put to air the first series in 1966, a dozen TV shows and several movies have continued its commitment to showcasing camaraderie, earnest values and decency.

“It was always the goal to show a beacon of what we can hope for humanity in the future,” Star Trek: Discovery actor Anthony Rapp tells The Nightly.

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“That those things that are different about us don’t have to divide us. They don’t have to be the barriers between us. They can be bridges and doors, and our show exemplified that.”

Star Trek: Discovery begins its final season this week. Like its stablemates, the series often took its tight-knit crew on intergalactic missions during which they encountered other species, but Discovery had started life as a much darker show.

“For long-time fans, it was a little harder for them to understand what was going on,” Rapp recalls. “But it was always meant to go through the darkness to come into the light and the ideals carry you through at the end of the day.”

Rapp, a Broadway and film actor who had never before been a regular on a series with multiple seasons, plays the ship’s scientist, Lieutenant Commander Paul Stamets, a man who started his character journey as frustrated and grumpy, but found grace through trials and challenges.

Stamets has softened as he found his purpose and place, and formed deeper bonds with those around him including his partner Hugh and becoming a father figure to Adira. It’s a raison d’etre that coursed through many of Discovery’s arcs, including that of its lead, the franchise’s first black female captain, Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), who went from mutineer to leader.

Anthony Rapp in Star Trek: Discovery.
Anthony Rapp in Star Trek: Discovery. Credit: Paramount+

For Rapp, Star Trek’s DNA and Stamets’ characterisation were entwined in its fundamental exploration of how to live a good life - “To test yourself, to see if you can find the best part of yourself to bring to this moment. And if you fail or if you falter, can you repair it?

“Our show has done that many times over the course of our five seasons, and that’s one of the things I’m most proud of.”

Discovery filmed its fifth season almost two years ago (the production also returned for extra days in April 2023 to shoot a coda when the decision was made it would be the last chapter) and in that time, Rapp has had two sons with his partner Ken, via surrogacy.

The actor has been open about his sexuality for decades and names Discovery’s queer representation as a big step for the franchise. More than any other title in Star Trek’s history – already a franchise that was relatively inclusive (Nichelle Nichols had a prominent role in the original series – Discovery became a beacon for marginalised communities.

It featured Star Trek’s first black female lead, Michelle Yeoh as its first female Asian captain, and characters that were gay, transgender and non-binary.

“It was something that had been desired by cast and writers (previously) but had been blocked by the network or the studio or whomever,” Rapp explains. “So it was a long time coming. Frankly, too long in coming.

“The fact we got to be the ones to finally break down that barrier, to have proudly, openly queer characters that are fully themselves is a huge mark of pride for us.

“They’re not just boxes to be ticked, they’re essential to show the world that these people exist all over. There are black female leaders in any number of positions around the world but their stories don’t get told as often as they should.

“To get to tell that story is incredibly important, meaningful and necessary.”

Star Trek: Discovery season five starts streaming on Paramount+ on April 4

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