Tuesday, June 19, 2018

CBS Eyes Four Potential Star Trek Series as Signs New Deal with Kurtzman

In a vote of confidence, CBS signs a five-year, $25 million deal extension with Alex Kurtzman. The deal basically means he controls TV Trek (a la Gene Roddenberry back in the day) for the foreseeable future. Kurtzman was part of the writing team that rebooted the movie franchise for Paramount before going solo to launch Star Trek: Discovery as an executive producer. As of last week he is now also show-runner on the program so all decisions go through him.

The deal goes along with rumors, none confirmed by CBS, that another TV show is in the works. Actually it seems CBS is kicking the tires on four potential series. This isn't to say all four goes to series, just that there are four ideas being developed, one of which may move forward.

One show idea is "Sources say Kurtzman and Akiva Goldsman, who left Discovery after season one, are attached to the Stewart-led reboot." This comes after Stewart hinted a return saying he "may have good cause to look at [Discovery] very soon." Which to mean suggests a potential cameo appearance, not a series. Or it could mean the convention circuit will soon be swamped with Discovery alumni and he likes being informed for panels and the like. I think people are reading to much into this. The other ideas being kicked around is an animated series and a limited series but this is literally the extent of the information on those two.

Another concept that does seem to have legs is one set at Starfleet Academy (era not mentioned) from Stephanie Savage and Josh Schwartz (Runaways, Gossip Girl). The idea, one that has been kicked every time Trek returns, seems great as long as the pair can maybe lose some of over ansty television that has been their mainstay for the last decade.

The last concept is a limited series of Khan Noonien Singth from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. This was a series that Khan creator and director Nicholas Meyer was rumored to have been working on for a little while. The idea seemed to be put on hold and I am guessing Meyer will have little to do with whatever comes of it as I suspect some bad blood formed during the Discovery pre-production process between Meyer and CBS. The closest Star Trek ever got to a "biography" is the Greg Cox written books The Eugenics Wars: The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonien Singh and To Reign in Hell: The Exile of Khan Noonien Singh.

End result is CBS seems to be investing in the long term for Star Trek and are not just eyeing a season to season pick up of Discovery to keep the franchise going while Paramount continues to spin it wheels as the studio looks to be willing to wait for around two years to see if Quentin Tarantino might direct the next film.

Friday, June 15, 2018

CBS Fires Star Trek: Discovery's Showrunners

It seems Star Trek: Discovery's showrunner problems continue. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts were fired as showrunner on the program with Discovery Executive Producer Alex Kurtzman (The Mummy, writer on Star Trek movies) taking over duties for the rest of the season. The show is already several episodes into filming.
Sources say the decision to oust Berg and Harberts was based not on the creative but instead for leadership and operational issues. Production on Discovery's first five episodes of season two are near completion, with Kurtzman likely taking over for episode six and beyond. Berg and Harberts, who were longtime collaborators with original showrunner Fuller, will likely still be credited on the episodes they oversaw. Sources say the budget for the season two premiere ballooned, with the overages expected to come out of subsequent episodes from Discovery's sophomore run. Insiders also stress that Berg and Harberts became increasingly abusive to the Discovery writing staff, with Harberts said to have leaned across the writers room table while shouting an expletive at a member of the show's staff. Multiple writers are said to have been uncomfortable working on the series and had threatened to file a complaint with human resources or quit the series altogether before informing Kurtzman of the issues surrounding Berg and Harberts. After hearing rumors of HR complaints, Harberts is said to have threatened the staff to keep concerns with the production an internal matter.

Sources tell THR that Discovery is nearing what has been characterized as a planned production hiatus after episode five, which will allow Kurtzman time to regroup the show's writing staff. Production is not expected to be impacted by the showrunner change.

