EXCLUSIVE: Ted Sullivan On Canon Challenge Of Fitting ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Between ‘Enterprise’ and TOS

At the Hollywood blue carpet premiere of Star Trek: Discovery, TrekMovie had a chance to speak with Ted Sullivan. The writer and co-executive talked about about how Star Trek: Enterprise has caused challenges for Discovery, his hopes for season two, the unique possibilities created by the USS Discovery, and more. The full video interview and highlights are below

[Note: video contains discussion of a spoiler previously reported at TrekMovie].

Fighting for canon between ‘Enterprise’ and TOS

Ted expanded on previous comments on how Star Trek: Enterprise created challenges for Discovery:

Enterprise did a lot of scrambling and covering and patching up things, which I think worked for that show. It is hard to be in the middle between that show and TOS. [Discovery staff writer and “Keeper of the canon”] Kirsten Beyer will probably tell you the most arguments she and I have had are me saying “Wait, we can’t do that because of something on Enterprise?” But, we respect that. Enterprise is canon and it’s tough and it was a constantly shifting show.

But, what I am really proud of is that this show stands on its own. Maybe the sets look a little different. Maybe the props look a little different. Technology has changed, but that is what Star Trek is. Star Trek is about evolving and adapting and showing what is happening in the world and adapting new technology.

Finding a place for Discovery in between Enterprise and TOS

Looking forward to creating new stories for season two

When asked if if Discovery might consider “canonizing” elements from non-canon materials such as books, Sullivan generally demurred, saying:

I think we consider everything on the board, but the most exciting thing that I am excited about – hopefully moving into a season two – is we’ve set up our own ship and our own crew – a couple of ships – and it would be real nice to tell new stories and keep going places where no one has gone before as opposed to revisiting things. So, my instinct is always to come up with new ideas.

When pressed specifically on Jonathan Frakes’ spoiler reveal from over the weekend Sullivan only said “it’s a long season and a lot of things happen.” Following up, Sullivan did say there were some Star Trek tropes that Discovery will not use.  As for specifics (will Discovery do time travel, transporter accidents, etc?) Ted would only say “There is a list and I won’t share it [laughs]…or at least not yet.”

Discovering USS Discovery’s possibilities

Much of the publicity and promotion around Star Trek: Discovery has focused on the USS Shenzhou which features prominently in the two-part premiere. The USS Discovery remains somewhat of a mystery, and maybe even a little weird such as the notion that mushrooms and fungus are somehow involved in the ship’s means of propulsion. However, Ted made it clear we will learn much more soon: 

[The USS Discovery] is kind of weird, but it is also really cool. And next week, everyone is going to totally understand what it is. It is going to be so cool and it is such a major component of what episode 3 is, in particular…It is both a unique ship and part of Starfleet. It is not a Discovery class and you will find that out as well. It is a very interesting ship that is going to open a lot of doors creatively and storywise for us that you will see unfold in a really, really cool way.

The USS Discovery

Follow Ted for post-episode BTS picture dumps

If you aren’t already you should start following Ted on Twitter @karterhol. He has recently started to dribble out some nice behind the scenes photos he has been taking on the set (such as the tweet below). In the interview he noted that as a fan, he knows the kind of things fans want to see and promised after the episode he will “dump a lot of stuff.”

More to come from Hollywood premiere


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

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

Mary Chieffo Talks L’Rell And Klingon Episodes Of ‘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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Is nice. Not long to go now.

“It is hard to be in the middle between that show and TOS.”

Really? Them maybe, just maybe you don’t set your show in the middle of these then when you could just go much farther out and do whatever you wanted to do? That line sums up why I hate prequels in the first place. But hey it sounds like they manage to make whatever they did do work so still excited.

But man, that tease on what the Discovery could be is awesome! Thank you TM for that question. Its always been a bit bizarre because they never seem to hint that Discovery IS suppose to be a different type of ship. Whenever they talk about it, they talk about it as just another cool ship in Starfleet. Its nice to hear there is a very special purpose for its existance.

Maybe Admiral Marcus in this timeline had Section 31 build this ship instead of Vengeance. Works for me. ;)

I’ve always felt that Admiral Marcus should have been revealed to be Khan in STID and that Cumberbatch is ultimately revealed to be Joachim.

– They find the Botany Bay

– The wake up Khan, decades earlier than his initial encounter with Kirk in the prime timeline.

