The original Star Trek series ran for three seasons on NBC and was threatened with cancellation each season. When it was finally cancelled in 1969, no one could forsee its future popularity and enduring legacy. The series spawned an animated series and a successful string of movies (featuring the original cast) and four other live-action series (Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Enterprise).
Though Star Trek has been one of the most successful and prolific entertainment franchises in history, the franchise showed signs of losing steam in recent years. The last series, Star Trek: Enterprise (starring Quantum Leap’s Scott Bakula), was cancelled after four seasons on the now defunct UPN network. Some sited franchise over-saturation while others felt that focusing on the Star Trek “past” was less compelling than the future (the series was set over a century prior to the exploits of Captain Kirk and crew). Now, almost 40 years after the original series’ cancellation, it looks like Star Trek may be heading into the future again — this time even further than before.
According to TrekMovie.com, a new animated series is currently being considered by CBS. Like the Star Wars-based Clone Wars, if given the go-ahead, the project would likely air as a series of shorts or “mini-episodes.” The new series idea was pitched by producer David Rossi (who’s also the producer of the recent project to re-master the classic Trek episodes with improved special effects), Jose Munoz and Doug Mirabello. The team has now formed Zero Room Productions.
Conceived around the time of Enterprise’s cancellation, the trio didn’t believe that the franchise needed a rest. They wanted to keep the series alive in the public’s eyes but knew there was little chance of Paramount (the studio that owns Trek) being interested in a new and expensive live-action series. For that reason, they decided to explore the possibility of a new animated series. Their first thought was to pitch a show set in the same time frame of the original series but that didn’t go over too well with the executives at CBS (which is owned by Viacom, as is Paramount). They then considered venturing further into the future than any of the previous TV series.
The as-yet-unnamed animated series would be set 150 years after the events of the most-recent film Star Trek: Nemesis and the exploits of the Star Trek: The Next Generation characters. The series would also take a new and darker approach than any of the past Trek series. In the year 2528, the Federation would be very different than the one that Trekker have seen in the past. They’re still recovering from a devastating war with the Romulans some six decades before. Half of the Federation was cut off from the other during the war which allowed for the Klingon world to be overtaken, the Andorian world to be destroyed and the Vulcans left the Federation alliance completely.
A bleak future for sure but hope comes in the form of officers like Captain Alexander Chase and his crew of the Enterprise. This Enterprise is a bit out-of-date and is a leftover “Bismark Class” heavy cruiser from the Romulan War, a start contrast to the ships we’ve known.This Enterprise is assigned to merely patrol the Neutral Zone’s border. Captain Chase, well aware of the proud Enterprise legacy, isn’t satisfied with that and wants to “seek out new life and explore strange new worlds.” Half of the human and alien crew agree while the other half want to do as they’re told.
The design of the series was specifically chosen to look futuristic while still paying tribute to the nostalgic look of the original series. Rossi explains, “Although the show is set in the future, the designs are founded in the original series; it is a throwback that is also looking forward.”
Though the series hasn’t gotten a full go-ahead as yet, Zero Room Productions has been given the okay by CBS to produce six sample episodes. Time will tell where the project goes from there. If its given a greenlight, the series will likely be shown on StarTrek.com and could also possibly be shown on regular television and even released on DVD (again ala Clone Wars).
For now, with the convoluted licensing process, it looks like the project won’t likely be seen until the release of JJ Abrams’ as-yet-untitled Star Trek XI film (tentatively scheduled for 2008). Time will tell if the animated project moves forward but as Star Trek fans know, “there are always possibilities.” Stay tuned!