I was so excited when it was announced Bryan Fuller, who previously worked on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager and went on to create fascinating shows like Wonderfalls, Pushing Daisies, and Hannibal, would be running a new Star Trek series. I was deeply bummed out when he left, and I’ve been seriously disappointed with everything I’ve seen so far from Star Trek: Discovery.
That disappointment has only deepened with a new EW story about what Fuller intended for the new series. According to EW [via TrekMovie], Fuller wanted to do for sci-fi what American Horror Story did for horror. It would be an anthology series that had the freedom to tell new stories every season, and the anthology format has really taken off as you can see from the success of not only American Horror Story but also American Crime Story and Fargo:
Fuller sat with CBS executives to deliver his pitch. It wasn’t just for a ‘Trek’ series but for multiple serialized anthology shows that would begin with the ‘Discovery’ prequel, journey through the eras of Captain James T. Kirk and Captain Jean-Luc Picard, and then go beyond to a time in ‘Trek’ that’s never been seen before.
“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 ‘Trek’ shows.”
CBS countered with the plan of creating a single serialized show and then seeing how it performed. It was a fair compromise, yet demonstrated the first conflict of vision between a powerful company and an inventive writer that would eventually lead to a dramatic falling-out.
The network also set aside other elements of Fuller’s vision like “a more heavily allegorical and complex story line” and his vision for the uniforms, which were “a subdued spin on the original series’ trio of primary colors.”
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. CBS pretty much sucks. They tout themselves as the #1 network at a time when ratings don’t mean as much as they used to. When streaming services and cable networks are pushing the envelope, CBS is creating the safest series possible so that they don’t lose their octogenarian viewership.
Matters became further complicated when it came time to hire a director. CBS wanted David Semel to helm the pilot. Semel’s past work included Madam Secretary and Code Black, and he has a lot of experience directing pilots. Fuller wanted someone more visionary, and apparently he even reached out to Edgar Wright for the gig. Again, this is the direction that most television is headed where even broadcast networks have caught on. Bryan Singer directed the pilot for House, M.D. Joe Carnahan directed the pilot for The Blacklist. Fuller knows how to create eye-popping shows, and heaven forbid Star Trek: Discovery have an interesting aesthetic.
But as we previously reported, Fuller ultimately left because he couldn’t make CBS’ schedule. They wanted the show in January 2017 to help launch CBS All Access, and he couldn’t make that work for his schedule since he was splitting time between Discovery and American Gods. CBS, in their infinite wisdom, decided that rather than work with Fuller, trust his vision, and make Star Trek: Discovery a show worth talking about and therefore make CBS All Access a must-subscribe service, it was better to rush out anything a little sooner. Of course, what’s the long-term play here? If the show is bad, you’re not going to hold onto subscribers, and if no one is talking about, no one’s going to subscribe to your service.
I get where CBS is coming from, but it looks like they made the wrong choices every step of the way, and it’s a shame we’ll never see what Fuller had in store for Trek.