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‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Costume Designer Breaks Down Wedding Outfits, Progenitors Looks and New Starfleet Uniforms – Variety

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After 65 episodes, “Star Trek: Discovery” boldly wrapped up its ambitious five-season run with “Life, Itself,” in which Captain Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) finally found the technology of the Progenitors that she and her crew had searched for, only to let it stay hidden after deeming that it too powerful to be in the hands of one civilization.

It was an episode that also saw the anticipated marriage of Burnham’s former shipmate Saru (Doug Jones) to Vulcan President T’Rina (Tara Rosling), not to mention the consummation of her own relationship with Cleveland Booker (David Ajala). And finally, there was a 30-year jump into the future, where Burnham and Booker have a grown son (Sawandi Wilson), who has a starship of his own to command.

All of these plot points meant that costume designer Anthony Tran had his work cut out for him up to — and even after — the last minute.

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After they were first introduced in a 1993 episode of “The Next Generation,” the Progenitors were finally revealed in “Life, Itself,” though with updated attire. As Tran explains, “I think costumes from the older shows look like they’re from the time from when the show originated, so our Progenitor had to feel a bit more ethereal. It became a lot about the materials we used, which had some metallic flax in it. That made it feel kind of amorphous, and the way it was cut was meant to be modern with a little cape, which also made it feel a little angelic. But the overall goal was just to make it feel as timeless as possible.”

Somkela Iyamah as Progenitor in Star Trek: Discovery.
Michael Gibson/Paramount+

As for the royal 32nd Century wedding between Saru and T’Rina, Tran found inspiration from another royal wedding, this one from the 20th Century. “My main reference point was Grace Kelly’s wedding to Prince Rainier. He was wearing his traditional thing, and then she came from Hollywood wearing her traditional thing.”

For Saru’s “tux,” actor Doug Jones was fitted with a 40-pound costume that made the most of his long and lean build. “In his case, we wanted to exaggerate everything as much as possible. For more detail, we used the lines of geometry of Kelpien clothes, and that’s what created the plates in his armor. The rest of the material was super weird. It’s actually vintage mohair velvet, and we shaved it down.”

When it came to T’Rina’s wedding gown, which weighed 27 pounds, Tran went much further back into “Star Trek’s” past. “We looked at Vulcan weddings from ‘Star Trek’ canon. We looked at T’Pring times two. There’s T’Pring from ‘The Original Series’ [from the 1967 episode ‘Amok Time’] and there’s T’Pring from ‘Strange New Worlds’ [from the 2023 episode ‘Charades’]. In the ’60s show, there was a metallic trim that ran down her dress, and then a similar idea that was updated for “Strange New Worlds.”

Tran further explains, “We also looked at ‘Enterprise,’ where the character T’Pol also had a Vulcan wedding [in the 2004 episode ‘Home’]. She had a veil perched on her head, but our version is much more dramatic and sculptural, and we used tent wire to make it as big as possible. Otherwise, the dress was very much inspired by Grace Kelly’s wedding dress. It’s just the 32nd Century version of that mixed with Vulcan.”

Saru and T’Rina wedding outfits.
Michael Gibson/Paramount+

Soon after filming wrapped on the fifth season in November of 2022, Tran got a call from “Discovery” showrunner Michelle Paradise. “She said that this is going to be our final season, but we’re coming back, and we’re shooting this coda that will flash forward to the future. I’m going to send you the script pages, and then you’ll get to work. I had a little over a month to prep for that.”

About a third of Tran’s 65-person wardrobe department returned for the coda, which was filmed over just three days in the spring of 2023. A new time frame meant new Starfleet uniforms for now-Admiral Michael Burnham and her son, Captain Leto. “You can’t alter the look of the uniforms too much, and you can’t really change the color,” says Tran. “You also can’t do much with the silhouette. The shape is what it is, so it became more about putting it together in a way that felt interesting.”

Tran did just that by drawing inspiration from the look of two classic “Star Trek” eras. “We really wanted to honor ‘Discovery,’ but we also wanted to pay tribute to the ‘Star Trek’ legacy as a whole, so I looked at other uniforms. One was from ‘Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,’ those red uniforms. That was definitely the reference for Burnham, and we wanted it to be as bold as possible. We did two shades in our version. One is a darker shade, and there’s a lighter shade, just to give it some contrast, especially with the way we were sewing it.”

Sonequa Martin-Green as Admiral Burnham. Costume designer Anthony Tran didn’t veer too far from the original Star Fleet looks.
Michael Gibson/Paramount+.

But Tran saved the best for last, saying “My personal favorite uniforms are the jumpsuits from ‘The Next Generation,’ which is what I was really referencing for Burnham’s son. The way we put it together felt modern in terms of weight stack, the way that the shoulder plates rest on each other. We did a little bit of detail on the side, as well as some other things that felt abstract and referential to the other uniforms, but the real inspiration for that was the Next Generation uniform.”

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