Star Trek: Discovery‘s producers apparently feel that the word “God” has no place on the bridge of a Federation starship. Series star Jason Isaacs was admonished for ad-libbing a line indirectly invoking a deity, which the show’s producers viewed as fundamentally against Gene Roddenberry’s utopian vision of the future.
Discovery, the long gestating Star Trek prequel TV show, is finally debuting in September, and details are beginning to emerge about the series’ story and characters. Set ten years before the events of the original Star Trek TV show, the series will follow Commander Michael Burnham (The Walking Dead‘s Sonequa Martin-Green), who is now known to be Spock’s half-sister. The show will chronicle an important event in Starfleet’s history that will heavily involve the Klingons.
Discovery has made some unexpected choices so far, regarding which traditional elements of the franchise it’s eager to embrace and which one it feels comfortable discarding. A new story from Entertainment Weekly showcases perhaps the most unexpected choice yet, as Captain Lorca (played by Harry Potter veteran Jason Isaacs) was told he couldn’t ad-lib a line including the word “god”. Here is the anecdote in question, from EW‘s report.
The director halts the action and Lorca, played by British actor Jason Isaacs of Harry Potter fame, steps off the stage. The episode’s writer, Kirsten Beyer, approaches to give a correction on his “for God’s sakes” ad lib.
“Wait, I can’t say ‘God’?” Isaacs asks, amused. “I thought I could say ‘God’ or ‘damn’ but not ‘goddamn.’ ”
Beyer explains that Star Trek is creator Gene Roddenberry’s vision of a science-driven 23rd-century future where religion basically no longer exists.
“How about ‘for f—’s sake’?” he shoots back. “Can I say that?”
“You can say that before you can say ‘God,’ ” she dryly replies.
No doubt, this exchange will cause some eyebrows to raise. While Beyer is correct that Roddenberry’s version of 23rd century Earth was largely secular, colloquial turns of phrase like “for God’s sake” are plentiful in the franchise’s history. While Earth was likewise largely secular, religion played a significant role in other cultures portrayed in Star Trek. For example, Deep Space Nine was a deeply religious story, as that series’ lead character, Captain Benjamin Sisko, was a reluctant emissary for a group of god-like beings worshipped by the Bajorans. Not to mention, one of the most famous quotes in the entire franchise is “What does God need with a starship?” from Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.
This sort of pedantry may prove controversial, especially in light of the show’s seeming disregard for other, more crucial aspects of the Star Trek mythos – like giving Spock a never before mentioned sister who also served in Starfleet, or radically overhauling the Klingons and other aesthetic aspects of the series with no real explanation. It’s certainly possible Discovery will be the TV reinvention that Star Trek needs, but until the show premieres it’s difficult to say with confidence that the show’s creators are taking an inspired (and not scattershot) approach to the source material.
Star Trek: Discovery premieres September 24th on CBS.
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