Alex Kurtzman Hopes Shorter Seasons Are Better for Star Trek

Alex Kurtzman Hopes Shorter Seasons Are Better for Star Trek

There’s more Star Trek around right now than there has been since its ‘90s heyday, but there’s not exactly all that much of it in comparison. The franchise’s resurgence in the age of streaming has meant condensed seasons—these days, the average season is often half the size (or less) of one from the broadcast era. But the man behind Trek’s TV renaissance thinks that that might be a good thing overall.

The concept of what is and isn’t “filler” in a show these days has evolved, as the term has grown from describing any kind of standalone story separate from advancing an overarching narrative to, in a world where content is king, anything that doesn’t add to the canon in any kind of way. But classic Star Trek, which made its success away from the idea of serialized television, is built on the back of what people would now consider “filler”—stories that do not set the stage for future events, could more often than not be watched with almost zero context about the rest of the show, and are often peppered with fascinating ideas and great character work. The opportunity for those moments is still there in modern Star Trek (Strange New Worlds and Lower Decks in particular have made the case for adopting an approach where more standalone storytelling co-exists with overarching narratives, and for the most part, made a great deal of success with it) but its reduction to what is now a standard 10-episode count every season makes those opportunities fleeting—something Star Trek architect Alex Kurtzman sees as a strength.

“I think what’s lovely about that is—it’s funny, you can talk to old writers of old Trek series, and they’re like, ‘Man, there’s a bunch of filler episodes in there. We are just trying to get to 22 a season,’ and we all know which of those episodes were [filler episodes],” Kurtzman recently told Cinemablend. “We know the ones that were truly stellar from the ones that felt like they were kind of spinning their wheels. And so I think what 10 episodes a season forces you to do is really make sure that every story counts as much as it possibly can. And I like that, I like what that affords us now.”

Of course, Kurtzman doesn’t exactly set how many episodes a show gets a season—that’s both a Paramount decision and also increasingly just what’s become standard in non-procedural television—so it’s not like he’s going to turn around and blast that modern Star Trek doesn’t get enough time to tell the stories it wants to. It’s also just the reality of making a show that costs as much as contemporary Trek does, to look the way it does, and the amount of time to shoot those episodes makes it so that 22-part seasons become much less feasible. TV viewing habits have changed as much as the way it’s made has—something Kurtzman further acknowledged in the miracle that Discovery got five seasons (“short” by ‘90s Trek standards, where TNG, DS9, and Voyager ran for seven), in a world where a lot of streaming original series barely make it past two. “I think most people watch two seasons of a streaming show, and they check out, you know, and that’s not specific to Trek,” he added. “I just think that’s the watch pattern for television in the streaming world.”

TV’s changed, and so has Star Trek—and while that might mean there’s less chances for the series to experiment or tell isolated stories, it doesn’t mean those opportunities have vanished altogether.

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