I was really excited to be contacted by CBS the other day and be given the opportunity to interview some of the writers of ‘Star Trek: Discovery’. This is my first big bit of actual journalism, and it was also an amazing opportunity to find out some exclusive behind-the-scenes info about the show, as well as some hints at what’s to come.
Crude Reviews: Hi all, thank you so much for flying out to talk to us! It’s great to have you here with us to talk about this amazing show you’ve written.
Writing Unit #1: Thanks, and it’s so great to be here, thank you for having us. And on such a nice day! Look at that sunshine.
CR: Uh, that’s a painting, not a window. It’s actually horrible outside.
CR: So, anyway, let’s talk ‘Star Trek’. Writing for such a well-established franchise has to be a challenge, so what was your approach to keep things consistent for existing fans?
Writing Unit #2: What a great question. It’s so great to be here, thank you for having us. Our primary approach was to remember that the show is set in space, so we made sure that there was at least one space ship in each episode. Sometimes, there were two, occasionally three space ships, but one space ship was the minimum, really.
CR: Oh… kay. I… That’s interesting. Let’s move on, let’s talk about characters. Trek has always had a mix of different characters with different backgrounds. Can you talk about how you developed the characters for this new show, and what inspired you when writing dialogue for them?
WU1: What a great question. It’s so great to be here, and on such a nice day! We tried to draw inspiration from multiple sources for our characters. For instance, Saru, who is an alien because he’s from space, was intended to be a popular character. As such, we based him on the popular character Chandler, from the commercially profitable show ‘Friends’.
[Side-note: I know this is a joke article, but seriously, if you watch the ‘After Trek’ episode for Discovery’s ‘Choose Your Pain’, one of the writers genuinely states that Saru is partially based on Chandler from ‘Friends’. I’m not even kidding, that’s something that’s actually true. Go and watch ‘After Trek’. Just be careful, it’s nearly as bad as ‘Discovery’ itself.]
CR: So, you based one of the main characters for a Star Trek show on a sitcom character? That’s… that’s certainly a fresh approach. I guess. I’m almost scared to ask, but did you draw inspiration from any other sources?
WU2: What a great question. It’s so great to be here. Other sources of inspiration included:
- Space. The show is set in space, so space was a big inspiration.
- The most popular elements of other Sci Fi shows.
- The most popular elements of movies.
- The most popular elements of history and culture.
- ‘The Expanse’. This was the most significant source of inspiration, because ‘The Expanse’ is set in space, and so is this show, so it was a natural fit. ‘The Expanse’ also features humans, words and moving images, which also made it a natural fit. To make the most out of this inspiration, we took the scripts from ‘The Expanse’, replaced the proper nouns with our own proper nouns as approved by CBS, and also added a few paragraphs about a tardigrade.
CR: Did you just speak in bullet points? How did you… how is that even possible? Y’know what, nevermind. Uhh, Burnham’s mutiny seems to be the main backbone of the show’s narrative. How did you approach it, and how did this affect the character’s motivations?
WU1: What a great question. Thank you for having us. Market research demonstrated that the term “mutiny” had an audience engagement score of 0.76, approximately equivalent to “betrayal”, “sacrifice” and “coming-of-age”, so it was important to ensure that the main character did indeed engage with, or become affected by, something which could be described as “mutiny”. To maximise audience engagement and retention, we structured the dialogue such that the term “mutiny”, or a derivative, was spoken at least three times during each episode’s run time.
CR: That’s a surprisingly cohesive answer. Moving on, it’s clear to most people that this is the darkest instalment of Star Trek to date. What prompted that shift in tone?
WU2: It’s so great to be here, and what a great question! We analysed the most successful Sci Fi and / or Fantasy show in the past ten years, ‘Game of Thrones’, and highlighted its primary components, which included: graphic violence, gratuitous nudity and sex scenes, political intrigue, swearing, and magic. We ran these through the North American Conservative Values Acceptability Index (NAConVAI), which eliminated everything except graphic violence and swearing for inclusion in a mainstream show. With those parameters established, we could ensure a minimum probability for success without alienating any viewers who may be offended by non-Christian elements such as nipples or diversity.
[Again, you may think I’m joking but one of the creators literally said that they thought nudity “doesn’t feel right” on Star Trek, yet apparently women of colour getting lacerated, burned and eaten is all fair game. Look, there’s a screenshot below, taken from this article at The AvClub:
To clarify, I don’t give a shit about the swearing, pretty fucking obviously – just the horrific violence.]
CR: You brought up diversity, which raises the subject of some of the criticism that ‘Discovery’ has faced for its sadistic portrayal of violence against women. How do you respond to those who have accused the show of having a sinister approach towards representation?
WU1: It’s so great to be here answering these great questions, thank you for having us, it’s great. After we cast a black woman as the lead character on the show, we were worried that we would be alienating other minority groups, such as white men and white boys. As such, it was important that for every black woman in a lead role, at least two other non-white women would have to be killed in order to show we were balanced. Otherwise, if we don’t represent the views and insecurities of everyone watching, including white men and white boys, we could hardly call ourselves “diverse”, could we?
CR: You make a compelling argument, as always. But do you really think it was necessary to kill off those non-white women with such graphic and violent methods?
WU1: Such a great question. As established previously, we needed graphic violence to achieve ‘Game of Thrones’-levels of success, and there was a real concern that if any of that graphic violence were to occur to any white men in major roles, the white men watching the show might be put off watching the show, for fear that the violence was reflective of our feelings towards white men who, let’s be honest, have a pretty tough time already.
CR: … … … Let’s move on. It’s been confirmed that the Mirror Universe will be featuring later in the show. Can you take us through your plans for this classic part of the Trek canon?
WU2: We sure can, and can I just say, it’s great to be here! We decided, after a fair bit of research, that the Mirror Universe was suitably recognisable to casual Trek fans that including it would increase viewer attraction by 39.1%. Whilst we weren’t sure how to proceed with that kind of storyline, we soon realised how much narrative potential there was in the concept of a parallel universe accessible through portals in every bathroom and bedroom.
CR: Hang on a fucking second, you think that the Mirror Universe literally means a universe in mirrors? Like some kind of Stephen Donaldson bullshit?
WU2: What a great question! The Mirror Universe is a complex part of the show. I mean, we get to see what our characters would look like if they were left-handed! We get to see what Starfleet insignia look like on the other side of the uniform! This really gave us a lot to play with, particularly in terms of things being on opposite sides to where they would normally be. Imagine seeing the Discovery’s bridge, but from right-to-left instead of left-to-right! How crazy is that?
CR: Are… Are you kidding? Is this a wind up?
WU1: Thanks for having us, it’s great to be here! What great questions! Of course this isn’t a joke! We are only programmed to deliver humour in the form of a red-headed sidekick who demonstrates no agency. Would you like to ask another question?
CR: No. No, I think I’m done. I think I’m done for good.
WU2: Well, thanks for having us! It’s great to be here! And on such a lovely day!