This article was written for us by Vanessa Ravencroft.
Of all science fiction TV series, none is more iconic and famous than the one created by Gene Roddenberry and which came to our living rooms in 1966.
You ask someone on the street, not a sci-fi fan who the captain of the Enterprise is, chances are good that this person says Kirk.
The ship (the first Enterprise) is arguably the most recognized of all imaginary space ships.
The entire concept, the franchise has endured for fifty years.
A cash cow for CBS that will return to the pasture, hopefully to grow the legend and create more revenue.
Of course this is a challenge to those who are tasked producing it.
Ever since the original show (TOS) went off the air there were attempts to do just that. There was the short lived animated series (TAS) with the voices of the original cast. There was an idea to extend the mission of the original ship and cast. It was called Star Trek: Phase II, also known by its official title Star Trek II (not to be confused with the earlier 1975-1976 revitalization attempts bearing the same title).
It was planned to be the first live-action spin-off television series of the original Star Trek. While ultimately not realized, it did serve, in more ways than one, as the starting point for its immediate successor Star Trek: The Motion Picture.( The decision was made because of the success of Star Wars on the big screen.)
Shortly after the cancellation of TOS, Paramount proposed a spin-off series centered on the character of Spock, featuring him living on Vulcan with other Vulcans. This idea was turned down by Gene Roddenberry, who Paramount had asked to produce the series.
A little later Gene Roddenberry and Darlene Hartman came up with the idea for a spin-off series, entitled Hopeship, about the voyages of a Federation hospital vessel. The series would’ve included Doctor M’Benga (Booker Bradshaw) in the regular cast. Despite never realizing within the Star Trek universe, Hartman later wrote the idea in form of a novel in 1994
NBC briefly considered making a spin-off series centered around the adventures of Harry Mudd, as the character proved to be popular. A space pirate, an intergalactic con-man story.
Gene Roddenberry, did not want anyone else to do this show and he had too many other projects, the Mudd series project died.
Before the creation of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Paramount showed Roddenberry a script for a possible new Star Trek television series involving the Enterprise being run by a group of cadets. Roddenberry was against this.
Gene proposed a new Star Trek series and managed to capture a new generation with a new ship and crew. Star Trek The Next Generation was hugely successful and its characters endure to this day.
Other shows came and went, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and the ill fated Enterprise. Countless books, games, role play systems and an online experience kept the franchise alive. There was the idea to produce a show called Academy, set in San Francisco in the same time Wesley Crusher attended. It was touted as a show where Star Trek meets Beverly Hills 90210. Intended to open the audience to girl interests and thus guaranteed revenue with futuristic make up (a development contract with a makeup company existed already).
If this would have made it to the air, it would have killed the franchise forever.
Sending Captain Sulu back to the small screen was a serious idea, and a show chronicling the voyages of the USS Excelsior was considered several times, both in the immediate aftermath of Undiscovered Country (Star Trek IV) and again in the late 90’s. Later, a fan campaign breifly revived the idea in 2000, but the studio decided instead to wind the stardate back even further with the development of ENT.
Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski and Bryce Zabel (Dark Skies) proposed a reboot of the franchise with the crew of the original series in 2004 but Paramount ignored the proposal as they were not “even willing to talk about Star Trek”.
Jonathan Frakes developed a Star Trek series that was rejected by Paramount, who stated that they had previously rejected proposals by William Shatner and Bryan Singer out of concern of “franchise fatigue”.
Bryan Singer, Christopher McQuarrie, Robert Meyer Burnett and Geoffrey Thorne planned to pitch their own show entitled Star Trek: Federation, but they chose not to after development of Star Trek (2009) was announced.
So Star Trek was never dead or forgotten, but it is the Holy Cow of Paramount and CBS, feared, shunned, worshipped and often misunderstood.
Now during the peaking hype about a new Star Wars movie, the news of a new Star Trek television show, bound to come to the small screen in 2017 galvanized and excited fans and geeks all over the world, with search spikes on Google and Facebook, out doing the Star Wars community (at least for a little while).
That of course means there is still a huge fan base out there.
The new series has basically three directions it can go. It can ignore everything that came before (what Enterprise (ENT) more or less did) based only loosely on the original and the alternative universe. It can be set in the alternative universe or it set in the ‘Prime Universe’.
Then it can try to please the fans, ignore the fans and aim for a new audience or try to find a balance between both.
While I am a Trekkie (I insist on the “ie”) and would love to see it in the original universe, if it is done right it can be based anywhere.
Star Trek is a little like the United States, not so much a location but more a set of ideas.
England, Poland, China those are countries, America is a country, but the United States is an idea, a set of ideals that are independent of location.
Same with Star Trek, it is first and foremost a set of ideas and core elements.
Of all the ideas and elements that makes Star Trek famous and enduring, such as diversity, positive outlook, social issues etc. There are other elements, willing to serve, a clear command structure, and the invisible but powerful element of family and friendship.
Both crews made their impact on us by their friendship and loyalty among each other. The bridge crew of the old NCC 1701 was not just a crew but in a wider sense a family. A family, a group of beings we wanted to be part of.
The same chemistry, the same feeling was transmitted by the crew of the NCC 1701 D. Come on, who would not like to have a father or grandfather like Picard? Utmost trustworthy, integrity in person and resolute in times of peril?
All the tech and the props are wonderful background, but they are secondary. Spock became an alien just because he had pointed ears, yet I believed he was from Vulcan. Worf made an obscure race of warrior aliens approachable and gave them more substance than any makeup or costume can do. I still believe the Constitution class flies despite the cardboard and plywood bridge.
It was the stories, but much more it was the actors and their chemistry that made Star Trek successful.
The new ST films never managed, each of the main actors are individuals, there is no chemistry.
If the new producers and makers do not mess with the original formula, if they remember what made TOS and STNG successful they will create a show as enduring and beloved as the old series.
If they poop on the old in favor of CGI and flashy space battles (Not that I am against CGI and space battles) the new series will be just another TV show, but not Star Trek and soon forgotten.
So to the producers and makers I say: try to channel a little Roddenberry and infuse the new with his spirit. Easier done than one might think. Watch the old shows before you make the new. Watch those who are fan favorites. No need to copy everything, but once you get the feel and the spirit you can tell any story and make it Trek.
To the fans I say (and I include myself) I’ve been to many conventions, played online and in person ST games and RPGs. I learned that it is impossible to please every one of us when it comes to elements, details etc. But we are all, Trekkers, Trekkies, sci-fi fans united almost like the followers of a religion, by the core values and ideas of Trek.
Let’s give the new show a chance, if it stays within the lines of what separates Trek from all other sci-fi.
Live long and prosper
Article by Vanessa Ravencroft.