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6 Rules for Rebooting a Star Trek TV Show
The Star Trek TV Series Should Do This...
By Chris Beveridge
December 07, 2009
6 Rules for Rebooting a Star Trek TV Show
© Bob Trate
With the success J.J. Abrams has had in rebooting the Star Trek movie franchise in 2009, you just know that there are execs at Paramount that are kicking around the idea of getting the series back on the small screen as well. Star Trek has been mostly off the air since Enterprise ended earlier than any other Trek series since the 1980s and there are more science fiction fans than before, though many may not call themselves that. The success of series like Battlestar Galactica has tapped into new science fiction fans and people are more receptive than ever before. While many long time Star Trek fans will argue that the franchise should remain dead for another decade on TV, it's best to prepare for the worst by offering up the best ideas for ensuring a better show.
6. Respect the Timeline
As much as we completely loved the new Star Trek movie that J.J. Abrams used to reboot the franchise, that particular timeline, actors and setup of the Star Trek universe should stand alone and apart. Abram's version of the franchise certainly revitalized interest in it after all that had gone wrong with the property in the last decade, but it's not what a TV series needs. A new Star Trek TV series should exist within the original timeline that has been built since the series debuted back in the late 60s. With several series under its belt, a massive bible of what has occurred to date and a very rich history contained within it, it would be foolish to jettison all of that when creating a new series. Besides, we're not going to get any of the actors from the movie to do a TV series at this point and they're far better suited to providing us with more focused movies.
5. Look Forward, Not Backward
When the original Star Trek series had been off the radar of TV viewers for quite some time, the idea of a new series didn't make sense until we learned they were moving it forward in time by several decades. The Next Generation kept to Gene Roddenerry's vision of always looking towards the future while understanding the past. Subsequent series didn't take these chances and met with mixed results. Deep Space Nine and Voyager played in the same time frame while Enterprise went back to the past and tried to rewrite history at times which caused some continuity issues among the hardcore fans. And when you lose the hardcore fans, it's hard to really get the buzz out there to the more mainstream viewers, particularly when they fill the Internet with nothing but negativity. Any new series should take the premise of The Next Generation and move the time period forward by another hundred years or so since it can give us a new landscape, technology and races to work with.
4. Keep the Science in Science Fiction
There's a saying where magic is simply science that we don't yet understand. Star Trek has always played it a bit loose when it comes to its science, especially when you can explain away any situation with something related to tachyon particles. When you deal with science fiction, especially a show that could be set some four hundred years from now, there's a lot you can make up in order to get various situations to work. The problem is that they can become easy gimmicks to get you out of a situation that would be better suited to higher quality writing. Science is a wonderful thing and Star Trek has been huge for getting people into the fields of science. A more grounded view of science is needed here to help balance out the big visions of the future that is part and parcel of the Star Trek universe, and that will make it far more engaging.
3. Storytelling Has Changed
The evolution of the franchise since the ‘60s really is intriguing. The original series is pure ‘60s with its episodic storytelling, monster of the week and sexy appeal that pushed boundaries at the time. The Next Generation gave us more philosophical stories and avoided some of what the original series did while still keeping to the spirit of it. With Deep Space Nine, the franchise moved ahead of its time by building a concrete universe and layering its stories which became highly engaging for a segment of fans as it progressed past the first couple of seasons. Voyager went back to a mixture of Next Generation and the original series. TV has changed a lot since all of these though with stories told in season form. Star Trek needs to move in this direction by providing viewers with an engaging season long story that's layered both with its characters and the overall story and universe it inhabits.
2. Respect the Characters
Science fiction has worked hard to humanize its characters over the years and for Star Trek fans, the last couple of seasons of The Next Generation is where it showed promise by allowing the characters to grow and change and actually engage in relationships. Deep Space Nine took this further and science fiction has gone much further since then with shows like Firefly and Battlestar Galactica. While Roddenberry wanted characters that would be positive that would inspire others, that can be done while still making them very human and compelling. Keep the characters from being all about their jobs and allow us to feel like they truly exist in that space. When you have people serving aboard a ship like the Enterprise for years at a time, visiting various ports of call and mixing with all sorts of races that wonder of all of that really needs to shine through.
1. Respect the Audience
Science fiction fans tend to be a bit more bleeding edge when it comes to what they want out of stories and characters and you can't disappoint with that. A very welcome change in the last few years with series is that in planning out longer story arcs, they can make it so that characters aren't as permanent as they used to be. Having a real element of danger and that element of change with deaths, transfers and promotions shows the viewer that things aren't static and that surprises can creep up anywhere or simply appear out of the blue. Politics, intrigue, military aspects and more are areas that a lot of people are expecting to see more of in science fiction as they're reflective of the world we're living in. Star Trek has always been about taking a mirror to the world and making us look at ourselves in a different way while showing us where we can go with it. Don't coddle the audience.
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