Showrunner Bryan Fuller, who recently bid farewell to the much-missed Hannibal, hasn't been letting the grass grow under his feet. He's returning to his first love, science fiction, as Alex Kurtzman's co-creator and exec-producer on a new Star Trek television series. It's set to debut on CBS in January 2017, which is exactly the kind of news fans needed to hear... whether they're aware of it or not.
Fuller got his start on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager, piloting the series around Bajoran wormholes and through several gallons of Captain Janeway's black coffee. Since then, he's demonstrated his creative chops several times over, developing Dead Like Me, Wonderfalls, Pushing Daisies and giving the serial-killer genre a chillingly elegant, Mads Mikkelsen-shaped workover with Hannibal. There's also a forthcoming adaptation of Neil Gaiman's American Gods he's brought together for Starz, a writer/producer credit on the first (and best) season of Heroes and the soon-to-come remake of Steven Spielberg's Amazing Stories.
It's an impressive résumé, sure, but what does it mean for the new Star Trek? We've found some important clues in Fuller's past musings on his craft.
1. He's a genuine fanboy
Bryan Fuller farewells Hannibal at Comic-Con in 2015.
"Attending Comic-Con is nuts," he enthused after pitching up amid San Diego's fan frenzy, "but in a great way because it's the first early adapter of pop culture. It's a lot of fun to bring a show there and allow the fans to be the first people to see it, because they really are the niche audience. And I love a niche audience. People say, 'Nobody watched Dead Like Me or Wonderfalls,' and I was, like, 'Oh, no, they watched them. It was just a small audience.' It's such a niche world at Comic-Con and I'm a niche writer, so it fits together well. I just keep pulling the wool over Hollywood's eyes one way or the other. They know what I do is different, but there's a vote of confidence in me that's nice."
2. He loves a challenge
Boldly going where no man has gone before gets a heck of a lot harder when said man has been spanning the galaxy for 50 years. Fortunately Fuller, the person entrusted with finding fresh terrain for Star Trek, like a challenge. Witness, for example, his attempt to bring a live-action take on Pinocchio. Yes, live action. "There are so many iconic set-pieces and characters to play with, which are terrifically exciting," he explained of the Warner Bros. project. "It's exactly why I love writing. I love the exciting set pieces - the Marionette Theater, the Land of Play [sic] and, of course, Geppetto's rescue from the belly of a big fish. But if what's happening between Geppetto and Pinocchio doesn't connect emotionally, you won't care about any of it." Expect giant space fish and talking crickets, in other words.
3. He's all about serialised storytelling
The Fuller-penned The Company was the first Heroes episode to deviate from the show's multi-threaded narrative and focus on a single thread.
"It's a type of storytelling that will either draw you in or spit you out," Fuller explains of TV's serial model. "I happen to be one of those people that loves serialised storytelling, so I just got drawn into the format. And on Heroes, every one of the writers was bringing their A game to the table, which is why those stories broke like butter." In other words, if you can't handle having to build multiple story arcs over a season, Star Trek will spit you as far as the Gamma Quadrant. The 14.3 million people who tuned in to season 1 of Heroes suggest that Fuller, a writer on the show, needn't pack his waterproofs.
4. He thinks in universes
Bryan Fuller and Laurence Fishburne on the set of Hannibal.
Like his new Star Trek, Hannibal was born into a world pre-filled with rich characters, monsters and beasties, both real and metaphoric. Their originators - Thomas Harris and Gene Roddenberry - couldn't be more different, but the principles remain the same. "There is that kind of fun where you've seen these characters," Fuller explains of his vision for Hannibal, "and now here's a whole story that is as intricately woven and told as the stories you've already seen. But it's television, so we have more real estate to tell a much more complex, emotional story."
To illustrate the point, Fuller draws on a chess analogy. "Crafting a 13-episode season is like sitting down and saying, 'Okay, we’ve got to get our pawns across the board, sacrifice and get our knights into order so we can really tell this story at a certain point.' There's just something about these shows. It's even true with something like Clone Wars, where you get to say, 'Oh, it's Greedo and he's out with the gang before he got shot by Han Solo - who shot him first.'" How his new TV reboot fits with the J.J. Abrams movie franchise - if at all - remains to be seen.
5. He has rich history with Star Trek
"I learned so much from getting on staff at Star Trek," Fuller remembers. "I've grown as a storyteller using all of the tools Star Trek has taught me that if your big concept idea doesn't boil down to something very basic and human, it's a pointless story." If the nature of humanity - and, no doubt, alienness - will be key themes in his new show, Fuller, a long-time Trekker, won't be afraid to unleash the kind of big, philosophical ideas Star Trek was always famous for. "It really is an inclusive world," he enthuses, "where you have to have everything on your tool belt to be able to use inter-character dynamics versus the metaphor of the high-concept idea. What is the metaphor of the high-concept idea and how does that boil down to a revolutionary human experience? That's a great philosophy to take into any writer's room." And something that he'll be bringing back to the final frontier.