As I wrote last week, there’s a new Star Trek series on the horizon. In honour of that (and because I haven’t actually seen every episode of every series yet) I’m re-watching all the shows and movies. I recently watched the TNG episode ‘The Drumhead’, S4.E21. Nominally about an investigation after a security leak, it soon turns into a witch hunt hearing about theoretical conspirators and those determined to bring down the Federation. One of the ‘suspects’ was someone who was of Romulan descent (his grandfather was Romulan, making him 1/8 Romulan, 7/8 Human). He was being singled out because his ancestor was of a race that, at the time, was an enemy of the Federation. It was an episode largely reminiscent of the McCarthy-era paranoia against Communists. The same ideas still exist in the contemporary world. Though the episode aired 25 years ago, it is still relevant. This is just one reason I love science fiction in general, and Star Trek in specific — it can constantly be re-interpreted for current affairs.
In today’s paranoid world, where apparently anyone who doesn’t vote for the UK to extend airstrikes were a ‘bunch of terrorist sympathisers‘ and any Republican nominee in the US wants to bomb ISIS back to the Stone Age (or to hell, or countless other iterations of the same rhetoric), fear in the West against Muslims has hit an all-time high. Like in the TNG episode, people are being singled out because of fear of their heritage. To a similar extent, in the US especially, blacks have been the recent target of fear and paranoia (usually by police and law enforcement, but by the general public as well). This, in part, has led to the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
In the Star Trek episode, the hearing ended abruptly when Captain Picard uttered the wise words: ‘With the first link, the chain is forged. The first speech censured… the first thought forbidden… the first freedom denied – chains us all irrevocably.’ The woman leading the hearings reacts badly to being compared to someone censuring speech and freedom and starts yelling about how she’s taken down lesser men than Picard. In the end, cooler heads prevailed and there was little actual impassioned rhetoric. In the final scene, Picard and Worf discussed the actions that led to everything. Worf was upset that he helped the hearings happen, thinking he was acting in good faith to capture a saboteur and conspirator. Picard rightly commented that ‘villains who twirl their mustaches are easy to spot. Those who clothe themselves in good deeds are well camouflaged’, noting that people like the woman ‘will always be with us, waiting for the right climate in which to flourish – spreading fear in the name of righteousness. Vigilance, Mr. Worf. That is the price we have to continually pay.’ As Thomas Jefferson supposedly once said, ‘Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty’. Indeed, that rings true even in a theoretically utopian 24th Century; as much as it does in today’s political climate.
But I’m not writing to talk old Star Trek, I’m here to say what could happen in the next series. In ascending order, here are shows I wouldn’t mind seeing.
1. Star Trek: Temporal Investigations
With the continued popularity of Doctor Who around the world, and especially recently in the US on BBC America, this could be a bit of a mix of Whovian fantasy and Trekian science. It could be about a pair of Temporal Agents — or the whole Agency — in its attempt to keep the timeline clear of paradoxes and other meddlesome things.
I actually have a few problems with the idea of mixing Trek and Who (though apparently it did already happen). The first is that time travel in Trek has been done multiple times; none greater than The Voyage Home (my favourite of the movies) and First Contact (my second favourite). I would hate to screw with the legacy. It has also failed fairly miserably when Enterprise tried to deal with it in the Temporal Cold War. Besides, a whole series about time travel in Trek probably wouldn’t be able to last more than a season or two, so probably not worth it.
Additionally, it would kind of cement the timeline. By that I mean it would most likely have to take place in the 25th-29th centuries when they actually have time ships, so the show would have to solidify some of the intervening years. This would severely limit future movies or series in potential material.
Furthermore, if it gets too wacky and Whovian, it would lose some of the ‘science’ aspect of Trek, or some of the Trek feel in general. At which point it would be just another time travel show that, oh yeah, happens to have Star Trek in the title (like how I feel about the most recent movies). And who wants that?
2. Star Trek: Star Fleet Academy
The most hated character in all of Trek, probably, was Wesley Crusher. Whilst I think this speaks more to Wil Wheaton’s acting ability than the feelings of those in Star Fleet Academy in general, going down this Academy route for a show could be interesting. It would, hopefully, appeal to the younger market (the same 18-25 demographic as most of the CW shows like Vampire Academy or Reign, or those other ‘teen’ shows that were extremely popular like The OC, Dawson’s Creek or One Tree Hill). Appealing to that age group could help keep Trek going for another 50 years if done right.
