A new starship will boldly be going where no one has gone before. CBS Television Studios is developing a new Star Trek seres for January 2017. It will be launched in a manner similar to NBC’s “Aquarius.”
It’s unclear in which timeline the new show will be taking place: the original TV timeline shared by the original series, “Next Generation,” “Deep Space 9,” and “Voyager,” or the rebooted movie timeline of “Star Trek” and “Star Trek Into Darkness.” Intriguingly, the new show will not be tied to the new movies, but who knows what will happen.
The show’s production team and planned delivery give some reasons for worry and some for hope:
Only the premiere will actually air on television. Subsequent episodes will be released online. While this would seem like no big deal on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon streaming services that provide thousands of other TV shows, Star Trek will only appear on CBS All Access, an in-house streaming service featuring only CBS programming.
CBS television audience skews older. This demographic is still unproven when it comes to following shows online. Younger viewers, who watch streaming services more than they watch live TV, might not synch up with many other CBS properties. They might only subscribe for Star Trek, and feel resentful they’re being made to pay $5.99 a month for only one show.
Star Trek may also go out on other platforms, but it’s a tenuous expectation. There’s still time for this business model to change, especially if the premiere gets exceptionally-good ratings on live TV.
Alek Kurtzman will serve as executive producer on the show. Despite early successes, more recent shows like “Scorpion,” “Hawaii Five-0,” and “Limitless” have proven to be less conceptually brave.
Would CBS play it safe with a new “Star Trek,” the way they do many of their other shows, leaning on successful formulas rather than pushing the medium forward in risky ways? The network itself lacks a reliable stable of risk-taking producers and directors.
Alex Kurtzman will serve as executive producer on the show. He’s a member of a close-knit group of producers centered around director J.J. Abrams. Kurtzman cut his teeth on “Hercules” and “Xena” before executive producing superb sci-fi shows like “Alias” and “Fringe.” He also shepherded the successful “Star Trek” movie reboot into fruition.
This also brings the creative powers of Abrams and associates’ operations to bear. They have a stable of producers, writers, and directors who are experienced in episodic storytelling. It’s unlikely Kurtzman would serve as the actual showrunner, but there are a number of showrunners who could be tremendously successful here.
One name to keep an eye out for is J.H. Wyman, who created and ran “Almost Human.” It was a similarly high-concept sci-fi show centered around questions of what it means to be human in a world shaped more and more by advanced technology. The working relationship he shared with Karl Urban, who also plays Dr. McCoy in the “Star Trek” reboot, certainly wouldn’t hurt.
If CBS is going to take risks by turning out a challenging, socially-progressive show, their online platform may give them the most freedom to do so.
It’s a clear advantage to CBS that so many iterations of the show have been shown around the world. A new show will have a built-in fanbase that isn’t just national, but global. This represents a wide variety of cultural tastes and may allow Kurtzman and his creative staff to push new ideas into the show, rather than rehash old ones.
In fact, CBS hasn’t sat on “Star Trek” this long. Reboots and sequel series have been talked about for a long time, including with Abrams and Bob Orci in 2013. A complicated and sometimes confrontational rights-sharing issue with Paramount often stymied new series before they even took shape.
Besides, we all know which Star Trek we really want to see: