CBS has announced that a new "Star Trek" television series in in the works, the first in over a decade. I'm thrilled, but also a little worried. It's been a long break, and television has changed drastically while it was away. I think there's certainly an eager audience for the new show, and plenty of potential for excellent television, but I hope that the creators tread carefully. There are some potential minefields ahead and some issues that are going to need to be addressed.
First, there's the big one: sexuality. Though "Star Trek" has a history of diverse and inclusive casts, very few of its characters have been anything other than heteronormative. A "Next Generation" episode had a gender neutral alien, and "Deep Space 9" character Jadzia Dax claimed to be bisexual, but that was about the extent of it. Famously, a script was penned for "next Generation" that featured a gay couple, "Blood and Fire" but it was nixed by the studio. The last series, "Enterprise," ended in 2005, notably the same year that "Doctor Who" was revived featuring several prominent gay and lesbian characters like Captain Jack Harkness. "Torchwood," "Battlestar Galactica," "Orphan Black," and so many, many more followed. And, of course, there's George Takei. It would be very tempting for "Star Trek" to attempt to play catch up and put LGBT issues front and center, but it would probably just end up drawing attention to the previous deficit of them. I'd certainly like to see the new "Trek" series include gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender characters, but to handle their sexual identity the same way they handled racial diversity - something that's no longer such a big deal.
And speaking of racial diversity, it's gotten a lot more colorful on television these days. Back in the '90s and early 2000s, the "Star Trek" shows were the only ones I could count on having diverse casts. Now Shonda Rimes has turned that into the status quo. And I'm hoping that the "Star Trek" folks keep that in mind. They're going to have to work a little harder to be the vanguard in this area that they used to be. We've had a black Captain and a female Captain, and they were wonderful, but that shouldn't preclude more of them in the future. Also, remember that the original "Star Trek" made a point of including Russian and Asian faces - recent enemies of the U.S. in 1966. To really update "Star Trek" for the current era, I'm hoping for a Middle-Eastern crew member - one who comes across as more Middle-Eastern than the British-accented Dr. Bashir, ideally. If the creators are really feeling daring, they could also delve into religious differences too.
I'm pretty indifferent to the actual format of the new "Trek." Whether it's in continuity with the rest of the franchise or the movies or something new entirely isn't all that important. I'd love a new starship-oriented show, but the Starfleet Academy concept we've heard about for years sounds perfectly decent, and there are plenty of other corners of the "Star Trek" universe that we haven't seen yet that could yield some good things. Whatever the creators choose, I hope the format is flexible enough to accommodate many different kinds of stories. I know the trend these days is towards darker, serialized narratives in genre programs, but I always thought the fun of "Star Trek" was that you didn't know what you were going to get from one episode to the next - a planet full of rock monsters, time travel, tribbles, holograms, the Borg, or that episode where half the crew are turned into kids.
And I guess that's the biggest thing I want out of a new "Star Trek": some fun. The zombie apocalypses and techno-doomsdays have been great and all, but I'm looking forward to a little optimism in my science-fiction again. Yes, space travel and aliens can be scary, but there' a lot of wonder there too that I've been missing. "Star Trek" was always a forward-looking, idealistic franchise. Sure, darken it up for the Millennials a bit, but as long as the new series retains the core values of its predecessors, it'll do just fine.