Star Trek for the 21st Century
A brand new five-year mission.
As you may have heard, there’s going to be a new Star Trek TV series. A few people out there might be a little excited about this turn of events.
There’s some decent writers and producers behind this thing and they announced it so far in advance there’s bound to be hundreds of changes before the show hits the airways. Case in point, there’s some mumbo jumbo about playing the pilot on regular CBS and then moving it over to a streaming channel that viewers would pay $8 a month to receive. Nice plan you got there, it would be a shame if people started torrenting your show. Still, I guess it hasn’t hurt Game of the Thrones, so whatever.
Anyway, the real questions start with how are these writers and producers actually going to pull off a new Star Trek in 2017? What about the original timeline with the 60s show up through Voyager and prior with Enterprise? What about the J.J. Abrams pocket movie universe? When do you set it? Where do you set it? What exactly is going to be the premise of this new show?
So many questions that need real, straightforward answers. First and foremost, how do you even start?
One step might be reading The Making of Star Trek. If you want to know the how’s and why’s of the original series, this is the book to read. Within the pages, readers learn the creative route Gene Roddenberry and Gene Coon traveled in naming the ship all the way down to the crew names and descriptions. From set design to arguments with network brass, hundreds of memos outline it all. It is the definitive behind the scenes story of Star Trek.
Still, I’m not sure I’d want to use the blueprint of 50 years ago for a Star Trek today. In fact, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want to do that at all.
Another good idea might be revisiting the Star Trek pitch of J.Michael Straczynski. The Babylon 5 creator’s hard reboot of Star Trek was probably a tiny bit of inspiration for J. J. Abrams as he reimagined Star Trek for the new movies. Unfortunately, I’d say a reboot using Kirk, Spock, McCoy, et. all is highly unlikely after the success of the J. J. Abrams universe.
If suddenly I was named show-runner, the first thing I’d do is jettison the past. All of it — the original series, next generation, JJverse, etc. None of it would be viewed as any kind of springboard for this new show. The question the writers and producers of this show really need to ask is, “If I were to create a ‘Star Trek’ type show from scratch today, how would I do it?” It has to be set up as a clean slate. There’s already going to be a ton of comparisons to previous incarnations, so why not start completely fresh.
The only requirement of a show named Star Trek is the following:
It has to be set onboard a starship named Enterprise in the far future where our heroes have a wide-variety of action-oriented, science fiction adventures.
That’s pretty much it. Oh, I’d throw in warp speed, transporters, and phasers too. To be fair, the new show can’t be about a bunch of space pirates or a rag tag crew searching for Earth/Home or a bunch of rebels against an evil empire. It also can’t be a space opera of starships in battle against aliens. That would be a TV show possibly named Star Fleet, but not Star Trek.
Star Trek is a show about, wait for it, trekking to the stars. It should be about exploration, learning, and understanding. It should be social commentary disguised as a sci-fi show for kiddies (and overgrown kiddies).
What if in our new Star Trek future, the only aliens humanity ever encountered were a race of pointy-eared, logic-driven, emotionless beings living on a planet we code-named Vulcan? What if these aliens, who have avoided all access or relations, decided to make contact and tell humans there’s something bad out there and their only hope is to find it first? Imagine the possibilities…
As for characters, who knows what the writers and producers are going to go with, but in my imaginary show-runner role I get to choose.
First and foremost, I want a strong, male lead as the captain. Someone who has some swagger, charisma, and can carry a show. I would cast Timothy Olyphant in a nanosecond, but he’s tied up with a Netflix show. Josh Duhamel might work as would Patrick Wilson. I also like Dan Stevens, but Shemar Moore is my favorite choice.
As for the Vulcan ambassador, I think we should cast someone who comes across as young and naive, but has ancient looking eyes. I’d prefer a woman in this role to heighten the sexual tension between her and the captain. An older Jessica Alba-type would work here. What’s Jami Gertz doing nowadays? Winona Ryder would be an interesting fit too, but I think she’s doing another TV show.
One of my sillier ideas is to have a first contact specialist be a real geek for early 21st century culture. He wears out of regs T-shirts, maybe Converse “Chuck Taylors” and listens to a Sony Walkman all the time. Can you imagine his office with 80s movie posters and a working bondi blue iMac from 2001? A quirkier than normal Matt Smith would be fun. What if we cast Wil Wheaton in this role? What if one of the movies posters is Stand By Me? Aren’t we being meta.
I’m cautiously optimistic about a new Star Trek television show. The pedigree of the people in charge is quite high and I can only hope it turns out even better than the late night ramblings above.
Star Trek deserves to be on TV and thriving. It’s one of the best ways writers and actors can tackle serious contemporary issues of the day that isn’t quite so in your face.
Let’s hope this Star Trek endeavor lives long and prospers.