Star Trek Is Wasting Its Best Actor

By Michileen Martin | Published

star trek

In Star Trek: Discovery, we are introduced to Mary Wiseman’s Tilly, who starts off the show as a nervous cadet and gets promoted to ensign before becoming a Starfleet Academy instructor. Now that Paramount is working on a CW-style Starfleet Academy show to lure in younger fans, it seems a lock that Tilly is going to be a main character on the show, especially now that her Discovery appearances are so sporadic. We think this decision is a shame for a simple reason: Mary Wiseman is the best actor in Discovery, and she deserves better than being the legacy character for a teenybopper Star Trek show.

Downright Adorkable

star trek

We’ll be the first to acknowledge what many Star Trek fans are screaming at us right now: Mary Wiseman’s Tilly has had some cringe moments on Discovery. This includes her downright weird use of the f-word (a first for the franchise) and the really awful line “this is the power of math, people!” However, that mangled dialogue came from the writers, and when given better material, Tilly easily shines as the best and most adorkable character on the show.

Time and time again, we see that Tilly has faith in her friends and faith in Starfleet. Star Trek: Discovery kicked off the NuTrek trend of being darker and grittier than earlier shows in the franchise, but Mary Wiseman’s character brought some much-needed light to every scene she was in. Because of this, we wish Tilly was going to be in more of Discovery’s final season or even headlining her own movie rather than starring in Starfleet Academy, a show where her big heart and great empathy will likely take a backstage for teenybopper drama about which cadets are busy making the Gorn with two backs.

A Seriously Diverse Performance

starfleet academy

Somewhat ironically, it can be difficult at first to notice how much Tilly brings to Star Trek: Discovery because she started off as a character who is mostly there to support protagonist Michael Burnham. That meant that Mary Wiseman spent much of her earlier episodes alternating between being a shoulder for Sonequa Martin-Green to cry on and a young cadet for Martin-Green to mentor. But the show eventually gave Tilly far more to do, and that meant we got to see Wiseman show off some serious acting chops.

Early in Star Trek: Discovery, Mary Wiseman is convincing as a nervous cadet, but when she had to play an evil Mirror Universe version of Tilly, she’s equally convincing as a ruthless Captain with serious dominatrix energy. In another season, Wiseman makes Tilly’s fear of a dangerous medical procedure (getting her head drilled into) seem palpable as she nervously sings the lyrics to David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” Once you rewatch the entirety of the show, it’s easy to see she is giving a subtly brilliant performance, and we wish Paramount would do something better with the character than keeping snot-nosed cadets in line in Starfleet Academy.

What Lack of Tilly Does To a Show

district 9 sequel

If you’re still not convinced that Star Trek producers are wasting Mary Wiseman’s talents by having her headline a Starfleet Academy show, we challenge you to rewatch the fourth season of Discovery. She basically leaves the cast after the fourth episode and doesn’t appear again until the finale. While that season had some other major issues dragging it down, the simple truth is that the quality of the season took a serious nosedive as soon as Tilly was gone.

The New Rule

star trek starfleet academy

Back in the days of Star Trek: The Next Generation, it became a running gag that you could judge the quality of an episode by how long Riker’s beard was. For NuTrek, we’ve got a little rule of our own: you can judge how good an episode of Discovery is by how much it features Mary Wiseman. She makes each scene better, and even when we weren’t interested in Discovery’s season-long mystery plots (spoilers: all the time), she kept us glued to the set by embodying the warm and empathetic qualities that made Star Trek so popular.

Discovery Season 5

We know that the fifth season of Star Trek: Discovery will feature Mary Wiseman’s character, but odds are that she will have a limited appearance ahead of the Starfleet Academy spinoff. That’s a shame because seeing what Tilly is up to was one of the reasons we were most looking forward to watching the final season, and knowing her talents will continue to be squandered takes all the air out of our earlier excitement. This is your best current actor and character, Paramount: can you please find something better to do with her than making her the boring grown-up in your CW ripoff show?