Alex Kurtzman isn't done building out the Star Trek franchise for CBS All Access.
The franchise captain has plans for at least one more animated series to join the previously announced Star Trek: Lower Decks, the half-hour animated comedy from Mike McMahan (Rick and Morty). Additionally, CBS All Access has ordered two more installments of shortform series Star Trek: Short Treks — both of which will be animated. Both installments will debut in the spring, after Star Trek: Discovery wraps its second season on CBS All Access.
"Our goal is to not only expand the definition of Star Trek and what has qualified as traditional Star Trek, but also to tell stories that are both self-contained in a very short period of time that also connect to the larger picture of what we're doing, not only in Discovery but in the world building of Trek in general," Kurtzman told The Hollywood Reporter during an extensive Creative Space interview set to publish Wednesday. "And you get to tell these very intimate, emotional stories that are side stories to characters. So you get the benefit of the experience in and of itself but then when you watch Discovery you'll see that these were all setting up things in the world of season two."
Animation is one of the specific areas of interest to Kurtzman, who knows there will be a "minimum of two" and possibly more. "Each show has to have its own identity," he said, calling McMahan's Lower Decks a "wonderful perspective change."
Picked up with a two-season, straight-to-series order in October, Lower Decks will focus on the support crew serving on one of Starfleet's least important ships. It joins flagship Star Trek: Discovery and shortform entry Short Treks, as well as the Patrick Stewart-led untitled Picard series at CBS All Access. A Discovery spinoff starring Michelle Yeoh and younger-skewing Starfleet Academy from Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage (The O.C.) are among other projects in the works.
"[Lower Decks] is totally different from anything we're doing on any of these other shows and we decided to tell that story and make those people the heroes," Kurtzman said. He noted that while Lower Decks is an animated comedy, the series — nor any of the other Trek series in the works — will "never" laugh at it. "It's embracing and loving of all the tropes of Star Trek but it's never laughing at it."
The push is part of Kurtzman's larger plans to build out Star Trek for the SVOD platform as he looks to retain the "soul and spirit" of the iconic franchise while exploring different perspectives.
"There's other animated things that we're building that are an entirely different perspective and an entirely different tone [from Lower Decks]," Kurtzman said of the kids-focused series, which could land elsewhere beyond CBS All Access. "What's exciting about it is not only looking at each animated series as what's the different tone, but what's the different technology we can apply to these things so that visually they're entirely different?" (Additional details about the second animated Trek series for CBS All Access are being kept under wraps.)
Overall, Kurtzman notes expansion plans for Trek is driven "by what feels right." His larger plan includes appealing to young children, which is the central reason he's interested in animated Trek series.
"I go back to my childhood and Luke Skywalker, the [Star Wars] farm boy who looks out at the twin suns of Tatooine and imagines his future. Trek never gave me that. Trek was always fully formed adults, already in Starfleet and people who have decided who they are. And it never was aspirational that way," Kurtzman said. "It's important to me to find a way to go back and reach younger kids in a way that Trek should and never really has."
As Discovery inches closer to its Jan. 17 season-two return, the series is also moving closer to its original mythology with the casting of Ethan Peck as Spock. Discovery still has a 10-year gap to fill in before Captain Kirk's arrival on the Enterprise, and there are no current plans for Discovery to introduce the iconic character originally played by William Shatner.
"There's a 10-year gap between where we are in Discovery and Kirk's arrival on the Enterprise. There would [have to] be a major time jump if we were going to do something like that. What Kirk was doing at this particular time is another question, but we don’t have any immediate plans [for the character]," Kurtzman said. "I have not spoken to Shatner about it."