There’s also not much known in Trek canon about the Academy. There’s obviously different majors for the various posts, an elite squads (Nova Squadron, and Red Squad) and possibly a less rigorous curriculum for enlisted officers, or perhaps a different campus entirely. Other things could be gleaned about the academy, including some required reading and some extracurricular activities, but all of that is still fairly nebulous. So the show could define one of the background features that all main characters have had to go through. It could be about the struggles of trying to get in (Star Fleet only takes the best and brightest, apparently. It took Picard two tries to get in, even). It could be about building friendships through the hardships of university life. It could be about growing up. There are a lot of races not explored much in the show, so showing the mix of different species at the Academy could really add to the feel of a United Federation of Planets, rather than a United Earth that happens to have a few allies on occasion.
One of the potential problems with going an Academy route could be it loses its appeal to the loyal Trek fan. Who cares about the kids when you’ve already seen the greats like Kirk and Spock or Sisko and Dax? Trying to cater to a younger audience may actually doom a show to failure if it can’t gain fans with the built-in audience while attempting to gain a larger audience. Additionally, since the main characters would be cadets, they wouldn’t necessarily be privy to any of the secrets/interesting facts that might face officers. That could diminish the show a bit, since cadets would probably be the last to know if a threat like the Borg came back to Earth.
Also, the show was kind of already done, a bit, in the reboot Star Trek film. It doesn’t wholly take place at the Academy, but it definitely showed more about what life as a cadet could be like than almost any single episode of the shows. So I would be worried about re-treading some of the same ground.
3. Star Trek: Science and Medical
Some of the most long-lasting shows in the past few decades have involved doctors and scientists (ER, Grey’s Anatomy, Chicago Hope, to a lesser extent the various CSI shows). In the future, with all sorts of alien interactions, who knows what sorts of diseases and scientific progress there will be? There’s a lot of possibility for such a show in the Trek universe. A show could be set on a research station, the medical bay on an exploratory vessel, or even amongst different science or medical departments on various ships. It could be about the people struggling to contain a new, rampant plague from some unknown alien world. It could be about going through Star Fleet Medical and conducting research into the ‘new frontiers’ of science. It could be just about the everyday life of a science officer (or group of officers) exploring the wonders of the galaxy. Like I said, a lot of possibilities.
Of course, a show about unknown diseases or unknown science might become a little too techno-babbly for a mainstream audience. There would probably have to be a lot of made-up terms and diseases, since they don’t actually exist. There was once a mention of ‘Rigelian Fever’ affecting a member of crew. A made-up disease doesn’t strike terror or empathy into an audience the same way Ebola or HIV might. Also, there wouldn’t necessarily be the human connection for a disease that only affects Klingons but not Humans.
Additionally, the main characters probably wouldn’t be the leaders of the crew outside of the Chief Medical Officer (though Dr Crusher was the captain of her own research vessel in an alternate future). It might feel like the characters would be ‘along for the ride’ rather than making the decisions.
4. Star Trek: Star Fleet Intelligence
This show could be a mix of the best police-procedurals with a hint of mystery, a la X-Files. The ‘whodunit’ crime series has been popular for almost as long as there has been television, and was, and remains, a popular genre in fiction. Conspiracy theories and mysteries, too, have an age-old charm to them that continues to fascinate people. Having a show centred around such a premise could be deeply interesting.
Maybe the characters have intercepted some distant transmission about a vague threat to the Federation (or, even better, the Quadrant or galaxy) and spend the season(s) trying to find out more about a potential threat. Maybe it’s an internal threat from a terror organisation (like Hydra in the Marvel Cinematic Universe). Maybe the characters just get sent around solving murders on some of the colony planets. Perhaps there’s a threat from a different dimension that’s threatening to spill out into the ‘prime’ dimension (like the alternate universe from the TOS episode ‘Mirror, Mirror‘ that set up so many future ‘alternate reality’ episodes on the other shows). There are tons of possibilities for such a show and tone, ranging from comedic (like Dragnet or Psych) to intense (like Criminal Minds or Luther).
This is the type of show I would prefer, but who knows where the producers will go. Maybe it will be a 5. Star Trek: Something Completely Different. Like many others, I’m left to wonder, and hope. What sort of show would you like to see?