SDCC17 Interview: ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Producers On Trying To Delight Fans While Bringing In New Audience

At San Diego Comic-Con, TrekMovie spoke to Star Trek: Discovery executive producer and co-creator Alex Kurtzman and executive producer Akiva Goldsman.

Trying to delight Trekkies and welcome new fans

We asked what kind of audience they were targeting for Star Trek: Discovery, more long-time fans, new fans or non-fans. Kurtzman weighted in saying:

Yes [targeting] everything. As fans of Trek we are most certainly looking to bring in fans. And the hope is to build a larger world that non-fans can get really excited about. 

Goldsman also weighed in on the target audience, saying:

We are very, very attentive of the divergence between audience bases. We know that there are folks like us – who know way too much – and folks who know little or none at all. So the barrier to entry has been reduced. We are trying to be welcoming to people who have never seen an episode of Trek, but also really delightful to those us who can’t stop seeing them. So that is our outcome goal. Star Trek is always about a world that is for everyone. Our show tries to be for everyone. 

Jason Isaacs as Captain Lorca in Star Trek: Discovery

CBS All Access Platform offers opportunity for serialized character stories

Kurtzman also talked about the opportunity offered by having Star Trek: Discovery on the CBS All Access streaming service:

The fact that we are on a streaming channel allows us to tell the stories in a different way. These are serialized stories. They are not stand-alone stories. So there there is an emotional continuity and characters are learning as they go. They don’t forget what happened last week. And that is really exciting. So in the way you would watch any series for the characters and for that approach we get to do that here and that is really exciting.

Michelle Yeoh as Captain Philippa Georgiou and Sonequa Martin-Green as First Officer Michael Burnham in Star Trek: Discovery

More TrekMovie SDCC17 interviews

Sonequa Martin-Green on First Officer Michael Burnham

Anthony Rapp on Lt. Stamets in ‘Star Trek: Discovery

Shazid Latif on Lt. Tyler in ‘Star Trek: Discovery’

‘Discovery’ showrunners Aaron Harberts and Gretchen Berg and executive producer Heather Kadin

Mary Wiseman on Ensign Tilly in ‘Star Trek: Discovery’

(and more to come)

More TrekMovie SDCC17 coverage

‘The Orville’ panel report and new trailer

‘Discovery’ press conference report

‘Discovery’ panel report

New trailer and images from ‘Star Trek: Discovery’

IDW Panel reveals details for ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ and Boldly Go comics

See ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Federation and Starfleet Props and Costumes

See ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Klingon Costumes And Props

Klingon Torchbearer Revealed + Gentle Giant Announces Discovery Collectibles

‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Concept Art Details Klingon And Federation Ships

Stay tuned for even more coverage of San Diego Comic-Con.

Star Trek: Discovery premieres on September 24th on CBS with all subsequent episodes on CBS All Access in the US.  Keep up with all the Star Trek: Discovery news at TrekMovie.

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Have you noticed these days that everything is “exciting”. Or how “excited” [insert name here] is to be working with/for/at something? I guess that’s the new buzzword.

As for DSC I’ll wait until it’s on iTunes or Amazon, I have no desire to sign up for their pay service just to watch one show.

Well, they’re getting your money either way, I suppose. About 24 bucks to subscribe and watch the show as it’s released. About 45 bucks or so to buy them individually, isn’t it?

Ha ha exactly, i have seen a lot of people say they will wait for itunes?? i dont know about the US but its a stupid amount of money just for an episode or series in the UK

All the people that are so bnegative they claim they wont watch…but post here all the time? yeah right. Even if they try to restrain from watching, once they hear about it, they wont be able to control themselves. Even if only to have specific things to whine about.

The mods will be worked ragged once this show premieres, with all the trolls ripping it after pretending to have watched it.

Or hope the discs become available through Netflix or some other rental industry. Then you are getting it as part of a service you are already paying for.

Well, I’m excited for this.

@Dr Zaius,

Kurtzman is fond of using those terms in his interviews, whether he’s talking about ‘Star Trek’, ‘The Mummy’ or ‘Transformers’

He isn’t the only one that does it, so I end up rolling my eyes when I see it these days.
As for iTunes individual episodes of a series are usually $1.99 U.S. where an entire season would be $40.00 or whichever.
I don’t see how he can say being on a pay service facilitates a serialized story line; I guess he hasn’t been watching TV the last 20 years.

Exactly, Dr. Zaius. That line from Kurtzman was utter crap. Serialized television has been a mainstay on television for years. Breaking Bad or Mad Men, anyone? C’mon. The fact people really fall for tripe like that says a lot.

