Why “Star Trek” is Paramount’s Marvel and they don’t even know it…

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Earlier this week , the fabulous genre website, io9.com, ran an article I wrote regarding how Paramount is missing out on a unique opportunity to develop Star Trek as a blockbuster multi-media property. After reading the article, your jocular webmaster Anthony Pascale, reached out to me and discussed expanding my article (or, as Charles Foster Kane might say, Declaration of Principals) for the Trek Movie audience with some additional and more Trek-specific thoughts to help facilitate a continued debate on the future of the Star Trek universe.  As such, I hope you’ll find the revised, expanded, director’s cut version of my article (ne: manifesto) thought-provoking and worthy of further discussion as what I’m sure will be the first of many opinion pieces on how the studio should be treating the franchise as we approach its 50th anniversary in 2016. Now onwards, first star to the right and straight on till morning…

CREATING A STAR TREK MCU

For anyone who has followed the film and television business in the last few years, they know one thing is true: franchises are king. Whether it’s a remake, a reimagining, a book series or a comic book, this is the political capital that gets projects greenlit. Having a great script is only a small part of the equation (too small, regrettably). What marketable element is going to allow the film or series to open in China, Russia, Germany, Latin America and other territories around the world in a universe in which stars mean virtually nothing anymore, but the cartoon you watched when you were seven can easily get a $200 million budget is what’s important. It’s one reason that Paramount has been so aggressive about marketing Star Trek overseas given its lackluster performance abroad in previous incarnations (Star Trek IV was called only The Voyage Home in Europe and even opened with a brief Star Trek primer to get fans up-to-warp speed.
It didn’t help).

Every studio wants and needs its franchises (much like Captain Kirk needed his pain). Disney not only has the Marvel films, but Star Wars and the Theme Park spin-off’s like Pirates of the Caribbean, Warner Bros. has the DC Comics heroes and Harry Potter franchises, Fox has X-Men and, now, Apes, Sony is laboring under the delusion that Spider-Man and its associated spin-off’s is a vital franchise (although if anyone can pull it off, Drew Goddard probably can) and Universal which only had Fast & The Furious and Jason Bourne is doing a full court press to revive its moribund Universal Monsters into a 21st century mega-franchise. And while Paramount has the critically reviled, but box-office behemoth Transformers, they have another franchise that potentially can rule them all: Star Trek.

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Marvel – now the most successful movie franchise – could Trek rival it?

And yet you would never know it from the way in which the brand has been shabbily developed over the last ten years. Since the cancellation of Enterprise, Star Trek went into a semi-permanent state of hibernation until it was revived successfully by J.J. Abrams introducing the iconic characters to a new generation of fans around the world. Whether you love or loathe the films (or just enjoy them a helluva lot), one thing that is disappointing is the fact that it took four years between the first two films and, at least, another three until the next sequel. In movie years, this is an eternity. And there is literally nothing else to fill the void in between unless you’re one of the 12 people that still reads the novels. The fact is it’s time for Paramount and CBS to start treating Star Trek like a business and not just an annuity they can cash in every few years. They have their own Marvel, their own Star Wars, their own Guardians of the Galaxy, but it’s time to start treating Star Trek like Marvel and DC and devise, dare I say it, a transmedia strategy that delivers on the promise of this franchise which will not only satisfy the millions of fans craving more Star Trek but also fill the studio coffers many times over.

MGM’s 50th anniversary celebration of James Bond was a textbook marketing strategy executed with incredible finesse in which they revisited the catalog, introduced new licensing programs which culminated in the release of one of the best and most successful films in the series, Skyfall and created a new generation of Bond fans. It’s also worth noting that Skyfall was helmed by a director who loved James Bond. And with the impending 50th anniversary of Star Trek, the time for Paramount to get its act together when it comes to Trek is now.

Years ago, the failure of the TV series, Enterprise, was erroneously attributed by deposed Trek overlord Rick Berman to the preponderance of too much Star Trek. The fact is anyone who knew anything about Star Trek knew at the time that the eroding ratings and declining box-office of films like Insurrection and Nemesis had nothing to do with a lack of interest in Star Trek, they had to do with the fact people weren’t interested in seeing bad Star Trek. They were abandoning a Star Trek that had become dull and formulaic and mired in old-fashioned storytelling whereas Star Trek always succeeded best when it was audacious and forward-thinking.  Star Trek was at its best when it boldly went.

But how do you overcome the internal problems at the studio with bifurcated ownership between Paramount Pictures and CBS Television with feuding fiefdoms unable to cooperate until now, living in mutual fear and loathing of each other? Well, I’m glad you asked, here’s some thoughts…

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Two Corps, One Franchise

Star Trek needs its Kevin Feige…

So what does it mean to turn Star Trek into Marvel? The first thing Marvel decided to do when they chose to finance and produce their own properties was they hired someone who knew and loved Marvel, Kevin Feige. And Kevin put together a team of

writers and producers who functioned much as John Lasseter and his team did at Pixar insuring quality control over the films and TV series (what Jeph Loeb is doing with Netflix is nothing short of Marvel-ous, yes, I love the puns, or as the Brits might say, brilliant) which is why, with the exception of Iron Man 2 which was still a financial success, Marvel hasn’t produced a clunker yet. And what was dubbed its most off-concept and riskiest venture yet has turned out to boast the biggest R.O.I., the medium-budgeted Guardians of the Galaxy. Yes, they’ve still been tentative in some regards, not greenlighting a $30 million R-rated Black Widow film and where’s my Moon Knight TV series, for instance, instead continuing to focus on mega-budget pictures which inevitably involve powerful crystals that can enslave the universe as their macguffin, but their films continue to get better and better each time and out-gross each film before it. And, in television, despite the mixed reception earned by S.H.I.E.L.D. the show has revived creatively and new series like the World War II-set Agent Carter (yes!) and the Netflix shows like Luke Cage, Jessica Jones and Daredevil seem even more promising.

