EXCLUSIVE: Alex Kurtzman On Pushing Edges Of Canon And Planting Seeds For ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Season 2

At the Hollywood blue carpet premiere of Star Trek: Discovery, TrekMovie had a chance to speak with executive producer and co-creator Alex Kurtzman who discussed plans for season two, how he deals with the edge of canon, and keeping Starfleet’s mission of peace. He also talked about returning to the Star Trek feature film universe. The full video interview and highlights are below.

 

Discovery’s first season will set up season two

Much has been said about how the first season of Star Trek: Discovery will focus on the war between the Federation and the Klingons. Talking to TrekMovie, Alex Kurtman confirmed that the plan is to have future seasons (if they get greenlit) have their own arcs. And he revealed they have started setting up season two:

[The first season] wraps up and it creates new situations. There is a certain point when you are working through the story arc of a season that you start to have ideas you fall in love with that you realize cannot go into that season. So, you start putting them on index cards and thumbtacking them to the board and then suddenly that becomes the next season.

We are about to start shooting the final episode, so late in the season a really strong emotional idea became clear to all of us and we decided that is what season two is going to be all about. If we get a season two, the seeds are going to be planted at the end of season one.

Responding to if that means season one will end on a cliffhanger, the executive producer noted:

I think the audience has to have a satisfying experience of the season. They have to feel it has come full circle and they have had an arc. So, I think we can have an arc and we can also set up where we want to go next season. So, those things aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive.

Kurtzman is already planning ahead to next season

Learned how to push edge of canon from Star Trek feature films

When asked what he brought to Discovery from working on the first two J.J. Abrams Star Trek feature films (as co-writer and co-producer), Kurtzman focused on what he learned about dealing with Trek canon:

We went through a really interesting process when we went through the first film [Star Trek (2009)] because obviously we created the alternate timeline and that meant making some incredibly bold choices, like blowing up Vulcan and creating the alternative timeline. We knew we would either be crucified for it or ultimately rewarded because people would understand we were making it out of love and protection of Trek and of canon.

When we pitched it to Leonard Nimoy, knowing if he said “No” we couldn’t do that version of the movie, and he understood where it was coming from and blessed it and we felt that we could do it. What it taught me was you can push at the edges of canon, but you have to have a really good reason. And you can make really bold choices, but you have to have a good reason.

And you can’t make those choices independently. You must run them through many, many people – many Trek fans. And we happen to have the benefit of many Trek fans on staff, so every choice is constantly questioned and analyzed. “What happens if we do this?” and “What will people think, is this too much of a violation or not?” “Can we go further or have we gone too far?” Knowing where that line is, is probably what I got from the experience of working on those films.

Kurtzman did acknowledge that while Discovery was adhering to story canon, due to it being over 50 years later, they are not really sticking to the visual/production design canon of the time period before The Original Series:

Obviously [Discovery] looks more modern than The Original Series, because we are in a modern world now and if we made the show look that way people would not feel that it was worth the money. That being said, every prop and costume design is filtered through what existed at the time. And do we create the new version of it or do we augment the original design in very subtle ways or do we just leave it alone? And when I say every prop and design choice I mean every prop and design choice. So, I think you will see a lot of tips of the hat to devices to The Original Series and the timeline. But, obviously we wanted to create a more modern experience and that necessitated certain adjustments.

Kurtzman says he learned how to push the edge of canon working on first two J.J. Abrams Star Trek films

Maintaining Starfleet’s mission and Star Trek’s optimism

Even with all the talk of war, Kurtzman promised that Discovery will still incorporate the core of Star Trek to explore and seek out new life and new civilizations: 

Absolutely – 100% yes. Not only that, you will see the characters in Starfleet wrestling with their mission and their mandate and recognizing that the situation they are put into is really testing that. They are very aware it is a peacekeeping mission and they are not supposed to be at war. That is not their mandate and not what they are trained for, so it is a constant conversation between all of them. How do you protect the hope and ideals and the hope and the vision that [Gene] Roddenberry created and that optimism.In some ways – the way I look at it – as painful as it is to watch the characters go through a lot of what they go through this season, the opposition strengthens their resolve to build a brighter future.

