EXCLUSIVE: Akiva Goldsman On Influence Of JJ Abrams Films On ‘Star Trek: Discovery’

At the Hollywood blue carpet premiere of Star Trek: Discovery, TrekMovie had a chance to speak with Akiva Goldsman, one of Discovery’s executive producers. Goldsman spoke about the influence the Kelvin-timeline films had on the style of Discovery, how representative the first two episodes are of the rest of the series, possible plans for season two, and the ability of serialized storytelling.

Influence of Abrams on Discovery

Goldsman, who is close with J.J. Abrams (and had cameos in Star Trek 2009 and Star Trek: Into Darkness), described how he felt that the Kelvin-timeline films influenced Discovery:

“scope, scale, the ability to be creative cinematically…the intimate discourse, the humanistic storytelling with the giant canvas that is Star Trek. A more kinetic camera, a more dynamic way of existing, a much greater use of practical sets so when you’re running down a corridor, you’re running down a corridor. A sense of rhythm…there is a sense of litheness, a kind of fluidity in the characterizations.”

How the premiere differs from rest of series

This weekend is the 2-part premiere of Discovery (comprised of two episodes: “The Vulcan Hello” and “Battle at the Binary Stars”). Goldsman contrasted how this 2-part premiere will differ from the other 13 episodes:

[The premiere] is very different…it is two-episodes combined…they are not different in terms of scope and scale but they are different in theme.  They are different in promise. Your feeling about the series and your understanding and expectation of what is coming will be very different 75 minutes in than it will be five minutes in. We are trying to not give you the first of what you will see many of. We are actually trying to start a story and because we get to do serialized storytelling, there is nothing about it that is like an episode except its length.

Season 2 arc structure TBA

When asked how a second season of Discovery would unfold, given that the Klingon conflict will have wrapped up, we asked Goldsman whether (if given a green light) season two would feature a new single serialized story. Goldsman noted:

“What we found in the first season is that we essentially got to tell 15-hour character stories. That allowed us to build a serialized story that included both plot and character. If we are lucky enough to have season two, I think we’ll sit down and talk about whether that makes sense to have that again.”

The first season covers a single arc with the war with the Klingons

More to come from Hollywood premiere

Doug Jones On Saru And Burnham Fighting Over The Captain’s Chair In ‘Star Trek: Discovery’

TrekMovie has more interviews with Discovery cast and crew. These will be posted over the next few days so stay tuned.


Star Trek: Discovery premieres on September 24th on CBS with all subsequent episodes on CBS All Access in the US.  In Canada Star Trek: Discovery will premiere  on Bell Media’s CTV and the Space Channel on the same night. Netflix will launch Star Trek: Discovery on Monday, September 25 to countries outside of the U.S. and Canada.

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


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Good God, that was complete word salad. Just awful. I’ve been hopeful about Discovery, particularly in the last couple of weeks, and this utter nonsense coming from one of the show’s top producers has canceled a lot of the enthusiasm I was feeling just hours ago.

Tee term word salad made me hungry.
Time to eat.

Yes, an ‘intimate discourse’ for two, followed by brandy and cigars. Of course I have no idea what that is supposed to mean in English, but then I’m not the Oscar-winning screenwriter of BATMAN AND ROBIN.

Yeah. Look up Akiva Goldsman in IMDB. His credits read as a list of the worst movies in recent history. Not hopeful.

Not really. He has a wide variety ranging from dreadful to great. Won awards too.

Fringe was pretty great once he was involved.

Don’t forget “A Winter’s Tale”. Oh, and “The Fifth Wave”. There was also the “Lost in Space” reboot and let’s not forget the screenplay for “The Dark Tower”.

word sal·ad
noun: word salad

a confused or unintelligible mixture of seemingly random words and phrases, specifically (in psychiatry) as a form of speech indicative of advanced schizophrenia.

Perfect description.

Why does that dampen your enthusiasm?

It doesn’t necessarily dampen mine but it’s showrunner speak .

