William Shatner And Gene Roddenberry’s Son On Why Star Trek Belongs Back On TV

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With Star Trek Into Darkness having earned half a billion dollars worldwide, J.J. Abrams’ rebooted Trek universe isn’t going anywhere, even if some fans really, really, really want it to. Star Trek 3 is likely going to be front-burnered so it can release in 2016 for Trek’s 50th anniversary. The extent of Abrams’ involvement is unknown at this point, given that he’ll have a lot on his plate with Star Wars: Episode VII (and possibly the entire damn Star Wars universe). But with a major Trek anniversary on the immediate horizon, what about the state of Trek in the medium it originated? Both William Shatner and Gene Roddenberry’s son, Eugene, think the time is right for Star Trek to return to the small screen.


Shatner and Chris Pine: a battle for the ages!

Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner has been making the rounds to promote his new documentary release, The Captains: Close Up. Unsurprisingly, somebody used the opportunity to ask him what he thought of Abrams’ movies, and whether the spectacle of the big screen or the intimacy of TV was a better format, not just for telling Star Trek stories, but for inspiring young fans to develop passion for science and space exploration. Speaking to the presumably nerdy bastards of Nerd Bastards, Shatner said:

…J.J. Abrams has found the key to getting a large audience into the movie theater, and that’s the ride. So you get a lot of the CGI effects, which is the epic movie making aspect of today, whereas in Cecile B. Demille’s time, you had to use real people. Now you don’t need to use real people and you can have infinity for God’s sake.

That’s in order to get you into the theater, because the majesty of the movie is shown by the large screen. But when you get into the small screen, you need stories… entertaining, interesting, vital stories that have a philosophy and also have an excitement about them, so that the viewer stays with it, but receives the philosophy as a byproduct. Those were the best of Star Trek, those kinds of stories. And that kind of thing, there is always room for that. That kind of imaginative approach that stirs young people into wanting to be connected with science.

The prospect of a new Star Trek series on TV is exciting, and it definitely seems like it’s time for it. It’s been eight years since Enterprise wrapped up, and there’s currently something of a science fiction TV renaissance underway, with intriguing new shows popping up on network TV, cable, and emerging media such as Netflix and Amazon. Why not take advantage of that by giving Trek a triumphant return to TV?

Gene Roddenberry’s son, Eugene, also speaks passionately about the need for Star Trek to once again conquer the TV frontier. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly this past spring, Roddenberry also praised Abrams’ films but called for a return to a smarter form of Trek more in keeping with the franchise’s legacy. Roddenberry explained:

I think Star Trek belongs on television, and while what J.J. [Abrams] has accomplished with the movies is fantastic and he’s done a great job with the characters and the canon, I think it’s really hard to make Star Trek be Star Trek on the big screen. My definition of Star Trek is that it has to be more than entertainment, it has to have a moral dilemma. A lot of [the movies] are the cowboy in the white hat and the cowboy in the black hat. So I’m excited for it [to get] back on TV.

The chances of a Trek series set in the original timeline seems extremely unlikely from a business standpoint, given the success of the revived movie franchise. Like it or not, J.J. Abrams’ vision of Trek is likely to be the one we’re stuck with for the near future at least. But even if you don’t like Abrams or his movies, that doesn’t mean a new Star Trek series set in the rebooted timeline couldn’t be amazing. With the right creative team in place, a new TV Trek could follow in the footsteps of the best of the shows that have come before: focusing on more cerebral, nuanced storytelling, less on spectacle. Hire somebody like J. Michael Straczynski or Rockne O’Bannon or Ron Moore to run the show and you could have a new five-year mission absolutely worthy of the ones that came before.

And hey, that would make it a lot easier for the Abrams haters to pretend his movies don’t exist.


  1. Connor Richards says:

    I don’t see what Shatner is worried about, on the small screen the TV show will probably be more like Battlestar as although Abrahams has built this AMAZING fast paced, action packed Star Trek to the big screen the CGI/special effects budget would be a lot smaller for a series hopefully meaning we’ll get the best of both worlds! =]

    On another note, as mentioned in your article, I think it’s great how Abrahams has brought the younger generation back into Star Trek! My brother is a bit too young to watch the older series but the new film was the perfect way to bring out his inner sci-fi loving geek!

    • stella carr says:

      Why is your brother too young for the older series? If he can follow and appreciate the Abrams Trek movies, he should have no problem with the television or original and TNG movies. As a geek grandma, I have grandkids from ages 5 to 21 who all are inner sci-fi loving geeks. If you truly love the original canon, have a “boys” afternoon or evening and watch some of your favorite episodes with your brother. You might be surprised at what he can absorb.

  2. RoyalEF says:

    Yuk. I think Star Trek has been done to death. The series were incredibly formulaic, right down to mix-and-match characters. Let me guess, the next series will have some character who doesn’t experience emotion (robot, vulcan, ex-borg) and must learn how superior and vital “human” emotion is in life. They kept running out of stories to tell in their universe, and resorted, over and over, to time distortion and time travel and alternate timelines.

  3. Nathan Paul Kennedy says:

    I have said several times that Star Trek belongs on TV (whereas Star Wars is definitely better at the cinema) but they would need to do something a little different. Maybe a show about New Vulcan, the struggle to keep their culture intact and the need to change their ways to ensure the survival of their race (cloning, in vitro, maybe even womb tanks like the Borg could all be explored as the moral issue involved), perhaps even a rapprochement with the Romulans to increase the numbers.

    That would be interesting, especially with the fact it was Nero, a Romulan, who destroyed Vulcan. Would they try to help because of the involvement with the destruction or would they try to finish the job? Different factions could be trying to do both, setting up the conflict a TV show would need to make it really interesting!

  4. Ryan Banfield says:

    Would you please cut the shit with calling the next Trek movie Star Trek 3…

  5. zirtoc says:

    I think to have an interesting new Trek series (which I am all for), they need to stray a bit from Roddenberry’s ‘Prime Directive’. Focus on characters who are a little more base – characters who don’t operate under the idealism of the Federation. It would be interesting to see how a group of greedy mercenaries would interact with Starfleet, for example. If we can shake up the formula, then I think there are some new tales to be told.

  6. john says:

    DS9! DS9! DS9!

    Best trek format ever, can’t we return to that series, I sure there was much more to giv.

  7. MagpieNessa says:

    Yes, please! Rockne O’Bannon!

  8. Gerald Herrmann says:

    after INTO DARKNESS the third installment of the new movie-series seems to be planned for 2016, which is star trek´s 50th anniversary year as well.

    enterprise timelines open, it would be absurd if abrams and shatner would not find a way to put KIRK PRIME into this one, in a small but important part.

  9. rollo says:

    bring on star trek:1701B-the adventures of the enterprise-B to the small screen now!

  10. Lo-Anne says:

    As a huge fan of all that is trek, I just think you need to remember that the Abrams movies are set in an alternate universe.