With yesterday’s news of a new Star Trek TV show premiering in 2017, the nerd-sphere collectively cheered. Although the Abrams movies have been visually stunning (with varying degrees of success as to the story aspects), Trek’s true home is television and the episodic format. Beyond that, there’s a lot of what we can expect with a new Trek. Here’s my hope and speculation!
A New Kind of Crew
Star Trek has always been very diverse, with the original cast featuring a black woman and Asian man (whose portrayer was gay, but whose sexuality was never confirmed on-screen). On-screen captains have included a black man and a woman. It’s the 21st century though. Let’s push those boundaries.
It’s time to see a woman of color as the captain (maybe The Good Wife’s Archie Panjabi?). It’s time to see LGBT representation among the crew- including Trek’s first openly series regular LGBT crewman. Hell, let’s have a crew that’s not predominantly human (or just barely not-human- nose ridges and spots don’t count!).
Deep Space Nine has done diversity best, in my opinion. Three black men, a middle eastern man, and two women as main cast members, and five non-humans as main characters. Of the nine series regulars, only three were white men, and two of those three portrayed non-humans.
Push the Boundaries of Storytelling
Star Trek is one of the most innovative franchises in the world. That’s perhaps why Star Trek Into Darkness was so reviled- too much of the film WASN’T innovative, but instead a retread of old Trek. This series needs to be innovative in both it’s actual stories and its themes.
Star Trek The Next Generation popularized the season-ending cliffhangers, the first of which made everyone think they were writing out their star! The Original Series not only used time travel, but often debated the ethics of it. Deep Space Nine took a utopian society and exposes its flaws and its dark underbelly. The series explored themes such as racism, same sex relationships, eugenics, ignorance, the horrors of war, and very nature of what it means to be human.
It’s been over a decade but we should expect to see many of these same issues filtered through that lens of the future and today’s issues as well. Imagine Star Trek tackling racism or LGBT issues. Or embracing gay or trans characters. Imagine explorations into the abuse of power on a galactic scale. It boggles what they can do.
To do this, I hope we see some of the greats of science fiction coming in to write episodes. Imagine Trek alumni like Ronald Moore and Brian Fuller writing episodes alongside scifi TV luminaries like Joss Whedon and Marc Guggenheim.
The Same Emotional Stories that We Loved
One of my favorite episodes of the franchise is Tapestry, which involves Patrick Stewart’s Captain Picard facing a medical crisis. While he dies on the operating table, he is given the option by his rival, the omnipotent Q, to undo the mistake that caused the current state he was in.
In doing so, he learns that his life would have been completely different. Instead of the captain of the Federation’s flagship, he’s a lowly Junior Grade Lieutenant in the sciences department. He realizes that all of his choices made him who and what he was, and tells Q that he wanted to do it the way he did before. Hundreds of shows have done “It’s a Wonderful Life” style episodes like this before, but I cannot remember a single one besides Tapestry. That kind of emotional storytelling needs to go into the new Trek.
More than anything though, this version of Star Trek needs to be about something NEW. Kirk and crew is covered in the films. This series should be about something completely different from the Abrams movies.
A different time, a different place, a different ship or station, a different crew.
Why don’t we explore the era immediately between Archer and Kirk? The rough frontier of the new Federation of Planets is fertile ground for storytelling.
What is the far future of the Federation like? Maybe the Federation has finally defeated the Borg a hundred years after Picard’s era. That’s a pretty massive power vacuum to be filled. What would fill it? Maybe we would have been better off with the Borg...
How about travelling deep into the Beta Quadrant? This area of space has never really been explored on screen and could yield very interesting new life and new civilizations.
Let’s set the series on a medical ship. Sure, this removes the ship to ship combat that makes Trek so thrilling, but imagine a crew of doctors and nurses, trying to treat new illnesses, aid war-torn planets, or providing relief to disaster victims.
And what about the Neutral Zone? Imagine viewing the adventures of a ship that just keeps order in an area of space that could explode into a galaxy consuming war at any time.
At any rate, the new Star Trek series needs to do one thing and one thing well...
TO BOLDLY NO WHERE NO ONE HAS GONE BEFORE!