Maybe it shouldn’t. But he is in charge (along with Alex Kurtzman, another red flag). Maybe I was hoping that without bashing the work of his friend J.J. Abrams that he could just suggest that Discovery would go much deeper than those films ever could, given the healthy budget and the fact that most would agree Trek invariably works better on television. Instead, he punted, and that was pretty disappointing.

On the plus side, the other producers and even the actors have done a vastly better job stating what the show is about, and where they hope to take it. So I’m still hopeful.

Blah blah blah… stop freaking worrying. IT’S A TV SHOW. Not a world changing event. Besides, I understood exactly what he was saying. Perhaps if you drop your shields, you would enjoy and understsnd everything better.

I understood what he ( Akiva Goldsman ) said. Makes sense to me.

Lucky you. To me, it sounds like complete and utter gibberish (and I’m being generous). Just a bunch of buzzwords.

Well Fortunately, he isnt narrating the show. So who cares

Sometimes people use words or descriptions to make themselves sound smart or important. Im sure he’s given enough interviews and had enough conversations about Discovery that his responses have pretty much broken down to the buzz words.

Doesnt change anything. If you actually read what he said, its clear what he meant. A TV show that looks like a movie.

The stuff about the Abrams visual style was clear enough to confirm my worst fears for the shooting style. For the life of me I don’t understand why throwing out basic cinematic storytelling language in favor of a camera style that is the equivalent of letting somebody Crayola [TM] the bulkheads has found such lasting favor. Abrams’ flares and spasms of shakeycam make the zoom lens excesses from 50 years back seem like the mildest aberrations by comparison — in fact, they make Bay’s work — at least the stuff I’ve seen — seem like M. Night by comparison.

Though the part about litheness/fluidity in characterizations sounds like complete hokum — which again, fits right into the Abrams-directed films, so maybe he is accurate there too.

I wonder if the reason they are trying to mess with expectations — as in, your perception of things will change from 5min in to 75min in — is because they feel they need to offer up something very different as a hook. When I read that, I remember reading about the first draft of ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN in script form – it opened with the burglary, but with the first attempt — when they found out they had the wrong keys. That would have let audiences know, ‘hey there is more to this than I already read in the paper,’ but would also have created a tone problem, so this ingenious open was discarded. Am wondering if DSC has chosen the sensationalized reversal approach to storytelling just to impress, or if that is integral to the tale itself.

Of course, I won’t see if my expectations change for a long while, since they are only airing the first part for free. That flies in the face of what he indicates they are trying to achieve — roughly akin to the moment in DR STRANGELOVE when the Russian doomsday device is revealed, and the Russian Ambassador is queried about it, hearing that the whole point of such a device is to let the other side know about it, so you don’t do anything to set it off. Why throw the ‘free’ hook of DSC ep1 at viewers and then expect them to buy into something that they are now telling us will double-reverse AFTER the point of buying-in?

Maybe you should stay off internet until Monday, watch the episode fresh and cold, then make up your own mind…

Remeber the dark days of getting your entertainment news from magazines?!

Unlike Mr. Martin, who undoubtedly has absorbed more film lore than myself and Akiva Goldsman put together, I don’t mind the Abrams visual style. If they want to go to the trouble and expense of tracking down corridors and tilting the camera so bridge scenes of reminiscent of the batcave in 1966, have at it, though I suspect it might prove exhausting over 15 episodes. But that won’t make Discovery a great series by itself, and while I hesitate to sound like a poster here who goes by a handle named after a black hole, Mr. Goldsman might have done better discussing the show’s themes and ambitions in a way that didn’t require a lot jargon bereft of meaning or content. Honestly, he sounded like a 23rd century used car salesman, and if that’s the best he can do, heaven help us. The Klingons won’t be impressed, any more than I was.

I don’t know but I got what he was saying about the JJ films and that the sets and a lot of the style will follow (which many have commented on) in terms of how its a bit sped up and everything is bigger and flashier. I don’t think this is a surprise watching the trailers but it does seem like when it comes to actual tone and story they will be very different. And literally looks much darker lol.

