The subject of the potential New Trek Series has been going around Reddit the past few days, and one of the threads that has come up was what Star Trek needs to do to have a successful television series. I figured I’d write up a post on the matter, because it’s been a while, and my blog is getting lonely.
First off, even without the success of the recent movie, I think that there has never been a better time to re-approach Star Trek. There are a number of things going toward it’s success. First, Star Trek previously attracted a mostly “niche” following. You would rarely see people gathering around the watercooler to discuss Star Trek unless you worked in an IT department. However, the success of other “geek” niche franchises, such as a certain one by George R. R. Martin, shows that people are becoming more and more open to this sort of entertainment. Shows like Lost, and Heroes have gotten people used to a show that has an over-arcing storyline, and not just random episodic entertainment. In addition, these shows are getting larger and larger budgets, which means that the somewhat “cheesy” feel to Star Trek could be largely eliminated, which would also aid it in attracting viewers. Ability to get budget, and the latest developments to special effects will allow episodes to have epic fight scenes and explosions on par with the 2009 movie, which will attract action fans. We also (unfortunately) need to thank Apple for making things easier for Trek. Things like Padds (iPads) and touch display terminals are no longer a thing of nerd TV. Now they are practical devices that the trendiest people seek to acquire. Of course, the success of the 2009 movie and it’s ability to draw in young, hip crowds certainly helps.
So what (in my opinion) does this new Trek series need to succeed?
1. A good blend between stand alone episodes, and an over-arcing plot: Deep Space 9 was somewhat unique in the Trek franchise in that we frequently saw events like the Dominion War that impacted nearly every episode in a season. This is a sharp contrast to TOS, where the episodes were all quite stand alone, and you could pick them up in nearly any order. Where Deep Space 9 messed up was in assuming that every person watched every episode, and if you missed an episode, you felt left out. The good news is – because nearly every major network airs their reruns from the present season online, and a large percentage of people have DVRs, it’s no longer a terrible thing if you miss an episode. In the past, if a friend told you that a show was great, and you had to get caught up in the middle of things, a large plot arc could be detrimental to a show’s success. But nowadays, it’s quite commonplace for someone to tell a friend, “Hey, watch this show!” and for the friend to quickly watch all of the episodes in order to get caught up. However, there are some benefits to the episodic formula as well. First, it makes space seem like it is bigger, it makes the audience feel like they’re genuinely exploring, and it is a nice break from the monotony of seeing the same race over and over again. They also make for nice “single episodes” to show people to convince them that they should start and watch the show from the beginning.
2. More diverse political entities: It’s not (entirely) true, but it’s always seemed to me like the Federation was comprised of all the races that got along together, and the enemies (in typical bad guy fashion) were all the people who didn’t get along with one another. Sure, there were alliances in Deep Space 9. But there were entire seasons where nearly all of the enemy vessels were either Cardassians, or Klingons, or eventually the Dominion. It would be nice to see the bridge of an enemy ship, and not see 5 identical faces staring back. Of course, much of this has always been done for budget reasons, but hopefully with new technologies, and with better budgets, this won’t be as necessary.
3. Technology that compensates for modern day tech: I get a giggle every time a Yeoman or a First Officer walks up to the Captain and hands them a Padd. With the invent of things like Twitter, RSS feeds, etc, it would be interesting to see these get a 24th century upgrade, and be integrated into Star Trek. Ditch LCARS, and make a display system that is inspired by Microsoft’s Surface - Something that is less “button-y” and more adaptive, but still had the Star Trek feel.
4. Better Acting: When Star Trek was on the air before, it was quite common for television shows to have actors that weren’t necessarily that great. But with the influx of new, high budget series, we are seeing better and better casts. There are some that say that Star Trek needs a younger cast to succeed, but I think that is less important than getting a cast of actors who are convincing.
5. Character Development: One of the things that I’ve always liked about Deep Space 9 is that because they were on a station all the time, and they weren’t just jaunting around the universe, I felt like a lot of the character development was extremely good. Dr. bashir was this annoying, young, idealistic doctor until he saw war and began to get cynical and turn into a realist. That’s not to say that the other series were bad, because Data’s development was brilliant until the movies, where the writers just didn’t seem to know how to handle them. But you look at characters like Wesley Crusher who they seemed to end up just writing off because they couldn’t figure out what to do with him. Or Deanna Troi, who was endlessly mindraped, and didn’t really come into her own as a character until a certain movie (which I’ll leave nameless as some of my friends hate it) when she crashed the saucer section into a planet. Some characters didn’t really seem to grow or change at all throughout the course of a series. William Riker was that guy who really liked his First Officer position, and every other week was turning down his own command. Some of the reason for these issues were because numerous writers were handling episodes, but this is something that should be able to be managed because (to be honest) nowadays Sci Fi audiences have higher standards. Also – character relationships are good. They build more three dimensional characters. Throwing absolutely every single member of the cast into a pairing, regardless of how silly it might be…. not so good.
6. Realistic Villains: We rarely see redeeming traits to villains. This was another thing that DS9 (despite it’s flaws) did well. We had the Borg, who’s basic goal in life is to incorporate every bit of life, diversity, and technology within it. It’s hard to defend the motivations of the Borg. But then we have villains like Gul Dukat, who does some truly horrible things (like trying to lead the cult he started to suicide so he isn’t revealed as a fraud?), but at the same time has some really genuine emotional relationships. He has his perverse love for Kira. His love for his daughter, despite the fact that accepting her causes him to lose his status. He has genuine grief when she dies. We also have characters who you can never quite tell who’s side they’re on, like Quark and Garak.
So those are my thoughts on what I think would make a successful Trek series. What do you all think?