Star Trek: Discovery showrunner Bryan Fuller on August 27th called in to radio show Nerd World Report with Hop and Herc to talk about the new series. He touched on the tradition of calling the second-in-command “Number One”, music production, and deciding upon the timeline for the show (Kelvin or Prime).
Fuller revealed that the show’s main character, who was previously revealed to be a female lieutenant commander (with caveats), would be the U.S.S. Discovery’s first officer and would be referred to as “Number One” as an homage to Majel Barret Roddenberry’s character from Star Trek’s first pilot, “The Cage.” Fuller would not say exactly when during the series we will learn the actual name of the character, but that it would be during the first season. Fuller, dodging the question of whether it would be in the pilot, quoted Spock from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan by concluding his remarks on the subject by saying “If minutes were hours…”
Elaborating on Discovery’s protagonist, Fuller remarked “When we introduce our protagonist, she is called Number One for that very reason, in honor of Majel Barrett’s character in the original pilot. And as we were first talking about the series and talking to CBS, we said “Initially, we will only call this character Number One, because in the 60’s, in the first pilot, Gene Roddenberry was very progressive, and he had a female first officer, and CBS [NBC] executives at the time said America is not ready for a female in a command position.”
Despite the series being featuring this new Number One as its protagonist, it will be an ensemble cast.
Prime vs Kelvin Timeline
Fuller said that when he and executive producer Alex Kurtzman were initially developing the story, they felt it could take place in either timeline and that, in his opinion, the timelines were inconsequential to the story they wanted to tell. However, Fuller noted that he and Kurtzman had decided to set Discovery in the Prime Timeline in order to keep the new series independent of the films. As a matter of practicality, the writing staff for Discovery would therefore not need to keep track of what the writers associated with the films were doing, and vice versa.
Fuller felt that there was something nice about setting Discovery in the Prime Timeline as there are so many aspects of The Original Series that would be fun to explore with updated production values.
“Reimagining” Star Trek
Fuller has stated in previous comments that Discovery would “reimagine” Star Trek. When pressed for specifics, Fuller mentioned that one of the cool things they get to do with the show is reimagine all of the alien species that the audience has seen before in Star Trek. Fuller, along with the show’s writing staff, wanted to do something a little unique with the look of aliens.
Commenting on this, Fuller said “It’s fun for all of us who have fetishized the look of these species over the years of watching Star Trek, and it’s fun for us to put a new spin on old favorites.” When specifically pressed about the look of the Klingons in Discovery and whether they would have forehead ridges, or look like they did in The Original Series, Fuller would not comment.
Continuing, Fuller said that “we’re going to try to achieve a new look for Star Trek that is very much Star Trek, but also our interpretation of Star Trek. And I love [for] each of the shows I work on to have a distinct esthetic. So being able to apply the color palette of some of these, whether it’s Hannibal or Pushing Daisies, and going a different direction with science fiction, it just felt like it was a good place to start our signature look for the Star Trek universe and work our way forward as we continue to tell stories.”
Given the timeframe of ten years before The Original Series, Fuller said that the crew’s uniforms would be completely different that those seen in “The Cage.” Fuller continued, saying “I think that when you see it [the uniform] I can tell you specifically what the influences are, and that the styles that [they adopted] a transporter accident in their approach. A happy transporter accident. I think when you see the design, you’ll say “It’s a little bit of this, it’s a little bit of that.”
Bringing up a wardrobe test that occurred recently, he said “it was interesting to think okay we need to take these colors, and we have to put them against the bulkhead that has the ship colors, and see what’s going to be the best looking esthetic for the show. So taking the sets and wardrobe and lighting into effect.”
Discovery’s Production as it Stands Today
Fuller noted that the show’s pilot would be a two-part episode, with the first hour written by he and Alex Kurtzman, while the second hour was written by Nicholas Meyer. Fuller did not reveal whether the show’s two-hour pilot would air all at once, or be broken up into two episodes.
Out of the 13 episodes of the show’s first season, Fuller said that the scripts had been written for the first three episodes. Script outlines have been developed for episodes four and five, but they are not complete yet. However, Fuller and his writing team have fleshed out the story arc for the entire first season. Story concepts have been developed for the remaining episodes.
Fuller noted that Star Trek has primarily been episodic, with the exception for the Dominion War arc on Deep Space Nine. He said that Discovery will be very different from the majority of Star Trek as it will be serialized.
As previously reported, CBS has ordered a 13-episode first season of Discovery. Fuller strongly recommended against doing 26-episode seasons as other Star Trek shows have done, noting that he thought it would fatigue the show. Fuller’s ideal season would be ten episodes, but that the future beyond season one of Discovery changes weekly so the episode orders for additional seasons have yet to be determined.
Regarding CBS All Access, Fuller stated that “We’re talking about all sorts of things that we could do to keep Star Trek interesting for subscribers to CBS All Access,” but he did not go into specifics.
Casting remains in its early stages, with Fuller noting that they had met with some great actors. Fuller revealed that there is of course some people he has previously worked with that he would love to see on Discovery. Fuller hoped that they would have something to say in regards to casting announcements in early October, but that is not definite.
Asked whether Discovery would reuse, or pay homage to, any of The Original Series’s iconic themes, he agreed that it would be cool to use them. Adding, “It would be great to homage some of those things. I don’t think we would use them specifically, but it’s certainly something we’ve had discussions about and I don’t know yet whether or not we’re going to commit to that.”
Fuller also said that they have yet to decide on the show’s opening credits nor its music.
Fuller confirmed that he loves the orchestral scores composed by Jerry Goldsmith and James Horner from the films, but that the production does not have access to that material. The music from the various incarnations of Star Trek on television, however, the series will have access to.
Expanding on the musical style he prefers, Fuller said “I love Jerry Goldsmith’s score for [The Motion Picture]…I love his Klingon theme…I love his Vulcan theme…Ilia’s theme. His music is so important and such a fantastic part of the feel of [the films].”
Continuing, Fuller said “I think there’s a lot of interesting things happening here musically. We absolutely have to have orchestral elements of the show [performed by] live orchestras. If we don’t have a live orchestra for the show we would be the first Star Trek television series [not to use one]. But you look at how some interesting new hybridizations of synth and orchestral scores have serviced Star Trek…First Contact had some very fantastic mixed pieces, and I look at what Hans Zimmer does, and I love his score for Interstellar. So it’s interesting to take a bit of a mix with our approach. And we’ll see when we get to that level of production, but I’m very excited about the music. Music is incredibly important.”
However, Fuller did not reveal whether the show would utilize a single composer, or multiple, nor whether they have been selected yet.
Trekmovie.com will cover Star Trek Mission: New York this coming weekend, where writers Nicholas Meyer and Kirsten Beyer will take part in a panel on Discovery. We will immediately report any news from that event.