Star Trek Discovery Blog
34 days to go
New Animated Series Announced
CBS has announced a new animated series called Star Trek: Lower Decks, created by Emmy Award-winner Mike McMahan. The show will be produced by CBS Eye Animation Productions, Secret Hideout and Roddenberry Entertainment. A bit unlike the obvious namesake, the much-acclaimed TNG episode of the same name, the series will follow the adventures of "the support crew serving on one of Starfleet's least-important ships". No storylines, casting information, production artwork or air dates have been published yet.
Mike McMahan said about the new series: "While Star Trek: Lower Decks is a half-hour, animated show at its core, it's undeniably Trek - and I promise not to add an episode at the very end that reveals the whole thing took place in a training program."
Lower Decks has been confirmed for two seasons. It is the first animated Star Trek series since the last TAS episode aired, as long as 44 years ago.
Many fans believe that Star Trek and comedy don't go together. And since the overall disappointing first animated series and its retroactive decanonization on Gene Roddenberry's behest, many think that Star Trek and animation don't mix well either. However, my impression is that the combination of animation and comedy may work in the Star Trek Universe, especially if the new series takes its own setting seriously, in which case it may also be a welcome addition to canon. Perhaps Alex Kurtzman has learned a lesson from the success of Seth McFarlane's The Orville that follows the principle of being funny while still telling good science fiction stories. But I am relieved that, rather than trying to do something similar in a live-action series, Kurtzman uses a format that is not so much in a danger of looking like a parody of Star Trek (well, and that may more easily be declared non-canon if it should get too silly). I am also glad that the new animated show that we already knew would come sooner or later does not have a topic that would enter a direct competition with the dramatic Star Trek series, namely Discovery and the unnamed Picard series. So let's just hope that Mike McMahan will get the right feel into the new series (meaning, not the one of Discovery), and let's wait what the people in charge tell us about its canon status (although my clear expectation is that they will say "of course it's canon").
Production News Round-up
Several more details about Discovery's season 2 were revealed during the panels and interviews at New York Comic Con. Mary Chieffo gave an explanation of why the Klingons suddenly have hair: "In a time of war the Klingons would shave their heads, and in a time of peace, we start to grow it back out." She later wrote a tweet how this is supposed to fit with the depiction of Klingons of the future: "The Dominion War takes place more than 100 years after the events of Discovery. Traditions change and are lost in time. Much of what T'Kuvma predicted about homogenization and assimilation of the Klingon race occurs after the explosion of Praxis & subsequent political shift."
Anson Mount promised that, despite the serialized nature of the show, the classic episodic feel will return: "So, each show does have its own character, its own question, while maintaining this really strong through line." Doug Jones said that we will meet Saru's sister, played by Hannah Spear. Wilson Cruz teased the return of Hugh Culber: "We find him where we left him." Sonequa Martin-Green spoke about Michael Burnham's difficult relationship with Spock, and that her journey in season 2 will be "deeply emotional". She also promised that it would be explained why Spock never talks about his foster sister.
On a more technical note, Alex Kurtzman and Heather Kadin spoke to TrekCore about the new aspect ratio of the show (2.39:1). Kurtzman said: "I pushed that decision. I'm in love with the anamorphic frame. I just think it's glorious and beautiful and every great film experience I've had has been shot anamorphically."
Regarding the still unnamed Picard show, Kurtzman announced that the plan is to produce an ongoing series that could run multiple seasons. He also stated that the series "will not mesh into this season [of Discovery], that will be its own thing."
I think it is a good decision for Discovery to ease the serialized format. Too many plot threads were going on for too long in the first season, and they were overextended such as in the case of Tyler's true nature. I think the people in charge themselves were not really content with season 1 in this regard.
Mary Chieffo's explanation for the sudden appearance of Klingon hair does not make sense. Even if we pretend for a moment that the hair were the only discrepancy between classic Klingons and the drastic DIS redesign, we could see Klingons who were more or less at war not just in the 24th century, but also in ENT, in TOS and in the TOS movies. And always with hair. Moreover, the Klingons of the 22nd century were much the same culture they would still be 120 and 200 years later, with the caveat that the Augments (that Discovery totally disregards anyway) may have somewhat different traditions. This uninterrupted continuity invalidates the claim that traditions could have changed a lot from the time of DIS to DS9. The producers of DIS may have chosen to continue to ignore ENT and TOS, to win a few points with regard to continuity with 24th century Trek, also because of the upcoming Picard series. But no matter how hard we twist the facts, there is no place in canon Trek for a tradition of Klingons to shave their heads, except perhaps among a small secluded sect. So is it just something the Klingons do to honor T'Kuvma? Hardly. The Klingons in "The Vulcan Hello" were all bald without exception, even before T'Kuvma summoned them and came up with the surprising proposal to attack the Federation. Some argue that the baldness of the Klingons at this time could be meant as a sign of their inner conflict, rather than of a war against a common enemy. But then there would be even less reason for a tradition that symbolizes a homogeneous culture, and even less reason that (with the exception of General Chang) not a single Klingon of any other era would still cherish the tradition.
The 2.39:1 "cinematic" aspect ratio is a major annoyance. Every normal TV series is shot in 16:9 so the whole screen is used. Discovery's first season was 2:1, which wasted 11% of the screen. Now it's 2.39:1, which means as much as 26% loss! Kurtzman's justification for the aspect ratio that he wants the series to feel like a movie is not just lame, it's plain wrong. If you produce a TV series for a screen whose worldwide standard is 16:9, you have to stick to that ratio. There's absolutely no excuse for giving the viewers less resolution than they pay for and for making them squint to recognize details on the screen!
Trailer Teases Number One, Spock, "New" Klingons, "New" Ship
A new trailer for Discovery's season 2 shows Rebecca Romijn as Pike's "Number One" and Ethan Peck as Spock for the first time. The biggest surprise on the hairy side, however, is not Romijn's dark wig or Peck's beard but the glimpse of Klingon hair that we can get in the trailer. It looks like even L'Rell has grown hair, while all the other neo-Klingon features are still the same as in the first season. We also see a depiction of a familiar Klingon D7 or K't'inga cruiser, which is in stark contrast to the anti-canon designs seen in the series so far.
The strange winged entity that appears to Spock as well as to Burnham is aptly named the "Red Angel" and somehow seems to determine the destiny of the galaxy.
Glenn Hetrick already teased the new Klingons with hair, but so far it seemed unlikely that even established Discovery characters like L'Rell would undergo the metamorphosis. My quick Photoshop job of L'Rell with hair was meant more like a joke. We will probably have to wait until January for a possible in-universe explanation. Is it yet another genetic mutation? And is the "Red Angel" responsible in some way? Or can Discovery Klingons generally grow hair when they feel like that? Is having hair or no hair just a temporary fashion among them? Perhaps there will be no rationale at all on screen because otherwise the Klingon make-up is still essentially the same as in the first season (although L'Rell's forehead wrinkles seem to have changed)? It also remains to be seen whether the familiar battlecruiser is more than a one-off reference and whether its appearance is somehow related to the hair.
The new style of Discovery is most likely not a reboot of the reboot. I doubt that the revision of the Klingon style can be more than a cue that Discovery is supposed to be Star Trek in spite of everything. Overall, the visual alterations are still too extreme. But we can take for granted that constant fan feedback (like my own complaints) was the incentive to do something about the most criticized visual issues of the series. Discovery started off as a total reboot on the visual side, and especially its Klingon designs defiantly disregarded the canon looks. The makers of the series, and in particular Bryan Fuller, apparently didn't want their creation to look like Star Trek. If the original intention had been to respect canon, Discovery wouldn't have introduced the bizarrely different biology and ships in the first place, only to replace or supplement them with more canon visuals in the later course of the series. They would not have created the impression that the new Klingon look is the only one that exists in their universe, and justified the baldness with sensory organs running down the back of their heads. They would not have used familiar names from canon (Bird-of-Prey and D7) for their totally different Klingon ships. So the revision of the revision of the Klingons is a victory of reason over the obsession to change everything for change's sake, albeit just a small one.
Discovery still has numerous issues, on the visual side as well as with regard to the scripts (that some have begun to focus on as the "real canon"). With every new episode the series did introduce and will probably continue to introduce elements that hardly fit with canon. As exciting as the idea of the red lights across the galaxy and Spock's encounter with the "Red Angel" is, this life-changing story likely leads Discovery further away from canon.
Regarding the characters introduced in the trailer, I really like the look of Rebecca Romijn as Number One. I'm not yet convinced of Ethan Peck as Spock. He doesn't give me a Spock vibe. The beard may be a visual aid to underline that this Spock is another new interpretation of the character, possibly a rather emotional one. It may be hard to reconcile this new Spock with the person he was in "The Cage" and will be in TOS.
No Short Treks Outside North America!
Worldwide fans looking forward to the release of the first Short Treks mini episode on October 4th will likely wait in vain. As announced on the CBS Twitter account, "Star Trek: Short Treks are only available on CBS All Access in the U.S." This is explained with streaming rights that would apparently include the full episodes (well, and After Trek) but nothing else. According to TVWise, Netflix UK has opted not to show Short Treks, although so far the impression was that the license included at least direct Discovery spin-offs, as opposed to the stand-alone Picard series.
Update 01 Oct 2018: Short Treks will air on Space in Canada on October 4. No word from Netflix yet.
This is not just a huge disappointment for worldwide fans, it is a slap in the face. CBS set up the Short Treks format to bridge the time until the new season but apparently only for their own subscribers. And since outside the USA there is no CBS All Access that we could subscribe to, it has a totally inappropriate national bias as well. I will personally have to find illegal ways to view and review Short Treks.
Short Treks Schedule Announced
The official Star Trek site lists the air dates and the synopses of the four Short Treks mini episodes:
- "Runaway" - Thursday, Oct. 4
Onboard the U.S.S. Discovery, Ensign Tilly (Mary Wiseman) encounters an unexpected visitor in need of help. However, this unlikely pair may have more in common than meets the eye.
- "Calypso" - Thursday, Nov. 8
After waking up in an unfamiliar sickbay, Craft (Aldis Hodge) finds himself on board a deserted ship, and his only companion and hope for survival is an A.I. computer interface.
- "The Brightest Star" - Thursday, Dec. 6
Before he was the first Kelpien to join Starfleet, Saru (Doug Jones) lived a simple life on his home planet of Kaminar with his father and sister. Young Saru, full of ingenuity and a level of curiosity uncommon among his people, yearns to find out what lies beyond his village, leading him on an unexpected path.
- "The Escape Artist" - Thursday, Jan. 3
Harry Mudd (Rainn Wilson), back to his old tricks of stealing and double-dealing, finds himself in a precarious position aboard a hostile ship - just in time to try out his latest con.
These stories are said to "fit into Discovery and the expanding Star Trek universe."
So far we know mini stories set in the Star Trek Universe only from fandom. In traditional TV schedules there were no slots for anything shorter than a regular episode, at least none that were attractive enough to justify the effort. This has changed with the move to the streaming service. Here, Short Treks is clearly intended to be more than only an appetizer for the upcoming full episodes, its principal purpose may be to keep viewers from unsubscribing or to get them to resubscribe sooner.
