Thursday, April 3, 2014

Three ways to make a new Star Trek show I'd watch

My very first fandom (or, at most, my co-first*) was Star Trek. When I was five and six years old, we were still living overseas, and when the weather would shut down the regular programming, the USO channel would play Star Trek and old Godzilla movies all day and all night until the typhoons passed. My dad and I (and I suppose the rest of the family) would sit and watch the whole Original Series at least once a year because of it, and by the time I was a teen, I could tell you what episode we were looking at from the first shot that opened the ep, from the sound effects, from a tiny glance while channel surfing.

I wasn't entirely on-board with Next Gen at first, but we were still overseas at that point and we were living somewhere where there were only four channels and one of them was in Gaelic, so we watched the whole first season without really deciding whether we liked it or not. But by the end, and especially when it found it's feel in the second year, I was sold. It concluded during my birthday party when I turned fourteen, and I stopped the party for two hours to watch the finale.

It was that important.

DS9 was probably the most adult of them, and it took me a while to grow into it, but I appreciate it more now. Voyager was great until the last season really pissed me off**. I didn't like Enterprise despite liking most of the characters. I love the reboot as the totally different creature it is.

And I miss ST on TV, so here's some ideas about how to make an awesome new Star Trek show!

ONE: Make it about the redshirts

It's become a known fact that redshirts don't matter to the point where people who have never seen Star Trek know that 'redshirt' means you'll die soon. So what if we gave those dudes faces and stories? They're the ones who are actually running the ship, after all!

Advantages:

  • Humanize the totally dehumanized disposable crew members.
  • Show what the crazy actions of the bridge crew mean to those who are just trying to live their lives.
  • Really interchangeable cast--people can last an episode or a season and be replaced easily, and so the commitment from the actors is not super-strict, meaning more people can be on the show and it could effectively be immortal, because cast-changes would be set up as an early and frequent occurrence.
  • Totally different view of the Federation and Starfleet is possible.


TWO: Set it in the new universe of the movies
Because it's a whole new universe, everything is wide open, and that means they can both expand the context of the movies and tell whole new stories on weekly TV.

Advantages:

  • No previous history to worry about, so no making it fit into the old continuity (a big problem Enterprise had).
  • Chance to premier all sorts of other aliens in their new-series interpretations, without having to devote a whole movie to each one.
  • Slick new look without clashing with the old series' at all.


THREE: Make it in the universe, but not Starfleet.

Most of these shows are basically soft military scifi, but the Federation is made of hundreds of planets and almost as many peoples, and piles of them also have spacefaring traditions. Hell, there's even humans who aren't in Starfleet, but who live and work on ships. Lets see a show about scientists and adventurers who team up to find treasure. Or about a monk and a scholar. Or about traders just trying to pay the bills. Or about misfits working on a mining ship who find themselves in a weird position. Or about bounty hunters. Or about a mixed-species family on a space station. Lets get all those other stories!

Advantages:

  • There are so many non-military stories that could be told!
  • People outside a strict military structure have a lot more freedom of choice and action than those who run a flagship and have super-defined rank.
  • More opportunity to show how normal people live and what the events created by the fancy ships do to them.
  • A really good chance to show real grittiness--my biggest peeve with ST is that everything is so clean it doesn't look real or lived in, so this would be a chance to show that things actually do get lived in, that things aren't all top-of-the-line tech, that normal people have to make do and invent ways to keep making do.
I'd watch all three of these shows at once. How about you? How would you set up a new Star Trek TV show so that it wasn't something we've seen before and avoids the issues older shows had?


Notes:
*My very first movie was the second Star Wars, and I grew up with them on TV and VHS; but I also grew up with Star Trek, and I see no reason at all why they have to be opposed fandoms. I love them both!
**Six years of Chakotay being quietly but demonstratively in love with Janeway, and then out of nowhere he's on his fifth date with Seven, with little to no previous indication of impending couplehood, no resolution of his feelings for Janeway, and no reaction from her to this new development???? No, just no.
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