'Star Trek: Discovery' Showrunner Explains the Show's Approach to Canon

As a prequel, Star Trek: Discovery walks a fine line in providing fans with something new and staying true to Star Trek canon. Ahead of the show's return, co-creator/executive producer Alex Kurtzman spoke about how the show approaches canon.

Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Kurtzman says his team makes referencing canon a part of its creative process.

“We really do spend a lot of time talking a lot about canon and there are people in the writers’ room specifically to tell us where we’re stepping on the line of violation,” Kurtzman says. “I did actually note at one point when I was asked about the graphic novels and comics that after 50-plus years it’s literally impossible to stay entirely consistent with canon because there have been very dry years in Star Trek and very full years and so many different writers have attempted to fill in the gaps in the dry years of what happened to beloved characters in the absence of a show driving those answers, they end up inventing things and we end up being faced with whether to call that canon. But it’s always a conversation.”

Kurtzman then conceded that telling a good story is more important than honoring every line of canon in the franchise’s history.

“[T]he best version of the story needs to be the driver,” he said. “But what’s the best version of a story is an entirely subjective thing. That’s why we have so many different voices in the writers' room with so many different points of view. You want to write a nuanced story to get as many different voices as possible to represent how they feel about different ideas. A big part of my process is listening to the other writers. With Trek, you want to go out and beta-test ideas. But as soon as you do that you’ll get 50 percent of people telling you they love it and 50 percent saying you should be strung up and killed. At a certain point, you need to follow your own internal compass, but you don’t want to do it in a vacuum — that’s very dangerous — so we hire people to express what they think Star Trek means, and where we’re violating canon and what we can invent within the grey area.

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“So, yes, we want to stay true to canon, but we’re also doing a lot of new invention that has nothing to do with canon. There’s a lot of conversation online like, ‘Why don’t you start with new things? Why do you have to look back?’ And the answer is, ‘We can do both.’ We have to do both. Star Trek has always done both.”

What do you think of Kurtzman’s philosophy on Star Trek canon and Star Trek: Discovery? Let us know in the comments!