What a difference five years makes!!
No, you are not accidentally reading yesterday’s blog where I compared the anemic celebration of Star Trek‘s 50th anniversary with the announced “Star Trek Day” livecast and events scheduled for the 55th anniversary. In that blog, I asked whether NO Star Trek really was “better” than BAD Star Trek? And honestly, I thought the answer was obvious…so much so that I worried that folks on Facebook would make fun of me for writing 2,210 words on a question as easy as “Is the sky green?”
Man, was I surprised!
Nearly a thousand views of yesterday’s blog, and every few seconds another “DING!” from Facebook where someone added a comment in one of the dozen or so groups where I posted a link. While many folks agreed with me that even low-quality Star Trek provides room for improvement (and CBS Trek HAS been improving)., others passionately disagreed. They felt angry and betrayed, insisting that the sacrifice in quality isn’t worth it. Star Trek needed to remain pure and true to GENE RODDENBERRY’s vision. And if it didn’t, if Star Trek simply became “bad TV” (which they felt the new shows were) then better to have no Star Trek at all…if forced to make that binary choice.
I almost couldn’t believe how many fan still felt so thoroughly negative about the newer Star Treks. Frankly, it kinda brought me down as the day went on knowing how many fans would really choose to have no new Star Trek at all over at least something…no matter the quality. By the time the Star Trek Day livestream started, I was almost too bummed to watch it.
In fact, I started out NOT watching it because I had to pick up my son and drive him home from Robotics. By the time we returned, the first half of the online event was already over, but I noticed folks posting all over Facebook, excited about the characters joining the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise under commad of ANSON MOUNT’S Captain Christopher Pike on in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. Perhaps you saw the following…
Now, I did shudder a little at the Andorian/Aenar make-up—assuming that’s what he is. But despite being somewhat different than established canon, it still looked pretty cool (WAY better than first-season Star Trek: Discovery Klingons). And I’m not sure yet about those uniforms. On the other hand, being able to see a younger Nurse Chapel and Cadet Uhura is intriguing to me. It’s a bold move, and not entirely outside of the realm of canonic possibility. We’re at a time now when Kirk is likely already serving aboard the Farragut (in his early 20s), so if Uhura is a few years younger than that, it works. As for Dr. M’Benga, he could totally have been on the Enterprise at that point. And there’s a crew member named La’an Noonien Singh? KHANNNNNNN!!!!!!
But wait! What was this emotion I was suddenly feeling? Oh, yes…excitement!
The excitement built when I finally watched the trailer for the new Nickelodeon children’s series, Star Trek: Prodigy, debuting October 28. I’m not ashamed to say that my enthusiasm level for this show started out somewhat muted. I was going to give it a chance because I’d actually rather enjoyed the various Star Wars animated “children’s” series: Clone Wars, Rebels, and The Bad Batch. The animation quality of Prodigy looked to be at least equal to, if not better than, its Star Wars counterparts. And let’s face it, if Prodigy didn’t look awesome, kids today wouldn’t give it a second look because there is SO much else out there screaming for their attention. If we want there to be a “next generation” of Trekkers, we need them to watch this show.
So going into Star Trek Day, I suppose you could describe my mood as cautiously optimistic when it came to Prodigy. Then I saw the brand new trailer…
Wow! That looked totally awesome! I mean, it’s nowhere near “traditional” Star Trek. Aside from the starship Protostar and the Captain Janeway hologram, there won’t be much (at least I don’t think there will be) of the United Federation of Planets and Klingons and Romulans, etc. But let’s see where it goes. Color me very intrigued and now much more optimistic than cautious.
After viewing those two trailers, I tuned into the live event and began watching while the Star Trek: Lower Decks cast was on the stage, and I was truly impressed by how much of a “family” they seemed to be. They obviously love their characters, their show, their show-runner(s), and working together. And MIKE McMAHAN was just as giddy as could be! Let me tell ya, folks, that guys is a fan with a capital F-A-N, and in many ways, I now am starting to think of Lower Decks as a fan film/series. I don’t mean that in the low-budget, non-professional way but rather a true Star Trek fan getting to play in the sandbox and do whatever he wants to with Star Trek. This man is living the dream.
And even though Lower Decks is already nearly halfway through their current 10-episode season, there was enough to show this mind-blowing trailer for the second half…
And just in case you blinked and missed a few things, here are my personal three favorite moments from what was just shown…
Excitement level rising considerably!
The livestream continued with GEORGE TAKEI reading a beautiful tribute to the legacy of TOS…followed by a panel led by host WIL WHEATON (who really did an amazing job!) featuring George with TNG actors GATES McFADDEN and LEVAR BURTON (whose daughter MICA BURTON co-hosted) and ROD RODDENBERRY discussing Gene and their memories of him.
It was at this point that I was hit by an immense realization—one that will seem “Well, d’uh!” to most of you, but it really just washed over me: thousands, possibly millions of Star Trek fans around the world were watching this same panel RIGHT NOW, with me, in their homes or at their desks or wherever. But we were all sharing an amazing moment in Star Trek history, attending together a worldwide Star Trek convention.