And even if the studio can find its own Kevin Feige (and, I for one, would love to see Rod Roddenberry involved as a consultant in some capacity in this process as man who’s protective, but not slavish, to his family legacy) which is essential to overseeing the Star Trek media empire which currently has no strategic plan at all (or as Captain Willard in Apocalypse Now might say, “I don’t see any method at all”), who’d be the showrunners tasked with making the new films and series? It’d be easy to offer up familiar names like Ron Moore and Bryan Fuller, who could both do a remarkable job in the Trek trenches again unencumbered by their previous restraints and putting all they’ve learned in the intervening years to good use. But both are probably more Captain Kirk’s than Admiral Nogura’s, they’d want to be making the shows and not just overlording them. And I strongly suggest one or both of these television auteurs should get the helm of a Trek series. Hell, wouldn’t it even be fascinating to see the erudite Nick Meyer take a crack at reinterpreting the Holy Scripture. But there’s also some huge Trek fans out there who you’d never associate with the franchise and whose end result I couldn’t begin to imagine which would make it even more exciting. Some of the names that come to mind are the man behind “The Negron Factor,” Mad Men’s Matt Weiner (who used to hang out with the Star Trek writers back when he was on the lot doing Becker) and uber fan Seth McFarlane as well as filmmakers like Bryan Singer. But you’d be shocked to know how many established TV showrunners and Co-Ep’s are major Trekkers who would do virtually anything (and work for less than their quote) to shepherd a new Star Trek to the screen. Much like AMC’s infamous bake-off’s, it’d be great for CBS Studios to hear a myriad pitches from some of the town’s most accomplished writers to hear their thoughts on new directions for the franchise we couldn’t even begin to contemplate.  Star Trek doesn’t just have to be a captain and his crew sitting on the bridge of a starship going where no one has gone before, but it might help to start off with this. But before that can happen, Paramount and CBS need to put together a brain trust to focus as consultants and their very own in-house Tom Hagen consigliore’s to help them understand, exploit and manage (in the best sense of the word) their crown jewel with a phaser-proof five year plan to start.

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Like a ship needs her captain – a franchise needs a leader

Star Trek needs to come back to television…

The biggest problem with Star Trek’s return to television remains the nature of the rights split between Paramount and CBS. While Paramount controls the movie rights, CBS owns television and most of the consumer products licensing. 

And you have two ten-ton gorillas with whom the franchise’s fate rests: Brad Grey and Les Moonves. Now the fact is in today’s TV environment, CBS is not going to allow one of their most valuable properties to be produced for a network they don’t own and this is the biggest problem. For everyone who thinks Netflix is going to step in and be a savior here, there’s very little chance of that happening (or rather be allowed). If Star Trek is going to come back, it’s going to be on a CBS-controlled entity, perhaps with a Netflix or Amazon streaming component to offset the costs. The problem here is Star Trek does not fit CBS profile at all, it skews younger and doesn’t fit the CBS demo. NCIS: Vulcan is not in the cards. But here’s the good news, you know where it could work? Showtime, which is also owned by CBS. And here’s where it gets better; you know what almost every cable channel has been looking for this development season: a sci-fi Game of Thrones. True that. And guess what fits those parameters? Star Trek. And I’m not talking about the old teaser plus five act and a tag Star Trek, but Star Trek in the 21st century. A Star Trek that goes back to world-building, boldly going and intergalactic geo-politics. A Star Trek that is sophisticated and boasts cutting edge visual effects and storytelling. That’s the kind of Star Trek series, with perhaps a 10 or 13 episode order that Showtime might air. And, if not, Paramount is also a partner in EPIX so it’s possible, and maybe even probable, if CBS were the studio partner, they might be willing to produce it for EPIX which has so little market penetration with such a low-bar for success, it might be the equivalent of what first-run syndication was for Next Generation 25 years ago.

But, you know, that’s not the only channel CBS is a partner in with Warner Bros. They also own, gulp, the CW. Now, I know what you’re thinking? No way. But, for those of you who haven’t noticed lately CW has sort of turned into Syfy Channel, Jr. Now why is that? Because in the age of diminished ratings, genre fans are some of the most loyal fans out there and sci-fi also is one of the few genres that still repeats so it’s perfect for streaming and home video. But what would Star Trek on the CW look like. Obviously, it’s a very different show that on Showtime or EPIX. The obvious answer is the dreaded Starfleet Academy which instantly evokes groans from most fans. But that doesn’t have to be the case. One of the finest episodes of The Next Generation was “The First Duty,” which almost entirely takes place at Starfleet Academy. I’ve always thought that a Starfleet Academy show which is more akin to The Paper Chase than Beverly Hills 90210 could be a terrific show. College is the crucible in which one’s adult life and worldview is often formed so a sophisticated and smart Starfleet Academy could absolutely work and it would certainly be a good companion series to a Star Trek set on a starship on another outlet (we’re one big happy fleet, you know), perhaps targeting a younger demo than another series and serve as a gateway drug, much as the J.J. movies did, for non-Trekkers.

