Back in October, I finally decided that I was done caring about the new Star Trek: Discovery show slated for CBS’ All Access streaming service. Paying for subscription access to the show, even though the platform still comes with ads, was the first head-cock. Then Bryan Fuller (the main draw!) stepped down as showrunner, still staying on as a loose executive producer. Then, last week, he stepped down from that and any role on the show.
Here’s what he told Newsweek:
Ultimately, with my responsibilities [elsewhere], I could not do what CBS needed to have done in the time they needed it done for Star Trek…
It is bittersweet. But it was just a situation that couldn’t be resolved otherwise…so I had to step away.
He makes it super clear, his name may still be on the IMDB page, but he is no longer involved.
I’m not involved in production, or postproduction, so I can only give them the material I’ve given them and hope that it is helpful for them. I’m curious to see what they do with it
So I wrote it off. This could be just another peripheral property in this universe in which most fans have properties they would stake their childhood memories on, with huge gaps in the rest of the material. That was fine. Disappointing, but fine.
And then the show went ahead and cast some pretty awesome new cast members.
First, Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Tomorrow Never Dies) will play Captain Georgiou, of the starship Shenzhou.
Then Rent veteran non-rent payer Anthony Rapp joined as Discovery astromycologist (read: space fungus scientist guy) Lt. Stamets.
And then Doug Jones (whose credits— Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy, Crimson Peak, the super creepy “Hush” guy from Buffy, like a million others— should only be listed in photos, being a king of mo-cap and special effect makeup and prosthetics) was cast as Lt. Saru, a science officer aboard the Discovery, and an as of yet unnamed new alien species to the series.
Do a prominent woman of color, the property’s first written-as-such (as opposed to Sulu’s post-designated) gay character (which was a big goal for Fuller that he seems to have thankfully put into action before departing), and, well, just a cool addition, make this a show worth watching? Not necessarily. Most people won’t choose to watch a new show solely on the grounds that it has a female lead, or a gay lead, or an otherwise diverse cast.
What we want— what we’re always asking for— are for those characters to be considered as neutral of choices as the straight, cis, white male lead. There’s nothing wrong with representing that type of character’s story, at all! If only his weren’t the only one being told.
We want this show’s characters to have that same opportunity to be default, to not need a reason to exist beyond just existing. Ideally, we don’t have to make an effort to watch a show just because we want diversity in the cast. In an ideal world, we can watch a show for any number of reasons— like the fact that Bryan Fuller is a showrunner!— and have an equal chance of seeing a non-stereotypical lead.
Unfortunately, for many, Fuller is a bigger draw than diversity and inclusion. And because of his track record, Fuller himself is a solid indicator of guaranteed quality, so that makes sense. And that’s why it’s very sad to see Fuller leave. Because we can’t expect audiences to tune in, on a platform that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, for a show that keeps getting pushed back, with changing teams and details, unless they know they have some such guarantee.
I don’t fault Bryan Fuller for leaving. I’m glad he’s focusing on American Gods. And I’m glad CBS is still committed to creating the diverse, hopefully creative work he set in motion. I just wish I were still interested in investing in it.