And I think thats fine, for all the old school Trek fans who hates these movies they did gain a lot of new fans and they want to keep those fans. And just feel more modern in the process.

As far as serialized story telling it sounds like the Klingon war will be wrapped up in this season but the emotional tow will stay. Thats one thing I really liked about Enterprise season 3 and 4. They wrapped up the Xindi arc but it was still there for the characters, especially Archer.

I am not going to judge a show based on things anyone from inside the production says about it. So far, the footage I’ve seen seems to be excellent. Visually, it takes the best parts of the JJ films, and blends them with classic bits of Trek (drama, character, story).

If it turns out poorly, I’ll rip it a new one. But there’s nothing that he’s said here that upsets me in any way.

This is where I am right now.

Seriously, that’s where I am too. I just hate Hollywood buzzspeak.

I understood what he was saying as well. Essentially, it’s not going to be stodgy and flat looking like most TV shows (certainly, most Trek) – it’s designed to be shot and staged cinematically, much more depth of field possible, more steadicam and dolly moves. The characterization being “lighter and more fluid” means there’s a possibility to let the actors perform more naturally, vs. being locked in to technobabble or one-note characterizations. In regards to the corridors, well, so much is green-screen these days, having a physical set for the actors does make a difference to the performance (and how it’s shot – you don’t have to fake colours and reflections).

Each new series takes from popular Trek at the time – TNG (TOS movies), DS9/VOY (TNG), ENT (TNG movies/SW prequels), DIS (JJ movies)

Aside from some visual riffs I sure hope not. If I ever wanted to watch Trek 2009 again I’d pop in that DVD I don’t actually own.

I’m watching it on CTV right now… and it IS visually stunning.

I think the word is ‘stunting’ — as in stunting your artistic growth.

This coming from someone calling themselves “kmart”…
I did mean visually ‘stunning’

I am sure Paramount is sitting and waiting to see how Discovery does before greenlighting the next Star Trek film. If it’s a massive hit at home and in new international markets, which is where Star Trek has been historically weak (Asia, Some parts of Europe, etc.), it will definitely affect how Paramount’s new management approaches the film franchise. Of course, “Trek” on film gets a knock-on effect from all the positive buzz surrounding the brand, but solid Trek on TV is the best guarantee that the films keep getting made, and that they have “built-in” audiences.

“A more kinetic camera”

I hope this doesn’t mean “queasycam” a.k.a. “VomitVision”.

I will say that the Kevlin films had some creative and very dynamic shots and camera pans/angles. The opening on the 2009 film was beautiful. The actually movement of the camera to create small quakes really sold the trauma of space battles. There was a lot to like visually of the Abrams films.

I am expecting it does mean that.

The camera moved so frenetically in Star Trek Beyond that I had trouble telling who was fighting whom much of the time. I’m happy for Star Trek: Discovery to use a more modern visual style, but I hope they don’t go all the way to frenetic.

I just wish this hack wasn’t involved. I have high hopes for this show, don’t get me wrong–but this guy has rarely ever written anything of quality in his entire career. How he still gets hired, given his poor track record, is beyond me. He’s widely viewed as one of the worst writers in Hollywood.

When he’s good he’s very good but when he’s bad… Yikes.

Yeah…like would we rather have Bob Orci writing this thing? *Shudder*

According to Box Office Mojo, movies he’s written have pulled in nearly $4 billion dollars worldwide, and he’s been involved in many notable successes / Oscar-nominated pictures as failures. I don’t know what your bar for ‘quality’ is but he’s written very few out-and-out flops. What I see from the pattern of his work is that it’s all Big Concept stuff aimed at a mass audience that has some intellectual interest woven in there – that doesn’t always come through in the end – but intriguing takes on stories. How the story gets executed isn’t up to the writer, so for every ‘A Beautiful Mind’ you have a ‘Batman and Robin’…

I get what you’re saying. Still, Batman and Robin is a very badly written movie, as are many of his scripts. It’s not just execution–it’s poor writing.

