7th March 2006
1. Would CBS sell the show to NBC/SyFy? Even though Paramount Pictures is currently in development for a second JJ Abrams-produced Star Trek feature film, it is CBS that really ‘owns’ Star Trek. TrekMovie has confirmed that the decision to bring Trek back to TV now lies solely with CBS. Any deal to do a new Trek show would be one where NBC Universal (SyFy’s parent) would buy episodes from CBS Studios (CBS would still own the show for DVD, syndication, merchandising, etc). NBC has bought shows from other studios before, Stargate is owned by MGM and The 4400 (which ran on NBC Uni’s USA Channel) was owned by CBS. However, Star Trek is one of the crown jewels of CBS (which is now worth even more) and so there is a question as to whether or not CBS would want to share the spoils with NBC or whether they would prefer to hold Trek for their own network (CBS) or their joint venture network (CW). And, even if they were willing to partner up for a new Star Trek series, would they want it on cable, or would they prefer more lucrative revenue from a network TV partner, like NBC, ABC or FOX. 2. Could it be done on a cable budget? Picking up on that network revenue point — to date all the Star Trek TV series have been for broadcast TV, either on network (TOS on NBC, VOY & ENT on UPN), or in syndication (TNG & DS9). Viewership on network TV is larger, and therefore the shows have larger budgets. Star Trek has always been an expensive show to do. The pilot for Voyager is said to be one of the most expensive TV shows ever shot (and not just for all the reshoots). Setting a show in an alien-filled future (presumably on a space ship) means lots of special effects, sets, make-up and likely guest stars (if they stick to the exploring new worlds idea). Other cable SciFi shows have worked around this, but most BSG episodes would be considered ‘bottle shows’ for Trek as they require few or no new sets to build (and few guest stars). And did you ever notice how almost every planet they visit in the Stargate universe looks a lot like British Columbia, Canada? To do space opera right, it has to be ‘operatic’ meaning big and grand and that means spending some money. It would be a challenge to do Trek right on a cable budget, but Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan director Nicholas Meyer is fond of saying that limitations are good for artists. 3. Could they come up with an original spin on Star Trek? SyFy’s Stern said they did not want the ’same old’ or ‘recycled’ ideas. They are looking for something fresh, and likely something that will get them the kind of buzz Battlestar Galactica brought the network. The idea of Star Trek on TV is likely to be seen as the ’same old thing’. If you look at Next Gen, Voyager and Enterprise, the shows were the same good concept recycled with fewer and fewer fresh ideas as the years progressed, which resulted in consistently reduced ratings. However, JJ Abrams has proven that an ‘old’ concept can be reinvented for a new generation, while still bringing along the core fan base. So the trick would be to find someone (or a team) that could do the same for Trek on TV. The key to this would be a talented creative team that knew Trek, but also had a proven track record in creating and/or running modern TV shows. There are many potential candidates for show creator/show runner, including Trek vets like Bryan Fuller, Ron Moore, Michael Taylor, Rene Echevarria, Ira Steven Behr and Manny Coto as well as Trek’s new masters, JJ Abrams, Damon Lindelof, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (although one wrinkle with Abrams is that he has an overall TV development deal with Warner Brothers and bringing them into the mix could be one too many studios at the table). Coto and Fuller have already expressed interest in getting their own cracks at a Star Trek show. There are also certainly non Trek vets who would be interested (for example, J. Michael Straczynski and Bryce Zybel pitched a Trek TV reboot back in 2004). Of course a big question for Trekkies would be which timeline/universe to set a new Trek show in (Prime, JJ-verse, or new), but that is secondary to coming up with an original spin on Star Trek.