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Star Trek: Discovery's Mary Wiseman introduces Short Treks

We talk to Ensign Tilly as the show returns with online mini episodes and a Klingon-battling expansion to Star Trek Online, ahead of a new season in January.

CBS

Star Trek: Discovery warps back in January. But you don't have to wait that long to get your Disco fix. New Short Treks online episodes begin this week, while Discovery is being added to the Star Trek Online game.

Short Treks is a new series of four bite-size stories released each month on CBS All Access leading up to season 2 of Discovery. (Disclosure: CNET is owned by CBS.) Familiar faces Tilly, Saru and Harry Mudd each get their own mini episodes, as does mysterious new character Craft.

To find out more about these side missions for the Discovery crew, I spoke to Mary Wiseman, who plays bubbly command trainee Ensign Tilly in the Age of Discovery expansion for Star Trek Online and in the first Short Treks episode, Runaway.

Wiseman enjoyed Runaway's standalone story, which she describes as a little morality play in the tradition of past Star Trek episodes.

Runaway

Mary Wiseman's Ensign Tilly bites off more than she can chew in Runaway, the first Short Treks minisode.

Michael Gibson

"It's exciting as an actor to flesh out a bit more about Tilly," she says of the wealth of Trek spinoffs, from Short Treks to the novels, games and comics that expand on the lore and backstory of the show. "You always want to put your character through different experiences and see how it shapes their worldview."

Another spinoff that gave Wiseman an opportunity to do something new is the Age of Discovery expansion for the Star Trek Online game, in which Tilly guides you in creating a Discovery-era character and facing off with the Klingons. 

"Listen, when you're starting out you're trying to be as creative as possible about how you can use your skills as an actor to make money," she said. Wiseman laughed when thinking about previous attempts to get voiceover work. "I never got it!"

Luckily the writing of the game helped her get into things. "I felt like Tilly was on the page and it became quite smooth. It was a really nice experience for my first voiceover work ever!"

sto-ageofdiscovery-screenshot-tilly

Ensign Tilly is your guide to the Age of Discovery in Star Trek Online.

CBS

The MMORPG Star Trek Online allows you to take charge of your own starship. And the first season of Discovery saw Tilly fulfill her command ambitions in an unexpected way. Without giving away spoilers, that was Wiseman's favourite moment in the season, which comes to DVD and Blu-ray in November. That moment has also had a knock-on effect for season 2.

"People see something in her, her potential to be in command," she says. Tilly is "completely herself, doesn't put on a front, and that's a quality people will follow."

Season 2 also sees a change in command for the USS Discovery as Jason Isaacs is replaced in the captain's chair by Anson Mount, playing Captain Christopher Pike

"Just by him being a Starfleet captain we know is a good guy, that lends a different quality to the show," says Wiseman. "It's really nice to have fresh blood in the show just to see how different people approach it, what qualities they bring into our story -- just by being in the show they will change the atmosphere." 

Wiseman describes how lead actor Sonequa Martin-Green and the Discovery cast and crew embrace new faces behind the scenes. "If you're on the show you're immediately family, " she says, "and that's definitely a charge led by Sonequa."

Another new face in season 2 is a character who's perhaps the most iconic in Trek history: Spock. When I ask Wiseman how much she can see about whether Tilly has much interaction with the famous character, now played by Ethan Peck, she launches into an "Ummmmmmmm..." that goes on for a full 5 seconds, before laughing. "I will say Ethan Peck is an excellent Spock!"

Wiseman recognises the pressure on new actors Peck and Mount to live up to familiar characters like Spock and Pike who have such storied legacies stretching back to the original series.

"I can't imagine how it would be to play [Spock]," she says, admitting it's freeing to be playing a character new to Discovery. "I don't have that external pressure of living up to an incredible legacy like Leonard Nimoy or anybody else."

Still, the crew of the Discovery has become part of the larger Trek family, encountering former stars of previous shows at conventions and publicity events. Among her favourites of the classic Trek ensembles, Wiseman highlights Brent Spiner's work playing Data on The Next Generation. And having been directed in three episodes of Discovery by Jonathan Frakes, who played Commander Riker in TNG, she'd love for him to step in front of the camera again. "He's such a good actor, we love him so much," she says. "He's such a wonderful influence on the set." 

And then there's Patrick Stewart. "What can I say," Wiseman laughs. "I would be grateful for the rest of my life if I got to do a scene with him ever. Although I'm not sure about that, he's in a different timeline."

Although with a new Star Trek show being developed to continue Captain Picard's adventures, maybe it's time Ensign Tilly set to work on time travel.

Season 1 of Discovery is available on DVD and Blu-ray from 13 November in the US, and season 2 comes to CBS All Access in the US and Netflix around the world in January. Short Treks are available each month on CBS All Access. Age of Discovery comes to Star Trek Online on 9 October.

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