Star Trek Producers Discuss Breaking Canon and Redesigning the Klingons

Producers Aaron Harberts and Gretchen Berg of Star Trek Discovery recently took part in a panel at WonderCon that focused mainly on the ‘making of’ aspect of the series. I had the chance to speak with them after the panel and asked about 2 of the hot-button subjects that always seem to come up during fan conversations about the series, breaking canon and almost completely redesigning the Klingons.

Both Gretchen and Aaron are obviously fans of the series, so the decisions to make these changes weren’t done on a whim as some people may believe. While they do have specific stories that they want to tell, they also understand that the fans are going to demand an in-universe explanation for anything that doesn’t align with what they already know from the previous series or movies. Star Trek: Discovery is far more serialized than any past Trek series has been and because of this, you’re not always going to get an immediate answer to questions that may get raised in a single episode and that’s either already been planned out or they’ve put a pin in it knowing that it needs to be revisited and resolved at a later date.

As for the Klingon redesign, they were slightly less forthcoming with information about how it will be addressed, but they did indicate that there would be storylines in the future that will give them the opportunity to “explain some things”. Personally, I’m ok with the redesigns, while I don’t think it was needed, it doesn’t break anything for me either. It wasn’t until DS9 that we found out that there was an in-universe reason for the changes in design from TOS to TMP to TNG, but even then it was just played off as kind-of an inside joke and we didn’t get a real answer until Enterprise some 20 years later, so I think we can give them at least another season or two before getting out the torches and pitchforks.

You can check out the full interview in the video above or you can read just the excerpt where they address those topics below.


Josh: The Star Trek fandom holds canon and continuity very, very precious. And there were a lot of things that kind of broke canon this season but also then, towards the end of this season, kinda rectified it a little bit. When you guys are plotting out stories, do you worry about breaking it when you are writing the stories or are you like, “This is the story we want to tell,” and then, later on, “how do we fix that later?”

Gretchen: Yeah, I think, we’re, first of all, there’s always gonna be a flag on the play. We have so many people who are Trek fans and worship at the church of it practically.  And so, we’re not reckless. We’re never being reckless. But I think a lot of times, what we are trying to do is sort of challenge what canon is, the known canon, and get story out of it and…But our intention is never to blow things up in a reckless sort of … We take the show, and the history of the show, and what it is and what it means to people, very, very seriously.

Aaron: We have been writing staff that keeps us honest. But then we have to say, ”Let’s challenge ourselves.” If you throw up all of these walls, you’re not gonna get anywhere. So let’s be creative, how can we get around it? How can we pay it off later and show the audience that we knew what we were doing.  So normally, when we do that, it is all about saying, a few episodes down the line, “See, we knew.” The episodes really were created as a unit. So, it wasn’t like, “Oh then, we messed that up – we have to fix it now.” We kind of knew, how we were going to do that along the way, and that’s what we are excited about for season two.  Because there are still MANY questions that the audience is gonna have.  About how Discovery exists in the timeline. These stories about Michael Burnham and her adopted Vulcan family. There’s lots of stuff that we want to do, this season, in terms of making sure that Discovery has a very important and secure place in our timeline, and in canon, without breaking about what everybody loves about it.

 

Josh: To follow that up. Because people would HATE me if I don’t ask this. The Klingon redesign obviously has been a huge, huge thing.  And one of the most common discussions that I hear is people talking about how it’s gonna play into canon and how it’s gonna be explained.  Is that something you guys are planning on explaining or, no, this is just a visual redesign and that is how we want it to look.

Gretchen: You know the Klingon design/redesign, was something that when we joined, Alex and Brian were already well underway as far as what they wanted to do with the Klingons. And, I feel like, personally I, as coming into something of a sort of already begun, I thought it was beautiful and fascinating, and everybody is gonna have a very different point of view on it. But I really feel like, we will continue to… remember season one was about a time of war, a very specific time. And, as we move out of the time of war, there will be some evolution of the Klingons.  That again, that is coming out of a story point of view and…But our Klingons are our Klingons, that’s who they are. I think they are…I like them. I like them a lot.

Aaron: We defend that choice. I mean, you know there’s always gonna be something that’s polarizing and…But, you know, the other thing is, as we move ahead in season two, and we sill see Klingons again, there will be some opportunities for us to do exactly what we talked about. Which is to kind of explain some things. We don’t wanna wipe that design (Gretchen: We don’t wanna negate it) and we love it and support it.  So, you know, we’ll do what we can to answer some questions.  But beyond that, you cannot please everybody.

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