But we also have to consider the backlash Discovery received from many fans, not only for its lousy continuity but also for its serialized story that didn't feel like Star Trek because it was reluctant to come to the point. Short Treks seems like the other extreme because each story has at most 15 minutes to relay its message. I have little hope that the continuity of these stories will be any better than the one of Discovery (also because the sets and other visuals will likely be the same). But the descriptions of the Short Treks stories sound more interesting than those of most Discovery episodes. So Short Treks is a chance to redeem some of the lost Trek spirit.
I only wonder what the conspicuous note that it will "fit into Discovery and the expanding Star Trek universe" is supposed to mean. More canon connections? Some storyline that will continue in the Picard series? Or just the implicit reaffirmation that, in spite of everything, Discovery is just as canon as everything that came before and will follow?
CBS announced that Ethan Peck has been cast in the role of Spock for Star Trek Discovery. The grandson of Hollywood legend Gregory Peck is the third actor to play the role, after the late Leonard Nimoy and Zachary Quinto (not taking into account the stand-ins from "Star Trek III").
This is the casting news that I knew in advance I wouldn't care for. We don't need a Spock 3.0. The idea of getting the Enterprise, Spock and Pike into their show is something the Discovery producers only imagine the fans long for. We already have one active Spock in the Abrams films, played by Zachary Quinto. Yet, the character was simply doubled (just like Pike and Sarek too) for Discovery. The makers of the Abramsverse will abstain from recasting Chekov, so why don't the CBS people follow the example? Why do we have to get yet another Spock? The universe is big. Isn't it possible to create a Star Trek series without all the usual names? Or is Discovery so desperate to "prove" that it is Prime Universe canon and to demonstrate that it can have likable characters that it needs to include these assumed crowd-pullers?
While the very idea of recasting of Spock doesn't meet my approval, I think Ethan Peck is a fine choice, perhaps just because of his resemblance to Zachary Quinto. Let's just hope the character won't be butchered the way it happened to his father Sarek in the first season. Since Ethan Peck's grandfather was one of my all-time favorite actors, I have high hopes that he can make "his" Spock someone special. Still, I doubt that it can be done without harming the uniqueness of Leonard Nimoy's legacy.
Klingons to Change - Again!
In surprising news from Star Trek Las Vegas, make-up designer Glenn Hetrick promised a new Klingon look for Discovery's season 2. He explained that "everything keeps evolving. The story has evolved. And I can guarantee you this, you are going to be blown away that they have a completely new look, yet again, going into season two." According to Hetrick, the rationale for the different looks lies in different genetics of the Klingon houses. As an example of an already existing variation, he mentioned one first-season Klingon from the House Antaak, who had a "cranial ridge extension that goes down on to his chin." Hetrick also addressed "this whole thing with hair", thereby clearly hinting at Klingons with hair in season 2.
Although Hetrick leaves no doubt that the Klingons will be different yet again and that at least some of them will have hair, there are a lot of open questions right now. Hetrick makes it sound like even established characters will change, saying "it has been [a] while since we have been with our characters." On the other hand, he refers to the genetic differences between the houses as the reason for just some of them (that we arguably haven't seen yet on Discovery) being different and perhaps more familiar. I think rather the latter is true.
I'll have to reserve my judgment whether Discovery tries to reconcile a few of its visuals with classic Star Trek until we actually see one of the "new" Klingons and ultimately until the second season airs. In the best case, Discovery will build a visual bridge to the established canon that is deemed to free the series of the so far well-deserved "total reboot" stigma and that may permit to engage in speculation why we have never seen any first-season DIS Klingons before. Speculation that was impossible until now. In the worst case, Discovery will just show some more variations of the first-season Klingons that don't look like the iconic species at all and thereby only deepen the rift, because besides looking completely different anyway, Klingons were never such a diverse species.
The announcement that the Klingons will change yet again comes as a surprise, but it fits with the current image campaign for season 2, after the lay-off of Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts. It fits with Kurtzman's promise that he is going to reconcile the series with canon. Perhaps this includes the visual side from now? Is it a paradigm shift? Backpedaling? Or just damage control? In any case it is pleasant how the people in charge seem to listen to and to talk to the fans again. This is quite a contrast to the first season, whose media campaign aimed to offend and marginalize old-school fans like me. And don't get me even started on the whole "toxic white male fans" debate that additionally gave us a bad name. But as I already wrote, we will have to wait and see whether the people in charge really listened to us.
One key problem of the Discovery production since the beginning seems to be that (higher-ranking) people meddle with things that they shouldn't have much business with. The CBS execs (who arguably have no idea what Star Trek is about) told Fuller to create yet another prequel, although Fuller wanted to do an anthology. Fuller, in turn, went to the designers and told them to flatten the ships and totally redesign the Klingons, instead of relying on their talents to come up with *reasonable* updates. I suspect that the whole idea of the "visual reboot" was a dictate by the producers, who wanted to leave their mark on the show, rather than the result of a real creative process. I know I have been harsh on John Eaves, who created the "new" Starfleet ships, and on Glenn Hetrick. Five months ago, I still complained about how Hetrick defended the new Klingon look with the non-arguments that the complete redesign was an "evolutionary imperative" and that they were meant to be a "cross between reptilian and avian". Perhaps he has a bit more creative freedom now that Fuller, Berg and Harberts are gone, and he should use it. Here's hoping that despite its desolate first season, Discovery may become an acceptable Star Trek series, both in terms of the stories and of the look.
Patrick Stewart to Return as Jean-Luc Picard
At Star Trek Las Vegas, Alex Kurtzman appeared on the stage together with Patrick Stewart, where the actor announced that he will return in his famous role as Jean-Luc Picard. It will be in a new series that is in the early stages of pre-production. Like Discovery, the series will air on CBS All Access.
I don't know whether I should rejoice now. It is true that the return of Captain Picard and the return to the 24th (and maybe early 25th) century is what old-school fans have been hoping for since Nemesis sadly failed at the box office and with the critics in 2002. But Star Trek has changed radically in all those years that have passed since Patrick Stewart left the franchise. The people in charge didn't bother to move on any longer in the past 16 years. After the prequel Star Trek Enterprise and its only moderate success the franchise was rebooted twice. While Enterprise tried to preserve the legacy of the golden years of Star Trek that started with TNG, the Abrams films and Discovery got away with the positive vision, with the profound ethical debates and ultimately even with the established look of the franchise. The reboots were rated as very successful and their recipes are not likely to change easily. And so Patrick Stewart will return to a Star Trek that only cites from the franchise's legacy, without feeling bound by it. He will return to an action-driven franchise that strives to be as different as possible than the old Star Trek and more like "modern" TV series.
I hope that the new series will be better than Discovery, but I doubt it can ignore or even undo many of the harmful changes that were brought about by Discovery, not only on the visual side, purportedly to appeal to a "modern audience". If Michael Dorn were to appear as Worf in the series, he would have to look like a Fuller-Klingon-lizard. No familiar starships would show up in the series because everything has to be much bigger and cooler now. And whether Starfleet would be depicted as the benevolent organization we know from TNG is doubtful as well. There are not many reasons to assume that the new series could carry on in the spirit of TNG, which may not be Kurtzman's intention anyway. Stewart himself hinted at Picard being "a very different individual" now. I admire his work and I trust in the actor that he will not allow his character to be vandalized the way it happened with Sarek in Discovery. Anyway, irrespective of the direction it is going to take, Sir Patrick Stewart will be the main draw and the quality mark of the show. His presence in the series gives Kurtzman's new Trek a stamp of approval (and creates huge media attention) just like when Leonard Nimoy appeared in the first Abrams movie.
We don't know anything else about the new show. It may be just a mini-series that will never have the potential to change anything about the state of Star Trek. I keep my fingers crossed that Kurtzman and his team are able and willing to create something like a TNG 2.0, rather than a 24th century Discovery. But there are currently few reasons to believe that.
Production News from SDCC
Star Trek Discovery won't return to the screen until January 2019. But Alex Kurtzman revealed at San Diego Comic-Con that while we wait for the season 2 premiere, there will be four mini-episodes of 10-15 minutes length, a format called "Short Treks".
Kurtzman also addressed the issue about how Discovery may fit with canon: "We know we owe you a lot of answers how Discovery connects to canon, and you will get a lot of those answers this season. Guaranteed."
The arguably most interesting casting news is that Rebecca Romijn, best known as Mystique from the X-Men movies, is going to play "Number One", Captain Pike's first officer on the USS Enterprise. It is also likely that Spock will appear in person.
As already hinted at a couple of months ago, Wilson Cruz will reappear as Hugh Culber, although it is not yet known how this is going to be accomplished story-wise.
It somehow was to be expected that the production of the first season 2 episodes would take longer than just six months. The announcement of the "Short Treks", however, comes as a surprise. I will keep an open mind about this format although I doubt that 10-15 minutes is enough time to tell a story. Considering that Discovery had enormous trouble to deliver the spirit of Star Trek in its long convoluted character arcs, it may be a chance to get a few things back on track though.
Speaking of getting things right again, I could take Kurtzman at his word, that he "guarantees" to answer how Discovery connects to canon. But since visuals are excluded from canon in this reboot series that pretends to be none, the worst canon violations will not be fixed or explained in any fashion anyway. And even regarding the many other continuity problems of Discovery, it is safe to predict that Kurtzman and his staff will only care for minor things (such as why Michael Burnham has never been mentioned in canon Trek), the ones that are character-related and that they personally feel are fun to work with. They will probably skip any tough issues such as why the spore network, holodecks, Klingon cloaking devices and fleets of oversized ships do not exist in the 23rd century we know.
Yet, I appreciate that Kurtzman addresses fan concerns at all. So far the promotion campaign for season 2 is pleasant. It is marked by relatively little self-adulation and refrains from complaints about critical fans. Discovery presents itself as more "inclusive" now, in a sense that it doesn't want to repel the fanbase any longer with a dark and depressive atmosphere. This new trend is visible in the teaser trailer. Although the crooked nostalgia with Pike and colorful shirts in an otherwise radically different universe doesn't work for me, the trailer promises a more spirited and more humorous second season. It almost seems that Discovery has learned a lesson from The Orville. So far I successfully avoided to use "the other Star Trek series" as a yardstick, but it is just too obvious that The Orville has many things that Trek fans love and didn't find in Fuller's creation, so obvious that the people now in charge of Discovery can't ignore it either.
Regarding the return of Wilson Cruz as Hugh Culber, I am looking forward to seeing him again because I liked the character and I was dissatisfied with how needlessly he was killed off. But although it is a tradition in Star Trek that characters may return from the dead in some fashion, I don't think it bodes well that in a series that desperately strives to be taken seriously everyone is always resurrected. My apprehension is that we will even see Lorca again. Discovery may not only jeopardize its credibility as a TV drama with its lack of consequentiality but could ultimately come across as a parody of Star Trek (or worse, could let appear Star Trek itself like a parody of science fiction).
