There’s a new Star Trek show coming in January 2017 everybody.
That being said, it’s going to be a while until we get to know the actual details of the show, but I’m already excited to speculate on the various directions it could go.
According to what’s been released online about the new show we know three big facts: the show is going to be produced by Alex Kurtzman who worked on the last two Star Trek films in 2009 and 2013, Heather Kadin the producer behind shows like Sleepy Hollow, Scorpion, and Limitless will also be working on it, and finally we know that the show will air through CBS’s streaming service.
We won’t likely be hearing back from the producers until the holidays or the new year given that they’re probably scrambling to get pre-production started.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t predict what’s coming our way, right?
What does being on CBS mean?
Looking at the shows produced by CBS could give us a hint at how Star Trek will look.
The general makeup of the shows on CBS usually involve largish groups of people in a crime procedural as seen in NCIS, The Mentalist, the various CSI series, and Person of Interest. Other shows like Elementary buck that trend, but keep a central male protagonist in the lead with a supporting female protagonist.
At the centre of most of CBS’s shows is a stoic, somewhat quiet male protagonist who has gathered a team of experts around him. So could this be the ideal captain for the as of yet unannounced crew?
I mean Star Trek has found ways to put unconventional spins on their main characters with Catherine Janeway and Jean Luc Picard who cast off the spectre of Captain James T. Kirk’s bravado.
That being said, if they go with a CBS protagonist he’ll likely be someone a little older and a little more experienced than the rest. He won’t be super-intelligent like Jean Luc Picard or Sherlock Holmes from Elementary, nor will be as stoic and nearly silent like Leroy Gethro Gibbs from NCIS.
The captain will be something in between those two extremes having enough charisma to venture out onto away missions yet enough wisdom to get everyone out safe and sound.
The CBS protagonist is also more or less the calmest character in the show who brings order to the chaos, but also maintains a bunch of emotional baggage behind the scenes.
We can expect the new captain of whatever ship or space station the show takes place on to be a bit more conflicted than what we’re used to. That’s not to say the producers won’t take the show in an entirely new direction.
Shows like Supergirl and Extant show us that CBS is perfectly comfortable with a female lead; however, she’ll have to be quite a bit different than her male counterpart. She will have something to hide from the rest of the crew or something that inhibits her ability to command.
Most CBS shows has the female lead playing second banana usually reigning in the male lead, or the other males around her, in from destruction.
As for the crew around the captain, you can expect them to be cavalcade of the shades of a futuristic Earth society. You’ll also be looking at characters mirroring the typical roles you’d see on other CBS shows.
The first officer might be like Anthony Denozo from NCIS or William Riker from The Next Generation. He’ll be brash and full of bravado, but have a little bit of charm that keeps him likeable. Most people will like him, but he’ll have a deathly touch as most female characters he meets will either leave the show for good the next episode or die.
The main security officer will be female like Watson from Elementary or Ziva David from NCIS. She’ll be the line on the ship and the other wacky male characters won’t want to cross her.
The main engineer and the head medical officer will likely be polar opposites. One of them will take a very hardline stance on the rules while the other plays things a bit more lax like McGee/Abby from NCIS. There could also be room for a morale officer or a therapist who will act as the confidant for the captain giving him a way to express his otherwise caged emotions.
The reason why I keep drawing on NCIS is because it’s one of CBS’s most popular crime procedurals with a cast of archetypes that has influenced every other series on the channel. Just look at CSI: Cyber. It’s the same cast of archetypes simply with a different setting.
However, with Kurtzman and Kadin onboard things could look quite a bit different. The fact that the show will be streaming instead of televised also changes the demographics of their audience a bit too meaning it will likely be a slightly more web-savvy group of watchers.
Oh, there also has to be an alien wearing a sexy jumpsuit.
Having just finished re-watching all of The Next Generation, Deep Space 9, and Voyager, I can safely say that the new show won’t likely be venturing into that version of the future.
Bogged down by the complications of the Borg’s destruction, the end of the Dominion War, knowledge that future Earthlings have time travel, and an ongoing headache from the amount of film plots that need to be considered, the show will likely ditch all of that to take place in the past.
However, with Kurtzman onboard the show could also take place in the alternate timeline envisioned by J.J. Abrams where Vulcan has been destroyed and weird time travel shenanigans have made the universe more complicated than it needs to be. Either way, it will be in the past and not the far-flung future.
So what time and place could the show take place?
After the Klingon Cold War
Following the Federation’s first contact with the Klingon Empire in the 2200’s came a long-lasting conflict between the two powers. This Cold War lasted almost 80 years until a tenuous peace was reached.
