How To Reboot 'Star Trek' For Modern Television
Thanks to J.J. Abrams, Star Trek is back and now, possibly, bigger than ever. Regardless of whether you love or hate the new films, their success in generating new enthusiasm for the world of "where no one has gone before" is undeniable.
That's why now is the time to bring back Star Trek to TV, where, many fans would argue, the series belongs. Sure, some of its concepts make for a great movie, but Star Trek began on television and that's where it's mostly thrived.
However, if Star Trek returns to TV, it needs respect: modern TV audiences are different from those that watched shows like the original Star Trek or Star Trek: The Next Generation. And that was most evident when the most recent attempt to bring Trek back to TV, Star Trek: Enterprise, only managed four seasons and a mediocre interest with science fiction fans.
There is, now, a renewed interest in science fiction on TV, particularly with space-based adventure series: the success that Syfy recently had with several of its new shows, Killjoys and Dark Matter, attest to that. So now is the time to strike while the iron is hot: by bringing the show that started it all back to the airwaves.
So how can Star Trek become a TV series again? Here's how it could work:
Keep It As Its Own Separate Series
A new Star Trek series should not follow in the movies' footsteps and become a reboot. We need a new entity with new characters, stories and a new ship (although a version of the Enterprise). In fact, a new series should keep even casual mentions of other Trek-related characters and stories to a minimum and focus on its own setting and characters. It should become something that someone who's never seen a Star Trek show or movie could get into.
Aliens shouldn't always be humanoid
One of the things that modern fans of Star Trek have an issue with is that all the aliens seem as human as humans themselves. A new Star Trek series should feature aliens that look, well, more alien, including species of aliens never before seen in the Star Trek universe. Now that we have better CGI technology, as well as makeup special effects, creating alien-looking aliens shouldn't be an issue.
Base The Series In The Future
Perhaps one of the problems with Enterprise is that showed Star Trek's history, rather than its future. Thanks to previous Star Trek shows, we already know what happened in the past, and even with new stories, it's not as interesting as seeing things happening in a future we're unaware of. That's why The Next Generation did so well, so a new series needs to go even further than that: the next next generation, perhaps. Let's see what the future after Captain Picard looks like.
Use Real Science Fiction Writers
Sorry, J.J. Abrams, but you're not really a science fiction writer: your strength lies mostly with fantasy adventure. And that's why the films lack a lot of the "science" in the science fiction of Star Trek. A Star Trek series needs writers that not only understand the "science" part of science fiction, but have the imaginations that the original series had, which featured input from sci-fi heavy hitters like Robert Block and Harlan Ellison. Good science advisers on hand is also not a bad idea: use them.
The joy of watching Star Trek: The Next Generation was discovering the great actors that we came to know and love: let's face it, none of us really knew who Patrick Stewart was until he donned that uniform. The problem with Enterprise was that a well-known sci-fi actor, Scott Bakula, was put at the helm of the ship: many couldn't get past the fact that they knew him as Sam from Quantum Leap. With an unknown cast, it's easier to understand new characters in the Trek universe.
Remember how iconic Data became in Star Trek: The Next Generation? Well, it's likely that androids will become even more a part of society, as well as more integrated in the Federation, in the future. Let's see them becoming who they are and deal with some issues, such as the singularity and machines becoming conscious. There are some great ethical issues that the series can deal with here, and let's face it: those kinds of issues were always handled well with both the original series and The Next Generation.
Bring Back The Morality Plays
The beauty of Star Trek is that there were always questions of morality raised. Does one violate the prime directive and save an entire civilization? Or does one let that civilization die to preserve the prime directive? How does one deal with alien civilizations with belief systems that seem primitive, or even wrong, to our own? This is something Star Trek always handled well and something Enterprise (and the J.J. Abrams films) often forgot. But some of the best Star Trek stories comes from plots dealing with morality.
Focus On Space Exploration
Star Trek originally focused on going "where no one has gone before." The J.J. Abrams films have all but forgotten space exploration as part of Trek, and that's a shame: because "discovering new life on new planets" is part of why the Enterprise set off in the first place. Even Voyager did this to an extent, and although Deep Space Nine wasn't as focused on exploration, it was still a part of its setting as a space station. A new series must focus on exploration and giving viewers something new to look forward to, and to discover, every week.
Give Us Hope
It's become a trend for science fiction to become very dark and make the future seem like this horrible and desolate place: something we would never want to happen. But Star Trek is about hope and the future being a bright shining vision of something else, something more. A new TV series should focus on this aspect of the series and give viewers characters to cheer for and a positive future. That's not to say that there shouldn't be any kind of darkness to the series, but at the end of the darkness, there should always be light. That's what Gene Roddenberry would have wanted.