About a decade ago, it felt like we were inundated with Star Trek. The Next Generation movies were still in full swing in the theaters, two TV series were on the air, no less that 15 computer games were released from 2000-2002 alone, and countless books were published. There was a point of saturation, where even Trekkers were feeling like they were drowning in all things Trek. Critical mass was finally reached when the cinematic Nemesis bombed and TV’s Enterprise was cancelled after four seasons, making it the first of the live action sequels to not run seven years. There was a four-year gulf before J.J. Abrams’s theatrical resurrection was a critical and financial success. It seems that a breather, as well as a new creative force, was what this series needed. Fans are anxiously awaiting the sequel with hopes that it’ll be this generation’s Wrath of Khan. Its success is guaranteed, but the question remains if it’s time for Star Trek to return to where it began–television.
Of course, most people know that the original series was the brainchild of Gene Roddenberry and only ran for three years after struggling in the ratings. It was only in syndication when the fan base exploded (metaphorically speaking) and the convention circuit was created. Eleven feature films, four live-action series, and an animated show resulted from the surge in popularity. Fans could count on a movie every couple of years, and for eighteen years could find at least one TV show producing new episodes. Trek was everywhere. Now, we have to wait years between movies and hope for the best.
Would a new Trek series work? The shows always had a mixture of futuristic adventure and deep (if not painfully obvious) themes. The later series became entrenched in mythology that paved the way for shows like the remake of Battlestar Galactica (which was created by former Trek writer/producer Ronald D. Moore). It set the stage for what we come to expect from ongoing series today, even if its own mythology was only touched upon in very few episodes a season. A new series would have to forgo the somewhat old-fashioned way of storytelling and be more contemporary. J.J. Abrams knew that in order to appeal to mythology-obsessed fans, he would not be allowed to simply do a remake, but would have to tie a new cast into the existing storyline. Hence, he had Leonard Nimoy’s Spock from the established timeline return into his past and change history, thereby creating a new history and unexpected story possibilities. It served as making a sequel, prequel, and remake all at the same time. A new TV show would have to take this lead and create something new while still connected to the universe that the fans love.
Should a new TV series be in the same continuity as the new film? The only way that would work is if new characters were introduced who were somehow connected to the movie but not on the Enterprise. This would be difficult, and it could hinder the film series from paving their own way. Could it go the route of Enterprise and set the show in the “past”? It didn’t work for Enterprise, but it did work for the new film. Again, this would tread on the movie’s toes. Should it be set during the Next Generation‘s time period? Possibly, but there would have to be some explanation for the gap of over a decade since the last time we’ve visited that era. Another consideration would be to follow Next Generation‘s lead and move the show far in the future. Picard’s Enterprise launched 80-some years after Kirk had the conn. Based on Abrams’s movie, we know that Ambassador Spock, last seen in a Next Generation episode where he failed at re-unifying the planet Vulcan and Romulan homeworld so he went undercover as a Romulan, inadvertently destroyed the Romulan planet. This is major. A new series could be set in a post-Romulan galaxy, thereby connecting both conflicting continuities. Spock has gone back in time, but how would those left behind deal with the new political situation? The Undiscovered Country posed the possibility of a destroyed Klingon empire (which we know never transpired), so now we have the actual destruction of the second most popular bad guys in the history of Trek. What’s the Federation to do?
There’s no certainty as to exactly how many years transpired between when Spock first went undercover and when the Romulan homework was destroyed, but we can guess it was at least 20 years. Vulcans age slower than humans, but since Spock is half human and was already regenerated once, this proposed series could be set in the same time frame as Next Generation and its sequels, though accounting for the time they’ve been off the air. That way, characters from Next Gen, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager could make appearances. This was something that was a problem with characters from the original series: McCoy had to be hidden under heavy makeup; Scotty had to be stuck in a transporter beam for decades; and Sulu was featured in a flashback. It had to take the movie Generations for Kirk and Picard to meet, and even then they had a convoluted time-rifting energy ribbon to explain it. A new series set far in the future would prevent any possible crossovers without some far-fetched explanation.
Maybe setting a new show another 80 years forward would for be the best. Like Next Generation when it premiered, it would wipe the slate clean. Yes, they have a long history that they would need to reference, but would not be saddled with having to adhere lavishly to every plot point developed for the previous shows. Those would be history, and treated as such in the storylines. Voyager tried to do this by plunging the ship on the far side of the galaxy; Enterprise did this by being a prequel. However, there are dangers in this. Would going this route be beneficial by allowing creative freedom and establishing its own identity, or would it be a show killer by cutting itself off from the Trek universe and being alien to the audience?
There are other ways to go to make this proposed series unique. Much talk has happened over the years about exploring Starfleet Academy. That could be one possibility. Or perhaps look at other aspects of Starfleet–a medical ship, planetary negotiators, a team of galactic spies. Of course, there is life outside of Starfleet. Could we see how people who are not Starfleet personnel live? There is so much in this fictional universe that has yet to be explored, that the possibilities are limitless. How about an anthology series where new characters and situations are presented with each episode? Could we have a new animated show? The 1973 animated series used original cast members for voices and writers from the live action show. The Clone Wars proved that Star Wars can work in a CGI environment, so why not a well-produced computer animated Trek? Regardless of the format, the writing should take center stage, giving us thought-provoking, innovative storytelling that has always been at the heart of Star Trek.
copyright © 2011 FilmVerse
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