Star Trek: Discovery is the first new Star Trek series since Enterprise ended in 2005. Fans got excited for a new show that could deliver something fresh and invigorating.
But, what we’ve gotten so far has only proven a disappointing truth about where Star Trek is as a franchise: stuck in the past and afraid of the future.
Star Trek (2009) Started This
It’s not all Discovery‘s fault. When Paramount decided to reboot the franchise back in 2009, they went about it in the most modern way possible. They revamped the characters from the original series, turned it into an action-focused franchise, and gave it to the flashiest director on the market, J.J. Abrams.
The rebooted Trek films set a standard for where the franchise was headed. Bombastic action and pulpy character adventure became the focus. Contemplative sci-fi stories and a genuine interest in an optimistic future for humanity became unimportant.
And most importantly, the franchise became interested solely in the past.
Exploring Familiar Old Worlds
Star Trek: Discovery is a prequel. It takes place ten years before the original series. That has some potential, but look at what the show focuses on. The setup centers around the Klingon Empire and its war with the Federation. Why do we need to elaborate on this event? What does it do to enrich the universe? There isn’t a whole lot to gain from this premise. The only reasons to use this story framework are to create big action scenes and overly dramatic character plots.
And it doesn’t stop there. We know that the character of Harry Mudd is due to show up in the series. Do we really need to see Harry Mudd get the prequel treatment? Why does the franchise feel the need to play it safe with things fans recognize?
Instead of drawing upon its past, why isn’t Star Trek: Discovery looking towards its future?
Where No One Has Gone Before
Star Trek is an important franchise — not just pop culturally but also to me personally — and it’s important because it’s supposed to be about our future as a species. And it’s an optimistic future in Star Trek. We need fiction that gives us hope for a better tomorrow.
The franchise is now focused on tumultuous action scenes and mining elements that fans recognize. Frankly, all modern Trek is trying to ape Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. What the artists behind this new era of Trek don’t realize is that The Wrath of Khan is an anomaly, and that’s what makes it work. Turning everything into an action melodrama is actually getting the series away from its roots.
Star Trek: The Original Series is about exploration, the unknown, and discovery (haha). Star Trek: Discovery, so far, isn’t about any of those things. As long as it remains that way, it’s keeping the franchise from being true to itself.