William Shatner is right to say that Star Trek has lost Gene Roddenberry's original ethos

Star Trek isn't what it once was and that's not a good thing.
\"Star Trek\" icon William Shatner, back from his real-life jaunt into space in October, will attend
\"Star Trek\" icon William Shatner, back from his real-life jaunt into space in October, will attend / Robert Hanashiro/USA TODAY / USA TODAY

Star Trek has evolved, dramatically so over the years. It went from a standard sci-fi affair in space to a far more vaunted and complicated franchise. It's so complicated that multiple hands have had to helm the various television and streaming series over the years, which has caused a problem. Instead of sticking to the uniformity that series creator Gene Roddenberry demanded, each creator decided to treat the show as a variation of something they'd rather see, just with the Star Trek name in place.

Shows like The Next Generation, Voyager, and others did well enough to stay in line with what Star Trek was, just adding a different element all on its own. Yet, when Bad Robot and Alex Kurtzman got involved, Star Trek changed overnight. It was more action-heavy, more combat-focused. Everything was more overt and less nuanced. It stopped being a show for Star Trek fans and started to try to be a show for everyone. And when you try to appease everyone, you end up appeasing no one

Various shows have failed to hit their target goals, with huge gobs of money being spent on properties that don't net much of a return. The lack of viewership became an issue when the money spent was called into collections. Now streaming providers like Paramount+ had to start paying their debts.

Debts that aren't going anywhere. The health of the parent company is in doubt and a sale or merger seems possible at any moment. Things have gone sideways for Star Trek and while shows like Strange New Worlds are trying to get back to the magic that made the franchise what it was, various other shows spat in the face of Roddenberry's universe, and William Shatner has noticed that.

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Shatner explains that Star Trek has lost the 'ethos' that made the show what it was and that Roddenberry would be spinning in his grave, going on to say;

""He was in the military, and he was a policeman. So there was this militaristic vision of “You don’t make out with a fellow soldier.” There are strict rules and you abide by the rules. Around that, [the writers] had to write the drama. But within that was the discipline of “This is the way a ship works.” Well, as Star Trek progressed, that ethos has been forgotten [in more recent shows]. I sometimes laugh and talk about the fact that I think Gene is twirling in his grave. “No, no, you can’t make out with the lady soldier!”"

And he's right. The franchise has gone so far away from what the original point of the franchise was that it makes sense why so many fans have rejected the newer content. It's why the classic shows still do great numbers on streaming services and on television. It's why the franchise isn't expanding at the rate it should be. Part of the reason that Paramount+ is in the trouble it's in is because they spend hundreds of millions of dollars on several Star Trek shows, none of which helped the subscriber numbers.

Let's be honest, without the NFL, Paramount+ would likely be dead right now. That's no fault of Star Trek on their own, they've always been a niche series compared to Star Wars or Marvel, but that doesn't mean that the newer shows were the best foot forward, either.

Discovery and Picard were dark, rebellious pieces of television that did everything possible to tear down the ideals of Roddenberry. Lower Decks mocks what the original Star Trek sought to be, and instead makes it a punch line.

Prodigy and Strange New Worlds have done a lot to correct the wrongs of the previous series, but the damage is done. Can it be truly undone? We don't know, but Shatner isn't wrong when he says the series has lost the 'ethos' of Roddenberry's original vision. The future he longed for has now been undone by creators who want gritty, real, and subversive takes on what the future could look like.

And in doing so, have lost the point of the franchise, which is a guide to what the future should look like.