Have you seen the teaser trailer (more teaser than trailer) for the upcoming Star TrekTV show from CBS All-Access? The network released it yesterday as part of its upfront presentation in NYC and, though it might not give us much to go on other than a few exploding planets and a revamped Star Trek logo, the power of this teaser is all in one word: “new.” (Specifically: “new crews, new villains, new heroes, new worlds.”)
Here’s why that little, one-syllable beauty means so much…
The “new”-ness inherent in Star Trek’s history.
Star Trekhas traditionally been a storytelling franchise that pushes the narrative boundaries of what has come before. Long before Marvel had an on-screen shared cinematic universe, the world of Star Trek was blurring the lines between TV and film, and between TV show and TV show, with familiar characters crossing over from one TV show to the next. The first episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,for example, not only brings on Star Trek: The Next Generation’sChief O’Brien as a series regular, but includes a series of tense, well-characterized conversations between Captain Picard and Commander Sisko.
This all might not seem particularly revolutionary in an era of crossovers and shared universe, but it’s evidence that, in a time when TV was still being treated like the film world’s black sheep of a cousin, Star Trekwas innovative and fresh in its story structure. It was also striving to tell progressive, intellectual stories that envisioned a better future where being humanistic wasn’t foolish, but rather the status quo. Will the new Star TrekTV series return to this commitment to “new”-ness?
The lack of “new”-ness in the Star Trek films.
Enter the Star Trekrebootfilm franchise. I enjoy J.J. Abrams films just as much as the next girl who grew up writing out detailed recaps of the most recent episode of Aliasfor her only slightly-interested friends rather than doing her math homework, but much has been justifiably written about the ways in which Star Trekand Star Trek Into Darknessaren’t, well, particularly Star Trek-like.
The rebooted Star Trekfilm franchise is less interested in telling a story about scientific explorers working together to solve problems and questioning what it means to be human (and pretending they are Sherlock Holmes in the holodeck) than they are in blowing stuff up and being a more classic action adventure story.
They’re relatively good at being an action adventure story, but they’re not very Star Trek. Perhaps more notably, they’re not particularly original, either. They have a similar story structure to so many of the other action adventure blockbusters out there and, yes, they are set in space with some (well-cast) familiar characters, but they are neither interested in continuing the thematic explorations the Star Trek universe is known for, nor doing anything particularly new in the world of the Hollywood blockbuster franchise.
The lack of “new”-ness in pop culture.
I like to push back against the idea that this era of reboots, remakes, and adaptations is inherently less creative. Using the framework of an already-existing story to create another story doesn’t inherently mean that new story will be dull or repetitive. (Just ask the fanfiction community.) But that doesn’t mean major studios don’t more often than not take the safe route when revamping already-existing story properties. Thems the breaks when you’re investing hundreds of millions of dollars in a project.
And this playing-it-safe route is, generally, disappointing. It’s the kind of thing that leads to Star Trek Into Darkness’recreation of the beloved Khan storyline from the original Star Trekmovies without updating it for the modern era in any thematic or, perhaps more disappointingly, character-driven way.
The iconic hand-against-glass scene in The Wrath of Khanthat has Spock sacrificing himself for Kirk (and the rest of the Enterprise crew) was so moving because it was built on three seasons of building up these characters and their relationship. It wasn’t (heavily) relying on the nostalgia of the audience as was the case with the mirrored scene in Star Trek Into Darkness, and as is the case with many movie and TV franchise continuations that “play it safe.”
In the context of both recent Star Trekhistory and the larger adaptation-heavy pop culture moment, the teaser’s emphasis on the word “new” is like a call to arms for what this new Star Trekseries could and should be.
The necessary novelty of new characters, worlds, and villains.
Lucky for us, Bryan Fuller — the showrunner who will be helming the new Star TrekTV series — has never been one for playing it safe. Perhaps best known for his recent HannibalTV adaptation, Fuller knows how to play in other people’s storytelling sandboxes in innovative ways that maintain the familiarity of the world, while creating something new — and, often, better. When speaking about the art of the adaptation at last year’s ATX Television Festival, Fuller said:
I think that there is such a glut of reboots and reimaginings, but, when they’re good, they’re good and I don’t care. I understand the sentimentality. And I understand, ‘Oh, it’s familiar, but they’re doing something different.’ And that’s kind of the best of both worlds because it’s like a gateway drug into a whole new story.
After working on a show for three years, that is an application of my skillset — interpreting someone else’s world — I do yearn to go back to creating something that’s more signature to me. People don’t talk how I talk in Hannibal.It’s all very purple and inflated, and it’s fun to do, but it is a sense of mimicry that I think can be confining at times.
I realize the irony of arguing that the Star TrekTV series is a bastion of novelty when it is, by definition, a reboot of something that has come before, but I also think that Star Trekis a storytelling universe that has reinvention built into its very fabric. Between Fuller’s involvement and this new teaser trailer, more than ever, I trust the new Star Trekseries to boldy go where no Star Trekincarnation has gone before. And, in an era of reboots and adaptations, that would be a franchise example Hollywood could stand to embrace.
To find out more about the new Star Trek TV series, check out our news hub updated with everything we know about the upcoming series.