Bryan Fuller talks about the new STAR TREK TV series; LGBT characters, season length and more

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Next year, we will finally be boldly going into the final frontier once again! The Star Trek franchise has been lighting up movie theatres for the last few years with JJ Abrams’ two rebooted movies, but there’s been no hint of the franchise gracing our TV screens since the moderately received Enterprise ended back in 2005. But as was revealed last yearStar Trek will be returning to its TV roots in 2017 with Bryan Fuller (Hannibal, Pushing Daisies, American Gods) tapped as showrunner for a new show on CBS, alongside exec producer Alex Kurtzman (who penned the Abrams movies).

A lifelong Trekkie himself who actually worked on Star Trek Voyager and Deep Space Nine, Fuller chatted to Collider about the experience of now shepherding this iconic franchise back to where it first began.

It’s wonderful. It’s surreal. I didn’t want to be a writer. I wanted to be a Star Trek writer, so to be able to craft a new iteration of the show with new characters and a whole new adventure and whole new way of telling stories that you haven’t been able to tell on Star Trek is honorable and it’s a dream come true. It’s hard to articulate that.

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You probably noticed the numerous uses of “new” in that statement. That may have you assuming this this series will be linked to the new rebooted movie franchise, but recent rumblings actually suggest that the series will actually be set in the original continuity, possibly pre-The Next Generation. Fuller wasn’t able to confirm or deny any of those story particulars though, but did say when we can expect to learn more.

I imagine around Comic-Con. It’s interesting because normally I love talking about everything, and I’m sort of relieved I’ve been muzzled by CBS on it because I do less interviews, so I can spend more time writing, but I love talking about Star Trek and I love being involved in it, so I’ll be very excited to share when the muzzle comes off of me.

According to Fuller the production is already pretty far along when it comes to set building, and while they haven’t tapped episode directors yet, they’ve already started chatting to actors.

We haven’t booked directors yet. We booked Vincenzo Natali (Cube, Splice), who will be our producing director, but he’s not directing the first episode.

I’ve met with a few actors, and it’s an interesting process. There’s a few people that we like and we want to carry on what Star Trek does best, which is being progressive. So it’s fascinating to look at all of these roles through a colorblind prism and a gender-blind prism, so that’s exciting.

That last aspect is of the most interest here. Despite Star Trek existing in a vast universe filled with hundreds of species and cultures, historically the franchise has never really had (m)any LGBT characters This was unfortunately just a sign of the times as TV networks often frowned upon such content back in the day. So would this new show being taking a more modern, all-inclusive approach to casting?

Absolutely. I think the progressive audience that loves Star Trek will be happy that we’re continuing that tradition.

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One thing that hasn’t traditionally happened with Star Trek is the franchise going for a hardcore, ultra gritty R-rated approach. With the show actually airing on CBS Access, the network’s online streaming service, it doesn’t need to adhere to some of the restrictions other Star Trek shows have faced in the past. But that being said, don’t expect this new series to suddenly be filled with boobs and F-bombs though.

Because we’re CBS All Access, we’re not subject to network broadcast standards and practices. It will likely affect us more in terms of what we can do graphically, but Star Trek’s not necessarily a universe where I want to hear a lot of profanity, either.

One thing it will affect though is the logistics of each episode as Fuller reveals that they’ve been given flexible runtimes, instead of the 44-minute TV standard.

I think it’s anywhere from—they gave us parameters, and I can’t remember exactly where it was. It was sort of, “No more than this, no less than that.”

As to how many of these variable length episodes there will be though, Fuller reveals that the first season will be comprised of 13 episodes and that they’re already quite far along in the development.

We’ve got the arc of the first season entirely written, or arced out, and we’ve got the first six episodes entirely broken.

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What’s really intriguing though, is that Fully also reveals that this season is “going to be one story over thirteen episodes”. Star Trek has mostly always adopted an episodic format where there is an overall arching plot that gets touched on every once in a while, but generally the end of each episode sees things reverted back tothe status quo, so to speak. It’s a form of sci-fi TV series storytelling that has really fallen out of favour in the last few years (blame Battlestar Galactica’s success), and it will be interesting to see Star Trek shirk it like this. But as Fuller explains, this is a new era and things need to change.

There are 762 episodes of Star Trek television, so over six episodes we have to tell stories differently than they’ve been told for fifty years.

And what does CBS, not exactly known for being the most progessive of US TV networks, think of this new spin on such an iconic series?

When I first sat down with them, it was “Do you have a plan of what you want to do?” And they said, “No,” and I said, “I have a plan,” and we started talking. And it was wonderful to be working with Alex Kurtzman, who I have a tremendous amount of respect for, and who’s such an elegant storyteller and crafting a story with him that ties in so many elements of Star Trek that I think people will be really excited about because you can look at the original series and pick out episodes we’re using the DNA of and using the spirit of what Star Trek offers, both in terms of high-concept science fiction storytelling and really wonderful metaphors for the human condition.

Besides for liking what I’m hearing from Fuller here, this new show really also boasts some distinguished Star Trek pedigrees. Joining Fuller and Kurtzman as co-producer and writer will be Nicholas Meyer, the writer/director of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, both of which are arguably the most beloved of all the classic movies. Rod Roddenbery, son of legendary Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, will also be exec producing.

Read  American Gods season 2 could be in trouble as reports surface of behind the scenes issues

The still untitled Star Trek series will debut on CBS’ TV network in January 2017, but then all subsequent episodes will air stream on CBS Access. Yes, it’s another paid-for subscription service, so we’re not sure how we will be able to access it here in SA, but we’ll have to just wait and see.

Last Updated: June 27, 2016

Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions - but very little sleep - I've been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

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