No, This Time We're Really Going to Reboot It
Troubles with Star Trek
A few months ago we reported that NBC was sniffing around Star TrekOriginally conceived as "Wagon Train in Space", Star Trek was released during the height of the Hollywood Western film and TV boom. While the concept CBS originally asked for had a western vibe, it was the smart, intellectual stories set in a future utopia of science and exploration that proved vital to the series' long impact on popular culture., looking to pick up the stories franchise and give it a new life. Those rumors subsided, though, perhaps because once Star Trek: Picard finished airing its first season, the franchise maybe didn't look as good as it had a few months prior. Picard started pretty solidly but quickly fell apart, reportedly losing over half its viewership from first episode to last for the season. Damn.
Now new rumors are swirling, this time that the powers that be at the studio think Star Trek needs a clean slate. They realize that a lot of the recent properties haven't exactly been rousing successes -- Discovery improved in its second season but still needed work, Beyond underperformed at the Box Office, and Picard, as noted, was a dud.
On top of that, the movie franchise is floundering. There were, reportedly, three different scripts being worked on to continue the franchise on the big screen. One was a fourth film in the "Kelvin" series, reuniting most of the cast of Trek '09, but contract disputes have mired that film in development hell. The Quentin Tarantino-helmed film has apparently gotten back-burnered after the director saw something else shiny and went running off, as he does. And the film headed by Fargo's show-runner, Noah Hawley, was shelved after, apparently, its plot focused on a galactic pandemic. Wow, that's bad timing there.
In the eyes of the powers that be, Star Trek needs a fresh new start, a culling of the old projects so the franchise can be rebuilt from the ground up. This entails a vast wipe of projects, many of which have been in the pipeline for months. All those movies? Gone. Picard season two? Scrapped. Discovery will still get its third season, since that's already in post-production, but then that series too will be put out to pasture. And other projects in development, like the Discovery spin-off Section 31, are on the chopping block as well.
This isn't a complete culling as some shows are likely to remain. Realizing that the Captain Pike-led season of Discovery had some great moments, that character and his Enterprise crew had a number of Short Treks, probably to function as a back door pilot. Their series, Strange New Worlds is supposedly still in the pipeline. And recent addition, the irreverent Lower Decks is a hit with the fans and likely to remain running at least through its in-production second season.
Normally a move like this would indicate a franchise that was floundering, but I don't think anyone would be surprised to see a great culling like this for Trek. Very few of the recent projects have been great -- while I personally liked Star Trek Beyond, the series has been on a major downswing since Star Trek Into Darkness -- and that quintessential magic of the franchise has been missing. Star Trek at this point very rarely resembles the series started by Gene Roddenberry, its hopeful utopia, in idealistic future. The franchise feels lost, barely resembling the series we all love.
It's interesting because, in a way, the two biggest sci-fi series, Star Trek and Star WarsThe modern blockbuster: it's a concept so commonplace now we don't even think about the fact that before the end of the 1970s, this kind of movie -- huge spectacles, big action, massive budgets -- wasn't really made. That all changed, though, with Star Wars, a series of films that were big on spectacle (and even bigger on profits). A hero's journey set against a sci-fi backdrop, nothing like this series had ever really been done before, and then Hollywood was never the same. are both going through their own troubles. Very few people liked the recent Star Wars sequel trilogy, and of all the projects associated with that series only The Mandalorian has been accepted with open arms, and without quibbles, by the fans. That series, too, is facing it's own reboot, with a shake-up from the top down eminent.
In the case of Star Trek, I don't think the series is nearly as dire as the point Star Wars has reached, if in no small part because there's a lot of Trek in the works, much of it that's pretty good. Lower Decks really is great so far, with the first few episodes hitting all the right notes between Gene Roddenberry idealism and Rick and Morty-style absurdity. It's strange to think that the franchise would be allowed to put a show like that on the air, one so gross and weird and strange, but it still somehow feels like "proper" Trek, and it is a loving letter to the franchise as a whole.
And Captain Pike, as played by Anson Mount, really is a great character. I grew really fond of this version of the character during his run on Discovery, and I enjoyed his Short Treks as well. If Strange New Worlds does make it on the air, I have no doubt it'll be a solid addition to the franchise; certainly it'll be better than Picard.
Star Trek is no strange to cutting its losses and moving on from shows that don't work. Hell, The Original Series was canceled after three season, The Animated Series was so unloved ever Roddenberry asked for it to be stricken from continuity, and the planned Phase II never got off the ground, instead becoming the also unloved Star Trek: The Motion Picture (which performed poorly enough that the series needed a massive retooling before The Wrath of Kahn). A reboot, or restart, or whatever they want to call it, from that perspective, may just be what the franchise needs.
If you're a fan of Discovery or Picard or were really looking forward to Section 31 then I understand your pain -- I've had shows I loved that didn't get much respect and were killed when they were too young. I may not share your feelings on these particular shows, but I at least understand your pain. But there is no doubt the series needs a solid rethink, a good look at what's working and what isn't and someone new at the reins to get the franchise back on track. Maybe these rumors or a shake up are true, maybe they aren't, but the underlying feeling remains: there's something missing from many of the Trek projects and its time for someone that really understand the series to take over and get everything working once again.