Like many aspiring screenwriters in the 1990s, Hannibal creator Bryan Fuller eventually became aware of Star Trek’s remarkable open submission policy and pursued an opportunity to write for the popular franchise, but after seeing the way things played out in the writer’s rooms on both of Trek’s beloved series at the time, Deep Space Nine and Voyager, things didn’t go quite the way he’d hoped.
“I got wind of the open submission policy at Star Trek, which was to encourage writers to bring in ideas because it was syndicated and nothing had to connect, so there were a lot of standalone episodes and they were searching for people outside of their writing departments,” he told Post Mortem with Mick Garris.
Fuller had already attended a couple of Star Trek conventions as a fan, but during one particular con he was able to take a class from established Trek writers Ronald D. Moore and Brannon Braga, who were responsible for some of The Next Generation’s most acclaimed episodes. This was Fuller’s first step toward writing his own spec script.
Unfortunately, disappointment followed – the script he ended up submitting was roundly rejected.
“I was sad briefly and then I got back up on my hobby horse and wrote another one and submitted that,” Fuller explained. “That one got me invited in to pitch.”
But when Fuller arrived for the pitch meeting, he presented them with the idea that had already been rejected, confident that he still had a really good story on his hands. Luckily, they agreed and he sold it. After another successful pitch, he got a script assignment for Star Trek: Voyager, and would later spend four years working on the series.
Fuller described the initial experience of seeing how the Star Trek writers worked as “fascinating”, but before he landed a regular gig on Voyager, he also got a chance to see how the Deep Space Nine writer’s room operated – and really hoped he would be chosen for that show instead.
“The difference was essentially that the Deep Space Nine people had no shame about their love for the genre, and there was a little bit of snobbery in the Voyager room. So, I was like, ‘please, please pick me, Deep Space Nine. Please, please,’” Fuller recalled. “Then they went with other writers, and I got a job on Voyager which I was thrilled for, but I had to tamp down my enthusiasm because it was frowned upon in the writers room.”
He added “They discouraged you from being the geek in the room, and so it was always like looking over the fence at the public school when you were in Catholic school and saying, ‘they look like they’re having more fun.’”
After bringing Wonderfalls, Pushing Daisies, Dead Like Me and Hannibal to life, Fuller’s interest in Star Trek endured, in part due to the franchise’s ability to cross political boundaries.
“Conservatives like Star Trek for a reason that is different than the way liberals like Star Trek,” he noted. “And that’s fascinating, because I feel like conservatives like the ‘quasi, fascist military regime’ where everybody’s behaving and there’s no wild expressions of personality that couldn’t be quantified by science. And liberals love the inclusivity and hope for the future that we’re all going to get along and accept each other’s differences and celebrate them, and everybody has a place on one of those ships.”
Fuller went on to co-create Star Trek: Discovery for CBS, but was asked to step down after squabbles behind the scenes. A post-exit interview with EW revealed that concerns over the show’s budget, Fuller’s objections over the pilot’s director and even the time he was spending working on Starz’ American Gods were factors in his departure, but it seems like his attitude toward setbacks hasn’t changed much since the rejection of his very first Trek script.
“I got to dream big,” he said. “I was sad for a week and then I salute the ship and compartmentalize my experience.”
Production on the fourth season of Star Trek: Discovery is already underway. You can read more about what to expect right here.