Bryan Fuller announced details regarding Star Trek: Discovery, the upcoming series that will reintroduce the franchise to a new audience. Among other things, he promised that there will be a roster with an LGBTQ character, a woman lead, and more aliens. Needless to say, that piqued my interest.
And then, he killed my enthusiasm when he revealed that it would be set 10 years before the TOS era. Ugh.
Yes, we get yet another Star Trek project situated in the past. Another prequel series like Star Trek: Enterprise. Even the film series set in the alternate reality uses nostalgia by utilizing the same TOS characters. They just update the look and technology by 21st century imagination as opposed to that of the 1960s.
The beauty of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Deep Space 9, and Voyager was the fact that they carried the franchise into newer territory. Their story-lines had an impact that would carry over to all the other projects. TNG introduced the Cardassian Empire and the Borg, enemies who would crossover into DS9 and Voyager, respectively. DS9, whose captain was impacted by TNG’s Borg, introduced us to the Gamma Quadrant (in particular, the Dominion Empire), spirituality, and race in a way that hadn’t been explored before. Voyager, which spread from the Marquis thread from DS9, brought us into the literally unexplored Delta Quadrant region and a woman captain. These were NEW ideas in a progressive linear narrative.
Part of the reason why Enterprise failed is because while they introduced some new elements, the dramatic stakes were far lower. It took place before the inevitable founding of the Federation. Nothing dramatic could’ve happened to change the stakes of the universe, because it had already taken place in the future. At best, it’s just a history lesson that wasn’t taught or even referenced in the other series. As such, there can’t be a Dominion or Borg like threat that could fundamentally shift the universe in a new way. Even the damn time travelling aliens couldn’t affect the universe in any meaningful way that could carry on in the future.
Even Star Trek introduced a new element that could have been used for another series in the Prime Universe: the destruction of the Romulan Empire. That could’ve driven all types of new story lines involving the chaos set by their destruction, a potential rise of the Klingon Empire, the Borg or Dominion evolving to new heights, or even a new threat within the region altogether.
Even more so, Star Trek: Discovery could have introduced us to exploring other galaxies or universes! An extragalactic threat that wants to conquer all the quadrants, thus forcing them to put aside their differences and unite against them? Sign me up! We’ve seen parallel universes before in TOS, TNG, and DS9. However, it would’ve really been intriguing to introduce them in a way that would dictate the very series. An alternate Federation invading the Prime Universe would’ve been so dope! A conflict between the Borg and the Dominion would’ve been awesome as well!
But we’re not going to get any the above with Discovery at all. Instead, they’ll introduce new aliens that won’t make an impact in the future or show a behind-the-scenes on how we first encountered some alien species that wasn’t shown before. They’ll offer us backstory as to why the Klingons and Federation are at war even though we know they’ll be allies within a century of those events. At best, Discovery’s dramatic stakes would be the death of some character specific to that show.
Star Trek needs to stop staying in its relative past. It doesn’t work to do a prequel series in the Prime Universe. I don’t care if the show has a queer woman of color lead simply because there will be no new frontier to explore. Star Trek is about going forward: not regressing backwards.