The New ‘Star Trek’ Reboot Couldn’t Come at a Better Time

“It wasn’t until I grew and matured that I began to appreciate the depth and intellectual side of ‘Star Trek,'” says Roddenberry, who was 17 when his father, Gene, died. .

Roddenberry is now all aboard “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds,” which premieres May 5 on Paramount+. A prequel to the original series that aired in the 1960s, it’s based on the years Captain Christopher Pike, a fan favorite who appeared in the original series, captained the USS Enterprise.

Such an idealistic worldview can be a tough sell to today’s audience, battered by hateful politics, violence, war and dire warnings about a rapidly warming planet. But it’s a change that Roddenberry, executive producer of the new series, applauds.

“I’m not saying anything bad about the other shows, but this is the one I’m most excited about,” said Roddenberry, CEO of Roddenberry Entertainment, which develops sci-fi graphic novels, podcasts, television projects and cinematographic.

“It’s going to go back to the formatting of the original series. It’s the kind of thing we need to give us hope,” he adds. “I understand it’s just a TV show, but it inspires countless people to live a better life.”

What we can expect in the new series

Akiva Goldsman, the series’ executive producer, says the new series will be different and yet the same. Fans should expect more standalone episodes, more original series optimism, and mind-bending plot twists reminiscent of “The Twilight Zone.”
Another wrinkle is the new show’s focus on some of the iconic “Star Trek” characters. The show will look at the evolution of characters like Spock and Uhura before they became mythical characters, Goldsman says.

“Our Uhura is young. She started as a cadet,” Goldsman says. ” Where is she from ? What decisions did she make to allow her to be in Starfleet and become the hero we know?

Another big change concerns the captain’s chair. Captain Pike’s character is very different from Kirk’s, Goldsman says.

“Jim Kirk is a young boy’s fantasy of a ‘Star Trek’ captain,” Goldsman says. “He’s brash, impulsive – he knows the rules but doesn’t follow them. He’s a swashbuckler. Pike is a thoughtful man of reason who builds consensus.”

There are countless debates in the Trekkie universe about which TV version of “Star Trek” is better and whether subsequent series stray too far from the upbeat tone of the original. This optimism is reflected in Captain Kirk’s voice-over monologue at the start of each episode. He says the purpose of the Enterprise is to “seek new life and new adventure” and “to explore strange new worlds” – not to conquer civilizations or force the inhabitants to accept certain beliefs.

In contrast, later versions of the series, such as “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” featured characters who were morally compromised or sometimes made decisions contrary to their values.

Nichelle Nichols and William Shatner in the original
Ben Robinson, co-writer of “Star Trek — The Original Series: A Celebration,” says he hopes a return to the franchise’s “original recipe” will preserve the hope of the first series while offering complex characters with moral struggles.

“I’m looking for the original series, with a 21st century budget,” says Robinson. “If they can combine sophisticated stories with beautiful special effects and the energetic storytelling of 1960s ‘Right Stuff’, then I’m going to be over the moon.”

Why hopeful storytelling never gets outdated

One of the new series’ unasked questions is one you won’t see on many of the show’s message boards: Will Star Trek’s optimism and emphasis on inclusivity feel outdated in the cynical world of today?

It’s hard to have faith in humanity by watching the news headlines. Racial, ethnic and political divisions seem as deep as the confines of space itself.

Then again, inclusive and feel-good TV series such as “Schitt’s Creek” and “Ted Lasso” have found huge audiences in the pandemic, a trend many attribute to audiences starving for hopeful stories.

“Dark times require hopeful storytelling,” says Goldsman. “Optimism and belief in a better future are necessary for many of us.”

Goldsman says it’s a myth that the original “Star Trek” aired in a milder time that was very different from our own. He cites 1968 as an example.

“We were at war,” he says of US involvement in Vietnam. “The civil rights movement was still in its own intense moment of conflict. Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. were killed, not to mention the impending nuclear threat. The country was quite fractured. The 1960s were a tumultuous time .”

The futuristic world of “Star Trek” allowed it to tackle some of the era’s most explosive issues in a way that no other show could, says Robinson, the writer. The crew composition of the Enterprise was itself a call for tolerance, he says.

The crew of the USS Enterprise in the original "star trek" included a black woman, an Asian man, a Russian and a Vulcan – a symbolic coalition of unity and equality.
Consider: The United States was embroiled in a Cold War with the Soviet Union, but one of the Enterprise’s top officers was Russian (Chekov). The country had only ended a brutal war with Japan 20 years earlier, but the ship’s coxswain was Japanese (Sulu). Black people couldn’t vote in many parts of the country, but a black officer – and a woman – (Uhura) was the ship’s communications officer.
Spock was the ultimate model minority on the Enterprise. He was an outsider who suffered from prejudice. Black and biracial people identified with him (there’s a great story about actor Leonard Nimoy writing a letter to a biracial girl who felt rejected). One Star Trek fan called him the “blackest person in the Enterprise” because he “never let ‘the man’ see his emotion and “was cool like the best jazz musicians.”

“It’s metaphorical storytelling that allows you to take science and fantasy to look at your own society,” Robinson says. “He [Roddenberry Sr.] talked about race by having a Vulcan instead of a Black.”

The “troubled soul” of the creator of “Star Trek”

It’s a small miracle that the creator of Star Trek had so much hope for humanity. He has seen and experienced so many tragedies in his life. Roddenberry Sr. was born in El Paso, Texas, and nearly died as a toddler when his house caught fire. A passing milkman saved him.

He had more close calls as an adult. He was a pilot for the US Army Air Corps and flew combat missions in the South Pacific during World War II. And he was a crew member of a Pan Am flight that crashed in the Syrian desert, killing 14 people. A later stint as an officer in the Los Angeles Police Department exposed him to the more devious side of life.
Actors Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley and William Shatner pose for a portrait with "star trek" creator Gene Roddenberry, rear, and director Robert Wise, just left of the camera, during filming of the 1979 film,

And yet, despite all of this, Roddenberry envisioned a compassionate and harmonious future world that was very different from the one he lived in.

How can someone who has seen so many tragedies be so optimistic?

Robinson, the author, highlighted a quote from musician John Lennon.

“Lennon said the reason I talk so much about peace and love is because I’m really angry,” he says. “Maybe you’re looking for what you need for yourself. Gene was a troubled soul for sure.”

Roddenberry converted his pain into a vision of the future that still inspires millions more than 50 years later. Phrases such as “Live long and prosper”, “Beam me up, Scotty”, and “warp drive” have become part of popular culture.

The same goes for the human message of “Star Trek,” which lives on in the new show.

“If people say, ‘Why is ‘Star Trek’ still here? “I’ll tell you why,” Roddenberry Jr. said. “It’s because it’s the idea of ​​appreciating all things that are different and not just tolerating them, and those are the differences to from which we will grow.”

The response to “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” will reveal if that vision still resonates with people, or if the barriers of cynicism and hatred are now too high for even the USS Enterprise to cross.


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