Spoiler Warning: Beware of spoilers for Star Trek Discovery and practically everything else in the Star Trek franchise.
Welcome back! Last time, I talked about why I wasn’t keen on the post-apocalyptic setting that Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 is seemingly heading toward. And in the course of writing that article it got me thinking about what I’d prefer, and from there, what other settings the Star Trek franchise could use that might make for interesting stories.
This list isn’t even speculation, it’s purely fantasy. These are some of my own ideas for Star Trek that would take the franchise in a different direction. It was inspired by my concerns about Discovery Season 3, but it goes beyond Season 3 to look at other ideas as well. Like a lot of fan fantasies, some of these pitches wouldn’t have any real appeal beyond a small niche of Star Trek fans.
The list is broken into two parts. The first deals with alternative Season 3 ideas that Star Trek: Discovery could have chosen instead of the far future, and the second looks at a few other Star Trek series ideas that I think have some potential to be interesting.
Part I: Season 3 ideas for Star Trek: Discovery
Number 1: The 23rd Century, but with new crew members.
As Season 2 of Discovery drew to a close, it wasn’t at all certain that they were going to head into the future. The decision to do so was only cemented in the finale, leaving open the possibility that the USS Discovery could’ve remained in the 23rd Century. With Pike and Spock headed back to the Enterprise, there would be two openings for new cast members, and realistically I’d have liked to see two new permanent members added to the cast – with a view to having them stick around for future seasons.
Discovery has been, in many respects, a leaderless series. Michael Burnham is the protagonist, but her role across both seasons thus far has not been one of leadership, which has always been occupied by a Captain or Commander in other iterations of Star Trek. Gabriel Lorca was, at least for me, one of the definite high points of Season 1 – at least before his dramatic turn in his final episode, in which he became a one-dimensional, moustache-twirling pantomime villain. Lorca’s departure was an inherent part of Discovery‘s narrative in that season and was inevitable, but his loss did leave a void in the show, one which Capt. Pike – played so wonderfully by Anson Mount – stepped in to fill. But as with Lorca, Pike was strictly a one-season deal, and so we’ve seen two very different leaders come and go for the series.
Stopping the churn of characters, especially high-ranking characters, has to be something Discovery addresses going forward. One way to do so would be to promote a current cast member to the captaincy – most likely this would be Burnham, though how that would work from an in-universe perspective given her mutiny conviction would require explanation. Saru would also be a good candidate, and could be Star Trek’s first non-human commanding officer.
Alternatively an outside captain could be parachuted in, but after going through two captains in two seasons I think fans would be clamouring for some consistency at the top. New characters would be great though, such as a security officer to replace the departing Ash Tyler. It would also be an opportunity to get to know some of the secondary characters, like Detmer at the helm and Owosekun at operations, both of whom have had very little to say or do thus far. Seeing them both in their home environment would let us get to know them better than seeing them in a completely unknown future.
There was still scope for Discovery to tell interesting stories in the 23rd Century, and if the Control/Leland storyline had been concluded differently, there’s no reason why Discovery couldn’t be hopping about the galaxy with or without the Spore Drive on missions of exploration.
Number 2: Ditch Michael Burnham
Burnham has been Discovery‘s main character since it premiered – but as a protagonist she can be difficult to root for at times. It’s no criticism of Sonequa Martin-Green, who plays her very well, but Burnham’s Vulcan upbringing has left her with two of the least attractive Vulcan traits – a cult-like devotion to logic (or rather, her own interpretation of logic), and an aloof nature that can come across as arrogant. This isn’t helped by putting her in stories in which she, and she alone, is able to be the saviour of the ship and crew.
In The Vulcan Hello (the premiere episode of Discovery) her motivations for staging the mutiny are so poorly communicated to the audience, and her actions so incomprehensible, that on first viewing I genuinely thought the producers had pulled the ol’ switcheroo and were surprising us by making Burnham the antagonist of the series. Her storyline in that episode and the one that followed set up Discovery‘s whole Season 1, but it made no sense and has been a major contributing factor to how fans have come to view her character.
Star Trek series have never been primarily focused on one individual before – with the exception now of Star Trek: Picard, which kicks off in just three weeks. But every other Star Trek series has been about a crew, not a person, and losing or swapping out one individual shouldn’t bring the whole concept of the series crashing down. The crew of Discovery would cope without her, and one possible ending for Season 2 would’ve been to send Burnham and the data into the future, while Discovery and the rest of the crew stayed behind to have new adventures without her in the 23rd Century.
Getting rid of Burnham, and not replacing her with a like-for-like “main” character, would allow other members of the crew to shine, as we could spend more time with them. And whether they travelled into the future or not, I think that would be a net positive for the series, because as mentioned above, we still know very little about several of the main crew.