Kurtzman says Discovery will hold to Star Trek’s mission to explore

Up to return to the movies

While Alex Kurtzman was involved heavily with J.J. Abrams first two Star Trek feature films, he did not return for 2016’s Star Trek Beyond. However, when asked if he would be willing to return to Trek features for Abrams (or anyone), Kurtzman replied:

Sure, if the circumstances were right, sure…I’ll do anything with J.J. Anything he asks me, I will do it. I will commit right now…Here is what I can tell you. I have now been fortunate enough to be involved with Star Trek for almost 10 years and I feel in each version, whether  people agreed with what we did or not, I know we did it out of love and we were protecting what we believed to be the integrity of Star Trek. And the minute that is over, is the minute I don’t want to be involved with Star Trek anymore. So, if J.J., great. If it were someone else and I felt that we were able to do that, that is our job and our responsibility as the people who are working on Star Trek is to hold on to and carry that legacy in the right way.

Alex Kurtzman with J.J. Abrams on set of Into Darkness – says he up for return to Trek movies

More 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’

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

Sonequa Martin-Green On ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Captain’s Chair And Nichelle Nichols Blessing

Neville Page And Glenn Hetrick Talk Designs For Different ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Klingon Houses

Jason Isaacs on how Lorca isn’t like other captains

Executive Producers Reveal Actress Playing Amanda And Talk Season 2

 


 

Star Trek: Discovery is available exclusive in the US on CBS All Access with new episodes each Sunday at 8:30 pm ET. It airs in Canada on the Space Channel at 8:00 pm ET and is available on Netflix outside the USA and Canada on Mondays at 8 am BST.

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

 

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94 Comments on "EXCLUSIVE: Alex Kurtzman On Pushing Edges Of Canon And Planting Seeds For ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Season 2"

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While I was extremely critical of Kurtzman’s work in the J.J. films I can’t really take issue with anything he’s said here, and so far his sensibilities are meshing much better with my Trek sensibilities on television. We’ll see if that continues.

i second everything you’ve said

Thirded

Motion carried!

Yeah, I’m in. It was a good interview.

same

Agreed 100%

That’s a good interview, and I like what he says. Unlike a lot of people, I don’t have a problem with Kurtzman and really do believe he is striving to make a great Star Trek show ( only time will really tell if that’s the case, but I’m loving it so far ).
I wonder how Robert Orci feels to not be a part of DSC? If I recall correctly, he was the bigger fan of the original Trek show.

I don’t have a problem with any past Trek show runners, producers or directors. I might disagree with some of their decisions but I don’t treat them as evil doers who is out to destroy nerds wet dream. As far I can tell they all seem to have a passion for the material and wanted to make a good produce even if with mixed results. Treating these people like the devil is sadly why I hate the internet sometimes.

I agree completely. I was very upfront with my feelings about Trek 2009 when Bob Orci posted on the site, but my intent was to never make my criticism personal and only about the work on that particular project. No one sets out to rape your childhood; they’re all busy professionals with better things to do. Trust me. :-)

@SJ — I think Kurtzman got lumped into the mess with Orci and Lindelof. My how times have changed. Haven’t heard from Bob Orci in a while.

I have mixed views. I still can’t get over THAT scene towards the end of Star Trek Into Crapness, and he had a hand in it.

At the end of the day we can’t really judge until we’ve completed the first season.

As for Orci, after the firing from Beyond he seems to have vanished. I think there was a rumour he had something of a drink problem. Perhaps he is taking some time out to focus on that if true.

They did not push the canon on the movies, they changed it.

Canon would be like “The Day of the Dove”

Nothing he says matters. They have deliberately abandoned all star Trek’s ideals & eveything he says is BS lip service.

I refuse to watch discovery. The Orville is the Trek I wanted. Next week is so far away!

If you refuse to watch it, how do you know it isn’t the Trek you want?

Glad you’re enjoying The Orville in any case.

If you refuse to watch it, then you are not in any position to criticize it since you’re coming from a position of ignorance.

Bye bye… enjoy orville.

This is…. sad.

I get that you don’t like Star Trek: Discovery and I respect that. I honestly do. The issue I have is your constant need to hammer home that you don’t like it without giving coherent reasons that don’t come off as trolling.

There are 700 hours of Star Trek to enjoy. Why don’t you go and watch some of those hours instead of accusing the producers of lying and how hurt you feel?

He’s not a fan. He’s a whiner who gets off on complaining.

Trekboi89, why are you even here? You’re obviously not a fan.

…he’s here for the same reason the fans who hated the new movies were constantly here trashing them. It’s tradition. lol

I kept wondering if he would actually talk about the films again. It was odd how he always talked about Discovery but ignored the films he did as if they didn’t exist. It must be really exciting for him to have created the Kelvin universe and now has a show to make his mark in the prime timeline. And I always considered him the quieter one when it came to talking the Trek films unlike Abrams and Orci who were all over the place (even here) discussing it. Now he seems very involved with the PR which is a good thing when you helped created the show.

