Exclusive: Alex Kurtzman Discusses Building Extended Star Trek Television Universe

Alex Kurtzman and Heather Kadin at SCDD2018

TrekMovie had a chance to speak to some of the cast and crew of Star Trek: Discovery at a press event on Friday, including executive producers Alex Kurtzman and Heather Kadin, who is also president of Kurtzman’s production company Secret Hideout. In their case, the discussion focused on the recently announced plan for Kurtzman and Secret Hideout to expand the Star Trek television universe beyond Discovery. They also revealed one of the writers for the upcoming Short Treks announced at the main SDCC panel.

A Star Trek Cinematic Universe on TV with different tones and formats

How true is it than you are now in charge of a “Star Trek Cinematic Universe,” on television? Is that what really is going on?

Alex Kurtzman: On television, that is true. We are doing a lot of work on building out the universe, and we’re wanting to take our time, but there’s a lot of exciting things on the horizon.

And this is beyond Discovery?

Kurtzman: [nods yes]

Would it be fair to say it’s all set in the Prime Universe, but possibly different time periods?

Heather Kadin: Well I also think it’s important to say that it’s not just one hour drama. I mean, there’s so much opportunity to “bend not break” the franchise in formats we haven’t seen in a while, different tones. And what’s amazing about Star Trek is that it’s such a beloved franchise that we have writers calling – I mean, Michael Chabon, who wrote one of the shorts that Aldis Hodge is starring in – Michael Chabon, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, is like “Hey, I want to write a short for you for $2.55”. So we get people from all different tones – comedy writers, animation writers, who just want so desperately to be a part of Trek.

Kurtzman: [People] who love it, who loved it since they were kids, and to just have the opportunity to play in the toy store, so amazing.

Pulitzer Prize winning author Michael Chabon wrote one of the upcoming ‘Trek Shorts’

Animated series? Picard? Khan?

So the animated is definitely going to happen?

Kadin: Conversations…

Kurtzman: It’s a conversation, yeah.

And you’re looking for other places besides CBSAA, like there’s possibly a CW thing?

Kadin: I think right now it’s fair to say the plan is that any and all live-action Star Trek will be on CBS All Access.

Any reaction to either the Wrath of Khan story or the Picard story?…There are rumors, care to debunk, or is it alive?

Kurtzman: I mean, they sound super cool, I’m a huge fan of both stories, it’d be really cool to see something like that.

Kurtzman didn’t confirm rumor Patrick Stewart is returning for a new Picard mini-series, but did say it was a “cool” idea

Watch interview

More from SDCC

There will be more exclusive interviews coming up from the Discovery press event, along with a press conference report. You may also want to check out our full panel report.

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So… he’s not denying Khan or Picard?

From their expressions in the video it looked like they were committed to not answering the question, but their smirks showed that those projects probably are somewhere on the development pathway.

tbf Development could mean anything from pitching to executives or writing scripts and setting filming dates

Yes, exactly. Nicholas Meyer has been talking about his Khan project for over a year now, so presumably that might be in the script phase at least.

I love the ideas that are churning. Should keep fans positive.

“Discusses” is a stretch, they’re not saying anything significant about the expanded Trek shows.

Yeah, this site has a strong tendency to title their “stories” to be sufficient clickbait…. like when Simon Pegg “discussed” Star Trek movie information, and in the actual interview, he barely even mentioned Star Trek.

The transcription missed some bits:

TM: So animation is definitely going to happen?
Alex: *nods head*
TM: Any reaction on the Khan/Picard stories?
Alex: *sly grin*

Looks like the rumours might be true!

Well spotted, GQMF ;)

So in other words…Patrick Stewart’s deal is not done, yet. ;-)

I would say those are THE words!

no news is good news… right? Maybe things are happening behind the scenes

What is the point of him doing interviews if he is going to say absolutely nothing?

Gotta keep the ‘fans’ interested

That’s actually part of the job description of a showrunner. :-)

That’s all conventions are here for; they just do the bare minimum info-wise to keep people interested.
Same with sports, coaches give a lot of BS speak without ever answering the question “who will start at QB?”
Same with politicians, and business leaders.
Speaking BS is a skill and the journalists and bloggers play into the game. It’ll all come clear in the end.

Yeah pointless..

Well, his primary goal right now is to promote season 2 of Discovery.
The other stuff sounds like it is all in very early stages of development.

This all sounds great. Whatever materializes, CBS, and Les Moonves, is putting great stock in this franchise which is clearly an important part of the CBS family.

