Star Trek: Discovery is already charting itself a bold new course going into season three. Picard is on the way. And that’s before we get to the animated shows and the seemingly zillions of other Star Trek projects in the works.
In an age with more Trek than ever before, how does its architect plan on avoiding fatigue?
Variety… and toys, apparently.
Speaking to Deadline’s Crew Call Podcast about the oncoming onslaught of Trek shows, Alex Kurtzman, Discovery co-showrunner and current overseer of all things Star Trek at CBS, addressed the understandable concern that, even after being away from TV for so long, having so much Star Trek so quickly is going to lead to people getting sick and tired of so much boldly going on.
His answer is twofold: First, that all the current projects we know of in the Trek universe are planning for the next five to 10 years of the franchise, if not necessarily its immediate future. Then, Kurtzman believes the key to their success is each show being wildly different in tone and look and target audience:
It’s not just the shows, we have the Short Treks too. We’re doing six more of them, two of them are animated, unlike the two animated shows. What I love about the Short Treks is that they are an experimental training ground, a place to experiment with different things—directors who we’ve never worked with before, tones we’ve never tried before.
Michael Giacchino is doing one of the animated shorts and Olatunde Osunsanmi is doing another one… again, different animation styles, totally different tones—aimed at kids I would say, more than adults.
Interestingly, part of that variety that really excited Kurtzman is bringing more kid-focused Star Trek content to younger audiences.
Besides revealing that the two animated iterations of the upcoming next wave of Star Trek: Short Treks minisodes would be deliberately more kid-focused than the rest of the live-action shorts, Kurtzman waxed lyrical about how bringing Trek back to the realm of animation for the first time since the all-star Star Trek: The Animated Series could bring Trek not just to a new audience, but to a realm that has mostly danced around the franchise for decades: toys.
What [Star Trek does] have is new generations, and what I can tell you is that Trek in general finds people when they’re about between nine and twelve. It’s never reached younger than that. It’s never tried to, and to me that’s a hugely missed opportunity, especially because what you’re really trying to do is influence hearts and minds with really positive messages.
Messages about who we can be as a species and as people and what our future is. So why not start young, you know? And not for a cynical reason. Not because hey, let’s sell some more toys, but because if you really want Star Trek to reach people, then you’ve got to start young…
I think part of it, too, is that there was never an output of shows like we’re planning on doing, that allowed—especially for younger generations—that allowed toys to be on shelves.
So this is an example where, within a year or two from now when the animated shows come out and we have two more Star Trek shows on the air, I’m really curious to see what’s happening on those toy shelves. It’s a long term plan.
It’s a bit cynical, despite what Kurtzman says.
But the fact that the glee with which Kurtzman speaks about being able to sell Star Trek toys to kids that don’t suck (invoking the infamous Spock Helmet as an example of merchandising totally whiffing on the franchise it’s meant to sell) is only matched by the delight he has about sharing Star Trek’s lofty ideals with a fresh young audience that really hasn’t been specifically served by Trek before is a least a little reassuring.
Let’s hope those noble intentions pan out in the next few years when more Trek than ever before (and those apparently exciting Trek toys) enter our lives.