Tuesday, 14 May 2013

What's Next for the Star Trek Franchise?

The latest Star Trek movie in the rebooted universe has just been released, to incredibly favourable reviews, and so the question on everyone's minds is what's next? JJ will be very busy these next few years trying not to crush what hope remains in the Star Wars fans and given that the last Trek movie came out four years ago, we may not see (if ever) another sequel for some time now. But there's still plenty of options available.
[Some minor spoilers may follow]

TV Show

The one big question is whether the franchise will ever return to its roots on the small screen. Thanks to the huge success of the Battlestar Galactica reboot, the space opera drama has found itself a new audience in the modern age, but would this mean in a huge change in the Star Trek formula?

The Original Series was ground breaking, not because of it's genre or what it achieved at a technical level, but rather because of the material it presented to viewers. First off you had the main characters who were of various racial origins; nothing out of the ordinary for us but back in the sixties this was a big deal. Then you had the themes of the individual episodes which again looked at somewhat controversial topics such as war and discrimination, with Roddenberry ensuring that the series mirrored current world events and offered up a retrospective political and social commentary.

As the various iterations of Star Trek progressed (TNG, Voyager, DS9...and Enterprise), the show moved into more mainstream science fiction ideals and focused less of providing a social/political perspective and more about ensuring full on entertainment (although the underlying themes that Roddenberry worked hard to include would always remain).

It was a huge contrast then that when the reboot was launched the main focus was on ensuring that the entertainment value was at full warp, trading in deep plots for something light and cheerful but also something to attract a much broader audience. By creating a new TV show I would assume that they would keep the tone very similar to the movies, keeping their current film-going audience at the same time. I wouldn't put it past them to create something more in-depth however, to compete with the current small screen dominators (Games of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Mad Men etc) however I doubt we will get themes as dark or rich as those that we last saw in the Battlestar Galactica reboot or from the Original Trek series.

The big question however is who would the show focus on? It makes no sense keeping the characters the same if the same actors don't reprise their roles as the majority of the appeal would be lost (this was one of the big problems with the Zombieland TV spin-off). The only reason why the reboot pulled of introducing new actors as the old characters was thanks to the whole 'alternate universe' plot, wherein the actors were given the chance to reinvent the characters to their own interpretations. Shatner's Kirk was arguably one of the greatest captains of modern fiction however you can't deny that Chris Pine does an amicable job as the more rebellious version. Likewise, Mr Spock now has a lot more going for him following the destruction of the Vulcan homeworld which makes his character a lot more interesting given his own inability to show his emotions. But putting new actors into their shoes just won't work so we would need to follow the crew of a new ship.

At the end of Into Darkness, the Enterprise finally gets its five year order to explore new worlds, but there are plenty of other ships that have just as much of a chance for adventure as Kirk and his crew. There's still the very uneasy borders with Qo'noS (Kronos) that could make for some interesting storyline if you opt for a diplomatic-thriller styled Star Trek (like a John le Carre novel) or there's still the aftermath of the destruction of Vulcan where surely the tensions between the Vulcans and the Romulans is at an all time high.
Alternately, go down the Next Generation route and set the series a few decades after the films. It would be interesting to see what effect the parallel universe would have on Captain Picard and the others. We know from the original reality the Jean-Luc was very cocky as a cadet, much like the rebooted Kirk, so this could be a nice frame of reference between the series and the films.

The reality of a new Star Trek is far from unlikely however I can't see it really having a slot with the current programming on TV. The best thing about it is that the reboot converted so many people to the Star Trek universe and it is more of a house-hold name, which means the chances of a TV series being greenlit are much more likely than if it had remained as the traditional following (the Original Series was cancelled due to underwhelming ratings however it's popularity grew soon after ensuring that when TNG started the fan base was already exceedingly large). It's not uncommon for films to get TV spin-offs, the most recent and successful being 'The Clone Wars' and 'Agents of SHIELD'.

