Alex Kurtzman On How ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Blurs Line Between TV And Movies

Late last week we flagged some quotes about Star Trek: Discovery that Collider pulled out of their impending interview with Alex Kurtzman, director of The Mummy, who is also an executive producer for the upcoming CBS All Access Trek show. They have now released the full interview and it appears their previous article had grabbed much of the Discovery highlights.

However, there was one quick bit where Kurtzman (who was also a co-writer and producer for the first two J.J. Abrams Star Trek feature films) talked in general and then specifically about how the line between the world of TV and movies is getting thinner:

Kurtzman: The line between film and television is utterly blurred. Not just at a storytelling level, but visually now. What we’re doing on Star Trek right now, that’s not that different from what we’re doing in the movies. I think that’s what people expect when they pay for Netflix, or for HBO, or whatever they’re going to pay for. That actually makes, as a storyteller, it makes it, in the many ways, you’re not limited by oh, we could never really do that on television scope wise because now, take a look at Game of Thrones. That’s a movie.

Shots from latest trailers from Star Trek: Discovery and Game of Thrones – Kutzman draws a comparison between the shows

Getting what you pay for

Kurtzman seems to be expanding on what CBS Interactive CEO Jim Lanzone said last month about how Discovery is a ‘premium’ TV show.

Lanzone: It’s going to be very cinematic, very high production value, and grittier, the way a lot of premium cable shows are today.

Kurtzman’s comment about “what people expect when they pay” seems to be obliquely addressing one of the elephants in the room with regards to Discovery: that it will require people to pay for a subscription to CBS All Access (in the U.S.) or Netflix (outside U.S. and Canada) and you therefore have to deliver something that seems worth it.

An expensive looking shot from Star Trek: Discovery trailer – Kurtzman notes that people have different expectations when they pay for a subscription

Keep up with all the Star Trek: Discovery news at TrekMovie.

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A 65-inch 4K UHD flatscreen TV can cost under $600 these days, and it offers a visual experience not unlike going to a theater. You can’t put that kind of technology affordably into a home, and offer premium subscription services without offering the content to go with it. A feature film broadcast for free via OTA antenna will look as good as the same content on HBO for $10/month.

I agree with what you’ve said here about content and quality, but not sure if you’re trying to say you support them putting this on CBSAA or not. While I’m not happy to have to spend $10 a month to watch it commercial free, I am happy to because I love Trek and am willing to pay for quality content.

Aaron (Naysayers are gonna nay)

Please let me know where you are getting a good brand name 65 inch 4k TV from for that cheap.

Hey… How’s it goin Aaron?

I did. Currently own an LG. Sooooo… yeah.

He did not say brand name ;)

Interesting, she produced Interstellar and Super 8, both (to varying degrees) more thoughtful than any of the Trek films…

That’s fine. It is better for everyone that STD be the JJ “prime” universe not TOS.

“STD” ROFL !

@Ricardo Cantoral – That will only be funny to the small minority of folks such as yourself(?) who live aberrant lifestyles.

It is prime though. He’s just referring g to the level of production design and scope.

ST ID is set in the “other” timeline created by Mr. Abrams et al, I agree with that and the movie itself never pretended otherwise; however I’m one of those old time ST die hard purists who happens to think ST ID is not just a great ST movie, it’s a genuinely great film in the broadest sense. (I believe everyone is entitled to their own – – informed – – opinion,of course; but it’s just plain dumb when opinion becomes “party line” – – i.e.. ST fans who reject ID out of hand without much thought and no regard for cinema).

Loving that shot of The Saturn Sunset.

I don’t think that’s Saturn, or a sunset, technically speaking ;)

I find the comparison of stills above to be not very comparable — GOT looks light years ahead of DSC in that shot. Consider the hundreds of extras in that shot, digital or otherwise, and the best CGI dragons ever put to screen — compared to two people walking in a desert. But yes, DSC looks very high-budget, and that can only be a good thing. They’re already planning season 2, so I think everyone understands Trek is a worthwhile investment.

The desert shot was filmed on location in Jordan.

Yeah, but he’s right. STD looks good, but GOT frequently looks stunning. Hopefully STD has high production values and will soon compete.

For a shot like this you don’t need more than 20 extras ;)

a light year is a distance measurement

The phrase “light years ahead” is used colloquially meaning “far better than” or “more advanced than” etc. It’s idiomatic.

