Bryan Fuller is Out – Is Star Trek Discovery Doomed?

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Bryan Fuller is Gone – Star Trek Discovery

Sad news today for Trekkies around the world.  Star Trek: Discovery creator Bryan Fuller is no longer part of the production.  This comes as a shock to some Star Trek fans who have placed a lot of high hope in Fuller’s abilities.  Under his lead, the USS Discovery crew would certainly be in keeping with IDIC – infinite diversity in infinite combinations.  After all, that’s a major part of Star Trek’s 50-year tradition.  It that has come to be synonymous with the TV series.  Fuller, being a fan, knew this, and USS Discovery’s crew would be the most diverse yet.  He’s also worked on Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, so he knows his Trek.

So it’s no surprise that there’s a lot of disappointment and negativity spreading about the show.  How can the show proceed without it’s captain?

Fuller’s Historic Star Trek Discovery Role

Bryan Fuller, Star Trek: Discovery. Comic Con
Bryan Fuller, Star Trek: Discovery. Comic Con

Bryan Fuller has been a Star Trek fan for a long time, and has wanted to create a new series for years.  Back in 2013 he was quoted as saying he’d love to have Angela Bassett and Rosario Dawson on a new series.  “I want Angela Bassett to be the captain, that’s who I would love to have, you know Captain Angela Bassett and First Officer Rosario Dawson”.  Atop of quotes like that, he really knows his stuff.  Fuller worked on Star Trek Voyager and Star Trek Deep Space Nine. He has a unique understanding of the progressive and optimistic themes behind the shows and intended to carry those traditions.

Okay, we need to step aside here for a moment.  To emphasize the importance that last sentence, it’s time for a quick Star Trek 101 lesson.  Trekkies can skip the next overly-large paragraph.

Star Trek 101 Tangent

In this Trekkie’s opinion, there are two major factors that have contributed to the success of Star Trek as an ongoing tv series.  The first is that it presents a diverse set of characters, both in personality and in ethnicity.  When it first aired in 1966, Star Trek found itself among tv shows that, frankly, centered around Caucasians.  We’d sometimes see Black characters, but they were almost always the maid service.  Star Trek had a Black character on the bridge of the Federation’s flag ship USS Enterprise.  Not only progressive but risky given the era.  Southern tv stations threatened not to carry a show with a Black person carrying such an important role.  And she was a woman to boot!  Lieutenant Ohura and Captain Kirk made television history with the first televised inter-racial kiss.  Also at that time in the 20th century, there was a lot of fear over the USSR’s military might and the cold war was heating up.  Star Trek, rather than promote that fear, gave a Russian character a supporting role and place on the bridge.  Pavel Chekov.  In the 1960s, this kind of diversity and progressiveness had never been seen before on television.  What’s more – the helmsman of the USS Enterprise is of Asian heritage, and a second in command that wasn’t even human!  No matter who you are, you can find someone in the show to relate to.  Star Trek has been about cultural, ethnic and gender progressivism, and every new series has furthered these ideals.  The second thing that I think has made it such a success on tv is that it promotes an optimistic future.  We’re being constantly bombarded with negativity in news, television, and people around us.  One would believe the world is becoming a worse and scarier place – not just that fear means easy money and so coverage has increased.  There’s something exciting and enticing about an optimistic future where peace prevails, individuals strive to better themselves AND humanity, and where equality is more than lip service.  Star Trek can tell difficult stories about current day issues from a progressive and optimistic standpoint in a way that makes sense to us all, thanks to its diverse characters, alien species and use of the “science fiction” label.  All that said, Byan Fuller fully understood of all of this and had a desire to improve and take it further.  So it’s understandable that fans were elate that he was creating and producing Star Trek Discovery.

Last month, CBS announced that Fuller would be taking a back seat on the new Star Trek show, but that he would still be involved in producing Discovery.  The primary reason being provided was that Bryan was busy on his other television shows, including American Gods and Hannibal.  It was claimed that both CBS and Fuller felt the show deserves more attention.  The keys to the USS Discovery were handed over to Trek-newcomers Gretchen J. Berg and Aaron Harberts.  Of course this made things a little tense for Star Trek fans.  Some of us started to feel perhaps things were off the rails behind the scenes.  Most  understood the reasons, buying into Fuller being over-worked and still being involved to a lesser degree.  The show would still have oversight by its creator, giving us hope and alleviating some fears.

