Production on Star Trek Discovery is in full swing and, while there has been no confirmed release date, the show will debut later this year. Science fiction on television and just television in general has changed dramatically since the last Star Trek show, Enterprise, was cancelled in 2005 with shows like Battlestar Galactica and more recently The Expanse revolutionising the genre. The series is adapting to modern television ideals with a more serialised storyline (although the underappreciated Deep Space Nine had this format in the mid-nineties) but it seems to me that Discovery could already be making a huge initial mistake similar to Enterprise: it’s a prequel.
Now I’m not 100% against the idea of a prequel but I would much prefer a sequel. With a prequel, the writers are restricting themselves with what stories they can tell because if any huge galaxy-shifting event takes place then why didn’t we hear about it in The Original Series or any of the other shows and movies. There can be no major stakes in terms of story because we all already know the outcome. That means most of the stakes and drama has to be focused on the new characters which is a big ask because Trek usually has a problem in their debut seasons of making any of the characters the least bit interesting, it takes time to become attached and invested. Sure, the series could focus on planets that we haven’t seen before and therefore the fates of them and their inhabitants are unknown but from everything we have heard it looks like the series will focus on a serialised story about the Klingons who have already been the focus of so much Trek. I would prefer the Romulans but that wouldn’t work in this time period. Also, technology is an issue in a prequel; Discovery takes place a decade before The Original Series and so matching the looks will be a challenge and the writers can’t introduce new technology because why then would that tech not appear in any of the previous Trek shows, even Holodecks don’t exist at this time in the Star Trek continuity.
I can see why they have decided to make the new series a prequel and the reasons strike an interesting parallel with Star Wars. After the mid 2000’s both Star Wars and Star Trek were in similar fairly dire straits with instalments that didn’t capture what most people loved about the originals. Star Wars with the Prequel Trilogy and Star Trek with Enterprise and if we’re honest a lot of Voyager wasn’t very good either. When Disney wanted to bring back Star Wars they had to get the fans on board and so made, for better or worse, The Force Awakens very similar to A New Hope and relied on nostalgia and the recognisability to bring fans flooding back to the franchise. It’s clear Star Trek is trying to follow suit by having Star Trek Discovery take place very close to The Original Series in the hopes of reigniting the fandom to its former glory. The problem is that Star Wars will now continue and branch out in new directions again now the fans are back on board while Star Trek will probably have to rely on Discovery for a while with no new shows inbound and Star Trek 4 looking more and more unlikely as days go by.
In my eyes, Star Trek has already done the whole prequel thing and they blew it. Enterprise had so much potential – just watch the pilot ‘Broken Bow’ which is great – but much of it was squandered as the series continued. The series should have focused much more heavily on the creation of The Federation, the Earth-Romulan war and just how different the galaxy is to what we were used to. Instead it quickly became just another Star Trek show about a ship going on random adventures in space and was obsessed with the future instead of making the most of the past. The plot with ‘Future Guy’ was the opposite of what the show should have done and including races like the Ferengi and Borg was a mistake. I’m worried Discovery will make the same mistakes and doesn’t even have something like the founding of The Federation to fall back on whereas a sequel would allow the writers to have free range on whatever stories they want to tell with whatever races they wish to involve.
For all my petulant complaining Discovery will be a prequel and I’ll have to hope for the best. I’m a big Bryan Fuller fan (I write this while wearing a Hannibal t-shirt) and while he left the show I’m sure his presence will be felt at least initially. Some Original Series characters have been confirmed to appear in Discovery namely conman Harry Mudd played by Rainn Wilson which I’m fine with if he’s a guest character but with the series being serialised I’m worried he’ll play to large a role in the narrative. James Frain will portray Sarek which is a move I quite like with the inclusion of the Vulcan ambassador making sense, I just hope he doesn’t constantly refer to his son Spock before giving the camera a wink. The fact that the announcement of Sarek’s inclusion by Star Trek’s Twitter account manages to specifically mention Spock in its 140 characters has me worried that they’ll go too far with the references. To succeed in the time period it is set, Discovery will need to be seem like a part of the same galaxy we know and love and yet also work independently. A balance between new and old: the best of both worlds.
Do you think including Original Series characters is a bad move for Star Trek Discovery? Would you have preferred the show to be a sequel rather than a prequel? Let me know in the comments and geek out with me about Star Trek on Twitter @kylebrrtt.