Alex Kurtzman Explains Why ‘Star Trek: Starfleet Academy’ Is Set In The ‘Discovery’ Era

Star Trek: Discovery may be over but the 32nd century setting it established will live on in the new Starfleet Academy series, set to start filming this summer. And now the man in charge of Star Trek TV is explaining why.

The Post-Burn era will speak to today’s kids

It has already been revealed that the new YA-focused Academy series shared the Discovery era, but in a new interview with the LA Times, Alex Kurtzman explained there is a specific, and even personal, reason:

As the father of a 17-year-old boy, I see what my son is feeling as he looks at the world and to his future. I see the uncertainty; I see all the things we took for granted as given are not certainties for him. I see him recognizing he’s inheriting an enormous mess to clean up and it’s going to be on his generation to figure out how to do that, and that’s a lot to ask of a kid. My thinking was, if we set “Starfleet Academy” in the halcyon days of the Federation where everything was fine, it’s not going to speak to what kids are going through right now.

It’ll be a nice fantasy, but it’s not really going to be authentic. What’ll be authentic is to set it in the timeline where this is the first class back after over 100 years, and they are coming into a world that is only beginning to recover from a cataclysm — which was the Burn, as established on “Star Trek: Discovery,” where the Federation was greatly diminished. So they’re the first who’ll inherit, who’ll re-inherit, the task of exploration as a primary goal, because there just wasn’t room for that during the Burn — everybody was playing defense. It’s an incredibly optimistic show, an incredibly fun show; it’s a very funny show, and it’s a very emotional show. I think these kids, in different ways, are going to represent what a lot of kids are feeling now.

In case you missed it, The Burn was an era that spanned the 31st and 32nd centuries when almost all the dilithium in the galaxy had become inert, severely limiting warp travel. As seen in the third season of Discovery, The Burn resulted in the United Federation of Planets and Starfleet becoming a shell of its former self until the crew of the USS Discovery arrived and helped end the crisis, beginning a new era for the Federation and Starfleet.

Criminal gangs like the Emerald Chain rose to power during The Burn era

Kurtzman also talked about how they are approaching the physical setting for the series. After being based at Starfleet HQ in space, the Academy is returning to its roots on Earth in San Francisco. Kurtzman told the LA Times about how the series itself will be set on Earth and in space:

I’m going to say, without giving anything away, [it is] both [Earth-based and space-based]. Right now we’re in the middle of answering the question what does San Francisco, where the academy is, look like in the 32nd century? Our primary set is the biggest we’ve ever built.

The “Mega Stage” at Pinewood Studios Toronto, future home of Starfleet Academy

The executive producer and co-showrunner of Academy also talked about the recent news that Oscar-winning actress Holly Hunter has joined the cast:

And I’m very, very, very excited that Holly Hunter is the lead of the show. Honestly, when we were working on the scripts, we wrote it for Holly thinking she’d never do it. And we sent them to her, and to our absolute delight and shock she loved them and signed on right away.

Holly Hunter plays the “captain and chancellor” of Starfleet Academy

More Star Trek developments teased

Kurtzman also fielded a question about what is in development for Star Trek past the Academy series and Section 31 movie. He was vague, but again hinted surprises are coming:

There’s always notions and there are a couple of surprises coming up, but I really try to live in the shows that are in front of me in the moment because they’re so all-consuming. I’m directing the first two episodes of “Starfleet Academy,” so right now my brain is just wholly inside that world. But you can tell “Star Trek” stories forever; there’s always more. There’s something in the DNA of its construction that allows you to keep opening different doors. Some of that is science fiction, some of it has to do with the combination of science fiction and the organic embracing of all these other genres that lets you explore new territories. I don’t think it’s ever going to end. I think it’s going to go on for a long, long time. The real question for “Star Trek” is how do you keep innovating, how do you deliver both what people expect and something totally fresh at the same time. Because I think that is actually what people want from “Star Trek.” They want what’s familiar delivered in a way that doesn’t feel familiar.

