Star Trek has never been about the movies. That's not to say they're not great - some of them are fantastic (Star Trek IV: The One With The Whales was one of my favourite childhood films). But first and foremost, Trek belongs on TV and thankfully, CBS is premiering a brand new Star Trek series in January 2017. While we're all super excited about this, there's no denying that the new show is facing many challenges.
Star Trek is a very tricky franchise to get right: known for being simultaneously campy and cerebral, the shows go from fun space opera to ethical thought experiments (often within the same episode). Trek has been hugely influential in the world of television, but nowadays its well known tropes seem very outdated. That being said, there's several crucial aspects from the previous shows that simply must be included in the new series, especially this one thing J.J. Abrams forgot...
5: Keep The Essential "Trekkiness"!
Ok, the reboot movies aren't all bad. 2009's Star Trek did a lot to bridge the gap between diehard fans and new viewers, and there's many many reasons to be excited about Star Trek Beyond. Into Darkness, however, was problematic at best and at worst it was a dull trudge through overdone plotlines.
Overall, it felt like Into Darkness wasn't quite sure whether it wanted to be Star Trek or something else entirely, and that's probably because Paramount wasn't sure either. In an attempt to reduce Trek stigma in the international market, Paramount wanted to broaden the appeal of Into Darkness.
"We've tried to get away from the Trekkiness of it all."
That's what one exec told The Hollywood Reporter, and as a result Into Darkness kind of fell flat. Although CBS is chasing the international market with their streaming service All Access, they need to avoid this pitfall at all costs. Let Trek be Trek! Which means phasers set to stun, pseudo science jargon, bright colours, whacky aliens, and an overwhelming optimism that nonetheless casts a critical eye on the social problems facing our generation.
Having said that, the new series also needs to stand out as something new...
4: Give Us An Interesting Premise
Thanks to almost 50 years of Star Trek, and over 540 hours of footage, we've kind of seen it all at this point. Except we haven't. With the exception of Deep Space 9, every Trek show has been drawn from the same draft: a crew of exceptional Starfleet officers sets off on an exploration of the galaxy. And while that's a good template... why not try something a little different?
Instead of focusing on the best of the best, why not follow a more ordinary crew... or even the notorious worst crew in the fleet (as the Federation desperately tries to find an excuse to fire them all). We could also follow Academy graduates on their first mission, or maybe focus on a space-faring organisation other than the Federation. Ok, these aren't great ideas but luckily I'm not writing the new series. Suffice to say that the new show needs to intrigue fans that have seen it all, so surprise us!
3: Don't Just Set It On The Ship
Continuing in this train of thought, the new Trek series could be spread over several settings. Obviously there has to be one ship as the driving force of the plot - they've got to have some way to boldly go where no-one has gone before.
To keep things interesting, why not have the characters spend their time in a few different places? Or maybe there could be more than one ship the plot follows. Of course, this depends what the crew's mission is, and here we really have to get back to basics. It's Star Trek, so they have to seek out new life and new civilisations. Even if they have a sub-mission (and that would be intriguing), the new crew should definitely be on an exploration mission. But maybe this should be somewhere new entirely? This could be undiscovered planets, the centre of the galaxy, or even a neighbouring galaxy that they've never had contact with before.
2: Show Us Those Aliens
Although the reboot Trek films were set in the Alpha Quadrant, there was no sign of many of the species we've come to know and love. The focus was definitely on the human characters, with the Romulans delegated to villains in the first film, and no more than a passing glimpse at the Klingons in Into Darkness. Let's have some Trill, Andorian, Cardassian, and Betazoid characters (and maybe even a visit to Betazed itself for that matter). Or they could develop one-shot wonder aliens from single episodes of The Next Generation, or Star Trek Online...
Obviously there have to be some humans on the crew, but bringing back the fan favourite alien species would be a good way to add some variation to the cast, as well as endearing the new series to fans.
The social motivations of Star Trek have always been clear. Gene Roddenberry intended the show to display humanity's capacity for acceptance, and so any Trek series should reflect those aims.
"Star Trek was an attempt to say humanity will reach maturity and wisdom on the day it begins to not just tolerate but take special delight in differences of ideas and differences in lifeforms. If we cannot learn to actually enjoy those small differences between our own kind, here on this planet, then we do not deserve to go out into space and meet the diversity that is almost certainly out there."
There's one very easy way to achieve this mission, and that's to have a diverse cast featuring people from many races, genders, and sexualities. Trek has only had one female captain, and one not (totally) heterosexual character (Jadzia Dax, DS9).
Here's hoping we get to see Trek lead the way in representing everyone from Earth, as well as everyone from outer space.
Of course the wishlists just go on and on when it comes to the new Star Trek series, but as far as remembering what J.J. Abrams forgot is concerned, the success of the new show basically comes down to doing what Trek does best: boldly going where no TV show has gone before!
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