The Inverse Interview

As a Star Trek Era Ends, Discovery’s Mary Wiseman Reveals Franchise’s Greatest Lesson

But don’t you dare ask her about Starfleet Academy.

Wilson Cruz as Dr. Culber and Mary Wiseman as Tilly in 'Star Trek: Discovery' Season 5.
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Mary Wiseman doesn’t believe in endings. Back in Star Trek: Discovery Season 4, fans worried that her character — the jubilant Sylvia Tilly — was leaving the series after Tilly left the eponymous starship. But she didn’t and even showed up to save the day in the Season 4 finale. And now, as Discovery Season 5 warps toward its finale, Wiseman is equally confident that this is not the end of her Star Trek journey. Yes, Disco is really concluding with its tenth episode on May 30 but also points out that her time in the Star Trek franchise has taught her to appreciate the long game. “Anytime an ending’s not an ending, that’s beautiful,” Wiseman tells Inverse.

As Discovery Season 5 passes its halfway point with Episode 6, “Whistlespeak,” Inverse caught up with Mary Wiseman to reflect on the journey so far, what’s ahead, and what she learned from The Next Generation — especially Number One himself, Jonathan Frakes.

Spoilers ahead for Discovery Season 5, through Episode 6.

In “Whistlespeak,” Captain Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Tilly (Wiseman) have to infiltrate a pre-industrial society on the planet Halem’no in an attempt to repair a secret weather tower, but also, track down more clues to the elusive Progenitor tech, reintroduced in the season premiere. Burnham and Tilly’s mission has a very old-school vibe and will remind longtime fans of similar episodes from The Original Series and The Next Generation.

“It is very old-school Trek, isn’t it?” Wiseman says. “I loved getting to put on my alien disguise, and it was so beautiful to get to shoot outside in this beautiful park in this gorgeous forest. And getting to do it with Sonequa [Martin-Green]; seeing Tilly and Burnham as best friends.”

Mary Wiseman is back as Tilly in Discovery’s final season.


During their time undercover, Tilly mentions to Burnham that “we could really use you at Starfleet Academy.” Interestingly, because Tilly teaches at Starfleet Academy now, and the next Star Trek TV series is titled Starfleet Academy — and is set in the Discovery timeline — many fans are wondering, even assuming, that Starfleet Academy could really use Mary Wiseman as Tilly.

“The truth is, I have no information to offer you, and even if I did, I couldn't offer it,” Wiseman says on the topic of whether or not she will appear in Starfleet Academy. “I don’t know who you are. I don’t know who I am. I know nothing.”

Something Wiseman does know, however, is just how different she is from Tilly in real life. “Characters are like these people who become little sisters to you that you nurture and love more than you even love yourself,” Wiseman explains. “She sounds like me and looks like me, but I'm different. I'm pretty different than her. I'm kind of hardcore and direct and fierce.”

Clearly, through her journey of Discovery, Tilly has become more fierce than she was in the early days when she was only a cadet on the ship. But, in an earlier episode this season, “Face the Strange,” Burnham traveled back in time to this moment and encountered a version of Tilly from those first few Discovery stories. “That was super weird,” Wiseman says. “I was freaked out by it. Having to put myself back and be like, well, ‘what was she like back then? What was the deal? What's the difference?’ Because you're just sort of changing along with the character in real-time, and so going back to who that person used to be is an interesting exercise. But ultimately, I think it was a fun exercise because it was so challenging.”

Beyond Star Trek, Wiseman’s next challenge is a Netflix series called The Residence, billed as a “screwball whodunit,” set in the White House. Clearly, a performer as heartfelt and funny as Wiseman will always find interesting work. And Even if Wiseman isn’t in Starfleet Academy, she makes it clear that she knows Star Trek will be part of her life, forever.

Jonathan Frakes directs Sonequa Martin-Green and Mary Wiseman, in the Mirror Universe in Star Trek: Discovery Season 1.


Her evidence for this fact is very convincing. Since Discovery Season 1, Jonathan Frakes has directed several episodes of the series, and, in doing so, passed along his Next Generation wisdom to the Disco cast. And so, through working with Frakes, Wiseman posits that the greatest lesson of the Trek franchise is that it never really ends.

“People are still watching his show, you know?” Wiseman says wryly. “So, I think that my sense of comfort and peace so much comes from the fact that Frakes is so connected still to his cast-mates and to that experience and that there doesn't seem to be an end for him at all. This is the reason that I'm not as weepy as I could be about it. You guys are stuck with me one way or another.”

Star Trek: Discovery streams on Paramount+.

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