'Star Trek': Ousted Showrunner Details Clash With CBS Over 'Discovery'

Prolific producer Bryan Fuller reveals he pushed back about the network's choice of directors and met resistance with budget, casting and costumes, among other issues.
Courtesy of CBS
'Star Trek: Discovery'

Nine months after he was ousted from his passion project Star Trek: Discovery, former showrunner Bryan Fuller is opening up about the behind-the-scenes issues that led to his dismissal from the upcoming CBS All Access drama.

Fuller, speaking with EW, detailed how his initial plan for the Star Trek revival was to do it as an anthology that would journey through previous incarnations of the beloved franchise to go beyond where the series has gone before on the small screen.

CBS, however, rejected that in favor of a single, serialized drama — and then taking a wait-and-see approach to what would follow. "The original pitch was to do for science fiction what American Horror Story had done for horror," said Fuller, who also pushed for the series to feature an African-American woman at its center. "It would platform a universe of Star Trek shows."

Fuller also outlined how he clashed with the network over its choice of David Semel (Madam Secretary, Code Black) to direct the pilot, as well as over costumes, stars, issues about the $6 million per episode budget and its original launch date.

Star Trek: Discovery was delayed twice from its planned January 2017 launch and is currently set to take flight Sept. 24 on CBS, with subsequent episodes launching weekly on digital platform CBS All Access.

"I got to dream big," Fuller told EW. "I was sad for a week, and then I salute the ship and compartmentalize my experience."

Fuller revealed that he had long set his sights on Sonequa Martin-Green to star in Discovery, but the network pushed back because AMC would not release the actress until after her character (Sasha) on The Walking Dead was killed off onscreen.

In October, Fuller was asked to step down as showrunner — after growing up as a diehard fan of the franchise and eventually working on Deep Space Nine and Voyager — when the network grew frustrated that he was splitting time with Starz's hyper-stylized American Gods adaptation. Fuller's longtime collaborators, Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts, were tapped to replace him.

"We are extremely happy with the creative direction of Star Trek: Discovery and the strong foundation that Bryan Fuller has helped us create for the series," producers CBS Television Studios said at the time. "Due to Bryan's other projects, he is no longer able to oversee the day-to-day of Star Trek, but he remains an executive producer, and will continue to map out the story arc for the entire season. Alex Kurtzman, co-creator and executive producer, along with Fuller’s producing partners and longtime collaborators, Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts, will also continue to oversee the show with the existing writing and producing team. Bryan is a brilliant creative talent and passionate Star Trek fan, who has helped us chart an exciting course for the series. We are all committed to seeing this vision through and look forward to premiering Star Trek: Discovery this coming May 2017."

In December, Fuller clarified that he was "not involved" at all in Discovery. "Ultimately, with my responsibilities [elsewhere], I could not do what CBS needed to have done in the time they needed it done for Star Trek," he said at the time. "It felt like it was best for me to focus on landing the plane with American Gods and making sure that was delivered in as elegant and sophisticated a fashion as I could possibly do."

Discovery had been slated to be CBS All Access' first scripted series (The Good Wife spinoff The Good Fight recently had that honor and has already completed its first 10-episode run). Following its September debut, CBS All Access will split the show's 15-episode first season, with the first eight episodes running through Nov. 5 and the second half returning with new episodes in January 2018.

The show's cast, including Martin-Green, and producers recently made their first public appearance together at San Diego Comic-Con, where Trekkies warmly received the second trailer. Many insiders had expected to screen the first episode — what had been a common practice for new shows at the pop culture confab. Still, the show ranked first on The Hollywood Reporter's informal survey of how all the new shows were received at Comic-Con. The convention was an important testing ground for the series as diehard fanboys had the opportunity to make or break the new incarnation.

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