Here we are, just over a month after the announcement, and now it’s reported that Bryan Fuller is out.  He’s no longer involved in Star Trek Discovery in any way.  Where does this leave the show and its fans?  To most, little is known about the new show runners.

Discovery Doomed?  Not By a Long Shot, and Here’s Why

Download the 3D USS Discovery app for your Android and move the Discovery around using your fingers
Download the 3D USS Discovery app for your Android and move the Discovery around using your fingers

All of this news and negativity makes me wonder; is the new Star Trek series and the crew of the USS Discovery doomed?  Then I think about everything it has going for it and realize that this is just an evolution in its course.  The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise never had this much going for them.  With the exception of Enterprise, all those shows lasted 7 seasons.

Season Arc and Written Episodes

In case you didn’t know, the first season’s arc has mostly been written already, lead by Bryan Fuller.  That means the plot of the first season was already determined before Fuller even took a back seat on the show.  In the past, he told us that the first few episodes have been written in full.  That’s right, they’re done.  The story’s direction, character traits, and many other factors have already been penned.  Bryan’s influence on these things has had its impact.  And given the timeline that Discovery occupies, the new show runners would likely need to work within certain confines of Star Trek cannon.

New Showrunners’ History

We don’t know a lot about the new show runners, Gretchen J. Berg and Aaron Harberts.  One thing we do know is that they met as students attending Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.  They have since become writing partners, meaning its likely they’ll have good synergies between them.  Further to this point, Berg and Harberts co-created a series back in in 2006.  The show didn’t go far but that’s besides the point I’m trying to make, which is that they work well together.  They’ve been involved in all the same tv shows and tv movies.

Berg and Harberts have also previously collaborated with Bryan Fuller on tv productions, so they know and understands Fuller’s desires for Discovery.  Gretchen has gone on the record assuring Bryan Fuller that they will make Fuller proud.

The duo has produced a number of television shows and episodes, including some science fiction.  They worked on the tv series Roswell and John Doe, and worked with Bryan Fuller on Pushing Daisies and on Wonderfalls.

Star Trek Discovery is Already Profitable

That’s right.  The tv series hasn’t even aired yet and it’s already profitable.  How can that be explained?  One word: Netflix.  In the USA, Star Trek Discovery will be airing on CBS’ online streaming service, All Access.  In Canada, it was purchased by Bell’s CraveTV.  In the rest of the world, the rights were purchased by Netflix.  With these massive distribution deals already done, unless Discovery comes in WAY over budget, we know that it’s profitable.

Science fiction is one of the more expensive genres to produce on television.  With Discovery being profitable, the money needed is there to produce decent sets and visual effects of the USS Discovery, other ships, space battles, you name it.  They can also afford to pay a few key actors.. which brings me to my next point.

Great Actors – Need I Say More?

Captain Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh), Lieutenant Stamets (Anthony Rapp), and Lieutenant Saru (Doug Jones)
Captain Georgiou of the USS Shenzhou, played by Michelle Yeoh, Lieutenant Stamets played by Anthony Rapp, and Lieutenant Saru to be played by Doug Jones

Michelle Yeoh will star in Discovery as Captain Georgiou of the USS Shenzhou.  CBS is making money on this show, and they want to make more by opening Star Trek up to Asia.  (Traditionally, the franchise hasn’t done well there).  This move proves that.  But Michelle Yeoh is also well know and adored in western markets as well.  The depth of character Yeoh brings to the screen is unparalleled.

More than just being about Michelle Yeoh, it makes a statement that CBS and the crew behind the series are serious about making it a success.

Then there’s Anthony Rapp, recently cast as Lieutenant Stamets of the USS Discovery.  Rapp is mostly known for his role in Roadtrip, but like Patrick Stewart, his list of theatre work is more than impressive.  Rapp is currently in the process of catching up on Star Trek lore.

The addition of Michelle Yeoh, Anthony Rapp, and Doug Jones tells us the show is casting actors that deliver depths of emotion and character that it needs.

All things considered, I’m more than optimistic about the new shows direction.  While I would have loved to see Bryan Fuller stay with the series, it’s understood that he has other commitments.  Star Trek deserves the full attention of the writers, producers and actors.

 

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About Cassius Adams

Cassius Adams is the creator of ncc-1031.com and is a content contributor. He has been a Star Trek fan for nearly three decades. Cassius discovered his passion for the franchise early into TNG's run, and nourished that passion throughout DS9, Voyager, Enterprise, and the movies. Cassius can be reached by emailing cass@ncc-1031.com or you can follow him on Twitter at @supercass