They will say any “Tripe” to get fans to pay even if they are not going to get what they payed for.

I think that was more a simple approach. He likely meant more in terms of premium television which the AMC shows would be as well. But most people think of Netflix and HBO when they think premium.

Plus, Discovery is half financed by Netflix and CBSAA is the main home so he’s pushing the advantages of Streaming, especially compared to syndicated Star Trek where they used that excuse to not serialize it.

Just like Berman saying how wonderful it was for Enterprise to be the first Trek series to serialize. He knew DS9 was, but he wasnt going to market Enterprise as the “second” series to do so.

“I don’t see how he can say being on a pay service facilitates a serialized story line; I guess he hasn’t been watching TV the last 20 years.”

Exactly. Per my comment where I responded to his quote. Even DS9 got serialized. It’s just blather to try and foolishly justify putting the show on a streaming only service. Most folks, particularly Trek fans, I think are bright enough to see through such rhetoric.

He might genuinely be excited…. but I guess you’ve not thought that of that.

It would be very refreshing to have him come out and say how bored and disinterested he is by the series.

“Have you noticed these days that everything is “exciting”. Or how “excited” [insert name here] is to be working with/for/at something? ”

I enjoy commentaries on discs and most are just like that. They talk about how great it was to work with so and so.

I get and appreciate your desire to not pay a service for ONE show. There are at least 4 shows on HBO I’d like to see sooner than I do. But I’m not paying the HBO fee for FOUR shows. Let alone CBSAA for one.

If they are trying to sell me with this serialized storytelling, it is not working. I prefer self-contained episodes. I’ll give it a chance, but everything I have read and seen so far tells me I will not care for it.

They’re definitely treating Discovery like HBO or Netflix treat their big, original shows. Serialized, built for binge watching, high production values. You can always just wait for all of the episodes to come out, subscribe for one month, and watch them all. But I don’t know if we’ll see another episodic Trek for quite a while. Just not how the winds are blowing at the moment.

I think the biggest weakness of most Star Trek so far has been too little serialisation. When it’s been used (mainly in DS9 and Enterprise) it’s worked very well. It was OK not to have it very much in TOS or TNG but the lack of it really hurt Voyager. There’s probably a happy medium though – hopefully it pans out well. It would be a shame not to have any of the one-off sci-fi stories or mini-arcs that characterised previous Trek.

The longer story arcs on DS9 were amazing, among the best TV Trek ever. Looking forward to what DSC has to offer.

I hated Xindi story so for me, that was my least watched season of Enterprise. I thought the story sucked so that whole season was a write off.

Thats what Discovery has to consider, and really every serialized show does. The Walking Dead had ratings drop, supposedly due to the season arc of the main characters being down and out for so long. But you cant immediately fix a season long arc, especially when its mostly in the can by the time you see the feedback.

By the way, my theory on TWD is actually the death of a specific character. I think that is what eroded the audience. They under-estimated the purpose of that character who, I think, was the avatar by which we viewers saw the Walking Dead universe. Once he was gone, it lost a large sense of cheering and caring for the characters but it felt like a death blow to the audience…and once you dont care anymore and are just watching it unfold, it becomes easy to turn it off.

TUP, Absolutely agree about the TWD – though I still watch (fervently), the ‘feel’ is off since the beginning of last season – the loss of that particular character(s) was a huge blow, and a lot for the show to recover from, and the ratings showed it. Also agree with you 100% about the Xindi storyline in Ent. – absolute boring rubbish.

@singularity87 — the 4th season ENT story arcs were the best for Trek. They spanned 3-4 episodes as I recall, sometimes 5? Even if I don’t care for the story, I can usually get through a few episodes of it. Multiple episodes also lets them cross-board a storyline and shoot it over a longer time span giving them a chance to build elaborate sets, maximize the cost of other sets, and have greater access to guest stars who might otherwise not be available for the limited dates of a single episode.

They should definitely take “Stanky M” into account here and drop the serialization. Its not like its a staple of modern premium television or anything.

If there were a chance that they would go back to the TOS method of soliciting scripts from established science fiction writers, I might agree with you. It would be great to see cutting-edge SF on Star Trek on a weekly basis again. But it’s not going to happen, because television just isn’t produced that way anymore. So our best bet for a worthwhile series is one that emphasizes drama and character development, which is the great advantage of modern serialized storytelling.

Problem is when you try to be everything to everybody you just become nothing to anyone.I just hope that discovery doesn’t my favorite song sung out of tune.

