Why Bryan Fuller Is a Terrible Choice for 'Star Trek' Showrunner
The man helming CBS’ reboot is a cult star. That's not necessarily a good thing.
If you’re a fan of Gene Roddenbery’s hippie-inspired sci-fi universe, then you’re probably over the moon at yesterday’s announcement from parent company Paramount that Bryan Fuller would be taking the top spot as showrunner for CBS’ intended reboot of Star Trek. The man behind a string of cult classics — Wonderfalls, Dead Like Me, Pushing Daisies — was hailed as the perfect man to bring the classic science fiction series to television.
Well, not television, proper. The reboot is coming to CBS’ exclusive streaming service, which isn’t exactly a show of confidence from the same network that gleefully put Supergirl in a major primetime slot.
Even still, in the wake of the announcement there was much merriment and rejoicing:
Io9 was all, “This is the best possible choice.”
Ars Technica opined, “we know that the show is in good hands”
TheWrap was falling all over itself to celebrate, calling Fuller “the perfect choice” for the job.
Here’s the thing. He’s totally not the right choice. At all. Here’s why:
He’s Too Touchy-Feely
OK, let’s start here: Bryan Fuller doesn’t have the action chops required to helm a solid Star Trek series. He’s too talky. I’m not saying we need to go J.J. Abrams handheld-camera overboard, here, but Kirk and his crew have to know how to throw down from time to time, and Fuller’s previous experience just doesn’t show it.
While Fuller clearly knows his way around the English language — his previous shows are solid — he just hasn’t demonstrated a mastery of Star Trek’s difficult tone. Each of his most prominent prior series was planted firmly in the same school of cutesy intrigue. There’s the one about the girl who has to balance her bartender crush and taking orders from figurines. There’s the other one about grim reapers that manages to play like a high school drama starring adults. Then, there’s the one about the poor pie maker who kills people with a single touch.
None of those shows has demonstrated a penchant for the kind of action set pieces that are a vital half of the delicate Star Trek equation.
His Ideas Are Too Narrow
While Fuller has demonstrated a consistent ability to string together an alluring mystery (a token feature of each of his shows), the overall concept behind each of his most beloved ideas is so thin that nothing original he’s ever written has run more than 30 episodes. Obviously, popularity doesn’t necessarily mean a show is worthwhile (just look at The Big Bang Theory), but popularity and quality aren’t mutually exclusive, either.
The real issue in Fuller’s filmography is the tale told by his ratings, which is to say that the majority of viewers who tune into one of Fuller’s programs tend to jump ship as soon as they figure out the show’s gimmick. He’s cute, but deadly; she’s cute, but death; she’s also cute, and talks to inanimate objects. Obviously, that’s a glancing view of Fuller’s efforts, but it’s how most audiences view his work. He’s a guy who’s clever, but that sensibility always ends up being short-lived.
His Star Trek Experience Is Weak
Listen, I loved Odo, too, and I thought was Captain Janeway was wonderfully cast, but let’s not say, “Ooh, Bryan Fuller has Star Trek experience!” like Deep Space Nine and Voyager weren’t bottom of the barrel entries into the canon.
Admittedly, you can’t deny the man’s fervor for the material. That’s totally germane to the topic at hand, so let’s also talk about the man’s love for Star Trek. Not to criticize a guy’s nostalgia, but his first memory of Star Trek is so sweet it’s nausea-inducing:
“My very first experience of Star Trek is my oldest brother turning off all the lights in the house and flying his model of a D7 Class Klingon Battle Cruiser through the darkened halls. Before seeing a frame of the television series, the Star Trek universe lit my imagination on fire.”
What would Spock think? There’s also the previous rumor that Fuller would love to see what Next Generation would look like in Abrams-land. Quick answer: glossy and prone to motion sickness (but with Shakespearean overtones!).
Perhaps the only good idea that Fuller has announced in relation to his Star Trek imagination is the now-extinct notion of casting Angela Bassett as the show’s star. Seriously, please, God, if you make that happen I will publicly retract every single bit of the above defamation.
Fuller Enjoys the Star Trek Film Reboots
Can we give it a freaking rest with all the Star Trek reboots, people? They’re not even done with the shallow, big budget versions anchored by pretty people. While the series reboot producers have explained that their streaming version of Star Trek won’t be directly related to the film series, Fuller has publicly declared his reverence for the series. That’s troubling.
While the new adventures of the USS Enterprise may be good, rollicking adventures, you’d be hard pressed to classify as them as the kind of challenging stories found in the finer iterations of the franchise. Fuller’s desire to set his series in the same world speaks to his previous shallow work and sets a bad taste in the mouth of a Trek fan who wants some more high-minded discourses on the nature of humanity.
*It’s Unclear What His Trump Card Is
The original airing of Star Trek was considered kind of a dismal failure. Only pressure from industry professionals kept it on the air for a second season, and only a letter-writing campaign kept it on the air past Season 2. In other words, in spite of the prolific nature of the series and its very loud fanbase, the franchise has never had a giant following. Even at its most popular, the show never cracked the top 30. With the newest series headed to a streaming service, the stakes will be even lower, a circumstance that will allow Fuller more creative freedom. For fans of his, that might be nice.
There’s also this: Ultimately, Star Trek is a hopeful look at the path humanity must chart in order to live up to our species’ full potential. It’s a franchise that looks at the very essence of what it means to be a person and all of the pitfalls and triumphs inherent.
To his credit, Fuller has demonstrated a keen ability to drum up clever ideas filled with interesting characters. To make Star Trek work, though, he’ll need to dig a little deeper than he has in the past.