Can the New Star Trek Series Be Good?

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Answering the questions, “can a new Star Trek series be any good,” doesn’t necessarily require a lot of effort, because of course it can. Star Trek has proven time and time again that it’s the perfect medium to help reflect on a variety of social, cultural, and politically relevant questions in a way that is both timeless and entertaining. We’ve also seen that Star Trek can be used to to fulfill action genre requirements, which, while sometimes fun, tend to be not as fulfilling leaving longtime fans with the feeling that something is missing. With today’s announcement of a new series that will debut with a premier episode on CBS with the rest of the episodes set to air on their online streaming network, CBS All Access, it’s got us wondering if they’re willing to commit to using the themes that have and do make Star Trek great.

Before diving too deep, I’d like to fully state that we are not in fact nihilists and we are greatly looking forward to the Federations return to the small screen. With that being said we’d also like to see it done with the care and finesse that it’s been given in the past and that made the show a cultural phenomenon in the first place.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, “The new Star Trek will introduce new characters seeking imaginative new worlds and new civilizations, while exploring the dramatic contemporary themes that have been a signature of the franchise since its inception in 1966,” which is fantastic news. Again, Star Trek is fundamentally about exploration, cultural integration and acceptance, and the political machine necessary to help facilitate these things in a peaceful manner whenever possible. To deviate from these themes is to deviate from what made Star Trek great and if what you’re looking to do doesn’t encompass that, then you should seek to make a different show, not one with a fully established universe and rule set.

CBS is widely touting the fact that Alex Kurtzman, who’s served as a producer on the J.J. Abrams reboot universe along with other films such as Transformers and The Amazing Spider-Man 2, will be helming the project, but we’re not exactly convinced he’s the right person for the job. In fact, if you were to look up Kurtzman’s IMDB profile, and we have, you’ll see that it’s nothing more than a laundry list of reboots, many of which have largely been considered to be nothing more than big Hollywood cash-grabs, like his upcoming Van Helsing reboot or his upcoming reboot of The Mummy. He’s also worked on a variety of TV shows, including Fringe, Alias, and Xena; Warrior Princess. Some of his TV work has been moderately successful, but at times some of his productions have also been met with middling to bad reviews during what were considered to be weaker seasons. By and large, Kurtzman is a mixed bag and while it’s not impossible to imagine that he could in fact make a good show, it does leave us with a little to be concerned with.

We’ve actually been pretty big supporters of the Abrams Star Trek reboots, but we also recognize that they’re little more than spectacle blockbusters that only glance over the intricacies of the established Star Trek universe. While fun to look at, it leaves us wanting for the days when Kirk, Picard, Sisko, or Janeway had to negotiate their way into some kind of peace treaty or to hold firm and steadfast in the face of an opposing enemy while managing to avoid and epic space battle. While they’re nothing wrong with a good old fashioned fire fight, Star Trek’s sparing use of combat with a resounding focus on diplomacy helped us to better understand the issues presented to us. Watching the Captains and their senior staff working the problems instead of running head in gave us amazing character development and dynamic and that’s what we’d like to see return.

The other point of concern is that CBS wants to debut the first episode on their network, but then air the show via their own online streaming service. This seems to be a fairly non-committal approach to one of the worlds biggest and best known franchises. To us it sounds a little bit like they’re not fully confident in their endeavor, but that could also be a good thing. Network TV has all too often, especially in recent years, resorted to big spectacle over sound stories and if they’re truly approaching Star Trek with the proper candor, then perhaps that’s what’s making CBS hesitant to air it during their prime-time hours. Obviously it’s hard to say, but when they’re trying to push it to a relatively unknown, proprietary streaming service in the age of widely used services like Netflix, Hulu, or even Amazon, it raises questions. It’s the kind of franchise that you want all eyes on board for so you’d want to cast the widest net possible and not restrict viewing to a laptop/iPad/or iPhone experience. Perhaps it’s a bit premature to worry about that. Perhaps things will change and they’ll decide to go full network with it, but I do think it should raise valid questions amongst fans of Trek.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how you cut it, we’re excited for Star Trek to make it’s return to TV in time to celebrate it’s 50th birthday, but with the time and effort that we’ve all committed to the series, we want to see it done well and we don’t want a reboot of existing properties. In a world where there’s literally limitless options in terms of time frames, ships, and missions, it would be hard to imagine getting a TNG reboot, although there have been many rumors about that in the past. Hopefully, the people at CBS are approaching this with an understanding of what fans want with full and committed willingness to deliver. Only time will tell obviously, but it’s never too early to start asking these kinds of questions because hopefully the dialog will help to steer the show in the direction that it needs to be a success.

According to THR, “The new Star Trek has been picked up straight to series at CBS, with the premiere slated for the network in January 2017. Subsequent episodes will air on its digital and VOD platform, CBS All Access.”

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