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Would Star Trek fit better with "The 100" on CW or "Homeland" on Showtime or somewhere else?

Color Me Mine

 So we’ve already talked about continuing the movie series, adding at least two new television series. What else? Perhaps a re-imagination of Next Generation in the way J.J. handled Classic Trek in the new universe. Perhaps not. A new animated series is long overdue and is an opportunity to revisit absent friends whether it’s new voyages of the original starship Enterprise or Next Generation or other seminal moments in the Star Trek universe. But as they say with the ginsu knife, that’s not all. It’s been a few years since Direct-To-Video was a real business which has largely been supplanted by VOD, but there’s no reason you can’t do at least one, if not more, MOW or direct-to-VOD films a year that focus on the more “inside baseball” elements of the franchise and work like the old NBC mystery wheel; an all-Klingon movie, Section 31, a Harry Mudd film, a retro throwback to “The Cage” (which is what Enterprise should have been) back when space was dangerous and unknown and, if there’s a Shak’ari, a final adventure for Bill Shatner as Captain Kirk. These would be the equivalent of what the fan films are doing now which are clearly filling a void for Trekkers, but would be done with first-rate production values, acting and special effects in the actual Star Trek universe. They’d be relatively inexpensive to produce and extremely lucrative for the studio as well as create new licensing revenue. And rather than detract from interest in the feature film series, they would help sustain interest in the interim.

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Disney’s new "Star Wars Rebels" – the third animated Star Wars series in the last decade – yet Trek hasn’t had an animated series since the 70s

A Wise Decision, Captain

And last but not least, to prove you value the fans, it is essential to remaster all the Trek films for the 50th anniversary with new bonus materials, including both the theatrical releases and the TV cuts of most of the films. And this is the time to spend the money to revisit the Robert Wise Director’s Edition of Star Trek: The Motion Picture in hi-def which deserves to see its Blu-Ray debut (and while you’re at it, throw some money at Star Trek V and fix those atrocious Bran Ferren visual effects and give Shatner a chance to revisit his original Rockman ending. It won’t save the film, but it’ll help). Ultimately, MGM treated Bond with respect and the Lowry 4K restorations were stunning and the packaging was elegant and respectful of an august five decade history and its significance in pop culture history. It is imperative that Star Trek be treated this way instead of as some kitschy refuge from an SNL skit which is far too often how the franchise has been dubiously treated by its studio overlords (remember The Star Trek Honors on UPN, the equivalent of the Star Wars Holiday Special for Trek). Too often the perception that dominates studio thinking is Trek fans are a bunch of freaks, the one’s that more often than not show up in the documentaries about Trek fans that grok Spock, but are only a small part of the rich tapestry of Trekkers who love the Trek universe and are fairly well-adjusted individuals (you know, the people we made Free Enterprise about).

In addition, it’s unlikely CBS will incur the costs involved in re-creating the visual effects for Deep Space Nine and Voyager the way they did for Star Trek: The Next Generation given its anemic sales (which is a shame because they were beautifully produced), but it should strongly consider take two for Deep Space Nine which was the last great Trek show made. In the case of Voyager, it’s unlikely there would be much value in either syndication or home video for this title so upconversion is a, granted, inferior option. This would allow the series, shot on film to be presented in hi-definition, with the quality of the visual effects somewhat diminished since they can’t be bumped up to true 1080p. It’s an option that was employed somewhat effectively for Farscape and would allow the studio to, at least, release the show on Blu-Ray at lesser quality than a true 1080 transfer without revisiting the visual effects which may not be financially feasible. Even if CBS chooses to upconvert both titles rather than do a costly visual effects restoration, the creation of new bonus materials on par with the superb material produced for both Enterprise and ST: TNG is a must. 

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50th Anniversary Bond set was very impressive – can we expect the same for Trek?

Keep on Trekking….

And none of this precludes the continued success of Bad Robot’s movie franchise. Both films under the aegis of J.J. Abrams and Bryan Burk have been hugely successful and critically acclaimed (despite the damning protestations of some die-hard Trekkers) and with Roberto Orci at the helm of the next film, an avowed and passionate Trek fan himself, there’s no reason to believe the next movie will be any less successful than its two predecessors and certainly has the potential to be the best one yet. The brain trust behind these films made a very smart decision early on which was that these films exist in an alternate universe to the original movies and TV series so neither needs to preclude either from continuing to live long and prosper in tandem. Clearly, Bob Orci will have a prominent role in the new Trek order and as a fan and uber successful screenwriter and TV producer his contributions to the future of Trek are essential. While I would’ve said a few months ago that it’s time to take off the training wheels and let the new series continue without the participation of previous Trek stars, the prospect of Shatner and Nimoy re-uniting for the 50th anniversary is too thrilling a prospect to ignore and I certainly hope that they do a find a way to make it so.

