Could Today’s Television Climate Support a New Star Trek Series? [Editorial]

Back in September, I wrote a Federation Follies column about what a Star Trek series on TV today might look like, and my pitch was fairly ludicrous (at least, I hope it was).

TrekNews has visited the topic in a more serious light on a few occasions, and I think the question has been on every Trek fan’s mind at some point since Enterprise was cancelled: Why isn’t there any new Star Trek on television? The Trek franchise got one heckuva shot in the arm in 2009; one would think the viewing public’s interest would be primed.

So where’s our weekly fix?

Two recent articles by Graeme McMillan on Spinoff Online got me thinking about it again and are interesting reading for Trek fans. Both articles raise some great points, and are great starting-points for debate (I, for one, think McMillan missed the fact that Deep Space Nine often DID have a long-running storyline and a focus on the character’s private lives). Ultimately, though, I was left wondering: do we really want Star Trek back on television? Would the franchise benefit from that? I’m certainly not qualified to answer that definitively, but I do have a few thoughts on it:

Challenging Television Can Be A Difficult Sell

One of Star Trek‘s great strengths is presenting challenging social issues in the context of sci-fi adventure, and giving audiences intellectual conundrums to puzzle over. Recently my wife and I watched an episode in which a strong desire for security and the preservation of the United Federation of Planets lead to rampant paranoia, military trials, unwarranted surveillance, and fear-mongering (“The Drumhead”). This was followed by an episode dealing with a society that showed their respect for life and the dignity of the aging by mandating the death of their citizens at age 60, and citizens of “our” society (The Federation) trying to understand and ultimately accept the accompanying ritual (“Half a Life”). How well these episodes dealt with these issues is up for discussion, but the fact that these hard questions were posed to the viewer at all is still unusual compared to most of what I see on TV.

Archer & T'Pol
Archer & T’Pol from the final episode of Enterprise, “These Are the Voyages”

More Is Not Always Better

I love Star Trek and I’m always excited for more, but with so many series, books, comics, movies, and games to enjoy already, is more necessary? As anyone who has watched a sitcom go on long past its prime can tell you, pushing a premise too far for too long can dilute and weaken it to the point of irrelevance. A new movie every two or three years is one thing; but a new hour of programming each week for the better part of a year, for multiple years? That could be great or terrible… or worse: mediocre. Perhaps this type of thinking comes from years of reading superhero comics, where the stories seldom (if ever) end and the characters just keep getting recycled and reused. There’s a lot to be said for a story having a definite beginning, middle, and end. A television series can have that as well (see: Deep Space Nine) but the chances for that seem slim in the current entertainment climate. Also, the strength of the story (and its resultant staying-power) depend quite a bit on the next point:

Star Trek creator, Gene Roddenberry
Star Trek creator, Gene Roddenberry

Who Will Be The Gene Roddenberry of This New Trek Generation?

Granted, I wasn’t watching TV in the sixties; heck, my parents were in elementary school when Star Trek first premiered. My understanding, though, is that most of these issues were just as problematic then… but Gene Roddenberry believed in his vision and fought hard to share it with the world. Roddenberry believed that Star Trek was important not just as entertainment, but as social commentary and education. He fought hard to “add a little color to the bridge” and make the show stand for something. In my humble opinion, you see that drive and social responsibility lacking in some of Enterprise and in the recent big-screen Star Trek. Now, I enjoyed Enterprise a great deal and I loved that big, loud, camera-flared movie; but it would be hard to argue that they were deep and socially relevant in the way TOS and TNG were. A Trekkie in the Hollywood community might finally push to get a series green-lit, but I’d be surprised to see one with the social conscience as well. No studio exec looking to “revitalize an old franchise” will treat it properly. If we want to see new Star Trek on television, and we want it to BE Star Trek, we need a crusader of sorts.

For the record, I would love to see Star Trek back on television, but part of me wonders if we’re better off just enjoying the amazing mythology we already have. Plus, with at least one new movie on the horizon, multiple comic book series, novels, and games to keep us busy, there IS still new Trek to be had. I suppose only the future has the answers… but as Star Trek fans, we all knew that already.

These are just my thoughts; I look forward to reading yours in the comments.

 
Willie Laundrie II writes “Federation Follies,” a weekly humor column which takes a look at the lighter side of Star Trek.

Columnist — Federation Follies
Willie is a long-time aficionado of cartoons, comic book superheroes, games, and science fiction. He’s a big fan of Stark Trek in general and the 24th Century in particular, and plans to move there as soon as he can afford to slingshot himself around the sun. In the meantime, he spends his time drawing comics and cartoons.

23 Comments Join the Conversation →


  • Trek Fanatic

    Personally, I’d LOVE to see a new series, but JJ’s movies seem to be the biggest stumbling block. CBS would almost canibalize the franchise making the TV show and movie compete against each other.