Alex Kurtzman (R) with the Star Trek: Discovery cast and crew at the Star Trek Stage at Pinewood Studios Toronto (Michael Gibson)

The Starfleet Academy series is set to start filming in late summer and may not arrive on Paramount+ until 2026.

Keep up with news about the Star Trek Universe at

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Wow, I see that Kurtzman said the Holly Hunter is “the” lead of the new show. I think that potentially bodes well for SFA.

It’s certainly increased my interest. I wasn’t interested before.

I wonder if a Star Trek Legacy streaming movie is one of the “surprises”? That would be a way to meet fan demand without committing to a series.






Probably not…. 😏

Why be this person? Why reply at all? Are you a grown adult?

Don’t be that guy Scotty.

I mean it would make the most sense. Especially since the Variety article cited he was thinking of doing a Picard movie which sounds like either Legacy or a TNG streaming movie.

How fares the white whale, Captain Ahab?

Why are you so obsessed with me or care about my opinions so much? Can you just leave me alone? I don’t like you or respect you.

And that’s what the article said. Right? 🙄

You are unbelievably rude. Shame on you.

“Talk not to me of blasphemy, man; I’d strike the sun if it insulted me”-Captain Ahab

What is wrong with you?

I’m dying.

He ŕead Moby dick cliffnotes and is showing off.

No I have the audio book..It helps me sleep..

I’d definitely be down for that. Some form of that feels like an inevitability if the streaming movie model ends up working out.

I sure hope so. It could be a way to gauge interest.

All for a Legacy movie and hopefully leads into a show.


I’m getting excited. :)

I agree with you… Something must be wrong with me!

Me too because I’m a father and I want my daughter to have a better world than the one I had to deal with.

Real talk

I’m not especially excited about this show, but I have to say that for a change, I like Kurtzman’s comments here. They make sense to me, especially the comments about the world his son is inheriting. I’ll certainly give this show a chance.

I was thinking the same thing. It makes sense — but then, he has a facility for telling fans what they want to hear. As always, everything will be in the execution.

Should I withhold my usual condemnation (condom-nation?) for the foreseeable?

I’m in such good mood right now today that it would take Daniel Craig coming back as Bond to sour the experience.

Is your mood in any way related to a certain court case verdict?

Yes To the nth power! But I’ll hold off on dancing in the streets till some maximal sentencing happens.

I’m going to hold off on any celebrating until mid-November.

Me too (fingers crossed).

Per usual we agree but yes I loved his comments as well!

I feel the same way. Kurtzmann’s words make sense. That, and Holly Hunter have given me a reason to check this show out at the least.

Let’s be honest about this… It’s set in the Discovery era because they can reuse the sets, locations, and visuals they’ve already developed and save costs instead of having to restart from square one.

Picard was a California production and they’re not going to do that because of the expenses. They probably keep a good portion of the Canadian Discovery/SNW production crew employed, and beyond Holly Hunter (which I’ll be amazed if she’s in every episode and I’ll bet dollars to donuts that she’s more of a side character) the cast is probably (cheaper) younger talent that’ll keep costs under control.

Agree 100%. At the end of the day, it’s all about keeping costs as low as possible. I just hope they don’t scrimp on the writer’s room.

Yeah, that’s gotta be a big part of it.

Setting it in the 25th century without Buck Rogers would be boring.

But they could have just as easily set it in the era of SNW/TOS and reused a lot of material from that too.

Honestly, his reasoning for setting the show in the 33rd century is sound. Just hope the show will be good because… Discovery really wasn’t.

I guess it was good if you’re into those Tomb Raider/Indiana Jones stories in mystery box format that are tied to canon by meaningless name-dropping. Discovery feels as irrelevant to the core story of Star Trek as the reboots, not because they aren’t entertaining, but because they feel so derivative and hollow. The 33rd century has never appealed to me, and a series or movie about Starfleet Academy has been on and off since the days of Star Trek VI. I wish I would, but I couldn’t care less about either of those things.

Programmable matter is not relatable, that’s for sure. I don’t know how you can “teach” anything where the basics of 3200 are so far beyond what the audience 2025 will experience!

