The picture of how the “Star Trek” creative galaxy will interconnect on TV and in movies became clearer at the TCA winter press tour on Sunday, and the short answer is: not very much.
At the panel on Sunday for “Star Trek: Picard,” executive producers Alex Kurtzman and Heather Kadin said that the three “Star Trek” shows that will stream on CBS All Access this year — “Picard” on Jan. 23, season 3 of “Star Trek: Discovery” in the second half of the year, and the new animated comedy “Star Trek: Lower Decks” from “Rick and Morty” head writer Mike McMahan — will link up in the spirit of “Star Trek,” but not in their respective stories.
“I think what’s important is that all shows are connected because they’re ultimately ‘Trek,’” said Kadin, who stressed that each show carries a distinct voice and style.
After the panel, Kurtzman told Variety that viewers can expect “little references to story points between different series,” but nothing more substantial — at least at this point.
“I only want to do that kind of thing if there’s a really good reason to do it, not just to do it because we can,” Kurtzman said. He noted, for example, that “Discovery” and “Picard” currently take place in “wildly different timelines” that span almost 1,000 years.
“There’s obviously a lot of precedent in the ‘Star Trek’ universe for people in different timelines to merge, but, again, we have to have a damn good reason to do it,” he added. “So we’re taking it slow. We’re being methodical and deliberate.”
Kurtzman and Kadin are overseeing a galaxy’s worth of “Trek” TV content in the ViacomCBS pipeline. Along with “Picard,” “Discovery,” and “Lower Decks” (which received a two season order), a “Discovery” spin-off series featuring Michelle Yeoh’s character Philippa Georgiou is in active development, and Kurtzman and Kadin are also overseeing a separate “Trek” animated series for Nickelodeon.
Kurtzman declined to elaborate on the status of possible “Trek” series set at Starfleet Academy and involving the iconic “Trek” villain Khan Noonien Singh. “We are actively developing a lot of things right now” is all Kurtzman would allow. “But there’s some really exciting things on the horizon.”
Kurtzman’s comments come at a time when several studios are sorting out how their biggest franchises should cross-pollinate between film, TV, and streaming. Disney’s efforts are by far the most ambitious, integrating several different “Star Wars” movies and films within the Marvel Cinematic Universe into nearly a dozen separate series on Disney Plus. By contrast, WarnerMedia has thus far chosen to have its DC Comics feature films and TV series operate within respective — and quite separate — creative universes. And Amazon appears to be avoiding the issue entirely by setting its wildly ambitious series based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” thousands of years before the events of “The Hobbit” or “The Fellowship of the Ring.”
“Star Trek,” meanwhile, is suddenly the beneficiary of the reunification of CBS (which held the “Trek” TV rights) and Paramount (which held the “Trek” movie rights) with the merger of Viacom and CBS.
But in the “Picard” panel, Kurtzman avoided addressing whether that could mean the “Trek” shows will make their way back onto the big screen.
“The ink has just dried on the merger,” he said. “The beauty of what we get to do now is the line between movies and television is really gone.”
Kurtzman noted that he first began working on “Trek” by co-writing and producing 2009’s “Star Trek” and 2013’s “Star Trek Into Darkness.”
“It would be lovely to go back to [movies],” he said. “But I want to be sure if we do anything like that, we do it for the right reasons.”
The “Trek” features have remained stalled since 2016’s “Star Trek: Beyond.” A film reuniting Chris Pine’s Capt. James T. Kirk with Chris Hemsworth’s version of Kirk’s father from 2009’s “Star Trek” fell apart with director S.J. Clarkson, and Quentin Tarantino recently dialed down expectations that his mysterious, long-in-the-works “Trek” movie would ever get made.
Last November, however, Noah Hawley (FX’s “Fargo” and “Legion”) signed on to write and direct a new “Star Trek” movie, which he suggested to the Hollywood Reporter would feature a brand new cast.
It does appear that, at least superficially, Kurtzman has played a role in that film. When Variety asked him if he’d been in touch with Hawley, he nodded.
“We just emailed the other day,” he said.
“Yeah, we did talk about it,” Kurtzman said, before moving on. His expression was so neutral, one could almost mistake him for a Vulcan.