I’m not normally the guy to advocate this. After Enterprise, I was convinced Star Trek needed a 10 year break. But JJ Abrams’ spectacular film reboot of the franchise, combined with stories like this, make me think otherwise.
We need a new Star Trek TV series before the next film.
The fact that reboots that I felt worked or even worked ok if you built on them, like Superman Returns or Edward Norton’s Incredible Hulk, are being shelved is cause for great concern mostly because the drive to continue them is so tenuous.
I think about Spiderman, which has given us in the course of about 6 years a grand total of 6 hours of film. Now Spiderman doesn’t need a movie franchise to continue the story, to enrich it. Spiderman came from comics. As did Superman and Hulk. The movie reboots or adaptations can fail, but the source of the discovery of the material moves on unaffected.
Not so with Star Trek. It was born on TV. While the movies proved to be the foundation for returning to TV, the fact of the matter is Star Trek is too grand a franchise and a sci fi mythos to now be relegated to 2 hours every 3 years.
To be clear I am not proposing a full season of episodes. But the next Trek movie will probably hit screens in late 2011. Is it such a bad idea to have NBC broadcast a mini Trek season? Perhaps 13 episodes? These characters have arcs far more deep and sustaining than to have this group of actors come together maybe 4 times in one decade before they all want to do something else. I don’t think it’s hard to put together a storyline that builds their arcs before the next movie. I spent the last 45 minutes slapping together an outline of what I think would actually be pretty successful if the execution was right.
Here’s an outline for seven or so 45 minute episodes (half a 13 episode season!) that could bridge the gap between the Star Trek movies. If it works, great, you now have a model to chain TV shows between movies and make money. If it doesn’t work, you can always use any success the second movie has to sell DVD’s of the TV season.
Star Trek: Series 1
Episode 1: “Balancing Power”
Summary: The Enterprise escorts Admiral Pike to a military summit with the Romulans to work out the continuing fallout from Nero’s actions. A minority of Starfleet’s leadership does not believe Nero acted alone. Complicating matters is the fact Nero transmitted much about the Prime universe timeline to the new timeline Romulan high command before his death, in an effort to help protect the empire should his mission to destroy the Federation fail. Events come to a head when the Enterprise is attacked by a rogue Subcommander who believes that with Vulcan destroyed, the Federation is at its weakest now that they have lost their key scientific brain trust. Thanks to Spock’s science officer ability to work out weaknesses in battling a cloaked vessel for the first time, and Scotty’s ability to modify ship technology on the fly, Kirk safely gets Pike to the Summit, where a contentious but joint agreement to study creating Red Matter to prevent the coming supernova is worked out. However, the Subcommander and his ship escape. The tension and goal are meant to evoke the first TOS episode Balance of Power.
Crew Subtext: In the film, Spock had to work to understand the value of Kirk’s intuition. In this episode, bristling under the presence of Admiral Pike, Kirk must learn to value Spock’s logic and intellect despite his instincts, and use both to enable his crew and Scotty to succeed.
Episode 2: “Legitimacy”
Summary: Fallout from the Nero incident continues as Starfleet, facing questions as to its awarding a young cadet command of the Federation Flagship, assigns an auditor to the Enterprise to observe the young Captain’s ability to command. The auditor is skeptical and questions many of the decisions made during Kirk’s initial command during the film. The Enterprise is assigned the task of helping protect convoys of Vulcan refugee’s as they resettle to the new colony world. During this assignment, the rogue Subcommander from the previous episode reappears, and the auditor witnesses Kirk in action, leveraging all of his crew as a captain to succeed. Particularly, a key conversation between Spock and Kirk, mediated and prodded by Bones, gives the insight needed to finally destroy the Subcommander’s ship. The Auditor’s skepticism is satisfied, but stays on the ship for the next several episodes.
Crew Subtext: After Pike’s visit, which Kirk felt stifled due to his respect for Pike, the auditor represents a chance to prove himself. He proactively seeks out Spock’s advice, building on the lessons from the earlier episode, but Bones emerges as the binding force for the two, providing both with the catalyst for insight present in the original series.
