Three films into the rebooted Star Trek timeline and with a new show, Star Trek Discovery, due for broadcast next year it’s hard to believe that Star Trek is now 50 years old. We seem to be in the new heyday of Star Trek with the franchise not having been so popular since the 1990’s, the decade which saw The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager all on the air before the rapid decline of Trek during the 2000’s. It’s at times like this when a franchise should do something a bit different, break out from the norm or maybe even revisit a failed project from the past to continue to reinvigorate the franchise. Maybe it’s time for a Star Trek series a little more… animated.
Now there was of course a previous animated Star Trek show in the early 70’s which brought back Kirk and co before we saw them again on the big screen in 1979 and all in all the show was nothing more than okay. The same stock footage would be used again and again due to budgetary concerns and characters who were supposed to be somewhere else could frequently be seen in the back of shots. In terms of continuity the animated show exists in a kind of B-canon in which everything in the show happened unless it is contradicted by something in A-canon (the movies and live action shows) but despite this important pieces of Star Trek lore came from the show. The episode Yesteryear written by Original Series – and early TNG – scribe D.C Fontana introduced major information about Spock, Sarek and Vulcan which later turned up in movies and The Next Generation and the animated series also gave us the first incarnation of the Holodeck and the information that the T in James T Kirk stood for Tiberius. Despite its short time on the air the animated series has become an important part of Star Trek’s vast history and lore and a new animated show of better quality animation and storytelling could do even greater things for the franchise.
A modern animated series could introduce a new, younger audience to Star Trek without becoming a show just for children. Let’s look at Star Wars as an example and yes, I know the two franchises are incredibly different but just go with me on this. Star Wars Rebels, and Star Wars The Clone Wars before it, attracts a large audience of both children and adults. The show airs on Disney XD with humour and gunfights and everything kids want to stay entertained but the show can, and has, gone to some very dark places attracting a devout adult audience who are interested in the character arcs and the ever expanding plethora of new information we learn about the beloved galaxy. An animated show set within the Star Trek universe could do the very same thing.
As I said earlier Star Trek is currently doing very well as a franchise but this period of success could soon be at risk. Star Trek Beyond, while being a fantastic movie and much better than Into Darkness, didn’t have a stellar run at the box office making a lot less than the previous two of the rebooted movies. This could be an indicator that audiences are growing tired of this new Star Trek film franchise and are looking for something else. In contrast there has been huge levels of excitement for the new show Star Trek Discovery, which I have to say makes me very happy that I live in the UK because it streams on Netflix here rather on some new CBS streaming service. Television is where Star Trek thrives and while there have been good films, television is most definitely the franchise’s home. You may be thinking that having two Star Trek shows on the air at the same time will burn the franchise out and audiences will soon get tired of it like they did in the late 90’s but unlike then, when all the shows felt and looked very similar, Discovery and the animated show will be very different in their storytelling and visual nature.
Doing Star Trek as an animated series would give an enormous amount of freedom to the writers and directors involved. They wouldn’t have to worry about a huge visual effects budget like you would if it were live action, although animated shows aren’t cheap, and the freedom of animation would allow for some breathtaking planet landscapes, starships and unique non-humanoid alien species unlike the live action show in which costume designers and makeup artists have to deal with actual physical actors who are made to look alien by wearing a wig and having a weird forehead prosthetic. Another positive on the animated format is that the show, like the 70’s animated show, will be shorter than its live action counterparts fitting into the 30 minute time slot rather than 60 minutes. This means each episode would be around 22 to 25 minutes long which could be beneficial because there would be no more stretching out a cool and interesting sci-fi idea to fit into a 45 minute show. Pacing would be much faster and there would be no need for an ancillary B-plot that has nothing to do with the A-plot and is only included to fill time.
There is now the question of which timeline to set the animated show in and I can see positives for both. While I would much prefer the show to be set in the prime continuity it could be set in the Kelvin timeline and be a way to see the adventures of the Enterprise crew when they are not having big film-worthy adventures or maybe even instead of those larger adventures. Ever since the 2009 reboot I’ve wanted a TV show featuring Chris Pine’s Captain Kirk and the new crew instead of film sequels and this could be a way to do it. The show could be set within the new timeline and the characters would look like the new versions of Kirk, Spock, Bones etc from the movies. The whole cast would never do a time consuming live action show but it’s possible some of them could return to voice their characters and sound-a-like voice actors could be used for those that wouldn’t do the show. However like I said I would prefer prime continuity because it’s much more developed and can be set before, after or during other Star Trek shows. Maybe the ship in the animated show could dock with Deep Space Nine or meet William Shatner’s Kirk. An animated show would mean the age of the actors wouldn’t matter, they would be made to look like their younger selves and yet still be portrayed by the original actor.
So that’s my reasoning on wanting a new animated show set in the Star Trek universe. Maybe I’m asking too much and should just be happy that we’re getting Star Trek Discovery – which I am – but I do believe that animation is a way for Star Trek to develop and tell stories in a way that is beneficial to the franchise in the long run so that the franchise doesn’t become stagnant and we get another 50 fantastic years of Star Trek. Do you want another animated Star Trek show? Let me know in the comments and geek out with me about Star Trek on Twitter @kylebrrtt.