And is also a snowclone of the phrase “leagues ahead,” “miles ahead,” “[X distance] ahead”…

The One Thing I love about Star Trek it pushes the Brounderies of our Imagination Deep Space 9 is an perfect example because just about every episode was like a Mini Movie and I think personally this is a Smart move For Star Trek Discovery because they will have a lot more freedom to do with out being under the eye of Censorship

DS9 still hasnt aged too well now though. Its like watchong a theatre-set most of the time. Still a good show though.

At first I wasn’t happy with the time setting but then I thought it might be cool to see the Prime universes before Kirk. Wasn’t expecting or wanting to see cheesy cardboard,knobs,switches and shower curtain dressings but maybe keep the some of retro look with today’s advance production qualities. Style and quality are two different things me thinks???

I’m assuming STD will fall after Star Trek Enterprise?

Yes. It’s ten years before tos.

The Trouble With Dribbles

At the risk of offending any JJ verse fanatics, I think Alex Kurtzman’s creativity shines brighter when he avoids some of the lessons learned from JJ. Just my opinion, but much of JJ’s work is overrated.
That being said, this new and improved means of creating top-notch Star Trek allows room for the franchise to grow- since audience demand will play an integral part in it’s longevity. The better it is- the more the the audience wants- the more the network gets to charge it’s sponsors- the better the show get’s- the more the audience want’s it, etc., but big money wont translate into good Star Trek unless the writing is top-notch. I hope the show is successful so it will attract big name writers. Star Trek deserves the best, as only the best would satisfy it’s original creator, and the fans who have supported it from day one.

JJ shines when he’s telling stories about people. Whether that’s Lost or Super 8, or even Felicity. While I think he’s a fine director, I think he’s a far better showrunner/writer and executive producer. I think sometimes he gets himself lost in the vastness of the production, trying to make things “cool.”

So, the guy who just screwed up “The Mummy” is a major player in “Discovery?” Yay. :-P

He was also a producer on Fringe, Alias, and Xena! Not sure if that’s encouraging or what… but I don’t find his body of work wholly encouraging…

Though from what I’ve heard, he is not really involved in the day-to-day, more of a broad strokes sort of role. I hope.

He was reportedly responsible for shoe horning Khan into STID too. A very poor decision.

Actually that was more Lindelof.

Khan’s presence never bothered me. The whole coverup in the press did, though– that was just annoying.

Agreed… I didn’t mind Khan being there. And the secrecy didn’t even bother me that much. What I didn’t like was the cringe inducing “homages” to the Wrath of Khan. And, they could have had an on-screen explanation for why an Indian character, originally played by a Mexican, was now a Brit… The comic book companion did a good job of explaining it, so I’ve accepted that as my own personal canon.

I supported using Khan beforehand. But my support was based on hiring someone with a greater skill than junior high writing club to create the story.

If you use a legacy character he should at least be similar. They lost the moment they cast Cumberbatch. They got too cute with the idea they didnt need a Latino actor (once negotiations fell through with Benicio Del Toro.

The in-universe explanation made no sense either. And the secrecy thing back fired because the reveal came across so ridiculous that it actually elicited laughter in the theatre where I saw it.

I don’t care about ethnicity for Khan. He was supposed to be Indian, anyway. They cast a great actor, and his performance was perfect for what they were going for. I thought the movie was quite good, and while he lacked a bit of depth, I thought, overall, it worked well. Not a great Trek film, but certainly thoroughly enjoyable, well-made, and fun.

I agree his performance was perfect for what they were going for if what they were going for was crap.

BC is a great actor. But his performance in Star Trek was pretty well phoned in. It was “dramatic acting 101”. very little depth. Every time I watched the film I hated his performance more. And I dont blame him. He had a terrible script to work with and lousy directing.

But the bigger issue was not Khan as a character it was the story that Khan just didnt fit into.

The premise of Star Fleet looking for Khan because they need a guy from 1996 to help them design the biggest, baddest ship in the fleet is laughable. You could tell the writers had no idea for how to get Khan there so thats what they came up with.

And it didnt matter to them anyway – the point was to have a terrorist who is sympathetic because of how Admiral Cheney, I mean Marcus, treated him.

It was a half-baked, terribly transparent and poorly written anti-American propaganda story that never did serve its purpose because the writers under-served their villains.

Shoe-horning Khan into the story made no sense once they decided to lie about it to preserve the awful ‘reveal’. Using Khan, even poorly was reasonable if you did it for marketing purposes. But since JJ robbed the marketing department of that opportunity, it was all for nothing.

