Sunday, December 4, 2016

Fuller Verifies No Longer Part of Star Trek: Discovery

Bryan Fuller has officially confirmed that he no longer has anything to do with Star Trek: Discovery. When it was announced was no longer the showrunner, it was suggested that he could continue to stay on as advisor and writer. To me it just read as Hollywood nonsense to allow those involved to save face. I continue to think that CBS outright fired him because his attention was clearly focused on his lucrative projects of American Gods and Amazing Stories. While my theory will likely forever remained unconfirmed, Fuller himself did verify that he has no part of Star Trek: Discovery as it soon begins filming.
Ultimately, with my responsibilities [elsewhere], I could not do what CBS needed to have done in the time they needed it done for Star Trek. It felt like it was best for me to focus on landing the plane with American Gods and making sure that was delivered in as elegant and sophisticated a fashion as I could possibly do.

I’m not involved in production, or postproduction, so I can only give them the material I’ve given them and hope that it is helpful for them. I’m curious to see what they do with it.”

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Three Star Trek: Discovery Cast Members Officially Confirmed

The official website of Trek, StarTrek.com, has revealed that Doug Jones (Hellboy, The Strain), Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and Anthony Rapp (Rent) have been cast in Star Trek: Discovery. The casting of Michelle Yeoh was already confirmed but the character name was incorrect. Instead she will be playing Captain Georgiou of the starship Shenzhou.

Doug Jones will play the non-human character of science officer Lieutenant Saru. It is probably safe to assume that Saru will be a rather unique alien with a large amount of prosthetics to pull of the look since that is almost the only thing that Jones gets cast for. Be it Hellboy, Legion, Pan's Labyrinth, etc. the actor tends to be a supporting character covered in makeup from head to toe. Anthony Rapp will play human character of science officer Lieutenant Stamets whose expertise will be in astromycology and fungus.

Considering the show is aiming for a May release date, this is probably just the beginning of cast announcements as filming will likely need to start sometime in January to allow time for post production which will be much longer then is typical for the average TV series.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Michelle Yeoh Cast in Star Trek Discovery (Updated)

Coming Soon is reporting that Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) has been cast in Star Trek: Discovery. The information comes from series writer Nicholas Meyer who also wrote and directed Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. The role was not specified.

Due to her status as a movie star many sites are speculating she has been cast as the lead character of "Number One" who is would be the first officer on the USS Discovery. I don't see it. I see her as captain of Discovery, an Admiral, high ranking Federation official or even the season big bad in charge and causing havoc for the crew. She simply doesn't fit a second in command role. This isn't an ageist thing (cause she barely shows her 50+ years) but there is a reason Yeoh consistently gets cast in the mentor, protector or leadership role. Simply being on screen and doing nothing, she still provides an instant gravitas to any role that just demands respect. Building command experience and presence is something I would assume would be part of the character arc for the Number One role and not something that just exists on day one of the series. So what do you think of the casting?

Update: Deadline has confirmed that Michelle Yeoh has been cast as Captain Han Bo of the USS Shenzhou. The ship and some of its crew is "set to play a big role in Discovery's first season." In other words the role is more then a cameo or single episode appearance. The casting and ship name also suggests that CBS is hoping they can sell the series in China.

The Chinese government makes the decisions on what western TV and movies are allowed into the country. Those that show a positive viewpoint of China and/or Chinese culture tend to get approved which is why you may have noticed a significant rise in Chinese locations, characters and references in movies lately. A most recent example being Doctor Strange which changed the home base of "The Ancient One" from Tibet (which the Chinese gov't refuses to recognize as a separate country) to Nepal while also changing the character from Tibetan origin to Celtic. The "white washing" was done to facilitate the movie's entry into the country and its ever growing box office that will likely surpass the United States by the end of 2017.

