Some other news outlets are just starting to pick up on a rumor 1701News reported last week that suggested the upcoming Star Trek television series on CBS All Access could be set in the AbramsVerse.
What that means is that the alternate timeline established by 2009’s “Star Trek,” which was directed by J.J. Abrams, could be the canonical home of the new Star Trek series. But then again, maybe not.
The fact is, despite all the reports that have been circulating about the new series over the past few months, the only people who know for sure what the new series is all about are those who are part of the innermost circle of the show. People like showrunner Bryan Fuller, executive producer Nicholas Meyer, and likely even the show’s newest member of the writing team, novelist Kirsten Beyer.
Will the show be set in the “prime” universe — the home of Star Trek canon leading up to 2009 — or will it be set in another timeline, possibly even the one established by Abrams in 2009. I can’t tell you for sure, and I admitted as much when I wrote the “closed for business” story. A rumor is a rumor. It means that I heard it from one source, and corroborated it independently with a different source. That doesn’t mean it’s right, which is one of the inherent risks of dealing with rumors.
So how do we sort through all of the rumors, or worse yet, gossip disguised as a rumors? There’s no real trick to it, except trying to stay knowledgeable on the topic and ensuring your bullshit meter is turned on to extra sensitivity.
I do believe there is a chance the series could be set in the prime universe. I also believe there is a chance it could be set in the AbramsVerse. Even more, I believe it could be set in its own timeline. It’s possible the new series could be an anthology. It’s even more possible that the series is set between “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country” and the beginning of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” It also could take place in the future beyond “Star Trek: Voyager” — something the inclusion of Beyer, whose primary work in Star Trek was writing books in the post-“Voyager” universe, could very strongly suggest.
This past week, while a guest on the Super Geeks podcast, I introduced some things we need to consider when trying to predict what CBS will do with the new Star Trek series. And while this does seem like the most logical approach, we also have to remember that Hollywood is not exactly the most logical of places. Don’t forget, this is the community that thinks white people should play Asians and Egyptians.
You and me, we are very devoted fans of Star Trek, and probably spent our entire lives in love with the franchise. But CBS has its sights set beyond you and me when it comes to this new series. The new Star Trek is about attracting paid subscribers to CBS’ streaming service, and while there are a lot of Trekkies, there aren’t enough to justify making this all happen.
That means CBS is going to have to consider broader audience variables. Like the fact that the last seven years, all canonical Star Trek has been set in the alternate timeline in the movies set up by J.J. Abrams. Of course, CBS might not have any rights to that universe, but then again Alex Kurtzman’s participation could suggest otherwise.
You can’t ignore the fact that the current generation of potential viewers would relate far better to something based in the AbramsVerse than the prime universe. It’s not disparaging to the rest of Trek — it’s just a fact of life. By the time the new Star Trek series premieres, there will be three movies set in that universe, while the last canonical story we had in the prime universe was in 2005.
A “prequel” idea, meaning something in the timeline between “Undiscovered Country” and TNG, also could be tricky. Especially if it’s in the prime universe. “Star Trek: Enterprise” had a hard time selling the idea that its technology was not more advanced than what William Shatner’s Capt. Kirk had in the original “Star Trek” series. Imagine if a new series is set no long after the Shatner version of Kirk, but once again we have to suspend disbelief that we can show science-fiction without the technology looking older than what we all have right now in front of us.
The AbramsVerse reboot allowed technology to advance in a way where it once again looks like it’s ahead of us and not behind us. How much confusion would there be if we do a prequel without it taking place in the rebooted universe?
Also, what will CBS use to pull viewers into this new show? During the development of both “Star Trek: Enterprise” and what would later become the reboot movies, it was clear you had to have the Enterprise. But it’s likely there won’t be an Enterprise with this new series. So do you go with a Kirk and Spock? Maybe a Picard and Riker? Or do you jump ahead in the timeline, and create something totally new?
Whatever you do, it needs to be something that casual viewers would be familiar with, and something they could relate to. So I am doubting that we’ll see something obscure in the Star Trek universe.
I also struggle with the idea that the new series will be an anthology. The thing about the rumor report from other news outlets that suggested this is based on the same type of sources that suggested Angela Bassett was going to star in the show, or that it would take place on the USS Reliant. These are all past discussions and hypotheticals that various people have discussed — long before CBS decided to start working on a new series. The anthology bit is part of that, something that gained significant traction when “American Horror Story” became popular as an anthology.
It might be fun to do an anthology, but it would likely not work with Star Trek. Remember, “American Horror Story” is “grounded,” meaning it’s typically set in our present, or in time periods we can directly relate to. The Trek universe is a little different, because it might take a few episodes to establish the setting — especially for the casual viewer. While jumping around different timelines and characters would be fun for a devout Trekker, it’s not necessarily something casual viewers can connect with, and CBS is not going to forget about them.
I personally would love to see a Trek anthology. But with the cost to build sets and the difficulty in retaining viewers, I think that might very well be an idea for another time.
I guess the biggest takeaway from all this is that we simply don’t know. And we won’t know for sure until CBS starts making some announcements.
But yes, it’s fun to speculate. It’s fun to wonder. Just remember that everything that has been said about the new series unofficially, including our very own report last week, is nothing more than rumor. And rumors are just that … there are no guarantees that any of it will come true.