Kurtzman Signs Deal to Further Develop Star Trek on TV
Only four days after the statement that Discovery executive producers Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts were fired, CBS announces that series co-creator Alex Kurtzman has signed a five-year extension of his production agreement with CBS. Kurtzman is to "extend the Star Trek franchise for television, developing new series, mini-series and other content opportunities, including animation". It is part of the deal that CBS Television Studios will get "exclusive rights to produce all television content created and developed by Kurtzman and his Secret Hideout production banner".
Fellow Discovery producers Heather Kadin and Aaron Baiers are going to join Kurtzman in this effort.
Kurtzman said, "...CBS has also allowed us the great pleasure of reintroducing the world of Star Trek [to?] audiences new and old, and we are very excited to keep working alongside them to expand that world."
Just four days ago, I wrote that we shouldn't judge people based on merits we don't know enough about and that we just have to wait and see if the team around Kurtzman has learned a lesson from Discovery's many errors. I was mistaken. I'm not saying that Kurtzman and his staff aren't willing to improve a few things that didn't work in the first season of the series. But the deal with CBS to develop even more TV content based on Star Trek indicates that the network gives him carte blanche to carry on regardless, to complete a mission that many perceive as being focused on "reintroducing the world of Star Trek to new audiences" while putting off old-school fans like me. The movies he produced together with J.J. Abrams, as well as Discovery, were successful on the financial side. But the new Trek is marked by mindless action, by unlikable characters, by a lack of moral and philosophical issues, by overall little respect for the tone and the look & feel of the pre-existing franchise, and by a continuity with the former Star Trek that ranges between non-existent and mere lip service.
If Star Trek doesn't need something right now, it is the Marvelization of the franchise, the urge to squeeze more dollars out of short-sighted and unrelated concepts that may appear fashionable right now but that just beg to be re-rebooted another ten years in the future because no one still cares for them. However, it is too late anyway to prevent that from happening. The damage was done when the old Star Trek from TOS to ENT was decried as "nerdy" and replaced with (or supplemented by) two action-driven prequel/reboot universes, the one of the Abrams films and the one of Discovery, that both neither respect the old Trek, nor even each other. Given that Kurtzman doesn't seem to mind the fragmentation of the once strong creative base and canon of the franchise, my apprehension is that the Star Trek "multiverse" (as a somewhat euphemistic moniker) will grow under the new contract. Star Trek would have deserved to be handled with care, to be further fleshed out in a genuine way, with sequels, rather than with still more prequels or reboots. Just as I am writing this, fans are excited about it nonetheless and are already speculating which era of the existing Star Trek history will be rewritten next.
Another rumor is that Patrick Stewart may return. Well, that might be a chance, but only a small one because Patrick Stewart may be the only familiar remnant of the old Star Trek, a sad figurehead like Leonard Nimoy was one in the Abrams movies. Kurtzman may still surprise me and create a new series that is not only recognizable as Star Trek but also brings back meaningful stories and a respectful treatment of the history of the franchise. But right now, with the prospect of still more series that are not sustainable and are not made for people like me, I'm going to embrace the old Star Trek more than ever.
Berg and Harberts Out, Kurtzman to Take Over
Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts are out as showrunners of Star Trek Discovery, as has been confirmed by CBS in a statement to Deadline. Executive producer Alex Kurtzman will take over as the sole showrunner for the show's second season.
The Hollywood Reporter had previously stated that, according to their sources, the reasons for the change were twofold: the ballooning budget of the season 2 premiere, as well as members of the writing staff complaining about Berg and Harberts. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Akiva Goldsman will leave Discovery as well.
It is unlikely that CBS will issue an official statement about the reasons why Berg and Harberts had to go, and whether such a statement would tell us the whole truth anyway. So unless this affair has legal repercussions, we will never know what happened in Discovery's writers' room. It isn't the first time in the series that the producer staff changes, and Discovery is no first time in Star Trek, thinking of Chaos on the Bridge. So I will not join the speculation game, neither on the reasons, nor on what happens now. Some fans have very definite opinions about the beneficial or detrimental influences that certain people behind the scenes have on Discovery (or on any previous Star Trek series), although they know very little about those people and on the inner mechanisms of the show.
I dislike most aspects about Discovery, but Berg's and Harberts's departure is neither a reason to look back at the first season in anger, nor to expect considerable improvements in the upcoming season. Let's just hope the people who were, are and will be in charge have learned a lesson and bring us more relatable characters, more intelligent story arcs, more respect for the legacy and a more optimistic vision of the future.
Season 2 Teaser Shows TOS-Style Uniforms
CBS has released a short teaser video for Discovery's season 2 that shows, among some other production work, a golden uniform shirt in the works, and a red one with a TOS-like Starfleet engineering symbol (the delta being solid and not split as in Discovery so far). These are quite obviously the uniforms of the Enterprise crew. As Aaron Harberts already hinted at, "We know what kind of uniforms they wear. So, we will leave it at that."
We don't know yet whether in Discovery's version of history Starfleet will adopt the style of the colorful uniforms and the solid badges for all ships and crews, or whether it is rather a one-off exception for the Enterprise that creates a small visual link to TOS (because we can take for granted the interior of the now larger ship will be very different than we know it). In the first case, it would be backpedaling, because so far Discovery did everything to be as visually different as possible from the rest of Star Trek. The costume designers certainly wouldn't be required to come up with strange looking uniforms and badges in the first place, if the plan was to later discard them in favor of more familiar ones. In the second case, it would be another mindless homage (or another "olive branch") that evokes Trek nostalgia without an obligation to honor its history.
That said, even if we ignore the differences between the Discovery-style Enterprise uniforms and the original costumes of TOS, they shouldn't be around as of 2257. Captain Pike never wore a golden shirt as the captain of the Enterprise, at least not in the Prime Timeline. If the intention was to let the series appear "more canon", we should rather be shown a new interpretation of the style with the pale colors from "The Cage" and "Where No Man Has Gone Before". The uniforms are not a big deal in light of the more drastic canon violations of the series, but they fail to be more than just tips of the hat.
Season 2 News Round-up and the "25% Rule" Affair
Filming for Discovery's season 2 has started on April 16, as actor Doug Jones revealed in a Twitter post that shows him shaving his head for the role as Saru.
In some older news, comedian Tig Notaro joins the cast as Denise Reno, the chief engineer of the yet unseen vessel USS Hiawatha.
On April 15, a Facebook post by production designer John Eaves of Star Trek Discovery and a reply by a colleague caused quite some confusion in the fandom and set a rumor mill in motion. The impression was created that CBS lawyers required the designers working on the show to make everything look "25% different" for reasons of copyright, a rule which was said to be exemplified by the Enterprise redesign for "Will You Take My Hand?". The Facebook post was deleted later on the same day, together with John Eaves's entire Facebook account. Two days later, TrekCore and Trekmovie.com, two of CBS's preferred fan-owned news outlets, published an official statement that CBS was "not legally required to make changes." The modifications of the USS Enterprise were explained as "creative ones, made to utilize 2018's VFX technology."
Notwithstanding the fact that the redefinition of the ship's proportions and dimensions has evidently nothing to do with the progress in VFX technology, the "25% rule" affair leaves a bad taste. Let me start my comment with a disclaimer. For me, it always was and still is plausible that CBS does own and makes use of its rights, including all visual designs, to produce Star Trek for television. There is no real evidence to the contrary, although rumors about CBS not being the actual production company are still floating around. I don't subscribe to theories that Discovery is made under some sort of "alternate license" or that it is a part of the Abramsverse, technically speaking. But - I have a suspicion that once Discovery is sufficiently different from the rest (don't ask me whether it has to be 25%, I'm not a lawyer), it may be sold as a separate entity in case the ownership of Star Trek were to change. Again, for me as a layman this is a theoretical possibility at this point. I'm not saying that CBS plans to abandon either Discovery or the rest of Trek, but the questionable creative decisions have laid the foundation for such a move.
It is only fair that CBS hurries to rectify untrue claims and that they ask their employees and contractors to stop publishing anything that may harm their business. As sad as it may be, non-disclosure overrules the freedom of speech in a case like this. I can understand the company very well in this regard. But - there is still a shade of doubt. Would production people posting at Facebook lie about something they heard about in the company? Isn't it a perfectly plausible assumption that the "25% rule" was indeed cited by some superior at CBS at some point, as some sort of justification for the design changes in Discovery? I don't think anyone is consciously lying to the fans. But the whole truth may be more complicated, and not meant to become public.
Anson Mount Cast as Captain Pike, Section 31 to Return
The official Star Trek site reports that Anson Mount will play Captain Christopher Pike on Star Trek Discovery. The appearance of this character in the second season is obvious, because the Discovery picked up a distress call from his ship, the Enterprise, at the end of "Will You Take My Hand?".
On other (and not quite as recent) news about the second season, Alan Van Sprang teased his appearance as the Section 31 agent Leland: "I really have no idea. But I'm definitely a big part of Season 2." So far he appeared in a "bonus scene" from the season 1 finale where he approaches ex-Emperor Georgiou to recruit her for Section 31.
It is noteworthy that Anson Mount bears a resemblance to Jeffrey Hunter, who played Captain Pike in "The Cage", rather than to Bruce Greenwood, who appeared in this role in the Abrams movies. This casting choice reclaims a little bit of the otherwise discarded visual continuity with the old Star Trek. On the other hand, it sort of invalidates the visuals of "Star Trek Into Darkness", a movie that is barely five years old. Just like Mudd or Sarek too (not to mention the Klingons or the USS Enterprise), the character is apparently deemed "flexible" so he can be re-interpreted by a new actor any time the producers feel like throwing in a familiar name from the legacy.
The "big part" of Alan Van Sprang as a Section 31 agent is more evidence that Discovery is fond of recycling concepts of the old Star Trek, especially if they are alleged fan favorites. But rather than creating genuine continuity, frequent appearances of "top secret" people or organizations further undermine the credibility of the series. So are we up for a Section 31 arc in season 2 that will have to be erased from the history books just like the spore drive and the Mirror Universe of season 1? And what's next? The Borg (heavily re-imagined, of course)? Romulans? Or even Khan?
More News About Season 2, Klingons, Big Enterprise and Uniforms
As reported by Trekmovie.com from WonderCon, the showrunners of Discovery revealed that season 2 will consist of 13 episodes, split into two chapters with a break of two months between episodes #9 and #10. The production will start in mid-April, according to Aaron Harberts. The release date is yet unknown.
Also at WonderCon, make-up FX designer Glenn Hetrick defended the new Klingons, calling the redesign an "evolutionary imperative", based on the assumption that the species is a "cross between reptilian and avian". He said that "we knew that it cannot be something completely different. You need to honor and maintain as much of the integrity of the concept of the Klingons".
There is also a confirmation from the VFX department that the Enterprise was not only redesigned but also enlarged for its appearance in the Discovery universe. Production designer Tamara Deverell told the audience: "Overall, I think we expanded the length of it to be within the world of our Discovery, which is bigger, so we did cheat it as a larger ship."
Aaron Harberts, on the other hand, once again affirmed the fans that the series is indeed set in the Prime Universe: "Season two is really exciting for us. This is our opportunity to really show how Discovery fits into this Prime Timeline. We are firmly committed to that." Regarding the Enterprise uniforms as they should look at the time of "The Cage", he said: "We know what kind of uniforms they wear. So, we will leave it at that."
