Star Trek is very much a franchise based on the idea on going out into the universe and exploring strange new worlds and civilisations and boldly going where no one has gone before. So that makes the news that CBS's Star Trek: Discovery is going to be yet another redundant prequel a bit perplexing.
Executive producer and showrunner Bryan Fuller has confirmed that Star Trek: Discovery will be set about ten years before the time of Kirk, Spock and company. It will be a time when the Federation is still exploring new parts of the galaxy, when the Klingons are still hostile and when no-one's heard from the Romulans for ninety years. Other Trek staple species like the Cardassians, Ferengi and Borg are still decades away from being contacted.
Great, I guess? Discovery will be the third Star Trek project in a row - after the 2001-04 TV show Star Trek: Enterprise and the new alternate-continuity movies launched in 2009 - to go back in time and be a prequel or alternate take on stories we've already seen. And it's getting a bit stale, to be honest.
Star Trek is fundamentally about pushing things forward and doing new things. No-one is going to argue that the triple punch of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager (aka the 24th Century series) did exhaust an enormous amount of story possibilities as well as building up some complex continuity over the course of fourteen years, but a new Star Trek series set twenty or fifty years after them - effectively a Next Next Generation - would dispense with such issues as well as tipping its hat at what came before and allowing bold writers to chart out completely different concepts. Bryan Fuller's Star Trek: Federation concept, which depicted a faltering and weak Federation about to collapse and being reinspired by the adventures of a new USS Enterprise commanded by a distant descendant of James T. Kirk, was cheesy as hell but at least it allowed for the possibility of exploring new worlds and doing new things.
This isn't to say that Discovery will be a bad show. I'd be surprised if it was, with the likes of Fuller and Nicholas Meyer writing episodes, and the 13 episode run should allow for tighter storytelling with less filler and space-anomaly-of-the-week episodes. But it's also going to be constrained in its storytelling by concerns over continuity and we know that nothing is really going to get shaken up. It'll be Star Trek boldly going exactly where it's been before and that's really not cutting it anymore. But hopefully, if Discovery is a big success, we'll see another show that takes the much-needed leap forwards into the 25th Century and delivers to us something that really is fresh, interesting and new.
More interesting is the idea that the "main character" will be a lieutenant commander on the Discovery and the main cast focus and dynamic won't be the traditional bridge crew setup. Fuller also confirmed there would be more aliens, the show would feature robots and would also be inspired by a key event referenced in the original series but not shown. The only incident which might apply is the destruction of the USS Farragut, when a young Lt. Kirk escaped from a space monster that killed his captain and most of his crew. However, that seems to contradict Fuller's stance that there won't be any original series characters in Discovery, at least to start with.
Star Trek: Discovery debuts in January 2017 on CBS All Access in the United States, on SPACE in Canada and on Netflix in most of the rest of the world.