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.
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.