On Wednesday night Alex Kurtzman made another virtual appearance promoting the Emmy nomination for Star Trek: Short Treks. During a Q&A with Variety, the man in charge of the Star Trek Universe for CBS gave a rare update on the Section 31 series, announced the hire of a composer, talked about fan feedback, and more.
Section 31 show may not be what you think it is
During the Variety Streaming Room Q&A, Kurtzman was asked about the Section 31 series in development, which hasn’t had a lot of detail since it was announced in January 2019. He said the origins of the show started with star Michelle Yeoh and went back to before Star Trek: Discovery even premiered in 2017:
The truth is that for Section 31 the idea of doing that show, it was Michelle Yeoh’s. She deserves all the credit for that. She actually came to me about it before we even aired the first season of Discovery. She loved playing the character [Captain Phillipa Georgiou] and she said, “I know that there are a lot of young women who grew up like I did and did not see somebody like me on screen and I want to be that person.” And I said, “That sounds amazing! Let’s do it.”
But we didn’t know if people were going to like Discovery. We didn’t know if Discovery was going to work, at the time. And so I said,” Let’s see how it works, and if we can get there let’s get there.” She killed it. She did amazing work on the show. And then in season two, we really started digging into the mythology of Section 31, which had been dealt with on other shows. And we started seeing a way to do it. And so we got there.
Recently Kurtzman said that writing was ongoing for the Section 31 series. In the Variety Q&A on Wednesday night he offered some more details on the status of work:
Erika [Lippoldt] and Boey [Yeon Kim], who are two of our writers on Discovery, have been working with Craig Sweeny, who was a writer we worked for a long time and he ran Limitless for us. And they’ve been doing an amazing job building the show. So I’m really excited about where it’s going. And I can’t wait to see Michelle in that part. And I think people are going to be very surprised about the world that it occupies. We’ve seen stuff online where people have guessed certain things, but some they are nowhere even near guessing. So that’s that’s pretty fun.
Kurtzman’s comments about how the world the Section 31 show occupies will be surprising may be referring to the setting for the upcoming series. One of the big questions about the show stems from how Michelle Yeoh’s character of Section 31 operative (and former Mirror Universe Emperor) Georgiou has jumped forward into the 32nd century with the rest of the Star Trek: Discovery crew for the upcoming third season. It has been generally assumed she will find a way to return to the 23rd century to begin her own adventures in the section 31 series. But perhaps those assumptions are wrong, and the show is set in another time or place.
“Q&A” composer hired to score an upcoming Trek series, possibly ‘Prodigy’
While discussing the Short Treks episode “Q&A,” Alex Kurtzman revealed that Nami Melumad, who scored the short, has been hired as the composer for one of the Star Trek series in development:
So our composer Nami is amazing, and actually was so good that we hired her to compose one of our Star Trek shows, and I won’t tell you which one it is, but she’s gonna be composing one of our Star Trek shows.
This would make Melumad the first female composer for a Star Trek series, and she’s already the first to score an episode. The 32-year-old Israeli/Dutch composer has an extensive list of musical credits, including scoring the Amazon series Absentia and the new HBO Max film An American Pickle. Kurtzman said when choosing composers for Short Treks, besides the one scored by Oscar-winner Michael Giacchino of course, he sought out young composers “to give them a shot to see what they could do.”
In the case of the score for “Q&A” and how it incorporated the original theme to Star Trek, Kurtzman said:
Nami not only found an incredible way to touch on the feeling that you get from a great Star Trek score, which is this kind of wild exuberance and this joy and the joy of discovery and the joy of science. And obviously, the original Alexander Courage theme is such a big touchstone for anybody who loves Star Trek…
So the idea was, how do we touch the theme, render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and then give it its own sound. And Nami really found the joy. In fact, the piece that she wrote the plays over the end credits for “Q&A” is one of my favorite pieces ever for anything I’ve worked on in Star Trek.
As “Q&A” was a story set on Pike’s Enterprise, one might imagine Melumad would be scoring the upcoming series Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, but there are other possibilities. She has also worked in animation before, so she may have been tapped to compose the score for CG-animated series Star Trek: Prodigy, which debuts on Nickelodeon in 2021. During the Comic-Con@Home Star Trek Universe presentation in July, Melumad retweeted two tweets from the Prodigy executive producers and one from a Prodigy writer. Those were her only Trek-related tweets during the panel.
Reading fan feedback “hurts,” and is “necessary”
When asked about fan discussions online and in social media, Kurtzman confirmed he keeps up on fan feedback and considers it an important part of the process, even if at times it can be difficult to see criticism.
Here is Kurtzman’s comment on fan feedback in full:
I pay a lot of attention. And it took me many, many years to figure out why I had to do it, despite the fact that it made me very uncomfortable. Anybody who goes on the internet and looks at a review of their work is going to see both people loving it and people hating it. It’s just the nature of the internet. And it’s it’s very difficult not to take it personally.
At the same time, what I came to understand about Star Trek is that the fans of Star Trek have kept Star Trek alive for so long. It would have been canceled, and even after it was canceled, they kept it alive in syndication. And it always comes back to the fans, because I think the only two entities that really own Star Trek are Gene Roddenberry and the fans. The rest of us are just carrying it for a while.
And part of being a Star Trek fan is allowed is knowing that there will always be debate about Star Trek. One fan will love Voyager, one fan will love Deep Space Nine, one fan will hate Next Gen, one fan will love Next Gen. One fan will love Picard, one fan will hate Picard. And on, and on, and on. There’s a real democratic quality to that, right?
You know that people are gonna watch it and they’re, they’re going to have different points of view. And it doesn’t mean that someone’s right, and it doesn’t mean that someone’s wrong. Everybody has their own feeling about it. But listening to what people are reacting to is so important to understanding where to go with it. I feel like if you’re at a 50/50 split, you’re doing fine. If you’re at 90/10, and people hate it 90%, you’re in real trouble. Fortunately we haven’t been there yet.
But I know that’s part of it. So once you accept that’s part of it, it allows you to read criticism. And you can separate the criticism that’s just ‘I hate everything,’ from ‘Actually that person had really valid points about why something didn’t quite work for them.’ And that’s something to keep in mind for the next time we do something else in the world of Star Trek. So I see it as a learning tool. It hurts, and at the same time, it’s necessary.
Easter eggs without fan service
Kurtzman also talked about his approach to adding Easter eggs for fans into his Star Trek shows:
The fun thing about Easter eggs is that they’re really great if they pay off in a way that feel satisfying and they’re really disappointing if you’re just throwing them into throw them in there. That feels like fan service that I think can have the opposite impact that you’re intending. I think fans don’t like it when you just throw things in to throw them in. They actually have to have meaning because those Easter eggs are meaningful to them. So that’s that’s always a challenge when you’re hitting an Easter egg is to make sure there’s a reason to do it.
UPDATE: Watch the Kurtzman Q&A
Variety has now released the video from the virtual event.
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