It’s also clear to me, that just like the Berman era, this will be a self contained look and feel that explores all areas of Trek. So long time fans are simply going to have to get over the issue of visual continuity being a connecting tissue between all incarnations of Trek, and appreciate that so far those working on these shows have reverence to story canon, even as they push the envelope.

Whoud’a thunk it?! The network that famously rejected the original series for Lost in Space is now all-in on perhaps 4-5 new series for the franchise. Up is down, water is dry, etc.

I think they’ll do a decent enough job maintaining visual continuity between the series on CBSAA

Where’s Bob Orci in all this? Shouldn’t he be involved somehow?

But I am more excited for the animated series more than anything else mentioned.

Why? Just because he went to bed with Kurtzman a couple of times, they should do that forever? They both moved on seperately..

According to a recent thread he hasn’t even watch the show.

LOL. Of course he hasn’t watched the show. Wink-wink.

I think Orci burned some bridges at some point, didn’t he? Perhaps I’m remembering incorrectly. I’d still like to read his script for Star Trek 13.

Yeah, I don’t think he is involved anymore. Seems like it was mutal from what he posted here recently, though no doubt stems from the script/director change, which seemed to come out of the Khan negativity. I remember people here were very unhappy about the idea. (After re-reading the 2009 script, I think he could deliver a good movie, provided he used an original idea.)

Someone suggested he turned his script into a book, but he didn’t seem to keen on the idea and said someone should leak it instead. Here’s hoping.

What so you mean with: he Posted here?

Yes, he posts from time to time in the comments on this site. Uses the name “boborci”.

I asked Orci about it on twitter and shockingly he said he’d email me a copy! :P No lies, that was over a year ago and he deleted his twitter :( never knew if it landed in my Spam folder or not!

Would still like to read it

Maybe he wanted you to leak it. Too bad, that would have been fun

Should bring back William Shatner in a stand alone as Kirk. Pick the format. Surprised this isnt a conversation

It was mooted for Enterprise and the JJ films, surprisingly the conversation has gone silent (which means he’ll probably show up?) He could voice Kirk on an animated show?

At this point I’d go with an animated series with or without him ;-)

He only had one scene in the original 2009 script as a birthday hologram. I’m guessing Shatner asked for too much money and it didn’t seem worth it or the scene felt unnecessary. Maybe for a whole episode or short series they could get a better deal.

The birthday scene was thwarted by the Writers Strike that year. They were able to keep filming ST2009 with the existing script, but weren’t allowed to make major changes to the script while the Strike was ongoing.

But he said he wouldn’t have done it anyway.

That’s interesting, there were a few points in the script/film that I was surprised hadn’t been tightened up. Makes sense now.

Orci was planning to co-write and direct a third Star Trek movie. In it, the Federation, The Vulcans and a new race were racing to get their hands on a time travel device, the Vulcans wanted to get their hands on a time travel device. In the process, the Prime Timeline would have been restored, ending the trilogy, with the return of Kirk Prime.

“Chase for doohickey against Annunaki to reset back to prime timeline. Theme: The Last temptation of Kirk And Spock. It’s the temptation. Restore Vulcan, Kirks Father, and Spock’s mother? Or play the hand they are dealt? Only with help of Prime Kirk, who they meet on the adventure, can they solve the dilemma. Enlil [ was the vilain’s name].”

— Roberto Orci (@realboborci) August 4, 2016

So that was Enterprise, ST XI and ST XIII – three missed opportunities to bring back Shat!

I think that ship has sailed at this point. They attempted to bring him back on Enterprise, as Danny says, but remember, that was at least 13 years ago. Plus, there is that issue of Kirk being dead in the Prime timeline, which they could certainly get around, but the show/film would almost have to be about that change in current canon. Also, Shatner is now 87 years old (!!), which means he’d probably be 89 before anything actually came out.

Agreed. Shatner had his time but they clearly moved on.

But how do you justify it? Kirk died in Generations. They’d have to come up with some convoluted explanation as to why he looks a lot older than when he died.

An appearance by Shatner in the prime timeline would realistically require cgi de-aging and some goodwill on the part of fans. It’s easier to bring Shatner back in the Kelvin universe as he wouldn’t necessarily get sucked up into the Nexus in that timeline and could therefore could live beyond the age he died in Star Trek Generations allowing the possibility for him to travel back in time and encounter his younger self. Alternatively, and people are probably getting sick of me suggesting this but you could have a sequence in the next movie that essentially shows the Abramverse version of the Deadly Years in which several of the crew contract a virus that results in them aging rapidly.

