I was pointed towards this pretty cool article of what 10 things any new Star Trek series should follow, so below is the full post.
There has been a lot of talk about a potential new Star Trek series recently. Joe Michalczuk at Sky News tweeted the news that Roberto Orci had a meeting with CBS to revive the franchise on television. Orci later denied it, saying that he simply enquired about the rights. But considering the fan reaction at the suggestion of a new series, it has to be obvious to the network and potential advertisers that there would be some significant interest.
However, this isn’t the first time that a new series has been pursued. Since the cancellation of Star Trek: Enterprise, six months haven’t gone by without some rumour about someone or other aiming to bring Star Trek back to television.
Michael Dorn to this day is still hoping for a Captain Worf television show, while others who have expressed a desire to bring the show back to TV screens include both Bryan Fuller and Bryan Singer (Star Trek: Federation), and there was also the undeveloped animated series Star Trek: Final Frontier. Also, don’t forget the number of fan made productions in that time with Star Trek: Renegades currently shooting.
But what should the new series look like? What needs to remembered about past successes and previous failures? What are the rules of Star Trek as we see them, and how would they work in a modern television series? Here are ten rules that any new Star Trek series needs to follow in order to not gather together the viewers of the current Star Trek films, but also bring back the fans of the old series that have looked down on J.J. Abrams efforts and somehow bring in new viewers too.
10. It Must Be Believable
In the Star Trek: The Next Generation bible there is a key paragraph, which states: “If you’re in doubt about a scene, you can apply this simple test: “Would I believe this if it was occurring on the bridge of the battleship Missouri? If you wouldn’t believe it in the twentieth century, then our audience probably won’t believe it in the twenty-fourth.”
This is true, because science fiction and especially the term “Star Trek” scares the average viewer. So in order to draw them in and keep them, the show has to be realistic. The new Battlestar Galactica was a good example of this – it showed characters reacting in a believable manner to a post 9/11 situation we could appreciate. The third season of Star Trek: Enterprise tried something similar the year before, and while this was a positive move for the series it still had some of the recurring issues from the earlier season.
Enterprise is a good example of where believability can take an unexpected turn for no good reason. Everything was fine for four episodes and then Trip got pregnant. It was one step further than the series needed to go, after all if Hoshi got pregnant by an unknown alien species then it could have opened up a series of interesting arguments – like the choice between family or career and dare I say it, the possibility for an abortion debate. This leads us into number nine…
9. Shine A Light On Real World Issues
The Original Series is well known for opening the door to discuss the issues of the time. Gene Roddenberry used the show to bring morality plays to the masses and they discussed a wide range of topics, not limited to racism (Let This Be Your Last Battlefield), religion (The Apple) and mental health (Dagger of the Mind).
Later series took the same concept but applied it in a less obvious manner. For example the Vulcans and Suliban in Enterprise have been compared to Jews and Arabs (although it isn’t explained who the Andorians are meant to be). Deep Space Nine dealt with the issue of terrorism (although The Next Generation also did in The High Ground). Allegories like these are a trademark of the various television series – they don’t have to appear in every episode, but if they were absent then the show simply would not be Star Trek.
There are also certain things that the show has never done well– for one, human religions. The only significant religious race to be featured in the show has been the Bajorans, and so this seems to be the only religion in the 24th century. Even then, an additional step was taken by Deep Space Nine to not only have them be religious but then show that their gods exist.
The reason why I mention religion is because it would be an obvious issue for any new Star Trek series to tackle. There is a certain degree of anti-Muslim sentiment in Western countries, and much like racism in The Original Series, this is an issue that should be discussed in a new series. Religion is such a prominent issue of division these days that any Star Trek series would need to address it.
8. Plan Your Antagonists
This is a lesson that can be learnt from The Next Generation, who developed the Ferengi as the show’s major enemy race at the start of the first season. After two episodes featuring them, they were dropped from that role and were only used from then on as comedy relief (with only a couple of exceptions). The Ferengi as seen in The Next Generation season one simply was not threatening enough, and their mannerisms were comedic. Deep Space Nine resurrected them and turned them into fan favourites, especially with Armin Shimmerman who was in the whip wielding cackling scene from their first appearance in The Last Outpost.
There are some good points and bad points about Maurice Hurley, but he did develop the Borg. We also have to thank the Writer’s Strike between seasons one and two of The Next Generation which caused Hurley to drop the intended insect version and by the time they appeared in Q Who, they became their more familiar form. They remain the only antagonists who have appeared in the films and originated in a television show other than The Original Series, and this was because they were of sufficient threat and design to make them enter the mainstream mind-set in their own right alongside the Klingons and the Romulans.
It took two nearly two full seasons for Deep Space Nine to introduce the Dominion, although references were made earlier than that. Voyager, by the nature of the show’s premise had difficulty introducing a realistic antagonist. For example, it was never explained how Seska kept appearing during season two despite the crew of Voyager travelling back to the Alpha quadrant in a much faster vessel than the Kazon possessed. Eventually they brought in the Borg, which was something fans had been expecting since the ship was deposited in the Delta quadrant.