And if Marvel isn’t the perfect template for you, look no further than what Disney is already doing with Star Wars. They’ve made a quick succession of extremely forward-thinking decisions about the future of the franchise. They hired the smart and creative producer Kathleen Kennedy to run Lucasfilm, quickly greenlit a series of films, hired a succession of brilliant filmmakers including J.J. Abrams, Rian Johnson and the great Lawrence Kasdan, put a charming animated series into production and hired writers to develop several spin-off films. Disney never looked down on Star Wars, they conceived a plan and implemented it while hiring filmmakers who are devoted fans of the source material. Every scrap of information I’ve seen on Episode 7 has filled me with a new hope for Star Wars after the debacle of the prequels.

Admittedly, Star Trek is a dramatically different franchise than Star Wars, but the template remains just as applicable. While at its heart Star Wars is a movie franchise, Trek is a television franchise with a motion picture component. The sense of wonder and exploration at the heart of Star Trek can only be served best in an episodic series. There’s a reason that Star Trek inspired a generation of fans to become scientists, astronomers, engineers, doctors and bricklayers. While Star Wars is elevated pulp in the best sense of the word, Star Trek is something else entirely. At its heart have always been characters who are a family who are united by friendship, loyalty and an insatiable curiosity about the unknown. In a culture in which cynicism and fatalism are the currency of the day whether it be because of political gridlock, economic depression, famine, the horror of disease, even our best television series such as Breaking Bad plumb the darkness of man. What makes Star Trek so great is that even when it goes into darkness – it still manages to come out the other side extolling the human adventure which is a palpable sense of optimism and hope for the future. It’s a progressive, liberal vision that is to be lauded and not deconstructed or replaced with the fashionable pessimism that permeates the zeitgeist of today. I don’t think optimism needs to be old school, but it needs to be earned. In the end, it’s harder to write characters that aspire and situations that inspire without being hokey and, dare I say, old-fashioned, which is why it’s so important that the creative team be chosen wisely and rise to the challenge before them. It also doesn’t mean there can’t be conflict, both inter-personal and inter-stellar, there must be both in order for Star Trek to be good drama, but humanity united has always been at the very heart of Star Trek rather than humanity divided. Star Trek at its best is space opera writ large with something to say about the human condition.

So there you go. This is what should and, quite frankly, needs to happen.  Much like the plot of many a great Star Trek episode, the Eminians and the Vendikans, um, I mean Paramount and CBS need to find a way to work together harmoniously. It’s a recipe for success, honoring the past, and insuring the future longevity of a beloved and important franchise for many decades to come. May your way be as pleasant.

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In the 90s Star Trek was the franchise to rule them all with multiple simultaneous productions – surely it can do it again

MARK A. ALTMAN who the Los Angeles Times once called “the world’s foremost Trekspert” is the writer/producer of the film, Free Enterprise, starring William Shatner and Eric McCormack. He has been a writer/producer on numerous television series including Castle, Necessary Roughness, Femme Fatales and is co-author of the upcoming oral history of Star Trek, The Fifty Year Mission, from St. Martin’s Press.  You can follow him on Twitter at @markaaltman.

Mark will also be moderating a panel on “50 Years of Trek: From The Cage to Today” at 7 PM on Saturday, October 11th at New York Comic Con featuring Scott Mantz (Access Hollywood), Chase Masterson (Deep Space Nine), David Mack (Star Trek author), Edward Gross (The 50 Year Mission author) and Vic Mignona (Star Trek Continues). 

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I happened to read this article on io9, and I must say I think it appropriately paints an optimistic vision of Star Trek’s future. I have been a fan my whole life and I think Trek stands on a precipice – will it be able to become a true and relevant icon again? I think it’s ambitious to think it could become the next Marvel, but between proper advertising, influential leadership, a TV show that excites and informs, a movie universe that continues to be worth watch, a multi-medium product line (i.e. Star Wars Rebels with the books, comics, toys, Legos, etc.) and a real celebration of the 50th Anniversary stemming beyond just the convention circuit – Star Trek could turn a corner in the next presidential election year. I’m hoping for the best and preparing for a let down. But, let’s all make Star Trek boldly go, again, shall we? Thanks for the article!

Keep Calm and Trek On

Hi all,

Yes, I’ve pondered the same question myself.

The answer is simple as Mr Altman has pointed out.

Two ten ton gorillas.

Sooner or later, one of them will have to buy the other business so they and we, can all move forward and enjoy more Star Trek.

Let’s just have one more good Trek for now.

Trek’s appeal is always going to be a bit more limited than the Marvel stuff. I think this is a pretty tough sell. I love the idea, though. The problem is always going to be with scripts. A great script is very hard to come by. Now if you want to make it pure action/adventure, that could work. But it wouldn’t be Trek to me.

# 3. photon70 – October 9, 2014

” Sooner or later, one of them will have to buy the other business so they and we, can all move forward and enjoy more Star Trek.” — photon70 – October 9, 2014

Well, I could almost personally guarantee you that Les Moonves absolutely wants Paramount. The trouble is, he just about equally doesn’t want to acquire it in any manner that benefits his rivals at Viacom in this “contest” that his and their head honcho, Redstone, has constructed for them.

