Ron Moore knows his way around science fiction television. After breaking in on Star Trek: The Next Generation, Moore has been a genre fixture for decades. From Next Gen he went on to work on both Deep Space Nine and Voyager, then eventually shepherded the Sci-Fi Channel’s acclaimed Battlestar Galactica and its spinoff series, Caprica. With Next Gen celebrating its 25th anniversary last week, Moore spoke to Wired about his experiences on the show and what he thinks it will take to give Trek a triumphant return to the small screen.
With J.J. Abrams’ movies currently hogging much of the Trek spotlight — for good or ill — and no reliable announcements made regarding Trek TV future, if any, it’s easy to feel like televised Trek is well and truly dead. But in his new interview Moore points out that The Next Generation, now regarded as a classic series by fans, didn’t exactly receive a warm reception for dubious Trekkers.
There was definitely a sense that The Next Generation was the Star Trek stepchild that nobody liked. I’d go to conventions and see bumper stickers, T-shirts and paraphernalia basically saying that there was only one true Star Trek, and it wasn’t us.
Given how bad most of the series’ first-season episodes are, that’s easy to understand. And if Trek is to make a return to television, it will be in a similar situation as Next Gen faced back in 1987. At the point Next Gen premiered, the franchise was still riding high off the success of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Trek V hadn’t yet shown up to disillusion the fans, so Next Gen was perhaps judged more harshly by comparison than it otherwise would have been. Who were these newcomers in the jumpsuits? What was up with the stuffy bald captain? WHAT THE HELL IS THAT KID DOING ON THE BRIDGE?!?
Still, Next Gen eventually went on to find its footing and win over the fans (with no small help from Moore), and despite the seemingly grim prospects for a new Trek series anytime soon, Moore says that he believes there will indeed be more Trek on TV. That is partly, he explains, because Trek offers up something that is all too rate in science fiction these days: hope.
I’d argue that in the last few decades in America, when people are asked what they hope the future will look like, they still turn to Star Trek. They hope we put aside our differences and come together as humanity, that we rise above war, poverty, racism and other problems that have beset us. They hope that there’s a future where we set off into the galaxy to have peaceful relations with other worlds. They hope that technology is positive, that we break the speed of light, that we solve disease.
Moore also points out that Trek could still succeed as a series running in parallel with the Abrams movies, because a Trek movie is inherently a different thing than a Trek series.
The lifeblood of Star Trek’s television shows is its morality plays and social commentary. It’s sci-fi that provides a prism on human society and culture. The movies are never really going to do what the episodes do, like split Picard into two in a transporter beam and then talk philosophically about the nature of humanity, which parts of our strength come from good and which from evil. The movies are never going to do that. Star Trek: The Next Generation was about those moral issues, about how societies grow and are differently affected. None of these are topics that the movies are going to tackle.
Moore is probably right that a new Trek series is inevitable, sooner or later. Whether that means another show set in the original timeline, a spinoff of the Abrams movies, or something else entirely, we’re hoping that it will continue to share the best of the Trek that has come before: a sense of wonder at what the galaxy might hold, and an optimistic belief that we may one day boldly go where no man has gone before.
You can read the rest of Moore’s extensive Wired interview right here.