Why Television Needs ‘Star Trek: Discovery’

The last time we had Star Trek TV series, the year was 2005, and it was led by Quantum Leap star Scott Bakula. It wasn’t exactly the standalone masterwork that was Star Trek: The Next Generation, and it was certainly not up to the high bar set by the original series back in the late-’60s. That’s not to say the franchise has gone completely off the grid in the interim. J.J. Abrams successfully rebooted the film saga in 2009, making that the sole home for the Star Trek universe.

That all changed with the announcement of Star Trek: Discovery, the first new TV series for the famed franchise in over a decade. CBS’ television revival is important for a whole mess of reasons. The timing couldn’t be better, as it’s not hard to see why pop culture needs Discovery now more than ever. Here’s why.

1. The return of an iconic saga in its best form

Star Trek

Star Trek | NBC

Star Trek began as a TV series, and it’s in that medium where it’s truly been at its best throughout the years. Think back on the greatest stories and most memorable moments in the saga’s history, and odds are they happened within the confines of television. That’s not to say that there haven’t been some solid and spectacular movies along the way (shoutout to Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan). But a reboot in the world of television is the homecoming that Star Trek has sorely needed, especially as the film franchise has moved closer and closer toward becoming a full-fledged action series.

2. Speaking of the Star Trek movie-verse …

Zoe Saldana and John Cho in Star Trek Beyond

Zoe Saldana and John Cho in Star Trek: Beyond | Paramount

In recent years, Star Trek movies have slipped toward the realm of action cinema, all culminating in the hiring of Fast & Furious director Justin Lin to helm the latest film. Star Trek Beyond, while a solid blockbuster in its own right, barely felt like a Star Trek story. It was more a motorcycle riding, Beastie-Boys-soundtrack-inspired affair, taking a huge step away from the more cerebral sci-fi of the original series. Suffice it to say, bringing things back to basics on TV was an inevitability.

3. Remembering what it was that made Star Trek great in the first place

William Shatner in Star Trek

William Shatner in Star Trek | CBS

Star Trek didn’t catch on simply because it was a unique, fun sci-fi concept. It made its way in pop culture by exploring what it was to be human, while challenging its audience both intellectually and conceptually. That legend only grew with each successive series, creating one of the most expansive and devoted fandoms in history. The hope is that Discovery will dive back into those themes, with early rumors concerning the series pointing toward just that.

4. We’re in a golden era of sci-fi television

The Expanse - Syfy

The Expanse | Syfy

When Star Trek first debuted in the 1960s, it was a one-of-a-kind commodity. Save for Doctor Who, there truly wasn’t anything like it anywhere, predating even the first Star Wars film by a decade. Fast forward to 2017, and we’re living in a veritable golden era of the sci-fi genre. Shows like The Expanse, The 100, Orphan Black, and more, have quickly made their way from the fringes of pop culture, directly into the mainstream. Production budgets are up, talented creative minds are given free rein, and that’s the sort of friendly sci-fi climate that Discovery will become a part of once it debuts this May.

5. Bryan Fuller and the Discovery showrunners

Bryan Fuller

Bryan Fuller | Andrew Toth/Getty Images

Bryan Fuller may not be the official showrunner for Discovery anymore, but the Hannibal alum still helped craft the universe we’re about to see firsthand. With a resume that also includes Pushing Daisies and Dead Like Me, Fuller has long since proved his creative mettle.

But after leaving the series due to time constraints, he still left Discovery in good hands. New showrunners Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts have both worked alongside Fuller throughout his lengthy career, and together they give us hope that the new Star Trek will be everything fans are hoping for.

6. Pop culture needs to continue to encourage space exploration

Sandra Bullock in Gravity

Sandra Bullock in Gravity | Warner Bros.

Our pop culture oftentimes acts as a mirror for reality. And as Hollywood continues to journey into the outer reaches of space in movies and TV, we feed into a public hunger to explore. That being so, there’s more at stake here than planting a flag. As Neil deGrasse Tyson put it, when “we went to the moon, we discovered Earth.”

In the years following the first moon landing, we began to see our planet as one without borders. We formed the Environmental Protection Agency, invented unleaded gasoline, passed a series of environmental protection laws, and even formed Earth Day. A full-on TV series focusing specifically on the idea of an Earth without borders carries some useful real-life application, especially in today’s charged political climate.

7. Diving into a pre-Kirk Star Trek universe

Scott Bakula in Star Trek: Enterprise

Scott Bakula in Star Trek: Enterprise | UPN

The Scott Bakula-led Star Trek: Enterprise was our first good look at a Trek universe before James T. Kirk ever sat in the captain’s chair. That being so, it was still a far cry from the likes of Star Trek: Voyager, The Next Generation, and Deep Space Nine. Even running almost 100 episodes, we never quite got the pre-Kirk story that the fandom always deserved.

Thankfully, that’s exactly what Discovery promises to give us, covering a yet-to-be-revealed event from the early history of the saga, and set a decade before the original Star Trek series.

8. A different perspective

Patrick Stewart in Star Trek: The Next Generation

Patrick Stewart in Star Trek: The Next Generation | CBS Television Distribution

Throughout the history of each Star Trek series and movie, the story has revolved around the respective starship’s captain. The new series will take a slightly different tact, focusing instead on the U.S.S. Discovery’s lieutenant-commander, Rainsford. Played by The Walking Dead alum Sonequa Martin-Green, the character will give us a wholly unique perspective that the Star Trek saga has never truly covered.

9. Continuing (and building on) a proud history of diversity

The first interracial kiss on TV on Star Trek

The first interracial kiss on TV on Star Trek | CBS

Bucking common trends of Hollywood both in the ’60s and today, the cast of Star Trek‘s movies and TV shows have traditionally been refreshingly diverse. Discovery will continue that too. Already, we have a black woman as the show’s lead character (Martin-Green), while “virtually all” the potential candidates in early casting came from either African-American or Hispanic backgrounds. This isn’t simply Hollywood tokenism, but rather a concerted effort to represent and include a variety of cultures.

10. More than anything, it’s exciting to finally have another Star Trek TV series

Star Trek: Discovery ship

Star Trek: Discovery | CBS

While the world of sci-fi has grown and evolved into the mainstream, Star Trek has been noticeably absent (save for infrequent movie releases). It’s good for the genre as a whole to have another Trek series finally arrive on the scene, especially as other networks have capitalized off of the growing popularity of sci-fi. And with a solid creative team, a well-constructed vision, and a talented cast, we have every bit of confidence in Discovery come September.

Follow Nick on Twitter @NickNorthwest

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