This article contains minor spoilers for The Clone Wars season 7, Star Trek: Picard Season 1, and Star Trek: Discovery Season 2.
The final frontier and the galaxy far, far away are different in one specific way: The latter is about war and the former is, ostensibly, about peace. Long, drawn-out war arcs in the fictional universe of Star Trek are rare precisely because they are (theoretically) antithetical to what Star Trek is about. And yet, here I am, arguing for something exactly like that. Star Trek needs its own version of The Clone Wars from the Star Wars universe. This has less to do with a desire to see a never ending space battle and more to do with the fact that, like Star Wars, Trek canon has several unexplored periods of time where a lot was happening, but very little of it was chronicled.
Ever since Luke Skywalker asked “You fought in the Clone Wars?” to Obi-Wan Kenobi, fans have wanted to see what Luke was talking about. It took awhile, but by the time we got The Clone Wars, the ongoing nature of it occasionally had a Trek–ish feel. Watch the first three minutes of “Overlords,” when Ahsoka, Anakin, and Obi-Wan first land on Mortis, and tell me it doesn’t feel like a Star Trek episode. The point is, it seems like the Star Trek franchise has an opportunity to pull a Clone Wars. But when in the timeline should a hypothetical animated Clone Wars-style Star Trek series happen? Here are some options…
The Dominion War
The sprawling Star Trek timeline has more than enough gaps — and huge unexplored conflicts — in which an entire animated series could be set. Deep Space Nine doing several seasons devoted to the Dominion War was a big deal at the time, but in reality, we only really saw the Dominion War from the perspective of the DS9 crew. An animated series set during the Dominion War, which revealed what the The Next Generation crew was doing could be really interesting. A few tie-in novels covered this a little bit in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, including a book about the Battle of Betazed from the perspective of Deanna Troi. None of these books are official canon, but just like the canon Clone Wars had a bunch of non-canon material to draw from, a Dominion War series that wasn’t exclusively focused on DS9 would also have plenty of material to mine. And, if you did an animated Dominion War show, original actors from the TNG, DS9, and Voyager eras could totally still do the voices.
The Klingon War
Okay, so maybe you don’t want to do the Dominion War, since we already got a lot of it on screen during DS9. So, what’s a Star Trek war that we saw a piece of, but was only briefly depicted?
One obvious candidate is the Klingon War in Star Trek: Discovery. In Season 1 the USS Discovery misses about nine months of the war when the ship is jumped into the Mirror Universe by Captain Lorca. An animated limited series could fill in the gaps: What happened to Starfleet during that time? Was a young Lt. Kirk seeing some action, possibly on the USS Farragut? In “Errand of Mercy,” Kirk tells the Organians that he’s “seen” what Klingons do to peaceful planets. If we do the math, this means Kirk can only be talking about seeing action during the Klingon War in the Discovery era, meaning an animated series set during the Klingon War in the Discovery timeline could reveal exactly what he was talking about.
A Klingon War series could reconcile all sorts of canon issues fans have been scratching their heads about since 2017, such as: What’s up with the new kinds of Klingons? What happened to the human-ish “Augment” Klingons from Enterprise and TOS? Was Kor around for the Klingon War, since the House of Kor was mentioned so prominently? Yes, in theory Strange New Worlds could do that too, but it (likely) won’t be set during the actual period of the Klingon War, mostly because the Enterprise wasn’t around for that. Some Klingon stuff was touched on in the various pseudo-canon comic book series The Light of Kahless and Star Trek: Discovery: Aftermath, but neither of those miniseries actually happen during the war.
The (First) Romulan War
Okay, let’s say we don’t want to stick too closely to legacy characters. What if Star Trek gave us a piece of history we’ve never seen at all? Sometime right after the events of Enterprise, the Romulan War happened from roughly 2156-2160. This is the war referenced by Styles and Spock in the TOS episode “Balance of Terror,” but, as of now, only depicted in tie-novels set in the Enterprise timeframe.
The Romulan War was also the subject of a feature film that was never made, tentatively called Star Trek: The Beginning. That movie would have focused on the exploits of James T. Kirk’s ancestor, a Starfleet officer named Tiberius Chase. The script was written in 2006 by Erik Jendresen, then famous for his success on Band of Brothers, but was eventually abandoned in favor of the J.J. Abrams reboot movies. It seems reasonable that a ton of material from this script could be repurposed for an animated series set during the Romulan War.