Number 3: Travel into the future – but only to the dawn of the 25th Century
As I wrote a couple of posts ago, I’m not convinced that having multiple timelines and realities on the go all at once is a good way to organise a franchise. If you’re trying to convince a friend to give Star Trek a shot, and you have to spend an hour explaining that Discovery is in the 33rd Century, Section 31 is in the 23rd Century, Picard is at the start of the 25th Century, and there’s a film coming out that’s in the 23rd Century – but a parallel universe – it starts to get so convoluted that it’s just offputting for newcomers. And as much as long-time fans might deride it, ViacomCBS needs new people to get on board if Star Trek is to remain profitable and viable into the future. So what better way to fix things than to bring as many of your shows as possible into the same time period?
If Discovery had to abandon its 23rd Century setting, this is by far the best option. By bringing Burnham and the crew into the same time frame as Star Trek: Picard there’s the possibility for characters, storylines, and themes to cross over, and for the franchise as a whole to build a solid foundation in this new era. Other series could take that foundation and build upon it, creating a new era of Star Trek with a 25th Century setting – in much the same way as The Next Generation did for Deep Space Nine and Voyager. And who would disagree that the 24th Century shows were Star Trek’s “golden age”?
Precisely because of their shared setting, having a similar aesthetic made sense. Similar visual effects, a similar level of technology, and the possibility for characters, factions, and storylines to cross over all contributed to those shows being Star Trek storytelling at its best. But instead of trying to recreate a formula that worked, ViacomCBS seem intent on splitting up all of their projects, even though they’re in production at the same time. To me that doesn’t make a lot of sense. The difference in how TOS and TNG looked was caused by the shows being produced 20 years apart, and the similarity in effects and technology in TNG, DS9, and Voyager was perfectly reasonable considering these shows were all taking place in the same era. But if Picard in the 25th Century looks the same visually as Discovery in the 33rd Century and Section 31 in the 23rd Century, the aesthetic of the shows becomes an issue – and people will be wondering how they all look the same and have the same level of technology when they’re supposedly taking place centuries apart.
Instead, how about this: something goes wrong during Discovery’s jump to the future, and instead of emerging in the 32nd/33rd Century, they end up at the beginning of the 25th. And who do they meet? Capt. Picard and his new crew, who bring them back to Starfleet for debriefing. Such a scenario would be easy to pull off with a little technobabble to explain how the time-wormhole collapsed.
Starfleet would be sure to find a use for the ship and crew, who would want nothing more than to get back to work. Having two series running in the 25th Century would also allow for more backstory – allowing us to catch up on even more of what’s going on in the galaxy, and because we’re seeing it through the eyes of newcomers instead of people who already live there, there’d be more excuses for exposition and explanation, perhaps allowing for a deeper dive into some of the events we’ve missed since Nemesis. If there were some kind of war or conflict, this would be a great excuse for Starfleet to be in need of every available vessel, again providing a reason for the Discovery to remain in service.
It would also allow for more Spore Drive-related adventures, which Season 2 mostly lacked. The Spore Drive as a whole has felt underused in Discovery, really just serving as a macguffin to allow for the jump to the Mirror Universe. Its potential is unlimited, and it would be interesting to see how Starfleet would react to its reemergence.
Number 4: The Borg
When we think about iconic Star Trek villains, the Borg have to be right up there as one of the best and scariest. And Discovery seemed, for a while at least, to be touching on the Borg in Season 2. Many fans speculated that the Control AI, with its nanobots and ability to take over (or “assimilate”) human bodies was somehow tied to the Borg, and the season could have ended as a Borg origin story.
If Leland/Control and Discovery were thrown backwards in time instead of forwards, we could have seen how the Borg came to be; how the technology of Control came to be used by another species or how Control took over another species and turned them into proto-Borg. I kind of like this one, because as a narrative device, the cyclical idea that Starfleet actually created its own worst enemy could be – if executed well – absolutely fascinating to explore.
This is pure speculation on my part, but at least part of me thinks that this may have been in the original story pitch for Season 2. So much of the Control storyline lines up perfectly with a Borg origin story that it hardly seems accidental. If it was part of the original premise, I wonder why they decided not to go down that route. As with the idea of leaving the 23rd Century, this concept was still valid right up until the finale, with the story in Season 2 being able to go many ways even that late. To me, that makes for good storytelling, and I can’t help but wonder how this alternate route would have worked.
The downside to the Borg idea is that overusing a classic villain is problematic. We’ve seen the Borg many times across Star Trek, and particularly toward the end of Voyager they had become stale. When a villain gets overexplained and we spend too much time with them, they can lose a lot of their fear factor, especially if our heroes come out unscathed time after time. Just look at the zombies in The Walking Dead – the concept is similar in that you have an enemy who massively outnumber our heroes, and who can grow in strength and numbers by forcibly turning anyone into one of them. Yet by the third or fourth season of The Walking Dead, the zombies weren’t scary any more, and the show has since focused much more on human villains. Nevertheless, it’s been more than fifteen years since the last Borg story in Star Trek, and there’s a case to be made that the time is right to reintroduce them.
Part II: Other Star Trek ideas
Number 1: A Deep Space Nine film or miniseries
In the finale of Deep Space Nine, Benjamin Sisko disappears into the realm of the Prophets, and the crew go their separate ways. Sadly, the losses of Aron Eisenberg and René Auberjonois in 2019 mean that the whole crew will never get back together, and that we won’t get to see Odo and Nog again, but we could catch up with Sisko.