The problem with the reveal even in the film itself, is that there’s no setup– it’s not like they’d been talking about the Eugenics Wars– so really the reveal was for THE AUDIENCE which makes zero sense. The characters don’t know about the original “Wrath of Khan”!

Anyways, I don’t mind it. I think it worked for the movie, the movie was good, and I think calling it “anti-American propaganda” is silly. There’s lots of sci-fi that preaches about the dangers of military and government overreach, and that’s one aspect of the film that felt particularly “Star Trek” to me.

Well played, there. Agreed.

“anti-American propaganda story”

TUP, this may be going a bit too far. It’s like making the same accusation against the Bourne movies or Captain America: The Winter Soldier (which even had the same basic storyline as STID).

Captain America included some perspectives from both sides.

One only need follow Orci online to see his politics. And that really showed itself in STID.

I’ve said before, the War on Terror story was a great idea. And STID had the bones of a GREAT story. But the writers simply werent up to the challenge. They werent good enough.

And part of the problem was, they didnt want to present the complete story, which is funny because the best way to prove your position is to present the opposing view and then defeat it. They didnt want to present the opposing view.

Khan was a terrorist who murdered a lot of people. But STID told us it wasnt his fault. he’s just a misunderstood family man who was driven to murder by the big bad US government.

The real villain of STID was Marcus in the Dick Cheney role but Orci couldnt write anything for him that was a good point so he was a lame, half baked, mustache twirling bad guy rather then the full formed, deep character he could have been.

The decision to kill Pike, again by the “good” terrorist was such a stupid idea, the writing assignment should have been snatched from those guys right then and there

STID was a decent story badly in need of some GOOD writers to punch it up.

I have to smh at the criticism of Cumberbatch as Khan. People forget that in STAR TREK II, Khan and his people were all blond!

Blond? Khan was white haired.

It was a new generation of nordic/Anglo people even though the previous generation as shown in Space Seed represented a wide range of ethnicities.

Would you shake your head if they cast Gal Gadot to play Uhura? I mean, she’s a good actress right, so it doesn’t matter.

Its beyond the question of ethnicity since Montalban was a Mexican playing a Middle Eastern character. Such was the 60’s. The intent was a darker skinned, darker haired man of Middle Eastern descent.

Originally, they were talking to Benicio Del Toro for the role in STID so their intent was to cast someone who would, to a degree, resemble Montalban.

They chose to go in a weird direction with Cumberbatch.

And Khan had black hair in Space Seed, not blond.

Yes i’d shake my head at Gadot as Uhura, because diversity is important for that role. It’s a key to the character.

But just as I don’t care that Nick Fury became Sam Jackson, or Starbuck became a woman, Khan’s ethnicity was not a key ingredient of what made him Khan.

I think Del Toro would have been great because his accent and look resemble the original Khan, plus he’s a great actor.

Once they couldn’t get him, they figured– “forget getting a guy that resembles Montalban, let’s just get the best actor we can.”
Fine with me.

Not really. Because Khan was a historic character within the franchise. Its like them patting themselves on the back for getting an actor that looks like Nimoy and Pine and then suddenly getting defensive when people say “but Cumberbatch looks nothing like the character of Khan”.

Not only that but its sort of racist. I mean they whitewashed the role. I guess they got away with it since it was a Mexican playing a Middle Easter or South Asian character originally. But it was the wrong actor for the wrong part.

And the writing and directing didnt help either.

“Montalban was a Mexican playing a Middle Eastern character. Such was the 60’s. The intent was a darker skinned, darker haired man of Middle Eastern descent.”

It’s surprising having to repeat this to someone who says he’s Canadian (considering how many Indians there are in Canada, including several people in the present government), but Indians are not Middle Eastern. We’re South Asian. So is everyone else from India’s immediate neighbours.

TUP’s broader points about the mis-casting of Khan are very good, though.

I didnt say Indian, I said Middle Eastern. I actually went to look up Khan’s ethnicity before posting and it was stated as “Middle Eastern looking”. If I recall Space Seed, the speculation was he was Sikh. But there was no confirmation.

I used Middle Eastern to convey a look that was somewhat appropriate as “Indian” was more specific. I should have actually used the full description of Khan’s speculated ethnicity and also mentioned South Asia.

But splitting hairs. Didnt mean to offend.

@Torchwood,

“Though from what I’ve heard, he is not really involved in the day-to-day, more of a broad strokes sort of role.”

Well, other than his roles as show co-creator, co-writer of the pilot and his executive producer role.

