With all the furor over The Force Awakens, you have to feel a little bad for that other Star franchise, Star Trek. Star Wars did pinch the director of the last two Trek films, after all. Into Darkness wasn’t even close to the kind of hit Paramount wanted. George Takei is less known for Sulu and more known for (maybe) posting memes on Facebook. And despite the series celebrating its fiftieth anniversary next year, Trek almost seems like an afterthought these days. Which makes the announcement of CBS cranking up a new Trek series a cause for both optimism and trepidation.
On the one hand, even with its cinematic success, Trek has always felt more at home on the small screen to me. An hour every week allows for more depth, more development, more unconventional ideas than the strictures of the blockbuster format. And with it comes smaller expectations, if such a thing can be said to exist with Trek. If you don’t like one episode, you’re only waiting a week for the next one, not two or three years, with the resultant hype. And TV shows don’t have opening weekends; they can be given time to build, adjust, improve, and grow.
Which is why bringing it back as a series works for me, with one big proviso: as long as this is a brand new show with brand new characters, and not a reboot of Kirk and company. Trek has already proven it has life beyond the original cast. There’s no need to go running back to that safety net, not with a clean slate in front of you, and especially not with a third film with the rebooted cast coming out next year. The formula and setting can be the same — and probably should, just so there’s some level of familiarity — but give us some fresh characters to inhabit them.
What I’m not a fan of is how CBS is rolling this out. It’ll debut on CBS, but then transition over to CBS All Access, which pretty much exists right now as a way to spend six bucks a month to watch all the NCIS and CSI you can stomach. I get wanting to have a “killer app” for the platform, but are people who aren’t interested in All Access now suddenly become interested solely because of Trek? And interested enough to fork over money? This move completely undermines all that stuff I talked about with having time to grow and find its way. The new Trek now not only has to be successful, it has to carry the fate of an entirely separate venture on its back. With the very real possibility that its survival will depend not on how well it does, but how well All Access does because of it. If the expense of a weekly Trek series doesn’t translate into subscription revenue, what then? Does it slink back to the network with the stink of failure about it? Is it even given that chance?
I want this new Trek to succeed, if for no other reason than to wash away the lingering dissatisfaction with Voyager and Enterprise. And the geek world is just a better place with both Trek and Wars going strong. With Disney seemingly doing everything right up to this point awakening the Force, I’m crossing my fingers CBS does the same with its strange new world.