Why Bryan Fuller left Star Trek: Discovery
Bryan Fuller had a very different vision for what became Star Trek: Discovery, but that's not why he stepped down as showrunner last year.
In a revealing interview with Entertainment Weekly, Fuller (Pushing Daisies, Hannibal) explained the circumstances that led to CBS asking him to walk away. But the differences of opinion started very early in the process: he originally wanted the show to be an anthology series that would begin with Star Trek: Discovery (a prequel to the original Star Trek series), then venture into different eras in the history (and future) of the franchise.
"The original pitch was to do for science-fiction what American Horror Story had done for horror," Fuller said. "It would platform a universe of Star Trek shows."
CBS said to do one season of a single serialized series and then see how audiences respond. But the tension increased when the network chose David Semel (Madam Secretary, Code Black) to direct the Discovery pilot. Fuller reportedly approached Baby Driver director Edgar Wright about the gig.
Then there was the issue of the launch date of February 2017, which didn't leave a lot of time to create such a hugely ambitious show. At the same time, Fuller was working on the first season for the Starz adaptation of American Gods, and CBS executives thought he was stretched too thin.
After months of problems, the network asked him to leave last October, replacing him with his longtime collaborators Aaron Harberts and Gretchen J. Berg.
However, at least one of Fuller's original visions for the show remains. "I couldn't stop thinking about how many black people were inspired by seeing Nichelle Nichols on the bridge of a ship [as Lt. Uhura in The Original Series]," Fuller said. "I couldn't stop thinking about how many Asian people were inspired by seeing George Takei [as Sulu] and feeling that gave them hope for their place in the future. I wanted to be part of that representation for a new era."
He said he met with Sonequa Martin-Green to play the lead, Michael Burnham—a Vulcan-raised human Starfleet First Officer who serves under the command of Captain Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh). "Her audition was fantastic," Fuller said. "I found her incredibly insightful as an actor and delightful as a human being."
But Martin-Green couldn't sign on until her character on AMC's The Walking Dead was killed off. Ironically, all of the delays on Discovery meant that CBS could eventually hire the actress that Fuller wanted for the part.
Was he upset about his removal? "I got to dream big," Fuller said. "I was sad for a week and then I salute the ship and compartmentalize my experience."
Star Trek: Discovery will premiere on CBS All Access on Sept. 24. Until then, find out what we hope to see on the show.