Episode 3: “She’ll Always Bring You Home”
Summary: The Enterprise has completed its forced shakedown, and now must return to Star dock at Earth for refit and tweaking. While the crew departs for various Earth side shore leave, Scotty is alone with his ship for the first time. In this episode we explore the empty ship from Scotty’s viewpoint, and get a good grounding for the various capabilities that will be used in future adventures. A rattle in engineering has Mr. Scott bothered. And we learn from flashbacks and asides with the refit crew both Mr. Scott’s passion for his ship, as well as his engineering capabilities as he discovers what is causing the vibration and realizes in no small way that the Enterprise is as much a member of the crew as anyone.
Crew Subtext: This is the episode that both the back story of Scotty and his expertise is revealed, as well as the foundation for the Enterprise being a member of the crew as much as Scotty’s protective attitude towards her. It’s the very seeds of his disdain for future technology like he had in the Prime universe for the Excelsior.
Episode 4: “McCoy, Leonard H. Son of David.”
Summary: While the Enterprise is in refit, McCoy returns to his family home in Kentucky, where is father is gravely ill. Bitter at his son’s divorce when he remained married to his wife for 60 years, McCoy’s father is hateful for his son’s choice to join the militaristic Starfleet. Despite McCoy’s success, he chastises him. McCoy laments that their loving relationship ended with the divorce, but an interesting local medical challenge temporarily unites the two. Showcasing sci fi medical techniques, the two work together to advance medicine. Though they work together to solve the problem, and the elder McCoy grows to see his son through new eyes, the elder’s health decreases and his pain increases, leading him to plead with his son to end his life and let him go. McCoy, unlike Prime McCoy, cannot bring himself to be the individual who actually ends his father’s life, now that his once estranged father has re-instilled his pride in his own choices. In pain, the elder McCoy asks his doctors to end his life and they do. Anguished, McCoy contacts Kirk, who helps McCoy deal with the death of his father through the lens of his own dealings with George Kirk’s death. “Better to miss a father you knew, than to imagine a father and never know if you are right” Kirk says. The discussion evolves into the personal choice euthanasia represents, but overall the fact that there was a choice.
Crew Subtext: McCoy deepens as an individual character outside the lens of Kirk and Spock. And we see both his southern heritage that was part of the Prime character as well as deeply understand his commitment to his profession. At the end, this is the McCoy we can see glibly telling Khan to be sure to cut his carotid artery during the “Space Seed” episode.
Episode 5: “Three Vignettes”
Summary: While the Enterprise is in refit, Uhura, Sulu, and Chekov head down to Earth for Shore Leave.
Uhura: At home in Africa, Uhura reunites with a domineering ex-fiancé. While clearly denoting her existing relationship with Spock, she is drawn to the magnetism and history the two have had together as the fiancé promises to amend his ways. Events come to a head where he forces her to make a choice between a kinder gentler him, but only if she gives up Starfleet. Incensed that he would try to dominate her through such a choice, she is reminded of what she has achieved and denies the ex-fiancé
Chekov: Chekov returns home to Russia just at the right moment his older sister is set to be wed. He is the first most successful member of the family, being a whiz kid, and is assigned all the tasks of an official wedding coordinator. Things quickly go awry as we realize more quickly than the family does that a physics and math whiz kid might not be the best person to coordinate the delicate family politics of a large scale Russian wedding. All is forgiven however when Chekov realizes his best contribution: officiating the wedding.
Sulu: Having no living family, Sulu returns to San Francisco to stay with friends from his academy days. Having moved on, his friends are now anti-Starfleet, viewing it as a military organization bent on changing the culture of other worlds. in dealing with his friends rejection of his primary mission he visits the Starfleet Academy training center and undergoes several military simulations. Just at the point he is starting to despair that his friends are right, he discovers that each military simulation has an underlying humanitarian mission (a la Kobayashi Maru) He ends the episode deciding to repeatedly try the Kobayashi Maru mission.
