Kenny Madison is a guest writer on the Axanar blog.
The Star Trek world exploded this week with the news of a brand new Star Trek series being announced for 2017. We know absolutely nothing about it besides it’s executive producer (Alex Kurtzman) and that it premieres online in 2017.
We don’t know what it’s about or if they even have an initial concept to begin with. Every single Trek fan on the planet has an idea of what they need to make a great show. For me, it boils down to five essential pieces that will make this Trek a winner for a completely new generation.
Too much action
For some reason, there’s been a common perception that Star Trek needs to be jam packed with lasers and action. Star Trek is based off of great storytelling first. The action happens to be a nice by-product. Like Axanar, which is a story of war and not a war story, the new Star Trek needs to put story first. What can we say about the human condition and can you say that without fighting? While some people might think that TNG’s mandate of “no conflict” is silly, this mandate forced mature storytelling that stands up as some of the best hours of television.
While some Trek itself might not have aged well, the stories of Trek still holds up surprisingly well. Instead of going to the flash-bang thrills of the rest of science fiction TV as of late, Trek needs to look at the mature stories of before to derive inspiration.
The show moves too fast
I love the 2009 Star Trek movie. I think it’s excellently paced. However, that’s not my Star Trek. That’s not the best Star Trek out there. Star Trek is best when it is about the characters processing the universe around them. You cannot have the emotional rewards of tackling tough situations by breezing through them at light speed.
To really have successful Trek, you have to watch our characters think. You have to see them process and grow and make mistakes. You have to watch our characters prove why humanity is better in the future. This requires a pacing more akin to Breaking Bad than the last two Star Trek movies. Let the show breathe and let us see the characters grow. Speaking of which…
Don’t do standalones
We live in the Marvel-era of storytelling. Everything is connected and everything is serialized. Trek has been at its best when the stories are serialized. You get to see the characters get affected by events. We don’t live in an era where your captain can just shrug off another attack by some vicious enemy. Characters get affected and change now.
The greatest thing about humanity is our capacity to change our views of the world around us. You can do this best by letting the adventures have lasting repercussions.
Don’t separate the TV show and the movie
Also, connect the movies to the television show. We only got a tantalizing mention of the Dominion War in Star Trek: Insurrection. They had the time and budget to do something spectacular within the context of the Dominion War and, instead, made a standalone film that fell flat with audiences. In an era of constant media stimulation, audiences have the attention spans and the dedication to consume mass stories in a matter of hours.
Star Trek literally has an entire universe to play in. Explore the universe and let events in one medium affect the other (and vice versa). Give us the Star Trek Cinematic Universe!
Don’t do Kirk, Spock, and McCoy again
We’ve seen two iterations of the trinity. Also, each show has had some analogous characters from the original. Instead of copying each show by providing a brash captain, an emotional confidant, and a logical mind, play with the dynamics.
The Next Generation dared to do something almost wholly different (Data is reverse Spock). Distance yourself from the formula and go boldly into brand new characters. Redefine what representation means on television. We live in such a socially aware era and Star Trek is the best way to get brand new concepts of humanity on screen.
Do give us a non-white captain
Four out of our five captains on TV have been white folks. That’s not good enough, especially on a show that is supposed to be set on “Starship Earth.” Instead of pushing characters of color to other roles, let’s put anyone that is not white as a captain. This can send a message far more important than Star Trek has ever sent by placing the weekly adventures of the Starship Something-or-other in the hands of people rarely represented on TV.
We need a non-white female captain. We need more representation of these folks on TV and there is no better place to see them than on Star Trek.
Really give us Starship Earth.
Join the discussion 24 Comments
I agree wholeheartedly with everything here. Trek at it’s best isn’t about a story driving characters, it is about characters driving the story. So much sci-fi takes a premise, sets a goal, then spends tons of time developing characters and not getting to that goal. Then you end up with the last few episodes of Battlestar Galactica (new one) or Voyager, rushing at break neck speed to get to the goal.
Trek is also at it’s best with rich conflict. Not just action, though episodes like “Balance of Terror” or “Year of Hell” had great action conflict. Trek is best when there is an emotional conflict, an ideological conflict, a conflict that involves the interactions of characters and sets them in a universe where action might be an outcome but isn’t always. Or some of the best episodes go the other way. They start with action conflict but end with the resolution of the emotional and character conflict like “Arena” or “Best of Both Worlds” did.
