Star Trek should be willing to tell stories that stretch out past Starfleet.
Say what you will about Alex Kurtzman and Star Trek’s current iterations, there’s something positive to be said about Kurtzman’s desire to look at Star Trek from all corners of the universe. While talking to Deadline, Kurtzman spoke about exploring different corners of the Star Trek universe.
"There are quite a few, and I think the idea for us is that it isn’t just about expansion for the sake of expansion. It’s actually about exploring different corners of the universe, in the same way that the Short Treks explore different corners of the world of Star Trek, the idea being that each show should have its own unique identity, and you should not be thinking that you can get from one show, what you can get in another.Everything has to feel different, unique, special and specific, and yet you want it all to be of a piece, and tie into the larger Trek universe. So, it’s been a very coordinated effort, on a lot of people’s parts, to make sure that the shows feel different, and are about different things, and are saying different things, and feel different, and look different, and sound different. So, that’s been really fun and really rewarding."
While they’re varying degrees of quality, Star Trek’s Discovery, Picard, and Lower Decks all offer varying perspectives on Star Trek and Starfleet as a whole. Yet, all three are still inevitably linked to Starfleet. That’s where Kurtzman’s ideas seem to fail, simply rehashing what other things have been done before.
There’s a reason why Star Wars suffered the way it did with its movie franchise. Save for Rogue One, most of the Star Wars movies were either poor replicants of another film or were so decisively not Star Wars that it killed fans’ enjoyment of them.
Yet, Rogue One really touched on what made fans love Star Wars. Then they followed it up with the well-received The Mandalorian digital series and all of a sudden there was an excitement for Star Wars again. They stuck with the familiar vibe and story of Star Wars but told it from new angles.
That’s what Star Trek should do going forward. Tell a tale of a small ship stuck on a planet that’s being invaded by The Borg. Maybe do one that follows the Maquis during the height of the Cardassian occupation. Heck, maybe do a Star Trek series set on a deep space station but from a totally un-Starfleet perspective. Imagine DS9 but only Qwark, Kira, and Odo as the “law and order”. Only with a completely new crew and no official Starfleet presence.
Their “..of the week” formula could even include a new returning face, like a Tom Paris, Worf or Ezri Dax, and how the crew can help them out. Kurtzman would be wise to expand the scope of new Star Trek shows beyond just Starfleet. After all, the franchise is called Star Trek for a reason, not Starfleet.