Thoughts on a Starfleet Academy series

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?!”

Alex Kurtzman teased a Starfleet Academy series at Star Trek Day.

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’re still waiting to hear news about the poor Section 31 show…

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.

I haven’t seen much talk in the fan community on social media about a potential Starfleet Academy series just yet.

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.

I’d definitely prefer a Starfleet Academy show to a Captain Proton show!

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!

Gene Roddenberry worked on several Starfleet Academy series and film concepts during his life.

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.

A Starfleet Academy series could potentially run alongside – and cross over with – any of the current crop of Star Trek shows.

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.

A tree in the grounds of Starfleet Academy as seen in Discovery Season 3.

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.

Fans of Prodigy could easily make the jump to a Starfleet Academy show if it had a similar youthful 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.

Lower Decks was intended to bring in new fans as well as appeal to Trekkies – and a Starfleet Academy show could walk that same line.

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.

Kirk as a cadet in 2009’s Star Trek.

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.

Fifteen games worthy of a second look in Spring 2021

Spoiler Warning: Though there are no major spoilers, minor spoilers may still be present for a few of the titles on this list.

Anthem is gone, Cyberpunk 2077 is still a stinking mess, and there are delays aplenty across the games industry as the pandemic rolls on. What’s a gamer to do? Well, I might have the answer for you! Tomorrow will be the first day of March, and to me March has always meant the beginning of Spring. There are small snowdrops beginning to bloom in my garden, and the nights are getting shorter. A few times this past week I’ve even managed without the heating on in my house – much to the dismay of the cats!

There are still plenty of great games that – all being well – will be released this year. If you missed it, I put together a list just after New Year of ten of the most interesting titles! But considering the delays and that this time of year is typically fairly quiet in terms of releases, I thought it would be a great moment to consider a few games that deserve a second look. I’ve limited the list to titles that are readily available to buy on current-gen platforms and PC, so no out-of-print games this time.

Without any further ado, let’s jump into the list, which is in no particular order.

Number 1: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Nintendo Switch, 2017)

Nintendo’s most recent karting game is a ton of fun. It’s the kind of arcade racer that has a very low bar for entry – anyone can pick up and play this fun title. But mastering Mario Kart 8 – especially if you choose to head online – is no small task, and there’s a surprising amount of skill involved to be truly competitive with the best players! I’ve adored the Mario Kart series since its inception on the SNES, and this version is the definitive Mario Kart experience… at least until they make Mario Kart 9!

Number 2: Fall Guys (PC and PlayStation 4, 2020, coming to Xbox and Nintendo Switch this summer)

Among Us gained a lot of attention not long after Fall Guys was released last summer and stole at least some of the cute game’s attention! The fact that Fall Guys isn’t on mobile probably counts against it as far as finding a broader audience goes, but despite what some have claimed, the game is by no means dead. Season 4 – which promises to bring a new set of futuristic rounds – is being released soon, and for less than £15 (at least on PC) I honestly can’t fault Fall Guys. It’s an adorable, wholly unique experience in which your cute little jelly bean character runs a series of obstacle courses in a video game homage to the likes of Total Wipeout. Each round lasts only a couple of minutes, and it really is way more fun than words can do justice to! I’ve recently got back into playing after taking a break, and there’s plenty of fun still to be had.

Number 3: The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (PC and Xbox, 2002)

You can find Morrowind on PC, and despite being an older title it’s compatible with Windows 10. There has been an active modding scene for almost twenty years at this point, so even if you’ve already played the base game it may still be worth going back for more. In my subjective opinion, Morrowind is the high-water mark of the Elder Scrolls series. It certainly offers players more to do than its predecessors or sequels – more NPCs to interact with, more factions to join, more types of weapons to wield and spells to cast, and so on. Especially if you hit Morrowind with some of the visual/graphics mods that are available, it can feel almost like a new game!

Number 4: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (PC, PlayStation 2, and Xbox, 2002)

Another older title that you can find on PC, as well as on iOS and Android, Vice City was one of three Grand Theft Auto titles released between 2001 and 2005. Remember when Rockstar was able to put out more than one game per decade?! If you’ve had your fill of Grand Theft Auto V by now – and it’s been out for eight years, so I wouldn’t blame you if you were ready to play something else – maybe going back to one of the older games will be a nostalgic blast. Many fans of the series consider Vice City to be the best entry, and while I don’t think I’d go quite that far, I had a ton of fun with it back on the original Xbox.

Number 5: Banished (PC, 2014)

There are some great city-builders out there, but one of my favourites from the last few years is Banished. The game was built entirely by one person, which never fails to amaze me! It would still be a fantastic title if it had been made by a full studio, but the fact that the game and all its complex systems were programmed by a single developer is an astonishing achievement. Banished isn’t easy, even on lower difficulty settings, and it will take a little time to get into the swing of how to plan your town and manage your resources. But if you’re up for a challenge it’s a wonderful way to lose track of time!

Number 6: Skully (PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, and Xbox One, 2020)

Skully is a game that I’ve been meaning to write a proper review of since I picked it up last year, but it keeps slipping down my writing pile. From the moment I saw the trailer and heard the game’s premise – a 3D platformer in which you play as a disembodied skull – I was in love, and the game did not disappoint! The environments are beautiful and the game is plenty of fun. It manages to feel at points like an old-school 3D platformer of the Nintendo 64 era, and at others like a wholly modern experience. It’s also an indie title, and it’s great to be able to support indie developers wherever we can!

