Star Trek Is Adapting with the Times While Still Honoring Its Mission

When it comes to creating new canon for an established franchise like Star Trek, there's a balance of trying to bring a new generation of fans providing compelling enough content to survive the contemporary realm of modern TV and appeasing the holdover fans, who are not only starving for new content but also looking to maintain a level of respect for the foundation they cherished growing up. What many call Nu-Trek started with the 2009 soft reboot in J. J. Abrams Star Trek, we got a more action-oriented and dramatic-driven story introduction to the Kelvin Universe that set the tone with a recasting of The Original Series cast. With the relaunch of the film franchise and success of streamers like Netflix, Hulu, and Prime Video, ViacomCBS decided to provide their own platform with Star Trek as the flagship series to lean behind for CBS All Access, now Paramount+. Starting with Discovery and its success, two more Trek shows launched with Picard and Lower Decks with two more on the way in Prodigy and Strange New Worlds. One benefit of course is seeing the franchise thrive once again in the 21st century and in part, it's thanks to the shows providing an opportunity to see fan favorites mesh with the new cast, but is Paramount+ doing enough?

Star Trek: Discovery – Five Questions After Season Three
Image courtesy of ViacomCBS via CBS All Access

Let's start with Discovery. Originally set in the pre-Kirk era, the series once again reintroduced fans to the Enterprise, this time within the Prime universe but with Capt. Christopher Pike, played by Anson Mount (the third actor to play the role after Jeffrey Hunter in TOS and Bruce Greenwood in the 2009 reboot). We're also introduced to another younger Spock after Leonard Nimoy in TOS and Zachary Quinto in the reboot, but this time played by Ethan Peck. Mount and Peck are joined by Rebecca Romijn as the second Number One will star in the upcoming spinoff SNW, which fans will probably see more TOS characters trickle in throughout its run. Given the distant future Discovery finds itself in, it's kind of a toss-up whether they'll have another past canon character appear, but they have shown archived footage from Nimoy's appearance in Next Generation in "Reunification".

"Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1" -- Episode #109 -- Pictured (l-r): Isa Briones as Soji; Evan Evagora as Elnor; Sir Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard; Alison Pill as Agnes Jurati; of the the CBS All Access series STAR TREK: PICARD. Photo Cr: Aaron Epstein/CBS ©2019 CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Photo Cr: Aaron Epstein/CBS ©2019 CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Going to Picard, which again was a mixed bag between generally favorable reviews among new fans compared to the cognitive dissidence from traditionalist Trek fans of the non-serialized storytelling that was also one of their main issues with Discovery. When seeing TNG favorites like Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis, Brent Spiner, and Jonathan Del Arco return, fans naturally bombarded cast and producers on whether others like LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, or Wil Wheaton will show. At the time, star Patrick Stewart and producer said, they want to make Picard distinctively different than TNG with the actor's condition to return was that he wasn't trying to recreate the series.

Star Trek Is Adapting with the Times While Still Honoring Its Mission
Photo: PARAMOUNT+ ©2021 CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Sadly as demanding as certain fanbases can get (see also Star Wars), there are definitely some creativity issues that will always play a part. If it's not including one thing, there are always complaints with execution not fitting within grand designs. Problem with holding on to conventions and inflexibility especially within the realm of entertainment, you always risk ending up stale. This is not specific to new shows trying to just capitalize on nostalgia. Beloved series that run far too long or get revived face the problem of staying relevant *cough* The X-Files *cough*. If the current formula for traditional Star Trek worked, then Enterprise would have survived for the full seven seasons and the franchise would have continued without a break on network television instead of being streamer-exclusives.

Star Trek Voyager: Tim Russ' Work Means Lucy in the Sky with NASA
Image courtesy of ViacomCBS

For those longing for live-action returns, let's just let the producers like Akiva Goldsman, Michelle Paradise, and Alex Kurtzman run the ship. We're already getting Q (John de Lancie) and Guinan (Whoopie Goldberg) confirmed back for Picard and signs point to LeVar Burton coming back too. Hell, even Voyager is getting some love with the live-action return of Jeri Ryan. Like the producers said, "it has to make sense". Lower Decks is already there for cheap fan service and for the most part, more fans actually enjoy it. For those who never will adopt the new canon, you can always have your DVDs and streamers to hold on to. Just get out of the way. Think of it another way, when it comes to Star Trek, it's just like how others think of the cognitive dissidence of music. Your generation and older, that's okay, but anything newer sucks.

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About Tom Chang

I'm a follower of pop culture from gaming, comics, sci-fi, fantasy, film, and TV for over 30 years. I grew up reading magazines like Starlog, Mad, and Fangoria. As a writer for over 10 years, Star Wars was the first sci-fi franchise I fell in love with. I'm a nerd-of-all-trades.
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