I could go into a long rant about how hypocritical it is to call the new Klingons an "evolutionary imperative" that "honors the integrity" instead of admitting they were changed for change's sake, and about how telling it is to speak of "the world of our Discovery" as a new universe. It is clear that the makers of Discovery didn't care for visual canon at all, and only selectively for story canon or for the preservation of the optimistic spirit that pervades all old series. The latter may still change in season 2. It is the last chance for Discovery to become a worthy part of the franchise. It is too late to do anything of note about the former now that the damage is done and no one seems to feel bad about it. I find it grotesque that Aaron Harberts would place importance on the Enterprise uniforms in light of the otherwise extreme deviations from canon in Discovery.
Wilson Cruz to Return in Season 2
In an interview for the Emmys, Wilson Cruz revealed that he will come back for Discovery's season 2. "Aaron and Gretchen explained what was gonna happen and told me I was part of the story for next season," said Cruz. "This is a longer, epic love story and this is just a part of that that we have to do in order to tell it. I know what that story is and as an actor, I'm really excited about it. But even as a viewer, I think that's gonna be fun to watch!"
First Hints About Season 2
After the conclusion of a first season that focused on the war with the Klingons (well, and on an excursion to the cruel Mirror Universe), Aaron Harberts told the New York Post that season 2 of Discovery will be brighter: "This was a show about war and has been a dark, dark tunnel and you have to go through the darkness to get to the light. 'Star Trek' ultimately is a show about hope, optimism, peace... It's that spirit that we will be taking into Season 2."
In an interview with EW, Alex Kurtzman talked about whom fans may expect to see aboard the USS Enterprise in the season 2 opener: "Obviously, they're going to be wondering who's on board the Enterprise. I think there will be some surprises there. We will maintain consistency with canon, but there will be surprises... If we bring in characters from The Original Series, they have to adhere to canon. So anything that's been mentioned in TOS, either storyline or character-wise, we have to stay consistent with."
Kurtzman also spoke about possible visual changes regarding the interior of the Enterprise: "Our goal is to be interpretive in a way that feels it's protective of what the Enterprise would look like if, in theory, if we were to build any Enterprise sets. But if we built it like it looked in The Original Series, there would be a massive visual disconnect."
Regarding Voq-Tyler, he revealed the following: "Tyler/Voq has had a major evolution over the course of the season, and we love Shazad. He's capable of absolutely everything we throw at him, and we have great plans for his character in season 2."
Shooting of season 2 is scheduled to start in April.
Remaining Season 1 Episode Titles Revealed
CBS announced the titles of the upcoming episodes 11-15 of Star Trek Discovery. The second chapter of season 1 begins on January 7 with "Despite Yourself". The list of episodes is as follows:
- Episode 10: "Despite Yourself" (January 7)
- Episode 11: "The Wolf Inside" (January 14)
- Episode 12: "Vaulting Ambition" (January 21)
- Episode 13: "What's Past Is Prologue" (January 28)
- Episode 14: "The War Without, The War Within" (February 4)
- Episode 15: "Will You Take My Hand?" (February 11)
Discovery Returns on January 7
CBS has announced that, after the mid-season break, Star Trek Discovery will return on January 7, 2018. This "second chapter" of the season will start with an episode titled "Despite Yourself": "While in unfamiliar territory, the U.S.S. Discovery crew is forced to get creative in their next efforts to survive opposing and unprecedented forces and return home."
Discovery Renewed for Season 2
CBS has announced that Star Trek Discovery will return for a second season. In a press release from October 23, Marc DeBevoise, President and Chief Operating Officer, CBS Interactive, said: "In just six episodes, Star Trek: Discovery has driven subscriber growth, critical acclaim and huge global fan interest for the first premium version of this great franchise... This series has a remarkable creative team and cast who have demonstrated their ability to carry on the 'Star Trek' legacy. We are extremely proud of what they've accomplished and are thrilled to be bringing fans a second season of this tremendous series."
Filming of Season 1 Wraps, Season 2 is Likely, Mirror Episodes Upcoming
Aaron Harberts, executive producer of Discovery, announced that the filming for the first season has completed. Lee Moonves, CEO of CBS, hinted at a possible second season, saying that "there's a lot riding on Star Trek."
The air date of the ninth episode was moved from January 2018 to November 2017, to wrap up the first half of the season. The following episode titles were announced:
- Episode 5: "Choose Your Pain"
- Episode 6: "Lethe"
- Episode 7: "Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad"
- Episode 8: "Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum"
- Episode 9: "Into the Forest I Go"
Furthermore, Alex Kurtzman confirmed an earlier announcement by Jonathan Frakes, that Discovery will revisit the Mirror Universe: "Well, it sort of leaked that we are gonna be en... doing some episodes about the Mirror Universe, yes. We will absolutely be paying homage to the original."
I have strong misgivings about one or even more Discovery episodes set in the Mirror Universe. I generally dislike the Mirror Universe since it was done to death in DS9 and ultimately became a kinky and comical throwaway version of the "serious" Prime Universe. ENT: "In a Mirror Darkly" visited a still unspoiled era in which the Terran Empire still existed. Although it turned out better than most of the DS9 iterations, it couldn't overcome the firmly established clichés. A Mirror Universe story may be fun in spite of everything, as it allows to change familiar characters and concepts, even to the exact opposite whenever desired. But since Discovery itself is sort of a parallel universe in which things look and work very differently as in the old Star Trek, the mere idea of doing a Discovery Mirror episode is paradoxical.
Beginning with the availability of the pilot episode, I will post news about the series only occasionally and I will not write any articles on it for the time being. Please refer to the Discovery reviews (with full spoilers) for my comments.
Statements on Klingons and Sticking to Canon
The titles of the first four Star Trek Discovery episodes have been revealed:
- Episode 1: "The Vulcan Hello"
- Episode 2: "Battle at the Binary Stars"
- Episode 3: "Context is for Kings"
- Episode 4: "The Butcher's Knife Cares Not for the Lamb's Cry"
In the days before the launch of Star Trek Discovery, an interview with showrunners Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts was published, in which they assure that it is their goal to keep the new series in line with canon. Harberts mentions the Romulans as a no-go, because in "Balance of Terror" it was established that no visual contact with them had ever been established until the time of TOS.
In news about the Klingons, Discovery production designers Neville Page and Glenn Hetrick talk about the different looks of Klingons with TrekMovie.com. They explain that in an empire of many planets, the Klingons should be very diverse, hence the different looks of the Klingon houses. Yet, prospectively all Klingons that we will see in the series will have no hair.
We can take for granted that with the simplification "no hair", Neville Page and Glenn Hetrick tell us nothing less than that all Klingons of the new series will look like T'Kuvma's species and hence totally different than any Klingons in Star Trek so far (the lack of hair being just one of several issues). This is of utmost significance, because at least in this very important regard (the Klingons being the arguably most often used and most popular alien species) Discovery will be a total reboot, with a deliberate lack of visual continuity to the existing Star Trek.
The insistence that Discovery adheres to canon in spite of the extreme visual changes can only mean that, beginning with Discovery, visuals are exempted from canon. In other words, it is of no significance any longer how someone or something used to look before Discovery. This is a dramatic paradigm shift in the history of official Star Trek productions. Star Trek was visually updated several times in its history, but at latest since TOS and TMP Klingons appeared together in DS9: "Trials and Tribble-ations" or the NX class and the Constitution class side by side in ENT: "In a Mirror, Darkly", there is a firmly established rule: Visuals must not be altered, unless it is only cosmetic (like the new feather pattern on the D7 cruiser in the already mentioned episode "Trials and Tribble-ations"). This will change in Discovery, because we are supposed to ignore that Klingons ever looked different than in the new series. (Well, that or they all lose and regain their hair as well as gain and lose two additional nostrils in the course of less than one generation.)
Berg and Harberts apply continuity standards of novels to a production in which the visuals were always an essential part of the stories. In a TV series, visuals are facts, and as such at least on par with teleplay contents. In Star Trek as it existed until today, it mattered that TOS Klingons looked different than the TMP ones. In Discovery, this difference will no longer exist. Moreover, the redesign is in direct contradiction to DS9: "Trials and Tribble-ations" and ENT: "Divergence" and hence more than a matter of style. Ironically, after getting rid of the old Klingon looks and styles, Discovery adds a new diversity to the Klingon houses in the form of different clothing and ship types, a diversity as it neither existed visually nor in an allegedly "more factual" form in previous Trek iterations.
More on the Sarcophagus Ship
Recent news on Star Trek Discovery includes a first impression of the theme music, as well as a new promo video, showing a possibly cybernetic Starfleet character named Keyla Detmer.
The arguably most interesting information comes from an interview that SFX Magazine conducted with Ted Sullivan, co-executive producer of Discovery. Here, Sullivan explained what the so far mysterious sarcophagus ship and T'Kuvma's Klingon house are about:
"It's a 200-year-old ship. This is a group of Klingons who've gone back to a puritan way of life. They look very different: they wear armor that's 200 years old and they don't have any hair. Their commander [T'Kuvma, played by Chris Obi] runs his Klingon house - the House of T'Kuvma - by the rules of Kahless, the Klingon messiah. And he calls himself the second coming of the Klingon messiah. In the past, Klingons have not really cared about their dead - they're not like marines. But these Klingons are. The outside of the ship is covered in thousands of coffins. Some are 300 years old, some are just two days old."
It appears that T'Kuvma's Klingons appear suddenly on the scene. They belong to a "25th Klingon house that we hadn't previously heard of".
The new information from Sullivan confirms what has been speculated about for months, that T'Kuvma's Klingons with their heavily decorated costumes and their cathedral-like starship, are some kind of forgotten sect, rather than "regular" Klingons. Whether the idea of "clerical" Klingons in a flying graveyard (the coffins of revered warriors affixed to the hull as easy targets?!) makes any sense is something up to Discovery to prove. In any case it doesn't make sense that Ted Sullivan refers to hairless Klingons as an exception, although Kol, member of the House of Kor, doesn't have hair either and overall looks like T'Kuvma, just with gray skin. My apprehension is that all Klingon houses in the series will look like this species (and may have weird technology and designs never seen before), by which Discovery will ultimately set itself apart from the rest of Star Trek as a total reboot.
Regardless of the still existing slim chance to reconcile T'Kuvma and the sarcophagus ship with canon, I just hate the style of everything shown so far related to the Klingons. It is easily the worst production design ever conceived for an alien race of Star Trek. The sarcophagus ship from the outside and from the inside, the costumes of T'Kuvma and the "Torchbearer", the coffins and other Klingon props are all totally overdesigned. The designs are purely decorative. There are ornaments everywhere, different kinds of ornaments side by side and ornaments inside ornaments inside ornaments. Rather than alien, much of it looks like pieced together from various Earth's artistic periods such as Gothic, Baroque and some ancient Chinese, in a cut-and-paste fashion without an aesthetic or artistic eye. I can't take those overblown Klingons seriously. I hope that the other houses, even if they should be the same new species as T'Kuvma's, will have more tasteful, more practical and recognizably Klingon styling.