So between 2280 and 2360 is an 80 year gap where a lot things could have happened. Technology was developed, new species were found, alliances were forged, and the birth of the true Federation of Planets took place.
It could lead right into the Federation that we know from The Next Generation and take us through the process of how Earth managed to create a Utopia. This could be fertile ground for a new series, but also a problematic one. How does the new timeline from the new movies affect the interactions with the Klingon Empire?
J.J. Abrams’s first reboot took place in 2255 long into the Cold War between the two species. In the second film, the Klingons appear, but they look and act quite a bit different.
They still care about honour, but they’re a bit more bloodthirsty and militaristic than Enterprise’s portrayal of them. In other words, we’re having a bit of an appearance problem when it comes to this particular alien species. Following the Cold War was the Tomed Incident where the Federation entered into a conflict with the Romulans.
This could be a potential 25-year period where the show could take place, but you’re playing with fire as characters like Jean Luc Picard, Ben Sisko, and others were born during this time, but guest appearances are cool, right?
So that’s one potential time that the show could take place, but what if they choose a bit more of an Earth-bound setting.
After First Contact
First Contact took place in 2063 and between then and the first episode of Enterprise in 2151 represents another huge gap in time where things could be explored. The initial discoveries of new technologies, repairing the damaged Earth, and finding ways to bring about the illumination offered by the Vulcans could be immensely interesting.
The only problem with this kind of show is that it would suffer from Deep Space Nine syndrome. Earth would become a hub for all of the events taking place in the show while the series that came before have largely been about exploring the universe.
However, going this far back into the past would allow them to play with emerging technologies and would be a bit more relatable to audiences today. We could see the potential ravages our current ways of life could wreak on our planet.
From what we’ve seen of Earth from episodes like Past Tense, Earth used to be a pretty shitty place. The main protagonist of the show could be someone who needs to take charge of the issues the planet has and help clean things up. The main protagonist could be Zefram Cochrane.
Being this far back in time, you wouldn’t have to worry about things like the alternate timeline or whatever shenanigans took place after these events. Of course, you would have to deal with the inconsistencies in his life with him being around 30-years-old in 2060 and somehow managing to survive well into 2150, or the first episode of Enterprise. Oh, also Cochrane apparently disappeared in 2117 (or 2119…), oh and there’s the problems with the movie First Contact of course…
Whatever the case there’s a good amount of time people could spend with a wizened, adventurous older male character who could bring around him a cast of experts. In other words, he fits into the CBS model, but maybe not the wants of fans out there.
Alternate Timeline just far away from Kirk
Somehow, I don’t think CBS will let the alternate timeline get away that easily. With an alternate universe, they can do pretty much whatever they want without having to worry about the canon around them.
What they might do is take another ship with an entirely new crew and send them out into the universe to go and trek. The captain would fit the model mentioned way above and the show would do everything in its power to stay out of the way of Chris Pine and the movies.
If they do this, they can keep the funny coloured outfits, J.J. Abrams inspired designs, and the image of the show that many have right now when they think of Star Trek.
This alternate timeline also affords them quite a bit of freedom. Taking place in around the 2150’s, Into Darkness took place during a tumultuous time in Federation history. There’s a lot of unexplored territory.
I think this is a pretty big question and there are almost too many people out there who could fill these roles. If we stick to our plan above: strong male protagonist, strong female protagonist, quirky scientist, straight-faced engineer, and a wizened therapist then we can assume that actors and actresses fitting these roles will be found.
What science fiction television has taught me over the past little while is that finding different actors and actresses is a great way to disrupt expectations. Casting a strong Asian captain, for instance, could be one way of knocking diversity out of the park, but they likely won’t take that kind of risk.
Male: Jason O’Mara (yeah, I know about the last name) was in Life on Mars and currently in a new show called Complications. He’s a stoic actor, quite handsome, but also has a history of playing conflicted protagonists. He has a mix of good looks and a diverse resume that could make him an interesting captain.
Female: Emily Blunt is a long shot for the television series, but I don’t think you can find an actress today who is more badass than her. Her starring roles in Sicario (and there’s a good story from the crew on how they decided to stick with her) and Edge of Tomorrow has helped solidify her as a powerful act0r. Also, she looks like Commander Shepard!
Number One (or the second in command)
Male: Josh Holloway was most prominently in Lost as Sawyer and is also currently on the show Intelligence and a show called Colony that’s currently in production. I always liked him as Sawyer and I could definitely see him playing a bit of a more dark second in command who still womanizes, but often ends up doing quite a bit of dirty work.
