Kurtzman Talks Trek, His Ten! Year Plan, Fan Interaction & More… UPDATED

With the rumour (we use that term loosely based upon where it originated) going around that Alex Kurtzman has been “fired” yesterday the man himself was interviewed by Deadline Crew Call Podcast regarding the state of all things Trek.

In the interview, Kurtzman spoke about not only season 3 of Discovery & Picard but he also talked about the 2 animated shows, Section 31 and gave an update on the 6! New short treks heading our way this year.

(CBS)

Picard

The biggest news of all to come from the Trek world over the last year was the return of Patrick Stewart to his iconic role of Jean Luc Picard, and with all things involving such an iconic character it is important to get things right, so it is no wonder that Kurtzman got Patrick Stewart himself involved as one of the voices driving the story behind the series.

It was essential. We spent a lot of time with Patrick, and you know what? He’s incredibly brilliant just as a human, and very warm, and obviously he knows Jean-Luc Picard better than anybody, and you know, he was really the one who from the outset said, “I don’t want to do this unless we’re breaking new ground. I don’t want to just play the character I played, why come back to that? We did that already.”

So it’s been a really wonderful give-and-take in our collaboration with Patrick where he very quickly came to trust that we were both going to do exactly what he said in taking Picard to a new place, but also, and he doesn’t look at himself this way, we’re reverent of him, you know? He’s Patrick Stewart! When we’re in a room with him, his opinion really matters to us, and his happiness really matters to us, and ultimately, we couldn’t do this show the way we’re doing it if he wasn’t excited about it and excited to play it.

I think we’ve found a story that honors everything that people love about the character, but in ways that are not what you expect, and yet, become more and more familiar as the show goes. And that’s what’s exciting. A lot has happened to Jean-Luc Picard in the intervening years (since Nemesis). There’s been a lot going on and he’s had to deal with some new things, he’s had to deal with some old things, and both of those things kind of come colliding together.

He’s made choices that he’s not necessarily feeling great about, and yet I think the audience will understand exactly why he made them.

When addressing the fact that Star Trek: Picard breaks the trend of all previous shows by naming the show itself after the titular charter he said: 

It’s a great and necessary question, and it’s something that has been baked into the DNA of Picard, yes, obviously Patrick, it’s Patrick show, (but) we have an unbelievable cast. And you know, the thing that I loved about the Next Gen cast is that you really could have focused any episode on any of them.

I would say the same about our cast now, that it’s such an incredibly brilliant group of actors (that are) given such amazing things to do. Without spoiling anything, I think that you will feel that.

Talking more about Picard, Kurzman added:

“A lot has happened to Jean-Luc Picard in the intervening years. He had to deal with some new things, and some old things. Both things collide together and he’s made choices that he’s not necessarily feeling great about,”

As the new teaser trailer indicates, “something has caused him to leave Star fleet and we will find out a lot more about what happened,”

Kurtzman went on to talk about the announcement made at STLV2018 and his realisation afterwards of what just had happened:

I had this incredible moment afterwards, I will never forget it, it was one of the greatest moments of my career, we walked backstage and stood there was Johnathan and Levar Burton and the 3 (Stewart, Frakes & Burton) of them saw each other and came together in a hug that lasted 2 minutes.

And I just stood there watching them, I felt so very honoured and humbled to see it.

Kurtzman on Frakes

When talking about Picard, the subject of Jonathan Frakes came up and how he (Frakes) had described his time on set with the Stars of Discovery as being reminiscent of his time on TNG, Kurtzman could not praise Frakes enough:

He is a very special presence for all of us, obviously, he is sort of the godfather.

I have had really excellent, deep, thoughtful conversations with him about what Next Gen was for him, and the cast and what Star Trek is to people. 

I treasure my relationship with him, he is a great barometer for what feels right or feels wrong. 

(CBS)

Discovery S3

When Season 2 finished Discovery had jumped 930 years into the future, Kurtzman talked about the prep of season 3 and how the production team are moving ahead as planned to prepare for the launch of production on Season 3, which is expected to kick off in a month or two

Kurtzman remarked that compared to this point in Season 2’s development, the team is a LOT farther ahead in their prep on Season 3.

‘Picard’ is in the middle of shooting, we’ve broken the season and I am so happy with the scripts.

We have a great crew there they are phenomenal, they’re like a big family there.

We are on episode five of Season 3 of ‘Discovery.’ We’re far along. ‘Picard’ is (filming) here in Los Angeles and ‘Discovery’ is in Toronto, and future Trek shows I believe will be in Toronto.

