Star Trek’s Bold Return to Relevance
Trek fans are hard to please. They tend to have standards that are near impossible to predict. There are as many Trek fans willing to cast a J.J. Abrams trilogy as to embrace the Enterprise series. “Abrams went against canon!” is a weird defense for people who are cool with the sexy Vulcan massage theme that Enterprise brought to the table. Trekkies will never be pleased, but thank goodness CBS is continuing on without them. Star Trek has entered a level of relevance not seen since the 90s. With three shows currently active, two more confirmed to be in production, and plenty more being rumored about, it’s clear Star Trek is back! The only downsides being you must have a CBS All Access subscription and you know Trekkies are gonna find reasons to hate the new shows too.
Star Trek Discovery is about to begin it’s third season on October 15th. The first two seasons pick up just before The Original Series timeline, introducing us to a young Spock and at the time Captain Pike. The show is centered around Sonequa Martin-Green’s (Bama Grad, Roll Tide) Michael Burnham who may have started the Klingon war and continues to find herself at the center of the universe. Trekkies seem to struggle with Burnham as a lead character. I’ve been seeing plenty of chatter in the Trek forums, but I’m not so sure they just aren’t used to seeing a young woman be the lead. With serial storytelling, the twists and turns are easy to miss and hard to predict leaving many first time viewers a bit lost. But the show delivers as only Star Trek can.
The USS Discovery (the starship the show from which gets its name) uses a new form of technology yet to be seen in past versions of StarFleet. The eponymous starship is able to jump from one point in space to another using a mycelial network. I think it’s mushrooms and fungus that share a connection and allow a biological transfer of energy; either way it’s cool pseudo-science. The crew jumps into new dimensions, battling the evil versions of themselves and picking up a very useful traveler. The Klingons have gotten a new look, as well as a technology to put a Klingon mind inside a human to live symbiotically. Whoops, spoilers. There’s so much that happens in the first two seasons it’s easy to get overwhelmed, but if you enjoy Trek and enjoy your first watch, this show gets better the second and third time around.
Do you love The Next Generation and need some nostalgia? Then watch Picard. Another serial, this time at a much slower pace than Discovery. The show will give you everything you want: the occasional stop to see the old crew of the Enterprise, a run-in with a Borg drone you may recognize, a shout out to Voyager. It’s a nice tribute to the Star Trek of old, but that’s about all it is. Sir Patrick Stewart is fantastic as always and the premise (finding Data’s daughter!) started out great. But the show lags on, with new characters that are hard to connect to. For any Trek fan, it’s worth the watch. I just hope season two provides a bit more
Approaching the end of season one, Lower Decks has been a really unique look into the lives of StarFleet officers. Following some low level aspirants who primarily work fixing the ship we get a look at how ships not named Enterprise were run. The show’s main focus is on Ensign Brad Boimler who is a stickler for rules and Ensign Beckett Mariner whose potential is only limited by her willingness to break protocol. An animation closer to Rick and Morty than say Family Guy, the humor and silliness allow for those new to Trek to get a taste of what StarFleet has to offer.
Two more shows have been confirmed and are currently in production. Strange New Worlds will star Anson Mount reprising his role in Discovery as Captain Pike. With Rebecca Romijn playing Number One, Trek fans are looking forward to a detailed look at a character that’s always had a touch of mystery. Mount was absolutely fantastic in Discovery, so much so CBS immediately worked to get him his own show. It has not been announced if it will be serialized or episodic, but I think returning to the episodic form of storytelling would be a nice tribute to the old character with a new face.
Nickelodeon is also picking up an animated Star Trek show, Prodigy. The show will follow some teenagers who discover an old StarFleet ship and go on an adventure. I’m a sucker for Trek so will certainly be watching. This will be the first children’s focus for Star Trek since The Animated Series in the early 70s. With a director hire announced in early August, there is little news about the outside of the premise. I hope it helps to create a new generation of Trekkies to keep the fandom growing.
From 1994 to 2001, there were at least two Star Trek shows airing simultaneously with four movies being released. It was the golden era of Star Trek. Well, maybe not the content, but Trek fans clamor for quantity as much as quality. Fve shows airing together has been unthinkable throughout Star Trek’s history. Gene Rodenberry would be proud. Star Trek has returned to relevance and is boldly going where it’s never gone before.