Star Trek will return to TV on January 2017, that’s what the news said. Nothing more is known other than Alex Kurtzman is producing (and some release plan). Alex Kurtzman got his Trek cred when he teamed up with J.J. Abrams to write J.J’s 2009 Star Trek. He’s also producing both of J.J’s Star Trek.
Part of me want to see Star Trek on TV again, but I also want a good Star Trek TV series that is on the same level as TNG. I don’t want a Star Trek that turned into action movie, where every solution is a photon torpedo shot and kicking some Klingons (or any other villains of the week) ass.
I would love to see a Star Trek TV series that returns to what Star Trek is all about: an optimistic vision of humanity’s future. It is naive and heavy-handed at times, and the vision it offers are not perfect and got criticised a lot, but it is a vision that I can dance with.
Star Trek is also a social commentary that answers contemporary questions with its vision. From our present point of view, Lieutenant Uhura’s role in TOS might just be a switchboard operator in space, but in the 1960s, when racial segregation was prevalent in the U.S, just her being there alongside an international (and interstellar) crew being competent and professional was important. Amid 1960s cold war tensions, a multicultural crew from many nations working together as a team really shows an optimistic vision that humanity can finally pull it off and solves the problems that split them apart. That we can live together in harmony, as naive as it is, was an important message to viewers at the brink of an all-out nuclear war.
“As a little girl growing up on the south side of Chicago in the ’60s I always knew I was going to be in space,” said Mae Jamison—the first African-American woman in space—in a conference, adding that the presence of Lieutenant Uhura on TV inspired her to reach for the stars. “Images show us possibilities. A lot of times, fantasy is what gets us through to reality,” said her in her alumni publication. Such is the legacy of TOS.
TNG is another gem in the Star Trek canon that pushed forward the vision of humanity’s future in space. The Enterprise-D under the leadership of Captain Picard is an instrument of peace, exploration, and diplomacy, not an instrument of war. Captain Picard never led his ship and crew into battle unless it is absolutely necessary. Dialogue is his primary solution, not phasers.
The change in Star Trek started when the TNG movies came out. The characters were turned into action stars when they were not originally meant to. Movie Captain Picard inexplicably turned into a bloodthirsty maniac who loved killing Borgs (when it was already established in the TV series that he didn’t seek revenge after the Borg turned him into Locutus) and easily led the ship into battle at the slightest provocation. The movies didn’t do well both critically and financially. Maybe the creators of the TNG movies thought that the audience wanted a good action movie, but what we really wanted was Star Trek movies with good and compelling story that was true to its spirit.
The new Star Trek movies seem to continue the trend, and I was weary of this. Star Trek must return to its roots, back to its original vision. Back to its exploration of humanity’s place and role in the universe.
I sincerely hope that the producers of the new series understand that this is the true power of Star Trek. At the moment, I am mildly excited, but I do hope that the new series will be good again despite Alex Kurtzman’s reputation to turn Star Trek into a mindless action series.