Star Trek: The Original Series Has Important Connection With New Sci-Fi Series

The Ark creator Dean Devlin's mother actually guest-starred on an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series.

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

The Ark

These days, most modern sci-fi owes something to Star Trek: The Original Series. But when it comes to Dean Devlin’s new Syfy show The Ark, that connection is more explicit than usual. That’s because Devlin’s own mother guest-starred on the old Star Trek episode “Wolf in the Fold,” and he told The New York Post about how this inspired a love of sci-fi that led to him developing The Ark: “She actually came home with the stunt man’s phaser — it was rubber and kind of beat up, it was the phaser they threw all the time — and that’s what started my whole [sci-fi] addiction.”

There are other connections between Star Trek and The Ark, including the fact that the crew of this titular ark is, much like Kirk and the rest of the gang, on a five-year mission. Instead of exploring strange new worlds, the ark ship’s goal is to help colonize a distant planet, and many of those who will make up the eventual colony are in a state of cryogenic freeze. We follow the adventures of a junior crew responsible for controlling the ship after their senior officers are killed in a sudden catastrophe, throwing our younger protagonists into leadership roles before they might otherwise be prepared for the responsibility.

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While his mother helped foster his love of sci-fi due to her time on Star Trek, and Devlin’s crew are on a five-year mission, he sees The Ark as taking inspiration from Gene Roddenberry’s classic franchise in other ways as well. “They were able to talk about the Vietnam War, about race relations … but they did it in the context of sci-fi, so people who couldn’t have that discussion in real life could suddenly have that discussion.” And while that original show often used everything from Vietnam to the Cold War for its narrative inspiration, it looks like this new show may take its own inspiration from the recent COVID-19 pandemic.

Dean Devlin said that he likes the Star Trek concept of using metaphors to unpack real-world issues and plans to do so in The Ark when discussing the recent global pandemic. “We just went through a giant pandemic and life-threatening situation and saw various ways that people reacted to it,” he said. “And by having these people in this contained space, where every decision is life and death, we can really talk about a lot of things out of context that are difficult to talk about in-context.”

He seems to have a good point with this. In the Original Series, for example, they’d rarely address something like rampant racism on Earth (keep in mind that Star Trek came out during the height of the Civil Rights era). Instead, Star Trek would come up with a metaphor such as aliens with black-and-white complexions being needlessly racist to someone whose skin is barely different, and Devlin hopes that those who find discussions of the pandemic too political may come to a new understanding once they watch The Ark.

If you’re interested in seeing how else Star Trek may have influenced The Ark, you’ll have to tune in when the show premieres on Syfy on February 1st at 10 p.m. Eastern Time. The show will primarily focus on characters played by Christie Burke, Richard Fleeshman, and Reece Ritchie. Only time will tell if they have the chemistry of Kirk, Spock, and Dr. McCoy or whether this new show will leave you scrambling to go watch Trek reruns instead.

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