Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Michelle Yeoh Cast in Star Trek Discovery (Updated)

Coming Soon is reporting that Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) has been cast in Star Trek: Discovery. The information comes from series writer Nicholas Meyer who also wrote and directed Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. The role was not specified.

Due to her status as a movie star many sites are speculating she has been cast as the lead character of "Number One" who is would be the first officer on the USS Discovery. I don't see it. I see her as captain of Discovery, an Admiral, high ranking Federation official or even the season big bad in charge and causing havoc for the crew. She simply doesn't fit a second in command role. This isn't an ageist thing (cause she barely shows her 50+ years) but there is a reason Yeoh consistently gets cast in the mentor, protector or leadership role. Simply being on screen and doing nothing, she still provides an instant gravitas to any role that just demands respect. Building command experience and presence is something I would assume would be part of the character arc for the Number One role and not something that just exists on day one of the series. So what do you think of the casting?

Update: Deadline has confirmed that Michelle Yeoh has been cast as Captain Han Bo of the USS Shenzhou. The ship and some of its crew is "set to play a big role in Discovery's first season." In other words the role is more then a cameo or single episode appearance. The casting and ship name also suggests that CBS is hoping they can sell the series in China.

The Chinese government makes the decisions on what western TV and movies are allowed into the country. Those that show a positive viewpoint of China and/or Chinese culture tend to get approved which is why you may have noticed a significant rise in Chinese locations, characters and references in movies lately. A most recent example being Doctor Strange which changed the home base of "The Ancient One" from Tibet (which the Chinese gov't refuses to recognize as a separate country) to Nepal while also changing the character from Tibetan origin to Celtic. The "white washing" was done to facilitate the movie's entry into the country and its ever growing box office that will likely surpass the United States by the end of 2017.

This isn't a dig on the decisions, just a statement of the business side thought processes and how they may impact a movie or TV show. As long as the story and characters are good I don't particularly care. In this case if the show succeeds in China it would almost guarantee a second season as the global reach of a TV show is slowly but surely starting to become more important. The global reach already factors into movie making decisions but TV side has been very slow to adapt that approach. I suspect CBS is using Star Trek as not just a test case of their All Access platform but also as a supplement their profits worldwide even when a show doesn't necessarily catch on in significant numbers in the United States but does elsewhere. As of now, if a show fails in the United States, it's done, regardless of its popularity elsewhere in the world. I could see a day where some shows continue to get new seasons ordered due to foreign demand and stateside those seasons simply get relegated to streaming services. Hopefully in Discovery's case that scenario isn't an issue because it succeeds wherever it airs.

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