It is one of the biggest science-fiction properties in the world, but for the better part of the last decade there has not been a single Star Trek television series in active development or production.
Star Trek has had a rich history. From its low-rated beginnings in the 1960s, through to a resurgence thanks to syndication in the 1970s, the launch of the feature films, the height of the franchise’s popularity in the late 1980s to the mid 1990s, and ultimately the demise of Enterprise on the now-defunct UPN.
Given that rich history, there has been clamour from fans, off and on, for the past several years to bring Star Trek back to television. And so, they took heart when Michael Dorn floated a Captain Worf series and when an almost entirely false rumour floated around that Netflix was considering ordering a new series.
Those two rumours were closely followed by the bizarre notion that any new Star Trek would wind up on Showtime – based on nothing more than CBS’ ownership of Showtime and ignoring the wider realities of the business. (At the time of that rumour, I was informed by sources that Showtime had no interest in pursuing new Trek as long as their Halo series was still in the works.)
But with a well-polished and hugely successful rebooted feature film series from JJ Abrams and Paramount Pictures (who hold feature film rights to Star Trek), CBS (who control the television side of things) have been very reluctant to pursue a new iteration of the franchise on the small screen.
That reluctance saw CBS Television Studios reject the notion of Dorn’s Captain Worf pitch, and a couple of others that came through the door. Executives are understood to have been concerned by so-called “franchise fatigue” and the complicated politics between CBS and Paramount have also been a big factor.
But is all that about to change? Maybe….
For the past few months rumours have been circulating in the industry that CBS Television Studios is considering a new Star Trek series.
It reached such a point that several reporters at the most recent TCA Press Tour point blank asked Mark Pedowitz if he would welcome a new Star Trek series on The CW – the successor network to UPN, who aired both Star Trek Voyager and Star Trek Enterprise.
Pedowitz – who is credited with having turned The CW around by increasing ratings and bringing in more male viewers thanks to “edgier” comic-book and genre fare – said that he’d “love” to have the new Star Trek but had heard nothing about a new TV series.
That comes as no real surprise as the rumours about a new Trek series have been whispered in hushed tones and very much behind closed doors, with no one willing to state on the record what CBS would looking for in a new Star Trek series.
What has been talked about, however, is the motivation. The franchise is still worth billions of dollars to CBS and to this day, the studio’s international sales division CBS Studios International is still striking new deals for the five live-action series with broadcasters across the globe.
That upside, coupled with what is currently occurring with Star Trek 3 has some concluding that the time is right to bring Star Trek back to the small screen. After all, there is still some doubt that Paramount will actually be able to bring Star Trek 3 – which appears to be stuck in development hell – to theaters in time for the franchise’s 50th anniversary.
So instead could there be a new Star Trek series in time for the anniversary in September 2016? CBS at least seems open to the idea. “I wouldn’t rule it out”, a trusted source at the studio told me last month, before adding that while a new TV series was far from a fait accompli, it would need the right creative team to get it “just right”.
But if this is something that CBS is serious about pursuing, after a decade of inactivity, it would require some bold moves before too long. Namely, finding a creative with a clear vision who they could work with to bring a pitch to market in time for the next development cycle. Which, in and of itself, is no small task.
And while this is far from a certainty, the fact that CBS Television Studios is now open to considering a new Star Trek series is progress, even if the recent and untimely death of original series star Leonard Nimoy is sure to give them pause.