Female: Maggie Q was great in Nikita, which was actually shot in Toronto. In Nikita, she played an assassin who was saved by a secret organization so she could continue their dirty work. She’s proved herself to be a strong fighter in the show and also very pretty, but her role as Number One would also be a great look back on the original series where Kirk’s Number One was actually supposed to be female.
Male: Michael Jai White would be a perfect actor to take on being a security officer onboard a starship. He’s a strong, vibrant actor, has martial arts training, and has a great sense of humour. He would also be a huge step above the stilted performance of Dominic Keating who played the security chief in Enterprise and Michael Dorn who just can’t give up being Worf.
Female: Rhona Mitra has had several sci-fi roles including playing Commander Kiva in Star Gate Universe and as Dr. Rachel Scott in The Last Ship. She would make for a great security officer because really she wouldn’t take any guff from anyone.
The Engineer / Computerneer
Female: Mackenzie Davis was recently in The Martian, but also played a lead role in Halt and Catch Fire. Davis is an amazing actress who would definitely be able to pull off being an engineer on a ship hurtling through outer space. She also plays characters who don’t take a lot of guff from the others around her, which could lead to some conflict and some amazing moments where she saves the day.
Female: Tia Carrere… is still my middle school crush. Known mostly for playing Syndey Fox in the Relic Hunter and that lady in Wayne’s World, Carrere has a long career doing bit parts, but I think it’s about time she had a bigger role to fill. She would represent an actress with a bit more experience than the others being just a little older, but she would also be able to ass kicking as she’s shown in Relic Hunter.
Male: Chris O’Dowd has found himself quite a bit of popularity from his roles in Brides Maids and St. Vincent, but he could also make the perfect soft-spoken doctor to contrast with the other doctors in Star Trek. Let’s see Julian Bashir, The Doctor, Beverly Crusher, Leonard McCoy, and Flox, so that’s one super young guy, a hologram, a woman, a crazed, angry doctor, and an alien. Why not an Irishman?
Female: Summer Glau is best known for her role in Firefly and the Sarah Connor Chronicles firmly putting her feet into sci-fi television. What kind of alien she plays on the ship is entirely up to what’s available, but if I know anything about Star Trek it’s that there has to be someone playing an alien and wearing a jumpsuit somewhere in the show… sadly.
The Story Structure
Story structure is a huge concern of mine, especially after learning that the show Once Upon A Time is still somehow on television. Is there a plot in the show? I really don’t know anymore.
Anyway, generally speaking there are two kinds of story structures that work for television. Episodic television shows bring us a day in the life of the characters without much of an overarching plot. Contiguous television provides watchers with an overarching plot that sometimes deviates from the story to include filler episodes.
Star Trek (OG) and The Next Generation is episodic in nature while Voyager, Deep Space Nine, and Enterprise were contiguous. Star Trek didn’t have a central villain that followed the crew throughout the entire show and The Next Generation was able to shake off the Borg after a few episodes.
Voyager had their journey home, Deep Space Nine had the Bajoran and Cardassian conflict and the Dominion War, and Enterprise had a bunch of conflicts that I really don’t remember. I know, however, that Deep Space Nine still has one of my favourite characters.
The point is that most of CBS’s shows are a mixed bag in terms of how they’re structured, but a number of them contain a central villain that follows the main characters, or at least a new villain for each season: Red John in The Mentalist, Jamie Moritarty in Elementary, that evil corporation in Person of Interest, and so on.
I don’t doubt that the first season of this new Star Trek show will present the crew a central problem character who they have to deal with. Whether it’s an ornery and corrupt Vulcan diplomat, a violent and crazed Klingon, a competing space-faring organization CEO, or maybe someone like the Illusive Man from Mass Effect, this person will throw problems at the crew and be foiled each time, yet they’ll still be in control.
In that way, I can see the show avoiding being episodic. Instead, they’ll want to spur discussion between fans of the series to keep them guessing where the show is going to take them and the identities of the conspirators messing with the crew.
There will be episodes that have little to do with the actual mission at hand where they might visit some locales like Risa or even revisit some lesser-known alien species like the Andorians.
There’s a tonne of speculation about what the new show is going to look like, but I’m just excited to know that Star Trek is returning to television in a way.
Streaming it online gives the show a bit of creative freedom in a way that’s helped others like Daredevil and other original series stand out from the rest.
Star Trek has a long history behind though and the creators of the new show will have to be careful to find a balance between the action we’ve seen in the recent films and the philosophical base that makes up the best parts of the series.
A character like Jean Luc Picard is more complex than most protagonists you see on television today. He’s intelligent, thoughtful, and morally-driven. To have a new captain that’s all about action and reaction rather would be a huge disappointment. We want characters with depth that we can explore not an archetype.