With May’s launch of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, Alex Kurtzman has now shepherded five Trek series to release. The executive producer in charge of the Star Trek Universe was the guest on today’s The Ready Room with host Wil Wheaton, where he talked extensively about developing the various current shows and offered hints about what is to come along with some thoughts on how fans are impacting the shows. We have curated highlights and also have the full video interview below.
Getting real with more Gorn
The Gorn have gotten a lot of attention on this season of Strange New Worlds, factoring into the tragic backstory of La’an Noonien-Singh and attacking the Enterprise in episode four. When asked by Wil Wheaton if we will get more Gorn in the first season, Kurtzman’s answer was a simple “yes.”
Wheaton noted that we actually haven’t seen a Gorn on the show just yet. Their ships showed up in “Memento Mori,” and there was a hint of a shadow of a Gorn in La’an’s memory. But the way Kurtzman talked about how the Gorn were developed for the show indicates we are going to get a better look at them. Strange New Worlds is going to use a combination of CGI effects and practical puppetry effects.
One of the first things [co-creator Akiva Goldsman] said when we started the show was the Gorn have to be the key bad guy of the season. What instantly got me excited was that in the age of Game of Thrones post-Jurassic Park, the technology is there now to make the Gorn really vivid and scary. Not just a guy in a rubber suit. The trick was, your first instinct was let’s do it as a full CG character. It’s funny, the purist in me always wants to go back to the kinds of movies that I was raised on which were these master filmmakers creating incredible puppetry.
Like I just watched Aliens again recently and it’s still pretty flawless. But part of why–and [James] Cameron understands this, and [Steven] Spielberg understands this – is that the way you light those things is everything. And the duration of those shots is everything. If you over-light and stick your eye… you have to tease and you have to build it. And obviously, that precedent was set in some ways by [Alfred] Hitchcock, but then Jaws took it to a whole other level. Just seeing this rubber fin in the water, but your brain is inventing what’s underneath the surface so when you see the shark, even though you might go, “Well, that doesn’t exactly look like a real shark,” you’ve utterly accepted it at that point.
And so the game you play with the Gorn, which is, okay we can’t actually afford to do full CG characters, because that’s a wildly expensive proposition on a television budget. So how do you you merge the two? How do you use puppetry and how do you use CG? And in what way? And how do you light it? And all of those things play into hopefully creating an experience where you can’t tell the difference between them, and it feels vivid and real and scary.
The originally appeared in TOS using a stuntman in a suit and then as a full CGI creation on Star Trek: Enterprise.
More TOS characters in SNW S2
Kurtzman later teased the arrival of familiar characters in season two of Strange New Worlds:
I guess the best tease that I could give you is that there are obviously characters who exist on TOS who are not yet on the show. So given that there’s a kind of five-year window before Kirk would have taken over the Enterprise–or seven, I have lost track–others may show up.
It’s already known that James T. Kirk will show up, and recently Goldsman indicated Roger Korby will appear. It’s likely Kurtzman is talking about other characters as well.
Wheaton also asked Kurtzman if we can “look forward to any crossovers” and Kurtzman again simply replied “yes” without elaborating. Last year, Kurtzman had said doing a crossover between some of the various Star Trek Universe series was “inevitable,” so it is happening.
While not giving any crossover details, the executive producer did talk about how he and the various Star Trek showrunners collaborate during monthly meetings:
It’s an essential part of the process in terms of the world build, because we want to make sure we’re not smashing into each other. We want to make sure we’re building on each other. So there are things in Picard that are set up to pay off in Discovery. There are things that we set up in Discovery that we can then go back and retrofit in seasons that haven’t been written yet of other shows… It’s very important that each showrunner has their own individual take on what they love about Star Trek, while of course, embracing the fundamentals. But I feel like you want everybody to be different. You don’t want the same thing in every show.
He also talked a bit about adjudicating between shows:
I don’t see myself as the ultimate arbiter of those things. Like if two shows want to use different iterations of the same ship, what does that mean canonically? And will that violate something? I then go to certain people and say, “Okay, I need your opinion on this What are the consequences? What are fans going to think? What does it potentially negate, which we don’t want to do?” It’s a whole conversation. It’s a bunch of people who will contribute to making that decision at the end of the day.
Listening to fans
As the discussion wrapped up, Wheaton asked if Kurtzman had anything he wanted to express to Trek fans, and he did:
I think that one of the things I love so much about Star Trek’s endurance is that it has endured and literally survived cancellation because of the fans. So it’s easy to pay lip service and to say, well, the fans, the fans, right?… Everyone is really being listened to. Having been in all the writers’ rooms, I can promise everybody that the articles that are written and the things that people are saying are always being discussed in those rooms. From the “I hated it” to the “I loved it,” they’re all being discussed.
He also indicated how he sees a future of handing the franchise off to another generation:
Because I can tell you–and I speak for every showrunner–we see ourselves as temporary carriers of this. We are not the owners of Star Trek. We did not create Star Trek. We are the people who are holding the precious egg and trying not to drop it until we can hand it on to the next person who will take it. I look at the way my son sees the world and one day someone from his generation is going to take Star Trek. And that will be appropriate, because I will have aged away from it and now it’s time for somebody else to do it. And my hope is that in my tenure here I can find the right people to put in place so that there’s a nice stable transition when the time comes. But none of us are under any illusions about it being ours. It actually belongs to two: Gene Roddenberry and the fans. And that’s just the truth.
Watch the full interview
The full interview gets into much more about the various shows and Star Trek in general.
Keep up with the Star Trek Universe at TrekMovie.