I’m so glad I wasn’t the only one reading this idiot’s quotes and thinking how nonsensical it sounds! He obviously is someone who wants to sound smart but just makes himself sound stupid in the process. ‘Running down a corridor looks like running down a corridor’ Thanks for explaining that to us. How insightful!

To expand on the 4K question asked at the end of the clip – based on the BTS videos they’re filming on the Arri Alexa (a super-popular choice across TV and features). I haven’t poured though the videos enough to try and find out the recording mode, but many TV shows (including Game of Thrones, last I checked) just film and master in 1080p. The camera has a maximum horizontal resolution of 3168 which they can record in, so no native 4K (3840 pixels for 16:9), but they could upscale for future release. Some of the Alexa models also offer in-camera upscaling to 4K, but with Discovery’s budget I doubt they’d rely on in-camera scaling if they were aiming for 4K.

And again it’s also possible (even likely) that they’re just going 1080p.

Looking through – we can see here that at least for VFX shots, they’re shooting 2.8K ARRIRAW.


Since they’re cropping it to 2:1 there should be adequate resolution for UHD / 4K, it’s just not going to fill a 16:9 aspect ratio screen edge to edge, it’ll be letterboxed. As for VFX shots they might be outputting previews at 2.8k but I expect they will do renders for the highest resolution necessary. With native 4K / UHD supported by Netflix, iTunes and Roku it’d be weird if they didn’t make it available as an option (later, if not immediately).

Is there content available in 4K on All Access? With both UHD and Dolby Vision available on Netflix I wonder if those watching Discovery on Netflix overseas will get to watch in 4K. Lucky them,

Not for now, apparently, it will stream on All Access in HD (1080p). No reliable news on 4K Netflix, nor on terrestrial cable networks (like Space in Canada), that I can see.

I will do my best to break this down:

“scope, scale, the ability to be creative cinematically…the intimate discourse, the humanistic storytelling with the giant canvas that is Star Trek.”

Translation: We’re making a traditional Star Trek TV but it will look and feel like a movie.

“A more kinetic camera”

Translation: The camera will move around (probably a lot) unlike TNG which had more static shots. So get ready for people to be yelling at each other while the camera pans around them.

“a more dynamic way of existing”

Translation: &^@#$(!*&)??????

“a much greater use of practical sets so when you’re running down a corridor, you’re running down a corridor.”

This speaks for itself even though all of the shows used practical sets but I think only DS9 had anything that was truly large like what he’s talking about.

“A sense of rhythm…there is a sense of litheness, a kind of fluidity in the characterizations.”

Translation: The layout of the show allows for really graceful and easy ways to build the characters.

Thanks. I was really being sincere and not snarky when I expressed my confusion.

No surprise there, Kurtzman’s involvement was clear enough. The trailers showed the visual influence of the Kelvin movies on ‘Discovery’, and the showrunners confirmed it back in July.

It remains to be seen if that influence will extend to storytelling and characters. But looking at all the recent revelations about ‘Discovery’, the war with the Klingons, a f**ked up Starfleet captain, a secret war mission, the addition of familiar characters and so on; it sounds like the TV version of STID.

This reminded me of Simon Pegg interview with Den of Geek in 2015 talking about STID:

“It’s very easy these days, in the kind of post-modern era, to get bogged down in self referentiality or thinking, “Oh let’s put Harry Mudd in.” In a way I felt like if anything — and I really, really am very proud of Into Darkness — but I feel like the thing that for me was kind of jolting was that it kind of wanted to embrace itself a little too much, rather than take off and do what Star Trek did, which is to go off into the depths of the galaxy. It was about referencing not only a previous film but also kind of hanging onto the coast of Earth a little bit.”