I generally liked Discovery, although I never warmed to any of its main characters. I loved the storytelling/plotting, production, and action. The characters, not so much, my favorites being Empress Geourgou, Tyler, Jett Reno, and Dr. Kovich, and especially Pike and Spock.

Michael (why didn’t they just name her Michelle) Burnham is played by a wonderful actress, but, I’m sorry, her getting command of Discovery after all the insubordination just doesn’t ring true. That, and her willingness to endanger her ship to save her friends. Saru was a better captain.

And I really disliked Adira and Grey.

I agree with your list of characters, but surprised you didn’t include Saru. I honestly thought he was the best main character and would be happy to see him again. He was a better captain, but primarily because he felt more like an actual Starfleet officer. Burnham spouted off the importance of Starfleet and the Federation regularly, but she didn’t feel like an officer most of the time. Just felt like it always had to be about her – and not just because the series was setup that way.

He’s literally describing the premise of Prodigy. Is he aware of that? Probably not.

True, great point. PRO is pretty much an Academy story, and a ‘YA’ one as well. And well done it is. That really didn’t dawn upon me until you put it that way.

It dawned on me when they announced Holly Hunter as their “version” of Janeway. And it would make sense. Prodigy (and to a lesser degree LD) are the proof of concept. I wouldn’t be surprised if they lean heavily into themes that made the show popular (alien outcasts joining Starfleet and going on an adventure). It’s pretty obvious that Prodigy wasn’t axed because it wasnt working as a show.

But Prodigy sucked when it became Star Trek: Voyager Part Deux.

Not really. The first season was set outside the Federation. The characters may enter the Academy in season 2 but it’s during the “halcyon days”, as Kurtzman calls it.

That said, it will be interesting to see how the 2 shows will work with the premise. My guess is that Academy will actually focus on characters at the Academy, i.e. in a campus setting. The Prodigy kids will probably spend more time zipping around the galaxy on Voyager-A.

Yeah I think season 2 of Prodigy will be set solely aboard Voyager and the kids learn about Starfleet that way.

SFA sounds like it will be then mostly at the Academy with probably some ship adventures here and there. I see it as something closer to DS9 where they mostly stay on the station but uses the Defiant on certain occasions.

I disagree with his logic – as it relates specifically to Star Trek as a franchise and worldview.
His reasoning is fine for a generic sci-fi show – heck – even for Star Wars.

But – he clearly knows neither his history nor his Star Trek and sadly reflects a lack of vision.

Think back to the era of TOS. Racial strife, political and social unrest, proxy / direct war. Sound familiar? TOS cast a vision of hope, promise, unity that spoke beyond the realities of the current and said “we can be better”. THAT’S the message for an uncertain, disjointed and divided time. The message to give to the next generation.

That’s the promise of Star Trek; a promise that sadly the current production leadership is content to abjure themselves.

Exactly my thoughts. Ahh yes, make a show about reflecting today’s mess. That’s what people want. Not escapism or optimism, but a mud puddle they can see their reflection in.

These writers are incapable of writing allegorical science fiction. We will get more of the same.

Times and attitudes change and, to stay relevant, you have to adjust to those changes. That has what Trek has had to do. Ratings would have been shocking if it stayed to the usual formula of the original shows..

You don’t have to stick with the original formula. The format can evolve, but you can’t change the DNA or the things that made the show special, and still call it Star Trek. Alex’s Star Trek has nothing of value to offer except mindless dialogue, incoherent stories, and no verisimilitude. Just my opinion though…..

SNW, LDS, PRO are all set during times when the Federation is a vision of hope compared to modern times.

It’s okay if one of the shows rejects that and is set in a time of unrest.

Think back to the era of TOS. Racial strife, political and social unrest, proxy / direct war. Sound familiar? TOS cast a vision of hope, promise, unity that spoke beyond the realities of the current and said “we can be better”. THAT’S the message for an uncertain, disjointed and divided time. The message to give to the next generation.”