New Media Coverage on Discovery
TrekCore summarizes the many small pieces of information from press visits to the Discovery sets in Toronto.
TV guide shows a brief video tour of the Discovery bridge and adds the following bits:
- Captain Lorca (Jason Isaacs) has a standing desk in his ready room, rather than the traditional chair-and-desk configuration seen in previous captains' offices.
- Viewscreen communication has been upgraded to holographic displays in the series, to allow "two actors in a room, playing a scene" - per producer Aaron Harberts.
- Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) will be primarily based out of the USS Discovery's engineering section below decks, paired up with Tilly (Mary Wiseman) and Stamets (Anthony Rapp) for a key part of the storyline - a section of the ship that also features a mystery room and a strange "reaction cube", both of which details about are being kept under wraps.
- Lorca has a secure-access room referred to by producers as "Lorca's menagerie", without offering any more details on this tantalizing space aboard ship.
- A bottle of Château Picard wine has a spot in Captain Georgiou's (Michelle Yeoh) Shenzhou ready room.
In interviews recorded for TV Guide, members of the cast once again criticize the racist hate posts directed at the show's diversity.
IGN spoke with Discovery producer Aaron Harberts. He revealed that the Discovery, as the name insinuates, is indeed a ship of exploration that suddenly finds itself in a war: "These Starfleet officers who find themselves in war are very quick to remind the audience that they didn't sign up to do that. That they are explorers first, that they are diplomats first... in fact, Discovery is a science vessel that has been conscripted for the war effort. ... [Stamets'] methods and life's work is now being converted to be used for the war effort, and that bothers him greatly."
Harberts also said that he felt that Star Trek Enterprise limited the storytelling in Discovery: "I find that Enterprise actually has made things the most limiting, because of some of the retconning that they did in certain ways. And we consider Enterprise canon as well in certain ways, and just as valid, and we're always trying to kind of make sure that that's taken into consideration. So I think the most limiting thing is just trying to tell stories that don't screw up, or screw with anything, that fans are going to be looking out for."
Regarding the buzz about Discovery allegedly not being allowed to refer to God, Harberts clarified that was a character note for Gabriel Lorca and not a general rule.
I like the bridge design of the Discovery even more after seeing the small video tour. The greenish and yellowish color accents are a nice contrast to the dominating gray interior design in modern science fiction including the most recent Star Trek movies. The many busy all-blue displays and especially the transparent ones, on the other hand, are even less convincing than on the stills of the bridge. As elaborate they may be, it's a lackluster design. I'm looking forward to them being replaced with something colorful and hopefully more ergonomic in the course of the series, as already announced. This raises the question why Discovery starts off with the blue displays at all, other than insinuating a connection to the Abramsverse. Oh, and one display shows a top view of the Discovery that reveals how awfully long the nacelles may be.
Regarding the ongoing debate on the hate posts against the diversity of the series, I'm tired of reading about it almost every day. It's a fabricated controversy because Star Trek has always been diverse, and there was never a need to justify it or even to emphasize it as a special quality of the series. I don't blame the actors for giving their opinion on racism in interviews. I wholeheartedly agree with them. But the mainstream media totally overrated a few isolated anti-diversity statements in the first place and made it a big deal that some people are opposed to the series for racist motives. When I google "star trek discovery criticism" I find pages full of outrage about one or two racist trolls, but little about justified criticism about the series.
As much as I otherwise appreciate Aaron Harberts's insight, his views on the continuity of Discovery continue to surprise me. He cites Enterprise as the main limiting factor for storytelling in Discovery. Why is Enterprise (set 100 years in the past) limiting, rather than TOS (set 10 years in the future)? Enterprise retcons Star Trek "in certain ways" and Harberts makes it sound gracious that he still considers it canon. Says the producer of a series that retcons Star Trek to a much greater extent than Enterprise ever could! While this all sounds quite presumptuous, between the lines Harberts essentially complains about the very premise of his own series, Discovery (that he may not have been able to influence). Most of the problems of the series only exist because Discovery tries hard to squeeze its story into Star Trek's history. It is a blend of a reboot, a reimagination and a prequel that is unconfident about its own nature. On one hand, extreme alterations such as the new Klingons are deemed acceptable. On the other hand, the writers are purportedly anxious not to disappoint the fans regarding small details, and blame Enterprise of all series for being bothersome in this regard. I don't get it, and I'm afraid Harberts himself may not have a better concept of the continuity standards of his series.
More on Discovery's Starship Sets
A featured story in Variety shows us the first clear photo of the USS Discovery bridge. It is a comparably large "domed" set with overall smooth walls and floor. The arrangement is the classic one with the captain's chair placed on a pedestal and two consoles in front of it. The predominant color on the bridge displays is blue.
In other news about the starship sets of the series, FanExpo Canada featured a panel with members of the Discovery Art Department. Lead Motion Graphic Designer Timothy Peel said about the Discovery interfaces: "This is slightly blue-y. They are sort of restricting all the color schemes and they will slowly advance and become more colorful as we get closer to The Original Series, and for other reasons I can't repeat." Lead Set Designer Matthew Morgan told the audience that the sets of the USS Shenzhou and the USS Discovery (including the two transporter rooms as it seems) were designed to be interchangeable, although they look quite different.
The sets we could already see in the trailers were all "cinematically" dark, as if Starfleet did not have enough power on their ships for appropriate lighting. The Discovery bridge does not seem to be an exception. Still, I like the bridge design of the lead ship. Its puristic style is a nice contrast to the very playful command center of the Abrams movie Enterprise, as well as to several overblown designs of Star Trek Discovery itself. It works for me as a Starfleet bridge of the 2250's.
Yet, the all-dominating blue on the bridge monitors is a nuisance. Well, there is no reason why Starfleet shouldn't switch to a monochrome color scheme, and if only on an experimental basis. But neon blue user interfaces in scifi movies or series are so dreary and stereotyped, they strain the eyes (especially in low-light environments) and I would personally hate to work on them all day. As if the designers had anticipated my criticism, they announce that the displays will evolve to more colorful designs similar to the ones we know from TOS. A good decision, not just for the sake of what is left of Trek's continuity! The mystery is what Timothy Peel meant by "other reasons I can't repeat" in this regard. Does he refer to real-world reasons (someone made up their mind to try to adhere to canon) or to an in-universe rationale?
Burnham Details, New Trailer, Isaacs's Clash With Fans
The last week brought us comparably little news on Star Trek Discovery. However, we learned some more details about Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green). When she was a child, her parents visited Vulcan at the invitation of Ambassador Sarek and were killed in a Klingon attack. She was raised in Sarek's family and became the only human to attend the Vulcan Learning Center and then the Vulcan Science Academy. She mastered in xenoanthropology, which makes her an expert in establishing first contact with new species.
A new trailer with a length of one minute was released too. It contains a bit of new footage, starting with the line: "We strive towards this dream of peace where all species can share common ground. Yet no dream will protect us from you [the Klingons]."
In less pleasant news, Jason Isaacs (Captain Lorca) was quoted in the "Confidential" column of the NY Daily News with the words: "I don't mean to sound irreverent when I say I don't care about the die-hard Trek fans. I only 'don't care' about them in the sense that I know they're all going to watch anyway. I look forward to having the fun of them being outraged, so they can sit up all night and talk about it with each other." The tabloid also attributed to him that he said Discovery would "throw away the legacy of William Shatner and Patrick Stewart." Jason Isaacs later refuted the alleged statement about the legacy, but until then he had already attracted numerous malicious comments from fans.
I like the details about Michael Burnham, although her back story includes Star Trek clichés that we already know too well. She is orphaned, like so many other characters. She's the first or only human to study on Vulcan, an exception that is very common in Star Trek where we frequently meet people who have been the only one of their kind among aliens. And she has a very personal unfinished business with the Klingons, which is a familiar theme too.
The new trailer is somewhat less warlike and more pleasant to watch than the previous one, although it starts with a quite uncompromising statement.
Regarding Jason Isaacs's statement about die-hard Star Trek fans, I am sorry that he was misquoted about the "throwing away the legacy" part. Bad journalism. I am sorry that he was attacked for it. But the statement about those fans "going to watch anyway" and him "having the fun of them being outraged" appears to be authentic. At least Isaacs didn't deny it. I am grateful for the apparent honesty in a public relations campaign for Discovery, which so far used to counter possible and actual criticism of the series with distraction tactics and appeasement. Still, I take exception to his obvious disrespect for fans like me and for our expectations. We have to keep in mind, he is talking about the core group of customers, and he expresses joy over them being dissatisfied, even angry, with the product he is working on!
Weekly News Round-up
At Star Trek Las Vegas, John Eaves showed previously unseen concept art for his Walker-class starship USS Shenzhou, confirming that the CG ship as seen in the trailers matches with his original design.
Also at STLV, some more details about the Klingons of Discovery were revealed. "We will see all 24 houses and the leaders among them", cast member Kenneth Mitchell told the audience. He is going to play Kol of the House of Kor. A publicity photo shows Kol in the same revised make-up as the Discovery Klingons seen so far, but in a more familiar attire. Klingons will speak Klingon with each other. Mary Chieffo (L'Rell) said the idea was "giving the Klingons a three-dimensional quality. It makes sense that if we're speaking to each other, we're going to be speaking in our native tongue."
The theme music for Discovery was revealed at the Television Critics Association press tour in Los Angeles. Nothing is known about it so far, except that it was recorded by a 60-piece orchestra and is apparently without lyrics.
Finally, two test shots of the original USS Discovery design have leaked. They show the ship in the same configuration as in the teaser trailer where it left the asteroid base. In the new shots it has a much higher, screen-ready level of detail. This Discovery doesn't have the two gaps in the saucer yet, and still has the original, much shorter nacelles.
Well, on a positive note about the Discovery Klingons (my probably first one), Kol has clothes that are in line with Klingon style in the old Star Trek, and definitely more reasonable than the totally overblown Klingon costumes of the series seen so far. The fact that there are 24 houses was taken by some fans as a hint that old-style Klingons exist in the Discovery universe. This is only wishful thinking in my view, since the decision about the radical redesign dates back to the very early stages of the Discovery production. At STLV, it was confirmed that indeed Bryan Fuller came up with the idea that Klingons should look very different. The repeated emphasis on the fact that the Klingon speak authentic Klingon, the exact language that Mark Okrand created, sounds like an attempt to appease traditional fans in this regard. But how many fans really understand Klingon well enough to notice possible mistakes? A hundred? How does that compare to the millions of people who will ask "Why did they change the Klingons and will they ever explain it?"
Regarding the USS Discovery that could have been, I like it. I was never a fan of the "Planet of the Titans" ship that the Discovery was based on, quite possibly in an attempt at fan service. But especially the design of the saucer and of the Bussard collectors feels right in the test shots, and the hull finish is absolutely convincing. It is a pity that someone felt like cutting through the saucer (Vengeance-style) and extending the nacelles.
