We should have seen it from the many months of delays or the moment Bryan Fuller was ousted, but it's becoming clear now: There have been serious problems behind the scenes of Star Trek Discovery from the very start.
Now I know what you're immediately thinking: That I hate this show and so anything I say is going to be biased. Well, yes but please hear me out, because ignoring this means ignoring the complaints of some who have actually worked for NuTrek.
Over the last five years since the show has been greenlit, there have been a series of negative stories and rumors about the show's production and reception. From this, a picture of toxicity and hostility begins to emerge from behind the scenes.
I know what you're now thinking: Much of that are just rumors that can't be proven. Sure, there are a ton of rumors surrounding the show where the only source is hearsay. So for the sake of making my argument as fair as possible, I will emphasize mainstream news articles that include sources to prove my point. If you disagree with this article, you disagree with source material.
Why do I care? I care because I care about Star Trek, and over the last few years, I've seen the franchise wander further and further away from its core values. I've also seen how the staff have been continuously hostile to criticism, while at the same time, low-key listening to it. At first I thought it was just incompetency, but now I'm beginning to suspect that there is a lot of hostility behind the scenes that is by extension, affecting the quality of the show. I'll start from 2015 and move my way onto 2021.
Greenlit by Les Moonves
Leslie Moonves Explains Why 'Star Trek' Went to CBS All Access (Hollywood Reporter)
Can ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Help CBS Boldly Go Into a Streaming Future? (Variety)
In August of 2018 though, the New Yorker reported allegations of misconduct by six women. By December, he would be fired from CBS and his severance package withheld while an investigation was underway. Moonves denied all allegations.
Les Moonves says over-the-top TV is the future (Page Six)
Les Moonves and CBS Face Allegations of Sexual Misconduct (New Yorker)
Former CBS chairman Les Moonves fired for cause, will not receive severance in wake of sexual misconduct allegations (Washington Post)
Launch delayed by nine months
New ‘Star Trek’ TV series coming in 2017 (LA Times)
CBS' 'Star Trek' Taps Bryan Fuller as Showrunner (Hollywood Reporter)
Yet by October that same year, it was announced that Fuller was leaving the series and the show was being pushed back to May. Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts were tapped to replace him as show-runners.
CBS producers were quoted saying, "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.”
Bryan Fuller Out as 'Star Trek: Discovery' Showrunner (Hollywood Reporter)
Eight months later, the Hollywood Reporter would report, "Former showrunner Fuller clashed with CBS over the show's concept, casting, directors, costumes and budget on top of its original launch date. In October 2016, Fuller was asked to step down as showrunner".
'Star Trek: Discovery' Showrunners Out; Alex Kurtzman to Take Over (Hollywood Reporter)
By January of 2017, it was announced that Star Trek Discovery would be pushed back again. This time though, they didn't announce a new date.
CBS producers were quoted saying, "Production on Star Trek: Discovery begins next week. We love the cast, the scripts and are excited about the world the producers have created," reps for CBS All Access said in a statement. "This is an ambitious project; we will be flexible on a launch date if it's best for the show. We've said from the beginning it's more important to do this right than to do it fast. There is also added flexibility presenting on CBS All Access, which isn't beholden to seasonal premieres or launch windows."
'Star Trek: Discovery' Delayed Again as Spock's Father Is Cast (Hollywood Reporter)
By June of 2017, it was then announced at CBS' upfront presentation that Star Trek Discovery had a launch date set for that September and that they were splitting the season into two parts to allow more time for post production.
‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Gets September Premiere Date On CBS & CBS All Access, Season 1 Split In Two (Deadline)
Finally, in an interview with Variety in September of 2017, writer Akiva Goldsman dispelled any Spock rumors.
"Is Burnham’s relationship with Spock going to become a factor at any point?"
"Right now we are really trying to be very gentle about any kind of direct intersection with what we would consider hero components of “TOS” [the original series]. It’s certainly mentioned, but it’s not explored."
‘Star Trek: Discovery’: Akiva Goldsman on Spock, What’s in Store for Season 1
If the Hollywood Reporter is right, the delay came from the fact that Fuller, who wrote for Deep Space Nine and Voyager disagreed with the direction others wanted to take the show and was removed after he and Kurtzman asked for a delay. Yet was the direction they ultimately went with the right one?
Negative reaction to mixed reviews
"Everyone seems a tiny bit uncomfortable on the Shenzhou as Starfleet heatedly debates the nuances of Klingon diplomacy. It’s clear, with references to ancient military strategy and Lewis Carroll, that it’s trying to keep up with the high bar set by other prestige shows. But it’s not quite there yet—specifically when Discovery tries to be funny, which only makes you realize how dry and dark the rest of the show is."
Star Trek: Discovery Is Beautiful. But Does That Make it Good? (Esquire)
"And I liked how Discovery maintained a steady bridge crew of familiar faces. They didn’t have much to do, but their constant presence grounded a show that kept throwing out its narrative foundation every few episodes... (H)ere at the end of a long season: The Enterprise (appears)! The original starship’s appearance feels like a surrender, an admission that Discovery has already run out of less obvious old ideas."
