9/27 UPDATE: The WGA Board has approved the tentative new deal and lifted the strike as of midnight Tuesday, September 26. Writers can return to work pending full authorization of the new contract by the membership. The guild released details on the new contract, showing how the union was successful in getting agreement on their major issues, along with some compromise with the AMPTP. The actors union (SAG-AFTRA) is reported to be set to begin negotiations with the AMPTP within days.
Hollywood may soon be getting back to work, starting with the writers. After a week of negotiating, the Writers Guild of America and the group representing the studios, AMPTP (which includes Paramount), came to a tentative agreement, which was announced late Sunday night in a joint statement. This could put an end to a strike that began on May 2nd. The combination with the SAG-AFTRA strike has had a huge impact on the industry, including a devastating impact on local economies and workers. The news of the tentative deal is already having an effect, with media stocks (including Paramount Global) jumping in early trading up 3%.
In the case of Star Trek, the tentative deal with the WGA could result in a resumption of some work on the live-action projects. However, no actual production can commence until the SAG-AFTRA strike is resolved and the actors return to work. The impact of an end to the WGA strike will vary, based on the project.
A tentative deal
The writers went on strike over a number of issues with a focus on streaming residuals, staff minimums for writers’ rooms, and the impact of AI. Details on the new three-year deal have not been made public yet, but in a letter to members, the WGA Negotiating Committee stated, “We can say, with great pride, that this deal is exceptional—with meaningful gains and protections for writers in every sector of the membership.” Once the final deal is drafted it will be presented to the WGA board, currently scheduled to happen on Tuesday. If approved by the board, the deal will be made available to the membership for a ratification vote. The Board may also vote to lift the strike pending the authorization vote, allowing writers to get back to work even before the deal is finally ratified. As of now, the WGA has suspended all picketing, however, members are still encouraged to join in on SAG-AFTRA picket lines.
Some work for Star Trek would restart
With the actors still on strike, filming production (along with casting and other work involving the actors) cannot commence. The AMPTP and SAG-AFTRA have not been at the negotiating table since June but are expected to return once the WGA deal is finalized. Speaking to TrekMovie during the “United We Trek” rally at Paramount Pictures in Hollywood on Star Trek Day (September 8), Picard actress (and SAG-AFTRA Negotiating Committee member) Michelle Hurd stated:
They have to get to an agreement with WGA. And I have faith and I’ve had hope that when they come to that agreement, they’re gonna come to right to next table with us and they’ll make an agreement. And as long as everybody’s going to play nice and play fair, this strike can end.
While those negotiations continue, and if the WGA board lifts the strike, writers will be expected to return to contracted work just as the actors continued to work when the WGA went on strike before the SAG-AFTRA contract ended in late June. Because many writers do double duty as producers and showrunners, a return to work for WGA members will mean more than just a return to scriptwriting. Let’s break things down on how the lifting of the WGA strike will impact each production.
Strange New Worlds
A third season of Strange New Worlds was mostly written and about to go into production when the WGA strike began in May. A return to work would allow the writers room to finish scripts for the 10-episode season. The strike lifting will also allow key pre-production work to restart. In his recent TrekMovie interview, producing director Chris Fisher said most pre-production had been completed, including AR Wall visual effects for most of the 10 episodes, but nothing could resume until co-showrunners Akiva Goldsman and Henry Alonso Myers were no longer on strike to supervise and approve the work. In his August interview, Fisher told TrekMovie, “Once the strike is over, fingers crossed, I don’t think it’s going to be long ’till we’re back up and running.” This means filming in Toronto could start very soon after a deal with SAG-AFTRA is struck. With production starting in the fall instead of the spring, some adjustments would likely have to be made, especially with regard to any location shooting due to filming running through the winter in Canada. And even though actors had already been cast for the first episodes, some schedules may have been changed that could necessitate some recasting of guest stars.
Production on the fifth season of Star Trek: Discovery was completed in late 2022, and reshoots were completed earlier this year to change the season finale into a series final after Paramount decided to make it the final season. All indications are that work is complete, but with the strike lifted, co-showrunners Michelle Paradise and Alex Kurtzman can oversee any remaining post-production. Paramount has yet to set a release date for season 5 beyond “early 2024.” They will certainly not want to release the show until after the SAG-AFTRA strike ends so that the stars can participate in publicity for the final season.
