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Why Isn’t Netflix Working On A New Star Trek Already?

The news that Netflix is considering bringing The Killing back from the dead is good news for fans of the dour AMC mystery, and a welcome sign that the company remains committed to content creation, as well as distribution. But when is it going to step up and do the one thing the world has been waiting for since it announced its first original show: Bring back Star Trek?

Okay, perhaps saying that a Netflix-exclusive Trek revival is something that the world has been waiting for is a slight overstatement, but bear with me. I’m convinced this could actually work.

We know that there are talks going on about another potential Trek television series, potentially an animated series, to follow the second movie if it does well. To say that this feels overdue is an understatement; it’s been three years since JJ Abrams demonstrated that there was still life left in the concept, and outside of a comic series retelling stories that the faithful already know the shape of, neither CBS nor Paramount have really done anything with the renewed interest that movie stirred up in audiences.

And let’s face it; Trek is at heart a television show. It started as that and, like Doctor Who, it’s the format and medium that works best for the idea. There’s no core “story” to Trek, no one plot or story arc that makes the idea of it as one, core narrative really make sense. “There are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise,” after all, plural; as much as we care about the characters, what we really want to see are multiple stories, an ongoing mission. Even Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek felt like it was set up for what followed, instead of something complete in and of itself.

Into this landscape, add Netflix. That Netflix is looking to become a content creator is no secret; even once you get outside Lillyhammer and the in-progress House of Cards and Arrested Development, the company has been linked to possible revivals of Terra Nova and The River even before the Killing rumors came up. It’s a move that makes sense for Netflix (this way, it gets to license material out as well as in, after all), and it’s one that the company has, equally sensibly, used sparingly so far, making Netflix originals both an “event” for viewers, while also saving money for the company.

We know that Star Trek has done well for Netflix, since the shows were added last year; CBS boss Les Moonves even called out the franchise as one that worked “best” for CBS on the service earlier this month, so there’s definitely an audience for it. New Trek that is exclusive to the service would only up that audience, I suspect; I can imagine hardcore Trek fans who aren’t already subscribers would happily sign up for access to content that they can’t get anywhere else, while the resulting publicity that “Netflix revives much-beloved brand!” would generate is likely to make non-Trekkies take another look to see what they’re missing, as well.

For the producers of a new Trek, Netflix allows all manner of flexibility that network – or even cable! – wouldn’t, in terms of running time, allowable content or even story structure. If all episodes of a season were made available simultaneously (following the Lilyhammer model), would that allow for more complex, season-long arcs and storytelling? What happens to the narrative when writers aren’t restricted to creating faux cliffhangers every ten minutes to lead into ad breaks? What if storylines break off into individual episodes, allowing audiences to follow their favorite characters/threads and then come back to follow a different movement afterwards?

(Another thought: What if new content was made available in the lead-up to a third movie, with storylines acting as a prologue into it? Or, spinning out of it, afterwards?)

The sticking point, I suspect, may end up being that the money necessary to do Trek on the small screen may ultimately be more than Netflix could afford, and CBS wouldn’t be willing to put up part of the cost itself without an obvious way to recoup the investment upfront. But maybe we could always do a Kickstarter to make up the difference…

Trek on Netflix seems like it has too many wins all around to be an entirely unworkable idea, even if the financial aspect and speed of recouping that money may be a real problem. It allows an amazing amount of freedom for the creators, while also giving the fans something resembling what they want. It may not be a weekly show offering up a five-year mission, but it could be something much more suitable: The franchise moving the medium into the future. Make it so, people in charge.

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Comments

  • Orphan

    The fact that the last Star Trek feature film was so lousy it would depend on the creative team .My choice would be absolutely no one ever previously involved at any level.

  • EwokSlayer

    Orphan: Spot on

    As far as the question that the article posits: because The Killing is feasible. Star Trek would be a huge undertaking

  • sandwich eater

    The reason why this will never happen is that Star Trek is too expensive to make.  I mean who wants a cheap web-series that looks like some fans filmed it in their backyard.

    Another problem is that in today’s environment, audiences seem to prefer sci-fi on the big screen instead of the small screen.  Sci-fi movies, including Star Trek, are huge blockbusters, but sci-fi TV shows languish in obscurity, perpetually on the verge of cancellation (like Fringe).  Most people seem to be ok visiting a sci-fi universe for a couple hours every few years in a movie theater or on DVD, but they don’t seem to want to watch a weekly sci-fi show.

    I want a proper Star Trek show that airs on broadcast TV, but it looks like I’ll have to be satisfied with a movie every 4 or 5 years, instead.

  • http://twitter.com/tomdaylight tomdaylight

    It has nothing to do with the networks, Paramount wants to take its time with the franchise and get it right. I’m bewildered by the above comments; the recent film was a huge hit, both commercially and creatively, but a few poorly-timed missteps can easily kill the franchise, as we saw with Voyager and Enterprise.