The biggest obstacles to Shatner’s return have been salary demands, size of the role ( too large a role would take away from Kelvinverse crew etc) and not wanting a story that spends too much time explaining the Nexus etc. With the new formats the whole story could be dedicated to the one story of his return, the role will surely be meaty enough since it will revolve around Kirk. Not sure if they could live up to the salary or the CGI it may require on a TV budget.

I agree, this seems to be a bigger barrier than how he gets back from the dead. A role in a movie would have to be ‘special guest star’, not ‘Starring William Shatner & Chris Pine’

That ship has sailed.

It’s not like there haven’t been opportunities/nearly situations

I fear the ship has indeed sailed and I’ve stopped wishing for it (so now it’ll probably happen haha!!)

@Tom — I agree. They could do a limited series, maybe 6-8 episode about old Kirk. Something that won’t cost much to produce, along the lines of MR. HOLMES, and something which Shatner won’t need a lot of suspension of disbelief to do effectively. We don’t need to know how he got out of the Nexus. It would be a way to explore an aspect of Trek they’ve never done before. It’s too bad they lost Nimoy before doing something like this, but you could still do it with actors remaining from the TOS film/TV era. They could also do a RED/SPACE COWBOYS type film where Picard travels back in time and they renew their friendship from their time in the Nexus, and finally explain the Nexus once and for all. Maybe even something with Avery Brooks and the Orb of Time, and get Kate Mulgrew into it as well. Heck, they could even do a John De Lancie appearance as Q, and just create the situation with old Kirk, without violating the timeline, or canon, as they did in All Good Things. It would be pure fan service, but who cares?

I’m impressed that they have Chabon writing one of the Short Treks. He’d probably slot in as the biggest name ever to write for the franchise. I realize there have been many great writers, most of them “genre” writers, but Chabon wrote “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay”, which won him the Pulitzer, and is a truly great novel.

Looking forward to seeing what he came up with. Should be interesting, and possibly a quite atypical Trek story.

What if all this “extended universe” noise is just that? Noise. I worked for a PR company here in London briefly. I was a glorifed receptionist at the end of the day… but one of our clients was a long-running (albeit slightly washed-up) female singer that most of you would know by just the first name. It became apparent there was this running joke in the office regarding how often she fabricates projects in interviews – over a decades long career. Albums, films, business ventures, you name it – she has sat there and given the press ‘news’ but it’s all been hot air, perhaps with good intentions, but all just vague ideas.Yet the way she sells them makes you think she’s very busy and very relevant. I wonder if this is just PR noise to give some attention to a second season of Discovery the mainstream PR might not be all that excited by. If my comments often seem jaded – then yes, I am nervous about an extended Trek universe in the hands of Alex, truthfully – I don’t like the frames of his glasses, they smack of pretension, there, I said it. Weird glasses. Not a face I like. But these are just my two cents – I think Alex has got (and if he hasn’t, he should have) his hands full at the moment, leading Discovery and with a leaner creative team, he’s got more pressure. I don’t think the guy has got any time in his head for all this fantastical stuff that’s ‘vaguely’ in the pipeline. Knowing what I know with my limited PR industry exposure – If I had the second season of my lacklustre Trek spin-off coming out… and I wanted to make some noise… if the press are no longer going to celebrate it’s arrival with cover shots and full-page spreads, perhaps I can make some noise some other way. Alex meets with the evil emperor Moonves and they hatch a plan. (Sung) “Give em the old razzle dazzle..” They agree they should release some exciting news, mention teenagers at the academy, mention animated series, mention Picard and mention Khan – and suddenly it looks like Star Trek is taking over the worrrlldddddd. When really all they’ve done all day is order the kraft service and purchased some new hipster glasses. I don’t think there’s much going on ladies and gentlemen, they can’t even get this recent series right. When I think of coherent and rewarding universes, Middle Earth through to Star Wars – it’s visual continuity and ‘reward’ for paying attention that are most satisfying. These new creative teams, be it the JJ-verse team or Alex want to re-invent the wheel and re-imagine and bend, scew and subvert. They don’t care about history, about iconic designs, about emotional invest over 50 years. I don’t think will pull it off. There will be no expanded universe – and the irony is, there very much WAS an expanded universe, when you look at TNG, DS9 and VOY. I like Sonique, I loved her in Walking Dead – I was so excited for ‘Star Trek for modern television’ and I sincerely thought they would honour the 50 year legacy and we could explore the unverse with a bigger budget, have gays, have swearing, alien nudity! More challenging stories and allegories and social commentary. Everything we ever dreamed of that past series couldn’t deliver. They have broken away from it with their selective visual reimagining and contrived mushroom spore drive silliness. It comes across as they’re embarrassed about what came before. Really bad business sense and it does feel like Enterprise all over again – you alienate the people that matter for your business – you’re left with a very pretentious pair of glasses and little else.