Section 31 movie
Another project that was put on hold due to the strikes was the Section 31 streaming movie event starring Michelle Yeoh. While it appears there is a finished script, some of the same pre-production work can also recommence for this project. Initially, it was expected to go into production this fall, and if the SAG-AFTRA strike ends, that can still happen. Production would be done on the former Star Trek: Discovery stages in Toronto. The Discovery team shares both personnel and assets with the Strange New Worlds team, including the important AR Wall. Chris Fisher told TrekMovie he doesn’t see any issues with both working in parallel, saying, “I don’t see why if the strike ends if they say ‘go,’ I don’t see why everything Star Trek can’t start up and start to get going.” One unknown for the Section 31 project is how much casting work was done ahead of the start of the SAG-AFTRA strike in mid-July. No auditions or negotiations can be done during the strike so if many key roles are required to be cast, this process could delay the project.
The fourth live-action project that can recommence work would be the planned Star Trek: Starfleet Academy series. When the strike began, the writers’ room was still at work crafting scripts for the first season, and that work would be able to resume. With co-showrunners Alex Kurtzman and Noga Landau no longer on strike, other pre-production work could also commence, but casting would have to wait until after the SAG-AFTRA strike wraps up. Originally this show was planned to begin production in early 2024, but it is unclear how much an almost five-month WGA strike has set the team back.
The animated Star Trek shows fall under the TAG (The Animation Guild) contract, so writing has continued for the fifth season of Star Trek: Lower Decks. In his TrekMovie interview earlier this month, supervising director Barry Kelly said, “We are already getting scripts from season 5, and they are hilarious.” Even though voice work is allowed under the TAG contract, recording for season 5 isn’t expected to start until after the SAG-AFTRA strike wraps up.
Even though Star Trek: Prodigy was removed from Paramount+, work on the second season has continued. Like Lower Decks, Prodigy falls under the TAG contract, but writing and voice work on the second season had already been completed before the double strikes. In an August TrekMovie interview, co-executive producer Aaron Waltke said, “I believe we’re still continuing on track to produce all 20 episodes by the end of the year.” The main issue now with Prodigy is finding the show a new streaming home for seasons 1 and 2. On Star Trek Day, at the United We Trek event, show creators Dan and Kevin Hageman told TrekMovie they continue to be very optimistic that the show will find a new home, and active talks are still underway.
One of the stipulations of the writers’ strike was that WGA members were not even allowed to have meetings about developing new work. This means no pitches or development for any additional Star Trek series were allowed, but with the strike lifted, that work could start again. In theory, this could allow for discussions regarding a follow-up to Star Trek: Picard, such as showrunner Terry Matalas’ hope of a “Star Trek: Legacy” series. In August, Paramount Global’s CEO and CFO talked about how even though the company was pulling back on content spending for streaming, they were moving to a strategy focused on “super-serving” key audiences and franchises, informed by deep analysis of user data.
Star Trek is certainly one of the key franchises for Paramount+, and the data analysis could lead the company to reassess plans for the franchise. It’s possible this could impact some of the planned projects and/or bring other projects into active development. However, this reassessment could be more long-term, so projects that are already well underway will likely continue on as the company is likely interested in getting Star Trek content produced for 2024 and 2025.
The end of the WGA strike could also allow for development and writing work to continue on the much-delayed Star Trek 4 project at Paramount Pictures, along with the development of any other Star Trek film projects. Paramount Pictures CEO Brian Robbins (who took over in 2021) has stated that getting Star Trek back on the big screen is a priority for the studio; however, they (and J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot production company) have not been able to get any project beyond the development stage since 2016’s Star Trek Beyond.
Focus on the actors
The next big step will be a deal with SAG-AFTRA. The new deal with the WGA (along with a previous June deal with the DGA) are helpful, but the actors have some unique issues that have proven to be sticking points with the studios. At the United We Trek event earlier this month, Michelle Hurd told TrekMovie:
We’re fighting for a living wage. We’re fighting for the right to do this beautiful thing, this art form of storytelling, and being compensated. And Lord knows there’s enough of the pie for us all to be able to make a living.
Hurd also acknowledged that the strikes have had a big impact across the board on those who work in the industry:
A lot of people everywhere are hurting, it’s not just L.A., it’s New York, it’s across any place that has SAG-AFTRA actors, they’re hurting right now. And again, the strike can end as soon as the AMPTP decides to come to the table. That’s when it ends.
One other impact will be on New York Comic-Con. Paramount recently announced plans for a Star Trek Universe panel on October 14 without any celebrities. However, this deal would allow for writer/producers (such as Alex Kurtzman) to attend the panel to make the promised “reveals and surprises.” Of course, if a deal with SAG-AFTRA arrives in the next couple of weeks, actors could also end up on that panel.
TrekMovie will continue to monitor events and provide updates on how all the Hollywood deals can impact Star Trek.