In another departure for season two of Star Trek, THR has learned that executive producer Akiva Goldsman did not return to Discovery after serving as Kurtzman's right-hand man during its freshman run. Goldsman was brought in to help build the world of Discovery, but the veteran producer, who directed the season one finale, is said to have had a management style and personality that clashed with the writing staff. It's unclear if Goldsman will continue to receive an exec producer credit on season two.
Have to give the writer's room credit with three people fired in one season is quite the accomplishment. At this point have to wonder what the various sides of the story on this one as firing the bigwigs of the show is not a minor thing for any production but this first blush version of the story isn't sufficient information. There have been comparisons to first few season of The Next Generation which suffered from writers' room and producer turnover but that was generally due to conflicts with Gene Roddenberry. This isn't quite the same as doesn't seem based on a difference in vision (Gene's perfect future vs desire to make things bit more messy for drama purposes) but personality conflicts. The 13 episode season 2 is expected to premiere on CBS All Access sometime in early in 2019. Good luck to Alex Kurtzman on his new role.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Two Star Trek Movies in Works; Director Chosen

This week is CinemaCon in Las Vegas where the movie studios show off their upcoming projects for theater chains, merchandisers and more to help gain their support for their summer and later slate of movies. As part of their presentation Paramount revealed that "several new Star Trek movies" are in the works. Shortly after several was defined as "two" films. The next day it was then revealed that S.J. Clarkson is being tapped to direct the next Star Trek film. Clarkson's current credits are exclusively in the realm of television with turns directing episodes of Jessica Jones, Orange is the New Black. The Defenders and many more. More then likely the two films is the Quentin Tarantino version and alternate plan with Chris Hemsworth (Thor) reprising his role of George Kirk if the Tarantino treatment falls through.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Paramount has not officially confirmed the directing choice but the decision to tap the first ever female director of a Star Trek film was "a mandate that comes from the top, including producer J.J. Abrams." The various studios have been trying to get more female talent in the director's seat in light of the "#MeToo" movement. Her TV work seems fine but is almost exclusively drama related with little to no special effects work.

Normally I wouldn't be concerned as nothing like learning on the job but the last film I saw from a director with heavy drama experience but little special effects experience was the debacle of A Wrinkle in Time with a directing job by Ava DuVernay that can only be described as incompetent. Your average direct to video or YouTube production do a better job. She clearly couldn't figure out the green screen and compensated with a high reliance on close-ups and failed at getting necessary coverage (definition) to balance out the excessive close-ups. Her reward for such blatant incompetence and a world wide box office total of $125 million on $100 million+ production was to get hired to direct the green screen heavy "New Gods" film for DC Comics. Under normal circumstances such failure would have sidelined her from directing big budget films for a while. Other examples of bad matches include the Star Wars films with three (male) directors essentially being fired as their drama (or comedy) rich directing backgrounds did not translate into being able to handle big budget special effects driven tent pole films.

A Wrinkle in Time was supposed to start a new franchise. Instead its deader then a door nail. Star Wars could afford those mistakes and absorbed the cost of essentially starting over three times. Star Trek cannot. The simple fact is Star Trek's box office isn't strong enough to survive a single bad director, male or female. Even with "A-list" male directors of JJ Abrams and Justin Lin behind the last three films, the box office results were just barely strong enough to warrant another film. One misstep and the movie franchise will be sidelined yet again. I just hope that Clarkson's strong drama directing instincts also translate to directing heavy special effects scenes with much more skill then DuVernay's did. Star Trek's future depends on it.

Star Trek Discovery Season 2 Begins Production

Below is a short video with voice over from the first season the mark the beginning of production for season 2 of Star Trek Discovery. Currently there is no release date for second season of 13 episodes.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

40 Plus Star Trek Alumni Join Snoop Dogg's Unbelieveable Parody Film

Below the trailer, complete with James T Kirk puppet, of a parody film that was executive produced by Snoop Dogg along with Nichelle Nichols (TOS Uhura) and a few others. I am not entirely sure what it is parodying but the key thing is has culled from all eras of Star Trek to build its cast. Here is a sampling: Garrett Wang, Chase Masterson Tim Russ, Armin Shimerman, Vaughn Armstrong, Gary Graham, Anthony Montgomery, Linda Park, Robert Picardo, Marina Sirtis, Nana Visitor, Walter Koenig, Michael Dorn, Julie Warner, Dina Meyer, Olivia d’Abo, Jeffrey Combs, John Billingsley, Max Grodenchik, Casey Biggs, Gary Lockwood, Michael Forest, Jack Donner, Connor Trinneer, Manu Intiraymi, Dominic Keating, Brenda Bakke, Patti Yasutake, Steve Rankin, Michael Dante, Sean Kenney, BarBara Luna, Beverly Washburn, Celeste Yarnall, Bobby Clark, Jasmine Anthony, Menina Fortunato, McKenzie Westmore, Crystal Allen and Christopher Doohan.