2020 has turned out to be a surprisingly good year for the subset of nerds who call themselves (er, ourselves) Trekkies (or Trekkers, if you prefer). Star Trek has an unprecedented *three* current TV series right now!! Back in the ’90s we were lucky have two concurrent shows for a while (Deep Space Nine‘s run from 1993-1999 overlapped first with The Next Generation, and then with Voyager). But after Enterprise‘s run ended in 2005, we had… nothing.
Next up was J.J. Abrams’ reboot, ‘Kelvin timeline’ movies, but movies aren’t TV series and let’s be honest, 21st century Trek fans are all about the binge-watching. With so much Trek back catalog, how could we not be?
Then in 2017 (twelve *years* after the last Trek series – a true miracle, honestly) we got Star Trek: Discovery!
Discovery brings a meaty mix of modern tv storytelling (the classic Treks, like most series of its time, followed a largely episodic, ‘alien-of-the-week’ format, while Discovery has a greater focus on larger, over-arching stories) and a good dose of Trekkish campiness (the ship’s drive is powered by mushrooms, y’all! Because why the heck not?)
Discovery has not been uncontroverisal to long-time Trek fans, and (like every new series from The next Generation onward) has faced criticism of being “not real Trek”, (which, as best as I can tell, really means it doesn’t give viewers the same sense of nostalgia of watching the original series – or the 80s/90s series – and remembering the first time they watched it sitting in their childhood basement in their pyjamas). And listen, I get that the nostalgia is strong! Deep Space Nine and Voyager make up the regular background noise in my home, after all. But it’s also an impossible standard to hold new shows to, and we’d all find a lot more joy in life if we could let go of it.
In any case, Discovery has been successful despite the naysayers, and alongside J.J. Abrams alt-reboot, we can see a whole new generation of Trekkies being born – what great news!
Better yet, the success of Discovery has been a catalyst for CBS to green-light not one, not two, but three new Trek series, plus “at least” two more forthcoming.
This. Is. Huge.
And I’m particularly pleased about the range of new series – there seems to be something for everyone (er, everyone outside of the contingent that seems determined to hate all new Trek incarnations – bless their sad little hearts).
Short Treks started airing between the first two seasons of Discovery, and provided several stand-alone stories adding to the lore and backstories of Discovery and its crew. The second set of Short Treks serves as a teaser and primer for the new Star Trek: Picard . Overall, these short episodes are a pretty good place to start if you want to dip your toes in the waters of contemporary Trek.
Ok, although Picard is not yet available at VPL, it is probably the reason I really wanted to write this post. This is the series that truly brought out the fannish squees in me. The Next Generation was my main Trek jam as a kid, Picard is my captain, and the fact that Patrick Stewart said he only agreed to reprise the role because of how taken he was with the story? My anticipation was off the charts!
Picard, like Discovery, follows the modern tv format of long-form storytelling, but the ethical quandary it explores (does synthetic life deserve the same rights as biological life, even if it’s existence may be a threat to all biological) is very classic Trek.
It’s an action-packed show, and some people were turned off by this, (and by the single occurrence of the f-word), but these aspects are well-balanced against a great deal of nostalgic fan-service as Picard’s adventure brings him back in touch with characters from The Next Generation (Riker and Troi) and other beloved (or be-hated) Trek characters (7 of 9!), and as the writers found a way to bring Brent Spiner into the show despite the past death of his major character Commander Data.
Star Trek: Lower Decks
Finally, this year has brought us Star Trek: Lower Decks! It’s a new animated series, following characters in the ‘lower decks’ of a galaxy-class starship. It’s a cute premise, taking the focus off the command officers and putting it onto the everyday plebes keeping the ship running on a day-to-day basis, and the show has a wackiness lever never-before-seen in Trek, along with wall-to-wall references to the previous series.
As I write this post, the first season is currently airing on CBS All Access, so it isn’t available on DVD (or digitally) through the library yet, either.
All this, and even more yet to come! My sources at Wikipedia suggest that there are at least two additional Trek series in the works: an animated series subtitles Prodigy, and a new live-action prequel to the original series called Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, which a promises a return to the episodic format of the earlier series, under the direction of none other than Jonathan Frakes (a.k.a. Commander William Riker)! Will the squees never cease?