It may or may not come to the surprise of fans that Star Trek: Discovery’s impressive visuals come at a steep cost.
“We were under-budgeted on visual effects, and as we started to grow we realized we needed more money allocated to that,” he says. “The truth is there isn’t any one single house that could handle everything given the volume of CG we have, plus the turnaround itself. There’s a three-month window of turnaround time on work, and with so much work to do, sometimes different elements within a single shot will be divided between different houses that specialize in things like water or space or texture.”
Kurtzman also told Variety that this struggle to manage the show’s special effects was part of the reason why the premiere was delayed as far back as it was, though part of that was also having to wait for star Sonequa Martin-Green to be released from her contract on The Walking Dead.
Star Trek: Discovery seems to have gotten the budget it needed. It was revealed that the CBS All Access series costs between $8 million and $8.5 million per episode to make, making it one of the most expensive television shows in history.
"It was like shooting a movie, the scale of it," said Michelle Yeoh, who played Captain Philippa Georgiou in Star Trek: Discovery’s two-part premiere. "It wasn't just 'Quick, let's get the shot. Move, move.'"
For some fans, the show’s incredible special effects are actually a problem since they contribute to the disconnect some fans feel between the visibly advanced technology on the series and the look of Star Trek: The Original Series, which is supposed to take place a decade later. While there’s not much that can be done to reconcile the visual components of the shows at this point, showrunner Aaron Harberts has stated that other elements of canon will be addressed in the second season of Star Trek: Discovery.
“That’s going to be a big discussion that we have in season two,” he says. “What’s so fun about the character of Michael, just because she hasn’t been spoken about, doesn’t mean she didn’t exist. A lot of the writers on our show are deeply involved in Star Trek, their knowledge is some of the finest around, they really do help us find areas where we can steer around things.”
Star Trek: Discovery returns to CBS All Access on January 7, 2018.