@Ahmed

WellI guess I read wrong then. Early on, i’d read articles that he was more involved in broad strokes at the early concept stage, and not a writer or day-to-day producer.

Still, i’m not worried until I see an episode or two. It’s not like he’s Michael Bay– he HAS done some quality stuff (Fringe, Alias, Mission Impossible III, most specifically– and of course I *did* quite enjoy the first two Trek films he was involved in).

“It’s not like he’s Michael Bay”

In fairness to Michael Bay, he was also responsible for Black Sails. The quality of the show was vastly superior to Bay’s movies.

I don’t have a problem with whom played whom in what. I’m saying these so-called new criticisms are recycled criticisms, like the above-mentioned blond actor thing with Khan’s people in WoK or “they don’t look like Klingons” comments about DSC when people were saying the same thing in 1979!

It’s not about the pretty package…when you open it, there better be more than a McDonald’s gift certificate inside. All the production value in the world isn’t going to help a poorly written story.

Of course, that’s true. No way to tell at this point whether the series gets that most critical aspect right or not.

This all sounds great although the KT films had $150+ million budgets, the most expensive Trek films ever made and a lot of fans are still meh on them so while its nice to know its going to look great (and there was no doubt in my mind after the trailer) great FX isn’t going to do much if the stories are bad. I thought Enterprise had some of the best production values being the latest show and yeah.

But I liked how he said it will be grittier. I know for some people thats a bad word, to me it just means a more adult which I’m good with.

I liked enterprise some of the stories could have been better but you can say that about any of the shows. I was dissapointed it only lasted 4 seasons. And who didnt like the mirror universe episode i mean really? topol in that outfit wow!!!

..he directed the new mummy? which is tanking at the box office..puts even more faith in this series for me..as mccoy said, “oh, joy”

Earning $175 million worldwide in four days (on a $125-million budget) isn’t tanking. Lousy reviews, though.

Mummy is doing poorly in the USA because of Cruise. hes much better liked in other countries were the acting bar is lower. personally i liked the first two seasons of fringe then they just kinda lost direction. but i also am hoping for a more adult trek with some well written stories.

It’s not really about acting; Cruise, much like Gibson or Russell, is popular mainly because of the 80s nostalgia. Fond memories of growing up watching Top Gun, The Thing and Lethal Weapon on bootleg tapes with homemade single-actor voiceover dubbing… an American could never understand that (well, anime fans can understand, I guess). ;)

That’s inaccurate and patronising; the acting bar is most certainly NOT lower outside the US. Maybe you should check out Irrfan Khan in The Lunchbox, where you see an electrifying performance, entirely delivered in the gaps between the dialogue with wonderful acting just in his eyes.

” in other countries were the acting bar is lower”

As a non-American I find this comment not only offensive, but flat out xenophobic. Some might even say racist.

Its tanking in America. Worldwide though its a hit.

The idea of getting what you pay for makes sense. At least for those of us willing to pay for it.

I’m totally willing to pay for Star Trek because I’m in a position to in my life right now, but I want Star Trek to be freely available to everyone. In the past, it was funded by a studio and then went into syndication (or direct to syndication).
If this is on CBS All Access, will it still go into syndication after 3 or 4 seasons? StarGate SG1 started as a showtime series, but then eventually went into syndication on free TV, which is how I found it. That’s what I want for Star Trek Discovery.

See, I’m the opposite. I want it to be a streaming show because I think that if Star Trek relied on traditional advertisers, ratings and network executives it will tank.

Special effects and overall optics is nice and all, but I have watched over the years tons of series, which were kind of crap in this regard and not only by today’s standard. I still enjoyed them, because I liked the characters and the stories, which were told.

By the way I hate the marketing word “grittier” since I had to read it tons of times for the promotion of Stargate Universe, which was a huge disappointment. Since then when I read “grittier”, which the DIS powers that be also use all the time, that word translates in my mind to “crappier”. Am I the only one, who doesn’t think that the label “grittier” is positive? I don’t want to watch a “gritty” series. I want an optimistic series with characters having adventures and fun. I don’t want them moaning about how crap their lives are, sitting in dark rooms all the time, because some stupid producers hate lamps.

I would consider DS9 “grittier” than TNG, and it’s my favorite Trek. Gritty isn’t necessarily bad or good, just different.

I’m really enjoying The Expanse, which is definitely gritty, but I’m also re-watching TNG and enjoying the hell out of that.

I groan when I see the word associated with some production. It tends to mean a misfire. The DC entertainment movies are examples of that.

