Beam Me Out of Here, Scotty!
When word broke earlier this year that Bryan Fuller would be executive producer and showrunner for the upcoming Star Trek: Discovery series, many fans (including myself) were excited about the news. Fuller has previous connections with Trek, having worked on both Deep Space 9 and Voyager. He also brought somewhat of the visionary role to the project, having developed a reputation as a creative force on television with his well-regarded shows like Pushing Daisies and Hannibal. But perhaps his creativeness conflicted too much with the corporate franchise that Star Trek has become, because now he is parting ways with Discovery before it has even moved into production.
We already heard just over a month ago that Fuller would be stepping down as showrunner--allegedly to free up time for his American Gods project on Starz--but that he would remain on as an executive producer. But now, we have learned that he is bowing out of the production altogether. Fuller had plotted out the first season story arc and the new showrunners Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts (who had worked with him previously on Pushing Daisies) will have that as their template going forward. But Fuller is turning his attention full-time to American Gods now with the following comments on the Trek situation:
It is bittersweet. But it was just a situation that couldn’t be resolved otherwise…so I had to step away.
What Went Wrong?
It’s hard to say for sure at this point, but I would venture to guess that Fuller proved too much of a visionary for the corporate machine that now controls the Star Trek franchise. He is known for his quirky, inventive, and visually stunning work in television, whereas Trek has become much more focused on making money from a name brand over the past years (and arguably decades). Gene Roddenberry brought plenty of the visionary to the original series, and that carried over into the early movies as well as the spin-off series Star Trek: The Next Generation. But eventually the franchise lost its way (I would argue that Voyager was the turning point), and while the recent big-screen reboot may have sold plenty of tickets, it has not re-connected to the original spirit of adventure and wonder that Star Trek is known for.
Many of us believed that Fuller could have taken the franchise back in that direction and he indicated that he wanted to tap into the original promise and hopefulness of the series. But I’m going to guess that he and the corporate executives did not see eye to eye on the direction of the series, leading to his decision to step away from it altogether. Of course, this doesn’t mean that all hope is lost for the Star Trek: Discovery. But I fear that it does indicate that the corporate executives are keeping a tight hand on the franchise which could sacrifice some of the creativity and sense of adventure that it sorely needs at this point.
A Quick Look at Bryan Fuller’s Resume
So who is this Bryan Fuller person, anyway. and why does he matter so much? Well for one, he has worked on Star Trek before back in the DS9 days as well as Voyager. His involvement was much more heavy with the latter, though, which is often considered one of the weakest Trek entries. Beyond that, Fuller is known for his fan-favorite shows which have typically not had much ratings success but which are well-regarded and have developed notable cult followings. Here are some of his most most-celebrated contributions.
- Dead Like Me – This odd Showtime dramedy followed a girl who dies and learns that she will be working in the afterlife as one of many Grim Reapers. Fuller ran into conflicts with MGM while working on this show (again, the visionary vs. the coporate execs) and departed early in its first season.
- Wonderfalls – In this series, a girl working in a Niagra Falls gift shops receives prophetic advice from the animal figurines that are sold there. FOX axed this quirky and fun show after only a few episodes aired, but it has gone on to develop a notable cult following.
- Heroes – This show was created by Tim Kring, but Bryan Fuller was showrunner during its first season and is often given much of the credit for its strong start. When he left after the first year, the quality of the show went downhill quickly and never managed to recover, even with last year’s revival series.
- Pushing Daisies – In this fairy tale for adults, a man finds that he can bring people back from the dead for a brief time which proves to be a blessing and a curse. This show debuted to strong ratings in its first year, but after an extended hiatus caused by the 2007 writer’s strike, its numbers slipped significantly and it was cancelled during its second season. But the show is highly regarded for its inventiveness and is often considered one of television’s great cult shows.
- Hannibal – This series acts a prequel of sorts to the Hannibal novels by Thomas Harris and would have eventually adapted those if it had not been cancelled after its third season. It was a love-it or hate-it affair, but is often praised for its visually-stunning storytelling and spot on cast that saw Mads Mikkelsen rivaling Anthony Hopkins’ performance as the title character.
How Will Bryan Fuller's Departure Impact Star Trek: Discovery?
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