Star Trek: Discovery will have a female lead, although she won’t be the captain, showrunner BryanFuller confirmed at the TCA CBS All Access panel on August 10 in which clips from various previous Star Trek series were shown, including the formation of the United Federation of Planets in Enterprise.
“I have an anvil hanging over my head about what I can say and when,” Fuller said. The show was described as a “novel over 13 episodes” by Fuller, who said he didn’t set out to be just a writer – “I wanted to write for Star Trek“. The show will be serialized but each weekly chapter will have its own plotlines: “Each episode is a chapter, within each chapter will be a beginning, middle & end.”
The female lead character (a Lieutenant Commander “with caveats”) is on a journey that will teach her how to get along with others in the galaxy. “To understand aliens, she has to understand herself,” Fuller explained. There will also be a gay character aboard – “Absolutely we’re having a gay character,” Fuller told the TCA audience. There have been six series focusing on the captain, he noted, hence the change: “it felt like it was going to give us richer context.”
As far as guest appearances from previous characters goes, “There’s so much about the history that once we get through this first season and establish our own Star Trek universe with the crew that going to be reimagining a lot of Star Trek elements, we’ll be looking in the second season to open up to more familiar characters and how they can feed in. First and foremost, I think we really want to convince you and establish the greatness of the characters that are going to be introduced.” Amanda Grayson – Spock’s mother – could well reappear.
The show is set during a period of Star Trek history that has always fascinated Fuller but has not been seen on screen – around ten years “before Kirk’s 5 year journey in the Prime Universe” i.e. 2254. (Not the war with the Romulans, he confirmed – “close, but no banana” in Fuller’s words – the Kobayashi Maru or the Battle of Axanar.) Being so close to the original series, “we can play with all the iconography of those ships and those uniforms”. There will be robots, and bending of space and time, alongside new aliens and reimagining of old aliens (suitably updated for 2016 audience), and the mysterious Section 31 may form part. “Star Trek started with a wonderful expression of diversity in its cast,” Fuller said. “Our lead of the show is going to be subject of that same level of who’s the best actor and also what can we say about diversity on the show. We haven’t cast [the lead] yet, so we don’t know what level of diversity she will be, but that’s forefront in our minds. We’ll probably have a few more aliens than you typically have on the show. We wanted to paint a picture of Starfleet where we’re going to have new exciting aliens and also new imagining of existing aliens.
Fuller addressed the “STD” nickname saying “It’s not a nebula we’re flying through; it’s a cloudy discharge”. He also added, “We are not subject to broadcast standards & practices. Neither was Hannibal and we got away with murder… We’re going to have a broader spectrum to explore those issues, but it’s still Star Trek. It will probably be slightly more graphic content. We discuss language every day. Is it appropriate for somebody to see a bridge blow up and say ‘Oh shit.’ I imagine we’re going to shoot scenes a couple of ways and see what feels more authentic in the editing room.”
CBS are expecting an audience of 15 million for the network broadcast of the pilot in January. Shooting begins in October, but no one has yet been cast.