– Khan is integrated into black ops programs and section 31 under a false identity

– The false identity? Marcus.

– Marcus, now a Starfleet officer, systematically eliminates rivals and those who freed him, rising to the head of Starfleet

– Marcus integrates his crew into section 31, eventually populating the crew of the Dreadnought with the crew of the Botany Bay.

– Events unfold as in STID as they do after Pike’s death

– Marcus reveals himself to be Khan after Cumberbatch and Kirk sneak aboard the Dreadnoght.

– MUCH different ending and motivation

Oh, what could have been.

I meant the Vengeance, by the way.

I could have made with that. I very nearly walked out of the theater laughing when Spock screamed ‘Khan!’

The same way, I remember reading a fan-written script of Generations where Kirk died alone on the battle-bridge of the D, in battle with the Duras sisters. It felt much more satisfying than what was put on screen.

Wasn’t the original story for generations like that? With Kirk in command of the D at one point?

What a terrible film.

When he revealed himself as Khan I, for the time ever, actually uttered out loud, “Aw, f*** me. Really?” My wife slapped my arm.

I mean, hey, if you’re going to use Khan at least do something interesting with him.

Well that’s better than what we got. I felt they should have done something similar.

Khan is revealed as Joachim when Spock prime tells them. So Spock’s cameo has relevance. The real khan would still be frozen and shown at the end (looking like Ricardo).

STID was a great example of the problem with these writers. Plot didn’t matter. Logic didn’t matter. It was all about getting from one big idea to the next.

When Orci would come on here and argue with fans it was something to behold.

Yup, you’ve nailed it.

They’ve said they chose this era because fuller had a specific idea.

Plus you can’t just keep pushing the time out. It starts to become irreverent if it’s 2500 or 3000 or 10,000.

Star Trek is us. It has to stay grounded in that premise.

Someday Fuller will be able to share what else he had in mind.

I am eager to find out more about the USS Discovery. It sounds like it is a one-off ship, since he says it’s not a class of ship. No time-travel is probably a good idea.

Star Trek has always had time travel from TOS to Enterprise. Its as ingrained as warp drive and transporters. Hell some of its most popular films deals with time travel directly. And obviously tons of popular episodes. And we already know they will have a story line that will deal with a time loop so time travel is certainly on the table.

Now I don’t think the Discovery is a time ship or anything, at least based on the characters background. They all seem to be from the 23rd century although I guess it doesn’t rule out the ship could be going to other eras.

When they experience their first ratings drop is when they will whip out a time travel episode

No, they’ll jump right to Borg.

You DO realize the season is already filmed, right?

It could be a black ops kind of thing. Either way, I suspect that things ultimately don’t end well for the Discovery.

@Denny C — I really, really, really hope not.

Same here, but they have to find an explanation why we’ve never heard of it before.

Jumping to another universe/dimension, perhaps?

There are countless ships we’ve never heard of. It’s ludicrous to suggest that they need to explain why we’ve never heard of the ship.

I hear ya’.

I think he meant it’s like other ships in that it’s one of a class of ships. Which would mean there are others like it.

It’s possible the uniqueness leads to time travel or universe crossing. Maybe unintentionally.

I don’t see where you get that idea from…what I took from it is that it wasn’t a Discovery-class ship, but rather of another class.

It’s really weird how the showrunners, the writers and the producers are all going on and on about how ENT made things harder for the Discovery team. Why the heck sets a show between ENT and TOS if you’re going to complain about the restrictions imposed by the timeframe?

Maybe it wasn’t their choice. Fuller made that choice and they had to deal with it.

Also, IO’m getting real excited about this ship. They’ve said it was a science vessel. Seems to me they were using it to experiment with warp drive technologies and it was chosen to fight the war due to its’ expeiemental capabilities? Maybe the ship has a slipstream drive? I’d be willing to bet it has some kind of cloaking as well.

Can’t wait until Monday! :)

Yeah exactly. I’m excited for the show but its funny how the very issue I have about the show (placing it between these two shows) seems to be the same issue the people making it have. And thats for a very good reason.

The.specifics released so far about this series seem to be very tied to this particular timeframe. So if you end up really liking it, won’t you be glad that the producers made the choices that they did?

Sometime having strict parameters can help to make a better story.

Look at VOY – they set it in the Delta quadrant to give them unrestricted free-reign on the types of stories they could tell – and yet, they fell back constantly on the tired and over-used old tropes.

