Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Unpacking Michael Burnham's Graduation, Part II: Costumes, Jewellery, and Symbols

The costume designer for Star Trek: Discovery is Gersha Phillips. I discussed her work a little bit earlier this year when one of Sarek's costumes was on display at SDCC but we now have a treasure trove of work to discuss!

It seems to me that the Discovery Vulcans are influenced most by Michael Kaplan's Kelvin Universe costumes. The high collars, textured fabrics, and long, clean lines we see at Burnham's Graduation are very much in line with the Vulcans we saw in Star Trek (2009).

These costumes are much less ornamental than most of the Vulcans we've seen previously. The person who's designed the most Vulcan costumes is Robert Fletcher for the TOS films. Most of those were for religious or spiritual characters. The simpler styles we've seen from Kaplan and now Phillips seen to be largely for politicians and scientists.

Having said that, we do get some tantalizing glimpses of jewellery at Burnham's Graduation. Most of it is worn by female characters, including Burnham herself. The brooch that Burnham is wearing is clearly a reference to Spock's Kolinahr necklace from The Motion Picture.

It seems like the people dressed in white robes like Burnham's are the students who have just graduated. The woman to the left of the following frame is wearing a similar brooch but one that is less ornate. There are other graduates in the scene wearing the same brooch as Burnham. The variety of styles possibly suggests differences in academic standing. Burnham's more ornate brooch indicates her higher achievement.

These graduates also wear IDIC pins at their throats. A pin like this was included in the SDCC exhibit. The Vulcan Director (Jonathan Whittaker) wears a small pin at his throat as well. I haven't been able to capture an image of sufficient quality to see the detail. It could be that there is no symbol on this and it is merely decorative.

The other jewellery in the scene is worn by Amanda Grayson (Mia Kirshner). Without more information it is difficult to know for certain, but I would say this jewellery looks Human rather than Vulcan.

Besides those we see on clothing, there are additional symbols we can pick out in this sequence.

The metal sculptural pieces that I discussed briefly here are engraved with Vulcan calligraphic script. In previous Star Trek incarnations this script has not been given formal meaning. Fans like those working at have ascribed meaning to calligraphic symbols we have seen. It is possible that the Discovery team has used this fan work to inform what we see on screen. It's equally possible that these are simply decorative or that the Discovery team has created a system of meaning for them. We need more information to be sure.

There is still more information to unpack in Burnham's Graduation! Next time, I will discuss the props and ships we see in this sequence.

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