  • http://twitter.com/troll827 Steven Stokes

    Voyager killed the franchise? Really? Enterprise was terrible from start to finish and the lack of a good movie for 13 yrs (1996-2009) was what killed the franchise. While I agree that Voyager started slow, it hit its stride by the end of the third season. The movies Insurrection and Nemesis were awful and we all know how Enterprise was. I personally liked J.J. Abrams’ version of Star Trek and know of several others that weren’t that familiar with the Trek universe that enjoyed the movie too. 

  • Papercut_fun

    I’d be content with existing Star Trek episodes on Netfix Canada. All we get so far are the feature films.

  • Dswynne1

     Your opinion.

  • beane2099

    Why would they?  Trek is a Paramount property.  Plus that seems a little outside their ability to do.  Maybe I’m not familiar with the production capabilities of Netflix.  They might have the capacity for such an undertaking, but that doesn’t seem feasible.  Also, this just seems like a weird topic to bring up.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001426799180 Michael Payton

    When Paramount is ready to bring Star Trek back to TV they own 1 1/2 broadcast networks to air it. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001426799180 Michael Payton

    Voyager was the dumbed-down version of Star Trek for people that didn’t understand science fiction. That was why we got Boob of Nine to take the dramatic pressure off of Captain Kathrine Hepburn and Native American Erik Estrada. 

    In seven seasons the only development was with the hologram and the Borg girl’s “implants”. Not too ironic then that Richard Picardo is also the only Voyager alum that can still find fan support working in genre TV. 

    The rest of the show was the same formula: run into aliens and/or spacial anomaly that nearly destroys the ship. Everyone survives. Reset button fixes ship before the start of the next episode. Repeat formula next Wednesday at 8PM EST. A reasonable crew might have seriously considered refusing to stop to investigate every !@#$% spacial anomaly they run into. It’s like inviting Jessica Fletcher over for the weekend: nothing good will ever come out of it, so stop doing it. Enterprise’s greatest sin was just being too boring and too fan wonk-ish in that last season. Three episodes to explain why TOS Klingons had no forehead ridges? The DS9 answer was better anyway: “we don’t talk about it”. 

  • Gharrin2

    Have you seen Star Trek Phase II it has all the production values of any iteration of Star Trek 

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/YJU6CYIVLUW5DMIRVH5PPQP4VE Hypestyle the Hype Man

    CBS owns netflix?  who knew, with all of the hand-wringing over Blockbuster video stores..  Anyway, the cost would likely be a deterrent in putting together a new Trek tv series.  Besides all that, what would be the core concept behind this?  In the same universe as the new reboot?  If so, then it won’t involve the Enterprise team.  Maybe have it be starfleet academy or a Firefly type show about a group of non-Starfleet space explorers/adventurers

  • Hiya_tiger

    I actually liked the last film, so ha. and I find most of Star Trek for big space trekkie nerds.

  • Gynk

    THERE ARE FOUR LIGHTS

  • http://twitter.com/df2506 Daniel Fugate

    LOVED the Abrams Star Trek movie. I think it bought something back that had been missing for awhile in Trek: FUN. It was fun. Really fun. And funny too. Oh and the characters were spot on. From Kirk to Spock, Scotty, etc everybody felt like the characters they were supposed to be. It was awesome. Can’t wait to see the sequel!

    I would love to see a new Star Trek series, but I doubt Netflix would do it. I would love if they did it for all the reasons you mentioned: no commericals, all the episodes at once, no content restrictions, etc. The problem is money though. Look at all the shows that Netflix has passed on so far: Terra Nova, Jericho, the River. Well, all expect that last one would probably cost them an arm & a leg. I doubt they’d ever go for a Star Trek series just because of money. I could see them doing the Killing but I kind of hope they don’t. Killing got an ending. Let’s leave that show alone.

    But Star Trek, oh man, it would be so great if they did it. I miss having a Star Trek series around. Just think its very unlikely…

  • Orphan

    The real problem for Voyager is that it replicated the same boring white bread command crew formula that killed the first 2 seasons of TNG.Talking heads looking at TV screens and hanging out in Hologram suites instead of real action.Why did the rebels among the consolidated crew all don Fleet uniforms and assimilate from episode 2 onward? All the potential drama between a crew thrown together and not always agreeing was basically bled out of the scripts.Another reason to dump all of the preexisting producers,writers,cast,and crew,and start over.Before we end up with another Jersey Shore take like the Abrams debacle feature film. 

  • Orphan

    A group of non Star Fleet space explorers/adventurers is an excellent idea.There is a whole galaxy of stories that we never get to see because Star Trek until now has been an apology for military interventionist/cop of the universe type approach that is nothing ,but a thinly veiled propaganda machine for American style foreign intervention.

  • EwokSlayer

    That’s kind of the point. It was Star Trek for people who don’t like
    Star Trek. The film, and the filmmakers involved, did not get the
    characters at all.

  • sandwich eater

     The Prime Directive is the exact opposite of American style foreign intervention.  But, I agree it would be nice to see a non-military perspective on Star Trek.

  • sandwich eater

     I have not seen it.  I guess I’ll add it to my long mental list of things to eventually check out.

    Still I think that an official Star Trek show should push the current limits of special effects, and look amazing for today.  Even Enterprise quality special effects look a little dated today.

