It's official: after years of asking, Trekkies have finally been granted another Star Trek series. Arriving in 2017, the new series is not a moment too soon, as it's been over 10 years since Star Trek had a show on the air. In the meantime we've had the reboot movies to tide us over (and Star Trek Beyond is coming in July), but many fans agree that the best Trek is TV Trek.
Of course, the new series (still unnamed) has a bunch of challenges to overcome. As Star Trek was such a trendsetter, a lot of the classic tropes of the show feel dated now.
Personally, I think these tropes should still be included in the new show (who doesn't love "phasers set to stun!"), but there are some rules that are made to be broken...
The Golden Rules Of Trek
"Gene Roddenberry's vision" is something people reference a lot when talking about Star Trek. But it's not just a metaphor: Roddenberry wrote several guides to how best to create Star Trek shows, some of which you can read online. The most well known is The Next Generation Show Bible, which contains some of Roddenberry's most famous rules of Star Trek. Some of these are absolutely essential, especially those pertaining to diversity.
"Our crew are a band of brothers, and sisters too of course! International in origin, completely multi-racial. We like ways of using the crewmen (extras as well as actors) to help suggest the enormous diversity of our vessel."
Of course, this is one of the rules which the new show shouldn't break.
But pretty much every Star Trek show is guilty of breaking one of these rules: no messing with the Prime Directive. It seems that the law not to interfere was imposed on Trek writers as well as the characters themselves...
"Stay true to the Prime Directive: we are not in the business of toppling cultures we do not approve of. We will protect ourselves and our mission whenever necessary, but we are not space meddlers."
The Prime Directive has tied the crew's hands on many occasions, but it was definitely put in place for a reason, both within the Trek universe and in the real world. Ultimately, Roddenberry wanted to avoid the idea of "space police", as otherwise the Federation could seem like an oppressive power... and kinda preachy too.
With Star Trek: Beyond ready to explore these post-colonial themes, it's probable that the new series will go in a different direction. So which rules do we want to see broken by the new show?
Rules Are Made To Be Broken
There are a lot of Gene Roddenberry's rules which Star Trek didn't agree with. After all, there are tons of episode which feature the crews breaking the Prime Directive, because human failure is an interesting plot device. Not according to Roddenberry though: one of his rules actually state that the crews must be infallible.
"Stories that do not work: those which include our characters doing something stupid or dangerous, or the technology breaking down in order to create a jeopardy. Our people are the best and the brightest, and our technology is tried and proven."
Considering that a problem with the warp core is a staple of many, many episodes, the writers clearly didn't think much of this rule. Not to mention transporter malfunctions. And let's not get started on the holodeck...
Obviously, infallible characters who never do dangerous things are kinda boring, so let's see plenty of human error in the new show, please!
There is one rule which the writers more or less stuck to: that each episode must be told from the point of view of the Federation crew. The only episode which deviates from this mandate is The Next Generation's season 4 episode First Contact (not to be confused with the movie First Contact). This story is told from the point of view of an alien race, who the Federation are monitoring.
It was actually a struggle to get the Star Trek executives to accept the plot, because it went against one of Roddenberry's rules.
"I went to Rick [Berman]and said that even though I know he doesn't like to break format, this could be a special show if he would let me write it from the alien point of view. He did, as long as I let everyone know that we weren't going to ever break this rule again." - Michael Piller, TNG writer.
Trek is a franchise that stretches over 50 years, and while the new series needs to adhere to the essential aspects of the show, there are some rules which need to be revisited. If Deep Space 9 proved nothing else it's that an alternate perspective on the Federation is excellent plot fodder.
So here's hoping we get to see some new perspectives explored in 2017's Star Trek, even ones which challenge us to view our heroic humans as alien. After all, isn't embracing other points of view what Trek is all about?