With the announcement that Star Trek: Discovery would see a delay in its release date until May of this year, one can’t help but think there has to be a reason behind the decision. After all, nothing stokes the fires of anticipation more than saying you can’t have something. Of course, this just fans the flames, leading devoted followers to furiously wonder what it is we can expect out of the latest incarnation of Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the future. In response to this fan reaction, here are a few possibilities of what we can expect come May.
8. Growing Pains
There’s always a bit of awkwardness in any new show when it tries to get off the ground. The various incarnations of Star Trek are no exception. How does this manifest, you may ask? Well, think way back to the earliest episodes of The Original Series (TOS). In those issues, we saw prototype versions of uniforms, the Enterprise had a little antennae and even Spock smiled once during the pilot episode.
Growing pains are when the actors are still struggling between what they believe is the correct interpretation of the character compared to what the audience wants to see. It also takes the form of improvements in props, scenery, wardrobe, and even little snippets of backstory that seem jarringly placed for future storyline development. Remember Tasha Yar’s description of her childhood in the first season of The Next Generation (TNG)? Yeah, we really never saw anything come of that, did we? It happens and Star Trek: Discovery will undoubtedly have its fair share of those out-of-place and unreconciled awkward moments as well.
The scuttlebutt on the new production is that the Klingons will figure prominently as traditional enemies of the Federation and the time frame is about ten years away from the time of Captain Kirk. Remember: The Original Series was a product of the Cold War era and the struggle that was the Cuban Missile Crisis was only a few years over by the time Star Trek hit the small screen. So the Klingons were a natural analog to the “Red Menace” that had so prominently settled itself into every dark corner of the United States.
In order to keep to the original flavour of the series (which is a given, considering the time frame), the writers of the new series will have to adopt this mentality. The question is: will they be able to do it? It takes someone who remembers what it was like to live in that era to be able to communicate that level of anxiety and paranoia. In the early 1960’s, school kids were taught that hiding under their desks would protect them in the event of a nuclear exchange. Fast forward to the 1980’s, kids were then taught the futility of that action, and while that was a more realistic expectation, it did nothing to reduce the anxiety.
The Klingon Empire is a metaphor for the polarized, political military perspective that was ever-present in Gene Roddenberry’s view of the future. Though it was a frightening prospect, the eventuality of war with the Klingons was real, considering the Federation’s war with the Romulans nearly a century before.
War will definitely be a theme in Discovery to expect.
Given that two of the casting announcements for Discovery were science officers, there will be a lot of emphasis on the science of the future, more so than other Star Trek series.
The irony of writing science into Star Trek: Discovery is that it has to be periodically matched with the very same era of the Original Series. So while it is still futuristic, it has to be the same flavour as the 1960’s viewpoint of what the 23rd century would look like.
That was the challenge for the writers of Star Trek: Enterprise, which was set about a century before TOS. Though it was far into our future, it still couldn’t look as advanced as the television series that had preceded STE by about forty years. Star Trek Discovery will have an advantage in that all it needs to do is emulate the technology used in the Original Series, probably pilot to first season. But if they need to extrapolate or re-imagine anything new, then they really need to talk to people like James Cawley or Vic Mignogna. Both of these guys wound up producing some of the most incredibly detailed fan-fiction series that strove to capture the most intimate details of Roddenberry’s Star Trek. They were even able to keep new elements within the milieu to a near microscopic level. If Discovery needs help on this front– that’s the talent pool that should be drawn from for their scientific and technological needs.
Predicting science in science-fiction is difficult. Trying to establish a continuum of fictional developing technology? That’s when expert help is imperative.
5. Historical Anxiety
Can you imagine the level of anxiety that must be felt by the writers who will need to fact-check every instance of alien appearance, technological development, characters and in fact, the complete political development of the Federation in respect to its galactic allies and enemies. If you weren’t good at history in school, then being a Star Trek writer for the new show is not your bag.
Being a history teacher, I can tell you it’s not just enough to memorize dates and facts, it’s also about understanding the motivations of the various agents at large in a historical context. What did they want? What forces were at play that prompted a series of historical cause-and-effect? There’s a lot to consider and it’s handy that the writers have resources like the Star Trek Encyclopedia written by scholars like Mike and Denise Okuda that effectively chart the 50 years of Trek that has been written. Resources like these are out there. With any luck, John Van Citters at CBS is on top of making these products available to Discovery’s writer’s room.
However, while writers are slave to accuracy, there’s nothing like the impending awareness that there is an entire legion of fact-checking fans out there watching intently for any hint of inaccuracy or anachronism. Brannon Braga, co-creator of Star Trek: Enterprise knew this pain all too well as he relates in a 2011 interview on Startrek.com.
“Also, there just are some real haters out there. There are some people who will go back and says, ‘Well, look at Braga’s work on TNG. If you really look at it that sucked, too.’ That’s when I feel like I just can’t win. There are just contingents of people who didn’t like the work I did on the shows. They also need to keep in mind that Rick Berman and Brannon Braga were not the only two people making Star Trek. There were hundreds of people involved with the shows, including other writers and producers.”