Trek is best when it is unconventional. Having a multi racial crew with a female non-white captain would be amazing. Trek with an unconventional crew and mission like the Star Trek New Frontier books would be fantastic (you know what? just make those into a TV show.). Episodes like “A Night in Sickbay” or “Data’s Day” are fun glimpses into the characters and great for development, they are good stories with no real focus on action (with the exception of the Romulans in Data’s Day).
If I’m saying anything it is that you can do anything with Trek and setting it aside just as an action sci-fi show degrades it and takes away what makes Trek special. I completely agree with the author.
I agree with all 5 points, and would like to add 2 more:
6) In addition to a renewed focus on quality writing instead of jam-packed action (contrary to hollywood expectations, most of us out here do NOT suffer from ADHD) , I’d like to see the return of some stories featuring exploration and hard science. Let’s put the sense of wonder and unknown back in the genre.
7) Try to show a little respect for the existing continuity, instead of treating it like inconvenient garbage … that continuity is what’s paying your salaries and giving you a franchise to work in, so it should be a no brainer not to kick it in the jimmy. Case in point: the destruction of vulcan was wildly unnecessary and downright stupid.
I agree 100% The JJverse was just action and nothing more. It was a waste to destroy Vulcan.
This is great… I am a budding Star Trek writer and I need advice such as this. My favorite piece of advice? ‘…watch characters think… let them grow and make mistakes.’ I want some of my Klingons to question the teachings of Kahless, I want the younger officers to save the day and definite strong friendships. Thanks again for your advice. – Chris
I agree but I don’t think it should be connected to the JJ Abrams movies. Those take place in another universe separated from what everyone knows to be Star Trek. For many, those movies go against the grain of Star Trek.
Personally I like them both but I would be really upset if CBS decided to set a series in that universe. If CBS are going to make a Star Trek for a new generation then it needs to go beyond, beyond TNG and peak at the prime universe as it is beyond the 24th Century…
I totally agree David. Here, here!
I’d like to see an ALIEN captain. An Andorian, Bolian… maybe even a Klingon (Worf!). I wouldn’t mind if it was about a ship other than an Enterprise too.
Hi Kenny, and nice post 🙂
…I agree for the most part: don’t make it ANYTHING like nu-trek, which is consumer fraud, and a propagandist attempt to minimize REAL Star Trek =(
…speaking of which, PLEASE REPLACE KURTZMAN ASAP!!! (or it will suck) =(
I agree that a consistent universe (ala Marvel) would be nice, but the movie market is so different that (UNDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES) it’s just not do-able: the markets are too divergent. SO, let’s just concentrate on TV/Streaming, no? (Marvel has the intelligence and the talent to do it right, but who else does…?)
My wish?: Let Ron Moore and Rick Sternbach do a Klingon Empire show featuring Captain Worf!
…and maybe CBS might like Axanar enough to finance more production? 😉
I hate to break it to you, but it is going to be set in the universe of the movies (it’ll be produced by Bad Robot and the producers are Abrams, Orci & Kurtzman.) They’re not using the ‘Prime’ trilogy because they wan to get the new viewers that have already seen the movies, and the ‘Prime’ universe would be confusing to said new viewers. Face it and put up with it-with the exception of the novels and the online game, the ‘Prime’ universe/continuity is dead. And as a fan of Star Trek since the original series (second generation fan born in 1968 who began watching TOS at around age five or six, and continued watching all of the other shows) I approve of this-the franchise has to grow beyond just us older fans.
I don’t think it’s going to be based in the alternate, JJ Abrams universe in fact I’m almost certain it won’t be purely due to the legal aspect of CBS using that universe which was created by Bad Robot and Paramount, neither of which are involved in producing this new Star Trek at all. This is being produced by CBS in partnership with Alex Kurtzman’s own production house. It has nothing to do with Bad Robot or Paramount.
There is some logic to not setting it in the alternate universe as well. CBS have never been interested, invested or involved in the alternate universe. In fact their attitude has always seemed to me to be against doing an alternate universe. The lack of merchandising for the new movies (which is licenced by CBS ) is down to CBS not being interested in merchandising Abrams movies. The huge rift between Paramount and CBS ensured that Abrams original plan to create a multi media and multi platformed Star Trek franchise were never considered. Their money is made by selling the prime universe. Continuing that timeline must be CBS’s priority if they want to continue to make money off of the original Star Trek series including TNG, DS9, VOY & ENT.