Crew Subtext: Each Vignette has a different one, with Uhura its her strength and success that is due to herself, not someone else or some other role. With Chekov it is the humor and joy of his youth and intellect, punctuated by the end where he realizes his role is best kept to uniting people not driving them. Lastly, Sulu’s story reinforces his underlying ability to one day command. That he believes deeply in Star Fleet and its role. This is the foundation for thinking of Sulu as one day being “Captain Sulu”.
Episode 6: “Be Careful. *We* Will.”
Summary: Kirk, Spock, and McCoy return to the Enterprise ahead of the crew. While Scotty appears to be obsessed with a hull vibration, the three share their stories of being away over dinner and drinks.
Kirk details his intensive new training on romulan combat maneuvers. His segment is detailed with new starship tricks and space combat flashbacks. Flashy special effects fun.
Spock notes his journey visiting his mothers home place and partaking in their funeral/celebration of his mothers life via flashbacks which show the impact her death has on the character.
In the end they ask McCoy his time on Earth. Kirk notes that McCoy lost his father and asks if he’s ok. McCoy takes a moment and says simply “hell of a time to ask” When Kirk looks taken aback McCoy smiles and laughs. “I’m not sure how I got here,” he says, “I just know I’m looking at a green blooded hobgoblin and the only cadet who’s ever beat the no win scenario and I can’t imagine any other place I would rather be.” He chokes up for a second and raises his drink and says “Cheers, god dammit”
Mr. Scott interrupts to detail his findings on the health of the ship after refit, and the notification that all crew are due to be back on board within 24 hours. Kirk ends the dinner with “Mr. Scott, the crew are due to be back home. Not on board. Let’s note that moving forward.”
Crew Subtext: while the threads of the show have taken a detour to the other crew, in the end the triumvirate of Kirk and Spock and McCoy are paramount. This episode is meant to solidify their camaraderie. Lastly its meant to show the Enterprise is their home, not just their ship.
Episode 7: “The Seven Year Itch.”
Summary: Our good friend Cyrano Jones is back, along with the Auditor. This time instead of trafficking in Tribbles, Cyrano Jones is peddling a new serum that allows Vulcans to mate with Ponn Farr anytime they want, as opposed to 7 years. Given the longevity of the Vulcan race and their slow mating cycle, a race down to 10,000 members needs help to breed. This episode is told in flashbacks done during interviews with the auditor and Kirk in Kirk’s (cramped) ready room. We learn that the Enterprise is summoned to the Vulcan colony established by Spock Prime due to the threat of both Romulan attack (since the Vulcans have almost united in their small pool to give the federation a scientific advantage) and hucksters like Cyrano Jones. Cyrano, a bit before his tribble days, claims to just be peddling happiness like the tribbles. But it takes Spock to find out that the breeding serum, which appears to work a third of the time on Vulcans, it 100% illuminates Romulan infiltrators to the colony. While Jones tries to explain his serum had a net benefit, he is forced to stay on Vulcan helping those to whom his serum didn’t work.
Crew subtext: This is an opportunity to both mix humor with the dark reality of being a member of a long lived species being endangered. This episode could be considered Amok Time meets Trouble with Tribbles. By telling the story as Kirk explaining the delicacies of the situation to the auditor it ends the auditor story line with a line of humor and competency on Kirk’s part. A sequence with Spock explaining breeding patterns to Kirk instead of a fight is enhanced by McCoy trying to describe a battle between two jealous lovers a la Amok Time and Kirk dismissing a scenario as “impossible”. Lastly, there is the underlying exploration of a civilization forced to realize it must force breed to survive.
More than half a season outlined and ready to hand off to a writer or team of. If I can do that in under an hour, I bet someone else could do it 10 times better and more professionally. ‘Course, the above might all be crap, but my point is more that leaving it lie for just movies means that come the third movie the cast, etc start to drift or some suit nukes the whole thing over a bottom line item.
Star Trek is too grand for that.
Here’s hoping at least.