Still, there is a period in which the fans change their minds. They look back and because of the fact that it’s Star Trek, they are willing to forgive. Braga went through that period and by the time 2014 rolls around, he has a different mindset, as he recounts in a 2014 interview with the Las Vegas Sun.
“The fans are more forgiving. Enterprise, the last show, which I co-created with Rick Berman, was pretty much vilified at the time, and it’s astonishing to me how tender it’s being treated today. I think people wish Star Trek was back on the air, and they miss it. As do I.”
Braga’s experiences should be very much in the mind ofStar Trek: Discovery’s writer’s room.
4. Old Enemies
The Klingons are the original enemy for the Federation – and it’s a given that the Klingons will be back, particularly when three of the recent cast announcements were Klingons! But there’s bound to be more.
Michael Dorn’s performance as Worf changed our perspectives on the Klingon Empire. However Star Trek: TNG turned them into allies, but Discovery will probably show us more conflict, historical battles, and even diplomatic overtures in their history with the Federation at this time. It should prove to be very exciting.
Additionally, if Discovery is set some ten years prior to TOS, then the Romulan Empire should make some sort of clandestine, behind-the-scenes appearance. They showed up in Enterprise, though only the audience knew their identity. It’s completely within the reason to expect that some sort of Romulan espionage will occur.
Even though the Andorians are friends by this point, what’s to say there won’t be some “rogue element” within their government that resents inclusion into the Federation? After all, the Andorians are a warlike, martial species and it would also be highly entertaining to see them develop their place in the Federation as well.
3. New Species
Going along with the recent casting announcements, we’ve learned that there will still be new elements to Star Trek: Discovery. Hey, it’s a big universe out there and even though we already know the usual suspect, there isn’t a cap on the incredible diversity of species that Star Fleet will encounter, even in this franchise’s past.
Actor Doug Jones was also announced as a cast member of an unknown alien species, Science Officer Lieutenant Saru. Similar to Star Trek: Enterprise where we were treated to a new alien species – the Denobulans – whatever Saru’s race will be, it’s bound to be something striking that involves a lot of cosmetics. After all, Doug Jones’ history of performances are all heavily cosmeticized. Look no further than Hellboy or Pan’s Labyrinth to get a sense of what this guy is prepared to do in order to get into character.
2. Unresolved Issues From the Past – Star Trek Enterprise
An expected source of unresolved issues is clearly going to be Star Trek: Enterprise. After all, maintaining story continuity is going to coincide with ensuring the historical continuity. Unless the writers plan on frequently opening up rifts in the space-time continuum as regular plot devices, we can expect to see issues that were not fully explored prior to that series pop up in Discovery.
A good example could be the development of the Federation member races into one unified Star Fleet. Wouldn’t it be great to see how the Federation shuffles its various species around? Seeing the Vulcans actually contribute and share their technology fully instead of meting it out in grudging amounts… That would certainly be a premise worthy of Gene Roddenberry’s cooperative perspective of the future.
Personally, I’d like to see how the development of the Terran Empire would look in this show. Imagine another visit to the Mirror Universe? Always a fan-favourite.
But what about interactions with the other races we were introduced to in Star Trek: Enterprise, like the Suleban or the Xindi? The former made for great enemies and would certainly prove to be a challenging and entertaining threat. The latter became allies and with their diversity and technology, surely they would make interesting sources for story creation.
Perhaps the Temporal War could be re-visited or even relationships with the Klingons as the Federation engages with them pre-Organian peace treaty. The point is, there are a great deal of story lines that are either unresolved or could be continued in Star Trek: Discovery for the writers to have fun with.
1. Familiar Faces
I mentioned earlier the Klingons will undoubtedly appear, but what about those prominent characters who figured so importantly in defining the interactions with the Federation? What about Klingon Commanders like Kor or Kang? With their popularity, it’s a good bet that they might show up.
Of course, given that this show is within the primary characters’ lifespans, could we also expect a young Ensign Kirk or Lieutenant Spock?
Speaking of Vulcans, the most recent familiar face that is confirmed to appear will be none other than Mr. Spock’s father, Ambassador Sarek. James Frain, late of Orphan Black, Gotham and The Tudors, will play the well-known character. If Sarek is bound to make an appearance, should we also expect to see Captain Archer – or perhaps Admiral Archer from Star Trek: Enterprise? T’pol? There are so many possibilities to bring back familiar characters and actors.
These are just a few of the possible angles the Star Trek: Discovery writer’s room might broach. After all, with 50 years of history, there are so many opportunities for incredible story telling. There are encyclopedic references, seven different series and a veritable army of fans eager to see high-quality Star Trek take its expected place of honour on the small screen again. Until then, let’s look forward to what May will bring!