The green blood running through all Trekkies’ veins ran cold when news broke that CBS would be producing a new Star Trek series. The number of questions that came to mind was astronomical. It would even take Data a few seconds to process the reality that Star Trek would finally be coming back after over a decade hiatus.
As much as I can barely contain my excitement even I have to take a step back and temper my enthusiasm. There’s just too many unknowns at this point. Along with substantial criticism over the reboot movies there, are a few things that we need to acknowledge before Trekkies can go into full-blown Pon Farr.
Who? When? Where?
The fundamental questions about this new series are who does the show center around, when will it take place, and where will it be set? It was the brilliance of Gene Roddenberry to make Star Trek: The Next Generation a sequel series to the original. He could have rebooted the franchise, but he knew not to discard the legacy he created. There was too much mythology built up to ignore.
The recent reboot films found a way around officially ‘rebooting’ the series by splintering off an alternate universe, something Star Trek has a long tradition of doing. This new series could be anything from a hard reboot, a continuation of the original timeline, a new series set in the reboot movie franchise, or something altogether standalone. It seems most likely that CBS would try and stay within the new universe they created with the reboot movies, but anything is possible. Personally I hope they return to the original universe, and set the show a few hundred years after the TNG/DS9/Voyager block.
Strong Futurist Morality
The most critical element of Star Trek that sets it apart from most all other science fiction of its time, or ever, is its strong sense of futurist ideology. From the original series’ first interracial kiss, and other critical examinations over racism, sexism, and classism, to TNG’s never-ending struggle to deal with the Federation’s Prime Directive, Star Trek has been a show that tries to show what humanity can become when it abandon’s superstition, fear, and ignorance, in favor of skepticism, humanism, and exploration.
One of the main—and most deserved—criticisms of the reboot movies is the near total lack of that sense of ethical struggle. The movies have become a distilled version of Star Trek that focus more on action, and re-envisioning the original series’ most iconic moments, than actually tapping into the core principles of the franchise. To truly succeed in the hearts and minds of most Trekkies the new series will have to return to these futurist values.
To Stream Or Not To Stream
Before we even know anything about the story we heard that the new series would air only on CBS’s streaming service. It’s hard to imagine a Star Trek series not airing weekly on network TV, but it’s also not completely incomprehensible. Netflix has been producing stunning, top shelf series for a few years now so there’s no question a streaming-only series could be great. The question is should Star Trek go that route?
An important part of Star Trek has always been its message of hope for the future. This philosophical aspect to science fiction has become less important lately, but access to it is more critical than ever. Star Trek (the way Roddenberry intended it to be) should always be accessible to everyone. And let’s face it, nobody is going to sign up for a CBS streaming service solely for Star Trek. The idea itself is just ludicrous, and needs to be abandoned.
Criticize What It Is, Not What It Isn’t
One of the most important parts of assessing the new Star Trek series lies not with the show itself, but with us, the fans. It’s easy to pre-judge something fans love, and it’s especially likely that some Trekkies will make up their minds about the new series long before the first episode airs.
We must steer clear of criticisms that are based in “old is right, new is wrong”. There were a lot of people who grew up with The Original Series that disliked The Next Generation because it “wasn’t like the original”. That’s just not a valid criticism, and looking back now nearly 50 years after TOS first aired, there are a lot of fans who might say TNG was even better than the original. Until actual information on the series starts to become available, I’m not going to assume it will be bad. And if I have learned anything from watching Battlestar Galactica, it’s don’t assume a re-imagining is always the wrong way to go.