Bryan Fuller stepping down as STAR TREK: DISCOVERY showrunner; production shuffles, fan concerns

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Late last week the news broke that Bryan Fuller would no longer be the showrunner of the upcoming Star Trek: Discovery TV series. Two things to note about this news: 1) It wasn’t totally unexpected as Fuller has a massively full plate right now, as he’s also the showrunner on Starz’s American Gods adaptation and a reboot of Amazing Stories for NBC. 2) This news suuuuuucked!

Besides for Fuller being the man who gave us the masterful Hannibal and the fan-favourite Pushing Daisies, Fuller was also a legit old school Trekkie. He actually started his career writing for Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Those credentials, along with everything he had been saying about the upcoming series thus far, had left fans extremely giddy and satisfied that Star Trek‘s long awaited return to television was in great hands. This was especially true for hardcore fans of the iconic sci-fi franchise who had taken umbrage with how Star Wars-ian JJ Abrams’ new rebooted Star Trek movies had become.

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Variety reported that it was indeed Fuller’s commitments on American Gods and Amazing Stories that led to Fuller stepping back, as CBS Studios had some concern that the less than optimal progress on Discovery meant that it would be able to meet its May 2017 premiere date with production scheduled to start in the next few weeks. This show is a big deal for CBS, as it’s essentially the flagship of their new CBS All Access streaming service, so delaying it was not an option. According to sources close to the production, CBS is reportedly spending $6-7 million per episode, which puts it in the same range as the early seasons of HBO’s Game of Thrones. That’s how important this is to them.

Fuller had already penned the scripts for the first two episodes though, worked out the overall story arch and had already made the big production and casting choices – although the casting of the series’ highly publicized female lead has yet to be finalized. THR adds though that the rest of the seven main characters are cast, and include “an openly gay actor as one of the male leads (which Fuller confirmed), a female admiral, a male Klingon captain, a male admiral, a male adviser and a British male doctor.” Despite this “exit” Fuller still retains his executive producer credit though and will be involved in the overall story development, but will be handing over the day-to-day showrunning duties to fellow exec producers Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts.

It’s also being reported that screenwriter/producer Akiva Goldsman has been brought in to assist in a “top creative role”. Goldsman previously worked with Star Trek movie producer/writer Alex Kurtzman on the fantastic Fringe, but is more popularly known as the writer behind A Beautiful Mind (which won him an Oscar) and the upcoming The Dark Tower adaptation. Unfortunately, he’s also the writer who gave the world Batman & Robin, the Lost in Space reboot and A Winter’s Tale. Basically, his involvement could either be the greatest thing ever or the worst, with little chance of a middle ground.

In a released statement, CBS has indicated that the new creative team “are all committed” to sticking to the road map that Fuller had laid out, and as previously mentioned, he will still be consulted on the bigger picture when it comes to the show’s mythology. But that hasn’t stopped hardcore fans from taking the news quite badly, as sentiment on social media and Star Trek fan sites has mainly been negative. Many fear that the show Fuller had been pitching, which catered to their tastes, is not the one they’ll be getting now.

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Personally, I think this is quite alarmist. Yes, it would have been awesome if CBS had instead reached out to other fan favourite Star Trek vets like Star Trek: Enterprise‘s Manny Coto or even promoted Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan director/writer Nicholas Meyer who is already working on the show as a producer/writer, but that’s not what they did. But we have to remember that the show’s production is too far along now (and too costly) for any sweeping tonal/narrative changes to happen. Fuller’s fingerprints are, and will be, all over this one. Well, at least for now. Who knows what the future of Star Trek: Discovery will look like.

 

Last Updated: October 31, 2016

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