The new ‘Star Trek’ reboot could not have come at a better time

“It was only when I got older and more mature that I began to appreciate the depth and the intellectual side of ‘Star Trek,'” says Roddenberry, who was 17 when his father, Gene, died.

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

Such an idealistic worldview can be a resounding sell-out to today’s audiences, plagued by hateful politics, violence, war, and dreadful warnings about a rapidly warming planet. But that’s a change that Roddenberry, an executive producer with the new show, welcomes.

“I say nothing bad about the other programs, but it’s the one I’m most excited about,” says Roddenberry, CEO of Roddenberry Entertainment, which develops sci-fi graphic novels, podcasts, TV and film projects.

“It’s going to go back to the formatting of the original series. It’s the kind of thing we have to go out to give ourselves hope,” he adds. “I understand that this is 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 show’s executive producer, says the new series will be different and yet the same. Fans should expect more stand-alone episodes, more of the original series’ optimism, and thought-provoking twists reminiscent of “The Twilight Zone.”
Another wrinkle is the new show’s focus on some of “Star Treks’ iconic characters. The show will examine the evolution of such characters as Spock and Uhura before they became mythical characters, Goldsman says.
Celia Rose Gooding as young Uhura and Ethan Peck as young Spock in the new series streaming on Paramount +.

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

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

“Jim Kirk is a young boy’s fantasy about a ‘Star Trek’ captain,” says Goldsman. “He is brash, impulsive – he knows the rules but does not follow them. He is a girl. Pike is a thoughtful man with sense who creates consensus.”

There are countless debates in the Trekkie universe about which TV version of “Star Trek” is better, and whether subsequent series deviated too much from the optimistic tone of the original. That optimism is reflected in the voiceover monologue of Captain Kirk at the beginning of each episode. He says the goal of Enterprise is to “seek out new life and adventure” and “explore strange new worlds” – not to conquer civilizations or force residents to accept certain beliefs.

In contrast, subsequent versions of the show, such as “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” contained some characters who were morally compromised or sometimes made decisions that were at odds with their values.

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

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

Why hopeful storytelling is never outdated

One of the unspoken questions in the new series is one you will not see on many of the series’ discussion forums: Will Star Trek’s optimism and emphasis on inclusivity feel outdated in today’s cynical world?

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

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

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

Goldsman says it’s a myth that the original “Star Trek” was sent in a gentler era that was very different from ours. 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 looming nuclear threat. The country was quite fractional. The ’60s were a tumultuous time.”

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

The crew of the USS Enterprise in the original
Consider: The United States was involved in a Cold War with the Soviet Union, but one of Enterprise’s chief officers was Russian (Chekov). The country had only 20 years earlier ended a brutal war with Japan, but the ship’s helmsman was Japanese (Sulu). Black people could not vote in many parts of the country, but a black officer – and a woman – (Uhura) were the ship’s communications officer.
Spock was the ultimate model minority on Enterprise. He was an outsider who tolerated prejudice. Black and biracial people identified with him (there is a beautiful story about the actor Leonard Nimoy who writes a letter to a biracial girl who felt rejected). A Star Trek fan called him “the blackest person on Enterprise” because he “never let” the man “see his feelings and” was cool as the best jazz musicians. “

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

The ‘restless soul’ of ‘Star Trek’s creates

It’s a minor miracle that Star Trek’s creator was so hopeful about humanity. He saw and experienced so much tragedy during his life. Roddenberry Sr. was born in El Paso, Texas, and died almost as a small child when his house caught fire. A passing milkman rescued him.

He had several close calls as an adult. He was a pilot for the U.S. Army Air Corps, which flew combat missions in the South Pacific during World War II. And he was a crew member on a Pan Am plane that crashed into the Syrian desert, killing 14 people. A later stay as an officer in the Los Angeles Police Department exposed him to the more sailor side of life.
Actors Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley and William Shatner pose for a portrait with

And yet Roddenberry imagined a compassionate and harmonious world of the future that was very different from the one he lived in.

How can someone who has seen so much tragedy be so optimistic?

Robinson, the author, pointed to a quote from musician John Lennon.

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

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

And so is the “Star Treks” humane message that lives on in the new show.

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

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

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