  • Temis

    Anyone who likes the idea of Star Trek on TV or Netflix should be grateful to JJ Abrams for producing a top ten box office smash (#7 top moneymaker for 2009) and proving that the franchise is still viable after having been mismanaged and run into the ground for so long. If Abrams isnt involved, it will only be because he doesnt want to be. His opinion will have weight at CBS, as the guy who revitalized a moribund franchise, and at the very least, he will give the new series his public blessing.

  • Temis

    Jericho is still a possibility and the other shows don’t have a big global fanbase and weren’t made into a top ten box office smash movie recently, proving their enduring popularity. They were just shows among many that flop every year, nothing special. Why shold Netflix care aout any of them, there will be a slew of more flops this year and every year after taht.

    Re some above posts, Paramount is not involved in this. CBS has TV rights, which includes Netflix. nlke other network heads, Moonves likes Netflix and wants to find reasons to partner with them. A new Star Trek series is as viable a possbility as anything.

  • orphan

    The problem with flops is that many of them, unlike TerraNova, didn’t flop because they were bad but because they were on commercial networks facing earlier than deserved cancellation and never found an audience. Often buried behind too many other shows which is why I think NetFlix should care and my choice for resurrection would be American Gothic among others.

  • Orphan

    Face it the movie was an extended Ralph Lauren commercial for the CW crowd and had nothing to do with being a movie much less as a prelaunch for a TV series.If Nolan or Whedon showed up at CBS Abrahams would be gone in a flash.

  • Knowles2

    Actually Enterprise answered the question best because they actually answered the question. 

  • Knowles2

    Probably a mini series would be best and most affordable option. The problem is that they need to find a new angle and original stories to tell, an star Trek has really done them all. 

    As long JJ Abrams has zero involvement, he simply does not get star trek or what the universe is about, I will be 100% behind the series. 

  • Knowles2

    Check out Stargate Universe, that proves to me the special effects are up to standard and more than capable for a star trek show. 

  • Knowles2

    Commercially yes, creatively no, in fact it was not even that creative for a scifi film and was blown away by District 9 and Moon, both film processed far more creative plot lines and characters. Both made on a fraction of ST budget. 

  • Knowles2

    Netflix would be the money men paying the bills, it would be Paramount or another studio that would do the day to day job of running the production of the show. Most of Netflix involvement would be advertising and signing off the scripts, the studio an producers would handle the rest. 

  • Knowles2

    Starfleet would not survive on broadcast networks, an stand a much better chance of surviving its first season on a cable network or on-line, where they do not expect such viewing figures. 

  • Knowles2

    That the hardest part, well second hardest part. I always like the idea of an independent freighter crew type idea. But a series about Section 31 could be equally valid way to look at the star trek universe. May be tell the story from an alien point of view.

  • mercuriciodide

    It wasn’t Star Trek at all. It’s impossible to be “Star Trek for people who don’t like Star Trek”.

    It was a frivolous film, unworthy of the franchise.

  • mercuriciodide

    Nerd = intelligent. Yes, Star Trek (actual Star Trek, not Trek in name only) appeals to intelligent people. It’s not like there aren’t many many film choices for those who prefer not to think much, including the Abrams film.

    The Abrams film was poorly written, even by fluff standards. It didn’t even have a coherent villain motive, one of the most basic requirements of even the most simplistic conflict.

  • mercuriciodide

    And the opinion of the film critic whose spot-on review was titled “Set Phasers to Dumb For New Trek”.

  • Jack

    Nov 2012 and still no Star Trek shows like next gen or origional. Origional is from 1960’s so it seems Canada can’t even get a show from the 60’s.

  • Paul Wagner

    I grew up watching TOS, and TNG. I can pretty much recite any Star Trek movie made. The reboot was absolutely fantastic. Lighten up and peel off your prosthetic Vulcan ears.

  • Nagra Gautiavana

    They could save a LOT of money, and instead of CGI just use the Star Trek Bridge Commander game with enchancements. It’s better than some of the graphics I have seen lately.

  • Daniel

    I also grew up watching TOS and TNG and also DS9 and VOY (I’m 30 so does series appear during my teen-age years) but I also liked the JJ Abram’s films. I also understand they were intended for modern audiences more use to Transformes and Avengers than Dr. Who, TOS and other nerdy shows. Is so hard to understand that the new movies are trying to be a commercial blockbuster success and not a movie for a few hardcore fans that, if lucky, the producers will end with a profit

  • bitter_trekkie

    I’m sure Netflix is drooling to get its paws on Star Trek. The holdup is CBS. After how badly the Star Trek brand has been managed on TV, they are wise to bide their time. This is one of their most famous brands and they don’t want to blow it (again). Who knows, there could be some master plan to use the third movie as a jumping off point to the TV series – that means the series is in the dreaded Abrams Universe, but I don’t see a huge difference, even Vulcan will have been resurrected by now on a new planet with that name.

  • bitter_trekkie

    Movie people are not going to be involved. They will continue to do movies. A TV series would be developed by a different team.