You know I feel like the people who created Discovery don’t really have the grasp of the Star Trek Universe or series as they claim to. Deep Space Nine & Enterprise carried season or series long arcs. The Dominion War, The Xindi are examples of this. Those involved in making Discovery as if they’re breaking new ground on this concept – sorry. No. Look at DS9 season 7 how many episodes dealt with the loss of Jadzia and the arrival of Ezri? — Lots.

These shows also had character-centric episodes. Watch Voyager and It feels like its way more about the Doctor and Seven. DS9 so much about O’Brien and Bashir and Odo. Certainly feels like the Captain of TNG, DS9 and Voyager were a big part of the show but I dont feel as though the Shows were told from the perspective of the Captain. Enterprise was a bit different in the sense that it was very focused on Captain Archer.

I’m very curious to see how they explain the differences in this show. The ships, The klingons, the Uniforms.

Some examples of how other shows gave a damn about what was done before?

TNG – Relics – Scotty pulled out of transporter buffer and they used the correct sound and transporter effect.

DS9 – Trials and Tribble-ations – partial sets built in style of TOS Enterprise, Uniforms, communicators, tricorders – all that attention to detail to mix with a TOS show

ENT – In a Mirror Darkly – The USS Defiant pulled into the mirror universe. The length they went to make sure uniforms and props were accurate, sets were built in the style of TOS. As the shows progressed the computer screens slowly transitioned to a TOS look (especially 10 years later in These are the Voyages)

Discovery set 10 years before TOS with ships that look much more advanced. Still question how they will shoe horn this in.

Forgive me… When I mentioned “O’Brien and Bashir and Odo” It should have been more like “O’Brien and Bashir. Odo and the founders or Kira.. etc.”

We knew what you meant. All good!

Forget the complaining about the Defiant in Enterprise. It doesnt matter. You undermine your entire post when you go after the visuals. Its a dead issue.

I’m hearing you, Bry, and you gave some good examples there. Going forward with DISC, I think fans are going to have to give some leeway with visuals as far as continuity is involved (me included), and don’t forget the term ‘suspension of disbelief.’

Hopefully they’ll get this right.

I really hope Goldsman is not a driving force on this show; he’s peddled a lot of cinematic garbage over the years.

He’s got a mixed bag for sure. But some hits and others that were entertaining if not good.

He wrote Batman Forever and Batman & Robin which were horrendous. Just horrendous. Ofcourse the director/producer had some influence in that too.

He wrote A Beautiful Mind and won an Oscar for it.

He wrote I, Robot, which wasnt great but was interesting.

Wrote Cinderella Man. Wrote The Da Vinci Code, which was underwhelming to critics but pretty enjoyable over-all.

I Am Legend wasn’t terrible.

produced some big films too.

Im not a huge Akiva fan. But he knows his way around a film production. And has written some good stuff.

He was also one of the producers on the SyFy Childhood’s End miniseries. That was one of my favorite novels and what they did to it made me want to fling everyone involved into outer space … without a space suit.

Nothing to be too worried about here. Lots of verbage, but I see Goldsman more as one of the main technical and nuts and bolts guys. So long as he never ‘does a Berman’, and starts to think he can write and characterise, we should be okay.

@Shatners Bassoon,

Beside his role as executive producer, Goldsman co-wrote the pilot and directed two episodes so far.

There’s writing and there’s writing. Fuller left of a whole slew of people in his wake who hopefully are the real brains behind the stories and scripts. This guy will probably be spending most of his time obsessing about JJ lens flare and making the ship look dark.

Given the highly positive buzz after the press event, I’d say that is more likely to be the way it is than him crafting every word we see on the screen.

Direction I’m not overly concerned about; he may even be good, for all I know. As to the writing; well, in modern scripted long-form television it’s very much a collaborative effort. Listening to Ronald Moore’s BSG podcast you got the sense that it was often difficult to tell where one writer started and another left off in terms of the individual episodes, whatever the credits said. We may be making more of a big deal out of this than is warranted.

Sure am glad JJ came along so people on Star Trek could actually run down corridors on Star Trek!

Very happy with “introduction” episodes.