He says all the right things. And as someone that was super critical of the JJ films, I was VERY open minded beforehand. And I thought their idea of doing what amounted to both a sequel and prequel was brilliant.

So I see why Nimoy agreed. It sounded great.

But the execution was not so great. And in retrospect, with hindsight, the decision to change time travel to multi-verse and create a new universe was a mistake. They really had to hit a home run for us to embrace that. And since they didn’t, it became too easy to not be emotionally invested in those characters and stories because even in the Trek Universe, it was all ‘fake’. OUR ‘real’ heroes existed somewhere else.

They even doubled down on that by killing Kirk and bringing him right back. In essence telling us that nothing mattered.

They also loved using established canon whenever they felt it supported their story, showed off their Trek cred or pushed the narrative in an easier fashion. And then changed it whenever they wanted to in the name of “new Universe”. They tried to have their cake and eat it too. And it hurt both.

Agree with a lot of what you said there, TUP.

Actually, I think Kurtzman’s comments sound better than the actual Trek we’ve been given. I want what he’s talking about, if that makes any sense.

@Danpaine,

Kurtzman knows how to give a good interview but his movies & shows usually fail to live up to his talks.

Well said! And my thoughts exactly.

“But the execution was not so great. And in retrospect, with hindsight, the decision to change time travel to multi-verse and create a new universe was a mistake. They really had to hit a home run for us to embrace that. And since they didn’t, it became too easy to not be emotionally invested in those characters and stories because even in the Trek Universe, it was all ‘fake’. OUR ‘real’ heroes existed somewhere else.”

I completely agree. The alt-universe must have appeared to J.J. Abrams and his team like an endless beckoning vista of creative freedom, but in hindsight it proved to be a windy cul-de-sac where nothing really mattered. I grew up on the adventures of the original Enterprise crew, and if I’m in the market for more, why would I care about these imposters?

It also didnt make sense. While we have seen alternate universes before, everytime our heroes traveled through time and altered events, they set out to return them to normal. For Spock not to do this was absurd.

I always felt that as a plot device, following “sequel” Spock back in time worked on an emotional level. It helped us accept these new actors because to Spock, they were the exact same people.

They could have followed Spock back and when Spock inevitably returned to his own time, we could have stayed behind.

The argument against that is, there was no dramatic or creative freedom to existing in a sandbox where we know what happens. But thats not true. in fact, its really really lazy. Its a greater challenge to create new adventures and lay down new creative WHILE working within the establishes sandbox. That these writers weren’t up to that challenge is sad.

trying to second guess your audience as he admits to used to be considered a deadly sin for a writer.also what he says about star trek integrity is laughable.he should have quit from the get go if he means that.roddenberry was the creator and as much as i love nimoy he didnt create or write the thing.star trek no longer has a vision for the future,hence prequels, dragging it to the ground time and again for money.when the trek site reviews the orville you should be ashamed to call yourself a star trek show…people are so longing for good trek that they turn to the orville now.wow just wow…i do have one idea for a star trek show that would solve every problem but i m not telling…maybe i should write it since they dont know how to write star trek.

Nimoy directed 2 movies and came up with the plot for Undiscovered Country

The man was super talented. He was down with ST09 and STID and I loved them too. Rip Mr Nimoy :(

did he create the franchise ? no.of course he is a legend but pitching one story doesnt automatically make the whole thing his.many writers over the years have written a lot more star trek .i m not debating his acting or directing but the best star trek was not written by him.

@iko — what’s sad about ORVILLE is they have the opportunity every week to do a really interesting episode about something we’ve never seen before — they have the opportunity to WOW us, yet all they can do is recycle stale tropes that have been done again and again. I’m not sure if that’s an indictment of the writer’s abilities, or merely the intent of the showrunner to take a stroll down memory lane as the lead of the series without violating and IPs.

i agree of course.its very campy and repetitive in structure yet id watch it over discovery .wasnt star trek always supposed to have humour in some places ? did you see any in discovery?doesnt look likely either…at least the orville had charlize theron and j.frakes directing plus some relevant social commentary and a couple of sci-fi ideas that at least make you think.i forgot the 3 episodes of discovery already.the first mutineer?really?and klingons again?i dont care about section 31 either…

hi!

Hola, stranger. Up to anything interesting you can talk about?

Soon!

Hi, Bob. I was sorry when I heard Sleepy Hollow was getting cancelled, great show. Hope all is well.

Hey Bob.
I miss Sleepy Hollow, too.

thanks!