So it is a safe bet that his acquisition of Paramount, if it comes to pass, will be hostile and if his past antics are any indication it won’t be a bloodless coup.

One can only hope that if it goes his way, that STAR TREK can somehow safely navigate those waters.

Absolutely agree with the sentiments of this, and Guardians of the Galaxy proves that SciFi is still popular, both critically and financially. Star Trek definitely has the ability, with some creative minds, to be a hugely profitable franchise across multiple media, but it’s going to take a strong voice and some studio buy-in for it to happen.

2016 and the 50th Anniversary is the perfect point to re-launch Star Trek, but the momentum needs to start now. BobOrci, it’s over to you

They should definitly do Spin-Offs. With just one series they are limiting themselves too much.

Make the Federation the base of all of this and different crews set out to have different adventures. This could start with one movie in which main protagonists of the following movies are introduced and at the end all of them set out on their individual ships and their own adventures we then experience in different movies.

The problem we have with Star Trek is that it is centered too much around the Enterprise. We know that a series without the Enterprise can work (DS9) – if done right. But Voyager also showed that it can go wrong, too. But one series that was not so good does not mean that it cannot work at all.

A franchise with different ships, crews, spacestations, maybe a film or tv-series even set on the surface of a planet could definitely work.

#7,
Guardians of the Galaxy is not sci-fi. Glad we could clear that up.

# 6. Disinvited – October 10, 2014

Surely a Viacom purchase of the TV rights would be more financial viable? Would open up Nickelodeon for a potential animated TV show ala Clone Wars or Rebels, and mainstream Trek TV could be aired via another Viacom asset, possibly Spike (as a Brit, American TV terrifies me). That would also leave Paramount able to develop the films.

@9 (Disgusted By Movies): Actually, GotG IS sci-fi. Different type of sci-fi, but still sci-fi.

You can show your way out, now.

Most importantly moving forward, Trek needs to get over itself. One more nostalgia fest with the 50th anniversary movie [maybe] won’t hurt, but the franchise really needs to jettison a lot of the cutesy nods and shout outs to the past. Bring in new characters and new ships and new species.

Make Star Trek big again, with no more short trips playing space cops around Earth. It’s felt too parochial for a long time, well before Abrams came aboard. Make it limitless. There’s a lot of stars and a lot galaxies and dimensions out there. Boldly go.

Star Trek also should never go back to where it was with Voyager. All this technobabble, stories that were not very original, aliens that all look like humans etc.

I would imagine Star Trek more along the lines of Forbidden Planet. Going into the unknown, very dangerous and strange places, mysterious, dark…

And not meet one gigantic space empire or federation after the other.

#13

Agreed!

# 13. Admiral_Bumblebee – October 10, 2014

Absolutely! There are so many stories that can be told, but Voyager and Enterprise showed that the creative team had gone stale. Boldly go, explore strange new worlds, don’t make contact with the Bumpy-Head Empire over and over again

Much rather someone like Kevin Feige than Orci.

Great piece, Mark. I hadn’t considered this before, but it is ironic that a franchise with an existing history of interconnectedness across film and TV isn’t being exploited that way now when that mode is so completely in vogue. I suspect that the Star Trek branding is still making them hesitate. Even with the relative success of the Abrams films, Trek isn’t as fully embraced and unstigmatized as Star Wars and Marvel. They may be wondering whether saturating the market with screen Star Trek will do any more than satisfy the diehards. But then again, the CBS/Paramount split is probably to blame for the lack of progress rather than simply lack of ambition.

One correction though: Les Moonves announced in August that CBS are going to make original shows for online services like Netflix: http://www.theverge.com/2014/8/10/5989125/cbs-to-make-direct-to-internet-tv-shows-for-services-like-netflix

Since CBS don’t own any such services, this means they are in fact willing to create shows for venues they don’t own. And given Netflix is arguably a better strategic fit for Star Trek than any of the CBS-owned channels, this likely boosts its chances of returning to ‘TV’, especially since Moonves has previously noted how well Trek performs on Netflix.

I can’t imagine CBS would want a family-friendly franchise with recent blockbuster movies locked away on premium cable or shunted off to the CW or EPIX. The Marvel deal sets a precedent that studios view Netflix as an appropriate home for premium programming based on major properties.

Well, then… reboot it.

