In case you haven’t heard by now, CBS will be airing a new Star Trek series on their Video On Demand (VOD) servies, All Access, in 2017. I have decidedly mixed feelings about this new series.
Now, let me say (and you should probably know if you’ve read anything on this blog before) that I am a huge Trekkie. I love the idea of the universe and all the hope it speaks of for the future of humanity. I am also super excited to get my Star Trek nerd on even more. I’ve been watching all of the old series’ online, I’ve started roleplaying in the universe, I got a series of the books as part of a Christmas present and I recently watched all of the films again. I’d forgotten just how bad some of those films were (and some of the episodes of all the various series’), but that’s not the point. The point is, I really like Star Trek and am excited about where this new show could potentially go.
My mixed feelings come from a few of the specifics known about the show. I’m wary of it being only available VOD. I understand that TNG started a new trend for the franchise when they syndicated the show originally. I understand that the new show wants to embrace this change in technology and culture — essentially living up to Star Trek‘s futuristic use of technology. What I’m hesitant is that the people who are interested won’t want to spend $6 a month on basically one show. They may watch the plethora of other shows available on All Access, they may not. But why spend $72 a year if you’re really only going to watch one show? Wouldn’t it make more sense to wait until it comes out on DVD and then buy that (probably for $40 if not less)? At least people who subscribe to Netflix or HBO or even Amazon Prime have lots of other shows and movies to watch. Potentially those are available on All Access, but will people take advantage of it?
Also, since it’s only available online, that leads to the very real (and likely) possibility of leaking and/or illegally downloading. Game of Thrones was the most pirated show of all time, with reportedly more than 30 million downloads last season alone. I don’t think there are that many Trekkies around the world, and fewer still who would illegally stream it even if there were, but piracy does concern me. Not enough that I think it would destroy a new series completely if piracy numbers were high, but it’s obviously something the producers and network should worry about since it’s only available on one platform. If enough people pirated the show, would they cancel it since it is potentially losing revenue? Who knows?
My third concern is who the producer is — Alex Kurtzman. As a co-writer of the JJ Abrams reboot films, he does deserve some credit in making Trek popular again. However, I’ve felt like the new movies are action flicks that happen to have a bit of science fiction and, oh yeah, it’s the Star Trek universe. To me they didn’t have the feel of Star Trek at all, really. Trek is supposed to have an emphasis on exploration and optimism. Yet with the movies, if you changed the character names it could be any generic sci-fi film. The previews I’ve seen for the newest film, Beyond, strike me that way, too. If I didn’t know it was supposedly a Star Trek film, it would actually hold no interest for me, that’s how little I care for straight-up action films. I’m worried that that same feeling will transfer over into the show. That is, that it will be an action show that happens to have some sci-fi elements in it. The shows that Kurtzman produces for TV already — Hawaii Five-O, Limitless, Scorpion, etc. — have a bit of that feel. They’re not necessarily bad shows, nor strictly procedurals, but there is certainly a lot of action in them.
Wired had an article when the show was first announced a few months ago about what it wants to see in the new show (based on a popular podcast series about sci-fi/fantasy stuff). I, like the people interviewed for that article, want to see numerous things for the show. Those include having science and exploration at the forefront again. It’s the future, set in space. Humanity (and the Federation) would experience all sorts of new things for the first time. It should show the wonder of that! Space is huge, and exciting. Hopefully the show could capture that!
It should also have a (social) message of some sort. After all, TOS had the first interracial kiss on television, had a Russian member of the crew though it aired during the height of Cold War tensions with Russia, had stories about the Vietnam War and ones about racism, just to name a few. With new issues in the 21st century that were never dreamed of 50 years ago, the show has an opportunity to address a modern culture in an intriguing way. Which isn’t to say it has to be social messages all the time, but they should play some part. As John Joseph Adams mentioned, having a diverse crew — especially an openly gay character — would always have that hint of social commentary, even if only in the background.
I would also like to see more explanation of the lack of money in the Federation. In today’s post-Wall Street bailout climate, where austerity seems to be a commonplace practice, showing how a society could function without the drive for monetary game speaks to me, and potentially others. There have been some recent blogs/articles by leading economists and financial groups about this issue. It’s not a major theme that would need tons of exploring, but some sort of full, rational explanation would be fun.
The thing I most want to see in the new show, however, is at least 7 seasons. The world of Star Trek thrives on the small screen, where character arcs can be long and drawn out; where people have a chance to change and grow; where a universe can really be fleshed out. Three of the live-action spin-offs got a full 7 seasons, and I would argue Enterprise deserved renewal for at least one more, if not another three, just because it was really starting to get good there at the end during season four. Having a set amount of episodes/seasons in which to tell the story would benefit everyone, from the writers to the producers to the audience. Writers would know that if they put hints of a backstory in somewhere, they will have an opportunity to come back to it later, even if it’s not for three more seasons. Producers can plan for the long-term with budgets and stories and actors. The audience would know it could invest time and energy into the show, and that cliff-hangers would have an ending. New shows, especially Trek, take time to develop good writing and character depth. They deserve the opportunity to be able to get through the rough patches without fear of cancellation. Because if it does get cancelled early, there probably won’t be another official, licensed Trek series for a long, long time, if ever (there are numerous fan-fiction series’ that are not half-bad).
Next week I’ll present my ideas for how I think a new Trek show could work. The new show probably won’t use my ideas, but hey, maybe they’ll see the post and hire me as a writer. You never know…