Stae Trek ist more about high quality stories and ethics than it is about action and stunning images. Don’t get me wrong, I also love a good looking spaceship battle, but if the story behind is not thought through, I don’t like the whole lot of it. Therefore: an intelligent high quality and consistent story is the basis for every good series or movie. The look of it is comes after that.
Hopefully they did not forget this, as they unfortunately did quiet a lot with the Abrams-Movies (and Nemesis and ST V). I can recall a time, when a whole fanbase was upset with Insurrections Joystick on Enterprise E. Or a vehicle with wheels on Nemesis. I just wish for the new show that they take that kind of fan complaints into account. But I have the feeling that they don’t even know about that kind of stuff.
Still looking forward though to what they do with the franchise and hoping that they do not destroy half a century of – mostly – consistent history for a good action scene.

Do they release netflix shows on bluray eventually?

A simple amazon search will yield you the answer of “yes.”

Yes

@DataMat,

Netflix usually release them four months after the premiere as in the case with ‘House of Cards’

Remember, folks, that Netflix only owns the international rights, not the domestic rights. So the question should be, does CBS Access release their original content on video?

No announcement yet for “The Good Fight” on disc.

The Good Wife was released on disc. Stands to reason the Good Fight will be as well.

Just curious if anyone noticed that the released trailer was only on 720p and not HD or 4K. Does anyone have inside knowledge of why that was the case? Have the episodes not been fully rendered?”’

I think that’s a question where looking for a reason is at best pointless, and at worst, paranoid.

The cost is pretty steep but if Discovery is worth it that’s fine. My concern is that it will have stunning visuals but an awful story. That was the problem with Enterprise and the Kelvin universe films, the stories aren’t up to the visuals. (I know everyone loved the movies but really, do any of them stack up to “For the world is hollow” or “And the children shall lead?) All I’m saying is that if the stories aren’t up to Trek standards, All Access will fail and that may be the end of Trek on TV in our lifetimes.

I think that’s the only real concern i’ve heard voiced, because in the end that’s all that matters. On the flip side, if they deliver great stories, it won’t matter if the FX look like the JJ films, or if the show doesn’t look like TOS, or what timeline the show is set in– it will be a success based on the quality of the storytelling.

I agree completely and I am hopeful!

Story is most important. I do think they need to be very respectful of canon. This isn’t a revival after 25 years. Its a franchise that has been beloved and very popular for a long time.

If they cant show respect for canon it indicates a lack of respect for the franchise and then its really just a new show with the word “Star Trek” slapped on.

Im optimistic though.

I think they should be *respectful* but I think it would be a mistake to be overly reverential to it. At this point, even the TNG era Trek is over 15 years old. Enterprise has been off the air for over a decade. And they faded because, in part, they had become slaves to canon.

I think they should be given a little latitude to play with the details of canon as long as they respect the big things and the basics.

Even continuity within a series is often wonky, so i’m willing to overlook the details and not sweat the small stuff.

I mostly agree. Even with Enterprise, the 4th season stories were so much better but still, some of it was ill-advised (like the Klingon stuff). It was fan servicing. But it worked for Enterprise since the previous 3 seasons were such garbage.

I just think good writers can always get to their desired conclusion without violating canon.

And I do think they will not be able to resist bringing in the Enterprise eventually.

I would have gladly paid for it if the production design of sets/costumes were less extremely different for the period of the prime universe this is supposed to be. It is entirely possible to update without departing so extremely from something that at least looks like it could flow into the established prime world instead of creating things which those of us who like the continuity have to perform mental gymnastics on to get things to fit.

So if its really good, you still wont watch?

Is there a way to trick Netflix into thinking I am a Canadian, eh???

Sure. But in regards to Discovery, its not being shown on Netflix in Canada. It airs on Space (the premiere will air on CTV).

Since Netflix is absorbing the majority of the cost for this show

they should call all the shots in the broadcast rights – subscription

costs – etc. I have Netflix for the U.S. yet they want more money.

Will Discovery be made available for 4k download and purchase

as soon as the first episode is broadcasted?

Should according to you? Because it’s really up to Netflix, and they seem OK with the current set up so far.

Someone tell Netflix that Duane Boda has their back. They can finally “call the shots” and stop being beat up by CBS.

Kurtzman’s comments concern me. He has always been a person who was more concerned with visuals over substance. The recent Star Trek movies, The Mummy, The Transformers films, the last Spider-Man film. His work tends to be eye candy driving the story. I hope that is not the case with this series, but these comments about the visuals seem to suggest that is where his priorities remain.

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