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Oh boy, there's been a lot of Star Trek news and rumors over the past half year or so. They've been coming in so rapid-fire that it's been hard to take any of them seriously. But now we actually do have confirmation from CBS that new Star Trek projects (aside from Discovery) are in the works.

While it might sound nice to have new Star Trek in the works, the news isn't necessarily good. If you're like me, and did not like the direction of Star Trek: Discovery, then the news of new Trek projects from CBS is probably not very promising. In fact, it may all sound like a train wreck waiting to happen.

Discovery still can't get its shit together!

Let's start with the show that already exists: Star Trek: Discovery. The production of season two has so far been just as rough as the production of season one. CBS fired the showrunners mid-way through filming the second season. The studio claims that the showrunners were causing the show to go overbudget, and that they were mistreating staff. However, it's also the case that there were extensive reshoots (which apparently involves giving the Klingons their hair back), which may imply that the studio was meddling in the production, and that there were creative differences between the showrunners and the studio execs. Sounds a lot like season one all over again.

Discovery is going through a major pivot, and it's production is not going well.

The series is apparently trying to course-correct and is pivoting hard by bringing in the original Enterprise as a last-ditch effort to try to win back the support of long-time fans. But, as a long-time fan, I don't want to see the Enterprise again. I especially don't want to see any extensive, canon-breaking retcons to the characters or history. However, it looks like that's what we're going to get.

I'd rather see Star Trek go to new places and try new things, as long as they are consistent with the established canon, and are consistent with the cerebral, hard science fiction theme of the series. Basing the entire series on magic trans-dimensional fungus that allows instantaneous teleportation to anywhere in any universe is consistent with neither.

I want to see Discovery explore new ideas; not retcon Original Series characters and history.

It isn't just Star Trek that's in trouble, the CBS corporation has also gone through its share of troubles this year. Its chairman and CEO, Les Moonves, was forced to resign after accusations of sexual improprieties. Moonves was one of the core champions of Star Trek: Discovery, who saw the series as the flagship program for CBS' All-Access streaming service. Moonves also notoriously doesn't like or understand science fiction -- let alone Star Trek -- and it was creative disputes between Moonves and original showrunner Bryan Fuller that resulted in Fuller being fired, and in the direction of Discovery pivoting to what it was.

With Moonves out, Discovery might not have the protection of the CEO of the company anymore, which might result in budget cuts and other limitations in the show's production that will almost certainly reduce the quality of the product. The high production qualities were pretty much the only thing that Discovery had going for it (as far as I was concerned). Things are not looking pretty for the future of Star Trek: Discovery.

Patrick Stewart is back as Jean-Luc Picard

The big news, however, is the announcement of two new Star Trek series. The first and foremost is a new series featuring Patrick Stewart in the role of Jean-Luc Picard.

Had the writers even started planning Picard's
show prior to announcing it?

It's unclear, however, what this show will be about. In fact, it looks like the writers didn't even start thinking about that until after the series was announced. That isn't promising. It means we have a studio grasping at straws, without a clear vision for what they want to create.

Apparently, Stewart (or Alex Kurtzman) suggested that Picard may not necessarily be the captain of a starship in this new series. This lead to an early rumor that Picard may instead be an instructor at Starfleet Academy. I can't find any links to this rumor, so maybe it was my own idea that I'm mistaking for a rumor...? In any case, I would much rather see Picard be more of a cameo character in a show that isn't squarely about him. Making him a professor at the Academy, teaching cadets who are the main characters actually sounds like a half-way decent idea with a lot of promise. Rumors of CBS being pitched ideas for a Starfleet Academy series have been circulating for a couple years now, so maybe this gives them an opportunity to finally pursue that idea.

Another interesting idea that I had would be to make Picard to have retired from Starfleet and taken up a new career as an archaeologist. The character had a profound interest in archaeology throughout the series, and even gave lectures about the subject in at least one or two instances.

Again, I think this idea would work best if Picard is more of a cameo character. I'm actually thinking that this could be an interesting vector for an anthology series, which I've been saying for years is the direction that Star Trek should take on TV. My idea is that Picard is used as a framing device to tell anthology stories within the Star Trek universe. Each episode could begin with Picard excavating some artifact on some alien planet, which would then springboard the audience to a story about that artifact's history and the people and culture that created it. This would allow the writers to explore alien cultures and tell high-concept stories that are unlike any that we've seen in Trek before, because they wouldn't be tied to (and limited by) a singular crew or cast of characters.

I would prefer to see Picard having retired and taken up a career as a teacher or archaeologist.

The idea is similar to the way that How I Met Your Mother framed each episode around Bob Sagat telling a story to his children, or the Cryptkeeper from Tales From the Crypt reading a story from some dusty tome, except this Star Trek series should have a little more attention paid to events within that framing mechanism. The framing of each episode (featuring Picard) could be used to catch up the audience on what has happened in the universe of Star Trek since the end of Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and the Next Gen movies. Maybe we'll get really lucky, and the writers will retcon Nemesis out of canon!

Further, the idea would allow the series to experiment with some non-conventional methods of story-telling, including non-linear story-telling, since the most recent archaeological artifacts would be uncovered first. The show could even depict alternate interpretations of the events, since different archaeologists on the team may have different interpretations or insights into what any given artifact represents.

The worst-case scenario is that Picard is made into the captain of a new ship (or maybe a new Enterprise), and the show will try to rehash the Next Generation. Or even worse: they could keep trying to bastardize Picard's character by turning him into an action hero like in the Next Gen movies. The ideas of making this (now much older) Picard into a retired professor or archaeologist are much more interesting than making him into a geriatric, intergalactic John McClane.

