Star Trek: Discovery, And Why CBS & Paramount Need To Stop With Star Trek “Prequels”
This was originally published on Medium. Medium, though… seems to have zero reach. And no social media rebroadcast capabilities. So, frankly, to hell with Medium.
Because they don’t want to produce prequels — they just want to market prequels.
Prequel as “Period Piece”
Essentially, any prequel is in fact a “period piece”. We have a series of events set in a particular time; that’s the original story. When you conceive of a prequel, the “pre-“ bit generally indicates ”before”.
So if you write a prequel to The Godfather, it would necessarily follow that the events in your prequel take place before the events of The Godfather. (I realize that only a dimwit wouldn’t get this idea, but apparently The Powers That Be at CBS and Paramount are exactly this brand of dimwit, because they evidently don’t get it.)
So when you write a Star Trek: The Original Series prequel, it follows that it should be set before the events of The Original Series. And because it is essentially a period piece, it should also look as if it precedes The Original Series.
Prequel As Production Challenge
When it comes to prequels — particularly in science-fiction — you’re dealing with events which have few if any ties to real events. You know the phrase “blessing in disquise”? Well, that’s a curse in disguise.
Because it makes “cheating” nigh unto irresistible for the writers and visual designers alike, particularly when they have little knowledge of, or care for, the franchise they’re working with.
We can see that already with Star Trek: Discovery. Supposedly set in the Prime timeline 10 years before TOS, there’s just one problem.
The first pilot of TOS, titled “The Cage” was also set in what would come to be called the Prime timeline 10 years before TOS.
Either the showrunners of Discovery don’t know that — or they know it but don’t care.
That’s disappointing enough, but what’s really disappointing is that they don’t see the challenge in making Discovery match The Cage visually on a basic level while refining and re-detailing that original look to bring it up to 21st century standards.
And that can be done — Star Trek: Enterprise proved that it could be done with the double episode “In A Mirror, Darkly”, where the TOS design aesthetic was reintroduced, albeit briefly, and to fan-acclaimed effect.
Furthermore, the aborted fan film Star Trek: Axanar proved that even a genuine prequel to TOS, “The Cage” -era design aesthetics and all, is more than just good — it’s something Star Trek fans want so much that they’re willing to pour a million bucks into the project out of their own pockets.
Prequel As Cynical Marketing
Perhaps the most annoying thing about CBS and Paramount’s obsession with producing Star Trek prequels that aren’t prequels is that with each successive attempt, it becomes increasingly obvious that they’re selling something they have no intention to deliver (and that, if you ask fans of Axanar, they don’t want anybody else to deliver, either.)
There exists in a significant part of the fan community the feeling, not unjustified, that CBS & Paramount are trying to attract new fans (not a bad thing in and of itself) but are doing it by playing bait-and-switch games with the existing fanbase — millions of loyal consumers who have made the franchise into a 50 year phenomenon.
But not only is this marketing move cynical, what’s more offensive is that it’s just plain stupid. Brand loyalty is a good thing. But to maintain it, the brand, in turn, has to be loyal to its consumers and, if not deliver what they’re expecting, at least deliver what it claims to be selling.
CBS either needs to actually deliver the series “set in the Prime timeline 10 years before The Original Series” — or deliver what Star Trek: Discovery clearly appears to be, but stop selling it as something it obviously isn’t.