Ain’t It Cool brought my attention to this post by writer Bryce Zabel about the treatment he wrote with Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski to “re-boot” Star Trek. You should read the treatment yourself, if you’re interested, but basically it involved starting from scratch, and doing a new television series about the original characters (Kirk, Spock, et al) on their five year voyage. Effectively, it’s giving Star Trek the Batman Begins treatment, which seems all the rage these days (what with Superman Returns and Casino Royale both on the way).
As described by Straczynski and Zabel, it’s a fascinating idea. What really struck me was that whereas very other Trek incarnation has based the franchise around the universe (so that each new series covers different periods and events in a consistent chronology), this one bases everything around the original series characters and throws everything else out. In other words, the key to Trek is defined as being Kirk, Spock, McCoy and the rest, just as other franchises rotate around – and occasionally recast and reimagine – their lead characters (Superman, Batman, James Bond, etc).
As interesting as it would have been to see this, at the end of the day I don’t really buy it. Firstly, Kirk is William Shatner and Spock is Leonard Nimoy and Bones is DeForest Kelley. Those characters were defined by the actors who played them – often because the writing was pretty thin, frankly – and I don’t think it would be a very productive exercise recasting them. (I think J.J. Abrams’ mooted “young Kirk” project is a doomed exercise for much the same reason).
The other thing is that for all Straczynski and Zabel’s optimism about a “fresh take” on the format, I’m just not sure there’s much more that can be done with the “starship cruising the universe” format. There have been an incredible twenty-nine series of Trek all up (including the animated series), which have picked over a lot of narrative ground. If you’ve watched a series or two of Trek, you’ve seen a lot of variations on pretty much every kind of story you can build into that format.
As I alluded to in my review of Star Trek: Nemesis, I think the future of Trek lies in taking a break, letting demand build, and then returning with a decently budgeted feature film that had some real scope to it. Given the series some real grandeur and mystique, rather than having it constantly accessible in multiple versions that retread the original format, would be a much better way to “reboot.”