I’m currently enjoying Enterprise, one of the least-liked of the various Star Trek incarnations. I won’t say that Enterprise is the worst of the lot; in many ways, it has the great adventure and anthological introspection commonly found in everything from Star Trek to The Next Generation to Voyager (and, I suppose, DS9 — my least favorite). Yet despite that, I think the problem with Enterprise is precisely that it maintains the format Star Trek fans have become familiar with in every single previous incarnation available. It’s an anthology show. Every episode offers some new idea, which has to be explored and resolved, more or less, in 45 minutes. What little overarching plot the show offered was pretty much irrelevant, except at random junctures the creators decided would serve as “connectors” to the series premiere.
Think about it. The original Star Trek set the stage. Captain Kirk and his crew set off to explore the universe, discovering new species, different cultures, and so on and so forth. The Next
Generation: same basic idea. Voyager tried to mix things up by having the ship get lost way out in the middle of nowhere, but that plot point didn’t change the basic format of the show. And neither did Enterprise. It gave us the same format, the same basic concepts, and so on and so forth. It was a repetition, like everything else before it.
What Star Trek desperately needs is to break format — or, as I like to say, it needs to have its BSG moment. If we are to enjoy another series, that show has to be more than just “humans and a couple of aliens running around in the galaxy finding shit.” It certainly needs to be more than the same cliche character types too. What we need is a story set in the Star Trek universe which explores the intense personal relationships formed on spacecraft or even the traumas of space flight. It might even be an interesting idea to jump into the future of ST’s established timeline and show the trials and tribulations of characters fighting a major war. It doesn’t much matter how a set of writers gets to the deeper relationships; what matters is that they avoid the weak gestures we so often see in anthology-based TV series and actually explore who these characters are.
That, in my mind, is what Star Trek needs. Not flashy new movies. Not new series following the same old format. But a new show which crosses the boundaries of its familiar community and gives us a show we have to watch every week just to know what happens next. Next. As in the continuation of a single, overarching plot, in which each episode contributes to the whole. In which each episode shows us a little more about the characters we love, or hate, or love to hate.
That’s what I’d like to see anyway. What about you?