Well, nobody can ever accuse Bryan Fuller of being a liar. The Star Trek Discovery showrunner did say last week that he was going to “spoiler it up” during the Star Trek panel of the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour this week, and he completely delivered last night. EW and Deadline have a breakdown of all the news, and while some of it was just confirmation of previous reports – like the fact that this new series would take a more cohesive, tighter serialized approach than past efforts and play out like a “novel over 13 episodes” – there was some major new info dropped.
The biggest reveal was that for the first time, a Star Trek TV series would be led by a female person of colour. What’s more, Fuller revealed that also for the first time in the franchise’s history, this new lead character would not in fact be a Starfleet captain, but rather a “lieutenant commander with caveats”.
Fuller has not yet cast this still-unnamed lead character, but to get a feel for how she would be portrayed, the writer/producer spoke to Mae Jamison, the first black woman in space.
Speaking of equality, Fuller reaffirmed previous reports that Star Trek Discovery would have gay characters, saying that “as a gay man working on Voyager, he had a file full of hate mail when there was a rumor a character on his show was going to be gay. So he was determined if he ever did his own Star Trek show, he would have a gay character”.
Besides for just persons of colour and different sexualities, Discovery‘s diversity would also be extending to its non-human cast (and yes, that includes robots).
“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.”
One of those aliens will apparently be a character named Saru (I’m guessing he/she has nothing to do with South African rugby). No further details was given about that specific character, but Fuller revealed that the show would have seven main characters in total and that the show’s opening scene would not be on Earth.
Now while all of those details are good, I’m sure the foremost question most fans have about Discovery is exactly when it takes place. Fuller confirmed previous rumours that this new series is in fact set in the “Prime Universe” and not part of the timeline kicked off in the JJ Abrams movie reboots, and also that it will be set about a decade before Captain Kirk and his crew in the original TV series kicked off their five-year mission.
The choice of that era is not just about the retro duds though, as it appears that Discovery‘s story will be kicked by one specific major event.
Fuller elaborated slightly, saying that this inciting event is something that’s “only been referenced, never seen” in the original series. He wouldn’t give away exactly what it was, but did rule out a few candidates saying that it was “not the Romulan War (“close,” he says) or Section 31 (but that could play a role) or Kirk wrestling with the Kobayashi Maru test”. As I pointed out before, although I really enjoy Star Trek, I’ve always been more of a Star Wars guy, so my knowledge of Trek history is not good enough to pinpoint any other possibilities. You guys have any ideas?
Whatever it is, with it being that close to the start of the original series, how likely is it that Discovery would perhaps be running into some of those classic characters and places?
He is seriously considering including one particular classic character though: Spock’s human mother, Amanda Grayson, who was played by Winona Ryder in JJ Abrams’ 2009 movie reboot.
But even if more old characters, locations or alien races show up, don’t expect them all to be exactly the way you remember them, and you can thank progress in TV production for that.
“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.”
“We can redefine the visual style. 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.”
One of the things that will be changing is actually the most recent thing about this series: The USS Discovery itself. Fuller revealed that the design of the titular starship shown in the series’ reveal trailer would be changed, and would be inspired by the Ralph McQuarrie illustrations from an abandoned 1970’s Star Trek movie Planet of the Titans.
Star Trek Discovery’s premiere will be debuting on US TV network CBS, but then the rest of the series will be air in the US and Canada on the network’s online streaming service CBS All Access (it will be shown to the rest of the world exclusively on Netflix). With the show thus not having to conform to normal network television censorship, will Discovery be taking things further than previous entries in the franchise, as far as mature content goes? What about alien sex?
Fuller, who cut his teeth in the business writing for Star Trek Voyager and Deep Space Nine long before he became famous for shows like Pushing Daisies and Hannibal (and the upcoming American Gods) was also asked about what draws him to Star Trek instead of its biggest rival Star Wars.