What we should wait and see is whether the Avenger's spin-off is successful (I very much doubt it won't be) as this would probably help reignite the debate on whether Star Trek should return to TV screens. The last thing we want is for an amazing series to be developed only for it to be cancelled before it's even had a chance to sink in (à la Firefly).

Star Trek 3

As I mentioned before the prospect of there being another movie is a long way off, however this is assuming that Mr Abrams will be in the directors chair. There's no reason why we can't give the reigns to someone else who will do the series justice (I'm looking at you Mr Bird, or you Mr Nolan).

The likelihood of there being another movie is very high, especially if Into Darkness does as well as the projected forecasts are saying, and I believe the actors all enjoyed themselves therefore I'm sure they would be up for another round.

As for plot, well anything really. I would heartily suggest they opt for an original story rather than try to rehash a past adventure but either way there's plenty to choose from. Obviously this being a movie they can choose a much more epic storyline however the Klingon's are still around. Or perhaps the Borg sensed the rift in time and have already begun to appear.

But what does another movie mean? For one it will give them the chance to round off the reboot nicely and  leave it open for new films to be made in the alternate universe. Into Darkness admittedly ended on a nice note but it would still be fun to see the crew embark on one last adventure before saying "Well that was fun, but no more for me. Here, you take over." Additionally, this might also be the perfect set-up for a TV series. I personally want to see the crew embark on a mission that is ultimately a suicide quest, but then I highly doubt that will ever happen. Whatever the case may be, it should end after a third movie. Trilogies are perfect. Any more and you risk getting stale.


This is a no-brainer, given the hundreds of books that have already been published since its first inception in the 60's, however the books have become a core part of the Star Trek universe with some books even rising above the quality of the series and films. But it would be nice to see a more mainstream author have a crack at the crew of the Enterprise. One can only imagine what would have happened in Arthur C Clarke or Issac Asimov had penned a Trek novel (I hope there is a universe where they did) but there's no reason why other modern day sci-fi legends can't take a stab at writing one.

Video Games

This is a tough one given that there haven't really been any good Star Trek games to date (excluding Bridge Commander and Elite Force) despite there being a heap load of them. Still, if they keep churning out one of them will have to be playable.

This is a real shame given that the Star Wars games have generally been very playable so it's a wonder as to why the Trek games never achieved a great hight. I understand that the key difference between the two franchises is that Star Wars is more war orientated while Star Trek is about exploration and discovery, but this shouldn't result in the crap-fest we have recently been presented with.

A Star Trek 4x (explore, expand, exploit, exterminate) game would be interesting, especially given the rich variety of races who would be present, although I see the immediate problem facing Starfleet Command in the form of those final two "X's". Alternatively a city builder set in the Trek universe might be successful, in the vein of Anno or the old Sierra Interactive games, and could certainly have potential in terms of trading, alliances and survival in harsh environments.

Fancy a FPS? Maybe an all-out conflict with the Klingon's or the Borg.
RPG? I'm sure Bioware could get creative.

Arguably there have been many games set in universes like Star Trek but which have been their own creations. FTL (Faster Than Light) was a fantastic indie game from last year, which saw you having to micro manage a starship while travelling through hostile territory, and Artemis is essentially Bridge Commander. But then the influence of Star Trek has been so immense that practically anything sci-fi related is 'like' Star Trek, so in some way you can factor in EVE Online or the Mass Effect series.

The Trek universe is one of the richest that's ever been created and all it needs is a decent attempt at a video game and people will throw money at it to play it. Hell, if a series is ever made, do what Syfy did with Defiance and create a game to accompany the show.


I'm on the verge of listing every single bit of Star Trek merchandise but we shouldn't forget that there are also a whole heap of board games too, including plenty of D&D style RPG's, many of which are available on the internet or free.

There's no reason why Bad Robot couldn't make their own game in this style, especially if it means Kurtzman and Orci write the story behind it.

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