Sure, George’s voice sounded gravely (the man is 84 years old!), and I’ve heard his story of meeting Gene for the first time (“Takai” means “expensive,” but “Takei” doesn’t mean “cheap”) at least a half dozen times. But it was the MOMENT, man, knowing fans were all hearing that story just as I was—whether it was new to them or just another loooooong George Takei story—and all laughing together at the punchline, just like we all do in the main hall of a convention.
And then I realized something else even more profound…
When it comes to Star Trek, over the past few years, I’ve lost my view of the forest (Deforest?) for the trees. I’ve been so immersed in Star Trek—fan films, interviews, editorials, blogs and podcasts, debates, collectibles, toxic fandom feuds, and so much rigamarole—that I’ve forgotten to just STOP for a moment and realize what Star Trek is, and how we fans share such a special relationship—I dare say a symbiotic bond!—with the creators of these shows. Despite our frequent kvetching on social media, they know that only fans and creators TOGETHER can make Star Trek a successful legacy. Neither can survive without the other.
There has never EVER in the history of this planet been a phenomenon like Star Trek…not even Star Wars! This franchise has literally changed the world, inspiring both inventors and inventions, scientists and doctors and engineers, artists and actors and musicians, and even writers and filmmakers.
Star Trek went from being a campy 1960s weekly sci-fi show where you could put a stuntman into a hot, green rubber suit and have viewers believe the hero was fighting a giant reptile alien to the death on an alien world. It was silly enough to feature space hippies and drop hundreds of furry balls on the star of the show. It even painted aliens half black and half white to help us viewers take a good hard look at ourselves.
The show could have faded into oblivion, an oddity of 1960s TV eccentricities. But instead, it grew and expanded into a motion picture franchise, three additional TV series that lasted seven seasons each and a fourth that lasted four seasons. Billions and billions of dollars were generated in licensed merchandise, novels, comic books, reference manuals, toys, action figures, models, board games, video games, online games…and I could literally keep writing this paragraph for another 50 lines (but I won’t!).
And look at what’s happening right now. FIVE different Star Trek TV series are being produced as I type this!!! (Six if you count Short Treks, but let’s just say five for now.) Remember when TNG and DS9 were coming out at the same time, or DS9 and Voyager? The previous record was TWO simultaneous series. Now there’s FIVE??? Are you frickin’ kidding me???
And with Lower Decks playing currently, Prodigy starting up in late October, Picard following in February, then the debut of Strange New Worlds followed by Discovery‘s fourth season, we’re looking at a new Star Trek episode from those five different series being released about once a week every week for the better part of the next year! So much for canceling my Paramount+ subscription anytime soon…
And yet some fans would rather there be NO series????? Blasphemy, I say!!!
And as if my excitement level couldn’t go up any higher, the evening’s brand new trailers culminated with the upcoming second season of Star Trek: Picard and the “announcement” that the series had been renewed for a third season. I put the word “announcement” in quotations because fans have known for nearly a year that Picard seasons two AND three were being shot simultaneously, so obviously there will be a season three. But let’s watch the trailer, shall we…?
I’m sure some fans will groan and say, “Time travel…again???” Not me.
While TOS saw Kirk and crew travel back to the “our” present (1960s) twice in TOS and once in Star Trek IV, Picard never did. He went to 19th century San Francisco to meet Mark Twain and 2063 to meet Zefram Cochrane. In fact, Picard was the ONLY captain who didn’t get a chance to time to “our” present (or something close). Sisko and crew went to 2024—three years from now—for the Bell Riots (funny how that episode first aired a quarter century ago when 2024 seemed so far off!). Janeway’s and Archer’s crews also traveled back to “our” present—early 2000s. But Picard never got that chance. Now he does. Fun!
But heck, just having Q and the Borg Queen and Seven-of-Nine along with Picard…it’s just paradise, my friend, paradise…paradise…paradise… (name the episode!).
And speaking of paradise, the event ended with an incredible rendition of Blue Skies sung by the lovely ISA BRIONES (the android Soji) that gave both me and Wil Wheaton chills. If you watch nothing else from the live stream , scroll to the end and watch that. (But really you should watch it all…I’ll be going back to catch the parts I missed.) Granted, Paramount+ hasn’t posted the livestream yet, but one of the audience members in attendance at the Skirball Center event took this video of Isa’s performance…
The entire live show was incredibly well-done, solidly produced, and ran completely on schedule. I’ve never seen any Star Trek anniversary event that was as impressive as this one. Bravo!
Honestly, I haven’t felt this excited about Star Trek in a very long time. So if you want to stand on your soapbox and argue for NO Star Trek, you do you. No one is forcing you to come to the party if you don’t want to. Heck, maybe there’s an alternate timeline out there you can beam to where there is no Star Trek in 2021 and beyond. Maybe you’ll be happier there.
I’m happier here, and I’m staying at the party!