That probably wasn’t the best way for them to explain what they’re doing. It makes sense if they’re reintroducing the world of Star Trek to potential new fans, while still putting details in that long-time fans will appreciate.

This was what the JJ films missed a bit. They did have some good references but STID just blew it all out of the water. I remember a friend of mine who was NOT a Star Trek fan. She went to 2009 because of the word of mouth and cast (she liked Quinto) and really liked it.

So she saw STID and said it was “okay”, thought it had good action scenes but didnt understand it. When I explained the whole Khan story and Wrath of Khan call backs she said “ohhh ok, that makes sense. I like it more now”.

Beyond got this more right. Because you can watch Beyond and they explain what MACO’s were and how they were used and what happened after the “war” and it played into the villain’s motivation (as shallow as it was). But if you watched Enterprise you appreciated it that much more.

So the idea is not to have these huge story points where you need to read a fr4iggen comic book beforehand to understand, but that certain places, people, ships, etc are call backs to those who know…and completely great “new” things to viewers that dont.

Aka…”Trek of Thrones”…”Game of Treks”.

Aka “The Walking Trek” aka “The Warping Dead”… “Westtrek” aka “Trekworld”, “Stranger Treks” aka “Trekker Things”, “Klingon Horror Story”, “Cardassian Gods” or “Blood Warp”…

Cardassian Gods sounds like a cool title for a Trek series.

Anything but “Star Trek” heaven forbid they do that. FFS

*rolls eyes*

You guys are crazy if you don’t think this type of storytelling is bad for Trek.

Yeah, look at how that spectacularly failed for DS9.

Agreed. And many of us were complaining about The Reset Button ™ during the Berman Era. There won’t be one in Discovery.


The same people who complained about the reset button and complained about Berman and Braga are now complaining about serialisation. Some people just refuse to be happy Trek is coming back. Toxic.

I think its just those few vocal fans who didnt get their post Nemesis series or Captain Sulu or Captain Worf or whatever other idea THEY specifically wanted and are so bitter about it, they have a deep personal negative bias towards Discovery.

This wasnt my first choice for time period either. But Im excited. I certainly cant crap on a show I havent seen.

Something is coming back, we will see if its Star Trek or not soon.

DS9? You mean the first show to divide the fan base, which saw the begin in declining ratings which does so poorly in merchandise & syndication that they won’t even remaster if for HD for quality DVD or Bluray release, that DS9? (It’s not Star Trek)

Wonderful insight there Albratrosity. I dont suppose you’d want to expand on that remark with something releveant, insightful, reasonable? Nah, just spam will do.


Actually ya know what I just realized I had a double negative and didn’t edit my work lol — I meant to say the commenters above are crazy for believing that it WOULD be bad for Trek. Because of all the reasons you guys just mentioned. Good job team!

Deep Space 9 had somewhat serialized story telling and it was excellent, I don’t see anything wrong with this idea.

DS9 is the only Star Trek series where I literally could not wait til the next episode. I loved TNG but every week was a new episode even when good so it wasnt the same level of anticipation.

I remember DS9 being just like any great TV show today – do not call me, do not text me, I have my food, my drink and Im rooted in front of that TV when DS9 came on. And when it ended it was like a torture having to wait a week.

It was really good.

I can’t count how many times I wished for a story arc, or episode to continue, but an hour-long show has to end some time. The fact that we can now see our beloved characters grow into their roles, and the stories can have much more depth, is a bonus for this long-time Trek enthusiast. I also understand the desire for stand alone episodes, but I suspect that each episode will still have many sub-plots, and sub-arc’s that should mix things up for the viewers.
Bottom line: People will either support the new series, or abandon it. But I think that some will love it, and some will hate it. The big question is: Can CBS pull off another hit Star Trek series on a new media platform?
I fear many, many people will feel disenfranchised, and since it’s serialized, if people don’t start watching it from the beginning, they will unlikely start the series half way thru, regardless of previous episodes available on Netflix or All Access. If it’s good enough, it should survive the transition to pay per view. If not, the future of the franchise will start to look pretty grim.

“Yes [targeting] everything.”

By targeting everyone you end up losing everyone. And given their track records, those two don’t really inspire hope in the show.

I’m sure they’ll target the 15-40 male demographic. They’re not going to want to say that though. They want to attract a wide audience.

I’m pretty excited about STD as I was when any new Trek hit the airwaves. Cant wait until September.