So make the new antagonists powerful and a credible threat. Don’t leave any room for a comedic element, as they should be absolutely deadly. They don’t necessarily have to be introduced in the very first episode as Enterprise attempted with the Suliban, but Star Trek no longer has the ability to wait 42 episodes anymore – even Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has recognised this and hinted at a potential returning adversary after only three episodes.
7. The Future Isn’t Perfect
This goes against everything that Roddenberry suggested, but has to be done in a modern television series. No one expects everyone to get along all of the time anymore – it is an ideal from the 1960s that is in the same realm as silver outfits and flying saucers. Viewers will expect certain characters not to get along with each other. They don’t have to be along racial lines (such as Vulcans and Andorians in Enterprise) and should simply be certain relationships don’t work (Chakotay and Paris at points springs to mind).
I mentioned Battlestar Galactica before; that concept was developed by Ronald D. Moore and you can see how this followed on from the established relationships that Moore worked on during his time on Deep Space Nine. A new show must embrace this type of concept, as it leads to further possibilities and angles for the writers, a more interesting experience for the viewer and a happier main cast who will feel that their characters are fully fleshed out.
6. Diversify The Crew
As the time has gone on, the crews of the Star Trek series has slowly become more diverse (with the exception of Enterprise due to the setting). Deep Space Nine was praised for having an African American lead actor, and Voyager was praised for its female Captain. Whilst we’ve never had an alien Captain leading the main crew in a Star Trek television series, any steps in that direction should be taken carefully. Remember we are effectively re-launching the franchise on television with the new series and in order to be sufficiently successful there must be an expectation that non-Trekkies will watch the show.
This doesn’t mean that aliens must be completely avoided as options for our new Captain. Mackenzie Calhoun of novel series Star Trek: New Frontier is an alien, with a rich and interesting history. But outwardly appears to be human – something that the occasion viewer can still find easily interesting rather than perhaps a blue-skinned Andorian.
This also doesn’t just mean that there should simply be a lot of people wearing different funny looking nose prosthetics, but should also mean that it is finally time for homosexual characters in Star Trek. It has been a long time coming, and considering the history with David Gerrold’s Blood and Fire issues with The Next Generation, and as a subject has only been mentioned briefly in more recent series. Doctor Who and Torchwood have already gone down the LGBT with Captain Jack Harkness, so it is nothing new to the genre – in fact if Star Trek doesn’t have a LGBT character then it will look less like the future and more like the past.
5. Reference Earlier Works, But Don’t Rip Them Off!
This is what I like to call the “Khan rule of thumb”. There has been two occasions now that I can clearly remember where Star Trek has revisited an earlier story deliberately in order to repeat it – rather than simply reference it. This first happened in the second episode of The Next Generation, where Gene Roddenberry wanted to rehash The Original Series’ episode The Naked Time as The Naked Now. Then of course, we all know about Star Trek Into Darkness and the fan reaction.
Needless to say, on neither occasion did the fans take it well. The reaction to The Naked Now was immediate with it occurring so early on in the life of The Next Generation that the fans felt like the entire show was simply going to re-run story ideas from the earlier series. Into Darkness took longer, and it seemed like it had good reviews up until that vote at the Convention where it was named the least popular Star Trek film (even being beaten by Galaxy Quest). Suddenly the flood gates opened to fan criticism, and this was bolstered by some of the silliest reactions I’ve ever seen from a film’s production team.
With Khan still fresh on their mind, the fans will simply not accept if the new series turned around and re-booted The Next Generation but set further along in the film’s timeline. I doubt anyone would take it well if the entire franchise was suddenly re-cast when those cast members could still potentially play their own characters, although ten to twenty years older.
Star Trek also has the habit of reusing some of its plots. For example, Enterprise did this a couple of times – North Star was essentially a rebranded version of Voyager’s The 37′s, while E² was an update to Deep Space Nine’s Children of Time (although in that case, the writer recognised the similarities and wanted to change it but the producers overruled him). At least for the short term, the new series should be very wary of treading down this route lest they find themselves in a The Naked Now type scenario.
Probably the best way to do this is to bring in fans of the show, not simply television producers. Take Manny Coto and the final series of Enterprise – it was jammed full of references to The Original Series (and Animated Series too) but never felt like it was ripping anything off. Oh and any new show must hire Mike and Denise Okuda. They’re walking dictionaries on the Star Trek universe. What they don’t know isn’t worth knowing.
4. Take A Look At Humanity From A Third Person Perspective
This has always been one of Star Trek’s strengths, and has resulted in the popularity of some of it’s most beloved characters. In The Original Series this role was predominantly played by Spock, who with his Vulcan logic could comment on the actions of humans. This angle was recognised and duplicated in the character and actions of Data for The Next Generation.
