Star Trek has reached the holy land. We are about to embark on a journey in the prime timeline (the one true timeline, not the lens-flare Enterprise) in which we will be back before the time of Captain Kirk and see him as Ensign or Lt. Kirk—his formative years, in the main timeline.
Star Trek has now officially lapped itself, temporally speaking. I frankly didn’t know how to feel about it.
Stream of Consciousness memory palace torrent activated…
For decades we watched Star Trek go boldly forward from The Original Series (TOS) to the stiff-upper-lip of The Next Generation (TNG), then to war torn, shapeshifter-ridden, Deep Space Nine (DS9) and far-flung Voyager (VOY) with their pesky BORG problem.
At this point, we assumed the Delta Quadrant was going to be the end of the franchise’s expansion when they suddenly turned tail from the future and gave us the Star Trek mutant that was Enterprise (ENT).
No one wanted Enterprise. It was retro. It was before the Original Series. When the Federation was in its awkward teenage years. Expanding here, taking over planets, encountering or being hostile aliens. Humans are problematic in Enterprise. I felt sympathy for the Andorians. Hard times.
Worse, their tech was so clunky. So hard to look at. I had gotten use to the slick interfaces of later generations. Then there were the aliens. Who were, in their very cultured way, xenophobic. The Humans were barely any better.
ENT also had a terrible time-traveler problem. Being fair, ENT did eventually become kinda compelling but no one was thrilled with watching it. Enterprise limped along, picking up steam in Seasons Two and Three and hitting its stride in Season Four before suddenly getting the axe.
Star Trek had died again. It was a good death. Clean break. No complaints. Star Trek had run its course again and gave us almost three decades of Star Trek. “No one would miss it” was the general consensus.
Nostalgia is one hell of a drug. The hankering for Trek made movies in alternative timelines with other actors traveling as Kirk and crew in their flying, overly bright, Apple store, where Spock and Uhura are dating, and the warp engine looks like a microbrewery (because it was, having been shot on location at the Anheiser=.
None of that mattered. Star Trek was alive. Again. A Frankensteinian beast who proved the hunger for Star Trek was there. A tiny burning ember. Bright enough to ignite a new wave of Star Trek or star exploring space adventures. Star Trek has risen, again, hotter than an overclocked warp core engine.
On television, we have The Orville—yeah I said it. The Orville is trying hard to be The Next Generation with slightly more vulgar Humans who remind you of your neighbors you aren’t particularly fond of. We have the dark future of Jean-Luc Picard in the titular named series. The Federation has gone off the rails, feeling less benevolent and more problematic. Jean-Luc has retired. His career is done. Or is it? Get up, go watch it. It’s not your father’s Star Trek. It’s darker. More muddled. It feels angry. It is still, so, so good.
Then there is the pesky rule-breaker, Discovery (DIS). The series violates everything we know about Star Trek. The captain wasn’t the central character. A Black woman is the lead. Discovery had people talking. My biggest complaint however, was the newcomer to the Star Trek franchise, managed to take us back to a time before Captain Kirk.
I thought this was going to be its death knell. It was After Archer but a decade or two before Captain James T. Kirk, his legendary crew and the Federation’s greatest expansion period caused by their five-year mission.
The greatest irony awaited the series. Star Trek’s first five year mission, lasted only three years. It was considered a marginal success. Just good enough to make it into syndication. No one ever gave it any thought for at least a decade. TOS ended in 1969. Star Trek the Motion Picture aired in 1979. It took another seven years before The Next Generation would air igniting the previous first golden age of Star Trek.
Discovery appears to be starting a new golden age. They have managed to create a story which starts in the past of the Federation and catapults them into the future. (Spoilers my ass. This series has been burning up the hyperspace lanes for four years. Get a TV. Watch it.)
Discovery is now discovering new frontiers in the far future, 930 years after being declared lost. Discovery has reignited the hunger for Star Trek, causing new projects to explode into view.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds will be taking us back to episodic star-trekking during the feel-good nostalgic era that birthed the genre, but presumably with more adult themes. If you want to see the production values check out Star Trek: Short Treks, featuring short form Star Trek, and the two animated series, the ludicrously funny Star Trek: Lower Decks and the epic new adventures of Star Trek: Prodigy. Be still my beating heart. But not yet.
There is even the rumor of a ‘Section 31’ series. What is that going to be about, I wonder? We have spent decades hearing about the ideological bent of the Federation, only to discover recently, the Federation has a covert-ops division. Say what?
Yet Star Trek remained clear of holy ground. Enterprise and Discovery were set just before Captain Kirk’s run on the Enterprise NCC-1701. They appeared to have no taste for trying to do anything with Captain Kirk’s period. Seemed smart, too.
Then Anson Mount came to town. Charismatic, smooth, dripping the stuff of leadership from every pore. (Go, writers.) Anson Mount took the helm of Discovery as the legendary, so amazing he is spoken about in hushed whispers because of the catastrophic state of the man after saving multiple cadets from a reactor leak (or some such destructively radioactive event) which left him a husk of a man confined to a motorized wheelchair.
Who, after decades, in that chair was rescued by the best first officer in Starfleet who served with Captain Pike onboard the Enterprise for at least a decade before his time with Kirk.
Ka-ching. Oh my god. Fertile soil. We just need a captain.
Paging Anson Mount, to the bridge of the Discovery. Mount rocked the second season of Discovery as their interim leader. He was so good, he made Star Trek writers believe they were ready for the unthinkable.
The challenge? To tell stories in the lifetime of James Tiberius Kirk. Star Trek has come home, by showcasing the lives of one of the greatest captains of the early Federation who became an inspiration to those who followed, Captain Christopher Pike.
Anson Mount as Christopher Pike onboard the Enterprise with Mr. Spock and Number One. Holy menagerie. Strange New Worlds was greenlit and produced even during a time of COVID-19 and has a second season in the works before the first one has even been shown on a screen in the public.
Strange New Worlds has decided to loop back in time showing us the adventures of a young Jim Kirk before he became a captain on the Enterprise. Paul Wesley is the actor who will be portraying James Kirk at some earlier rank. The Vampire Diaries actor will join the upcoming Paramount+ series in the show’s second season.
Welcome back, Jim. I hope this fifty-three year homecoming is going to be worth the trip.
Star Trek Lives!
Thaddeus Howze is an award-winning writer, editor, podcaster and activist creating speculative fiction, scientific, political and cultural commentary from his office in Hayward, California.
Thaddeus’ speculative fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and literary journals. He has published two books, ‘Hayward’s Reach’ (2011), a collection of short stories and ‘Broken Glass’ (2013) an urban fantasy novella starring his favorite paranormal investigator, Clifford Engram.