The New Star Trek TV Series Will Suck… Probably

There’s a new Star Trek TV series in the works, set to debut in 2017. As a huge Star Trek fan I am really, really excited.

But it’s probably going to suck. Here’s why.

Announced last week, the new as-yet-unnamed Star Trek series is going to debut on CBS, then be "broadcast" on CBS’s new subscription service ($5.99 a month). Given how many good shows are available on pay-only services, this is not the negative it once would have been. If it’s good, $5.99 a month for its seasonal run is a bargain.

Mercifully, the duo responsible for running Trek into the ground, Brannon Braga and Rick Berman, are nowhere to be seen.

Instead it’s being produced by Alex Kurtzman, part of the team that brought us the current Trek movie reboot and its sequel.

These were passable movies, but not really Star Trek.

What Is Star Trek

Roddenbery’s vision for Trek was about a number of things, almost all of which would never make it to the air today and are rarely seen in the movies. The most notable feature: optimism.

The purest example of “Trek” is Star Trek IV: The One with the Whales. A group of diverse and differently talented people banding together for a common cause. This was also one of the most sci-fi of the Trek movies, and, thanks to a fantastic script, acting, direction, and music, one of the highest grossing as well.

The Motion Picture was a pretty solid example of another aspect of Trek: exploration. This can be done well, as some ST:TNG episodes showed, but it is difficult to make work (and didn’t as a 2 hour movie).

The reboot movies were a veneer of Star Trek visuals layered over a standard and meaningless action movie. Honestly, I’m fine with that. It was the only way we were going to get to see Trek on the big screen ever again, even if it was just a splash of flavor on an otherwise pretty flawed movie (the second one was even worse: a poorly crafted and unnecessary remake).

The lack of understanding of what Trek is, is why I have no faith in the show.

Here’s How it Will Fail

Wanting to protect their precious (and successful) movie franchise, the TV show is almost certainly going to take place in the same time period (though they hint that "The new television series is not related to the upcoming feature film Star Trek Beyond...") But honestly, in itself, this isn’t a dealbreaker, and it’s certainly understandable.

The problem is twofold, most fans would like to continue in the TNG/DS9/Voyager timeline. The idea of new Trek is tempered by the knowledge that we’ll never know what happened to our favorite characters (outside of “All Good Things” which was, basically, the only good TNG movie). I’ll concede this is more fanboyism than a real complaint so lets get to the bigger issues.

The other aspect is more serious. Setting the new TV show in the same time period as the old TV show almost guarantees re-hashing of old plots and characters. The nostalgia crutch of all reboot shows/movies is tired and trite. If you have any doubt that this will happen, tell me again about the plot of Into Darkness.

Then we get back to the optimism. Upbeat doesn't sell in 2015, or at least, the major studios don't seem to think so. Trek is about a glorious future where there’s no money, no racism, and if people work hard, they’ll succeed. When Trek tries to be dark and moody, they fail miserably (i.e. Enterprise, all the movies after Generations, etc.). The current mentality of TV shows and movies throughout Hollywood is dark, serious and brooding. For things like Battlestar and Batman it works. For Trek it doesn’t (nor for things like Superman or Stargate: Universe, FWIW).

It just seems impossible that Paramount would put out a show like ST:TNG, a show with almost no artificial character conflict, bursting with optimism, and sci-fi to its core.

My guess? It’s going to be flat characters in a dark and brooding world, with fake peril in place of drama, repeating story ideas from a 50-year-old TV show we’ve all seen before.

They’ll assume, wrongly, that nostalgia will hold viewers past the few episodes, and create a show that is so desperate to get a new audience, they’ll completely ignore the current one. The one with diehard fans like me, desperate for a real sci-fi Star Trek again. Instead of a brilliant niche program, it will almost certainly be a pathetically weaksauce mainstream program with all the charm stripped away for mass appeal, which it will never get.

Eh, whatever. I’ll watch every minute of it.

Fred Manteghian's picture
An optimist is just fellow who hasn't gotten the word
FrakU's picture

I know I am very much alone in this but I thought Stargate Universe was absolutely fantastic along with BSG(2004) and The Walking Dead! They all are hard core drama with a little (or a lot) sci-fi to give it a little something to make things visually interesting. Otherwise we would be watching something better suited for the Lifetime channel.
As for a new Star Trek the only thing I would stay away from is the old fashioned "bottle" episode model with each episode wrapped-up in an hour adding nothing to the show as a hole. It should be darker and brooding much like BSG or SG:U with each episode directly affecting the next. Brannon Braga wanted to do this but the "studio" had other ideas for those who don't know (everybody apparently).
I too will watch ever minute and I will buy, and build, the model kits. After reading those so-called "fan" letters above it would seem my suspicions are confirmed after all. America hates science-fiction on the small screen. We even hate it before we see it! How sad for us...

OvermindOne's picture

"I thought Stargate Universe was absolutely fantastic along with BSG(2004) and The Walking Dead! They all are hard core drama with a little (or a lot) sci-fi to give it a little something to make things visually interesting"

Mkay, yeah you are definitely alone in this!

The new Star Trek films are made for audiences filled with people just like you. People who have no standards with regard to science fiction or cohesive scifi plots and over-arcing scientific principles. The difference betwee Star Trek and Star Wars is lost on those who are not into science. The SGU audience does not "get" SG-1, and they use the term "tachnobabble" to describe things they do not understand (or care about).

That "bottle" model is called Episodic TV. The advantage of it is that each episode is a short story told within the framework of the Trek universe, and that is exactly how it should be written for TV. Serialized TV is what soap operas are. The disadvantage of serialized TV is that you cannot jump in at any time and pick up the story. Serialized means you are only talling one story, stretched out over a season, and that is what all these new soap-fi shows are doing. SGU killed Stargate. NuBSG got critical acclaim, but it's ratings actually sucked pretty hard, even compared to Stargate Atlantis. Brannon Braga only ruined HGIS Trek, which was not really following the Star Trek model. Theme with vocals? Pre-TOS ships using the Akira class hulls and more advanced tech than the 1701 Enterprise? Scott Bacula as a starship captain, and a Vulcan female who wears a skin tight catsuit and gives massages in the nude? It was a goner from episode one.

FrakU's picture

All of the parts about me are completely wrong. You assume to much. Nuff send!

MatthewWeflen's picture

Alex Kurtzman is the creative director. Ergo, it will suck.

Based on his filmography, he clearly has no clue what the key elements were that made the original Star Trek franchise appealing to its fans. It would be foolish beyond belief to assume that he will somehow discover it in the next two years.

Get ready for more grimdark/T&A/shouting/explosions.

OvermindOne's picture

Kurtzman has no clue how to do Star Trek, and Star Trek 2009 and Into Darkness proves that. His co-writer Heather Kadin has only written fantasy, and ZERO science fiction. Anybody expecting Star Trek from this duo is pretty clueless.