This isn't a dig on the decisions, just a statement of the business side thought processes and how they may impact a movie or TV show. As long as the story and characters are good I don't particularly care. In this case if the show succeeds in China it would almost guarantee a second season as the global reach of a TV show is slowly but surely starting to become more important. The global reach already factors into movie making decisions but TV side has been very slow to adapt that approach. I suspect CBS is using Star Trek as not just a test case of their All Access platform but also as a supplement their profits worldwide even when a show doesn't necessarily catch on in significant numbers in the United States but does elsewhere. As of now, if a show fails in the United States, it's done, regardless of its popularity elsewhere in the world. I could see a day where some shows continue to get new seasons ordered due to foreign demand and stateside those seasons simply get relegated to streaming services. Hopefully in Discovery's case that scenario isn't an issue because it succeeds wherever it airs.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Star Trek's Rating Past On Why Discovery is Streaming

In a podcast, CBS Interactive CEO Jim Lanzone provided a solid reason on why Star Trek: Discovery is on CBS All Access rather then on CBS.
“Sci-Fi is not something that has traditionally done really well on broadcast. It’s not impossible, for the future, if somebody figures it out. And things like Lost and Heroes have had parts of, you know, sci-fi, but historically, a show like Star Trek wouldn’t necessarily be a broadcast show, at this point. And so, you kind of look at the other networks we have, CW and Showtime, it just fit the with the digital audience and having that digital Star Trek audience.”
Sadly he isn't wrong. The Original Series was always on the bubble of cancellation until it finally was in season 3. The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine got excellent rating as measured by syndication which would have been a quick cancellation only four or so episodes in on a network TV at the time. Star Trek: Voyager did ok for the UPN/CW but how they judged ratings was on a scale akin to syndication and again those numbers would have been a very quick cancellation on network TV at the time. Finally Star Trek: Enterprise was eventually cancelled after each year ending on the bubble and probably only lasted 4 seasons because of ancillary benefits like DVD sales which were still high at the time.

For many the natural "home" of Star Trek would have been the SyFy channel but remember that is a Comcast/NBC owned network so why would CBS hand that flagship franchise over to the competition? The options for a new Star Trek show are streaming or cable are thin since CBS doesn't have quite the breadth of channels that NBC enjoys and to consider it would mean CBS giving up some of their control over the franchise which they loathe to do. End result is the options for them were CW (been there, done that), Showtime (not prestige/adult enough), Netflix (but have to give up control), Hulu (part owner so probably considered), or keep for then infant plans to create their own streaming service. Thus Star Trek will premiere next summer on CBS All Access.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

CBS Removes Bryan Fuller as Star Trek: Discovery Showrunner

It seems that after delaying Star Trek: Discovery once by moving its premiere from January to May 2017 to work around Bryan Fuller's schedule, CBS has had enough when it seemed they might have had to do it a second time. It was officially announced that Bryan Fuller has "stepped down" as showrunner of Discovery and will be replaced with current show producers Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts.
"We are extremely happy with the creative direction of Star Trek: Discovery and the strong foundation that Bryan Fuller has helped us create for the series," producers CBS Television Studios said Wednesday in a statement. "Due to Bryan’s other projects, he is no longer able to oversee the day-to-day of Star Trek, but he remains an executive producer, and will continue to map out the story arc for the entire season. Alex Kurtzman, co-creator and executive producer, along with Fuller’s producing partners and longtime collaborators, Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts, will also continue to oversee the show with the existing writing and producing team. Bryan is a brilliant creative talent and passionate Star Trek fan, who has helped us chart an exciting course for the series. We are all committed to seeing this vision through and look forward to premiering Star Trek: Discovery this coming May 2017.”
Everything is phrased to allow Fuller to save face but make no mistake, CBS gave him an ultimatum. He probably asked for more time, they said no and demanded he either prioritize Star Trek over his other TV projects Starz's American Gods and NBC's Amazing Stories or step down. He chose the more lucrative projects as I am betting he gets no back end points for Star Trek considering its long established and fully owned by CBS where he can get co-creator credit and other incentives if both move ahead with multiple seasons.