    I think we will see Trek on TV again, it just may take another decade (or 2).

  • Justin

    The fans are demanding Star Trek on TV. The suits should give us what we want!

  • Jah de Lah

    I’d much rather see a new series than this reboot crap we’ve been force fed the last few years.

  • Planet Xeno

    I want my Trek TV!

  • Gregg

    Perhaps a show around the Department of Temporal Investigations?  If we want it to have a progressive story line, just bring in J. Michael Straczynski.  Nothing says beginning, middle, and end like J. Michael Straczynski’s B5!  David Mack as a writer wouldn’t hurt!

  • DaimyoNintendo

    The one thing is that there have not been any epic sci fi shows on TV except for Battlestar.  The Stargate series and Dr. Who could never cover for an epic show like Star Trek.  Look at Terra Nova and lets see how long that lasts.  The question is not whether another Star Trek series would be good or bad but are there any other sci fi shows giving us that fix we need.  Right now I would say No.  There is no sci fi on TV that I am watching unless it is syndicated Star Trek or Stargate.  If no sci fi can fill that void, then I would say yes, we need a new Star Trek, with a new crew, nothing redone but with the essence and wonder that the original series had.  Lets go a new part of the galaxy or further in the future and deal with new species and new challenges.  Voyager was the only Star Trek series that did not deal with Alpha/Beta quadrant issues as a main premise.  Voyager was a great idea but it was poorly executed.

  • Brian Shiro

    In  my opinion, each Star Trek series from TOS to TAS, TNG, DS9, VOY, and ENT has improved upon the previous one in terms of believability, production value, character development, and story quality.  Yes, TOS broke ground and deserves special status for that reason, but I feel that ENT was actually the pinnacle of the Star Trek franchise so far.  It’s a tragedy that UPN killed ENT by constantly shifting its time slot and hardly promoting the show.  In fact, I’d say that Season 4 of ENT was the best season of any Star Trek series ever.  Moreover, it was the most important in terms of canon because it dealt with the motivations for and initial steps towards founding the Federation.  What a crime that we didn’t get a Season 5 or 6 to see what would happen as the Federation started to take shape.  I did think the finale “These are the Voyages” was brilliant in that it set the crew 10 years into the future at the signing of the Federation Charter, leaving the possibility of filling in the time with a revived series, movie, or other format at a later date.  We still have time to do that.  Personally, I think the 2009 movie was very entertaining, but what I wanted as a die-hard Star Trek fan was a movie with the ENT crew (Archer, T’Pol, Tucker, etc.) involved in the Romulan War that led to the Federation’s founding.  Now the J.J. Abrams has erased any possibility of Paramount considering such a project.  Instead, all of the evidence points to a new Star Trek animated series based on the movie made by the same people who make Transformers Prime.

  • Kelmar44

    This is the way to go..for TV series….Have a series tha has no permanent stars…and use ALL the shows time frames…1 week a TOS show…next week a TNG show…than new universe….

    • An anthology-type show would be a great way to go… use the established eras and history, but with different crews and settings within each era. A strong focus on the spirit of Star Trek binding the various stories together. Fascinating.

  • Vultan

    I’d like to see CBS do at least a two hour TV movie with a new ship and crew, which if the ratings and reviews are good enough could lead into a full series. It worked for Battlestar Galactica.

  • PLEASANT Designs

    “Who Will Be The Gene Roddenberry of This New Trek Generation?”Why the need to replace him? I don’t get it.

    • I’m not sure “replace” is the right word for what I’m trying to say, here. It’s more that we need someone of that ilk, someone with the vision and moral compass, to get a new Trek series started in the right direction and have it be more than just an action/adventure show. You have to have somebody that believes that television can be more than just entertainment (while still being entertaining).

      … these are just my two cents, of course.

  • Datum

    >>  One of Star Trek‘s great strengths is presenting challenging social issues in the context of sci-fi adventure, and giving audiences intellectual conundrums to puzzle over. <>  There’s a lot to be said for a story having a definite beginning, middle, and end.  A television series can have that as well (see: Deep Space Nine) but the chances for that seem slim in the current entertainment climate.  <>   A Trekkie in the Hollywood community might finally push to get a series green-lit, but I’d be surprised to see one with the social conscience as well. No studio exec looking to “revitalize an old franchise” will treat it properly. <<

    That, I fear,  may be the answer. And in it lies the difference between Star Trek and "star dreck!"

    • “The suits in the suites” would be the perfect way to put it, yes. I think most broadcast networks are a little too quick to cancel something that doesn’t instantly take off; that’s the “climate” I was referring to. Shows like “Lost” certainly prove there are viewers who will watch long-form serial television, so I don’t think I’d put too much blame on the them.