I dunno, STD never gets me excited. But I am really looking forward DSC ;)

forward *to DSC ;)

A lot of people are whining on here about the fact that the story will span across the series rather than individual episodes. Isn’t it much more interesting though when a story line spans across a series? It keeps you engaged and its much more of an enjoyable watch. People are criticising saying they’re tying to much to be like HBO or Netflix. I’m sorry don’t they boast some of the biggest TV shows in the world? Stop living in the past people and move forward and ope n your minds? A lot of you people on here are so f’ing negative and think you know better than everyone working on the show. Some of the writers on here live and breath star trek as their jobs!

Yes, shame on Discovery for trying to be like popular and successful premium television shows lol

I can appreciate the “reasonable” concern some might have in a heavily serialized show – how does it serve as an on-ramp to new fans. But I think the show runners efforts are going to be creating a show that is accessible to new fans from Day One, not the fans that hear its good and check out Episode 12.

I didnt get into Game of Thrones until the second or third season. Heard a lot about it. Now that is a heavy heavy serialized show with a lot of deep mythology and even by virtue of the names and the way they speak, is a tough thing to jump into mid-stream. So I watched the first season. And loved it.

Thats what fans will do if Discovery is good.

Yup, what the showrunners of Game of Thrones call it is one big long movie with weeks (or months) in between, not really individual episodes. And Boy, does that work out for them, and us.

Its clear all they have done is produce a checklist of what demo CBS want then tick all the boxes off! PC Cast=Check. Generic Appeal=Check. Reuse previous Trek franchise elements=Check & so on & so forth.

Its not clear at all. Its been stated numerous times that Fuller was chosen based on his pitch and that he had a lot of creative freedom.

How is this a PC Cast? Oh no, a black woman! On no, an Asian woman! oh the PC Police are out in full force. Give me a break.


He’s just an idiot trolling for attention.

And then Bryan Fuller was fired, the show was re-written & some recasting, its not what he planed it to be.

The sad thing is, you can never win an argument with a negative person. They only hear what suits them and listen only to respond. I have no time for all the negative bullshit. I’m looking forward to the NEW Star Trek in an optimistic way. I will give Discovery a chance. I believe the producers, writers, actors etc. do their best.

To all the whiners: You have your old Star Trek. Nobody takes it away. Keep it, be happy with it. It seems it is time for a new generation.

VERY. WELL. SAID. Wholeheartedly agree. Whiny fans who call themselves “true” or “hardcore” are the worst thing ever to happen to Star Trek…

My favourite mantra of the negative nellie lately is the “Why cant I have an opinion?” They will go off on rants where they state with absolute certainty aspects of Discovery which they know nothing about and when you call them on their false facts, they pull that one – its my opinion. Pfff

How so many fans can be openly cheering for the failure of a new series is mind boggling although really, its only a few loudly vocal people. But its still aggravating.

And it does a disservice to those people here who express their concerns in a reasonable way which leads to positive discussion and dialogue.

READ THIS TODAY… SO VERY TRUE Because “Discovery” takes place before the events of the original series, the creators must deal with the difficult challenge of making the show look older than the original series, but also look good in 2017. And even though the show takes place in the past in the “Star Trek” universe, it is supposed to take place in the 23rd century (so, the future for those of us in the real world). Along with that tricky balancing act is the fact that many fans may come into the show with certain expectations about which elements from the original series should be included in the new show, right down to thinks like the design of the ship and the crew uniforms.

“There’s a danger of doing fan service when you go backwards, because everyone’s going to have expectations of what they think should be or what they saw in their mind. And if any show is about going forward it’s ‘Star Trek,” Altman said. “I think that for too long Star Trek has imitated itself. I’d really love to see what the future of Star Trek looks like because we’ve kind of got stuck in this temporal loop where we’re just exploring the same eras over and over again.”

Mantz, the die-hard Trek fan, said, “I love fan service! Bring on the fan service!”

“[But] you need new fans,” Gross countered.

“But at the end of the day, what’s the most important thing about ‘Star Trek’? It’s the vision. It’s the optimism,” Altman said. “It’s believing that we can be a better people, that we are striving to be better. The respect for science, the respect for each other, the lack of xenophobia, all the things we don’t have right now in our society that need to come back.”

They really had two options. Make the show look older than 60’s produced TOS or imagine that 60’s era TOS would have looked a lot better had they had the technology and budget.

And then when you look at Enterprise and Kelvin and even TMP which was a vast technological leap in-universe even though only a few years had past, it becomes clear it would have been ridiculous to try and replicate TOS or pre-TOS visuals.

Everything around TOS that has been shown since the 60’s had better visuals. TOS truly was the outlier. It became easy to imagine it as being a standard definition version of a 4K world. And now we’re seeing the 4K version.

