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.
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.
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.
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.
More from Hollywood premiere
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.