CBS will be launching a new iteration of Star Trek next year. Discovery will premiere on the network’s All Access, and will take place about a decade before The Original Series. The show will also feature a female lieutenant commander on board Discovery, along with a cast that will include more aliens and a gay character. Needless to say, we have high hopes.
Star Trek: Discovery will be the first new Star Trek series since 2001’s Enterprise. That show lasted for four seasons and was met with mixed reactions from fans of the franchise. While the show did improve over the course of its run, it was the last entry until Paramount decided to reboot the franchise with J.J. Abrams’ 2009 film Star Trek.
While the rebooted "Kelvin universe" series (the films Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness, and Star Trek Beyond) have been incredibly successful, they’ve also met plenty of criticism. The films departed from some of the optimism and utopian stylings of the original series, in favor of a more audience-friendly action-adventure narrative. This new series represents a major opportunity to reintroduce some elements people feel have been missing from the series. Here’s what we want to see the show accomplish:
An ongoing, developing plot, like Deep Space Nine, rather than an episodic series
The original Star Trek and some of its successors were products of their era: an ensemble cast of characters, heading off on a new adventure each week. That works well for the time, but television has changed considerably in the years since. With shows like Lost, Battlestar Galactica, and The Expanse filling the airwaves in recent years, we’d really like to see how their more serialized nature could be applied to Star Trek.
Fortunately, this is what’s going to happen: Speaking before the Television Critics Association, showrunner Bryan Fuller noted that "we’re telling a much more serialized story, to dig deep into a very tantalizing arc." He's described the show as a novel in 13 parts.
How the leading lieutenant commander fits into a much larger ensemble cast
Fuller revealed that the lead character would be a different type of character than starship captains like James Kirk, Jonathan Archer, Benjamin Sisko, Kathryn Janeway, or Jean-Luc Picard. This new figure will be a lieutenant commander who doesn't appear to be in charge of the ship, which should provide us with a new relationship with a large cast than what we've seen before.
We’ve always considered Star Trek to be a show that works best with ensembles, so it will be interesting to see just how this dynamic works, especially with one character taking the lead over the others. Fuller says that the show will be focused largely on her journey in Star Fleet, which is already a major departure from how classic Trek series operate. That's something he's already good at, as any fan of Dead Like Me or Pushing Daisies will tell you. Getting a sense of the early years of the Federation's forays into space through her eyes will be refreshing, and potentially add more heft to the proceedings.
A diverse, groundbreaking cast of characters
While we’re looking at ensemble casts, we want to see this new ensemble push some boundaries, and to be really diverse in the racial, gender, and species makeup. The original series certainly broke some boundaries with its own racially diverse cast at the time, and the latest film, Star Trek Beyond, affirmed that Sulu is gay in the Kelvin universe.
The new show needs to do this, and a bit more. We’d love to see some nontraditional relationships and attitudes toward sex and race as a part of this world. Fortunately, Fuller has indicated that he's fully on board here. "It’s about who’s the best actor, what can we say about diversity in every role. We’ll have more aliens than you have on a Star Trek cast"
Beyond that, we’d also like to see a bit more from the non-bridge crew people. What are their lives and motivations for joining an interstellar crew like? What are the general attitudes of rank-and-file Federation members?
A cast of characters that aren’t simply reimagined Original Series characters
We’re looking at you, Data / Tuvok / T’Pol / Odo / Spock-alikes. The Original Series laid down some solid templates, but that doesn’t mean the new cast has to follow in that lead. Obviously, we’re probably going to see some similar roles for bridge crew, but we’d like to see what they can come up with for new personalities that avoid some of the tropes.
A professional crew of explorers and scientists
There’s something to be said for shows about the leaders, who have to manage their ship's operations and oversee its crew. Star Trek is traditionally about exploration, so we’d be over the moon if we got a crew of genuine scientists and explorers who are venturing out into the unknown.
While we’re at it, let’s also get some sense that the Federation isn't made up entirely of incompetents, malcontents, and villains in the making. The movies recently have suggested that Federation officers are more likely to be bad guys than heroes. It's time for a little balance.
No shoehorned cameos from cast members from other shows
Across its films and television shows, Star Trek has put together some really notable cameos over its history. With any new show, there’s going to be some temptation for a bit of stunt casting. Let’s skip right over that. We don’t need the older cast members to make this show stand on its own, and we don’t need an episode built around a kid who turns out to be a young version of James T. Kirk.
More unique aliens that go beyond humanoid characters with some makeup on their faces
With that in mind, let’s see what we can do to go beyond the aliens that are just people with putty on their noses / ears / foreheads. CGI, makeup, prosthetics, and puppets have been used in science fiction to great effect, and it would be cool to see a bit more variety.
This is also a really great opportunity for the show to play a bit more with alien cultures, and to flesh out individual species a bit more. Humanity is a vastly complicated species and collection of civilizations, and one might expect that any aliens we come across would be similarly complicated. Let’s go beyond medieval aliens from the medieval planet.
No more [insert trope here] planet of the week, and a bit of what we’ve learned about astronomy since the show first went on the air
If there’s anything that we’ve learned with the Kepler space telescope, it’s that space is weird. There are tons and tons of planets out there, and they’re stranger than we ever could have imagined. Some shows have played with this pretty well: Battlestar Galactica did so early in its run, as did Stargate: Universe.
With that in mind, lets move beyond the planet of the week, where planet X is covered in ice, and Planet Y is a jungle pleasure planet. Planets, like civilizations, are diverse and complicated.
Similarly, let’s move beyond some of the tropes that come along with these planets, where we have the peaceful agrarian planet, pleasure planet, or the aforementioned medieval planet.
No [insert technobabble here] crises solved by reconfiguring the tachyon array to create a chrono-kinetic surge in the chromium-sphere cluster module
Okay, technobabble is definitely something we’d like to see, but hopefully, it’ll be a bit more spare than in prior shows. It’s lazy writing, and we’re hoping that the writing team will be able to put together some problems that can be solved by communication, deduction, and decision making, rather than banging made-up tech together. Darmok is still our favorite Next Generation episode for that reason.
A meaningful exploration of this era of Star Trek
Bryan Fuller has promised a futuristic 1970s visual style for the series, inspired by James Bond movies and retro-tech. Since Discovery is meant to take place five years before James T. Kirk leaves on his five-year mission, that's an odd choice, but it fits with Fuller's usual obsession with striking, memorable production design. But the era has to go beyond the visual aesthetic to be interesting. What can the show reveal about that era that'll make it more interesting? Since it's so close to original Trek in time, what don't we already know about those years? Discovery will need to find something that defines the period in a narratively interesting way, something that makes it a time worth exploring. Did anything about that particular time period change humanity, or the Federation, or anything else about the Trek world?
Finally, we want this show to be fun and exciting
While Battlestar Galactica and The Expanse are great shows, they aren’t exactly heartwarming or uplifting. They’re dense, interesting, and intellectually stimulating. We want something that brings back that sense of fun and adventure that the earlier shows brought with them, shows that imbued the sense of wonder and adventure that came with exploring the galaxy.
What do you hope the new show includes?