The difference, I think, is that we have found out over the course of the last twenty years that while we can be better, a significant percentage of us have seen the attempts to be better and said “eh, that’s not for me.”

each season of Disc ends on an optimistic note, dangers, threats to the Fed and starfleet averted and looking to further adventures.
just like OS and the rest of ST on tv, film

I like his reasoning for setting it in the 32nd century, but please don’t write character dialogue that sounds like the 21st! Make this serious and it might be good.

Agree with this. I can’t stand contemporary slang used in futuristic settings. It takes you out of the moment immediately, imo.

Still going to say no on this.

I’d love to see Star Trek do a ‘West Wing’ style drama show, that would be great. Maybe set just after Enterprise at the very beginnings of a United Earth’s future.

I want a horror show. Horror is universal so it should get more viewers and fans.

Absolutely yes to this


As for my thoughts on Kurtzman’s logic to set Starfleet Academy in the 32nd century, I appreciate his reasoning behind that decision. The 32nd century has barely been explored and offers up the possibilities of telling new stories that appeal to a new audience.

I think Star Trek needs to keep engaging a new generation. The world that our younger generations are growing up in is not the world we necessarily recognise and if Star Trek (if any of these legacy franchises) wants to remain relevant, remain influential and inspirational, then it will need to speak to a new generation in a way we may never recognise as Star Trek because the social, political, geographical, cultural problems that affect a generation who didn’t grow up during the 90s or 00s.

While it might only be important for Star Wars, Marvel, Doctor Who to entertain a younger generation, whatever Star Trek is and does moving forward, it has to speak to a younger audience. It HAS to influence them in ways that make them feel listened to, and to inspire them to be the scientists, leaders, engineers and thinkers of tomorrow. Thats crucial.

For Academy, I would hope that Star Trek’s production staff go to that generation Z and get their feedback on how they want to see their futures, what worries them about today’s world, truly engage with the generation Star Trek should be speaking to. I’d like to see a grounded, less mythical approach to the technology too. Get rid of the floating nacelles and the magic tech, it’s for Star Trek to look at theoretical scientific progress to inform what the technology might be in the future and how it might be used.

One of the most important things Roddenberry did was he spoke to NASA and scientists to inform the look, feel and technology of Star Trek, so my hope is that the creative minds behind Academy, really do legitimise the 32nd century and ground it in real scientific theories and developments.

It at least sounds promising. I’m really hoping this show goes more deeper with a little more depth without going the tiring melodrama Discovery relied on.

I can certainly understand why people think that will be the case but Discovery is really the only one that does it so much out of the other shows and maybe this will go a different direction too.

Fingers crossed.

My question is what’s the nature of the conflict within the show? I just hope it doesn’t do Discovery‘s season-long “everything is riding on these people to save the day” storytelling. But also, the main issue that’s come up with the Starfleet Academy idea since it has been floated over the last 4 decades, what compelling stories are you gonna tell with cadets in the main setting of Starfleet Academy?

If it’s set mainly at Starfleet Academy, then what kind of stories can you tell? Is it going to basically be Star Trek: Top Gun, where we’re going to get episodes where it’s 45 minutes of characters worrying about about whether they will pass a test? Teen relationship dramas and love triangles at the Academy? God forbid, the umpteenth internal conspiracy at Starfleet Command that this team of cadets will be embroiled in?

If you send these cadets out on missions, putting them in the line of fire for big events, then you basically get close to having a live-action version of Lower Decks except as a drama, and it’s not exactly a Starfleet Academy show anymore either.

Excellent questions, the same ones I asked myself when the academy concept was first mentioned in the 80’s. I always thought it a dull idea, full of melodrama.

All great questions and none I can remotely answer lol. They have basically hinted it will be some stuff like romance and how well someone fits in, etc, which is what you get in any school setting; so it’s just how they will do it.

But the bigger stuff like how ‘big’ will the story be every season and will there be missions and all of that is a huge question mark. They did say they will face an enemy of some kind (probably will be the 32nd century Borg. Yeah, I’m joking, for now…) so there will probably be a serialized story I’m guessing. But I agree I would actually like smaller stories like we get on Lower Decks and even Prodigy where it’s just students doing the day to day stuff mostly and actually focus on what it’s like to be a future Starfleet officer. Have a story arc there but not be so GRAND like it is with Discovery every season. That show just felt too plot driven and why hardly anyone can remember who the bridge crew was after 5 seasons. Just have more regular slice of life stories.

