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Star Trek: Discovery showrunners comment on controversial death scene

MAJOR SPOILERS for the latest episode of Star Trek: Discovery below. Since its debut last September, the most recent Star Trek series has shown that it isn't afraid to kill off characters, with more than a few seemingly main characters shuffled off this mortal coil, but the shocking death in Sunday's episode of Star Trek: Discovery has some fans up in arms.

After seemingly realizing that he was a Klingon sleeper agent, Lt. Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif) went to Dr. Hugh Culber (Wilson Cruz) in order to uncover just what was done to him, but when confronted with the revelation that he may not be who he thought he was, Tyler reacted by breaking Culber's neck. It was a shocking moment, and rather controversial as Culber represented half of Star Trek's first gay couple and his death seemed to reinforce the Bury Your Gays trope. However, death may not be the end and Discovery show-runners Gretchen J.Berg and Aaron Harberts told Variety that Dr. Culber will be back...somehow.

We have a really smart audience and an audience that I think thrives on nuance. All you have to do is think about all the things that Stamets has said on camera about the mycelial network and about life and death and I think that the audience will certainly understand that this is not an ending, it’s a beginning... He’s a character in the story. You will see Culber again.

As much as I wish that Culber's future didn't have to be revealed prematurely, I can understand why Berg and Harberts felt that they needed to address the controversy. However, the nature of Culber's return hasn't yet been revealed, but Haberts did rule out one possibility. The episode in which Culber was killed also re-introduced the Mirror Universe, but Haberts said that there will be no evil Culber doppelganger. "We realized that we absolutely didn’t want to see him in the Mirror Universe, because we wanted to keep him pure for the rest of this journey," Harberts said. Wilson Cruz added that, "One of my favorite scenes that I’ve ever shot in my 25-year career is still yet to be seen in this season." Star Trek: Discovery producers also shared their future plans with GLAAD before the release of the episode, and in a statement, spokesperson Nick Adams said:

Alongside so many fans, GLAAD cheered the arrival of ‘Star Trek’s’ first gay relationship, and we share in their mourning over the death of a beloved groundbreaking character. Death is not always final in the ‘Star Trek’ universe, and we know the producers plan to continue exploring and telling Stamets and Culbers’ epic love story. Wilson Cruz has leveraged his talent as an actor to create a smart, lovable, and strong character in Dr. Culber, once again bursting through doors that were once closed to gay actors in Hollywood. We look forward to watching their love story unfold.

Aaron Harberts further teased that Stamets and Culber are critical to the resolution of Discovery's first season, saying, "These two characters are going to be instrumental in saving the universe. So everybody hold on," Harberts said. "Some really phenomenal stuff is coming, and if you think that the out gay showrunner and his more-than-supportive writing partner and friend of more than 20 years are just going to kill a gay character to be done with a gay character, you’re wrong. And if anybody thinks that you would hire two of the best gay out actors working today in Anthony Rapp and Wilson Cruz and put them on ‘Star Trek’ just to sort of throw them away, you would also be very, very wrong."

Extra Tidbit: Jonathan Frakes (Cmdr. Riker on TNG) directed this episode of Star Trek: Discovery. The last Star Trek project Frakes directed was Star Trek: Insurrection in 1998.

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