This November, CBS announced a new Star Trek TV series, which will be available in 2017 on CBS All Access, the network’s digital subscription video on demand and live streaming service priced at $5.99 a month. When the new series premieres, it will be the first new Star Trek episode to broadcast on TV twelve years after Enterprise was cancelled in 2005 due to low ratings. But CBS President and CEO Les Moonves predicts the new series will “make all Star Trek fans very proud … We can see millions of them joining All Access.” Since the service already includes all the previous Star Trek series, CBS might on the surface seem to be set up for success, however the old-guard Trek fanbase disagrees vehemently.
Many reactions to the announcement focused on the price of the streaming service and bemoaned that it wouldn’t be available on TV. Additionally, many are worried about the direction the show will take since Alex Kurtzman (of the acclaimed 2009 Trek reboot) will be involved. For those of you who don’t know: the majority of old-school Trekkies hated the 2009 film.
If the negative reactions came as a surprise to CBS, then they had better pay attention now: TV Star Trek’s famously loyal fanbase didn’t support Enterprise, and at times, the reboot movies seemed to succeed in spite of the fans. Back in 2008/09, Trek boards were full of complaints about, for example, the new warp engines looking funny and wrong, and Chris Pine was actually booed when they announced him as the new Captain Kirk. Ouch.
A majority of old-school Trekkies probably wouldn’t be satisfied even if they found a way to bring all the original crew together again to shoot The Original Series: Season 4 (which would involve a fair amount of necromancy.)
Coming back to Chris Pine though … in the end his portrayal of Kirk was highly lauded, not by the old-school Trekkies, but by a younger, newer generation of fans. While many of the old guard looked down on new fans, it is undoubtedly due to these new fans that CBS has seen an increased demand for Trek on streaming services. Many decades-long fans already own every series on DVD, so it is likely the new fans are responsible for the high ratings that preceded the announcement of this new series.
If the show’s TV producers are smart, they will stop counting on the support of old-school Trekkies and direct their efforts toward pleasing the new generation of Trek-lovers who aren’t averse to signing up for streaming services. So far, that demographic of fans has been silent about the prospect of a new TV show. They are not going to get excited about just anything with the name “Trek” on it, and CBS will have to craft a show that will actually appeal to these fans.
In TV, Marvel’s Netflix show like Jessica Jones is doing well with a majority female cast, and in the print medium, Marvel has already accepted that to win over new fans and increase their sales figures, they have to offer content featuring characters from backgrounds as diverse as the backgrounds of their readers—they’ve introduced more female characters and more characters of color. They even released an AU in which Hercules and Wolverine are lovers, despite the obvious discomfort the high-ups in Marvel have with even the slightest insinuation of anything queer tainting their established leads (e.g. the now deleted Tweet by a Marvel comic book artist confirm the editing of a comic panel from Planet Hulk in which Steve Rogers holds Bucky Barnes’s hand). For the editors to sign off on a queer Wolverine suggests that they did so to increase sales, and since the bottom line is what matters to them most, we are likely to see more of this kind of content in the future.
If CBS wants new fans to be excited for the show, they will have to do what originally made Star Trek famous: they will have to push boundaries and go somewhere no Star Trek TV show has gone before.