The case for a new Star Trek series

Illustration for article titled The case for a new Star Trek series

Do we need a new Star Trek TV series? Yes — with the present vacuum of big-ticket scifi and adventure shows, a new, Federation-centric Trek series could rule the ratings.

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Hollywood has had a thing for remakes lately. This weekend alone will see new adaptations of The Karate Kid and The A-Team. We've already had Nightmare on Elm Street and silly Clash of the Titans. The Birds, Child's Play and Footloose are all in the works.

It's irritating and tiresome that Hollywood feels so overwhelmingly nostalgic. But if they can't help themselves, I suggest that take a recent reproduction, Star Trek, and spin it back to television.

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I would never call myself a Trekkie. I was a comic book nerd, yes, but not sufficiently geeky to wander into outer space.

In fact, I'm still not sure I've seen Star Wars from original start to original finish. Star Trek: The Next Generation, however, proved to be the exception.

Perhaps it was the technology, or the compelling, storylines. Perhaps it was Captain Picard with his sultry, philosophical ways. Whatever the reason, Next Generation remained a secret pleasure for at least a few of my adolescent years. It's still a favorite, and recently I've found myself recording episodes and thinking, "They could do this again."

The televisual grounds are fertile for a new Trek installment. With Lost, 24 and Ugly Betty all off the air, and Sci-Fi smash Battlestar Galactica's cultural influence ebbing, viewers will be hungry for compelling action, adventure and romance. And space presents endless possibilities. But what would be appealing to people who have fond Trek memories, although aren't rabid fans? The people like me [men 19-49] who can bring in big ratings? I asked some of my peers that exact question.

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A new series would need to address timely, relevant questions. How does the Utopia-esque Federation of Planets incorporate its globes and colonies? How do you balance innate cultures with the Federation's lofty ideals? "Star Trek is all about finding new cultures and, when possible, adding them to the Federation," wondered my friend Teelin. "In the stories it always is a good thing, but in reality whenever that happens we force religion and bring smallpox." The Federation would become the European Union of a fictionalized future.

Another pal, Ben agreed on this possible plot, but did us one better. "Yeah, your direction is kind of interesting," he said, "but it could even be broadened to have a sort of Law and Order type plot. The ship goes out to bring new worlds into the Federation, and/or addresses interstellar crime and punishment." The crew and viewer are then forced to address a moral, possibly even serialized, dilemma decorated in top-notch Sci-Fi accoutrements. What could be better?

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Plus, there are loads of angles writers could take with the Federation's "prime directive," a political philosophy that forbids member "states" from getting involved in other planet's domestic affairs. It's kind of like today's Westphalian sovereignty, only on a larger scale, and not as endangered.

Okay, so now we're onto something. But one of the most complicated plot problems when approaching a franchise is when. That Terminator reboot, which I gave a fair shot, had a few problems with chronology, and Star Trek's collective time line gets more than a little convoluted. The newest movie introduced time travel, a device that doesn't necessarily translate well to television. Case-in-point: Heroes, where even the characters couldn't keep track of their respective eras.

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To solve time-related conundrums, this new fantasy Trek can take place around the time of last chronological installment, Star Trek: Voyager, which ended in 2378, only 8 television years after Next Generation. According to my data, Captain, some kind of Cold War has been brewing, a perfect way to slip in the intergalactic political angle. Patrick Stewart could even make a return as Picard to add some street cred and gravitas, like Jennie Garth on the new 90210, and then a fresh cast can take the helm. Oh, wait… the Cast.

Of course the biggest hurdle to a new Trek would be the movie version itself. The producers want to build the mega-hit into a franchise complete with hot young stars and even hotter contracts. Is it feasible, or even legal, for television franchise owner CBS to support a small screen Trek team, while Paramount, which owns the movie franchise, simultaneously promotes their own actors?

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Business aspects aside, with the movie installments so far apart – the next one won't hit until 2012 – and the potential storylines happening at either end of the fictional timeline, there aren't too many insurmountable hurdles, not even market saturation, to prevent a successful TV launch. It's totally feasible to capitalize on a franchise with fresh blood and endless possibilites. Just think about it, Hollywood, because the Star Trek story could – and should – live on indefinitely, and not just as a summer blockbuster.

This post originally appeared on Death and Taxes. Image via zoomar's Flickr.

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DISCUSSION

The cold war thing was done with the Dominion until it heated up (hooray for epic space battles!).

It would seem, if Trek were to be done in line with the timeline of ENT, TOS, TNG, DS9, and VOY, the next one should be primarily about something new. In "All Good Things...", Q said, "That is the exploration that awaits you. Not mapping stars and studying nebulae, but charting the unknown possibilities of existence." This seems like the best basis for the next series. It's more than facing off with Romulans or fighting the Borg or running into 'anomalies' (just shoot it with tachions), it should be, at it's core, about expanding the genre of space exploration into new territory. As time has passed, Trek has become entirely too formulaic, depending on story lines from TOS and TNG, sometimes ripping them off exactly. While it's important to keep the Federation in the background, it may be time to change tracks (treks?) and go for something different.

Enterprise, at the very end, decided to switch to 2-4 episode arcs, which was a welcome change. There's no way the Augment or Kir'Shara story lines could have worked in one episode. Don't go Battlestar/Lost and have one long, confusing arc, but give stories a chance to have a bit more depth and care.

The main question, though, has to be the central theme. In TOS it was frontier exploration. In TNG it was pseudo-colonial, with exploration on one hand, but interstellar politics and conflict on the other. In DS9, it was the far-away outpost. In Voyager it was Lost in Space. In Enterprise, it was confusing time travel. For a new series to work, it would have to incorporate exploration, but have as its foundation something different. Perhaps it's a science vessel. Maybe it's the Federation's first trans-dimensional ship. I really don't know.

The point is that it would have to diverge from older Treks in order to appeal to the BSG/Lost generation.