Voyager’s ills were just lazy writing and poor direction from the producers. Voyager had some standout episode throughout its run, that stand up with anything else on ‘Trek, but far too much of Voyager was a missed opportunity, a case of a great premise that was abandoned and morphed into a retro-TNG twin series.

Good point. Nick Meyer said pretty much the same about the constraints he worked under on TWOK. Art thrives on restrictions.

Exactly! Very often in fact. But you have to stick to what it requires rather than completely break canon and thus break Star Trek.

He’s not ‘complaining.’ He’s explaining how it’s creatively challenging, which is of no small interest to at least some of the people who claim to enjoy this stuff.

‘Complain’ is what people do on sites like this one.

@Michael Hall,

The showrunners and the producers keep blaming ENT in almost every major interview for story problems that they have encountered.

Just one example, showrunner Aaron Harberts talking to the official Trek website:

“Enterprise has been so tough because they tried to rack on several things and sometimes it will be like, “Oh, if Enterprise had just left that alone we wouldn’t be like painted into that corner,””

This is complaining, period.

No, it is not. He’s talking about the challenges of his job, which he clearly loves, with people who are obviously interested in hearing about such details. ‘Complaining’ (or, more properly, ‘whining’) would more accurately apply to your reaction to said statement, which no one forced you to read. (And incidentally, highlighting/bolding a line of text does nothing to prove that your particular line of spin on it is the correct one.)

@Michael Hall,

Spoken like a true apologist.

Jeez. May I ask what I’m apologizing for?

It’s so funny how this one guy who complains about everything and already hates the show always manages to twist things to a negative.

If the show was post TNG the writers would be saying how they had to respect tng canon. What’s the difference.

They were asked. They answered.

Are you suggesting they should have done a show set before Enterprise? Because that show is canon regardless of when discovery takes place

I think the creators have a hint about exactly how to fuck this shit up. Very excited.

You might want to add a SPOILER alert, considering the interviewer asking a question which “spills the beans” about another interview on the site having “spilled the beans”.

There is a spoiler warning about the video. Either you overlooked it or it was added later.

The spoiler warning was already there. People around here need to learn how to read before whining.

Well. I’m staying off Trek Movie until after the premiere. If you’re going to issue spoilers without warnings then I don’t really have a choice.

The whining on this site is sometimes unreal.

I know, right! People whining about other people’s grievances really hacks me off. Nice to see that Trek Movie have now added the spoiler warning. Good to see that they care.

The spoiler warning was already there. You didn’t read it. That’s your problem. I saw the spoiler warning and skipped the video. Easy to do.

Enjoy the gardening.. see you back in cyberspace on Tuesday!

Sigh. I had avoided the spoiler that TrekMovie had previously posted, thanks to the non-spoiler headline of the article. But the interviewer just blurts it out in this interview. Oh well.

I now note that there is a mention of it having spoilers at the end of the lead-in paragraph. I think that would have been nicer to have that more prominent, but I do acknowledge that it is there.

@Clinton — what spoilers? That interview was so vague I have no idea what could be considered a spoiler? It actually built a lot of anticipation for me. Just hope it pays off …

I appreciate that, Anthony. It’s not the end of the world. Maybe it’s my own frustration over both wanting to know everything and wanting to know nothing. Hopefully tonight will solve a lot of those issues. :-)

It’s not much of a spoiler anyway.

Aw, just ignore the stuff that happened in Star Trek: Enterprise. Half the Trek fans I know consider the whole show to be not really canon, anyway. :-)



I stopped taking it seriously as ‘canon’ (or much of anything else) when they botched the introduction of the Romulans so badly. Didn’t much care for what they did either Vulcans, either.

I’m curious what you didn’t like about the Romulans in Enterprise. I thought they were included reasonably well (not visually, of course, with Nemesis ships & uniforms). As for the Vulcans, I think the whole thing worked better when they excused the inconsistencies as covert Romulan influence (and, if you have a mind to, you can explain a lot of governments as being under Romulan influence — specifically Tandar, Mazar, Torotha, & the Enolians. I’d also say the Antedians, but that’s neither here nor there).

