Yesterday Alex Kurtzman made big news at New York Comic Con when he announced he was bringing Star Trek: Voyager star Kate Mulgrew back to play Captain Janeway again in the Nickelodeon animated series Star Trek: Prodigy. In a new interview, the executive producer in charge of Star Trek on TV talked about keeping that secret for a year, and how he is already planning the next decade of Star Trek television.
Janeway is part of Prodigy for a “wonderful reason”
Kurtzman was a guest on The Hollywood Reporter podcast Top 5, and he revealed that the decision to bring back Janeway has been in place for a year and it “blows his mind” it hasn’t leaked. He also talked about how they came to the decision to have Mulgrew join Prodigy:
When you’re looking at legacy characters you have to have a very specific reason to bring them back. Without revealing too many details, Kevin and Dan [Hageman] came in with a pitch that just blew the doors off the place. There was a really clear wonderful reason to bring Janeway into the story.
Prodigy is specifically aimed at bringing in younger fans. The EP talked about how this has been a challenge for the franchise:
I think one of the things that Star Trek has not done as effectively over time is bring in new people, particularly much younger people, and I don’t see any reason why that this amazing story that has existed for 55 years, that is so about everything that we are dealing with in our lives right now, cannot be shared and enjoyed by younger generations.
A variety of Trek shows planned through 2027
In 2021 Prodigy will be the fifth Star Trek series launched since Kurtzman has taken the reins of the franchise only a few years ago. With so many new live-action and animated Star Trek shows being worked on, the executive producer talked about how they balance pleasing the installed fan base and creating different Star Trek shows to appeal to different audiences:
You always have to sell the property to the deep fans. They scrutinize everything in a way that fans of Trek have done since the beginning. You can never be doing anything that seeks to sort of say “Well we’re only going to hit one group here and we’re not going to care about another.” That being said, I think that the death of a great franchise is when you try to please everybody… I think some things have to be really focused on specific groups or specific ideas and you can assume not everybody will love it.
And with even more shows coming, Kurtzman was pressed about if there could be too many. But he doesn’t seem concerned about oversaturation because of the emphasis on creating different kinds of shows:
I feel like the world needs Star Trek right now. The key is not to homogenize Star Trek. The way to do that is to make sure each show is carried by a different voice. I think about the crayon analogy. There’s a bunch of different colors in the box, but it’s all in the same box. That’s how I look at Star Trek, each show has to be a unique proposition, it can’t be like another show.
In a world where streaming content, and the way people consume streaming, is so ravenous, and given how hopeful and beautiful the messages of Star Trek are, I don’t think you can have too much. Because there’s something for everybody. And maybe you won’t want to watch all of them, maybe you’ll only want to watch one, but that’s okay because someone else will want to watch a different one.
He also revealed how far out he and his Secret Hideout production company partners are thinking as they work with CBS on developing the Star Trek Universe on TV:
Heather Kadin and Aaron Baiers, who work with me at Secret Hideout, we literally just got off a call before this with the network mapping out with us through 2027. When I say that, it’s not like it’s set in stone, it’s just “okay here’s a plan, here’s what we’re looking, here’s how the different shows are going to drop.” Consider the that it takes a year from start of production to airing, so you have to plan way way in advance to get these things done and you have to stay on top of the zeitgeist and make sure what you’re doing is relevant.
Years more of Discovery, with Paradise as an essential partner
All of this Star Trek started with the launch of Star Trek: Discovery on CBS All Access in 2017. The third season arrives on October 15th with the announcement of a fourth season expected soon. Kurtzman revealed to THR that he can see the show going on for years:
I’m going to say in all honesty there are years and years left on Discovery. I think that because, first of all, you know Star Trek, in general, has a long history of going seven seasons minimum, and we just jumped into the future, and in a way, it’s not that it’s a brand new show, but it’s a whole new set of variables with a whole new set of ideas and stories. I don’t think we limit ourselves to thinking, “Oh we’re capped at this place.” I’ll tell you that when the show starts to feel too stale to us, we’ll be rallying to stop it. But for now, it doesn’t feel like we are running into a shortage of stories.
During the second season, after Aaron Harberts and Gretchen J. Berg were let go as showrunners, Kurtzman stepped into the role and later he elevated Michelle Paradise to co-showrunner for the third season. He talked about working together with her and how she helps him balance his work on Discovery and the other Star Trek shows:
Michelle really became essential to my working process in season 2, I recognized very quickly that Michelle has a lot of things that I need from a partner… Michelle’s unbelievably organized, she’s very very thoughtful… I’m spending my days bouncing between many different shows. So I’ve learned to do this weird gearshift of like 100% focus on what’s in front of me for a window of time until everybody gets the answers they need and that thing can move forward and then I can shift to the next thing. Michelle makes that so easy for me, she’s very thoughtful about Star Trek and she’s great about running the [writers’] room. She has that amazing combo of real authority as a co-showrunner, but also the generosity of allowing people to own their ideas.
Season three of Discovery fits the COVID era
When asked if the pandemic has changed the kind of stories he wants to tell, Kurtzman talked about how the third season of Discovery already fit into some of the themes of these times:
We wrapped [Discovery’s third] season ten days before lockdown. What was crazy is that the whole season is about this cataclysmic event that changed the way people communicate and separated everybody, and it’s all about how to hold on to our hope when something like that happens. We had no idea this was coming, but in a funny way this season ended up being about what we’re going through right now.
Pandemic production needs military precision
For Star Trek to proliferate as planned, Kurtzman will have to return to production on the various live-action shows including Picard’s second season, the first season of Strange New Worlds, and (likely) the fourth season of Discovery. He talked about how Secret Hideout’s work on a non-Star Trek show is helping inform what they do next:
We just started shooting a new show [Clarice], and it’s been a real learning curve just in the three days that we’ve been doing it. The great news is that it’s very doable, but it’s a highly militarized operation, everything is slower. Between testing, and your set it doesn’t function like it used to function, there are groups that are vetted by the unions, pods within the groups themselves, there are rotations in and out of people so that if somebody gets sick in your pod, the pod just gets removed and another pod gets pushed in, but it doesn’t infect the whole group. It is a massive massive operation. And we haven’t even started that yet on the Star Trek shows.
Keep up with the Star Trek Universe at TrekMovie.com.