Spoiler Warning: There are minor spoilers ahead for the following Star Trek productions: Discovery Season 3, Picard Season 1, 2009’s Star Trek, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager.
We’ve known for a while that there are more Star Trek projects in development in addition to the shows and films currently in production. As early as the announcement of Star Trek: Picard in 2018 rumours were flying around, and not long after the official announcement of the Section 31 series – a show whose fate I fear hangs in the balance right now – came confirmation that further Star Trek television shows were actively being worked on. One of those shows we now know to be Strange New Worlds – but there are other projects both for film and television that remain officially unannounced.
September’s Star Trek Day broadcast featured an interview with Alex Kurtzman, the man in charge of the Star Trek franchise for ViacomCBS. In the interview, Kurtzman hinted – though stopped short of confirming outright – that one of the shows in early development will be focused on Starfleet Academy. Today I thought it could be fun to consider what a Starfleet Academy series could look like, and answer the crucial question: “is it a good idea?!”
As the Section 31 series has unfortunately demonstrated now that it appears to be on the verge of outright cancellation, developing an entirely new television series is not a straightforward process. However, the fact that Alex Kurtzman was willing to discuss the prospect of a Starfleet Academy series at all – and in a pre-recorded interview that ViacomCBS allowed to be broadcast, no less – means that we have to take the idea seriously. It’s still possible that the proposed series won’t make it to our screens in its presently-envisioned form, but ViacomCBS is clearly laying the groundwork for a future announcement.
Sometimes companies like to tease or even leak information like this to gauge the reaction and see what fans think. Any new Star Trek television series has to have appeal beyond the existing fanbase, of course, but if Trekkies aren’t at least interested if not enthused at the prospect of a new show, that could mean the corporation chooses not to press ahead. If I were to speculate – and as always, I’ll tell you up front that I have no “insider information” – I would say that might well be the fate that befell the Section 31 series.
We’ve recently talked about some of the poor business decisions that ViacomCBS has made in regards to the Star Trek franchise, so it wouldn’t shock me to learn that none of it is planned and the corporation is just winging it! But I like to think that there is some direction and control to the way the Starfleet Academy series has been teased, and that there are folks over at the company analysing the response from the fanbase to see how Trekkies feel about the idea.
So… how do Trekkies feel about the idea? I’m not the most active person on social media, but even so I would’ve expected to see some chatter. Prior to the announcement of Strange New Worlds, for example, I quickly lost count of the number of posts and messages I saw from fans who were clamouring for a “Captain Pike show.” So far, from my limited perspective at least, I’m not seeing any of that for a Starfleet Academy series. Maybe people who study social media in more depth than I do, or who are members of fan clubs and the like, have heard more from the fan community about this – but I think it’s worth noting that the prospect of the show has, thus far at least, failed to get large numbers of folks excited.
To be fair, though, the only mention of a Starfleet Academy series from anyone close to the production of Star Trek came in that one Star Trek Day interview. The Alex Kurtzman interview lasted only a few minutes and was by no means the main event in a broadcast that lasted for three hours and also debuted trailers and teases for shows that have already been announced. So perhaps the reason for the muted response is that a lot of folks are still unaware of the concept – or if they are aware they’re still waiting for something more official.
For my part, I think the series has a lot of potential. I’d place it far higher on my list than any of the other rumoured or quasi-official pitches and concepts that have been floating around out there! Whether it’s Captain Worf, Captain Proton, or the Ceti Alpha V miniseries that we talked about a while ago, a Starfleet Academy show has – in my subjective opinion at least – far more potential to be interesting and exciting.
Starfleet Academy is not a new concept for a series. As early as the 1960s, while The Original Series was still on the air, Gene Roddenberry was actively considering a prequel which would have focused on Kirk, Spock, and Dr McCoy meeting for the first time at Starfleet Academy. The concept was revisited by Gene Roddenberry at least twice: in the early 1970s, prior to work commencing on the project that ultimately became The Motion Picture, and again in the mid-1980s before work began on The Next Generation. Seeing Kirk, Spock, and Dr McCoy at Starfleet Academy would eventually be realised in 2009’s Star Trek film.
Gene Roddenberry would have approved, then! Which is great news for all longstanding Trekkies! I don’t think we need to worry too much that previous attempts to get a Starfleet Academy project off the ground didn’t succeed. The truth is that there were other competing ideas at the time, and even though Gene Roddenberry and others did seriously consider the idea, there were always other competing projects. I think we can all agree that the feature films of the 1980s and The Next Generation were great ideas too!