Deep Space Nine took a slightly different angle and didn’t have a single specific character who would act in the Spock/Data role, but instead a variety of them. Quark, Odo, Kira et all each took the role as the observer of the human condition at times, while acting in the human role themselves on occasion. Voyager didn’t really have such a role (although the Doctor was at times) until season four with the arrival of Seven of Nine, and this was combined to a certain degree with the Spock character to become T’Pol in Enterprise.
The show will need to have character(s) in this role. These sorts of stories and characters are a staple of the Star Trek experience.
3. The Audience Expects An Ongoing Storyline
This didn’t always use to be the case with the general public, but in recent years there has been an expectation that high end drama series will have continuing threads woven into individual episodes. This has always been a danger to science fiction shows in general as it means that while existing viewers are invested in the show, it becomes harder for new viewers to jump on board.
You only need look at shows like Fringe recently to see what happens when the storyline becomes so in depth that there is no way that you can just start watching it in the middle of a series. But shows like Lost and Homeland mean that the public are now much more aware of this.
In Star Trek this has only been done on a handful of occasions, such as the start of season two and the end of the final season of Deep Space Nine. Enterprise had the Xindi arc and the mini-arcs in the final season (not to mention the Temporal Cold War). Perhaps it is shows like Doctor Who that do it best – the episodes stand alone, but with a single element or question that links them all together. That way you avoid a situation like with Babylon 5 where if you missed an episode then it suddenly felt like the end of the world because you didn’t know why G’Kar was doing the following week.
This is a rule that needs to be carefully applied by any new Star Trek show as it is not something that they can easily replicate from an earlier series but it something that needs to be thought about so that it doesn’t seem so dated. The ongoing story should be plotting out for the season (or even the series) as if it was an episode – the fans know when you’re making something up as you go along and while the show will want to be able to change things due to unforeseen circumstances or because something just plainly doesn’t work – if it isn’t planned at the beginning then it’ll never be planned properly. The best storylines are ones that we don’t know are there – need I say Bad Wolf?
2. Make It A Good Ship
The general public expect a Star Trek show to be set on a ship. This was a problem which faced the producers of Enterprise who wanted to have the first season to build up to the launch of the ship, but the studio wanted the crew out amongst the stars immediately. Any new series is going to have this same issue – the non-Trekkies will expect the series to be about the Enterprise. The problem is that with the Abrams film series about, I’m sure that CBS will have an issue with the films and television series both portraying different versions of a ship with the same name.
And let’s be honest – we’re not going to get the film Enterprise cast to sign on for a six or seven year television series. Financially it is not in their best interests.
The ship itself need not be the best, or the fastest in the fleet – in fact, if it’s a run-down old rust bucket then it’ll help to characterise the hard working engineering team who manage to keep the thing running. But we are also no longer constricted by the use of models either – so the ship can be damaged, it can be refitted and changed over time and improved.
Design can also be taken in a different direction if needed – sure there will be traditionalists who complain about the most mundane of things, but even the design changes between the periods seen in Enterprise and The Original Series can be explained away by saying that the earlier series was designed along the lines of how humans would imagine it, and The Original Series design elements were influenced by a number of alien races within the Federation. New design changes to a new series could also be explained away using the same method with new races joining the Federation all the time and different influential members sitting on in important roles within the senior levels of Starfleet. What I’m saying is that a new series shouldn’t be afraid to take the ship and mix it up a little. Keep the viewers on their toes – because then they’ll keep watching.
1. For The Good Of Mankind, Set It In The Future
I obviously don’t mean our future. That much should be obvious. I mean to set it further in the future than any other Star Trek series. It needn’t be by much, but Star Trek has suggested many technological improvements over the years and because of this to try to set it authentically in a period between the series would constantly remind viewers that technology hasn’t moved that far forward.
For example, if a new series was set between the Kirk years and the Picard years in the “Lost Era” then you wouldn’t have things like PADDs – which itself is silly as we already have them in the form of tablet computers. The Abrams films are an example of this – the communicators used in that particular future look less advanced than my smart phone and the ship’s control systems looks like Microsoft Surface. By moving further forward into the future this can be avoided and Star Trek can once again help to influence the technology of the future.
There is currently an XPRIZE for the development of a working medical tricorder, there is a lot of hype about Google Glass (said by Google to be influenced by Geordi La Forge’s VISOR – although I think it more closely resembles the devices used by the Dominion), 3D printers are becoming more normal (similar to replicators – with NASA aiming to create one that dispenses food). But it has been a while since Star Trek suggested anything new along these lines – Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise each brought nothing significantly new to the table which has seen developments in the realm of technology.
By moving it further into the future it removes the restrictions on the writers and allows for Gene Roddenberry’s philosophy of “technology unchained”. If Star Trek could be a muse to developers and companies before, then let it be again.
The full article was found here http://whatculture.com/tv/10-rules-new-star-trek-tv-show-must-follow.php/11#QTgLvgpL0lor4IjA.99