Anyone who has been reading this blog knows, I love my Star Trek. With a regular review series and a regular references to key moments in the franchise, Not only is this scifi classic one of my favorites of all time, it has some deeply personal ties with who I was as a kid and who I am as an adult.
I was introduced to Star Trek at a young age. In the evenings after my father got home, we would watch the classic episodes together enjoying the adventures of Kirk’s Enterprise as he and his valiant crew ventured through space. As I grew older I was introduced to Star Trek the Animated series via the reruns on Nickelodeon. Even though the original series had long ended, my father and I would delight in each film released with the original crew and, in the fall of 1987, the world changed for us as we were introduced to a new Captain and a new version of the Enterprise.
Fast forward nearly twenty years, after three additional series and several films we soon found ourselves once again in a world without Star Trek. To say we were dissapointed is an understatement. Not only had our favorite franchise had come to an end, so had the adventures of the brave members of Star Fleet and it was devastating to us all.
In the past few years Star Trek has made a surprising return to the large and small screen with three somewhat successful reboot films and now two seasons of all new Trek through a new streaming platform. Interestingly though, it has not reached the heights it once held in the early 90’s but there is a huge chance that, in only a short time, it might actually exceed where it once had been.
Now, ‘how is that?’, you ask, how can this defunct series make an unexpected comeback? No one cares about Star Trek anymore. Ah, well, there you would be wrong. Let’s start with the obvious, Star Trek already has a Built In Fanbase.
Much like the MCU in it’s infancy, Star Trek already has a plethora of fans world wide that know and love everything about the universe created by Gene Roddenberry. With fans dating back over 50 years, this franchise has the widest age range of any outside that of Doctor Who which only predates Trek by three years. In fact, it would be hard pressed to find a fandom as diverse, dedicated and generational as Star Trek. Known as Trekkies and Trekkers (depending on who you ask), these fans are a multinational base with literally millions of people dedicated to the franchise in part or as a whole. With the advent of Star Trek the Next Generation in 1987, this franchise did something that no one thought possible, it created new fans that have since grown up with Trek in many different forms but, to this day, still adore the universe. This core group of next generation fans have since grown up, many of them passing their fandom onto their children creating a significant Nostalgia factor like no other.
Nostalgia is a very strong tool that is being used by companies world wide to remind people of better times convincing them to consume their products using this deep emotional reaction. According to the Oxford dictionary, Nostalgia is ‘a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.’ For many people, Star Trek and the feeling of nostalgia go hand in hand. Fans who grew up on the series have started families of their own and want to share this excitement with their progeny. These fans who were kids during their first exposure to the franchise are now adults, many with disposable incomes allowing them to literally buy into the franchise through the use of the CBSAllAccess platform currently being used by CBS to host the latest series. For the first time ever Fans have a singular place they can go for all of their Star Trek needs giving them somewhere special just for them. But what is it about Star Trek that attracts so many people? Why this particular franchise over so many others?
Many fans find a deep connection with a character or multiple characters in this franchise, giving them something or someone to attach to and remind themselves of better times. In this day and age it has become more and more important to find a ‘safe place’ or somewhere you can decompress from the stress of the real world. In many ways, fans of Star Trek find that very feeling from Trek as this is a universe that is steeped in one key component that many other franchises lack, a sense of Optimism.
With how generally dark the world has become in recent years we all could use something that reminds us, as humans, that we have something worth fighting for and working toward. Star Trek, since it’s original form in 1966 showed us just that. This is a series that not only supported but was a champion for a better tomorrow. From the diverse bridge crew showing that people of all races and even species could work together in unison, to the manta of exploration over domination, Star Trek purposefully went against the socially accepted norms to show us a better tomorrow. This trend continued in universe in the follow up series Star Trek the Next Generation with the federations own enemy now an ally and serving on a Federation starship! It took this look of hope further with introducing not only an African American Commanding officer and television lead but also the first scifi female lead in the form of Captain Janeway.