Discovery Production News Round-up
In October 2016, series creator Bryan Fuller surprisingly announced that he would leave Star Trek Discovery. As reported by TrekCore, an article by James Hibbard of Entertainment Weekly now states the reasons that may have led to Fuller's departure. According to the article, Fuller did not agree with hiring David Semel to direct the pilot episode. And as the clock was ticking for the originally planned premiere of Discovery in January 2017, Fuller was working in parallel on his show "American Gods", much to the frustration of CBS. After his clash with the executives Fuller was asked to step down.
The EW article also reveals that Fuller originally had a Star Trek anthology in mind, as had been rumored for quite some time since the first announcement of a new Star Trek series in 2015. His anthology concept was overruled by the studio's plan of a serialized TV show. After Fuller's ultimate departure from the series, more of his ideas for Discovery were ditched, such as the Starfleet uniform designs with "a subdued spin on the original series' trio of primary colors".
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Discovery showrunner Aaaron Harberts states that Discovery will avoid nudity: "But then you look at things like: How does nudity play on Trek? Eh, it feels weird." The show will aim to maintain a PG-13 rating: "I'm not saying we're not doing some violent things or doing a tiny bit of language. But what's important to the creative team is the legacy of the show - which is passed down from mother to daughter, from father to son, from brother to brother. We want to make sure we're not creating a show that fans can't share with their families. You have to honor what the franchise is. I would say we're not going much beyond hard PG-13."
It is sad to learn that Discovery creator Bryan Fuller was effectively fired by CBS. There is no doubt Fuller was committed to revive the spirit of Star Trek, which in the eyes of many fans, including myself, would have worked a lot better in the anthology he pitched than in a serialized prequel/reboot. It was not Fuller's first choice to create the series that CBS wanted from him, which seems to have been the first of many events that hampered his work on Discovery and may have forced Fuller to narrow down his points of special interest. I personally only wish Fuller had cared as much for Star Trek's continuity as he did for politically correct character and casting choices. It would have been awesome to see Fuller's re-imagined "The Cage" costumes on Discovery on one hand, but we also have to keep in mind that he is said to have been the driving force behind the mutilation of the Klingons. And as I already commented just after his departure from Discovery last year, it is impossible to work on two big projects in parallel, the way Fuller quite obviously tried. So irrespective of the reasons that led to the apparent estrangement, I can understand the CBS executives were miffed that Fuller didn't give Discovery his full attention.
Regarding the PG-13 rating of Discovery, I am confident that violence, nudity and profanity will be handled in an appropriate fashion. Aaron Harberts correctly noted that nudity would feel weird on Star Trek, unlike it is the case on many other streaming shows that don't have a legacy. There is no need for worries.
Finally, a note on the Shenzhou (Walker class) design. The ship looks okay - for use in a post-Nemesis series. I was so busy that I never had a closer look at it until a few days ago. I watched out for details that, like on the "Akiraprise", insinuate that this could be an older ship despite its overall sleek appearance. I found none. The saucer superstructure, the countless tapered shapes and odd angles are totally 24th century. The Shenzhou design is utterly ignorant of the established evolution of Starfleet's ships and technology, and its huge size at a length of over 400m adds insult to injury. Even the production designers of the Abrams films created some reasonably older looking (yet way too big) ships besides the Enterprise. But Discovery obviously goes the whole way towards a total visual reboot of Star Trek. Or to a generic series that is supposed to look somehow like Star Trek, for which all eras and timelines of the franchise are free to be plundered. Sorry for the rant, but this is my contribution to the ongoing fan debates that otherwise seem to focus on rather easily explicable issues such as how Spock can have a stepsister.
Second Discovery Trailer
For the sake of completeness, here is the second Star Trek Discovery trailer that was released on the occasion of the San Diego Comic-Con. Once again, the CBS trailer is geoblocked. (Please bear with me if the video doesn't play in your region.)
The new trailer doesn't get me more interested in Discovery. It is all about battles and explosions. It totally relies on Abramsverse aesthetics: ships popping up from warp and stopping immediately a few meters away, machine gun like phasers, way too much motion and way too little light everywhere. It is a visual overkill that lacks the feeling for the vastness of space, not to mention the fascination to explore it.
Production Design News Round-up
Lots of information on props, costumes, alien make-up, sets and artwork of Star Trek Discovery has been published over the past few days:
- An exhibit at the Comic-Con in San Diego features several Starfleet costumes and props, including the spacesuit and the standard uniforms known from the trailer, but also a white medical uniform, the costumes of Sarek and of Harry Mudd, as well as the captain's chair, phasers, a communicator and a tricorder. CBS has posted teaser videos of the latter devices on the Star Trek Discovery Twitter page.
- A number of Klingon costumes and props with a distinctive "ancient look" are shown too. One of them is said to belong to a character named the "Torchbearer".
- We can also see various production sketches, including the already known Klingon "sarcophagus ship" and a Klingon raider, as well as more detailed sketches of the possibly final version of the USS Discovery. The latter clearly show how the design from the teaser trailer was reworked and now exhibits gaps that split the saucer into three concentric sections, somehow reminscent of the Vengeance.
On related news (about the totally redesigned Klingons), Discovery producer Aaron Harberts tells us in an interview with Entertainment Weekly: "In the different versions of Trek, the Klingons have never been completely consistent. We will introduce several different houses with different styles. Hopefully, fans will become more invested in the characters than worried about the redesign."
Finally, we learn a bit about the species of Starfleet officer Saru, played by Doug Jones. In the trailer, he says the somewhat mysterious words: "My people were biologically determined for one purpose alone: to sense the coming of death." Doug Jones explains this as follows: "On Saru's planet, there's a dominant predator species that constantly imperils another weaker species called Kelpiens. As part of the latter group, Saru has evolved with heightened survival instincts. Such prey species tend to have a cowardly reputation in the Federation, but Saru should not be underestimated."
There's so much news that I'd like to comment just on the most obvious issues. The first is the statement by Aaron Harberts, which has been labeled by some fans as an "explanation" for the enormous dilemma the total redesign of the Klingon species has caused. But he provides nothing like a rationale, not even a motivation. Let us recapitulate: "In the different versions of Trek, the Klingons have never been completely consistent." So mistakes were made before, and other people are to blame. Now that is the lamest excuse ever! "We will introduce several different houses with different styles." This sounds like "we don't care how Klingons looked, we simply create our own ones, and as many different ones as we want." "Hopefully, fans will become more invested in the characters than worried about the redesign." In other words, "Shut up and watch the show. We still hope the characters will work despite the thick latex masks."
The next point I would like to comment on is the designs of the Starfleet devices: the phaser pistol, the phaser rifle, the communicator and the tricorder. They are wonderful! They follow the lines of the classic devices as closely as possible, while the update to the user interface maintains their credibility as futuristic technology. These devices would be perfect for a series that remains true to the continuity and spirit of TOS, if Discovery were such a series.
Discovery's production design, however, is overall a chaotic blend of styles that don't fit together. Communicator, tricorder, phasers: TOS retro style. Starfleet bridges: Abramsverse. Discovery exterior: based on a sketch discarded for good reasons 40 years ago. Shenzhou exterior: 24th century. Shenzhou transporter: steampunk. Klingon ship: Gothic cathedral. Klingon costumes and props: ridiculously overdesigned. Klingon species: anything but Klingon.
The production design is good in the details (even the Klingon design has its merits although I hate it) but overall arbitrary. It is like many people with different agendas are working on the show, and just don't talk to each other. Or like people who boldly try to defy the principle that you can't have everything at once. I miss the old days when Matt Jefferies or Herman Zimmerman were in charge of the Art Department, who gave their shows a signature look, a feeling that it all belongs together. Even Enterprise had one, with the Akiraprise being the only slight annoyance.
Discovery Filmed in 2:1 Aspect Ratio, Frakes to Direct Episode
Today we learned that Discovery is being filmed in a "cinematic" 2:1 widescreen format, as opposed to the usual 16:9 of television. Discovery producer Aaron Harberts said that it "lends itself to a very lyrical way of telling the story."
On other news about the series, Jonathan Frakes will return to Star Trek to direct an episode of Discovery.
I don't think that the widescreen format is a good decision. I just like to watch television on the full screen, without having black bars anywhere. That's why television is produced in 16:9 today, and used to be 4:3 until a couple of years ago when TV screens had that ratio. The almost unnoticeable "cinematic" effect of 2:1 does not compensate for the slight annoyance of the black bars. On the contrary, I don't like widescreen very much anyway, it does not fit my visual field. I would personally reduce the aspect ratio to somewhat less than 16:9 (to be precise, to the golden ratio) if I were to re-invent HDTV. In my view, TV producers should leave the widescreen format to the cinema. Trying to compete with the Abrams movies is not good for Discovery, although it is still one of my smaller gripes with the series.
The news about Jonathan Frakes directing an episode, on the other hand, is a very pleasant surprise. Another big name, and another chance to get the right feel into the series.
Discovery Premiere Dates Announced
CBS has announced the premiere dates for Star Trek Discovery. The series premiere will air on CBS Television on September 24, 8:30-9:30 PM, ET/PT. The same night, the first two episodes will become available on CBS All Access on demand. After that, a new episode will be released on All Access every week, in two chapters. The first eight episodes will run from September 24 through November 5. The season will then resume with the second chapter of seven episodes, debuting in January 2018.
In Canada, the series will debut on Space Channel on September 24 at 8:30 PM ET. The schedule for the two chapters is the same as on All Access.
In the rest of the world, the Star Trek Discovery episodes will be available on Netflix, starting on September 25. The first chapter will run until November 6.
I'm not so excited about Discovery as I used to be and I haven't subscribed to Netflix yet. But it's good to know that the launch date "this fall" was finally fixed, and that it's rather the beginning of fall than the end.
First Discovery Trailer
The first trailer with real footage from Star Trek Discovery is up. A few photos were released too. We get an impression of some of the cast, of costumes, props and sets. There will be a Vulcan story. Well, and there will be Klingons, but not as we know them.
It was also announced that the first season will consist of 15, rather than only 13 episodes. The exact premiere date "this fall" still remains unknown.
I like the Starfleet and the Vulcan styling in Discovery for the most part. Well, the design of the Starfleet ship (apparently the Shenzhou) is another bland Akira rip-off and the bridge is too modern (as could be expected). But there are at least some cues to TOS such as in the style of the captain's chair. I only wish the series had abstained from using obnoxious blue on transparent displays and bridge windows as in the Abramsverse. And I wish they had avoided lens flares. Most alien characters look great in their make-up. But those creatures that Discovery tries to pass off as "Klingons" and that fly through space in a Gothic cathedral are almost impossible to put up with. Even if Discovery provides a really good explanation (the "sarcophagus ship"?), I still hate the Klingon make-up and set design.
The trailer shows that otherwise Discovery has outstanding production values, and the potential to become an exciting, "lifelike" series set in the Star Trek Universe. The people in charge shouldn't ruin it with short-sighted design decisions that are so much more than just a matter of taste.
And one more thing for CBS to remember, for their advertising campaign: Geoblocking sucks! The video released by CBS doesn't work in Europe, which makes it extremely bothersome to try to share it.
