Star Trek needs to move beyond the legacy character obsession.
Do you know why people say nostalgia is a hell of a drug? Because like any drug, if you over-use it for too long, it becomes destructive. Star Wars proved this when they single-handily tanked the Han Solo film, designing it around the historical events of Han Solo’s past and not around a compelling original story. Turns out that when you have to play jump rope with established canon, it’s hard to write a good movie. Go figure.
This was also the case for the most recent trilogy of films that concluded the Skywalker Saga.
Every single one of those characters got ruined to some degree, and the film damaged the series’ reputation. They would’ve been better off going in the Mandalorian route from the start and making new characters from the get-go. But nope, gotta milk the memories of yesterday for all they’re worth apparently.
Star Trek, sadly is no different. Since 2009, Star Trek has not created an original piece of content that isn’t directly tied to former characters or past actors. Every. Single. Piece. Of. Media.
The Kelvin films just re-told Star Trek stories with new actors playing older roles. Discovery brought in Spock and even shoe-horned Michael Burnham to be Spock’s adoptive sister, which was dumb. Picard built three seasons around past characters and events like Data, The Borg, Q, and eventually an entire reunion of the Next Generation’s crew. Prodigy built its entire show around the return of Kate Mulgrew and Kathryn Janeway. Strange New Worlds built a show around Pike, Spock, and now James Kirk. Lower Decks is nothing but a constant grabbag of callbacks, references, and cameos of yesteryear.
Gene Roddenberry didn’t want Star Trek stuck in the past, which is why The Next Generation was set so far ahead in the future from the events of the original crew. To avoid this very situation.
Every successful Star Trek show before Discovery was built off the back of originality
Prior to 2009, Star Trek had never built a property around established characters. In fact, the only characters during the 20 years between the Next Generation and Enterprise who featured on one show, only to go on to star in another show were Miles O’Brien and Worf. Neither of whom, at the time, were “legacy characters”.
This is the issue with shows like Picard. Picard won’t ever be its own thing, it’s steeped in nostalgia and when that nostalgia-glow wares off, all that’ll e left is the story. That’s a problem, as the third season will never be seen on the level of other great seasons of Star Trek shows, because it’s entire identity is “look at this old thing”
The story isn’t great and it doesn’t do much to push plots forward without doing some damage. Beverly Crusher has a kid but keeps him from Jean-Luc for reasons. Riker and Tori are having issues thought resolved before season one, but aren’t, for reasons. Geordi rebuilt the Enterprise-D, for reasons. Data is alive again, for reasons and most of it just doesn’t make sense.
Why would Geordi spend hundreds of millions of man-hours rebuilding an out-of-date ship that’s functional right when the crew needs it the most? Deus Ex Machina, that’s why.
Don’t even get me started on the hair-brained way the Borg Queen was able to assimilate everyone via transporters and why it only affected people under 25.
Now, Voyager is apparently getting a return series. Why? It’s over, it worked, it did its job the first time around, and we don’t need to see any more stories from that crew.
And that’s my crew, the crew I loved the most. But I’m good. Star Trek has got to get back to creating new content if it wants to continue to be relevant in 10 years. After all, you can only keep bringing back the popular legacy characters and actors for so long before they burn out the audience.