Sisko did promise to return from the Prophets, and his return could be a great excuse to catch up with others on the DS9 crew, as well as to see the galaxy through the eyes of someone who’s been away from galactic events. I mentioned this above with one of my Discovery ideas, but using a returning character in this way really is a great storytelling device. It brings us as the audience up to speed without feeling like the explanations and exposition are unnecessary.
Unlike with Star Trek: Picard, which already has a second season on order, I don’t think there’s necessarily scope to turn a Sisko-helmed series into a full-blown multi-season show. Part of what Star Trek: Picard has to be careful of is not simply turn into TNG Season 8. While there’s nothing wrong with that as a concept, Picard is supposed to be a new story and has a new cast of characters. I’m excited to meet them and see what they have to offer, so the show has to strike a balance between looking back and moving forwards. A DS9 sequel would have to do the same, and that’s why a film or miniseries format would work better.
If the Star Trek franchise were producing all of its shows in the same time period, it would be easy for such a project as this to be a nice addition to other 25th Century Star Trek.
Number 2: A hospital ship
This is a series premise I’ve been thinking about on and off for years. Sort of a combination of Star Trek and medical shows like ER, this concept would take a medical ship (like Dr. Crusher’s USS Pasteur from All Good Things) as it travels around the Federation.
Unlike with real-world medical dramas, the series wouldn’t be constrained by real-world diseases, which would allow for a lot of creative freedom for the writers. I don’t mean Theme Hospital levels of silliness, but the conditions which afflict both human and non-human patients could be explored in detail. It would also be interesting to expand our understanding of many of the diseases mentioned on screen only in passing, as well as to learn more about medical equipment and procedures in the 25th Century.
If it were part of a broader franchise, again there’s the possibility for characters crossing over, and it would even be an option to have a former regular like Bashir or Crusher be a part of the show. Medical dramas are popular, and if a series like ER could run for fifteen seasons and still manage to be engaging for (most) of that time, I really feel like this concept could work in Star Trek too. It would be new enough to shake up the franchise by not simply being another exploration or “boldly going” show, but would be familiar enough with the starship setting to be appealing to fans.
Number 3: A series set on a colony
Deep Space Nine sought to break the Star Trek mould by being the first show not set on a moving ship. Thus far it’s the only Star Trek project to take this approach, but going a step further would be to set a series on a colony world. Not even in space, the characters would be firmly rooted to the ground, and we could see how a colony is established.
There are hundreds of possibilities for such a setting. If it were a colony on a disputed world, that could lead to tension with whichever other power wanted the planet. If it were a colony far away from the nearest starbase, there’d be a sense of isolation among the crew. And we’d get another opportunity for Star Trek to show off non-Starfleet personnel – something the franchise hasn’t always done very well.
When it came to the character of Jake Sisko in Deep Space Nine, it always felt like the show’s producers didn’t really know what to do with him. With Nog becoming the young person who went to join Starfleet, Jake was kind of in limbo much of the time and many of his appearances didn’t do much to show what civilian life was like in the 24th Century. Not to say that Jake should’ve enrolled in Starfleet – that wouldn’t have been right for his character, and making him Wesley Crusher 2.0 wouldn’t have made Deep Space Nine any better.
But civilian life in Star Trek is something we don’t see much of, at least not human civilian life. Quark showed us a lot about the Ferengi, but other non-Starfleet characters, like Kes and Neelix, were still crew members on a Starfleet vessel and thus had roles to play in that environment. It would be interesting to see a colony on a planet where there were perhaps one or two Starfleet personnel but everyone else was a civilian. The Star Trek galaxy has room for so much more than just Starfleet ships having adventures, and a colony could be a good setting for telling a long, serialised story. I know some people have talked about a series on Earth, perhaps at Starfleet Academy, but to me a colony has more potential to tell interesting and different stories.
Number 4: Something set between The Undiscovered Country and The Next Generation
This is less a series premise than a time period, but I’ve always been curious to see more of this eighty-odd year span. We’d see, for example, the Romulans going into isolation, as well as the growth in relations between the Klingons and the Federation in the aftermath of the Khitomer Accords. It would also be interesting to see first contact with some species we’ve only seen later, and it would be an opportunity to look at relations between the Federation and other Alpha/Beta Quadrant powers like the Tholians or Breen, and see how things progressed with them.
I know I’ve said before that I prefer Star Trek to look forward not back, and that the franchise should try to set its shows in the same era. Both of those are still true, but if a prequel (or mid-quel) is on the cards, this could be a fun era to look at in more detail. Plus it would be an excuse to revisit the uniforms of that era, which are among Star Trek’s best.
So that’s it.
As I said last time, it’s easy for someone to criticise and tear down, but much harder to come up with new and interesting ideas to create something. I hope that at least some of these concepts were of interest to you.
The Star Trek franchise, including all shows and films mentioned above, is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.