After 10 years off the air, Star Trek will finally return in 2017. This has many fans excited, especially as the new show won't be connected to Paramount's reboot movies, allowing the series to return to the context of the original TV shows. And that means it will probably be set in the Prime Timeline.
But what stardate? And what part of the galaxy will they be exploring? With Trek's long and varied history, the possibilities really are endless. And we've found some fantastic abandoned and undeveloped projects which the new TV show could use as inspiration...
Star Trek: Final Frontier
No, not the movie. Final Frontier was an animated show which was planned for release around 2006, after Enterprise was cancelled. The concept, characters, and plots were mapped out, but unfortunately the show was never produced.
This isn't really surprising. The history of Star Trek is littered with abandoned projects, from Phase II to the film The First Adventure, which was replaced by J.J. Abrams's 2009 movie. My personal favorite of the abandoned projects was Star Trek: IMAX, a 40 minute movie designed specifically for Imax screens. It would have featured Chief O'Brien and a crew of engineers having misadventures, which is simultaneously the last thing I expected for an Imax movie and now the thing I want most. But I digress.
Although it never got made, Final Frontier has something of the perfect concept for the new TV show coming in 2017. It's set in 2528, almost 200 years after the end of Voyager. As io9 notes, this setting is probably the best bet for the new TV show, as it would serve the purpose of developing the galactic situation for old fans, while providing a fresh setting for new viewers. In this era, a vicious war with the Romulans has fractured the Federation, leaving it divided into two factions.
But this war was actually started by an unknown species, who strategically detonated Romulan and Federation assets in order to catalyze a conflict. The overarching plot of the series deals with discovering who these people are and what they want. The plot is driven by the crew of a new Enterprise, who embark on a peaceful exploration mission, to get back to what made Starfleet great in the good old boldly-going days.
The writers hired to come up with the concept actually continued developing the show into scripts and storyboards, and you can read more about that on their website.
So why do we think this would be perfect for the new show? Well, this concept is actually something which a lot of writers have come up with before when envisioning how to continue the Trek story.
The Fall Of The Federation
Final Frontier is similar in many ways to Bryan Singer's proposed show, Star Trek: Federation. Set in the future, Federation also featured a darker idea of how Starfleet would fall, brought down by its own hubris.
"Utopia in practice is stagnation; it's dry rot; eventually it's death. Which is precisely where we find the United Federation of Planets a few centuries after the last Age of Discovery." - Star Trek: Federation proposal.
In a lot of ways, showing the fall of the Federation makes sense for a new TV show. After all, it would provide a fresh start which the franchise might need. But Singer's version is far darker than I think we need in the current sci-fi climate.
Nowadays there's definitely a tendency for science fiction to lean towards dystopias and grim themes. But optimistic stories, ones which show humanity's capacity for love, are also vital, as they give us something to strive towards. Star Trek is important because the entire concept argues that humanity can be, and will be better.
"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." - Gene Roddenberry
The ideals of The Original Series are firmly planted in social humanism, and while later shows pointed out the flaws of the Federation, the theme of each Trek series was the betterment of humanity.
The great thing about the Final Frontier concept is that it encompasses both these objectives: showing us a grimmer future while getting back to the ideals that made Star Trek so iconic. The galaxy might be fractured, but there's hope for a brighter future, to rebuild the Federation in a better way. And that's definitely something I'd like to see a Trek TV show develop.