Why ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Needed To Be A Sequel To ‘The Next Generation,’ Not Yet Another Prequel

Originally published by Movie Pilot

A Starfleet vessel hasn’t zoomed across TV screens in a dozen years — ever since the 2005 cancellation of Star Trek: Enterprise, a prequel to the original Kirk/Spock series — but that’s changing this weekend with Star Trek: Discovery, a prequel to the original Kirk/Spock series. It’s co-created by Alex Kurtzman, who co-wrote the most recent trilogy of Star Trek films, which are prequels to the original Kirk/Spock series.

Is this franchise boldly going anywhere?

To be fair, Discovery — which premieres Sunday on CBS before controversially heading to the CBS All Access app — looks super promising. It has movie-quality special effects, a talented cast (Sonequa Martin-Green, Michelle Yeoh, Doug Jones, Jason Isaacs) and the creative involvement of Trek luminaries such as Deep Space Nine and Voyager writer Bryan Fuller, The Wrath of Khan director Nicholas Meyer and First Contact director Jonathan Frakes, who also starred in The Next Generation.

It’s the most exciting moment for Star Trek since the 2009 J.J. Abrams reboot. Fans have begged CBS for years to give us our fix on the reg, and maybe Discovery will prove to be an incredible series. But there’s still one major, existential problem…

Why Is A Vision Of The Future Stuck In Its Own Past?

Let’s face it: for mainstream audiences, Trek is Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock, which is why the 2009 film went back in time to their early days, and why Discovery will feature Spock’s father and sister. Both Enterprise and Star Trek: Nemesis, the final The Next Generation film, fizzled with audiences, so it made sense for Leonard Nimoy to pass the torch to Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto as younger versions of the original crew, leading to the most successful film in the franchise’s history.

After decades as a punchline, Star Trek was finally cool again, thanks to embracing its roots.

Plus, the creation of an alternate timeline gave the filmmakers much-needed freedom to explore new stories, because the original “prime” timeline had become convoluted through decades of inconsistent canon and contradictory technobabble. Not even the producers could keep it all straight anymore.

The Trek universe needed a major shakeup to move forward, and in this case, it meant moving backward. Now it’s time for another shakeup.

Khaaaaaaaan We Please Stop Making Prequel After Prequel?

The rebooted franchise got lost in the Delta Quadrant with 2013’s poorly received Star Trek into Darkness, which attempted to remake The Wrath of Khan. Fans considered it less of a tribute and more of an insult (especially since producers lied about the nature of the project before release). Last year’s Star Trek Beyond received better reviews by telling a brand-new story for Kirk and Spock, but it still felt like we’d seen its character arcs before.

At its (warp) core, Star Trek is about looking forward. And we haven’t seen the continuity advance since 2002’s Nemesis (basically another Khan remake), back when WiFi and DVDs were mind-blowing technology.

Comic books and novels have explored the post-Nemesis era, but they’re not considered canon. A TNG reunion with Patrick Stewart and Co. is unlikely, much as fans would love it. (Hell, the internet would go crazy for a Captain Wesley Crusher series — Wil Wheaton, call your agent!)

Still, even if the ’80s-’90s vision of the franchise is over, there’s no reason Trek — currently stuck back in the twenty-third century — can’t go forward into the twenty-fifth.

What’s The Next Next Generation?

If the franchise is to advance, it’ll require a giant leap forward, just as TNG itself drastically broke away from the William Shatner era’s characters and sensibilities, which risked alienating fans at the time. But that’s the whole point — new life and new civilizations, remember?

Jumping far enough into the future would allow the creative team to get around the headache-inducing canon and do their own world-building, from the state of humanity to the new species we’ve encountered and the new technology we’ve invented. So many of Trek’s wild predictions — from mobile communicators to virtual reality — have come to fruition; what else can they dream up that seems impossible today?

Maybe the new captain would have to be Kirk or Picard’s descendent for marketing purposes, but producers would be shocked at how many Trekkers want to see the next chapter, not just another untold previous chapter. Fans will give Discovery a chance — and may even consider it a triumph — but It’s time for the franchise to stop dwelling on the most recognizable era.

Star Trek gives us an optimistic vision of the future; clinging to its own nostalgia feels cynical. And that’s just highly illogical.