Good article. Well done. My favorite thought that stands out…… “I’ve always thought that a Starfleet Academy show which is more akin to The Paper Chase than Beverly Hills 90210 could be a terrific show. College is the crucible in which one’s adult life and worldview is often formed so a sophisticated and smart Starfleet Academy could absolutely work ” I loved how the original show cleverly set up in your mind the established back story of the Federation when Kirk would just throw out a line in an episode ever so often, ” Yes, Spock, I remember it well, it was required reading at the academy.” Or, “he was my instructor at the academy.” They showed how rich that time was instead of glossing over it like the first JJ Trek, which really irked me. Those little asides were very powerful. They showed the importance of those formative years and the incredible structure of the Federation and it’s culture with a single throwaway line. (Something the old show did really well) it was along the lines of ” a more elegant weapon, for a more civilized time…for over a thousand years the jedis were the guardians of the galaxy”. Man! That really stuck with me and painted a picture right away. More like a Frazetta painting where less is more/implied. As opposed to a Boris painting with every vein been painted. Aside from some of his other ideas, I’d love to see a Trek academy with the approach Altman… Read more »
# 10. Chris Auckland – October 10, 2014 ” Surely a Viacom purchase of the TV rights would be more financial viable?” — Chris Auckland You have to understand how the split came about in the first place. When Les Moonves found himself swept up into an organization that had a shining bauble on the mount, he got movie mogul fever. He started seeing himself in glamorous Hollywood respect and resplendence as the head of a major motion picture studio, Paramount Studios. He wanted to be the head of a major media empire with that selfsame Paramount Studios as his crown jewel. Towards securing that end, Les cut a swath through Redstone’s offices offing the careers of anyone he perceived as potential stumbling block. Well aware of the contentious nature of Mel Karmazin [then Head of Viacom] and owner Sumner Redstone’s relationship, Les played it for every advantage he could to place the Paramount bauble in his lap. Finally in 2004, he thought he had succeeded. Karmazin was out and Paramount was almost in his grasp. Les could taste it, but then Sumner threw him a curve: http://nypost.com/2006/08/29/its-showdown-film-deal-in-lurch-as-moonves-freston-duke-it-out/ ” People close to Viacom say the situation is “bizarre,” especially given that both companies share the same chairman and controlling shareholder, Sumner Redstone. These people chalk up Moonves’ motivation to his competitive nature as well as the actor-turned-mogul’s well-known desire to run Paramount – which was put under Freston’s control in 2004. ” — IT’S SHOWDOWN – FILM DEAL IN LURCH… Read more »

@ #13 Admiral_Bumblebee

Yes, I’d definitely like to see a new Trek show that is more like you’ve described…and the less bumpy-headed, ‘humanoid’ villains-of-the-week the better.

And no matter what ‘Starfleet’ ship gets focused on, whether in a known timeline or alternative one…just don’t populate it with overly silly-looking crew members for heavy-handed ‘comedy relief’ like Voyager’s ‘Neelix’ either please.

Me?, I’m still holding out for a ‘Lego Classic Star Trek’ computer game to be released, before I’ll believe the potential awesomeness of this franchise has been properly realised. :)

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By the way, the excellent io9.com site has been one of my favourite weekly visits since a long time now, as there’s always something of interest in their regular daily updates. And I’ve come across some very interesting stuff in the past thanks to the comments to various articles over there, and was interested to read some of their thoughts to this article too, when it first appeared.

Think we all need to realize that this mass mediA Trek reinvention was almost certainly in the vein of what Abrams pitched to Paramount/CBS, but it was CBS that nixed the new merchandising and licensing ideas….and the split was so raw that it was at least part of the reason Abrams backtracked on his public “commitment” to Trek only to sign on for Star Wars a few short weeks later. He saw the handwriting on the wall, and the intracibility of the CBS/Paramount divorce, and the split custody of Trek as a result. Sad.

I think Star Trek Federation would be a good television show:

I see it as an anthology show, with each episode a different story from different parts and times of the Federation. It might allow a good look into non-Enterprise, non-DS9 and non-Voyager events and can give us more varied stories.

I disagree that JJ Abrams was a fan of Trek, he has always stated he never watched the show, and was into Star Wars, but I will admit be added energy to the franchise that was not there before.

And for those who want to complain about the weird tech, look at the last 250 years and tell me that the technology jump from then until now would not be as significant as it would be from now to 2254? You never know what will be unless you are there to see it.

I posted before reading all the replies.

I have yet to see GotG, but it looks fun. I am not sure why someone refused to call it sci-fi, but to each their own.

First, let’s get the look inside the ships unified. The engine room itself looks HUGE, ten times the size that should fit on a starship. In the future, do you not think they can reduce ALL of that into a smaller space?

Star Trek is about people. It was at its best when it explored people and the problems they faced. DS9 dealt a lot with war and occupation, and its effects on citizens both close and not so close. TOS dealt with racism and sexism. That is the meat of the franchise. How do we see ourselves through the lenses created by these characters?

I agree with pretty much everything in the article (though I wouldn’t describe Insurrection, Nemesis, and Enterprise as “bad” Star Trek) maybe Michael Dorn’s Worf spin-off can be the first step.

Trek was fully exploited, for lack of a better word, in the 90’s and despite
its efforts it ultimately failed for a number of reason; quality being one, over
exposure being the other. Inevitably this will happen to Star Wars and comic book movies as well, its just a matter of time. Star wars initially retained fans’ interest by limiting itself to 3 movies, what would of happened if there had been a movie every 2 years over the last 30 years, would people be as excited as they are about EP7? Nu Trek producers initially felt that they should be selective over what was produced and how it was produced and to a degree they seem to have gone the other way in an effort to not over expose Trek again. Ultimately Trek is a harder sell to the general public than either Wars or Comic Book movies and producing it across as many
platforms as possible, however well produced won’t guarantee success . It is a shame, but part of the appeal of Trek, ironically, is that it doesn’t appeal to everyone.