What we will see as long as Paramount and CBS remain enemies and apart, is two Star Trek franchises that go in completely different directions, the universe for the movies and the universe for the tv series. Alternate and Prime, neither crossing each other.
thank you for calmly explaining what should be evident to anyone who is paying attention (or non-delusional) 😉
it won’t be nu-trek, but there IS a strong chance it’ll suck just the same, thanks to kurtzman =(
There’s a chance it’ll suck if someone else entirely was involved in the project.
I think it depends on what writing team is assembled. Kurtzman is really only on as Executive Producer so I think a lot of the day-to-day show running will either be done by Kadin (Kurtzman’s partner) or someone entirely new.
Besides, I think Kurtzman is one man among many who created the new Star Trek movies and he seems to be the better one to choose from out of Abrams, Lindeloff and Orci. Personally I have no problem with their first Star Trek movie and even, aside from using Khan, Star Trek Into Darkness was an enjoyable movie and had Cumberbatch been playing someone completely new to the series thereby eliminating the silly nods and throw backs to Wrath of Khan then I’d say Into Darkness would have been a far better movie for it as well. Yet we have the two movies that were made and to be fair to JJ Abrams, they are both very nicely done summer blockbuster films that do exactly what the studio set out to do and that was to bring a new audience into the fold. I doubt however the four year gap between movies helped in securing that new audience and well, Star Trek Beyond has a tough time on all fronts in convincing fans that this universe isn’t just some silly fast-food-type alternative to “real” Star Trek and also mending some of the reputation damage Into Darkness inflicted onto Star Trek’s credibility among the geek and wider movie-going community. In short, what does Star Trek have to offer that is different from what Star Wars, Guardians and any other summer blockbuster has to offer.
Truth is, storytelling for TV and TV producing isn’t the same as making a 2 hour movie, and ultimately the issues surrounding Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness were to do with the fundamental fact that Star Trek is by its very nature a TV show, allowing for characters and stories to develop over a period of episodes rather than just having to cram everything into a 2 hour movie.
My hope is that CBS go further into the future, to the 25th Century lets say. That way you’re free from what has gone before in terms of the aesthetics of the show, the style of the sets, tech, ships etc… And you’re free to go beyond what we already know as Star Trek by evolving the universe we already understand and love, without having to reboot anything. Who’s to say the Klingons won’t look and sound and act differently 85/100 years beyond Picard…
If by “connect the tv show to the movies” you mean JJ’s films, I’ll pass. Go Prime or go home.
I also don’t think that the entire show needs to be serialized, as you suggest. Having a stand-alone doesn’t mean not having the effects last beyond that ep. DS9 did a good job of balancing “arc” shows with stand-alones in its later seasons.
Lastly, I don’t agree that the show “must” have a non-white Captain/lead. Modern Trek is much more of an ensemble show so the role of the Captain is not as important as a stand alone character. Any of the other leads could be ethnic as well, and would serve just as handily if they are written properly and given focus.
That would be, in fact, my suggestion for the show: drop the “lead and co-stars” formula entirely and make it a TRUE ensemble show where there might be entire episodes where the Captain might not even be in the story, or have a very small part. I’m thinking of eps like DS9’s “Treachery, Faith, and the Great River” as an example.
You’re on the right path, Greg. You can still have all the trappings of Star Trek without the series hanging the series premise around The Captain. Take a look at a show like “Lost”. In the pilot and in the promotional materials, the character of Jack Shephard is the main character and the man put in charge (the series’ version of The Captain), but within a few episodes, Jack’s individual adventures fall into the distance and get equal weight with all the other characters’ stories until you almost forget that the series began as Jack’s show. If the new Trek series really wants to set itself apart, it will format the series this way. There’s precedent for this on Trek. You touched on the DS9 episode, but there were vast multi-character story arcs occurring in the later seasons of DS9 too. We’ve also seen the “Lower Decks” episode of TNG and there was the VOY ripoff “Learning Curve” that experimented with a version of the concept. Anyway, if they make this change in format (which again, DS9 was moving towards) and if they set it in the “prime” universe and it takes place in largely the same time period we were left with before JJ Trek began, I think it could be worth watching.
Would LOVE to see Taraji P. Henson (from “Person of Interest”) play a captain on Star Trek.
Have you guys thought of asking her to take part???
I agree, especially the part about a non-white female captain. I’d go one further, and have her also be an alien.
