Star Trek 2017 – graphic designers in space?

StargateUniverseCBS have announced that they’re launching a new Star Trek TV series in 2017, to be screened (in the USA) on their streaming service All Access. I wonder what that means for the UK? Amazon? Netflix? A CBS app on Apple TV? Sky Atlantic? I’d be surprised if any of the terrestrial broadcasters bothered with it. Anyway, people are already speculating about what form the new series would take, and in what era. On a ship with a crew? A space station with a crew? Would it be in the JJ Abrams reboot universe? It’s unlikely to tie too closely with the recent films – if only because the rights to the film franchise is jointly owned by Paramount and CBS.

This is something I’ve thought about before. The last Trek series that was decent, even if only in parts, was Voyager, and that was mostly for a couple of years at the beginning of Seven of Nine’s residency. Even Voyager had too many silly characters. Enterprise was disappointing, partly because it seemed like too safe a choice, and partly because they allowed it to be derailed by the 9/11-style attack on Earth and all the subsequent War on Terror nonsense. So the show died, in my mind, before it could really get going. Prior to all that, I never much liked Deep Space Nine, although some people do swear by it. I expect if I saw it again now it would be better than I remember. Apart from those Ferengi plots. And Odo.

TNG was also a mixed bag. Better after its creator died, but like most things probably overstaying its welcome.

My ideal new Star Trek has already been made: it was called Stargate Universe, and like the Original Series of Trek, it was cancelled (too soon, I say). Others might argue that Firefly had something of the original Trek frontier spirit, but that too was cancelled too soon.

Here are some of my ideas for the new Trek.

  • Game of Trek – diplomats vying for supremacy, the Federation falling apart, intrigue, murder, a cast of thousands. Emilia Clarke as a sexy vulcan entirely optional.
  • Star Fleet Academy – a revolving cohort of young people on training missions that, like the holodeck of old, always go wrong. Emilia Clarke as a sexy vulcan entirely optional.
  • Star Trek Parallels – life is tough in the Mirror Universe. Emilia Clarke as a sexy vulcan entirely optional.
  • Star Trek Frozen – a character frozen in the OS era wakes up in his/her far future. Emilia Clarke as a sexy vulcan entirely optional.
  • Star Trek Bios – the crew of a ground station on a planet with a hostile biological environment but valuable secrets. Emilia Clarke as a sexy vulcan entirely optional.
  • Indistinguishable – the adventures of a small but dedicated group of researchers in the Advanced Technology Unit – creating and testing new, experimental tech that is indistinguishable from magic. Emilia Clarke as a sexy vulcan entirely optional.
  • Edge of Forever – time portal Trek. Emilia Clarke as a sexy vulcan entirely optional.
  • Starfleet Weapons Inspectors – trying to prevent the next devastating intergalactic conflct. Emilia Clarke as a sexy vulcan entirely optional.
  • Graphic Designers in Space – needs no explanation
  • Star Trek Dreamscape – the whole thing takes place in one of Chakotay’s vision quests. Emilia Clarke as a sexy vulcan bajoran entirely optional.
  • Star Trek Refugee – a small crew on a broken down ship try to survive in a hostile universe, and try to avoid the attentions of the Federation (hmmm… seems familiar). Emilia Clarke as a sexy vulcan entirely optional.
  • Star Trek Derelict – a crew of “wreck divers” discover an abandoned alien ship with technology so advanced they barely understand it – and attempt to fly it home (hmmm… seems familiar). Emilia Clarke as a sexy vulcan entirely optional.

Why Stargate Universe was under-rated

Air (Stargate Universe)
Air (Stargate Universe) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Over the years, I’ve grown all-too-used to my various Freeview boxes and PVRs choosing to fuck up scheduled recordings while I’m away in France, so I wasn’t surprised to discover on my return this time that a forced retune had buggered all my stuff from about Wednesday onwards, meaning that I missed the last few episodes of season 2 of Stargate Universe (SGU).

I also lost a Nashville and a Good Wife, but those are available online via catchup. I was gutted about SGU, because I’ve been gorging on it for several weeks as it enjoyed a re-run on Sky’s PickTV.

So I hadn’t seen it before. The original Stargate was all right, I suppose, but it suffered from the usual TV Sci Fi silliness, threats to earth and so on. It was occasionally watchable, but I wouldn’t have sought it out, and it and its spinoff shows were never really on my radar.

But I was intrigued enough to learn (via his promotion of Redshirts) that John Scalzi was a creative consultant on SGU to give it a go when I saw it appear on the free-to-air PickTV. If you like proper science fiction, you should watch out for another run of it (they just started showing Enterprise again, so it might well appear).

Like the superb Battlestar Galactica  of days gone by, SGU used edgy camera work, anti-hero character conflicts, and gigantic plot twists. There were also some very bold movies, doing things that the likes of Star Trek would never dare, like stranding main characters on planets, having everybody apparently die, and refusing to offer neat explanations.

We’re used to seeing excellent shows cancelled, and there’s no point dwelling too much on it, getting up a petition or blaming the suits. Often the fans of these shows are also their worst enemies, choosing to download instead of watching broadcasts, and then wondering why the network decides to cancel something that doesn’t have an audience and doesn’t attract advertising. If you love a show, then you need to see the big, commercial picture and understand that if you don’t pay for it by watching official broadcasts or paying for a download or boxed set, it’s going to die.

What I loved about SGU was its use of proper science fiction ideas and its setting in a universe with rules. So faster-than-light travel is possible, but the ship needs power, and chemicals for scrubbing carbon dioxide out of the air, and the people need to be fed, supplies need to be replenished. All of these ideas conveniently skated over in a show like Star Trek. Planets can be hostile environments, and remnants of long-ago civilisations refuse to give up their secrets easily, or offer “human” explanations for their motives.

The crew get to the ship entirely accidentally (they’re the “wrong crew” at the “wrong time”) and the show never loses sight of that, never forgets that these are people struggling and improvising a long way beyond their level of competency. Nobody trusts Rush (played by Robert Carlisle) and the ship’s commander-by-default is always fallible. And I don’t know who was really responsible for the storylines and scripts (or how much influence a creative consultant like Scalzi might have), but it was fairly obvious that the show was being run by people who knew science fiction and knew what was wrong with all the other Sci Fi shows.

It was cut short after just two seasons and didn’t have a proper ending, but maybe that’s better than going on for too long. Battlestar lasted a season too long, as did Lost, and having 40 episodes is better than the 13 or so that Firefly gave us. Give or take Battlestar or the early X Files, SGU may have been the best SF show that television has ever seen.

Blockade (Stargate Universe)
Blockade (Stargate Universe) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)