Starfleet Academy on TNG
(CBS)

Oscar Winner Holly Hunter Cast as Chancellor of Starfleet Academy in ‘Star Trek’s First YA Series 

The Star Trek universe is boldly going back to class—this time, without the audacious auspices of Senior Cadet Nick Locarno (Robert Duncan McNeill). Instead, the young cadets of Star Trek’s first YA series, Star Trek: Starfleet Academy, will be led by someone who (cross your fingers) doesn’t encourage them to cover up negligent homicide: Starfleet Academy’s Captain and Chancellor, played by Academy Award-winning actor Holly Hunter.

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Star Trek (now dubbed Star Trek: The Original Series or TOS), Gene Roddenberry’s “Wagon Train to the Stars” debuted on NBC on September 6, 1966, and has since logged over 600 hours of entertainment over 12 original series. After Star Trek: Discovery rebooted the franchise (it was nearly “killed” by Star Trek: Enterprise in 2005) and ushered in its “Golden Age of Streaming,” Trekkies have enjoyed a Renaissance with new Prime Timeline shows coming out rapidly for the past decade.

Sadly, however, that chapter is coming to a close, with Discovery, Star Trek: Lower Decks, and Star Trek: Picard ending. Additionally, Star Trek: Prodigy was abruptly removed from Paramount+, leaving fans concerned about where the series fits into official canon now that it’s at Netflix. Despite this, fans of the Prime Timeline adventures still have much to look forward to (sorry, Kelvin Universe fans, I know we keep getting updates, but I don’t have much faith). There’s Star Trek: Section 31, Paramount+’s first-ever original Trek movie that finished filming in March 2024, and Starfleet Academy, the next new Trek series, set to begin production this summer.

Although Paramount+ announced it had officially greenlit a live-action Academy series in March 2023, Trekkies may remember reading about the series five years ago. A 2018 Variety article about Kurtzman’s overall deal to expand the Star Trek Universe was the first to mention a new series “set at Starfleet Academy.” At the time, YA-focused creators Stephanie Savage and Josh Schwartz (The OC, Marvel’s Runaways, Gossip Girl) were attached to the series. It’s unclear if the duo is still personally attached. However, seemingly their production company, Fake Empire, co-creators of Nancy Drew might be involved, as ND’s Noga Landau is listed as Academy’s co-showrunner and executive producer.

In 2021, Academy, a series “aimed at a younger audience,” was once again mentioned as “in the works” in a New York Times profile announcing that CBS Studios had renegotiated its overall deal with Kurtzman and extended it until 2026 (notably, the year that the next generation of cadets will take over at SF’s Starfleet Academy). However, it wasn’t until Star Trek Day 2021 that Kurtzman first teased details about what viewers could expect, saying, “There’s this new generation that is going to come and it’s going to inherit the problems of the old generation. What are they going to do to make the world better, to solve it. How are we going to avoid the mistakes of our elders? And how are we going to learn from the wisdom of our elders? That’s a really wonderful thing to consider when you think about something like Starfleet Academy.”

What is Star Trek: Starfleet Academy about?

Starfleet Academy will introduce us to a young group of cadets who come together to pursue a common dream of hope and optimism,” teases the official plot description. “Under the watchful and demanding eyes of their instructors, they will discover what it takes to become Starfleet officers as they navigate blossoming friendships, explosive rivalries, first loves and a new enemy that threatens both the Academy and the Federation itself.”

Per Variety, Academy will be Trek’s “first” YA series. “There’s a lot of different kids from a lot of different places,” Kurtzman explained when speaking with Collider at SXSW 2024. “Some of them want to be there, some of them don’t want to be there. It’s gonna be a fundamental reinforcement of all the things we love about Starfleet, in general.”

“You always want to ask yourself, ‘Why this show now?'” he added. “I think that one of the big things that certainly my 17-year-old son is facing, which is kind of a fundamental ‘Star Trek’ question, is, ‘How did we get here? How has this generation inherited the mistakes from previous generations? And what are we gonna do to fix it, to build that optimistic future that is Roddenberry’s essential vision?’ That is very much going to be at the heart of Starfleet Academy.”

Will Academy appeal to new and old Trekkies?

Kurtzman told Collider that while Trek needs to attract a new fanbase, it’s also important to remember the long-time Trekkies who have kept the franchise alive. “I’m always very vocal about this with the studio,” he said. “You have to make sure that you are also pleasing people who have been around and are die-hard TOS fans, die-hard Next Gen fans, whatever iteration of Trek is yours. You cannot alienate those people.”

Kurtzman elaborated that the trick is “to make a show that you can drop into if you don’t know anything about Star Trek, but also a show that you can get a tremendous amount out of if you have all of that canonical history.” Simple, or not at all.

Who is the cast of Star Trek: Starfleet Academy?

Kurtzman told Collider that they haven’t “started casting the kids” for the series, although “some of the adult roles have already been filled.” For example, last week, Paramount+ announced that Oscar-winning actor Holly Hunter will portray Starfleet Academy’s Captain and Chancellor.