New Castings and Recastings Announced
More news about Discovery castings comes from startrek.com. Shazad Latif will appear as Starfleet Lieutenant Tyler. He was previously announced to play the Klingon Kol. The role of Kol, a commanding officer in the Klingon Empire, goes to Kenneth Mitchell. Clare McConnell will portray Dennas, a leader in the Klingon Empire. Ujilli, another Klingon leader, will be played by Damon Runyan. Finally, and perhaps most notably for science fiction fans, we have Rekha Sharma of Battlestar Galactica fame as Commander Landry. She recently appeared in the Star Trek Continues episode "Still Treads the Shadow".
Sonequa Martin-Green Confirmed as First Officer
As startrek.com reports, Sonequa Martin-Green will appear on Star Trek Discovery. Her character is the first officer of the Discovery. Her name, however, is not "Rainsford" as previously rumored but actually "Michael Burnham".
Rainn Wilson Cast as Harry Mudd
Emmy Award-nominated actor Rainn Wilson has been cast in the role of Harcourt Fenton Mudd, the con artist who appeared in two TOS episodes, "Mudd's Women" and "I, Mudd".
USS Discovery Gets a Captain
Jason Isaacs has been cast as Captain Lorca of the USS Discovery. Mary Wiseman will appear as Tilly, a Starfleet Academy cadet aboard the same ship "in her final year of study."
The new air date for the pilot will be in early fall, according to an earlier statement by Lee Moonves, CEO of CBS. Further details are still unknown.
Discovery Beams Aboard Three More Cast Members
CBS announces three more actors for Star Trek Discovery: Terry Serpico ("Army Wives"), Maulik Pancholy ("30 Rock") and Sam Vartholomeos ("The Secret Life of Walter Mitty"). All three are set to play Starfleet officers. Terry will portray Starfleet official Admiral Anderson. Maulik will appear as Dr. Nambue, the CMO of the Starship Shenzhou. Sam will play Ensign Connor, a junior officer assigned to the same ship.
Totally New Klingons?
Regarding the alleged Klingons on the leaked photo from the Star Trek Discovery set, I will further comment on it once I have an official confirmation.
Star Trek Discovery Production Teaser, New Logo, Launch Date Still Unknown
As the new Star Trek series begins production in Toronto, CBS Television releases a teaser video and reveals a new logo for Discovery. The new logo still consists of a "split Starfleet arrowhead", but with a more rounded shape and without the Borg-like texture. The video allows us to glimpse a large (bridge?) set under construction, alien body armor, blue Starfleet uniforms, sketches of the USS Discovery and of another ship that was obviously inspired by Enterprise NX-01, a set floorplan and the captain's chair.
The launch date of the series is still unknown after it had been postponed one more time.
It is great to know that they finally started filming, and that they obviously went into great lengths creating the world of the 23rd century anew. It was clear that the series wouldn't show Pike-era uniforms as in "The Cage", and I won't comment on it or jump to conclusions before we can see more of the series. The currently most important open question is when they eventually plan to go live.
Sarek Returns in Discovery and Possible Further Delay
CBS reports that James Frain will play Spock's father Sarek on Star Trek Discovery. The actor is known from many film and TV roles, such as recently Azrael in "Gotham". He will be the third actor to portray the famous Vulcan, after Mark Lenard (TOS, TOS movies, TNG) and Ben Cross (Kelvin Timeline).
The shooting for Discovery will begin on January 24. The release date in May, however, appears to be uncertain. CBS announced that "if it's best for the show", the launch date will be "flexible".
I look forward to seeing Sarek on the show, and I hope that his inclusion is not gratuitous in a way that it could be used to insinuate continuity where otherwise none exists. It seems unlikely though that he may become a permanent character.
Regarding CBS's statement on the launch date, this most likely means a further delay. If it's best for the show, I will be flexible.
Discovery Lead Role for Sonequa Martin-Green
According to Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, Sonequa Martin-Green has been cast in the lead role of Star Trek Discovery. Martin-Green is best known for "The Walking Dead". Her character in Discovery is going to be that of "Number One", the still somewhat mysterious Lt. Cmdr. Rainsford.
Klingon Roles of Discovery Revealed
Chris Obi, Shazad Latif and Mary Chieffo are set to play three Klingons on Star Trek Discovery. Obi will appear as T'Kuvma, the Klingon leader seeking to unite the Klingon houses. Latif portrays Kol, commanding officer of the Klingons and protégé of T'Kuvma. Chieffo plays the role of L'Rell, the battle deck commander of the yet unnamed Klingon ship.
First Discovery Cast Members Announced
CBS has officially announced the first three cast members for the upcoming series Star Trek Discovery. As already known since last week, we will see Michelle Yeoh ("Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon") in the role of a starship captain. She is set to play Captain Georgiou of the starship Shenzhou. The second confirmed cast member is Anthony Rapp as Lt. Stamets, an astromycologist aboard the Discovery. Finally, there is Doug Jones as Lt. Saru, an alien Starfleet science officer of a new species yet to be named.
Bryan Fuller No Longer Showrunner
As reported by Variety and confirmed by CBS, Bryan Fuller will no longer tend to the daily business of the new show Star Trek: Discovery. Fuller will remain executive producer, but Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts will take over his day-to-day duties.
Some more information on the progress that has been reported in the course of this news:
- Akiva Goldsman, who wrote or co-wrote several feature films and worked as a consulting producer on Fringe, will join Discovery in a "top creative role".
- "Fuller has penned the first two scripts for 'Discovery' and has hammered out the broader story arc and mythology for the new 'Trek' realm."
- Most roles, aside from the female lead character, have been cast by now.
- Shooting is scheduled to start in November.
- The cost for each episode approaches the $6-7 million range.
Discovery Premiere Postponed to May 2017
The premiere of Star Trek Discovery has been moved from January 2017 to May 2017, as startrek.com reports. Executive producers Bryan Fuller and Alex Kurtzman stated: "We aim to dream big and deliver, and that means making sure the demands of physical and post-production for a show that takes place entirely in space, and the need to meet an air date, don't result in compromised quality. Before heading into production, we evaluated these realities with our partners at CBS and they agreed: Star Trek deserves the very best, and these extra few months will help us achieve a vision we can all be proud of."
Fuller Provides More Details on Discovery
In an interview with Nerd World Report, Bryan Fuller revealed some more details on Star Trek Discovery. He said that setting the series in the Prime Universe, rather than in the Abramsverse, was more or less a practical decision: "That way, we don't have to track anything they're doing; they don't have to track anything we're doing - and you can have two distinct universes."
Without being specific, Fuller stated that his team would "re-imagine all of the alien species" and design new uniforms that would have "a little bit of this and a little bit of that". Regarding the female lead character, he said that she would be called "'Number One' in honor of Majel Barrett's character in the original pilot" but is not the same person.
Discovery Details Revealed
Star Trek Discovery showrunner Bryan Fuller revealed that the new series is "set ten years before Kirk, and will bridge the gap between Enterprise and The Original Series... We can play with all the iconography of those ships and those uniforms." As he had already announced on previous occasions, Fuller said Discovery will be like a "novel over thirteen episodes." Fuller's hint about the storyline is rather cryptical: "There's an incident and an event in Star Trek history, that's been talked about but never been explored. To do this series, we're telling a much more serialized story, to dig deep into a very tantalizing [storyline]. And we have a character who's on a journey, and in order to understand something that is alien she first has to understand herself." The event he alluded to is not the Kobayashi Maru, not the Battle of Axanar and not the Earth-Romulan War.
The lead character according to Fuller will be a female lieutenant commander (not a captain). But the rank comes with "some caveats". She may be "diverse". Fuller said: "We haven't cast her yet, so we don't know what level of diversity she will be." He also confirmed, "Absolutely we're having a gay character." Familiar characters won't appear for the time being. Fuller will "be looking in the second season to open up to more familiar characters and how they can feed into the [show]. First and foremost, I think we really want to convince you and establish the greatness of the [new] characters that are going to be introduced."
"We'll probably have a few more aliens than you normally do in a Star Trek cast," said Fuller. One of these aliens will be named Saru. A teaser image published by Fuller shows a make-up test, which is apparently for an Andorian.
The show will be more graphic than previous Star Trek incarnations. Fuller: "It will probably be slightly more graphic content. We discuss language every day. Is it appropriate for somebody to see a bridge blow up and say 'Oh shit.' I imagine we're going to shoot scenes a couple of ways and see what feels more authentic in the editing room."
This all sounds very good. I like the idea of having a lead character who is not on the top of the ship's rank structure. My only concern is that the series may establish even more alien races, phenomena and technology (in addition to what could be seen on Enterprise) that will fall into oblivion until the 24th century.
Now the guessing game has begun which incident in Star Trek history Fuller may have alluded to. My guess is that it's an event we only know from a passing remark and we wouldn't really think of.
Star Trek Discovery - New Series Gets a Name and a Ship
On today's Star Trek panel at Comic-Con, Bryan Fuller unveiled the name of the new series - it's Star Trek Discovery! The teaser trailer posted on the Star Trek Discovery Twitter account shows us the lead ship, the USS Discovery NCC-1031, leaving an asteroid base. The ship design is clearly based on the Enterprise design by Ralph McQuarrie for the never produced film "Planet of the Titans". Judging from the ship design and its registry, it appears that the series may take place in the early 23rd century.
Fuller corroborated his previous statement that Star Trek Discovery will not be episodic: "We will be telling stories like a novel on the new series. Chapter by chapter by chapter." He also said that his intention is to allow Star Trek to "continue to be progressive. Continue to push boundaries".
Also in today's news, David Semel will direct the pilot episode of the series. The Emmy-nominated director previously worked on the pilots of Heroes, Person of Interest, The Man in the High Castle, Legends and Code Black.
The revelation of the series title and the new ship is great news. Because we can assume the name "Discovery" was not chosen by mere chance. It sounds like it is supposed to reflect the plot and maybe even the philosophy of the new series.
I am also pleased that the series does not take place in the desolate Kelvin timeline, but in an "unspoiled" era of the Star Trek Universe. And while I was never a big fan of the Ralph McQuarrie design, I think that with the tweaks that went into the design of the Discovery (and perhaps some more to come) it has the right style for the early 23rd century. It all looks like 2017 will be a great year for fans who want to see genuine Star Trek.
Netflix to Stream New Star Trek Series to the Rest of the World
As announced by CBS and Netflix today, Netflix will bring the new Star Trek series to 188 countries, excluding The United States and Canada. The episodes will usually be available within 24 hours of the U.S. premiere. Additionally, Netflix will offer all previous Star Trek TV episodes for streaming.
This is good news because fans in other countries don't have to wait forever (for a free TV broadcast or DVD release) to view the new series. I don't have a streaming account and would normally never get one. But as long as the new Star Trek series is running (and I hope it will be for a long time) the money for Netflix is well invested.
Fuller Debunks Rumors About New Series
Speaking to Moviefone at the Saturn Awards, Bryan Fuller debunked some of the common internet rumors about the series.
- It is not an anthology show.
- It is not set in the early 24th century.
- He thinks "we will be seeing lots of crews in the story."
- There is no indication whether established characters will appear. Fuller said it may happen "eventually".