Lower Decks animated series is actually most promising idea

Believe it or not, I'm actually most intrigued (I'm hesistant to say "excited") about the other new series that was announced. In addition to a Picard-centered series, CBS has also announced an animated comedy which is going to be written and/or produced by Rick and Morty writer/producer Mike McMahan. I've never actually watched Rick and Morty, though I have heard very good things about it, and have had it recommended to be on several occasions. Anyway, this series is supposed to focus on service personnel who work on the lower decks, rather than the key command personnel.

We're getting a new animated series from the creator of Rick and Morty.

When Discovery was first announced, it was said that the main character would not be the captain. I had actually hoped that the show would be about the crew in the lower decks, and was disappointed when it was announced that the main character would be the second officer, and that the main cast would mostly be composed of bridge personnel and other senior staff.

So the idea of exploring the lives and careers of the ... shall we say ... "less than essential" personnel aboard a starship is a rarely-seen concept in Trek that is well worth exploring. We have seen glimpses of these sorts of individuals, including a Next Generation episode called "Lower Decks" (which is apprently where this new show's name is derived from) and a Voyager episode called "Good Shepherd". In both episodes, we see the lives of more "average Joe" crew members and get a glimpse of their toils, troubles, conflicts, and personal anxieties. It's a very humanizing look at the Starfleet crews who are usually presented as almost Mary Sue-like paragons of humanity.

Lower decks crew members have been featured in TNG's "Lower Decks" and Voyager's "Good Shepherd".

Further, the show's nature as an animated comedy series means that it is almost certainly not going to be considered to be fully canon, which gives the show a lot of creative liberties to do things that Star Trek has never done before. Best of all, I don't have to worry about it "ruining Star Trek", or anything like that, because it probably won't be canon anyway. It would be a spin-off series in the truest sense.

The cynic in me, however, sees this as nothing more than a reaction to the success of Fox and Seth McFarlane's The Orville. That being said, the fact that this show is being pitched by someone who seems to have a genuine passion and creative vision makes it look less like a cynical cash-in, and more like a genuine attempt at creative art. That makes it even more promising (in my book) than the apparently-haphazardly-constructed Picard series.

Other projects

I've also heard rumors that Nicholas Meyer is working on a Khan series, and that CBS may also be pursuing a teen-oriented Starfleet Academy TV series (assuming that doesn't end up being the same thing as the Picard series, as hypothesized above). If all these come to fruition, and Discovery manages to find its feet and not get canceled, we could be seeing up to five separate Star Trek series running concurrently. Plus any potential future Star Trek movies from Paramount, assuming they get their shit together and make a follow-up to Beyond, or proceed with Quentin Tarantino's supposed Trek project. Oh, and also The Orville (if you want to count that).

Other rumors include a Khan prequel series and a Starfleet Academy teen drama.

I like Star Trek, and I really want to see new, quality, Trek material, but this sounds like absolute over-saturation to me. I'm skeptical that CBS can get any one of these projects to work out well and deliver quality content -- let alone all five! At least some of these projects will surely flop (whether they're the CBS products or the Paramount ones). Even if there's one or two good series / movies in the mix, the flopping ones will only serve to further dilute the franchise and drag everything down.

Has the window closed for a Captain Sulu series...?

Sadly, none of these projects is an anthology series, which I think would be the best use of the Star Trek IP. Nor is any of them a "Captain Sulu show" featuring George Takei and Tim Russ.

The elephant in the room: Alex Kurtzman

Perhaps the biggest reason that I have so little faith in any of these Star Trek projects moving forward is that a single person basically has the final say when it comes to any creative decisions regarding the franchise moving forward. That person is Alex Kurtzman. He has been given creative control of all of CBS' Star Trek projects, and he still has a prominent role in the production of Paramount's and Bad Robot's Star Trek movies. CBS and Paramount basically want Kurtzman to be the Kevin Feige of Star Trek.

I honestly can't think of anyone worse for the job.

Alex Kurtzman is basically the "Star Trek Czar" for both CBS and Paramount.

I also honestly don't know how Kurtzman keeps getting jobs. It seems that the more control over a project he is given, the harder it flops. He was given more control over Star Trek: Into Darkness, which was a critical flop (even though it was still financially successful). He was also brought in by Sony to re-write Amazing Spider-Man 2 after the criticism of the first Amazing Spider-Man. However, Amazing Spider-Man 2 flopped so hard, it short-circuited Sony's Spider-Man cinematic universe and ended up forcing Sony into cooperating with Marvel in order to make Spider-Man: Homecoming and keep the character culturally relevant. Kurtzman then went on to both write and direct Universal's The Mummy, which was intended to be the first film in a new "Dark Universe" cinematic universe, which would be the rebirth of the classic Universal monsters (which were the original cinematic universe -- eat your heart out, Marvel!). All these projects failed, and they failed (in large part) because Kurtzman is an incompetent writer and filmmaker, or (at the very least) is a sell-out corporate shill with little-to-no artistic integrity.

Marvel has done so well for itself for a lot of reasons. One of those reasons is Kevin Feige's overarching vision. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of Marvel comics and a true passion for the source material. Alex Kurtzman does not have any of that with regard to Star Trek. I'd much rather see the job of "Star Trek Czar" go to Bryan Fuller, had he not been forced off the project. Heck, CBS would be better served giving Mike Stoklasa the job. At least then, we'd have someone in charge who has knowledge and respect for the source material.

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