NEW YORK – Star Trek has lasted across 50 years, 13 movies and six TV series, and a seventh show is about to join the ranks. Star Trek: Discovery marks the latest installment to boldly go where no one has gone before, and for the first time, fans have a hint of where that may be. A new panel has shed some light on the show, even though the specifics are still fairly mysterious.
At Star Trek: Mission New York, writers Nicholas Meyer (The Wrath of Khan) and Kirsten Beyer (the Voyager relaunch novel series) sat down to give fans an hour-long QA session about what the future holds for Star Trek Discovery. Up until now, the show has been a mysterious quantity, with little but a ship (the USS Discovery) and the promises of new heroes, new villains and new adventures on display in teaser trailers.
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The panel kicked off with a video from showrunner Bryan Fuller explaining what he wanted to do: Bring Star Trek television into the modern age, just as J.J. Abrams brought the films into the present. He also dropped what was potentially the biggest news about Star Trek: Discovery:
In previous Star Trek series that Fuller worked on (Deep Space Nine and Voyager), he questioned some of the captains’ bravado, and whether they could really be at the forefront of solving every conflict. As such, one of the main characters on the new show may be someone who doesn’t fit into the traditional command structure. Fuller said that he wanted to tell “a richer, more complicated story about life on a Starfleet vessel.”
While Meyer and Beyer are not the only writers on the new show, the interplay between the two of them also revealed a lot about how they intend to balance the show to delight both newcomers and Trek diehards.
“Kirsten and Bryan are autodidacts,” Meyer said. “They know everything about the show. For someone like me, that’s not the case … I don’t have that at my fingertips.” Instead, Meyer said that he could offer “a real flat-footed, sort of earthbound ‘how can that work?’ mentality.”
“When you can get [Meyer] to agree that something is possible, you know you’ve done well,” Beyer added.
Star Trek has often been at the forefront of new TV technologies, including color TV for the original series, syndication for The Next Generation and launching the whole UPN network for Voyager. However, even though Star Trek Discovery will premiere on the CBS All Access streaming platform, neither writer had any strong feelings about that.
“I can’t even think about that stuff,” Beyer said. “The pressure is intense enough as is.”
“I’m just learning what streaming is,” Meyer joked. “I miss appointment television. This whole business about going through life doing what you want, whenever you want it is, I think, probably not good. We could all use some structure in our lives.”
Meyer’s concerns aren’t totally unwarranted, although Star Trek Discovery will still air on a week-by-week basis rather than releasing all episodes at once. Beyer hopes this will provide a balance for binge-watchers and appointment TV aficionados.
One more exciting development is that Beyer herself will take charge of an initiative to tie in a Discovery novel and comic book series with the show once it launches. Unlike previous Star Trek series, where the books and comics had relatively little bearing on the show, Beyer hopes that the new series will present a real opportunity for the visual and written mediums to build on one another.
One of the most poignant questions came from an audience member who expressed dissatisfaction with some of the recent Star Trek movies, and asked if the writers could promise that the show would be better. Meyer reminded her that expecting a new show to be just like the classics with which she grew up might be a recipe for disaster.
“Artis not done by committee,” he said. “It’s not done by voting. With all due respect, fans do not know what is best for them.” He cited the controversial decision to kill off Mr. Spock way back in The Wrath of Khan, which could have sparked outrage, but instead wound up being one of the most poignant parts of the film. “If it proceeds organically from what is going on in the rest of the story, it belongs, then people don’t question it.
“It’s a symbiotic relationship,” he continued. “All I’m suggesting is that if you go in with open minds and open hearts, you may be rewarded. If you go in with a set of impossible-to-realize expectations, which even you cannot specifically define, then we’re bound to fail.”
In the meantime, fans will have to be patient. Star Trek Discovery will debut in January 2017, with all but the first episode shown exclusively on the CBS All Access Streaming Service, which costs $6 per month. CBS will broadcast the first episode on its network TV channel, but afterward, the show will be a streaming-only affair. It’s a plan of which the Ferengi would probably approve.