Imagine Grays Anatomy where the kids are the new batch of interns

I hate to say it, but sadly DSC was the only Trek I ever dropped while it was running. I gave it two seasons (barely). But that said, I plan to give Academy the same treatment. And if I feel about it like I did DSC, I’ll stop watching with no hesitation. This is what Nu-Trek has given me, the wherewithal to walk away when it’s terrible. All respect to DSC fans, of course.

And you know I respect that Danpaine. Believe me I did think of stop watching Discovery (or at the very least just wait for it to end and binge it later) after how awful season 4 was but I have zero will power lol.

But I am staying positive about SFA because as you probably heard me say a million times now, I do like the fact it is different and I like the Earth setting. But I also admit mostly because it takes place in the 32nd century. Without that, I probably would find the premise way less interesting. But it’s the kind of thing Kurtzman said in the article why it can have great potential IMO.

Alex Kurtzman’s Son is inheriting millions of dollars. He left that part out.

LOL yeah I was thinking the same. He can probably just take 10% of what Kurtzman is worth today and not have a care in the world for the rest of his life.

they never ask the questions i want to ask… mainly i want to know if we’re gonna see cronenberg again because i love him in front of or behind the camera

I hope so. Especially now we know who he is.

He needs to direct a future streaming movie for Trek. Maybe something related to Kovich.

When will this team of Trek creatives figure out the reason we all watch this franchise is because we want to live in it and not the world we currently do? They try so dang hard to make the future stink like some feel the present stinks that it sucks the fun out of all of it.

The present does stink.

which is why Trek *could* be so valuable. Go back and watch an episode like “First Contact” and see if that doesn’t have something to teach or hold the mirror up to ourselves and also is just good television.

What messages is new Trek (Disco specifically) trying to convey beyond ticking progressive check marks just to pander and not get canceled?

(note: I have no problem with any of the casting or characterization choices, but the staff don’t DO anything with those choices other than have them exist, they don’t tap you on the head and say – ‘hey, Florida…we’ve got something to say to you’)

Think back to Sisko and Cassidy’s conversation in “Bada-Bing, Bada-Bang”:

SISKO: Look, this is not about Vic Fontaine.

KASIDY: Then what is your problem?

SISKO: You want to know? You really want to know what my problem is? I’ll tell you. Las Vegas nineteen sixty two, that’s my problem. In nineteen sixty two, black people weren’t very welcome there. Oh, sure they could be performers or janitors, but customers? Never.

KASIDY: Maybe that’s the way it was in the real Vegas, but that is not the way it is at Vic’s. I have never felt uncomfortable there and neither has Jake.

SISKO: But don’t you see, that’s the lie. In nineteen sixty two, the Civil Rights movement was still in its infancy. It wasn’t an easy time for our people and I’m not going to pretend that it was.

KASIDY: Baby, I know that Vic’s isn’t a totally accurate representation of the way things were, but it isn’t meant to be. It shows us the way things could have been. The way they should’ve been.

SISKO: We cannot ignore the truth about the past.

KASIDY: Going to Vic’s isn’t going to make us forget who we are or where we came from. What it does is it reminds us that we’re no longer bound by any limitations, except the ones we impose on ourselves.

Where in the heck has writing like that been in new Trek?

These current writers are not the same caliber — it’s like comparing a magnum round with a BB pellet.

Very true.

and sisko ends up singing with vic by the end

Considering we live in a failing empire run by crooks; escapism to a better world reduces the stress.

Wonder if we’ll actually get a real-world version of that Klingon dictum about only a fool fights in a burning house (of representatives)?


That’s not why I watch Star Trek.

Personally I watch Star Trek for KLINGON FOOD FIGHTS!

One or both?

People only want it set in the 25th century because they want legacy characters to show up, so it’s brave of them to set it in the Discovery era. Now the writing just needs to be good because Disco most certainly was not.