Using this drive toward equality and diversity, Star Trek has been able to tell very important sociopolitical stories while also managing to remain purposeful and rarely overbearing. Through these tales we see humans and aliens alike find ways to overcome their hatreds, bigotries, and malignant tenancies in order to better themselves. As the series progressed, these driving forces toward enlightenment took on longer narratives and stopped being contained within the 45 minute episodic format, allowing for some incredible character growth that sometimes spanned multiple series. This character growth would also bring about one of the strongest attributes this series has from a story telling perspective, continuity and a very well established interconnecting universe.
While Star Trek is not the longest running scifi series in history, it is one of the genre’s most prolific licenses spanning over 700 episodes, 12 films, thousands of comics and books, and even some video games. The cool thing about the majority of the content is that much of it is already interconnected with the films and television series creating a pre-established shared universe unparalleled even with the more recent MCU shared universe. I find it fascinating how so many people refer to the Marvel films as having the honor of being the first film franchise to have such a vast interconnection when Star Trek was not only there first but by several decades.
With the exception of the animated series and most of the novels, as managing a written universe over hundreds of writers is not an easy effort (as we have also seen with Star Wars until recently), every official live action series, film and even many of the more recent comics are directly tied in with the ‘official canon’ of the Star Trek universe. Similar to Marvel’s multiple comic universes, one huge benefit Star Trek has as well is a pre-established method of explaining the alternate stories with the existence of alternate timelines and universes. With the advent of the famed ‘mirror universe’ to the more recent advent of the ‘Kelvin Universe’ in the JJ Abrams films, this gives Star Trek a literal multiverse to play with allowing for unlimited stories in an unlimited universe or, as the Vulcans put it, Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations.
In addition to this vastly interconnected universe, Star Trek already has a deep lore that fully incorporates a massive timeline with many of the key beats already explored. Ask any fan about Kirk’s history or the cultural significance of Kahless the Unforgettable and you will get a history that rivals our very own. From the Genetic Wars of the early 90’s, First Contact with the Vulcans and on far into the future, there is a definitive timeline encompassing thousands of species that still has a considerable amount of unexplored areas only suggested at. While there is much debate as to the validity of canon among fans, this alone shows the passion Trekkies and Trekkers have for their beloved universe. More recently one of those timelines have been explored with the advent of Star Trek Discovery explaining much of the early ‘Pre- Original Series’ History. While this series itself has been received with polarizing reviews among the fans, no one can deny that it has firmly revitalized the franchise, prepping the world for what comes next.
Earlier this year fans were thrilled to learn that one of the most beloved characters in the Franchise was making a comeback in the form of a new series that will take us all into new territory. Starring Patrick Stewart, Star Trek Picard will finally explore the events that take place after the events of the film Star Trek Nemesis. With CBS placing Alex Kurtzman at the helm of their own five year mission to revitalize the franchise, the home of Trek was already well on it’s way to bringing back Trek in a big way. However, this became even more impactful with the the recent announcement of the reunification of Viacom and CBS. For years these two entities shared the universe of Star Trek with Viacom owning the film rights and CBS in charge of television. While the two entities embraced somewhat of a mutual respect not stepping on each others ‘canon’ too much, this separation caused a bit of a discontinuity that ultimately resulted in the somewhat maligned Star Trek film reboot of 2009. Now that both entities are in the same house, this can only lead to a much stronger shared universe across television and films, something that Marvel has yet to fully be successful with (although Disney+ may change that for them).
With such a perfect combination of nostalgia, lore and a dedicated fandom, Star Trek is poised to make a comeback like no one has ever known. This is a franchise that is once again poised on the edge of greatness providing fans new and old something to look forward to. Since it’s inception in 1966, Star Trek has survived over 50 years and looks to be around at least that much longer.
Of course, I may be a little biased.
Thanks for reading,
Late To The Game 8/24/2019
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Special Thanks to Memory Alpha as they are one of the best sources for details on Star Trek information available. Although I have a pretty deep knowledge on the subject, they have proven invaluable as a regular resource.
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