At the age of sixteen, Culber was injured in a fall while hiking on the cliffs of Cabo Rojo, on Earth. Culber was rescued by a Doctor Kashkooli, who stitched and closed a puncture wound on his shoulder, which gave him a "very sexy scar.", as described by Paul Stamets. The experience inspired Culber to go to medical school. (DIS: "The Sound of Thunder")
In December of 2256, Specialist Michael Burnham introduced Culber to "Ripper", a tardigrade, after coming to believe that Ripper was experiencing pain during the starship's spore jumps. Culber agreed to run some tests. Scans of Ripper's frontal lobe showed significant cumulative deterioration every time Discovery went to black alert. The next time Discovery went to black alert, Ripper collapsed into a state of extreme cryptobiosis, reducing water content levels to one percent. Culber could barely detect Ripper's vital signs, and neurological tests indicated Ripper was possibly sentient. Acting Captain Saru ordered Culber to re-hydrate Ripper for more spore jumps. Culber refused the order, stating that he would "not be party to murder." Saru then ordered Lieutenant Stamets to carry out the order. Unbeknownst to Commander Saru, Lieutenant Stamets injected himself with Ripper's DNA and operated the spore drive in place of Ripper. Stamets rationalized to Culber that he knew he would leave him if he allowed anything else to happen to Ripper. (DIS: "Choose Your Pain")
After Ash Tyler experienced nightmares of having undergone surgery following Klingon imprisonment, he asked Culber to perform an examination on him. Culber discovered that Tyler's skeletal structure and organs had been surgically altered and that the Tyler personality had been overlaid over that of someone else. This led him to try to ground Tyler, which triggered a reaction in Tyler, who broke Culber's neck, killing him. (DIS: "Despite Yourself") It was later discovered that Culber had been correct and that Ash Tyler's personality had overlaid that of Voq, a Klingon. (DIS: "The Wolf Inside")
After his resurrection, Culber was subjected to extensive scans. (DIS: "Saints of Imperfection") Doctor Tracy Pollard ran every scan or test she could think of on Culber, to the point that Culber thought there wasn't a scan or test that she had not performed. While the scans showed his new body was healthy, Culber's body was completely new, with even the old scar on his shoulder gone. Pollard advised Culber that it would take time for him to get used to his new body and that, while she would continue to monitor his condition, he could resume a normal life. (DIS: "The Sound of Thunder")
Culber decided to transfer to the USS Enterprise, but he eventually changed his mind, when he realized that his place was with Stamets on the Discovery. He was among multiple crewmembers who volunteered to stay on board when Burnham took the ship forward into the 32nd century, to elude Control, with no chance of coming back. Along with the rest of the volunteering crew, Culber was presumed dead by Starfleet, based on the testimonies of the Enterprise senior officers. (DIS: "Such Sweet Sorrow", "Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2")
- "The Butcher's Knife Cares Not for the Lamb's Cry" (First appearance)
- "Choose Your Pain"
- "Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad"
- "Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum"
- "Into the Forest I Go"
- "Despite Yourself"
- "The Wolf Inside" (body)
- "Vaulting Ambition"
- "What's Past Is Prologue" (archive footage)
- "Brother" (holographic recording)
- "Saints of Imperfection"
- "The Sound of Thunder"
- "If Memory Serves"
- "The Red Angel"
- "Perpetual Infinity"
- "Through the Valley of Shadows"
- "Such Sweet Sorrow"
- "Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2"
Culber is portrayed by Wilson Cruz. He stated about the character, "It was important for me, when we were developing Doctor Culber, that he had this big heart, but he was also someone who was formidable, who could stand up to authority, who, you know, had no problem voicing his opinions and insisting on going the right way. So, I think we achieved that." (AT: "Despite Yourself")
Immediately after conceding that he didn't know what the mirror universe version of the character was like, Cruz theorized, "I think he's a bit of a mad scientist, probably doing, like, crazy, like, experimental, you know, things on aliens, kind of like the Germans did back in World War II." After Trek host Matt Mira suggested that the mirror Culber's work might be "trying to make a super soldier, like a Captain Terran," to which Cruz humorously added, "Yeah, for sure. I mean, there's definitely a goatee happening." Due to the time it took to produce all the elements needed to represent the mirror universe, the Star Trek: Discovery production staff had to be ready to have mirror universe looks for all the regular cast, including Culber. Thus, a pre-production artwork was created to demonstrate Culber wearing a mirror Starfleet uniform in primarily red medical division colors. In response to this image, Mira joked to Cruz, "I assume [it would] mean you were going to die real quick," referencing the well-known phenomenon of redshirts, and Cruz replied, "I died so quick I never got to wear it." DIS Executive Producer Aaron Harberts explained, "As we were starting to think about [Mirror] Culber and whether he would appear or not, it really was the desire that we never see him in the mirror universe, because we wanted to make sure that the image of Culber continues to stay pure and absolutely not evil. We didn't want to show that side of him, so ultimately we made the decision not to have Wilson appear in the mirror universe." Cruz actually got the opportunity to try on the costume (which both he and Harberts liked), before the idea of using it was ultimately scrapped. (AT: "Despite Yourself")