The idea that the new series could be set in the time after "The Undiscovered Country" was never more than wishful thinking, nourished only by the participation of Nicholas Meyer. I think every time will be fine, as long as it's not another reboot.
Fuller Reveals Format and Philosophy of New Series
In an interview with Collider at the Saturn Awards event, showrunner Bryan Fuller revealed more details about the new series. The first season consists of thirteen episodes, which form an arc of essentially one single story. The run time of the episodes may be flexible within certain parameters that Fuller didn't explicitly mention. There is no indication yet in which time frame and which universe the series is set.
Regarding the casting choices and the possibility of having a gay character, Fuller said that he'd "look at all of these roles through a colorblind prism and a gender-blind prism" and that "the progressive audience that loves Star Trek will be happy".
The announcement that the first season will be one single story (arc) over thirteen episodes is a major letdown. I have a strong dislike for serialized television series. Actually, I don't remember following any serial until the finale in the past ten years or so. I used to give up watching either because I lacked the time, or because after a long work week it was too difficult for me to find my way back into the story.
While this may be different with the new Star Trek series (I will definitely follow it attentively), it puts me off for still another reason. I want to see the crew boldly go where no one has gone before, for which the traditional self-contained format of Star Trek episodes was perfect. A serial, on the other hand, is predetermined to show ongoing conflicts (personal, political or military). Star Trek switched to a serialized format in DS9's sixth and seventh seasons (Dominion War), and in Enterprise's third season (Xindi Arc). Each of those seasons did have a couple of episodes that took a break from the respective arc, and that felt out of place. I don't want a whole series to focus on generic character conflicts (or on an Abramsverse-style villain hunt) and to include Star Trek themes only in the form of added value.
I'm open-minded about the possible inclusion of a gay character, and I'm confident that it will be done in a decent fashion, by looking at the roles through a "gender-blind prism", just as Fuller mentioned it. It should be and will be a character that happens to be gay, and not one that is defined by being gay. I am only a bit worried that the mere existence of a gay character will distract from more important issues of the new series. We should ignore those who will hate it just because someone is gay. But I also hope that the "progressive" fan base understands that it is primarily supposed to be a science fiction show, and not a service to fulfill political demands.
Mark Worthington Confirmed as New Star Trek Production Designer
Mark Worthington, who previously worked on shows such as American Horror Story and Lost, will be the production designer of the new Star Trek series. Worthington confirmed this at his panel at the Eagle-Con LA but told Trekmovie.com that "there's nothing to talk about yet".
Mark Worthington will follow in the footsteps of Matt Jefferies and Herman Zimmerman, and that's quite a challenge. I'm not familiar with Worthington's previous work (among which there doesn't seem to be any science fiction), and I hope he knows how to create the right look for a Star Trek show.
Joe Menosky and Aron Coleite Join Star Trek All Access Series
As reported by Trekmovie.com, Star Trek writer Joe Menosky and Aron Coleite, who has written for Heroes, have joined the writing staff the upcoming Star Trek television series. Joe Menosky is known for his work on several fan favorites, including TNG: "Darmok", "Conundrum", "The Chase" and VOY: "Distant Origin", "Year of Hell", "Living Witness" and "Blink of an Eye". Larry Nemecek confirmed their participation to Trekmovie.com at the Phoenix Comicon.
Joe Menosky wrote some of the most thrilling and most imaginative episodes of modern Star Trek so this is definitely great news. At this point I hope that the new show doesn't only boast big names but that these people will also have a positive influence on its direction.
Kirsten Beyer Joins Writing Staff of Star Trek 2017
TrekCore reports that novelist Kirsten Beyer, known for the Voyager Relaunch novel series, will be part of the writing staff for the next Star Trek series.
It is interesting to note that another expert for the old Star Trek (the Prime Universe) joins the staff. I wouldn't overrate this observation though. Alex Kurtzman may have just been watching out for people with knowledge of previous Star Trek (story- and production-wise). Notable people with Star Trek experience are sorely missing from the production staffs of the Abramsverse movies, so even if the new series continues in this universe it may profit from Kirsten Beyer, just as from Nicholas Meyer and Bryan Fuller.
Star Trek 2017 Teaser Trailer
CBS releases a teaser trailer for the new series to debut in January 2017.
"CBS presents - A new adventure. New crews - New villains - New heroes - New worlds"
This first trailer is very generic and reveals practically nothing. Only the announcement of "new crews" may be seen as a hint that it's not about Kirk and Spock yet again. But I wouldn't go as far as taking this as a cue that the new series will be an anthology. I personally hope for original adventures that don't rewrite established history or characters. And I hope that those "new villains" won't be anything like the ones in the latest Star Trek movies.
As for the logo, I'm quite sure it isn't the final one. Teaser trailers almost never show anything that is already set in stone. Also, naming the new show just "Star Trek" would be an extremely poor choice.
Star Trek 2017 With Weekly Schedule
Beginning in January 2017, the new Star Trek series will be streamed weekly on CBS All Access, as startrek.com announced today. As already reported, the series will be available in the U.S. exclusively on All Access on its first run, and on still to be defined platforms and TV stations around the world.
It is great that a classic weekly schedule was chosen for the new Star Trek series. This brings back the weekly anticipation that I loved so much about the old TV series. It is definitely a big bummer that the access to the new Star Trek will be so restricted, quite probably outside the U.S. as well. Personally, I don't know if and how I will be able to watch the episodes in time.
Star Trek 2017 Going to Pinewood Toronto Studios
As reported by TrekCore a couple of days ago, the new Star Trek TV series will no be filmed in Los Angeles but in Toronto. It is now clear that the Star Trek production will take place in the Pinewood Toronto Studios, where CBS has booked the the facility's 46,500-square foot (4320 square meters) mega-stage.
So Star Trek is moving away from California. This could mean that alien planets in this series may look like boreal forest, rather than familiar landscapes such as Vasquez Rocks or Bronson Canyon. But we'll have to wait and see if and how location shoots will be arranged. In any case, I think the series can only profit from the availability of North America's purportedly biggest soundstage and a large backlot.
Rod Roddenberry Added to New Series
Another big name among the producers of the new series. As startrek.com reports, Eugene "Rod" Roddenberry and Trevor Roth will act as executive producers of the upcoming Star Trek series. They join the already named producers Alex Kurtzman, Heather Kadin and Bryan Fuller. Roddenberry said: "While I will always be humbled by its legacy and the legions of fans who are its guardians, it's a genuine honor to be joining a team of imaginative and incredibly capable individuals whose endeavor it is to uphold the tenants of Star Trek's legacy while bringing it to audiences in a new era and on a contemporary platform."
We certainly can't complain about a lack of big names among the staff of the next Star Trek series, but we'll have to wait and see whether Rod Roddenberry can live up to the expectations. He is the preserver of his father's heritage, yet he has never been closely involved with an official Star Trek production. He is a filmmaker, but so far not on a such a big scale. Anyway, I keep my fingers crossed that Rod Roddenberry can positively influence the new series, in the sense of "upholding the tenants of Star Trek's legacy".
Nicholas Meyer: "'The Undiscovered Country' as a Touchstone"
In an interview with Den of Geek, Nicholas Meyer said about the new series: "I think it's going to be a different Star Trek. It will go in a different direction. And I think that is probably good. Because the thing that mainly troubles me about Star Trek is the fear of it being maybe re-treads of itself. And to the degree that I had any influence on the thing [Star Trek] at all was that at least while I was there, we were fooling around." On the question about the politics in the new series, Meyer added: "The one thing I can relate to you is that 'The Undiscovered Country' -according to Bryan [Fuller]- is a real sort of taking off point, or touchstone for how I guess he's thinking about the direction of the new show. I don't want to be misquoted and I don't want to misquote him, but he's fond of that film. Let's put it that way."
Well, the first part about the new Star Trek going into a different direction is much the same phrase that was used to describe any new series (or film) of the franchise that was released since TOS. What Meyer says about 'The Undiscovered Country' being a touchstone is a bit more revealing. It could mean that the new Star Trek will put more emphasis on the military theme than we are used to from previous series. Or it could hint at interplanetary politics as the backdrop of the new series (in which case it should be better compared to DS9 though).
Trek Veteran Nicholas Meyer Joins New Series
startrek.com reports that Nicholas Meyer will join the new Star Trek TV series, as a member of the writing staff and a consulting producer. Meyer is famous for directing the fan favorites "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" and "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country" as well as writing for "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home", and as such part of the myth that the even numbers are the good ones.
This is a big surprise. Nicholas Meyer has not worked on Star Trek for a very long time. Many fans seem to be very excited about Meyer's participation, but I wonder how much influence on creative decisions he will really have. Also, while I definitely like his work on three Star Trek films that are among the better ones, Nicholas Meyer stands for a departure from the style and spirit of The Original Series that I am not totally happy about. In particularly, I would love to see a TV series without the militarism that Meyer established (and that TNG abandoned again).
Bryan Fuller Named Co-Creator of New Series
According to startrek.com, Bryan Fuller is the co-creator of the new Star Trek TV series, working together with Alex Kurtzman. Fuller's credits as a teleplay writer include Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek Voyager. He has been pushing for a new Star Trek TV series for a couple of years, saying that he "would love to take it back to its origin".
Bryan Fuller's addition to the staff is good news. He has been involved with the franchise for two decades, and he seems to have a more than only commercial motivation to bring Star Trek back to the small screen. Any speculation whether or not Fuller would rather return to old-style Star Trek or would embrace the Abramsverse is definitely premature.
New Star Trek TV Series Announced for 2017
CBS Television announces that a new Star Trek TV series will be launched in January 2017. Alex Kurtzman will serve as executive producer. The announcement also points out that "the new television series is not related to the upcoming feature film 'Star Trek Beyond'". A preview broadcast will air on the CBS Television Network. The subsequent episodes will be available exclusively in the United States on CBS All Access, the Network's digital subscription video on demand and live streaming service.
It is awesome that Star Trek will return to the small screen, after an absence of as long as twelve years. Television is not only the origin of the franchise but is also the medium to relay the message much better than a multi-million dollar blockbuster movie. The Abramsverse movies may have revived the franchise in an economic sense but they failed to promote the philosophy and provide a vision of a future, of the kind it was present in all TV series (including Enterprise). So I am definitely looking forward to a new Star Trek TV series.
The fact that Alex Kurtzman will run the show is a first hint that it may be set in the Abramsverse, rather than in the Prime Universe. Well, it is said not to be related to "Star Trek Beyond" but this may merely mean that it has a different main cast. The odds that any of the highly paid actors of the Abrams films will appear in a permanent role in a TV show are slim anyway.
Rather than the perhaps premature fear that the tone of the Abramsverse may be carried over to a TV series, the fact that the new Star Trek will be shown exclusively on CBS All Access, a streaming channel that is still seeking its place in the market, is somewhat off-putting. At least for many people who either don't have the time or the money or the bandwidth to see all kinds of series on all kinds of pay channels. While being the crowd-puller for the new channel may be flattering for Star Trek, vice versa the show is also dependent on the success of the channel. And quite unlike the TV shows of the past (and the Abrams movies) it may not be laid out to become a mass phenomenon in the first place.