Alex Kurtzman and the Next Next Generation


Alex Kurtzman recently spoke about the new Star Trek animated series designed for and aimed at the younger demographic and how it’s needed.

On the most recent Deadline’s Crew Call podcast, Alex Kurtzman went on record to say that Star Trek should be attracting younger viewers and the apparent lack of kids watching the show(s) is a missed opportunity.

I was born a couple of years after The Original Series was cancelled and only discovered it on British television in the mid to late ’70s, so I was definitely very young when I started watching it. And by this time, too, The Animated Series  had finished its run – but we Brits were never invited to that particular party and (to my knowledge) the animated adventures were never broadcast on the BBC (I first saw them on CIC Video VHS rentals from my local video store in the late ’80s).

So my first foray into Star Trek was the ’60s live action ‘grown up’ one. I rushed to the movie theaters every other year (or thereabouts) from 1979 and absorbed every detail of The Next Generation from 1987 onwards, Deep Space Nine from 1993, some of Voyager from 1995 (and I sort of forgot Enterprise was there).

TAS never really had an impact on me to make me want to watch other series – I was already a fan by the time I saw the 22 episodes – so it wasn’t a requirement of mine to see it and I think that’s the case with a lot of fans.

Star Wars was designed, by creator George Lucas’ own admission, for kids and so its fan base stretches across a wide demographic. And let’s face it, Star Wars is popcorn fodder: spaceships, laser swords, heroes, princesses and bad guys in big cloaks. Star Trek, we’re proud to note, was designed, by creator Gene Roddenberry, to be a thoughtful, message board for society’s problems. It’s simply wrapped up in the form of spaceships, ray guns, heroes and bad guys with funny foreheads.

Star Wars has gone on to create multiple animated series specifically designed for the kiddies and the adults whereas Star Trek never has done (until this year, that is).

So it is right that the franchise is targeting them now?

I recall when my (now grown up) son was 6 or 7, I thought sitting him down in front of my TAS videos would be a great introduction to Star Trek, so I’m guessing I did then what Kurtzman thinks is a good approach now.

My son was very much into his Ben-10 and Power Rangers and Star Trek never struck a chord with him in the way it did with me: yes, he enjoyed the Abrams movies and inherited his late grandfather’s DVD of the extended The Motion Picture but that’s about it. He didn’t sit down and watch Discovery and he’s not all that bothered by Picard.

I acknowledge that he’s just one young man amidst millions of others and enjoys watching and experiencing different things to his weary old dad (I did recommend him the new Shaft movie on Netflix, though, which quickly became his favorite movie of the year so far) but, as far as I know, his peers don’t follow Star Trek much, either. Other TV series move faster, brighter and glossier far more than they did pre-Discovery, so I wonder if that’s what the problem was or is…Star Trek just didn’t fit the criteria. It was old fashioned for young eyes and that idealogy may have inadvertantly stuck…

There is more choice now for sci-fi appetites than ‘back in the day’. Yes, we had Thunderbirds, Space: 1999, Doctor Who and probably some other stuff, too, but we certainly weren’t spoilt for choice and there is so much more to choose from now than there ever was. The fact that Discovery is as successful as it is, is because it’s different.

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Okay, so some fans say it’s not Trek, that Kurtzman and co. have ruined the franchise and so on and so forth, but if it new Trek was the same as old Trek, it would be swept under the carpet. Further, those same fans would probably object that it’s too much like old Trek! Storytelling, story structure, character design: all these things and more have come on in leaps and bounds since 1966. We can’t expect Star Trek to remain constant. It has to move with the times, to adapt, to be something new. It’s also why Abrams injected an action-movie approach to the cinema iteration.

All franchises go through the same: James Bond isn’t the same as it was in 1962, Doctor Who isn’t the same as it was in 1963, and I’d be mightily disappointed of Star Trek hadn’t evolved, either. Now I wholly acknowledge that such changes don’t always sit comfortably with everyone and that’s to be expected.

So Kurtzman designing an element of Star Trek for the kids to ‘warm them up’ for the rest of the franchise is a bold idea.

The cynics among us will see that as a betrayal, or as a way to sell merchandise, or that it will dumb down the franchise, or that they didn’t need that when they were kids, or whatever else they see is wrong with it – and yes, we are all entitled to our opinions.

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If you don’t like new Star Trek, hey, you don’t have to watch it: let those who do like it watch it and enjoy it for their own reasons… and if that means a whole new generation of fans-to-be are still currently in their diapers then I’m all for it. After all, they’ll be the ones showing their kids Trekkie cartoons one day, long after fans like us are dust. And our opinions really won’t matter one jot.

Anyway, I’m off to sit my little 3-year old daughter down in front of TAS. You never know, she could grow to love it.