One Of Three For Five

By Fred Shedian
Posted at January 22, 2000 - 6:00 AM GMT

Several days ago, I was surprised by a post on TrekToday announcing the fact Paramount Pictures had indeed held a focus group meeting to discuss three Series V ideas. The three ideas, now classified commonly as "Black Ops," "Birth of the Federation" and "Starfleet Academy", are interesting to say the least. Today, I will spend some time reviewing what I believe to be the good points and the bad points of each idea. To begin, let's take a look at the first choice, "Black Operations/Section 31."

Given the analysis reported on TrekToday, this idea could be a very good one. A group of officers serving aboard two starships who move about the Federation dealing with threats against "our way of life" could be a very refreshing change. Unlike Voyager, all of the key aspects of a Trek show would still be present. These folks would be directly impacted by events within the Federation and would be serving aboard a starship. The endless ideas for plots alone makes this a very appealing series. I would love to see this group deal with a "massive infestation" problem sweeping the quadrant...tribbles.

Although I give this idea high praise, I also have some reservations about it. As I have said in past months, I believe Star Trek's "tone" turned dark towards the last three seasons of DS9. My most common example is the fact we went from a Klingon-Federation war, to an all out Alpha Quadrant war in a matter of six months. I believe a "Black Ops" type show could very easily fall into this trap. Being honest, the one thing this franchise does not need is another war. However, if the writing was up to par and kept in a lighthearted mood, I believe this show would be a hit.

The key to this idea, in my opinion, would be to make sure there is a good contrast between the characters. I do not think I could stand watching a group of hardened marine-type officers dealing with issues within the Federation week after week. However, watching a well crafted group of characters with different backgrounds, different attitudes and different ideas as to their actual purpose could easily create a hit. If the proper charisma exists between the cast and writers, a "Black Operations" show will be an excellent addition to the Star Trek franchise. Yet, if the writing quality is as poor as we have seen in recent years aboard Voyager, the show would be doomed from the start...never fully developing to it's potential. I believe the potential for this style of show alone led the focus group and fans to positively rate this idea.

The next selection mentioned has been called "Birth of the Federation." This idea, set before TOS, is one many reviewers believe would be forced to simply reuse old material. I disagree with this assessment. For those curious about what type of show this could be, simply look at the novel "Best Destiny." A show detailing how the Terran-Vulcan alliance was finalized, how a small alliance of worlds eventually became the United Federation of Planets, the early exploration of space we now know to be common place, first contact with modern day allies and enemies, how the neutral zone was established and even the trials of getting the first starships to launch could be a very entertaining experience. This show would not have to be based aboard a starship, on Earth or even on a Starbase...rather it could be on all three. If this series went into development, and was handled properly, I believe it would be a huge step to bringing back fans who departed Star Trek after ST:VI. I also believe it is fitting that this show is a close second in polls I have seen, actually first choice in one.

The final selection brought up in the Paramount focus group was "Starfleet Academy." I have talked about this idea before, however the details given in the recent TrekToday article makes me certain that such a series would simply become "Starfleet Academy: 90210." The simple mention of the Vulcan female character betrays almost everything we know about that species makes me question how "Trek friendly" this idea is. In addition, Starfleet Academy sending out a group of Cadets aboard an active starship week after week? Perhaps on a training mission once or twice, as seen in Star Trek II, but not every other week.

From the start, this idea would be betraying and going against all of the Trek which has come before. For this reason alone, I believe an Academy series would be very dangerous...possibly alienating more fans from the franchise. Although I believe the general idea would be "interesting," I concur with those who say this series would be better suited as a book. Star Trek does not need to try and tap into the Dawson's Creek simply isn't that type of show, nor should we even try to make it one.

Overall, with the best two ideas leading polls, I must say I am pleasantly surprised by the ideas put forth. With any luck, either "Black Operations" or "Birth of the Federation" will enter production and appear on the small screen in a couple of years. If the writing is good, and cast selection superb, I believe one of these two ideas will be an excellent choice to carry Star Trek through the 21st Century and beyond.

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Fred Shedian writes a weekly 'A Take On Trek' column for the Trek Nation.