Discovery showrunner Alex Kurtzman recently talked about walking the fine line of the vast Star Trek continuity and what is and isn’t canon.
Canon. It’s a word that can be a blessing and a curse for the people who work on established science-fiction franchises with passionate fanbases.
When Disney purchased Lucasfilm in 2012, one of the first things they decided to do was wipe the slate clean. All the stories from years of games, books and comics, collectively known as the Expanded Universe, was erased. Years of continuity was gone and it allowed Disney the freedom to create something new.
Did it upset a large portion of Star Wars fandom? Sure. Probably not as much as The Last Jedi, but the fans have seen that it was the best decision to make the franchise accessible to as many people as possible.
For Star Trek fans, canon has also been a hot button topic over the last few years. One that has caused no small amount or online furor.
First came 2009’s Star Trek, which reboot the film franchise with new actors and no connection to almost 50 years of stories. While the more hardcore Trekkers hated the movie and the two sequels that followed, a whole new generation of Star Trek fans were born.
That anger paled in comparison to what happened when Star Trek: Discovery launched. By placing the show a decade before the events of the Original Series, the producers had to deal with a large number of fans upset that the established canon of the show was being tweaked and changed. The result have been cries that Discovery isn’t “true” Star Trek and that people hate a show they have never watched.
What is a showrunner to do to make sure he pleases not just the hardcore fans but the new ones as well?
Ask Alex Kurtzman and he’ll tell you it’s all about the story first and foremost.
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While talking to Entertainment Weekly about the upcoming second season of Star Trek: Discovery, the subject of canon came up, as it always seems to. And Kurtzman said that while he tries to honor what has gone before, you can’t let canon, or what a segment of the fans want, run the show.
"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.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."
Anyone who has watched Discovery can tell that the show does its best to honor the stories that have been told while adding new layers to those same stories. Much the same way Star Trek: Enterprise added to the canon in ways fans never thought of, Discovery is doing the same thing. The problem is that a small minority aren’t willing to give it a chance and Kurtzman constantly has to discuss it to try to appease them so they don’t monopolize the conversation.
Maybe it’s time for Kutrzman to just let the haters hate and move on.
Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 arrives on CBS All Access on January 17.