The problem with modern Star Trek.
Updated: Oct 6, 2020
I was fourteen when 24, the TV show staring Kiefer Sutherland first aired in Australia. The world had changed. The world trade centre towers had fallen. American patriotism surged. It helped a show like 24. Can the good guys Torture? Sure. Can they invade a foreign embassy? Of course.
There was a reason it had a real effect on American foreign policy. Because the people loved it.
24 hit me like a ton of bricks. I watched each episode, felt like I couldn’t breathe before the next. Every week I’d be ready. Sitting in front of the TV. Waiting for each episode to start. Knowing if I skipped one, it would take weeks to piece together what I’d missed.
Star Trek: Enterprise had been struggling. They seemed to take a que from 24’s book with the release of Season 3. A highly serialised season focused on the Xindi. I loved it. New episodes went to air at midnight. As a loyal Trekie, I waited up. Knowing the writing was on the wall for the cancellation about to come.
Enter Lost, a year later. Probably hit me harder than 24. Because deep down from the outset, I could tell it was science fiction. And I needed science fiction on TV. Lost ticked the boxes. Starting with only hints at its Sci-Fi undercurrents. Then heating right up, with episodes like ‘The constant.’ The entire time it maintained the highly serialised manner.
Time flies by, here we are in a post, Game of Thrones world. When I can’t help but draw a link between Game of Thrones, Westworld, 24, Lost and the demise of Star Trek.
Westworld may have flashes of greatness, but it’s been proven, highly serialised doesn’t work for Star Trek. And for half a century, Star Trek has been the best Science Fiction on TV. I can’t help thinking about ‘The inner light.’ One of, if not the greatest episode of Star Trek ever put to air. When I first watched it, as a teenager, still hooked on 24, I apricated it. I could feel it was special. It wasn’t until I watched it again as an adult that it properly hit home. I only realised as an adult, the episode was an epic.
But when Picard picked up the Ressikan flute in the next season, and Nella, the woman he is playing it too says: “That’s beautiful, what is it?” Picard responds slowly. “It’s, um, an old folk melody.” Recalling the entire second life he had lived in ‘The inner light’. Nella continues as if she wanted to fill the momentary silence. “I’ve never heard you play with such feeling.” The moment lingers on. Long enough for me to recall the entire second life Picard lived. Where he got married. Had children. Lost his wife. Had grandchildren.
It was a juxtaposition. Star Trek. Almost every episode stood alone. Yet in a moment like that, it called back to one of its best. A short moment, throwaway moment for most. But to me? It was serialisation perfected. Every episode covered its own story, but every episode added to the characters depth.
How could you cover the subjects The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager did any other way? In a ten-episode long season, they don’t have time for character episodes, where the lead lives a full life in twenty minutes. They don’t have time for thought-provoking episodes where a dying race sends out a probe to simply be remembered.
Everyone is looking for the next Game of Thrones. No one will ever find it in Star Trek.
So why are they trying? Give us the real Star Trek back. We want it.