Wednesday, March 04, 2015

How to save Star Trek

Todd VanDerWerff argues How to save Star Trek: Make it the True Detective of science fiction. That is, he wants to use True Detective's format, anthological miniseries.

Hannibal and Pushing Daisies creator Bryan Fuller (a Trek alum), for instance, would love to make a Trek series with Angela Bassett as captain of a starship. With the anthological miniseries format, both Fuller and Bassett could squeeze a 10-episode season into their busy schedules.

Or think of what Battlestar Galactica's Ron Moore (who worked on many Trek series before BSG) could do by returning to the universe that gave him his big break in television, with everything he's learned since. Wouldn't you kill to see him reunite with the Next Generation cast for one last big adventure?

The wickedly sly and funny Jane Espenson, who's written for everything from Buffy to Once Upon a Time, also worked on Trek. Give her a dream cast and the budget to make a series of adventures featuring that cast, and I'd bet you'd see something amazing, and possibly more comedic than Trek usually gets.

Or just return to the roots of the anthology drama itself, to shows like The Twilight Zone, where the premise and characters changed not with every season, but with every episode.

Have one showrunner (Moore, perhaps?) gather a bunch of their favorite writers to come up with one killer Star Trek episode each. Hell, maybe even bring back William Shatner for one of these episodes, as a sort of "Captain Kirk in repose" hour. (Yeah, the series sorta turned to that idea in Star Trek: Generations, but it's still a potent one.) Just 13 singleton episodes of Trek, featuring all-star writers and actors. You don't think Netflix would put up the money for that?

I'd certainly watch this. Though part of the joy of various Treks was getting invested in the characters over time. You're not going to create a character as beloved as Picard in just 10 episodes, but reusing some cast in multiple seasons would be solve that.


Karl said...

This could be really good. But it is a large departure from typical writing. Certainly TV episodes and even many movie scripts are typically left open ended to allow for extensions and sequels. I suspect there are only a handful of writers who could actually construct a satisfying ending. Shorter stories might help. It leaves less opportunity to wander in the story telling. I would say 3-4 episodes is probably ideal length to keep the focus of the characters as pieces of the story rather than them becoming friend who you want to know all about.

But I think the bigger problem that Trek faces in this context is the cannon fanatics who demand utter consistency. You can also trace the impact of the major events in each series across the entire federation. The time line is running out of places to put things, and telling stories about insignificant events (to the degree that they do not change the established cannon) may seem un Trek-like. Additionally, with bits of story from different writers, set all over the Trek universe I think it would be very hard to keep everything cleanly aligned.

Howard said...

I don't think either is too bad. British TV has long done shorter (3-10 episode) series (aka seasons) and often don't know if they're coming back so a story ends but e.g. the characters don't die so are reusable. Since cable TV boom, more US series are doing this. It turns out it's way harder to write 22 open-ended episodes per season with no end. Now it's more common for network shows to put a break in the middle and do two short 11 episode runs with a mid-season cliffhanger.

I'd guess that it would be harder to keep having to cast for anthology, but it gives you more access to movie actors who can't necessarily commit to an open-ended show or even a 22 episode run.

As for the canon thing, sure there are fans who will never be satisfied, but this is Star Trek. There's a whole universe and a long time line to play with. TNG did great with moving out 100 years and making Klingons friends. No reason a new series couldn't go another 100 years out. DS9 provided a fixed location can work. I'm not sure Voyager proved anything, but they did go to the other side of the galaxy and throw away access to all the known races. I'm sure they can come up with something. If not, then they shouldn't be writing TV.