Bryan Fuller, the showrunner behind the new Star Trek TV series revealed a huge chunk of fresh information about it at the Television Critics Association’s press tour in Beverly Hills. Included in that information was that the upcoming series will focus on a female lead character. Whoever she turns out to be, she won’t be the captain but rather be a lieutenant commander, “with caveats,” said Fuller. “We’ve seen six series from the captain’s point of view; to see a character from a different perspective on the starship — one who has a different dynamic relationships with a captain, with subordinates, it gave us richer context.”
In keeping with Gene Roddenberry’s original vision for Star Trek, the crew will be highly diverse. On the casting process, Fuller said: “Star Trek started with a wonderful expression of diversity in its cast … our lead of the show is going to be subject of that same level of who’s the best actor and also what can we say about diversity on the show. We haven’t cast her yet, so we don’t know what level of diversity she will be, but that’s forefront in our minds. We’ll probably have a few more aliens than you typically have on the show. We wanted to paint a picture of Starfleet where we’re going to have new exciting aliens and also new imagining of existing aliens.”
Fuller noted some of the changes might upset the “Trekker” element, used to seeing things a certain way. “We’re producing the show in 2016. We have to update the style of the effects, the style of the sets, the style of the makeup.”
On the premise, Fuller stated, “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 is something that was referenced in The Original Series, but Fuller wouldn’t be drawn on what it was. He ruled out the Romulan War (although he did say, “close”, in response to that one), Section 31 (but that could play a role) and Kirk wrestling with the Kobayashi Maru test. He did offer that this event was something that had only been referenced, never seen.
News that has raised equal measures of ire (about the timeline) and elation (about the setting) Star Trek: Discovery will be set in the “Prime Universe” (so in the timeline of the original shows, not the J.J. Abrams reboot films’ Kelvin timeline), about a decade before Captain Kirk’s five-year mission. “We can redefine the visual style,” he said. “We get to play with all of the iconography of those ships and that universe. Since we are doing this series in 2016, and all of the other series have been produced [at a time that] isn’t as sophisticated as we are now with what we can do production-wise, we’re going to be reestablishing an entire look for the series — not only for the series, but for what we wanted to accomplish with Star Trek beyond this series.”
Although the series will (quite rightly, in order to fully establish the crew of the USS Discovery) steer clear of introducing Original Series characters until at least season 2, Fuller did say he was interested in the possibility of using Amanda Grayson (who, of course, went on to marry a certain Ambassador Sarek and become the mother of Spock) and fleshing her out somewhat.
Since the new series will be broadcast first on CBS’s new on-demand service, followed a day later on Netflix outside the US, the production team are getting much more leeway in terms of content. “Well there’s a reason we call it S.T.D.,” Fuller joked. “We’re going to have a broader spectrum to explore those issues, but it’s still Star Trek. It will probably be slightly more graphic in 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.”
The Discovery herself will follow the basic Federation Starship design, in that she will have a saucer section and warp nacelles, but the design they leaked early on has “changed considerably. But it’s still very much inspired by those [Ralph McQuarrie] illustrations.”
Obviously we’ll find out what this all means in January when the show starts it’s run.