The two conflicts with that – Enterprise’s Mirror Universe and DS9’s Trials and Tribbleations – pose a problem. But after 50 years, canon has been violated, or more accurately, over-written by the most recent incarnation. Should two references have such a profound impact on the franchise that you cant apply the same “SD version of a 4K world” sensibility to those as well?

They made the right choice.

Respect canon as in the ideas, stories, origins. But the visuals? Show us our beloved TOS the way it CAN look in a modern world. Im all for it.

Youre forgetting TNG season 6 episode Relics where Scotty goes to the holodecks and brings up his old ship. Picard joins him and they specifically talk about the ship design of the NCC-1701 Enterprise. Basically every show but Voyager I believe, has confirmed that’s what ships and the bridges of that time period looked like. There’s no way around it. It’s specifically violating canon and set out to do so from the beginning it looks like. This isn’t an accidental violation of canon but was deliberate. You can make any excuses you want but the creators of this show made that decision. There were more than two options. There’s the two options you spoke of but there’s also the option of not even doing a prequel show in Kirk’s time so as not having to make this decision. Then they’d be free to go as modern wth their designs as they want. There are other albeit contrived options they could have chosen to go with. For example start out the show looking exactly like TOS with the bridge, uniforms, etc and then show the ship getting sucked into an alternate dimension and getting their tech upgraded somehow. Or maybe they time traveled to the future with the same effect. It’s science fiction. They’re all different types of routes you could go. The key would be to establish that DSC is adhering to previous canon while updating it in someway to be successful in 2017. They unfortunately chose the ultimate ultimate easy route of “we’re just going to reimagine everything and not even try to stick to visual canon and the fans most likely will just make excuses and still eat it up.” I respect your opinions though, I’m just giving my take.

Your “alternative” explanations for the canon jump are too inside-baseball and wouldn’t work for a general audience. In terms of creating interest or being plausible they don’t even work for me, and I’ve been into this stuff since the early ’70s.

@DaTrufe — “Youre forgetting TNG season 6 episode Relics where Scotty goes to the holodecks and brings up his old ship. Picard joins him and they specifically talk about the ship design of the NCC-1701 Enterprise.”

Yeah? Prove that they establish any canon that verifies how the ship design is supposed to look. Be specific — exact dialogue references that cement the look of the ship in canon.

Thank you for these interviews! They’re more in-depth than the bigger sites who all keep asking the same questions

They might bring in General sci-Fi fans who don’t know what star Trek should be but they are not bringing “Delight” to existing Star Trek fans.

Serialized drama is good for one serving. But I never want to go back for seconds because I have to see the entire 15 episodes for it to work…and the initial soap-opera effect, of pulling you back each week…”to be continued”…isn’t a surprise any more. Which can be a good ride, initially, but I’ll never return to rewatch it as I do my favorite Treks, and that’s a damn crying shame. I don’t see any lasting fandom attaching itself to serialized drama. Who goes back and re-watches The Sopranos? Deadwood? Mad Men? Once the series goes away, so will the people who watched it as they latch on to the next serialized series to catch their attention. This may be a good show, but I don’t see it building the franchise’s fan base beyond it’s initial run.

“The fact that we are on a streaming channel allows us to tell the stories in a different way. ”

So what is the different way? Are they going to be ‘R’ rated? Will there be cursing? Unless it is allowing them to do something they can’t do on cable or over the air TV then the comment is as worthwhile as a business’s mission statement. Which is zero. The show is being released one episode a week. Just like an over the air or cable show. So how different could they possibly tell their story? DS9 got to be pretty serialized their last few seasons, btw. So it’s not like they are forging new ground in that direction either.

It’s looks like it could be pretty darn good. But some of the things they are saying regarding the advantages of streaming just come across as BS placating to CBSAA.

It’ll be accessible to anyone as long as they believe that everyone in the Star Trek future is an atheist.

I’m a ST fan since TOS and haven’t missed one single show or movie. I think what CBS is doing is downright extortion! Having to pay CBS nearly the same monthly amount as Netflix or any other streaming service that has a catalog of thousands of movies/TV shows is insane. With the severely limited catalog of shows the CBS app will have, its not worth any monthly fee. Besides, if you have cable or satellite, you are ALREADY PAYING for CBS! If CBS and all of its holdings can’t figure out how to make a profit without extorting devoted ST fans, then they have a crappy business model. To quote Capt’ Picard, “the line must be drawn here!” Its going to hurt, but I’m not going to be extorted just so I can watch my favorite show. If enough fans do the same, CBS will get the message.