Disco is a legacy show itself now that its finished. Guaranteed you’ll have Burnham, Saru etc. popping up in surprise cameos throughout Academy’s run, just to appease that built-in audience Disco has carved for itself now.

But I doubt they’ll create a new series out of the Discovery’s characters as they’re entertaining with Legacy. Not that I don’t like the DISC character’s. I do. No problem revisiting characters in a guess spot. Creating a new series out of those old characters in a new series is a bankrupt idea. Including Picard and Legacy. Let’s move forward!

No, not really. I don’t represent everyone, but I’m pretty sure that I’m not alone when I say that I’m not that interested in another round of legacy characters on ANY show. SNW is screwing things up by bringing in legacy characters. And, honestly, if it wasn’t for season 3 of PIC, most people would say that the series was a complete waste and ruined the legacy of Jean Luc Picard (I feel like it already left Q in a worse place, and didn’t do Wesley Crusher much favors).

The only reason I don’t want the series set in the 32nd century is because so far it’s been boring – especially in terms of design and aesthetic. Every shot of Starfleet headquarters and everything surrounding it never leave me wanting to see more of its design or the ships around it. In fact, I have a feeling the show runners understand that, and that’s why they stuck with Discovery as the only starship we saw on the inside other than Book’s ship and the shuttles. And those shuttles… Geez, I miss the days of the runabouts…

I’m all for more Admiral Vance, but he feels like he comes from a different time period in comparison to everyone else. I could care less if I saw more Kovich (but I bet he has a cameo or two), and I don’t think Tilly will be enough to carry it. There’s a slight possibility of Saru popping up, but I bet the rest of the Discovery cast won’t be seen again.

And if it starts out as “The Breakfast Club” in space (which I have a feeling it will be), then no thanks!

For me, Season 5 of Discovery did a tremendous amount of the world building I needed to feel more confident and excited by the SA setting. I’m looking forward to spending way more time here!

I might be missing something here, but wasn’t the exploration of the Breen the only real world building that happened in season 5? Maybe the “synth” at the very beginning, but even that just connects back to Picard. There were a few new locations, but I doubt that will play into Starfleet Academy (although I have a feeling we will head back to Trill AGAIN for some random reason). There were no new significant characters that I see playing into SA, and very little was added to canon other than how the Progenitor tech was hidden and eventually how it worked. Again, things that won’t effect SA at all.

I’m pretty excited to see what they do with this series. Part of that is that I actually do like Discovery, am interested in the 32nd Century setting they set up, but feel like the serialized stories it told didn’t allow them to explore that setting as thoroughly as they could have. But even just the “Starfleet Academy” part has a lot of potential to explore the ideas of the Star Trek universe in unique and interesting ways. I’m really hoping we see something from the show soon, especially since they’ve started casting announcements.

I have little to no interest in this show and even less faith in its overall quality. I do have to admit though, while Amazing Spiderman 2 is terrible movie it did a spectacular job of showing teenage drama and romance,

I never felt less enthusiasm for an upcoming Star Trek series then Academy .. zero interest for me, nada, zip ..

Especially when you consider that by next year, we’ll be left with SNW and Starfleet Academy and that’s it. Right now, I have LDS to look forward to and that’s about it.

This is going to be Gotham high in space.

Talk about boldly cringing like no one has cringed before…

I am hoping not, but am prepared to drop this show like a stone if you’re right.

In that case, hoping for A Joker or Jokers Daughter crossover!

If SONY ends up with PARAMOUNT the shows will end up elsewhere when they shut down P+…SONY has outright said – WE WANT IPs! They’ll keep Star Trek, Mission Impossible, Criminal Minds, NCISs…

The most recent update I’ve read on a potential sale is that the special council set up by Paramount to assess the offers prefers the Skydance option.

If it is set in the 32nd Century, than I hope the cadets are not issued personal transporters. It would be nice to see them WALKING to class!

Maybe it will work like a real college campus, and only the kids with more pull (in place of money) will have the personal transporters (in place of cars/personal scooters). So you’ll have those that HAVE to walk because they don’t have another option, and then the snarky kids will just pop in and annoy them every time!

bad idea.