Star Trek: Discovery Casting Choice Makes Series Problem Even Worse

By Chris Snellgrove | Updated

David Ajala plays Cleveland Booker in Star Trek: Discovery, and he instantly became one of the franchise’s most memorable characters thanks to everything from his shady background to his adorable cat. In a recent interview, the actor admitted that his character “was only meant to be on the show for two seasons, Seasons 3 and 4.” He was understandably delighted to come back for the fifth and final season of the show, but this casting choice makes the show’s biggest problem even worse: namely, that we still spend hardly any time with the majority of Discovery’s crew.

Too Little Focus On The Rest Of The Crew

Before I go any further and everyone tries to sic a giant tardigrade on me, I want to emphasize that I think David Ajala has been a great addition to Star Trek: Discovery. I love his character in the earlier seasons, and in the most recent season, his developing relationship with the criminal Moll has been a real highlight. Every moment he is onscreen, however, is a reminder that Discovery is an ensemble show that cares very little about most of the ensemble.

What does that mean? Simple: There are more Discovery fans than Paramount would care to admit, but they still can’t name most of the characters who have been on the show from the beginning. Even if you can remember their names, it’s mostly because they were explicitly mentioned by one of the characters the show always focuses on (usually Michael Burnham).

Discovery Missed The Chance To Bring Back An Ensemble Feel

Long before David Ajala came to the show, part of what made Star Trek: Discovery feel so significant was that it would be our first new episodic Trek series since Enterprise aired its final season in 2005. Enterprise, like Voyager before it, had an ensemble cast in which everyone got their moment to shine. Captain Archer might have gotten a little more screentime, but after that fifth season wrapped up, there was nobody on the bridge crew that fans couldn’t name.

Now, in a weird bit of cosmic irony, Discovery is also wrapping up after five seasons. Unlike the previous show, however, Discovery gets only about half as many episodes per season. There are many advantages to that approach, but the shortened seasons kicked off a continuing problem that the return of David Ajala to Star Trek: Discovery has only made worse.

Cleveland Booker Wasn’t Supposed To Come Back

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Originally, his Cleveland Booker character was seemingly written off the show at the end of season four. His relationship with Michael was over, and he was stuck doing penance for his crimes against the Federation. According to David Ajala, “the producers and powers that be wanted to flesh out Cleveland Booker’s story a little more,” which is why he came back to Star Trek: Discovery. But when the seasons for this show are half as long as the seasons for shows like The Next Generation, there isn’t enough time for all of the great characters to get their own episodes or specific storylines to flesh them out.

For example, Jett Reno pops up for a hilarious scene every few episodes and then disappears back into the deep background. Detmer was passionate about flying one time, but fans mostly know her as “the lady with the metal in her head” (not to be confused with “the lady who is metal,” the late officer Airiam). Oh, and Gen Ryhs is a tactical officer, but you might not know that because he almost never goes on Away Teams like Worf or Tuvok would.

Too Much Focus On Booker In The Final Episodes

Nominally, a tactical officer would help protect the Captain on dangerous missions, but you’ll never see Rhys beam down…this season, that honor exclusively belongs to David Ajala’s Cleveland Booker, who is back to being Burnham’s constant partner in crime. Again, he’s great in the role, and I’d love to get a Booker spinoff show instead of something as inevitably boring as the Starfleet Academy show. But focusing so much on his character in the final season of Star Trek: Discovery has ensured that we’ll never get to know our supporting crew any better.

Show The Supporting Cast Some Love

This criticism comes from a place of love…I’ve personally never missed an episode of Discovery and am excited to see how this whole Progenitor mystery wraps up. But as a longtime franchise fan, I can’t help but think how boring The Next Generation would have been if we never spent any time with Worf or how (ahem) flavorless Voyager would have been without ever focusing on Neelix. Disco is a show that nominally embraces the IDIC philosophy, but it’s clear that “infinite diversity” translates to spending as little time with our killer supporting cast as humanly possible.

Source: CinemaBlend

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