The lame Star Trek: Discovery finale took the franchise backward (EW)
"Certainly, Discovery has a precarious balancing act to maintain - especially with the shocking bombshell that ended the season as they came face-to-face with the U.S.S. Enterprise. When they eventually show the interiors of the Constitution-class starship, it will have to match the well-established design of the classic series while invoking the advances of Discovery's enhanced visuals. But from every dazzling moment of Discovery thus far, the series is no doubt up to the challenge of redesigning Star Trek so that it reflects its beloved look while still feeling like it's the future. Most importantly, Discovery is a simply a feast for the senses. It's the most amazing-looking Star Trek series ever."
Is Star Trek: Discovery Any Good? Yes, It's Incredible (ScreenRant)
However, CBS' response to the complaints to the differences in the Klingons and the canon, was to spend the rest of the year redirecting the focus to critics being racist and sexist. I released an article documenting this back in January, here are some of the articles that were sourced and quotes from it:
"By a strange and circuitous logic, the trolls who scream, “White genocide!” have espoused this very argument against the show. In effect, they are pining for the least appealing aspects of “Star Trek,” those that arise from unconscious slips and lingering prejudices, despite the writers’ best intentions. But it seems clear that they are fighting a losing battle. As the franchise continues to evolve to better reflect the tastes and the diversity of a global audience, the trolls will find it increasingly difficult to locate a safe space for their nativist fantasies, on Earth or among the stars."
For Alt-Right Trolls, “Star Trek: Discovery” Is an Unsafe Space (Hollywood Reporter)
"I would encourage them to look past their opinions and social conditioning and key into what we're doing here — which is telling a story about humanity that will hopefully bring us all together. And it’s hard to understand and appreciate 'Star Trek' if you don't understand and appreciate that. It's one of the foundational principles of 'Star Trek' and I feel if you miss that then you miss the legacy itself."
'Star Trek: Discovery' star claps back at racist trolls: You don't "understand" 'Star Trek' (Mic)
“It’s one of the foundational principles of Star Trek and I feel if you miss that then you miss the legacy itself. I’m incredibly proud to be the lead of this show and be at the forefront of an iteration of Star Trek that’s from the eyes of a black woman that’s never been done before, though obviously there’s been other forms of diversity that have been innovated by Trek. I feel like we’re taking another step forward, which I think all stories should do. We should go boldly where nobody has gone before and stay true to that.”
Star Trek: Discovery star replies to show's racist critics (EW)
“There are also people who are upset that there is a woman lead, or a woman of color lead, or that there’s a diverse platform for every gender and sexuality. Those people can go f**k themselves.”
Star Trek: Discovery Cast Tackles Criticism, Racism (Tom's Guide)
“Look, if you disagree with that—well, you’re wrong there too, but at least that’s a position you can take,” he says. “But if you’re saying ‘Star Trek should not be political,’ that is a completely invalid and dumb position."
What’s with All the Hate for ‘Star Trek: Discovery’? (Wired)
Ironically, while they were doing this redirection campaign externally, internally they tried to change the show to satisfy the three largest complaints these supposed "haters" had about the series: That it didn't feel like Star Trek, that it was too dark and the Klingons looked terrible. They changed the Klingon's design and added hair as well as a ridiculous non-canon excuse for why they didn't have hair in season one. They hired Anson Mount and Ethan Peck to play Captain Pike and Mr. Spock, despite trying to distance themselves from including Spock in the first season. Last they tried to add some light comedy in the first few episodes of the season and hired comedian Tig Notaro as part of the cast.
Star Trek: Discovery taps classic fun, adventure to woo old-school Trekkies (CNET)
STAR TREK: DISCOVERY' SEASON 2 KLINGON HAIR EXPLAINED (Newsweek)
Comedian Tig Notaro Cast In ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ As Engineer (TrekMovie.com)
There were also a ton of rumors that began to spring up about how Netflix, who distributed the show internationally, was not happy with the results of season one and that CBS was thinking about cancelling the show, however these rumors were never confirmed.
With the mixed reaction to Discovery season one, CBS caught a break when Secret Hideout, headed by Alex Kurtzman, convinced Patrick Stewart to reprise his role as Jean Luc Picard. It was announed by Stewart himself, August 2018. Within the next few months, a number of other Trek related shows were announced.
Patrick Stewart to Reprise 'Star Trek' Role in New CBS All Access Series (Hollywood Reporter)
CBS All Access orders 2 seasons of "Star Trek: Lower Decks" (CBS News)
Michelle Yeoh May Captain Next 'Star Trek' Spinoff for CBS All Access (Hollywood Reporter)
'Star Trek: Discovery' Renewed for Season 2 on CBS All Access (Hollywood Reporter)
Cast and crew "terrorized" (Update 06/30/2021):
“As opposed to being on the set of Star Trek. Which I was on the set of Star Trek. Worst experience… Sorry, I will be very careful about what I say.”