Hunter is an exciting addition to Trek canon with diverse film and TV credits, among which my favorites include Raising Arizona, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Crash, Thirteen, The Piano, and of course, her Emmy-winning performances in The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom and Roe vs. Wade. However, younger viewers, who are also part of Academy‘s target audience, may know her better as the voice of Helen Parr, a.k.a. Elastigirl, in Pixar’s The Incredibles and Incredibles 2.

“It feels like we’ve spent our entire lives watching Holly Hunter be a stone-cold genius,” co-showrunners Kurtzman and Landau said in a joint statement in the press release. “To have her extraordinary authenticity, fearlessness, sense of humor, and across the board brilliance leading the charge on Starfleet Academy is a gift to all of us, and to the enduring legacy of Star Trek.”

When is Starfleet Academy set?

Variety reported that “Starfleet Academy is set in the 32nd century, an era so far into the future that Kurtzman and his team need to invent much of its design language.” While this gives the new show’s prop and production designers some creative latitude, it’s also not an unknown time, as it was introduced in Discovery season 3, along with an Academy in season 4. (I also hope to see the precedent of the Prodigy crew, which used space in the Alpha canon to bring in stories from the Beta canon, including the Starfleet Academy comic book and novel titles).

With Academy being set in the 32nd century, it creates the possibility that Discovery characters could return to regular roles. Across the web, other journalists haven’t been shy about asking who wants to reprise their roles (or perhaps take on new ones) on the new series, especially Julliard graduate Mary Wiseman, whose Discovery character Sylvia Tilly left the show’s namesake ship to teach at the 32nd century’s newly opened Academy. While many Discovery actors have expressed interest, Wiseman continues to sidestep questions about her role in the future show, leading to MORE speculation about her possible involvement.

Is ‘Lower Decker’ Tawny Newsome in the writers’ room?

Yes. Although the double strikes of 2023 paused work on the series, the writers’ room started up again in the fall of 2023, including Tawny Newsome, who plays Beckett Mariner on the recently canceled Lower Decks. “My brain is smoking right now writing for Academy,” she confirmed to TrekMovie.com. “We’re in the throes of it, yeah.”

Newsome added, “We have a room full of writers who love Star Trek and are trying to tell a Star Trek story in a new way, and we’re really excited to do that.” Among those writers, whom Variety describes as a “mix of Star Trek die-hards, part-time fans and total newbies,” is series premiere episode writer Gaia Violo, whose credits include In from the Cold, Absentia, and Blood & Treasure.

“It feels like the spirit of [Lower Decks] has somehow also migrated into [Academy] in some ways,” Kurtzman has said.

How many episodes will there be?

Like the first seasons of Discovery, Picard, and Strange New Worlds that came before it, Kurtzman has confirmed Starfleet Academy’s first season will also consist of 10 episodes.

When will the series premiere?

When speaking with Collider at SXSW 2024, Kurtzman said that the Starfleet Academy writers’ room had reached the “halfway” point and the series would begin production in Summer 2024. However, he added that fans could wait another couple of years to see the final product.

“It could end up not airing until 2026,” Kurtzman said. “By starting [shooting in late summer], just building the sets alone is a massive endeavor, then six months of shooting, then six to eight months of post. If you recall, there was all this noise around Season 1 and Season 2 of Discovery because the streaming service, they were like, ‘Oh, it’s like a turnaround on a cop show.’ I’m like, ‘No, you don’t understand. It’s eight months of visual effects turnaround, and we’re not gonna rush that.'”

“It’ll come out, but it’ll come out when it’s done,” he concluded.

The series “will start production on the largest single set ever created for Star Trek on TV,” located at Pinewood Toronto’s 45,900 square foot soundstage, per Variety, whose reporter got to see concept drawings for the Academy’s “central academic atrium, a sprawling, two-story structure that will include a mess hall, amphitheater, trees, catwalks, multiple classrooms, and a striking view of the Golden Gate Bridge in a single, contiguous space.”

Enroll today!

Starfleet Academy is now open for admission:

Admission is now open to Starfleet Academy! Explore the galaxy! Captain your destiny! For the first time in over a century, our campus will be re-opened to admit individuals a minimum of 16 Earth years (or species equivalent) who dream of exceeding their physical, mental and spiritual limits, who value friendship, camaraderie, honor and devotion to a cause greater than themselves. The coursework will be rigorous, the instructors among the brightest lights in their respective fields, and those accepted will live and study side-by-side with the most diverse population of students ever admitted. Today we encourage all who share our dreams, goals and values to join a new generation of visionary cadets as they take their first steps toward creating a bright future for us all. Apply today! Ex Astris, Scientia!

– Co-showrunners and executive producers Alex Kurtzman and Noga Landau


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Rebecca Oliver Kaplan
Rebecca Oliver Kaplan (she/he) is a comics critic and entertainment writer, who's dipping her toes into new types of reporting at The Mary Sue and is stoked. In 2023, he was part of the PanelxPanel comics criticism team honored with an Eisner Award. You can find some more of his writing at Prism Comics, StarTrek.com, Comics Beat, Geek Girl Authority, and in Double Challenge: Being LGBTQ and a Minority, which she co-authored with her wife, Avery Kaplan. Rebecca and her wife live in the California mountains with a herd of cats.