(CBS)

Animated Series

Kurtzman additionally touched on the still-untitled animated Nickelodeon show being developed by the Hageman brothers.

The Hageman brothers are doing (an animated) show for Nickelodeon, and that will be entirely different from ‘Lower Decks’…

I won’t announce the name of the Nickelodeon show, but that’s a really different show.

That’s a show that’s for kids, younger. Full CG animation. It’s going to be incredibly cinematic.

We just started seeing (storyboards) this week. It looks like, wow. It’s on par with Love, Death, and Robots in terms of beauty and lighting and cinema, so it’s a a really different feel, and Nickelodeon has been wildly supportive and I think very excited to bring a new energy to TV, you know, in animation.

When talking about the voice talents involved in the animated show, Kurtzman appeared to indicate that while the main characters of the show will be “mostly new” to the Trek universe, there still “maybe some” voice that we’ll recognize.

It’s mostly new. There may be some that you know, but it’s mostly new.

Animation, is in an incredible, glorious renaissance right now. Between (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse) which just blew everything open and everything Pixar’s been doing for so very long, I think what I’m excited about in the world of animation is to try all these different things to see what feels ‘Trek.

Kurtzman became expressive about how bringing Trek back to the realm of animation for the first time since the 1970s Star Trek: The Animated Series and how it could bring Trek not just to a new audience, but back to an area that has largely been absent since the late 90s: toys.

What (Star Trek does) have is new generations, and what I can tell you is that Trek, in general, finds people when they’re about between nine and twelve. It’s never reached younger than that. It’s never tried to, and to me, that’s a hugely missed opportunity, especially because what you’re really trying to do is influence hearts and minds with really positive messages.

Messages about who we can be as a species and as people and what our future is. So why not start young, you know? And not for a cynical reason. Not because hey, let’s sell some more toys, but because if you really want Star Trek to reach people, then you’ve got to start young…

I think part of it, too, is that there was never an output of shows like we’re planning on doing, that allowed, especially for younger generations, that allowed toys to be on shelves. So this is an example where, within a year or two from now when the animated shows come out and we have two more Star Trek shows on the air, I’m really curious to see what’s happening on those toy shelves. It’s a long term plan.

Talking about the fact Star Trek seems to be missing from the toy aisles in shops, Kurtzman said:

Now I think that is because Trek toys were gravely mismanaged in when they were put out into the world in the late 60s early 70s so they didn’t make the mark, there is a documentary series on Netflix called “The Toys That Made Us” that walks you through exactly what a train wreck the Trek toys were back then.

He even mentions the now famous Spock Police helmet that has been made into a well known social media meme, which has subsequently been updated for each version of Spock.

Expanding further on the plans for the reappearance on toys he went on to say:

There was never an output of shows that we are planning on doing that allowed, especially for younger generations, that allowed toys to actually be on the shelves.

So in a year or two from now when the animated shows come out and we have two more Star Trek on the air I will be really curious to see what is happening on those toy shelves then.

It’s a long term plan.

(CBS)

Lower Decks

Mike McMahon’s Star Trek: Lower Decks, aimed at kids to adults.

Trek fans will recall that in 2011 McMahan launched a Twitter account where he posted episode plots to a fake season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Simon & Schuster subsequently hired him to write a readers’ guide to a fictitious eighth season of TNG titled Star Trek: The Next Generation: Warped: An Engaging Guide to the Never-Aired 8th Season.

The spirit of each of these shows has to feel very different…

Mike’s show (for CBS All Access) is really for kids, I would say, from 11 to 70. (Laughs)

What I love so much about the way Mike is doing is planning things. What you would typically be the ‘A’ story on any (normal) Star Trek episode is happening in the background, like huge, crazy, crazy shit is going on in the background (on Lower Decks), and that’s super peripheral to the story that you’re actually focusing on. No (Trek) show has ever really done that before.

Section 31

Not much in terms of new info here, as mentioned previously the show starring Michelle Yeoh will start shooting after Season 3 of Discovery.

Erika (Lippoldt) and Boey (Kim), who are two of our writers on ‘Discovery,’ are breaking story on (‘Section 31’) right now, and the plan is to shoot that the second we’re done with (‘Discovery’) Season 3.

(CBS)

Short Treks

Announced in January of this year we have known that more Short Treks were on the way with two of them being animated and the additional four likely to arrive in the lead-up to Discovery Season 3, much how last year’s releases were structured.

That’s the other thing. It’s not just the shows, we have the Short Treks too. We’re doing six more of them. Two of them are animated (and they are), unlike the two animated shows.

What I love about the Short Treks is that they are an experimental training ground, a place to experiment with different things. Directors who we’ve never worked with before, tones we’ve never tried before.

