In a new “Crew Call” podcast for Deadline Hollywood, the overseer of all things Star Trek on TV, Alex Kurtzman, gave updates on all of his currently announced projects.
Star Trek projects in the pipeline
Last year, CBS TV Studios president David Stapf made a mention of having “something on all the time on All Access.” Kurtzman spoke to that idea:
It takes really a year from writing to finished product, it’s sort of like animation, because you have to factor in about 7 months of CG work and then 4 months of prep, especially if you’re building sets for a new show.
It’s not like they’re all going to be on the air at one time. If David [Stapf] wants a show always [on], I have to plan two or three years out from now. The goal is not to have them on top of each other. Nor is it to rush anything out when it’s not ready.
Kurtzman on growing the fan base:
When I went to CBS and I said, “I think you have a universe here that is very under-utilized, and a fan base that I think is hungry for a lot more.” And I walked them through the plan of what I saw for the next five to ten years of Trek.
Part of it was, kind of, premised on the idea that it was going to take time. What I said was, “Don’t expect us to put the first thing out, and suddenly, you know, you’ll have 100 million new fans. That’s not gonna happen.” Trek has been around for too long for that to happen — but what we do have is new generations, and what I can tell you is that ‘Trek,’ in general, finds people when they’re about between nine and twelve.
It’s never reached younger than that — it’s never tried to, and to me that’s a hugely missed opportunity, especially because what you’re really trying to do is influence hearts and minds with really positive messages — messages about who we can be as a species and as people and what our future is. So why not start young, you know? And not for a cynical reason. Not because you know, “hey, lets sell more toys,” but because if you really want Star Trek to reach people, then you’ve got to start young.
And this is where I guess the Star Wars influence on me really mattered, because as a kid at four years old, I could imagine myself starting up with a twin suns of Tatooine and wondering what my life was. Trek didn’t give me that same thing — it gave me Wesley Crusher, it gave me different characters, but again, those are older characters.
But we are definitely seeing just metric proof that the fan base is growing, and it’s growing younger — and yet, we’re keeping our current fans, and that’s great.
Star Trek: Picard
While the show is named Star Trek: Picard, Kurtzman stressed that the idea of a family, of a ship’s crew, is still very much at the heart of the new show:
It’s something that has been baked into the DNA of Picard — yes, obviously Patrick, it’s Patrick’s show — we have an unbelievable cast. And you know, the thing that I loved about the Next Gen cast is that you really could have focused any episode on any of them.
I would say the same about our cast now, that it’s such an incredibly brilliant group of actors, [that] are given such amazing things to do. Without spoiling anything, I think that you will feel that.
“A really wonderful give-and-take” with Stewart
We spent a lot of time with Patrick, and you know he’s incredibly brilliant just as a human, and very warm, and obviously he knows Jean-Luc Picard better than anybody — and you know, he was really the one who from the outset said, “I don’t want to do this unless we’re breaking new ground. I don’t want to just play the character I played, why come back to that? We did that already.”
And so it’s been a really wonderful give-and-take in our collaboration with Patrick where he very quickly came to trust that we were both going to do exactly what he said in taking Picard to a new place, but also — and he doesn’t look at himself this way — we’re reverent of him, you know? He’s Patrick Stewart. When we’re in a room with him, his opinion really matters to us, and his happiness really matters to us, and ultimately, we couldn’t do this show the way we’re doing it if he wasn’t excited about it and excited to play it.
A story that honors the character
I think we’ve found a story that honors everything that people love about the character, but in ways that are not what you expect — and yet, become more and more familiar as the show goes [on].
A lot has happened to Jean-Luc Picard in the intervening years. There’s been a lot going on and he’s had to deal with some new things, he’s had to deal with some old things, and both of those things kind of come colliding together. He’s made choices that he’s not necessarily feeling great about — and yet I think the audience will understand exactly why he made them.
Discovery and its spin-offs
Discovery season 3
Writing on season three of Discovery is moving along at a fast pace:
We are on episode five of Season 3 of Discovery. We’re far along.
More Short Treks
As previously announced, there will be more Short Treks, two of which are cartoons, along with four live-action shorts.
We’re doing six more of them. Two of them are animated, and the two that we’re doing that are animated are unlike our two animated shows. What I love about the Short Treks is that to me they are an experimental training ground, and a place to experiment with different things. Directors who we’ve never worked with before, tones we’ve never tried before.
Michael Giacchino is doing one of the animated shorts and Olatunde Osunsanmi is doing another one in the animated shorts and he’s our main director on Discovery. And again, different animation styles, totally different tones. Aimed at kids, I would say, more than adults, those two.
Section 31 show
Erika [Lippoldt] and Boey [Kim], who are two of our writers on Discovery, are breaking story on it right now, and the plan is to shoot that the second we’re done with [Discovery] Season 3.
Hears fans about Pike and crew
I would be remiss in saying you’re going to see Spock again on Discovery because we’ve obviously jumped so far into the future that it wouldn’t make sense…. but the the idea of bringing Ethan [Peck] back, and Anson [Mount] and Rebecca [Romijn] and the Enterprise, I mean, we loved it so much, that to find a way to do that is definitely something we’re thinking about a lot.
While discussing the animated shows, Kurtzman hinted that some members of the live action Trek cast may lend their voice to one or more of the animated shows. When asked about if any characters we know may appear in the shows, Kurtzman answered:
It’s mostly new [characters]. There may be some that you know, but it’s mostly new.
Lower Decks from Mike McMahan was announced in October 2018, and recently hit the milestone of having the first table read for a completed script. Kurtzman described the audience for the show and the general premise:
Both of these [upcoming animated] shows are a love letter to Star Trek. They’re targeted at very different groups. Mike’s show is really for kids, I would say, from 11 to 70. [Laughs]
What I love so much about the way Mike is doing is planning things. What would typically be the “A” story on any Star Trek episode is happening in the background — like huge, crazy, crazy shit is going on in the background and that’s super peripheral to the story that you’re actually focusing on. No show has ever really done that before.
Officially announced in April, the show is developed by Emmy Award-winning brother duo Kevin and Dan Hageman. Kurtzman gave an update on the progress of the child-focused ‘toon:
I won’t announce the name of the Nickelodeon show, but that’s a really different show [from Lower Decks].
That’s a show that’s for kids, younger. Full CG animation. It’s going to be incredibly cinematic. We just started seeing [story]boards this week. It looks like, wow. It’s on par with Love, Death, and Robots in terms of beauty and lighting and cinema, so it’s a a really different feel, and Nickelodeon has been wildly supportive and I think very excited to bring a new energy to TV, you know, in animation.
There’s lots more with Kurtzman about directing, his Trek fandom, his experience with Star Trek 2009, and more. It’s well worth a listen.
Keep up with all the news on the upcoming Star Trek TV shows here at TrekMovie.com.