CBS will very likely put in the the JJverse for one simple, stupid, and petty reason: to not do so would suggest to the audience that they’re admitting to making a stupid mistake. They will not say something like that, intentionally or otherwise.
Would totally be cool with an alien captain, but yeah, as above, have them played by a woman of colour if they are an alien. We’ve had a female captain and a black captain, so having some intersectionality would be great there. 🙂
An alien captain, please. As much as I would love a Klingon captain and a Unity One in canon, I’d like to see an alien species that is either new or we know very little about. If Gene Roddenberry had one lesson about fiction it is that we should never become trapped in our own comfort zones.
I found this amazing alien design someone came up with. Consider that the species only gets a brief mention on Star Trek: Enterprise, yet someone cared enough to give this species a face and a history. http://wiki.starbase118.net/wiki/index.php/Octran
If we must use the old, we should do it because it teaches us something about the world today.
The internet, or parts of it, has become very toxic on both sides of the ideological spectrum and trolls run rampant fanning the flames of outrage culture. The future does not have to be perfect, but I’d like to see a Tellarite engineer who insults and complains all of the time but the rest of the crew casually swears back and does not let complaints get to them (unless they’re valid) to show a future where we live with trolls but humanity understands that they’re trolling. Because frankly, I think that it is time that we stop caving in to the demands of people who are offended by everything and look at the evidence like rational human beings. Maybe then we can focus our attention on more pressing concerns.
I’m sorry, but I want to see a non-white captain again, preferably somebody Asian (Pacific Rim) or Southeast Asian (India/Bangladesh/Pakistan) or another African (Afro-American or Afro-Canadian), man or woman. Alien captains would just be a distraction from having an actual person of color be a captain on the bridge of a starship/starbase command center.
I came up with a concept for a more racially diverse Star Trek a while ago, and I’d like to share it again:
What I’ve posted seems to be in agreement with what the author of this article wants to see casting-wise.
I agree. They should have some Alien Captains from time to time, Like M’ress and Arex. If it wouldn’t be too dificult,
I think focusing on demographics for your captain is completely missing the point. Star Trek captains were never about subjugating or lording over the crew. To throw “white” or “male” “privilege” into the decision is ignoring the myriad factors of the decision. Picard was successful not because he was an old white guy, but because he was measured, calm, deep, and fair. The worst episodes of DS9 were the ones that got all race preachy with Sisko emancipation stories. The federation in Star Trek has evolved beyond that stuff. Xenophobia in Star Trek is between SPECIES, not races. And going female for female sake is what led to Catherine “Can’t follow my own rules” Janeway. The only people who seem to like her was girl-power! fans. Unlike Capt. Rachel Garrett (Enterprise C), whom no one mentions as being a female captain, but actually makes a noble decision to sacrifice herself and her ship to preserve a timeline in which Fed-Klingon peace talks hold.
I think what would be very interesting to see is an alien captain. Simply because you can take a look at racism in a way that fits the setting when other characters have to take orders from it. Like the Klingon exchange officer in that Next Gen episode where Riker goes over to them. Analyzing racism in those contexts tends to achieve more because the alien stand-in gets past the defenses that real-world demographics raise. It leads in a round about way to tolerance of people different than yourself when a straighter path would slam into a wall. It’s why Trek fans always seem more open minded to inter-personal differences.
I am worried that this will be an attempt at a grittier series. And while it may work to see more interpersonal conflicts and how they get resolved or not, too gritty would also, in my opinion, miss the feel of Star Trek. Much in the way Stargate Universe never felt like the Stargate SG1 that absolutely rocked. It worked for the Battlestar Galactica reboot, but Cylons trying to wipe out humanity was the point, and infiltrating cylons a concept so shocking that it worked. But it won’t for Star Trek.
Also, putting it on CBS streaming access only is going to kill the show before it gets anywhere. No one wants to pay the fee for 4 hours of content if they’re not getting anything else out of it. Not if they’re already paying Netflix, and cable, and… And then CBS will take that as a sign that there isn’t enough market for prime universe Trek anymore, and I will cry out in despair…
Serialized *to an extent*. Enterprise was serialized too much. YEARS of them trying to stop the Xindi weapon that we knew they would stop wore thin. REALLY thin. By the end I hated Enterprise because of the tedium of the arc. Something more along the lines of Babylon 5 would be good. An arc, but individual stories in the arc that comes and goes. And please, no Enterprise E, F, G or R. Or if you do, stop blowing the blasted ship up!