Good to see you hear Bob. What are your thoughts on Discovery thus far? And do you and Alex still talk directly? Just curious if you guys had any talks about the show.

havent seen it

didnt see beyond either. How was it?

Hiya Bob. Good to see ya. As far as Beyond goes, It wasn’t very good from my perspective, and I loved the first two. . Tried way too hard with all the Trek tropes and pushed every character cliches to the degree it felt like parody. Liked it better when the characters were their own interpretations and weren’t trying to parrot the the originals so closely. That and the story just didn’t gel…too many questions. It was rushed and it showed. Just my opinion, as always, your mileage may very. Discovery, so far, is good though…if you skip the first two episodes lol

Welcome back Bob. Beyond was an enjoyable romp imo, although I will admit it did feel at times like a big budget TV episode. Maybe you can direct the fourth movie if they make it huh?

Beyond was a lot of fun Bob.
I hope that you get a chance to check it out.

But I distinctly remember you saying “Fun!” when asked on this very website what you thought of BEYOND. Or were you just referring to the script?

And seriously, you haven’t checked-out Discovery yet, with your former writing partner so heavily involved? May I ask why not? No disrespect intended; just curious.

script. didnt see the movie.

Fantastic! Best of the 3. Had a real Trek vibe to it.

@boborci,

You may want to give ‘Discovery’ a shot if only to catch the many references and callbacks to your Trek movies.

Burnham leaving sickbay and rushing to the bridge to warn her captain about an imminent Klingon attack, similar to the scene in ST09 with Kirk rushing from the sickbay to warn his captain about a Romulan attack.

‘Discovery’’s teaser opening with the heroes trying to save primitive aliens from an impending catastrophe, ending the teaser with the ship rising; showing behind it a giant delta shield on the surface of the planet. In a way recalling STID teaser with the ENT crew trying to help the primitive aliens on Nibiru from an impending catastrophe ending the teaser with the ENT rising; showing behind it an ENT drawing on the surface of the planet.

Burnham calling her mentor Sarek in the middle of a crisis was similar to nuSpock calling original Spock in STID in the middle of a crisis.

Or Burnham’s space jump scene which recalls Kirk’s space jump in both ST09 and STID.

When was there a space jump in Discovery??? Are referring to the thruster suit? That would be more akin to Spock in TMP.

Good list of the callbacks in the recent movies, Ahmed. I’d perhaps add Burnham/Georgiou beaming onto the Klingon ship and engaging in a phaser firefight was very reminiscent of Kirk/Spock doing the same on the Narada in 2009.

@John in Canada — sort of suggests Kurtzman wrote all those beats in the original film? Orci seems like the type who would angry tweet about being ripped off, otherwise. ;-)

Can’t say Burnam and Georgiou beaming over by themselves really worked for me. They should have beamed over with an entire security party … I guess I need to rewatch that to understand why they would do that exactly, with so much riding on the success of the mission. Frankly I never understood why Kirk and Spock felt the need to go by themselves in ST09 either, I mean, it was just the fate of Earth that hung in the balance if they got killed …

Don’t want to fork out the $5.99 to watch it? Get in line. ;)

All seriousness you should give it a chance. Look, you never say it but I know you are bitter on your Trek exit. And frankly can’t blame you but I know you still consider yourself a fan of the franchise. Anyway if you ever do would be nice to hear what you think.

Lofe is too short.

correction. Life.

Any Reason Mr. Orci?
Too busy? Keeping away from any Star Trek? Bitter that your script was rejected?

ten years is a long time to do anything. I always said that the minute I wan’t useful to Trek, I would walk.

no, we don’t talk.

@boborci,

Welcome back.

Abrams is a bit busy in a galaxy far far away. I’d rather they bring in someone else for the next movie and not wait for him.

I think he was just saying if Bad Robot makes another film in general, ie, produces it. I don’t think he’s saying he will only be involved if Abram directs it and that would be years away now due to Episode 9.

@Tiger2,

Either way, I hope that Paramount will bring in a new team with some fresh ideas.

Paramount needs to hire a company who can produce one of these things for less than $200 million. Right now they just don’t have it to spare.

Isn’t Kirsten Beyer involved with Discovery? I could see her writing great stuff for the show.

David Mach is another person who I think should be given an opportunity to write for liveaction trek.

She is involved. David Mack has seen her script (which is Saru-centric, I believe), and says it’s phenomenal. I think it’s the eighth episode, so we’ll know soon enough how well she writes for television.

