Next year marks the 50th anniversary of space opera's grandest and most ambitious media series. But will Star Trek have a 50th birthday in keeping with its proud heritage? Here are a bunch of ways that we hope Star Trek's birthday gets celebrated.
Top image by Sam Woolley
Doctor Who's 50th anniversary was a pretty wonderful event, and both Batman and Superman just had reasonably good 75th birthdays. But there's a lot of concern right now that Trek's 50th will be met with a whimper, rather than a triumphant jump to warp speed. There's a new movie in the pipeline, from director Justin Lin, but there's not even a script yet and a tight deadline to turn it around.
And more to the point, something as influential and awesome as Star Trek deserves a huge anniversary celebration. So here are some ways that CBS/Paramount — and we — could honor Star Trek next year.
This is probably the most important thing, which is why we're mentioning it first. Star Trek began on television and its natural home is on television. An ongoing series allows for more thoughtful storytelling and deeper examination of the series' themes than any one movie could. CBS needs to realize it's sitting on a goldmine, and put Trek back on television. Or Netflix. Or Amazon, or wherever. Already, some high-quality fan-made Trek shows on YouTube, like Star Trek: Phase II, show there's a nearly inexhaustible demand for new episodes.
This is another huge one. Want to people to be excited about Star Trek again? Get them believing in the possibility of humans exploring our solar system, beyond the Moon. More than any other major science fiction universe, Trek depends on an ongoing space program for its cultural relevance. So you should write to your member of Congress or Senator and ask for more support for NASA's Orion mission, and do what you can to support Elon Musk's plans to land humans on Mars.
The original Enterprise prop is over 50 years old, and is undergoing extensive renovations. Having a refurbished, repainted U.S.S. Enterprise on display in a prominent place at the Air & Space Museum would be a major boost to its profile.
There really ought to be at least one Star Trek convention to end all conventions next year — Star Wars gets the Celebrations every once in a while, featuring huge glitzy festivities, dance-offs and other crazy stuff. We always enjoy seeing the beautiful photos from the Vegas conventions and other meet-ups — but let's hope somebody is hatching plans to throw a crazy Star Trek con next year, featuring everybody who's still alive and a replica of the entire interior of the Enterprise or something. Just sayin'. Photo by Jordan Hoffman.
Star Trek's most important legacy might be the way it championed diversity before a lot of other science fiction series woke up to the importance of representing all sorts of people in the shiny future. Just including Uhura and Sulu among the key crewmembers sent an important message, and later on, captains like Sisko and Janeway also helped young people to see that anyone can command a starship. So if you want to honor Star Trek next year, think about what you can do to continue its work. Both in terms of helping make science education open to everybody, and in terms of creating opportunities for scientists from diverse backgrounds.
We loved seeing the restored episodes of TNG in theaters a couple years ago — but how great would it be to see a restored version of the original pilot in theaters? I can still remember when we only had a crappy version of "The Cage" that was half in black-and-white and half in color, until the missing color trims were found in a film lab. "The Cage" still holds up surprisingly well, and it would be killer to see it on the big screen, showcasing the earliest version of Gene Roddenberry's vision ever filmed.
Post-scarcity science fiction had a huge boom in the late 1990s and early 2000s, with authors like Iain M. Banks, Cory Doctorow and Karl Schroeder imagining societies that had eliminated hunger and deprivation. To some extent, they were following in the warp trail of Star Trek, which imagined a Federation that had done away with misery among its citizens. But in the past decade, we've seen less SF dealing with post-scarcity societies (even as the gap between haves and have-nots has actually widened.) So in all the celebrations of Trek's golden anniversary, it would be great to see some more discussion of what a post-scarcity society might look like, and how we could get there. (Preferably without having World War III first.)
Star Trek isn't just Kirk, Spock and the rest of the O.G. crew. It's also Picard, Sisko, Janeway and Archer. (And Calhoun. And the Core of Engineers. And Destiny.) So it would be kind of awesome if somebody got it together to make a TV movie or miniseries or webseries — something official, at any rate — featuring representatives of all the crews. We're pretty excited about Star Trek Renegades, the semi-official series featuring Tuvok and Chekov, that's being shown to CBS in a couple months. But even if that doesn't get on TV, some kind of reunion event would be killer.
A lot of the best Star Trek, in the decade since Enterprise went off the air, has been in books and comics. Let's hope that IDW, Pocket Books and whoever else is involved with the tie-ins (hi Greg!) is planning some crazy new releases for next year. And let's hope fans, and everyone else, gives more attention to the wealth of Trek material that books, comics and other media have given us over the past five decades next year.
And one last way that we can all honor Star Trek's legacy — the very first Star Trek, "The Cage," is about rejecting a false paradise created as a hallucination by the Talosians, and a lot of Trek, one way or another, is about not wanting to have an easy paradise handed to us on a plate. Humans need to struggle to create a better galaxy, and the struggle is what makes our humanity meaningful — that's one of the core tenets of Star Trek. That faith in the potential of humans to evolve, and to become something more, is crucial to Star Trek, and maybe next year's anniversary celebrations can include some discussions of 21st century humanism.
The 2009 Star Trek movie breathed new life into Gene Roddenberry's creation, and made us rediscover why we loved Kirk and Spock. But maybe next year's third movie could put a capstone on the trilogy, showing how Kirk rose from cadet to captain. The best way to celebrate Star Trek next year would be to see a third movie that feels like the conclusion of a trilogy, rather than just a standalone adventure — and then, maybe, it can end by setting the stage for something totally new and diferent. Because reaching for the new is the absolute best way to rekindle the spirit of Star Trek.