Do we know for certain what restrictions, if any, CBS are under regarding doing Trek on TV while Paramount makes the films? There’s been numerous references in the film blogosphere over the last few years to CBS not being able to create new Trek until Paramount has finished with the films, but was this ever confirmed? If it’s true, is it a contractual obligation or a cooperative gesture? I recall reading a few years ago that Paramount were given one last chance to make the movies a going concern or they would forfeit the right to make Trek films, an ultimatum that led to the hiring of Abrams .

If there is such a plan in place, how many films do Paramount get to make? Just the three? Are more reboot films even possible after the third one?

A TrekMovie investigation into the current and future status of Star Trek rights and a piece that clears it all up for us would be very welcome.

That split between Paramount and CBS has obviously had a big impact on Star Trek, in terms of it moving forward so damb slowly. I mean does it make absolutely any sense why CBS and Paramount should both own Star Trek as a property. CBS seem interested in getting as much money out of the existing franchise as they can with all the blurays they’ve been releasing. Which I’ve enjoyed actually. CBS are not interested in a Star Trek show though. And paramount wouldn’t allow CBS to base a television series on their film series , effectively making it very difficult to do anything in terms of creating a television series. The only hope I think is for CBS to sell the rights for TV Star Trek to another studio. And I don’t think its likely paramount will get the TV right back , not after they milked Star Trek dry in 1990s. Only time will tell really..

@22 Love the point about the engine room. Arguably, the TOS Enterprise engine room, in all its 60s simplicity, looks more credible with its nearly abstracted sense of control systems and components. Think that’s where JJs art and design team really dropped the ball IMHO. Waaayy too much “plumbing” for a highly advanced ship.

Shouldn’t that be *second* star to the right?

So, if Trek goes to a premium cable channel, do we get extreme violence (what a phaser hole in your gut really looks like) or actual Treksex?

I kinda think it’s time, but it will be a transition.

Also… Face it, there’s no way to fix STV. It would be nice to edit out the continuity errors and the worst of the fart jokes, however.

Mostly, as you point out, Trek needs someone to just plain take control. We need movies… and toys… and cartoons… and tv shows!!!!

While Mr. Altman paints a very sensible path forward, I believe there are no such expectations on the part of Paramount. It seems remarkably clear that the audacity of thought needed to accomplish Mr. Altman’s proposed pathway is not currently present within the divided Paramount house. Paramount can continue as they presently are for a very long time, as they seem to be searching for and banking on the bigger annuity payoffs, rather than cater to a dedicated fan base they don’t understand, and have little demonstrated desire to learn about.

@19 ” I’m still holding out for a ‘Lego Classic Star Trek’ computer game to be released, ”

My boy is wanting a Star Trek/ Angry Birds release. I somehow don’t think that will happen though.

Star Trek really doesn’t have the broad appeal to sustain the overexposure Altman is he’s suggesting.

Altman is an outsider shouting at “the normals” to “like my crap!!!” Just building it doesn’t mean they will come.

About “Marvel” and Star Trek, let me add my two cents.

“Marvel” always produced wonderful comics since forever, but its early attempts at the movies were hard to pull off, despite the actors talents,
like the “Hulk” TV show, the Spiderman, Captain America, Thor, etc.

Only recently, with CGI and a big budget, you can do all bring all those comic characters, Iron Man, Thor, etc, come to life.

Now, lets look at the STAR TREK comics, yes, the comics.

Star Trek comic writers always had big ideas, really unfit for a small television budget, like having La Forge windsurfing in an alien planet.
having them parachuting from the atmosphere, riding Bantha like creatures, things like that.

Lifting some ideas from the comics, now that they are doable, maybe a good route, like Marvel is doing now.

All the acid tripping, all the heavy thinking was made by the writers over the years, now we just need to put the Maya animators
to work.

# 10. Chris Auckland – October 10, 2014 ” Surely a Viacom purchase of the TV rights would be more financial viable?” — Chris Auckland You have to understand how the split came about in the first place. When Les Moonves found himself swept up into an organization that had a shining bauble on the mount, he got movie mogul fever. He started seeing himself in glamorous Hollywood respect and resplendence as the head of a major motion picture studio, Paramount Studios. He wanted to be the head of a major media empire with that selfsame Paramount Studios as his crown jewel. Towards securing that end, Les cut a swath through Redstone’s offices offing the careers of anyone he perceived as potential stumbling block. Well aware of the contentious nature of Mel Karmazin [then Head of Viacom] and owner Sumner Redstone’s relationship, Les played it for every advantage he could to place the Paramount bauble in his lap. Finally in 2004, he thought he had succeeded. Karmazin was out and Paramount was almost in his grasp. Les could taste it, but then Sumner threw him a curve: nypost.com/2006/08/29/its-showdown-film-deal-in-lurch-as-moonves-freston-duke-it-out/ ” People close to Viacom say the situation is “bizarre,” especially given that both companies share the same chairman and controlling shareholder, Sumner Redstone. These people chalk up Moonves’ motivation to his competitive nature as well as the actor-turned-mogul’s well-known desire to run Paramount – which was put under Freston’s control in 2004. ” — IT’S SHOWDOWN – FILM DEAL IN LURCH… Read more »

@24 Hits the nail on the head. For 18 years there was constant Trek – on TV all the time, with movies every few years. Franchise fatigue, quality burnout, two many trips to the well… conveyor belt creativity.