Bob’s little boy has something interesting to say…

https://twitter.com/adelehtaylor/status/916406234739204096

Me & Bob have an ‘Original Star Trek the Motion Picture’ framed poster, with a letter of thanks from Skydance next to it in the frame. Currently hanging in our office.

Should we post this on Ebay? What do you guys think?

I may be in the minority here but I really love the Kelvin Trek movies and hope we get a fourth. At the same time I’m really enjoying the heck out of Discovery and look forward to more from it. All around I’m a pretty happy Trekkie at the moment. :]

Yeah, right there with you, Hugh

I love all Star Trek, the JJ films and Discovery are great. You are not alone. :)

I also love the Abramsverse movies, Beyond in particular. I’m not overly fond of Into Darkness as a Trek film, but it’s still a good movie.

you are not in the miinority.

For what it’s worth, I loved the 2009 movie, and while it’s settled a bit in my estimation, I still like it very much. I loved a lot of Into Darkness, and consider it an even better movie than 2009, though it too has settled a bit for me. I loved Star Trek Beyond and consider it the best of the three, and very much like the kind of Trek I want in the movie theater. And I love Discovery so far.

Look, I can be as critical as the next guy, but just because the filmmakers don’t do things exactly the way I would doesn’t make their decisions wrong. I can still enjoy the fruits of their hard work.

Thanks, Alex Kurtzman!

Fantastic article Anthony.

Hey Bob. Hope all is well. Care to share your ideas for what would have been the 3 film?

yeah, why not. Nimoy and Shatner together one last tome to help save the universe.

Sounds great. too bad STID made everyone sheepish. And we got the decent but pedestrian Beyond instead.

Bob, is Paramount as fine with using Shatner as they are anyone else, or is there some block to using him? It seems absurd that they havent brought Shatner back into the fold in some way.

So, I’m watching Ep3 again, and I believe I’ve Discovered (if you’ll pardon the pun), the reason everyone is so uncomfortable about canon. It’s because the show-runners, the writers, the producers, the directors, are all TNG-era (with the notable exception of Meyer). Throughout TNG, DS9, VOY, etc, canon was not that far a jump. Set-design, story-telling, even human values on TNG were only 20 years apart from TOS. Now, however, we are 50 years apart from TOS, the real source of canon. It’s not possible to maintain canon with all our advancements in design, effects, our contemporary approaches to acting, production, even our modern sensibilities. I say SCREW canon. Sure, adhere to it as much as possible – people in our 40’s like me, need it to relate to this new show – but lets push it as AK suggests. Lets push it for the sake of the story, the characters, and the progression of Trek, which, let’s face it, is the longest surviving tv/movie franchise ever (excepting James Bond, but that’s more a NOVEL/movie franchise, so no comparison needed). I’m loving Discovery. And so are my Trek friends. More importantly, my non-trek friends (including my wife) are loving it. Mission accomplished. Now, who wants to start a conversation about the deplorable editing of Episode 3. I mean, worst I’ve seen in Trek. That includes TOS. We’re better than that nowadays, I would have thought.

I feel I should qualify my “everyone involved in Disco are TNG era” comment. Listen to the sound effects, the comms-chirp, the phaser sounds, the lack of sneakers-rubbing-on-the-gym-floor squeak when the doors open, the panels in Lorca’s ready room. It’s more TNG than TOS.

Well, modern SF series require a sound mix that’s light years more sophisticated than anything Bob Justman and Glen Glenn Sound had to devise for TOS. Still, every time there’s a scene on a bridge and I hear that old familiar ambient noise my heart gives a little joyful jump. It sounds like home.

As to episode 3’s editing, I didn’t much care for the sequence on the Glen, which was so dark and choppy that I had a difficult time following the action. (Most action sequences these days are like that for me, though.) I thought the rest of it was fine. What were your concerns?

Funny, I heard a lot of TOS-style sound effects. Didn’t notice any TNG-era sound effects.

“Star Trek: Discovery” teased us with Bryan Fuller and Nicholas Meyer. Instead, we got Alex Kurtzman and Akiva Goldsman.

You wrote that as if it’s a good thing!

Nicholas Meyer’s script will air later this season. According to him, he gave notes on others. No one ever said he was going to be a showrunner.

Indeed Michael.

In fact he mentioned several times his role was a “consulting producer”.

….he also mentioned he ‘started’ the series in the writer’s room. I suspect he wasn’t too happy about being moved into the useless role as ‘consultant’.

Hey peeps. Adele the newbie here again. How is Jason Isaacs on the show? He’s a very well known, respected actor in England – but is he famous here in USA?

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