Michael Giacchino is doing one of the animated shorts; Olatunde Osunsanmi is doing another one in the animated shorts and he’s our main director on Discovery, and again, different animation styles, totally different tones. Aimed at kids, I would say, more than adults, those two.

Pike

When Season 2 of Discovery wrapped it was reported that Anson Mount, Ethan Pike and Rebecca Romijn would not be returning for Season 3 and this hit a sour note for fans who had become attached to Mounts outstanding portrayal of Captain Pike so much so there were online petitions set up to get him his own show. 

Kurtzman hasn’t forgotten about them, although he did not expand on if there were plans for a Captain Pike show. 

I would be remiss in saying you’re going to see Spock again on Discovery because we’ve obviously jumped so far into the future that it wouldn’t make sense….

But the idea of bringing Ethan (Peck) back, and Anson (Mount) and Rebecca (Romijn) and the Enterprise, I mean, we loved it so much, and to find a way to do that is definitely something we’re thinking about a lot.

(CBS)
Fan Interaction 

Discovery has been somewhat divisive since it aired in 2017, and those who frequent social media know just how divisive it can be, so when asked about fan interaction, Kurtzman told the hosts:

It’s been a long journey, and it continues to be one, I can start by saying I definitely have, and this is not just lip service, the fans point of view has become necessary for me, becuase the fans have kept Trek alive for 53 years. 

The Internet has made it possible for me to know in real time, how people are receiving our choices, and as you are writing you can subtlely course correct, there is a lot of opinions.

I have come to the realisation that if you come to a 50/50 split you are doing well, it is when you are at 90/10 you are in real trouble, becuase it is the nature of trek that people will take opposite sides of it, they will engage in a debate in it which I think is part of the vitality of Star Trek. 

So I get that, I have come to see it for what it is instead of taking it personally because it is very easy to take it personally.

Expanding further, Kurtzman reveals he now reads fan comments and tweets in real time, as opposed to shying away from it. 

I would say, with a couple of exceptions, and now I read everything, which is really new for me and I mean really new, I stayed away from it for a long time, I would say I characterise Star Trek fans of being very generous of heart, They love what they love and they know why they love it and they are very passionate about it, but, they are not what I would say inherently mean. 

That does not mean there is not snark online, they are protective and they have a right to be protective about Star Trek, I take that as an important ingredient in the stew.

What I have started to be able to do now, is the things that are negative, I can process them as not being personal, but as being, ok why is that resonating for me, why is that no resonating for me? what does it mean and how can I address it now. 

So it has been a long journey and I can not say it doesn’t hurt when people don’t like something but I think that is apart of it

(CBS)
So with all the shows covered what exactly is Alex Kurtzman’s plans for Star Trek?

Discovery is now the first of multiple Trek projects in the works for CBS and CBS All Access in an interesting set of remarks, Kurtzman said he’s got potential plans to keep things growing for the next “five or ten years.”

I went to CBS and I said, “I think you have a universe here that is very under-utilized, and a fan base that I think is hungry for a lot more.” And I walked them through the plan of what I saw for the next five to ten years of ‘Trek.’

Part of it was, kind of, premised on the idea that it was going to take time. What I said was, “Don’t expect us to put the first thing out, and suddenly, you know, you’re have 100 million new fans. That’s not gonna happen.” ‘Trek’ has been around for too long for that to happen, but but what we do have is new generations, and what I can tell you is that ‘Trek,’ in general, finds people when they’re about between nine and twelve.

It’s never reached younger than that; it’s never tried to, and to me that’s a hugely missed opportunity, especially because what you’re really trying to do is influence hearts and minds with really positive messages, messages about who we can be as a species and as people and what our future is. So why not start young, you know? And not for a cynical reason. Not because you know, hey, let some more toys, but because if you really want ‘Star Trek’ to reach people, then you’ve got to start young.

And this is where I guess the ‘Star Wars’ influence on me really mattered because as a kid at four years old, I could imagine myself starting up with a twin suns of Tattooine and wondering what my life was. ‘Trek’ didn’t give me that same thing — it gave me Wesley Crusher, it gave me different characters, but again, those are older characters.

But we are definitely seeing just metric proof that the fan base is growing, and it’s growing younger, and yet, we’re keeping our current fans, and that’s great.

This was one podcast that was awesome to listen to, not only did we get all this information regarding what is going on with the Trek shows we know about, but we also found out about Kurtzman’s plans for Star Trek for years to come. 

Oh… and it was great to listen to just how much Kurtzman knows about Star Trek and how much he loves the franchise he now heads…