The new Star Trek television series has found its showrunner and Rob Wainfur considers the possible implications for the future of Gene Roddenberry's enduring sci-fi franchise...
Guest post by Rob Wainfur
Finally some good news for Star Trek fans. Bryan Fuller is on board for the new TV series on CBS. The end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016 hasn’t been the best start for Star Trek. In comparison that other Star franchise, Star Wars is riding high on the back of the success of The Force Awakens. The $2 billion box office takings vault has recently been opened for JJ Abrams' vision of a galaxy far, far away and fans are heaping praises on how well the franchise is being managed and the direction it’s taken.
In comparison Star Trek fans have set their phasers to maximum setting and turned them on the current producers of Star Trek and the franchise owners. The new trailer for Star Trek Beyond was shot down quicker than it took Troi to destroy the Enterprise in Generations. The trailer just didn’t seem like Star Trek with a Beastie Boys soundtrack and the over emphasis on action. It looked more like a new Guardians of the Galaxy movie than a new Star Trek. Even Simon Pegg was critical of the trailer saying: “I didn’t love it, because I know there’s a lot more to the film.”
Star Trek fans, this one included, turned to a fan movie for a proper Star Trek fix, Star Trek Axanar. The production values are high with gorgeous looking sets, impressive special effects and an all-star line up from the world of Star Trek including Gary Graham as a Vulcan ambassador, Richard Hatch as the sweet-eyed Klingon General Kharn and Kate Vernon as Starfleet Captain Sonya Alexander. Prelude to Axanar had already been released with the likes of Tony Todd, a wonderful actor who I remember from one of the best Star Trek Deep Space Nine episodes, The Visitor. But at the end of 2015 it was revealed that CBS and Paramount had filed a lawsuit against Axanar Productions to halt production on the new fan movie. Although they are fighting the lawsuit it seems that the suits behind Star Trek have forgotten how Star Trek has got to where it is today. Star Trek stands on the shoulders of its passionate fans. The last thing you want to do is turn those fans against you but that seems to be exactly what’s happening. Something had to be done.
There’s been a slither of good news for Star Trek fans. On Tuesday it was announced that Bryan Fuller is to front the new Star Trek TV series which will hit TV screens on CBS in 2017. This is great news as Fuller has a heap of experience in the Star Trek universe. He was the writer for two episodes of Deep Space Nine (my personal favourite Trek series) ‘The Darkness and the Light’ and the excellent and deeply atmospheric episode, ‘Empok Nor.’ He was also the producer of 25 episodes of Voyager and writer for a whole heap of episodes including the enjoyable two parter, ‘Workforce.’
It’s a promising sign and the equivalent of an injection of Ketracel-white that we have someone with Star Trek experience on board for the new show. Fuller has also proven he’s not lost his touch when it comes to quality, bringing the popular Hannibal and Pushing Daisies to TV, both of which ooze quality. He’s also working on American Gods which has a lot of Neil Gaiman fans waiting with baited breath.
What can we expect from Fuller? Well a few years ago he teased us in an interview about some ideas he had for a new Star Trek TV series. He teased us with the idea of how The Next Generation crew would evolve from JJ Abrams' alternate universe vision we see in the new movies and even leaving the Enterprise behind all together and have a new ship called The Reliant. No, it won’t have three wheels.
Executive producer Alex Kurtzman said some promising words on the state of Star Trek and in particular bringing Bryan Fuller on board. “Bringing ‘Star Trek’ back to television means returning it to its roots, and for years those roots flourished under Bryan’s devoted care. His encyclopaedic knowledge of ‘Trek’ canon is surpassed only by his love for Gene Roddenberry’s optimistic future, a vision that continues to guide us as we explore strange new worlds…Bryan is not only an extremely gifted writer, but a genuine fan of ‘Star Trek.”
Whatever his vision ultimately turns out to be, right now I feel a little more optimistic for the future of Star Trek. I hope Fuller, along with the studios, remember what Star Trek fans actually want and maybe they can take a leaf out of Chris Carter’s book. The X-Files recently returned for a tenth season and Chris Carter, the creator realised that fans were the driving force for the return, so gave them exactly what they wanted, more of the same. He along with the cast and crew visited comic-cons around the world and listened to the fans and what they wanted to see from the return of Mulder and Scully. So far the season has done exactly that. It’s not dumbed down. It has the original cast and wonderful scripts. It’s like we’re watching the classic seasons of The X-Files all over again.
Let us hope the new Star Trek doesn’t get dumbed down and producers don’t feel the need to make all the cast 20 years old or younger which seems to be happening more frequently in TV and movies. Keep the technobabble, that’s Star Trek and keep the science too. Less action and more story. Less love triangles and more interesting characters. Don’t just make the main cast three dimensional. Make ALL the characters interesting like Deep Space Nine did. Am I asking for too much? No. All they need to do is go back and actually watch some Star Trek to get the idea of what we want. Listen to the fans, embrace them and their creativity. That way Star Trek will live long and most definitely prosper and that’s good for the fans, studios and producers. I think Bryan Fuller is well on the way to achieving that. Make it so Bryan.