Number 7: Jade Empire (PC and Xbox, 2005)

If the demise of Anthem has got you missing the “golden age” of BioWare’s role-playing games, make sure you didn’t skip Jade Empire. The Xbox exclusive was overlooked by players in the mid-2000s, and while other BioWare games from that decade, like Knights of the Old Republic, Mass Effect, and Dragon Age Origins are all held in high esteem, the Chinese-inspired Jade Empire is all but forgotten. When Steam has it on sale you can pick up Jade Empire for less than the price of a coffee, and for that you’ll get what is honestly one of the best and most interesting role-playing games of all time.

Number 8: Star Trek: Starfleet Academy (PC, 1997)

Starfleet Academy is unique among Star Trek games because it features the cast of The Original Series in video clips recorded especially for the game. These aren’t scenes from films or episodes of the show; you literally will not see them anywhere else. Starfleet Academy is a starship simulator, and while its visuals obviously don’t look as good in 2021 when compared to other titles, the overall experience is fantastic. You won’t find another game quite like it – especially because ViacomCBS has all but given up on making Star Trek games since the release of Star Trek Online!

Number 9: Forza Horizon 4 (PC and Xbox One, 2018)

I signed up for Game Pass in order to be able to play racing game Forza Horizon 4 – and it was totally worth it! The Forza Horizon series attempts to find a middle ground between true racing sims and arcade-style titles, and generally manages to do so quite well. Forza Horizon 4 has a map which represents parts of Great Britain, and that’s something unusual! I didn’t see my house, but it’s always nice when a game uses a familiar setting. There are plenty of fun cars to race in, and different kinds of races too, including going off-road.

Number 10: Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (Multiplatform, 2013)

Is it just me, or has every subsequent game in the Assassin’s Creed series struggled to hit the highs of Black Flag? Origins and Odyssey were decent, but even in 2021, I think that Black Flag is the definitive title in the franchise! There’s something about its pirate setting and the wonderful crop of NPCs that make Black Flag a truly enjoyable experience from start to finish. For a game that’s approaching its eighth birthday it still looks fantastic, too!

Number 11: The Last Of Us (PlayStation 3, 2013)

Despite its severely disappointing sequel, The Last Of Us is fantastic. If you’re looking for a game with amazing characters and a deep, engaging story, it simply can’t be bettered. I put The Last Of Us on my list of games of the decade as the 2010s drew to a close, and for good reason. Joel and Ellie’s trek across a hauntingly beautiful post-apocalyptic United States was absolutely one of the gaming highlights of the last few years. The characters are so well-crafted that they feel real, and every twist and turn in the intense storyline carries emotional weight. The game is being adapted for television, and I’m interested – cautiously so in the wake of The Last Of Us Part II – to see what will happen when it makes the leap to the small screen.

Number 12: Age of Empires: Definitive Edition (PC, 2018)

Though I know Age of Empires II is the title most folks prefer, I’ve always appreciated what the original Age of Empires did for the real-time strategy genre. If you’ve been enjoying the recent remake of the second game, it could be a great time to give the original a try as well. Age of Empires didn’t invent real-time strategy, but it was one of the first such titles I played after its 1998 release – and I sunk hours and hours into it in the late ’90s! There’s something about building up an army of Bronze Age warriors to smash an opponent’s town that’s just… satisfying!

Number 13: Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, 2019)

I played through Jedi: Fallen Order last summer and documented my time with the game here on the website. Suffice to say I had a blast; the linear, story-focused title is exactly what the Star Wars franchise needed after the Battlefront II debacle! Having just seen the dire Rise of Skywalker I was also longing for a Star Wars story that I could actually enjoy for a change, and Jedi: Fallen Order did not let me down! I had a great time swinging my lightsaber across a galaxy far, far away… and I think you will too.

Number 14: No Man’s Sky (PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, 2016)

No Man’s Sky was incredibly controversial at launch. The pre-release hype bubble got wildly out of control, egged on by a marketing push that oversold the game. Remind you of any recent titles? But despite the backlash in 2016, Hello Games has since put in a lot of hard graft, and five years on No Man’s Sky genuinely lives up to its potential. Had it been released in this state I think it would have been hailed as one of the best games of the decade – if not of all time. I understand not wanting to reward a game that was dishonestly sold, and that the “release now, fix later” business model is not one we should support. But there’s no denying that No Man’s Sky is a great game in 2021, and if you haven’t picked it up since its 2016 launch, it could be worth a second look.

Number 15: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 (PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, 2020)

A full remake of the definitive skateboarding game is hard to pass up! In the Dreamcast era, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater launched an entire genre of skating games, and its amazing soundtrack is a nostalgic hit of late ’90s/early ’00s punk rock. The remade version, which you can pick up on Switch and the two new consoles later this year, is great fun, and has managed to do something rare for a remake: genuinely recapture the look and feel of the original title. Obviously the visuals are brought up-to-date, but the feel of the game and the way tricks are performed are fantastic. I was able to slip right back into playing as if I’d never put the Dreamcast controller down!

So that’s it. Fifteen games that I think are worth your time this Spring.

There are plenty of fun titles on the horizon, but some of the ones I was most looking forward to – like Kena: Bridge of Spirits and Hogwarts Legacy – have recently been delayed, prompting me to look at my library and put together this list.

I hope this has inspired you to find something to play over the next few weeks! If not, stay tuned because there will be plenty more gaming-related articles here on the website. Happy gaming!

All titles listed above are the copyright of their respective studio, developer, and/or publisher. Some screenshots and promo artwork courtesy of IGDB. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.