Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Star Trek 2017: Five questions I still have

It’s been two weeks now since The Big News, when this is where my mind went in the first few hours …  while many fans went off, not on the potential show but on its potential delivery system.

But with all the immediate hand-wringing since by media types, pundits, and fans somehow armed with a Twitter account… there’s been absolutely no news on the content side of the equation. 

Which itself speaks volumes.

But it has been two weeks… and I still have a lot of unanswered questions.  Maybe the dust has settled enough for others to see this as well, but….

Here’s what I just want to know:

1)    How big is the show order? Eight, 10, 12, 18 episodes? As an expensive streaming show, how much investment and risk is CBS willing to stake, and for how far ahead a commitment? 
2)    Where they will shoot this for CBS Television Studio... in LA (at Paramount, a CBS studio, or elsewhere) … or out of town: Vancouver, Toronto, who knows? I ask purely for selfish and convenience reasons...as well as for that great pool of experienced Trek talent from all areas of production who would easily and seamlessly help jump-start a new production--no matter who was in charge or their best "same but different" vision. And who of course could use a job. 
3)    Is the "CBS preview" an hour-long promotional preview with interviews and demo features, or the actual pilot episode? 
4)    Is Alex Kurtzman to be an actual hands-on showrunner, or a Dick Wolf “nameplate” type who picks a showrunner and then moves on, leaving all in the hireling’s hands? And, if so, who IS that “real” showrunner to be, and then who else will be in on the format development of characters and setting? The actual CBS press release was not shy about admitting that writers have been interviewed—but did not to specify if they were actual show runners, or pilot writers, much less who had been hired. Obviously, no one, as of then—or even now: that hire and clarification will surely be a news-making moment. 
5)    And ultimately, of course, the big le-matya: The timeline choice between Prime and alt-JJ as the setting.

And that last brings up a couple angles in this tale you may not yet have considered:

It struck me, after the CBS-Bad Robot tug-of-war over the legacy fate of all things Prime, that CBS has that vested interest $$wise in building on the existing library and its spin-off products. By 2015, surely it is hardly Trekkie mumbo-jumbo to the network brass to understand this, and to push for hiring creatives who can easily design and tell stories in “canon” and still feel unencumbered and unchained in their storytelling/visualizing. (#primeisnotscary #primeisnothard )

Of course, many may be confusing the potential apples and oranges of this  “JJverse” vs “prime” question: there's also the visual canon versus the timeline canon—and then, the mistake of equating either choice as simply the 1980s and the 2010s. They aren’t, of course: a “modern Bad Robot” quality can be both indulged and intelligently applied to a pre-TNG setting or a post-TNG setting in Prime as well as alt-verse…if the right drivers are given the keys. Don't assume that a "Prime" show means it has to look like 1987 production technology, or even 1995. 

My own preference? Many of you know I've said it time and again for years, both in podcast interviews and live at cons--since the end of Enterprise: Prime, of course, since that's the franchise strength of 730+ hours... And in the "B/C" era, midway Kirk/Picard. It's the most open and most intriguing...and still plenty latitude for nervous nellies worried about "canon freak." The Tomed Invident? Cardassian first contact? Perhaps Bajoran and Breen, too? Evolving Klingon detente, and the Romuksns "silent" reaction against them? But only as touchstones--still lots of open spacescape to explore, both literally and figuratively.

Which leads to another reality that’s been overlooked here: Of all the potential showrunners we might like to see, with or without Trek credits already… how many of them are not tied up by contract to another studio and are even free and clear to navigate to CBS's Trek?

Seen in that light, this business-driven renaissance that had Kurtzman in the first press release might have been more about having his name and friendly CBS-based deal involved than his recent film experience—an experience he had already chosen to end for the third movie, even before former partner Bob Orci was taken off the project.

Yes, it will all come out in the wash—sooner than later, actually, in these next 15 months.  So many, many questions still unanswered—and maybe a few assumptions to be second-guessed as well.


Dr. David Williams said...

There is both great opportunity and great peril with the development of the new Star Trek TV series for CBS All Access. Peril if they go the wrong way, developing a show that is not consistent with TV Trek's positive vision of the future while examining current societal problems with growing, developing characters. But the opportunity is just as great! I'd like to see a show in the Prime universe, set some time after the TNG-DS9-VOY-ST:Nemesis era, ~25-75 years. The Federation has grown vast and bloated, and it's peoples have turned inward and cynical. Suddenly some event occurs, could be environmental (supernova or other space disaster) and/or artificial (i.e., caused by a new malevolent intelligence). The Federation realizes it must rise to the challenge of living in a dangerous galaxy, so Starfleet charters a new USS Enterprise, w/a diverse crew of humans and aliens, to both regain the spirit of exploration and confront the challenges of the new threat.

Darrell said...

I agree with the comments by Dr. David Williams except for one point. I don't want "one new threat". Exploration itself has many diverse dangers. I want a new ship, new diverse crew - not just diverse in race, but character. All new. Open-ended. Starting 25-75 after TNG makes writers free to generate new canon. I don't even want references to past crews or fan service.

And don't try to make Trek more like something else, or follow trends. Just get back to making good Trek in GR's vision. Everything else will follow.