But it’s also plausible that CBS would plan to have other Trek material ready when Discovery finishes its season, as a way to keep Trekkie subscribers. A miniseries or All Access “special event presentation” would seem like a no-brainer from a business standpoint.

LOL that’s a rant.

And I don’t know why they would ‘pretend’ to be making new shows? It sounds like DIS is a hit, at least for AA and they also probably realize the subs dropped like a stone after the last episode (crazy enough I still have it although I have no idea why since I have’t watched it in six months). So my guess is yeah they want to put on more Trek shows to keep people invested all year. That makes sense. And AA needs more shows, period, so why not shows people are actually excited for? And where you have built in name recognition? It seems like a total no-brainer to make more Trek shows when you are building up a new service like AA, right?

But you’re right though Trek has had an expanded universe since 1987 once McCoy walked on the Enterprise with Data and its been that way since. Which is why so many of us are so invested in the franchise now. Although none of the projects excite me outside of the Picard one, I do love the idea that more shows can fill up the universe more. Sadly though they are thinking too small IMO. But I would love it if they did a show in the 25th century. Another exploring a completely different galaxy (via wormhole or something). Another in Romulan space. It’s Star Trek, mix it up. Think big. Khan isn’t thinking big to me but I’ll hold out to see what happens.

It was Lulu, wasn’t it? :)

I doff my cap for the procurement of Michael Chabon. First Romijn, now Chabon. Underestimate Alex Kurtzman at your own peril. #FlyAwayHome

Who are you and what did you do with the real Mirror Galt?


Perhaps Mirror Galt’s personality matrix has been infected & overwritten by a STD drone :)

I also hope this means that TREK might revive the tradition of giving some established literary talents a crack at writing once in awhile . . .

Michael Chabon writing for Trek is as potentially good as it’s going to get, at least on paper. So after teasing this possibility, Kurtzman, you’d best make it happen–I know where you live, and your little dog too! :-)

Listening to that interview its pretty obvious all the rumors were true after all. They didn’t debunk any of it and its clear they are working on a Picard show. Now it doesn’t mean it will happen but there is certainly discussions about it. That smile from Kurtzman gave it away lol. That and Heather Kadin literally saying she hope they happen. So they yeah it sounds like its all on the table.

Why not an animated continuation of TNG? They could use all of the main cast and not worry about how much older they look now.

Michael Chabon!

WOW !!!

Not the greatest surprise as Chabon has never bothered to hide his love for Trek–it’s referenced in several of his novels–and genre fare in general. Still very cool, regardless.

I’ve never heard of this guy until now lol. But since people are excited to have him he must be a big deal.


He won Pulitzer Prize but when it comes to writing scripts his record is rather mixed.

He co-wrote ‘Spider-Man 2’ in 2004, an excellent follow up to Spider-Man, but then he also co-wrote the critically panned & box office flop ‘John Carter’ in 2012.

Oh thank you! Yeah I loved SM 2, its still one of the best comic book films around. I didn’t like John Carter but I knew nothing about the book and no clue how much was adapted from it but the movie didn’t grab me. Judging by the box office it didn’t a lot of people lol.

Picard’s return is a super idea. Khan and Friends on Ceti Alpha V, not so much.

Its amazing how many people seem like they DON’T want the Khan idea which only tells me it will definitely happen lol. I mean this is the same guy who was told no one wanted Khan in the sequel and they put him in it anyway, to undesirable results. And now here he is again with yet ANOTHER Khan idea. I don’t get how Star Trek manged to go over 600 episodes and 10 movies in a forty year period and Khan was only in two of those. The new guys show up and now they want to turn Khan into the Joker and put him in everything (he only survived in STID with the intent of showing up in future films).

He’s not that important to the overall franchise, move on!

The Khan project is from Nick Meyer not Kurtzman.

Meyer has zero power to get anything approved. If there is a Khan project its only because Kurtzman wants it, regardless if Meyer is the one working on it.

I just hope that by Picard telling the crew in All Good Things about the future, he changed the timeline so that a cure for Neuromotic Syndrome was eventually discovered. Otherwise, this proposed mini series will be about Picard in bed getting hypospray injections and soiling his bed sheets. I suppose that Crusher could program the computer to beam Picard’s stool out of his large intestines before he has an accident in order to maintain his dignity.

There’s no guarantee that the syndrome will develop in Picard in all possible iterations of his future. He didn’t seem to have it in the TNG films.

Heather Kadin is a hottie.

So… they basically answered none of the questions.