  • I think it could happen but there would have to be a shift in the style of the writing. It needs to be less about the Star Trek universe and more about the character development. Maybe they could incorporate more of what’s happening on Earth in this age rather than space travel. there could even be a war and we see people defending our home planet. Maybe they could be losing the war and people are conscripted into Starfleet, that way the characters wouldn’t be flawed and interesting… So many different directions a new show could go in rather than a single ship travelling through space.

  • *WOULD be flawed. Sorry couldn’t leave the mistake.

  • Vexenyou

    Excellent points.  Star Trek as we knew it in TOS/TNG and to a lesser extent in DS9/VOY and to a non-existent extent in ENT is gone (just listen to their music themes).  I recently gained access to Netflix and have been sampling the series. Much of Enterprise was just soap-opera recycle with only a casual link to an interesting plot.  It lacked the ability to generate passion in those people who *loved* TNG and similarly situated episodes in the future series.

    Just compare the amount of skin you saw regularly in ENT vs TNG.  They were so focused on sex appeal they couldn’t do a serious story if they wanted.  That vision of television is even stronger today.  If you can’t compete on content, then compete on looks…

    Since Star Trek is currently in Movie-land the content-owners wouldn’t want to “dilute” the franchise with a competing, possibly inferior, series. (this may be far from the truth but Hollywood Execs are not known for originality of thought) Nor would the movie ever dream of tackling actual social issues because that sort of stuff doesn’t fly Internationally.

    The author is exactly right… Not just another “visionary” but a visionary who is in a position in Hollywood to actually execute their vision. And frankly, who would want to take up that mantle?  Trek is an awesome setting but being a “franchise” means many restrictions.

    A creator on par with Mr. Roddenberry would do better to create a new vision, a new story with the same focus on brilliantly crafted stories that challenged people to think.  

  • M Coatesy

    Much rather a new series than film no silly prequel stuff or any other limitations just the good old star trek universe we all know and love where old characters can pop in an out.

  • Alexandrathegreater

    We need a new Trek series–no prequel shit, let’s pick up right after the Dominion War, Voyager etc. The reason why Star Trek could exist both in the 60s, 80s, 90s, and the millenium is because it was CURRENT. It addressed the issues of the day, the racism, the politics, policies on torture, you get the idea. Right now we need a Star Trek more than ever. Flipping on the tv or going to the movies will show you one thing: everything is about action, sex, and prejudice. That’s what the Star Trek reboot was about. We need a Trek to tackle the big issues, such as the Republican-Democrat difficulties in  government, gay marriage, airport patdowns, all that.

  • Marvo Da Mighty

    TV it self is no longer able to support episodic presentations. It has become to geared up in the short bursts of action and immediate gratification that is reality TV. It would be broadcast suicide to offer up anything less that a 30 minute version of the 2009 movie, on a weekly basis, all that action is expected by today’s consumers of media.   Look at the Star Trek Videogame for example all too often the complaint from new players is that it’s SLOW or Not enough action, and that is the crux of the problem the shows will face as well. 

    Star Trek was supposed to be episodic, supposed to be delivering a message and a story told over time and building upon itself as it delivered it self.  A reflection of what humanity could become, our ever changing progression to be better than we are now (now being fluid in space and time of course).  But no one cares about that, all they want is to see who is the AMERICAS NEXT (INSERT STUPID INSIPID TITLE HERE), and even then 2 hours after the show is over, millions are clamoring for the next new thing, already forgetting the last new thing.  

    I keep reading “THE PEOPLE WANT THIS”! But that is not accurate , what should be said is that SOME OF THE PEOPLE in a SMALL Part of a NOT QUITE MAINSTREAM Genre WANT THIS. Problem is if they get what they want, NO ONE will watch it except hard core fans.  DO I really have to invoke the NAME of Firefly, Space Above and Beyond, Stargate Atlantis, Stargate Universe, or even Eureka and Caprica?  

    TV is not ready for a new episode, it has been too long. More small one off Movies need to be made. Small Mini-series type projects are needed to get the public willing to try again. I mean look at what sparkly vampires did for the Fantasy Genre on TV.   

  • evelyn raymond

    If it;s well done it would find an audience. With the drivel that passes for entertainment nowadays there are many people who would appreciate a well told tale.
     

  • DonnaD3713

    Why not have a Trek series, everything else has been successful.  Us fans are panting for more, we don’t understand what the suits are waiting for, we’ve proven our loyalty over the years.

  • andy

    star trek is not just a show or movies. but its like when u go to school you learnd in all kinds of class. and but star trek is just it show us what we are able and two do and how we can be in stuff. ok well theres all ways be room for more star trek in this new and up two date time its just like gene roddenberry said it is inportant and he is right about it i do not know about everyone else says but i say make a come back for star trek i not smart or anything but when i see a star trek i know that we can be and do anything. i was in a slow class when i was in school and stuff i was and still a slow learner and stuff but when i see a star trek show or movies i try to thank what there thanking. i hope i did ok.