Star Trek Discovery showrunner Bryan Fuller says that the newest Star Trek series will focus on a female lead as she explores space and tries to understand the different species and people she meets through her journeys.
Fuller addressed press at the Television Critics Association conference in Los Angeles on Wednesday and said while he couldn't give too much away, they were currently in the casting process for the lead actor — who will play a lieutenant instead of the captain. When asked why Fuller and the writing team —which includes Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry's son, Rod — decided to make the character a lieutenant instead of a captain, Fuller said that he wanted to change up Star Trek as it entered a new age.
"The story that's fascinating for me now is not from the captain's perspective," Fuller said. "We've seen six series from the captain's point of view and we wanted to do something different."
"We'll probably have some more aliens than usual in our cast"
For Fuller, the most important part of Discovery will be about this character's journey and the self-discovery she experiences while meeting people. Fuller said that in many ways, the show reflects what's happening in the world today as people try to understand what others are going through and trying to understand why people do certain things. He added that the biggest realization the character will encounter is that she'll never be able to fully understand why the universe operates the way it does and she'll have to embrace that.
"It's about this woman's journey to understand something that is so completely foreign to her that she has to understand herself first," Fuller said. "It's a complete inaccuracy because we can't imagine who they are or what they're thinking because we aren't them."
Even though the character hasn't been cast, Fuller said that the number one thing on their mind is diversity. While the role will ultimately go to the actor that they think is best suited for it, one of the aspects about Star Trek that Fuller has always loved is its commitment to having a diverse cast. As questions come up about why women — and women of color especially — are still facing major issues in the science and tech industries, Fuller wants to use his show as a vehicle to address some of those concerns. Still, he reiterated that he hadn't cast the actress yet, so didn't want to make any promises.
"Star Trek started with a wonderful diversity in its cast," Fuller said. "Infinite diversity in infinite combinations, as Spock would say. We are absolutely continuing that tradition. We'll probably have some more aliens than usual in our cast, too."
Fuller couldn't give too much information about how many aliens would appear in the series, but did confirm that one of the aliens would be named Saru.
Fuller confirmed this would be a new species of aliens that fans of the show haven't seen and was just one of many new alien species they had fun coming up with in the writers room. On top of introducing a variety of new aliens, however, Fuller said they were going to redesigning some familiar species and hoped that Star Trek fans would appreciate the new look.
"With Star Trek, it's a combination of the lighter tones and the darker tones of my previous shows," Fuller said. "What is going to be the aesthetic and feel of the new Star Trek series? We looked at an abandoned Star Trek series from the '70s and James Bond type cars from the '70s, so there's a lot of that influence."
Fuller added that because they were still in development, images that they've shown off at events like Comic-Con are also outdated. The new ship, for example, already looks much different than it did in the video they showed off just a couple of weeks ago in San Diego. Fuller said everything on the show is a work in progress and it's a group effort to decide what makes it into the show and what doesn't.
"It's about this woman's journey to understand something that is so completely foreign to her"
"We want to give everyone an idea of what the ship looks like," Fuller said. "We want to give them that inside look, but it's an evolution and we're finding it as we go."
What Fuller does know for certain, though, is when the show takes place. The events of Discovery will take place ten years before Captain James T. Kirk starts his five-year mission in the original series. That means that certain characters — like Amanda Grayson, otherwise known as Spock's mother — could potentially make an appearance. When pressed about whether she would or not, Fuller smirked.
"Maybe," he offered coyly. "It could happen. It's in the realm of possibilities."
The events of Discovery will also be recognizable to hardcore Trek fans, Fuller said. The event, which is referenced in the original series but is never fully explored, is something that has been discussed heavily between fans, and it's the starting point Fuller wanted to kick off from. As a diehard Trek fan himself, he said that he thought it would make a perfect event to focus on for a serialized series; the first that doesn't operate as strictly episodic in the Trek television universe.
"One of the things that's exciting for me as a Star Trek fan is the history of Starfleet," Fuller said. "There was an event that was talked about but never fully explored and we're excited to explore that for the first time."
The 13-episode Star Trek Discovery is set to premiere in January 2017 on CBS All Access in Canada and the United States. The weekly show will be available to those in other countries to stream the day-after on Netflix.