Season two of Star Trek: Discovery will warp on to CBS All Access on Thursday, and the tandem leading the charge is Alex Kurtzman and Heather Kadin. He’s the co-creator, executive producer and showrunner, and she’s an executive producer. The two sat for interviews in October after their New York Comic-Con appearance, chatting with a small group of journalists. Over the course of 20 minutes, they previewed things to come on Discovery, including Spock, talked about other Trek projects in the works, and more. Here’s what they had to say…
How different tonally will season two of Discovery be from season one? Now that the war arc is done, that opens things up, right?
KADIN: Yeah. It opens up the possibility to have more fun, I think, because it's hard when you're at war. Also, our characters have taken journeys with one another now that we've been a part of, so we've earned the right to stop down emotionally with these characters. Obviously, there's a lot of bigness, which you saw in the trailer, but the things you don't really get to see in the trailer that I think people are going to love in the show, if you love these characters, are the incredibly emotional moments they have with each other.
KURTZMAN: And the humor. We were at war last season. There weren't a lot of jokes. This season there's a lot more humor right off the bat. But, to me, humor is not about making a joke. It's actually about a human reaction to something insane. The way we react to those things is funny, and the more we can embed that in just the fabric of their experiences, I think, the more it feels like a fun ride to be on.
Do you have a vision or plan for how long this might go?
KURTZMAN: It can go for a long time. Trek… a lot of the series have gone for a long time, and the key is to constantly find a way to reinvent while also always delivering what people expect from the show.
Can you talk about what that means for the timeline because, as we go on, we'll approach TOS?
KURTZMAN: Well, we are syncing up with canon. So, we know we're 10 years pre-TOS, but there are a lot of big questions like, “How come Spock has never mentioned his house is from Michael Burnham? And this season is all about understanding what that relationship is, and by the end of the season we will be synced up with canon.
KADIN: I feel there's so many lifelong fans that everyone sits around the table and says, "Oh my God, my dream would be if Harry Mudd were on the show," for an example. And obviously that was still TOS. I think those things are always bantered. Everything's always on the table because there are certain characters people love. Mary Wiseman came in and was like, "So, how can we get Jean-Luc Picard on the bridge with me on Discovery? How can we figure that out?" So, you know, everyone has their fan favorite like that.
KURTZMAN: But you have to do it so carefully, and there has to be such a clear story reason to do it, otherwise it can feel gratuitous.
How tricky is it to bring in Spock and Pike and the Enterprise without losing Georgiou and Burnham and Discovery?
KURTZMAN: Well, the beauty, I think, of having (14) hours of television is that there's a lot of room for everybody. That would be a much more challenging prospect in a two-hour movie. But we have a lot of time, and I think we are constantly searching for a balance where each storyline gets real time.
What can you tell us about Spock?
KURTZMAN: Part of what I love about the opportunity of this season is that it is the untold chapter of Spock. And we can only tell it this season. Spock has experienced something in the signals and the Red Angel that has broken his logical brain. He cannot figure it out, and he is emotionally ill-equipped to deal with it. So, both logic and emotion are failing him completely, and he is not the character that we know at the beginning of TOS, who's much more comfortable in his own skin, and has figured out who he is, and what he believes in, and what he wants. So, this is really about how Spock becomes that character, and evolves into the Spock we know from TOS. The unwritten chapter is the chapter he shares with his sister, and through their relationship, and the difficulties they've had with each other, Spock figures out where on the line between logic and emotion he lives, or hold to hold them both in balance, or who he wants to be.
You are in essence the Gene Roddenberry, Harve Bennett, Rick Berman of this window in the franchise. What are the joys, responsibilities, challenges of taking that much on?
KURTZMAN: I don't see Trek as mine. I never have. I've been fortunate enough to work on it since the 2009 movie, and I think that all of us, Rick and Harve, and... Roddenberry's in his own category. Trek belongs to Roddenberry. Trek does not belong to us. Trek belongs to Roddenberry and the fans. And so, I think what I feel is a tremendous responsibility to protect everything that Trek is about, and protect why people love Trek, and why it's endured for so long, and also recognize that we're holding it very gently, like an egg, and that we will be passing it on to somebody in the future. So, our job is not to break it while we hold it.
I appreciate what you're saying, but I have to give credit to so many people around me who are doing so much of the work as well. Obviously, Heather and I are doing a lot of the big-picture planning of where the Star Trek world is going, but we have incredible crews who, as I said, every day are so grateful to be there and do the job. There's no version of this happening this way without everyone coming from that place of love. So, that's really how I see it for now, and I'll try not to mess it up for you.
What can you say about the other Star Trek shows that are in development?
KURTZMAN: There are so many amazing parts of the world of Star Trek that I would like to see that haven't been explored yet, that we'd all like to see. And we're looking at each other show from that place. As Heather said a couple times, it's really important show feels entirely different, so you don't just feel like you're getting the same experience every time you watch a Star Trek show. We have to make sure that each show is delivering a very unique experience. So, that's a big part of how we're making our choices.
What was it like for you introduce Patrick Stewart at Star Trek Las Vegas?
KURTZMAN: Oh my god! So amazing. Obviously, Patrick's gone on record as saying he could never play that part again. Getting him to say yes was its own amazing thing because Patrick is incredibly brilliant and motivated from a place of real heart and love. And what Patrick understood, so deeply, over so many years is how much Picard influenced people's lives, and how of all the captains in the world of Trek, in many ways he was the one who was the biggest beacon for people. In some ways, even more that Kirk. It was a very emotional thing for all of us to engage with each other because, as he should have felt, Patrick needed to make sure we were coming from the right place, and that we wanted to protect what Next Gen means to so many people, and what his character, specifically, means to so many people. And that was really about several conversations of back and forth, and exploring his instincts, our instincts. I think, ultimately, our job was to make him feel comfortable and safe, and to protect the show and shield it from anything that would break it in the wrong way.
Patrick tweeted his picture in the room. It's no joke. He was there for two weeks at the beginning of the experience, sitting with the writers, and everybody was talking together about what they wanted this show to be. And that's very special. Patrick will send us beautifully written emails about what he feels about Picard, and where he feels Picard has been, and that's no inspirational. So, getting to walk out on stage... I mean, to be honest with you, I still don't know how I became this guy who's doing this with everybody. But to be able to walk out on stage with him and introduce him as a friend who is actually stepping back into the role he said he would never do again, to the delight of so many people… I was standing there. I saw people crying in the theater. It was incredible.
KADIN: And people running in after they had left. People were like, "Oh my god, what's happening?"
KURTZMAN: It was such an amazing moment, and I think it was a, truly, once in a lifetime moment because you only get to announce his return after 20 plus years one time. And he spoke so from the heart.
He was crying. It was an unrehearsed speech. I think he had lots of feelings, but didn't quite know how it was going to be expressed until he stepped onto the stage, and he spoke so beautifully. And to be able to stand behind him in that moment was a gift for me.
Star Trek: Discovery's second season will premiere on Thursday, January 17, 2019 on CBS All Access in the U.S. and on Space Channel in Canada. The series premieres in 188 countries on Netflix on Friday, January 18, 2019.