Had Enterprise not been cancelled, I think it’s possible that the Starfleet Academy concept could’ve been revived 15 years ago as well, as part of a renewed expansion of Star Trek that never happened. There were plans afoot in the Enterprise era to expand the franchise yet further, but the show’s declining ratings and the poor critical reception to Nemesis in 2002 ultimately led to the Star Trek franchise taking a short break.
A Starfleet Academy series has three big things going for it, in my view. Firstly, the series could be created to tie in with any current or past Star Trek series. Connecting it to an ongoing show such as Discovery or Picard would make the most sense, and the show could be set in the same time period as either, and connect with characters, factions, and themes. There could even be crossover episodes.
This kind of closer connection between ongoing series is something that the Star Trek franchise needs. The closest we’ve got so far has been the appearance of the Qowat Milat in Season 3 of Discovery, connecting the show in a loose way with Picard. But the franchise as a whole needs to do a lot more to tie together the shows currently in production, so having a Starfleet Academy series share a time period and setting with another show would be a boost to the Star Trek franchise overall.
Secondly, if the show were set at Starfleet Academy itself, that would make it the first Star Trek series to take place on Earth. That concept is itself interesting, and there’s potential to learn more about Earth and what life is like for its inhabitants in the future. That’s in addition to taking a deep dive into life at the Academy itself. Such a series could – perhaps – be a little cheaper to produce; filming could take place in and around San Fransisco, and there would be arguably less of a need for expensive new sets to be built from scratch to represent spacecraft and alien worlds.
Every Star Trek series so far has visited Earth in some capacity, but there’s still an awful lot we don’t know about the Federation’s capital planet. I like the idea of some of the cadets or teachers taking time away from the Academy to get out and explore – showing us as the audience more than a glimpse of life on Earth in Star Trek’s future.
Finally, a Starfleet Academy series has the potential to appeal to a younger audience – just like Prodigy is intended to. In fact, a Starfleet Academy show could easily become the next port of call for Prodigy fans as they immerse themselves further in Star Trek; there’s huge potential to appeal to a tween or teen audience, particularly if younger cadets were the show’s primary focus.
At the very least, setting a series at the Academy would naturally include a number of younger characters – and its characters like these that have the potential to appeal to a younger audience. Star Trek can’t just be the preserve of an ageing fanbase who remember shows from the ’60s and ’90s with rose-tinted nostalgia! It has to expand and appeal to new fans too – and bringing younger people into the Star Trek fan community is the best way of ensuring the franchise will survive and remain in production in the longer term.
In my view, that’s one of the most important things that a Starfleet Academy series could do – and should be its primary objective as a series. As Lower Decks and Prodigy are demonstrating, branching out and trying to appeal to different audiences doesn’t mean that Star Trek has to ignore its existing fanbase. There’s plenty in Prodigy and Lower Decks to appeal to existing fans, and I would expect no less from a Starfleet Academy show as well.
When a Starfleet Academy concept has been debated in the past, some fans have raised the objection that it would be “too static” – that being stuck on Earth would make the show feel stale in comparison to other Star Trek shows set aboard starships. I understand where such a concern is coming from, but as Deep Space Nine definitively proved, a stationary setting doesn’t have to be boring. And as Deep Space Nine also showed right from its very first episode, it’s possible to have shuttles, runabouts, or even a whole starship seconded to a base.
Starfleet Academy has its own ships – this is something we’ve seen in several past episodes. Deep Space Nine’s sixth season episode Valiant even showed a crew of cadets aboard a very advanced ship, and Prodigy is also showing a younger crew aboard their own vessel. In short, a Starfleet Academy series could easily have episodes set aboard a ship or visiting other worlds – as well as stories that make use of technologies like the holodeck to give the cadets experience.
I’d say that a Starfleet Academy series is absolutely worth pursuing. It might not be my first choice – I have a few ideas of my own, which you can find by clicking or tapping here! – but it absolutely has merit, and sounds far better than any of the other pitches or proposals I’ve heard in recent years. Its biggest selling point to me is its potential to bring in new audiences, as well as to give young fans of Prodigy a series to graduate to that would keep them in the fandom.
So watch this space! I don’t believe an announcement is imminent, despite the recent talk of the show at Star Trek Day. Picard still has at least two seasons left to run, Lower Decks and Prodigy have at least one more apiece, and while there have been no official announcements I’m expecting to hear that Discovery will get a fifth season and Strange New Worlds will get a second at some point in the near future. Between those shows and the various feature film projects, Star Trek is quite busy going into 2022, 2023, and even 2024! So we might not hear anything official just yet… but keep your eyes and ears open!
The Star Trek franchise – including all series 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.