“But I could tell…what I will say is the crew and the cast were traumatized by a production team and a writers room that was in constant flux and power dynamics where you could just tell that they felt threated. You could tell they felt threatened,”
“Yeah, they came after me. Yeah. The showrunner was fired and there was a new showrunner. And I was brought into to do ADR and they wanted me to redo my entire performance because the new showrunner didn’t like my acting, ultimately didn’t like my acting,”
“But you could just tell that something happened. So the new people at the head of Star Trek…whoever is running it now, they are just terrified of whoever is running it now. Whoever is running Star Trek now is running it with an iron fist and they didn’t like anything that I did so they completely replaced my voice. I don’t know who is voicing my character.”
Dark Matter Actor Andrew Moodie Claims The Star Trek: Discovery Production Team Is Terrorizing The Cast And Crew (Bounding Into Comics)
‘Star Trek: Discovery’ USS Enterprise Design Change Clarified As Creative Decision, Not A Legal One (Trekmovie.com)
By June 2018, Aaron Harberts and Gretchen Berg were fired from the show and Alex Kurtzman took over as show-runner. According to the Hollywood reporter, "Sources say the budget for the season two premiere ballooned, with the overages expected to come out of subsequent episodes from Discovery's sophomore run. Insiders also stress that Berg and Harberts became increasingly abusive to the Discovery writing staff, with Harberts said to have leaned across the writers room table while shouting an expletive at a member of the show's staff." This is also when it was reported that Fuller, "clashed with CBS over the show's concept, casting, directors, costumes and budget on top of its original launch date".
'Star Trek: Discovery' Showrunners Out; Alex Kurtzman to Take Over (Hollywood Reporter)
In August 2018, there was an altercation between Anson Mount and a director during the filming of season 2 that made it to HR and then leaked in March of 2019. According to Deadline, "The incident reportedly stemmed from a discussion of a scene, and Mount gesticulating and pointing, which was the action of the scene in question. In acting out that scene before the cameras were turned on, the actor’s hands made physical contact with the director."
‘Star Trek: Discovery’: Two Major New Characters To Exit At End Of Season 2
The final incident until we got Moodie's complaints happened in 2019:
One of the largest complaints about Star Trek Discovery is the lack of creative writing. It seems as though they are once again listening, while pretending to ignore us by actually hiring a very talented novelist named Walter Mosley to help write for season 3. However, he only spent about three weeks in the writers room before he received a phone call regarding a word he said:
"I got the call from Human Resources. A pleasant-sounding young man said, “Mr. Mosley, it has been reported that you used the N-word in the writers’ room." I replied, “I am the N-word in the writers’ room.” He said, very nicely, that I could not use that word except in a script. I could write it but I could not say it...
I just told a story about a cop who explained to me, on the streets of Los Angeles, that he stopped all niggers in paddy neighborhoods and all paddies in nigger neighborhoods, because they were usually up to no good. I was telling a true story as I remembered it...
There I was being chastised for criticizing the word that oppressed me and mine for centuries. As far as I know, the word is in the dictionary. As far as I know, the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence assure me of both the freedom of speech and the pursuit of happiness...
My answer to H.R. was to resign and move on. I was in a writers’ room trying to be creative while at the same time being surveilled by unknown critics who would snitch on me to a disembodied voice over the phone. My every word would be scrutinized. Sooner or later I’d be fired or worse — silenced."
We later learned from a different article that the show he had been writing for was of course, non-other than Star Trek Discovery. CBS would confirm the articles by saying, "We have the greatest admiration for Mr. Mosley’s writing talents and were excited to have him join Star Trek: Discovery. While we cannot comment on the specifics of confidential employee matters, we are committed to supporting a workplace where employees feel free to express concerns and where they feel comfortable performing their best work. We wish Mr. Mosley much continued success."
Why I Quit the Writers’ Room (New York Times)
Author Walter Mosley Quits 'Star Trek: Discovery' After Using N-Word in Writers Room
There seems to be a rather secretive environment of mismanagement and hostility surrounding Alex Kurtzman ever since the start of pre-production. There also seems to be a habit of throwing most of their show-runners under the bus once they let them go, yet these incidents of toxicity and hostility are still happening, so maybe the problem are the people doing the chastising and firing. Sadly, what suffers in the end is the quality of an already tainted show.
Without relying on rumors, I think I've proven that anybody who denies that there is a problem within the offices and studios of CBS/Secret Hideout are only fooling themselves. Let's hope that this recent leak of news compels CBS to take a good look at their relationship with Secret Hideout and how they are handling their franchise. If they felt compelled to, they could even apologize to the fans for attacking them.
Yet we know what is most likely going to happen: CBS/Secret Hideout will only work to further clamp down on these types of leaks while pretending everything is fine.