Speaking at the virtual Contenders Television: The Nominees event, Star Trek: Short Treks executive producer Alex Kurtzman said that the unique aspect of the Emmy-nominated series are the experiments it allows and its bridge to the greater Trekverse.
“I love the idea of using the shorts to run an experiment, which is how we can tell a satisfying Start Trek stories in a shorter form, often the kinds of scenes or the kinds of stories that would be happening on the ship but wouldn’t necessarily make it into the main episode,” he said.
CBS All Access’ short-form anthology series originated as a spinoff from Star Trek: Discovery, serving as companion to the sci-fi drama. Meanwhile, one of the Season 2 episodes, “Q&A”, serves a setup for the upcoming Strange New Worlds anthology series.
“Q&A” was one of two Short Treks episode showcased during the Contenders TV presentation, along with “The Girl Who Made the Stars,” one of the first animated Star Trek episodes since the 1970s.
“Animation is an amazing playground and there are so many different kinds of animation, we’re in this extraordinary renaissance of animation so it felt like a really cool way to experiment with Star Trek storytelling,” Kurtzman told Deadline senior editor/chief TV critic Dominic Patten.
“The Girl Who Made the Stars” begins with a lightning storm waking a scared young Michael Burnham, whose father aims to ease her fears with a mythical story about a brave little girl who faced her own fears head on.
Burnham is of course the Starfleet character played in the live action Star Trek: Discovery by Sonequa Martin-Green.
“In Season 2 of Discovery in the premiere, the first story that Burnham tells in voiceover is the story of ‘The Girl Who Made The Stars’ and this really becomes the origin story of how Burnham learned that story, so her father played by Kendrick Greene, tells her the story that’s a creation myth,” Kurtzman said of the episode’s origin. “We talked a lot about how we could link a creation myth in Africa to Star Trek and what is the natural line between those two and how do you find the fusion between the science fiction and the myth itself.”
Kurtzman continued on how he was attracted to animation to tell the story. “I just loved the idea of getting to do a story like this in an animated format. I’m constantly amazed at what Pixar is able to do in five minutes and how they can ring tears out of your eyes in such a short amount of time,” he said.
The growing Trekverse, overseen by Kurtzman, includes two animated series, Star Trek: Lower Decks, which just premiered on CBS All Access, and the upcoming CG-animated kids series Star Trek: Prodigy on Nickelodeon.
“Q&A”, a bridge that leads to the upcoming Strange New Worlds, was penned by Star Trek: Picard Season 1 showrunner Michael Chabon. In it, Ensign Spock’s (Ethan Peck) first day aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise doesn’t go as planned when he and Number One (Rebecca Romijn) are unexpectedly stuck together in an elevator. There’s a surprising moment when Number One breaks out in song.
“One of the questions that Michael had before he started writing was, ‘Does Rebecca have any special skills that we can feature?’ and so I asked her and she said ‘Well I do know Gilbert & Sullivan and I’m classically trained in singing Gilbert & Sullivan,’ ” Kurtzman shared.
Acknowledging shades of Waiting for Godot and French New Wave in the episode, Kurtzman said he’s a “massive fan” of French New Wave. “I’m also a massive fan of Hitchcock and of films like Rope or Lifeboat where he takes one space and he says I’m going to lock you into this space and make it as interesting as possible and the only way to do that isn’t just with camera but by putting the characters in an extraordinarily compelling story that forces them to change in a way were they not trapped in a room like that.”
Star Trek: Short Treks is nominated for the Emmy for Outstanding Short Form Comedy or Drama Series.
Kurtzman’s Secret Hideout also is behind Star Trek: Prodigy, Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard, Star Trek: Lower Decks, and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.
Check out the video above, and click here to watch all of Sunday’s Contenders TV panels.