Yes, times have changes and the business model is different now — so the idea of emulating the Marvel model might generate a lot of cash for Paramount. But would that necessarily translate into great Trek stories for us?

I think not.

Trek has never had the wide appeal of comic books — and honestly, the fact that these Marvel movies pull in a ton of cash does not mean that any or all of them are good.

Don’t be fooled — these “cinematic universes” are cookie cutter marketing strategies to maximize profit overseas, since for the first time, American film is not a growth industry.

Nothing wrong with that — it’s a business, and they should go for profit, just understand that producing volume is more important than quality.

Trek would burnout far faster with endless spinoffs, new series, individual character movies. It would dilute the core concept in a way never seen before.

Just wait and watch for this to happen to Star Wars after EP 9… I mean, is everybody going to line up for the IG-88 trilogy of movies?

Trek as an adult-oriented “intelligent” limited run TV show on a premium channel would be great. Netflix has admitted (I believe) that Trek does very, very well on that service.

I would love to see this on Showtime or HBO.

Altman condescendingly wrote “unless you’re one of the 12 people that still reads the novels.” Come one, Mark. That’s simply an unfair and mean-spirited potshot at some very talented authors. The Trek novels are still VERY successful.

39.

I thought the same thing, i´m always reading the novels and comics.

Altman may have many points, but his attempts to being “cool” never fail to be painful.

I love this line:

” At its heart have always been characters who are a family who are united by friendship, loyalty and an insatiable curiosity about the unknown.”

Yes, THAT is Star Trek! And THAT is what inspired me to major in physics: seeing how these diverse groups of people were bound together by their desire to learn and explore and to expand the human knowledge of science. That is majorly missing in TV and movies nowadays: they do not inspire anymore.

But Mark missed a MAJOR point to continue the success of Star Trek: Paramount should get the full rights back from CBS. I do not know if that is possible, but it needs to happen. As long as they are split, Star Trek will never be what it can and should be. I wonder if there is a law or something that if CBS does not do anything with Star Trek, then the rights can revert back to Paramount or go up for sale.

Basically, CBS needs to just let it go. I even heard that Les Moonves doesn’t like or understand Star Trek or sci-fi in general.

@39 I completely agree. That comment about the people still reading the novels was unnecessary.

A new series would be based on what is Hugely Successful And Critically Acclaimed.

The writer even dismisses your denial.

HUGELY SUCCESSFUL AND CRITICALLY ACCLAIMED.

38. TUP

Props!

@9. Yes, it is.

Finally, someone gets it. Excellent article.

Anthony, your crew is doing a great job on this site lately. Much appreciated. Good, compelling stuff.

I’d rather have no new Star Trek series than have “Star Trek: The Teen Years” on The CW. Imagine a whole cast of Wesley Crushers. Or worse, a crowd of 25-30 year-olds trying to play 18-21 year-olds (a’la Smallville.) Ugh. Train wreck in slow motion.

CBS or Showtime, please. Not another very expensive show on a very low-rated network like CW, which will lead to a death spiral of budget cuts (when it inevitably fails to pull in NCIS or Big Bang Theory ratings) and ever dwindling quality (i.e., the obvious decline visible watching Voyager and Enterprise in order.)

I don’t agree that Star Trek is not a good fit for older-skewing CBS. By that measure, neither is “The Big Bang Theory”. Arguably, “Scorpion” has made that argument moot, as well (“Hawaii Five-O” had a chance, but the writing was awful and it never developed into the hit CBS wanted, that’s a cautionary tale for reviving Star Trek.) I think Star Trek would be an excellent bridge between the young and adult audiences, as long as casting is careful and money is invested in good writers.

This is very frustrating to me. While I happen to love nuTrek movies, I want a TV series to go along with it. I just read that Lost in Space is being rebooted for TV. But so far, not a peep from CBS regarding a Trek TV series. I’m still hopeful that they’ll get their act together within the next year and announce a new series.

I think … well, first, let me say, having read the above piece and the comments here, there are a lot of really great and poignant thoughts and observations. I think that if there’s to be a real, multi-platform renaissance for Trek, the “story” of that universe has to be moved forward. I think that, in a very meaningful way, is where Voyager and Enterprise failed to achieve much acclaim and were widely (and probably rightly) perceived as going stale — neither of them moved the narrative of that whole universe forward and that’s ultimately, what an audience craves. Voyager was about a ship, essentially, in isolation and Enterprise, while cleverly filling in some of the backstory of pre-Federation history, it didn’t move the story of the universe we know and love forward. I think you can even go so far as to say that some of the lukewarm feelings expressed in comments on this site toward Into Darkness reflect that too. We get a Khan story, which, grant it, was set in a different universe, we get some character development, but I think it left some (and only some) feeling that it teetered on the verge of being stale because it didn’t move the story of that “new” universe forward. Anyway, I guess what I’m getting around to saying is that I agree with the premise of the article here, I sincerely believe there is huge marketing potential not being tapped into, but the Trek universe(s) (whether prime timeline… Read more »
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