Updated 11/22/17 – Actors Sonequa Martin-Green and Mary Wiseman appeared on CBS’s chat show After Trek after the mid-season finale. In this segment, they discuss the choices for their characters’ natural hair styles.
This post contains mild spoilers about the first three episodes of the new CBS series Star Trek: Discovery
When CBS announced the coming of the new television series Star Trek: Discovery, it was a divisive event in the science-fiction fan community. While fans were excited to see the return of a beloved show to the screen, a few changes from basic orthodoxy threw some followers for a loop. Some of the “controversial” changes included:
- The show would not air on live TV, but on CBS All-Access, a new, paid streaming service
- The star of the show would not be a captain (think Kirk, Picard, Sisko or Janeway), but the ship’s first-officer
- The lead actor would be Sonequa Martin-Green, a black woman.
Those three factors helped to arrange a unique band of distractors to the show as it moved through its preview season. A series of underwhelming preview trailers didn’t help either.
A funny thing happened along the way to the show’s premiere last Sunday, however: Star Trek: Discovery is actually fantastic! Sky high production values wrapped around a mysterious, unfolding plot have made the first three episodes a joy to watch.
In the premiere episode, we meet Martin-Green’s character Michael Burnham (yes, Michael), a confident, rising star within the Starfleet ranks. Other characters refer to her as “the best officer they’d ever met”. She is the trusted confidant of Philippa Georgiou (played by Michelle Yeoh), captain of the USS Shenzhou.
Michael is at the height of her career. Captain Georgiou goes as far as to recommend her to command her own starship.
Notice her hair. She is wearing a wavy pixie cut style that wouldn’t be out of place in a LinkedIn profile or a Wall Street Journal sketch.
A Fateful Beginning
After exploring the outer edges of Federation territory, the Shenzhow has a fateful encounter with a ship from the Klingon Empire, the war-like alien race who hasn’t been seen in over 100 years.
Dramatic events ensue. Burnham has multiple flashbacks to her youth and her first days in Starfleet, where we learn about her upbringing.
Here, we see Michael wearing an asymmetrical bowl cut with bangs that are a telltale marker of Vulcan culture. The audience learns that she was the only human ever raised on the planet Vulcan, the home of the famous Dr. Spock from The Original Series of Star Trek.
Everything that is hard and sharp about her abrasive Vulcan personality is revealed in this hairstyle.
We Started From the Bottom
Tragic events occur. A battle with a Klingon fleet leaves many Starfleet ship destroyed and personnel killed. A controversial decision by Michael leaves her imprisoned as a mutineer.
Six months in a Federation prison leaves her guilt-ridden and resigned to an inglorious fate. She is the face of a brutal war with the Klingons and blames herself for every death.
Mysteriously, her prison shuttle is intercepted by the eponymous USS Discovery. There, she meets some of her old shipmates, some of whom have been disfigured in battle, all of whom hate her. The Discovery’s enigmatic Captain Lorca (played by Jason Isaacs) notices her potential and conscripts her into service aboard the ship.
At the nadir of Michael’s presumed redemption arc, she wears her hair in a more natural style, with a curly spiral bob.
What do you think the writers (and costume designers) are saying with this choice at this point in her character’s development? Is her reversion to natural style at this low point in her life symbolic of a rebirth?
We are extremely excited to see how this journey unfolds.
Star Trek: Discovery streams Sundays at 8:30 pm on CBS All Access