WARNING: Major spoilers lie ahead for this week’s episode of ‘Star Trek: Discovery,’ “Despite Yourself.” If you haven’t seen the episode and don’t wish to have any info spoiled, the time to stop reading is NOW!
Tonight’s episode of ‘Star Trek: Discovery‘ brought about a surprising mid-season death when Lt. Ash Tyler coolly snapped the neck of Dr. Hugh Culber. In the current ‘Game of Thrones’-esque TV environment, deaths of main characters are not necessarily as shocking as they once were, but it probably wasn’t one that many viewers saw coming, especially due to Culber’s relationship with the possibly-possessed Lt. Paul Stamets.
‘Discovery’ co-showrunner Aaron Harberts spoke at length with EW about the scene, the planning of the scene, and the ramifications moving into the rest of the season. In terms of the character’s death itself:
“This is something we knew we wanted to do from the beginning of the show. We knew that we wanted our gay couple to save the universe. We wanted to show the audience a gay love story that is transcendent and epic — that’s not something that a lot of gay characters get to be a part of, especially in science fiction. So we knew Culber had to die and we knew that Tyler was going to be the person who brought about his death, but we went through great pains to make sure that his death didn’t feel gratuitous.
“He’s killed because he’s the smartest person on this ship and he’s getting dangerously close to putting his finger on the truth. Culber dies because he is a hero and because he is really very insightful, smart, doing his job and, frankly, trying to protect his crew and this officer who is coming apart at the seams.
“I can promise you haven’t seen the last of [Culber].”
In terms of how this on-screen death may resonate with the LGBT community:
“We knew that this was going to be shocking for an audience and for a community that has unfortunately been assaulted by this “bury your gays” trope, but I’m an openly gay showrunner and my writing partner is nothing if not the most supportive person when it comes to LGBT portrayals on TV. We’ve got gay members of the writing staff and we have two incredible out gay actors as part of our team. We knew that starting this journey was going to be really painful for a lot of people, but at the end of the day we could say to our audience, “This is the team who is bringing you this story.”
“We can’t be afraid to take people through the good times and the bad times — and the horrifying hard times, in this case.”
It certainly sounds like Harberts and company have bigger plans for the now-deceased Culber, so viewers who wish to find out what those plans might be will have to stay tuned.
‘Star Trek: Discovery’ airs Sunday nights on CBS All Access.