Given Kirk and Spock’s dialogue in “Balance of Terror” it was way too early for Earth explorers to be encountering a clocking device. They should have come up with a better solution for that era’s Romulans to remain covert. As to the Vulcans, even though the really reprehensible actions of their government originated with Robert Foxworth’s (horribly acted) Romulan agent, the “real” Vulcans were far too willing to go along, and I found the notion that this noble race required a human savior to help it rediscover its values really offensive. I know it’s canon now, and could even figure into Burnham’s backstory for all I know. YMMV, of course, and that’s fine. But I can tell you that I did re-watch those episodes on Netflix about a year ago and definitely hated them as much as the first time I saw them. Oh, well–de gustibus Trek non disputandum est.

That’s all fair; I can’t disagree. When it comes to the Vulcans I have no doubt that a Romulan explanation was never intended from the outset, so I see it as us being lucky that we got a reasonable retcon to their attitude problems before Enterprise was cancelled. It may have been insulting, but no explanation would have been a lot worse.

I like Ted. It’s as if one of us made it onto the writing staff.

The recently decommissioned real USS Enterprise was a single ship, not a class of ship. It was the first nuclear powered carrier and had something like 8 reactors. It was the first nuclear carrier so it had a lot of things unique just to that ship. The Navy built more conventional class ships until they started building the Nimitz class which only needed 2 reactors instead of the 8 on Enterprise. The Navy learned a lot about modern carriers from Enterprise. Discovery may be like that, something that was built to text new technologies and refine them for use on other more advanced ships that would come later.

David Mack has tweeted yesterday that he is about to watch the first 3 episodes at a special CBS screening:

“Just hanging out in a screening room at @CBS, waiting to watch the first 3 eps of @startrekcbs.”

The same David Mack that went on a twitter rant two weeks ago praising ‘Discovery’ and making the bold claim that its first season will be
“THE BEST FIRST SEASON OF A STAR TREK SERIES, EVER”, that claim was made without watching a single episode!

He has read the scripts and discussed stories with the writers/producers so I guess he has some idea of what the season is going to bring. Even if he hasn’t seen finished episodes yet.


A script is not an indicative of the finished product. TV scripts usually go through many changes that in many cases the finished product barely resembles the original scripts.

Plus one should also consider the acting, the special effects and whole host of other things before declaring it the best season ever. Just because some consider it a good storyline doesn’t mean the majority of the fans will respond to it. Then again maybe it is the best ever. Who knows until the finished product is out there. Once again I find the marketing and in some cases the hype for this show to be questionable. I say this as someone who is sill excited to see it by the way.

He’s a novelist by trade, so it’s no surprise that he would place a great deal of importance on the quality of the scripts and the overall storyline. How do you know if those he read were first drafts, final drafts, or the actual shooting scripts? For that matter, what makes you so sure that he hasn’t seen rough cuts of these shows, even if he hasn’t been shown the finished product before now? You don’t think that would be enough to have a pretty informed opinion as to the show’s quality? You certainly haven’t been shy about forming pretty sweeping judgements about it, and with far, far less to go on.

It’s one thing to be skeptical about Discovery–and even at this late date, seriously, who knows? But it takes real stones to accuse a total stranger of acting in bad faith when you can only speculate as to what kind of information they had that led them to write what they did.

Heads-up about following him on Twitter….he does tend to make political statements. While other members of the cast may also do this I feel like people are particularly encouraging following him because of the BTS stuff so I just wanted to add a bit of a disclaimer. Regardless of whether or not I agree or even disagre with him I understand and respect his right to post what he wants on his private page……Though I tend to view Star Trek as more of an avenue for escape. If it was just purely a BTS the scenes look at the show that would be a different thing entirely. He would definitely get a follow then. Too bad it isn’t. I appreciate TrekMovie for just posting the Star Trek stuff.

Love love love. Can’t wait for episode three and to meet the rest of the crew.

Painfully slow simplistic predictable story?

Unbelievable pivotal event (i.e. mutiny)?

Canon violations everywhere? Wrong insignia, holograms, iguana Klingons that ignore Divergence and Affliction from Enterprise?

OK. We are all set for failure!

By the way, the wrong insignia was used just 3 times across hundreds of episodes. That doesn’t justify adopting it as standard in Discovery. Neither does a memo by Bob Justman. It is what was on screen that is canon; not a memo.

Before anyone says those were an ancient house of Klingons and that this justifies their appearance, we saw representatives from 8 different houses in the Discovery premiere and they all looked like a cross between a lobster and an iguana, so no that excuse doesn’t work.