Lengthy Trek to sort big picture
The team behind Star Trek: Discovery tell why getting it right took time.
Though Star Trek: Discovery has endured a bumpy pre-flight period, the show’s executive producers insist the turbulence was necessary to get everything ship-shape.
The much-anticipated new chapter in the Star Trek saga was originally scheduled to premiere in January 2017. Then, to the surprise of many, co-creator Bryan Fuller left the show. The premiere date was pushed back again, to May 2017.
Third time’s apparently the charm, as Star Trek: Discovery is now slated to debut on September 25. The delays, say the producers, were part of living up to the venerable Star Trek franchise.
Co-creator and executive producer Alex Kurtzman believes the first trailer they released demonstrated that Discovery ‘‘is an incredibly ambitious show’’.
He and Fuller, Kurtzman says, were intent on bringing ‘‘something new to Trek that both fans and people who’d never seen the show before could experience. It has to be huge. And I don’t mean huge just in terms of scope. I mean huge in terms of story and emotion and character, and we spent a lot of time talking about how to build this world.’’
That process, Kurtzman says, made it ‘‘clearer and clearer that the world was massive, and that [the] air date was looming [and] that was going to compromise the quality of the show’’.
Kurtzman says he and Fuller took their concerns to Les Moonves, chairman and CEO of the CBS Corporation (the show’s US broadcasters).
‘‘Look, all we want to do is deliver a great Star Trek,’’ Kurtzman recalls telling Moonves. ‘‘The worst thing that we could do would be to compromise the show to meet an air date. It would hurt us as fans of the show. We know it’ll hurt fans out there.’’
After telling Moonves ‘‘we have to make sure that we don’t deliver a sub-par product’’, Kurtzman says Moonves was ‘‘100 per cent supportive. He totally got it. And so we set about building this massive show.’’
Delays were also caused by searching for the right actor to play their lead character.
‘‘We needed our star,’’ Kurtzman says. ‘‘We needed our Michael Burnham.’’
Just to clear up any confusion, Michael is First Officer Michael Burnham, a female character played by Sonequa Martin-Green, from The Walking Dead.
‘‘It was a tough search,’’ Kurtzman says. ‘‘We really did not want to set out until we knew we had what we needed, and we saw Sonequa,and said, ‘She’s the one’. And so, we felt that was another reason to wait.’’
Burnham is also notable for being a ward or ‘‘foster-adopted daughter’’ of Spock’s father Sarek. Star Trek: Discovery executive producer Aaron Harberts says the relationship between Sarek and Burnham plays ‘‘a huge part in her back story, as well as what she brings to every ship she serves on’’.
‘‘Her time on Vulcan causes her to make several choices in our first episode, choices that will really have aftershocks throughout the entire series. It’s been amazing to have James
Frain here playing Sarek,’’ he adds, because ‘‘just as the original Star Trek could explore the father-son relationship between Sarek and Spock, the new one can tell father-daughter stories’’.
Fellow executive producer Akiva Goldsman says the show is set ‘‘in the prime universe’’, not that of the recent movies Kurtzman has co-produced. ‘‘It is 10 years before TOS [The Original Series]’’
Because of that, Goldsman believes the new show can explore what it’s like to arrive at ‘‘the utopian principles that I think are endemic to Star Trek, while suggesting that doing that isn’t ‘simple or easy’.’’
‘‘You can’t simply be accepting and tolerant without working for it,’’ Goldsman continues. ‘‘And this show is about that struggle.’’
He also says that Star Trek: Discovery is ‘‘the most serialised version of Star Trek that has ever existed and, as such, it’s long-form character storytelling’’.
Jason Isaacs, who plays Captain Gabriel Lorca, is already geeking out about his role in the latest edition of the long-running sci-fi saga.
‘‘I come from a family of boys,’’ he says. ‘‘And we used to fight, or still do, fight all the time. And in England, when I was 8, there were only three channels, I think, and the thing we fought most about was which channel we were going to watch at night. And there was never an argument when Star Trek was on.
‘‘The whole family crammed onto the couch watching Star Trek.’’
Isaacs says he never thought he’d be an actor in a Star Trek series.
‘‘It’s unimaginable that we are doing it, and that we get paid for messing around like children in the backyard.’’ - TNS
The first two episodes of Star Trek: Discovery are now available on Netflix. New episodes debut each Monday. Eight episodes will debut before Christmas, with the rest airing in January.
The Walking Dead’s Sonequa Martin-Green plays Michael Burnham on Star Trek: Discovery.
Michelle Yeo was keen to star in the long-running franchise’s latest series.