Monday, November 02, 2015

Back on TV--New Trek or Nu Trek?

The announcement by CBS that a new Star Trek series will be available on its streaming service in 2017 has set off intense speculation here in cyberspace.  So a few more or less random thoughts:

Star Trek: The Next Generation was the first TV series to be made for syndication.  That was the beginning of the end for network domination. Star Trek: Voyager was created as the flagship of UPN, the Paramount cable network.  That didn't work out as well.  So it's not unprecedented that Star Trek is used to pioneer something new, like a streaming service.

A lot can happen before 2017 however, or even after the series starts.  CBS will adapt to marketplace demands.  But however it works out, the chance of a new Star Trek TV series actually being made seems very good.

  CBS has a very successful approach to TV drama.  NCIS is the most watched drama in the world.  I was impressed with what CBS did with Elementary in adapting Sherlock Holmes to contemporary New York, an idea that could have been schlocked to death.

The typical CBS series is character-driven, with reasonably strong stories, and a balance between character-driven humor and drama.  I expect this is what a new Star Trek series will be like.  (NCIS already has done Star Trek, mostly in the character of Ziva--an "alien" who never uses contractions and gets cultural references comically wrong, yet is stronger and smarter than others, etc.  Ziva=Data.  And I suppose Mossad=Android.)

There's a lot of chatter about what story universe it will be set in--Roddenberry's or Abrams'.  No one really knows yet, but my educated guess is that it will not be Abrams.  There are apparently legal questions about what exactly Paramount and CBS divided in separating films (Paramount) from TV (CBS.)  But it can't be possible that CBS got Trek TV rights without getting rights to everything in the Roddenberry universe.  And the deal separating them happened before Abrams and Co. created their universe.  The Roddenberry universe, the prime universe, is the Star Trek of TV.

So if it were me the new Star Trek series would be set in the 25th century.  It would begin with the launch of the Enterprise, and some recognizable 24th century character will be on hand for the launch.   But though there may be occasional references to the past, and maybe a guest character for an episode once in awhile, it won't matter that much.

Thanks to digital technology, this Star Trek universe can push future tech even further, and aliens don't have to be actors in makeup.  But the series will rise or fall on the appeal of the characters, and on the spirit, or soul, of the stories.  Relevance to contemporary problems and future possibilities as we see them today. People working together to solve problems was Leonard Nimoy's Star Trek formula.  It's the right one.

And as an aside, the producers would be crazy not to hire Jonathan Frakes as a frequent director and story consultant, and LeVar Burton if he's still interested in directing TV.

1 comment:

Adam said...

I don't think it really matters which universe it's set in. I hope the new series will stand on its own, independent of what came before. It isn't really important which of the other fictional Star Trek stories did or didn't happen in its continuity. That said, I would vote prime universe just so we can move past this point which seems very important to some people.

I think the streaming service is a great idea. In the Rick Berman and JJ eras, every new Star Trek series or movie would be preceded by the producers' strenuous assurances that you didn't need to be a die-hard fan to enjoy the new thing. And fans would go crazy because the producer were catering to new people rather than the fan base which had been loyal for years. ("They're just calling the new show 'Enterprise'? No 'Star Trek'? What, are they ashamed of us?!?") Well, unlike network television and theatrical features, the business model of streaming services (and HBO) is to develop shows with a fan base that can be strong, as long as it's fanatical enough that just the one show will keep them subscribing to the service. Star Trek and CBS all access are a match made in heaven. All Access gets a bunch of new subscribers, and Trekkies get a show with an interest in pleasing core fans before new ones.

I've also heard a lot of people complaining about Alex
Kurtzman's involvement. Kurtzman recently split from his writing partner (Roberto Orci) so he could direct features. It seems really unlikely that he would give that up to show-run a streaming TV show. Kurtzman hasn't worked on episodic TV since he was on Alias. He's created/developed three shows since then (Fringe, Sleepy Hollow and Hawaii Five-O) but his involvement ended with the pilot each time. So fans who are angry about Kurtzman because of the perceived JJ-verse connection should really relax.

In short, I have a really good feeling about this new show, no matter which universe it's set in, and am looking forward to the relaunch of the starship Enterprise.