Star Trek: Discovery has had something of a tumultuous trip from conception through production and finally to release. First announced in late 2015, the series was initially being developed by Bryan Fuller. However, the series was delayed twice and Fuller ultimately left the project before its debut.
An interview with Fuller in Entertainment Weekly finally reveals the creator’s original vision for the show, how it has changed, and how he ultimately departed from it. Fuller’s original pitch for Star Trek: Discovery was an American Horror Story style anthology series.
"The original pitch was to do for science-fiction what American Horror Story had done for horror,” Fuller says. “It would platform a universe of Star Trek shows.”
The show’s first season would have followed the USS Discovery ten years prior to the five-year mission of Captain Kirk and the USS Enterprise. The seasons that followed would have been set during the same period as Star Trek: The Original Series and then Star Trek: The Next Generation before eventually breaking new ground by going further into the future than even Star Trek: The Next Generation and its spinoffs.
CBS apparently felt the idea was riskier than they’d like. Instead, they wanted to test the waters first with a more traditionally serialized show and see how things went from there. Fuller was willing to work with that compromise, but it was only the first conflict in what became an increasingly sour relationship.
Fuller was unhappy with CBS’s choice to direct the pilot for Star Trek: Discovery. Fuller wanted to offer the job to Edgar Wright, but CBS chose David Semel, known for work on procedural dramas, instead. Fuller and the network also bickered over the show’s $6 million per episode budget and believed their original timetable for release was unrealistic.
And then there was Fuller’s big commitment to Starz’ American Gods, which was eating up more and more of his time. This all led to CBS eventually asking Fuller to step down and hand showrunner duties over the Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts.
Star Trek: Discovery has undergone some changes under Berg and Harberts. The series now features a more straightforward plot and a different Starfleet uniform design than what Fuller originally pitched. However, one important piece of Fuller’s vision remains and that’s a woman of color taking the lead.
“I couldn’t stop thinking about how many black people were inspired by seeing Nichelle Nichols on the bridge of a ship [as Lt. Uhura in The Original Series],” Fuller, who worked on both Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager, says. “I couldn’t stop thinking about how many Asian people were inspired by seeing George Takei [as Sulu] and feeling that gave them hope for their place in the future. I wanted to be part of that representation for a new era.”
Fuller felt he had found the perfect actress to play the lead when he met Sonequa Martin-Green. He campaigned hard enough for her that he managed to convince CBS to delay the premiere of Star Trek: Discovery again in order to hold production until Martin-Green’s The Walking Dead character was killed off and she was released from her contract. After seeing the Star Trek: Discovery trailer, Fuller is pleased that at least that part of his original pitch remains.
“What I can say is…my reaction was that I was happy to see a black woman and an Asian woman in command of a Starship.”
Star Trek: Discovery premieres on CBS and CBS All Access on Sept. 24.
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Star Trek: Discovery follows the adventures of Starfleet on their missions to discover new worlds and new lifeforms, and one Starfleet officer who must learn that to truly understand all things alien, you must first understand yourself. The series will feature a new ship, new characters, and new missions while embracing the same ideology and hope for the future that inspired a generation of dreamers and doers.