In terms of onscreen canon, our only other hint about people who served in Starfleet during the Romulan War comes from Star Trek Beyond, specifically Captain Balthazar Edison (Idris Elba) who fought in those wars. If you did a Romulan War animated show, Edison could team up with an ancestor of Kirk .
And there’s another reason why the Romulan War idea is appealing: Star Trek: Picard created a ton of new canon related to the Romulan culture, which means there’s more to explore on the Romulan side of things if you did an entire series. Doing a series that explores the history of Romulans also means you could dive into some information about Vulcans. In The Original Series, it was apparently not common knowledge that the Romulans were offshoots of the Vulcan species. But, surely, some Vulcans in the 2150s and 2160s were aware of this, right? Why didn’t they tell Starfleet? Or, more interestingly, what if they did? At the end of Discovery season 2, we learned that Spock himself was involved in a cover-up to totally classify all events related to the USS Discovery. This quickly “fixed” any of the canon problems with season 1 and 2 of the series, relative to The Original Series, or anything else. There’s no reason to think this kind of thing couldn’t be used again, but, perhaps, a little more effectively. TOS tells us that nobody knew what the Romulans looked like prior to “Balance of Terror,” but that’s obviously not true.
The Biggest Gap In All of Star Trek History: The Monster Maroon Era
The largest period of unexplored time in the Star Trek onscreen canon is easily the time after the classic films and before The Next Generation. In terms of years this would be everything after 2293 (The Undiscovered Country and the prologue of Generations) and before 2364 (the start of The Next Generation.) To be clear, this is a seven decade gap, and somewhat remarkably, at least according to flashbacks, Starfleet kept the same uniform design in rotation for nearly that entire period of time, or at least up until 2349. That’s why I’m calling this the Monster Maroon Era — those maroon uniforms introduced in The Wrath of Khan, and all through the original series movies, were, according to several TNG flashbacks still in rotation when Picard and company were in their younger days.
From a purely aesthetic design standpoint, this era would have a lot going for it: It would feel retro automatically, but would also carry the novelty of showing us a huge part of Starfleet’s history that arguably, led into the most popular era of all time: the late 24th century canon of TNG, Voyager and DS9. During these seven decades, Picard is in command of the USS Stargazer, the Cardassians have begun their occupation of Bajor, and nearly all of the older characters you know and love from the ‘90s Trek series were either in Starfleet Academy, or, in their early days. If you set the series in the 2320s, you could do a Starfleet Academy show that featured a young Picard. If you set it a little later, you could see what Ben Sisko was up to as a younger officer. If you decided to avoid Starfleet all together you could actually depict Kira and Ro as young girls, fighting for freedom against the Cardassians.
Bottomline, this era has a lot of potential, mostly because it’s actually like several different eras. When you consider how much focus there is on what happened right before and after The Original Series, its actually curious that there’s never been a TV series about the gap in-between TOS and The Next Generation. If done correctly, this could be a little like what The Mandalorian is to Star Wars; a familiar time period in which a ton of cool stories could be developed.
The (Animated) Future of The Final Frontier
Like The Clone Wars, any of these concepts has the potential to fill in certain gaps that fans love thinking about. These kinds of spaces might not make sense for a full-blown live-action show, but as The Clone Wars demonstrated, you can get away with some in-the-weeds canon explanations in an animated series and nobody seems to mind. Right now, in theory, we have an animated Star Trek project that will fill-in a missing period of time; the animated series Lower Decks is set just after Nemesis but before the events of Star Trek: Picard. This is exciting.
And yet, Lower Decks is billed as a comedy. This is cool, but if Star Trek wanted to capture the epic scope of The Clone Wars, the tone of this hypothetical series probably wouldn’t be comedic. The reason why a Clone Wars–style Star Trek series could be so interesting isn’t just because of all the known things it could explore, but instead, the characters and situations we never ever imagined. In the end The Clone Wars, wasn’t really about Anakin Skywalker or Obi-Wan Kenobi. So, if Star Trek went this route, a Klingon War, Dominion War or Romulan War series might not be about what we think it’s about either. If we got lucky, a series like this could make us fall in love with all new characters, making their way through a time in the galaxy where everything seems to be exploding.