When Gene Roddenberry dreamed up the series Star Trek over 50 years ago, it was with a very specific, very Utopian vision for the future. In the United Federation of Planets, racism, sexism, xenophobia, and pretty much all prejudice had been eradicated and the problems of the characters were always external rather than internal. This was a mandate from Roddenberry to his writers: the conflict can never be between our main characters (with the exception of the occasional alien possession, or whatever), because in Starfleet, petty squabbles are a thing of the past. Or, the future-past, seeing as Star Trek: Discovery will repeal and replace this doctrine.
Showrunners Aaron Harberts and Gretchen J. Berg are getting rid of the conflict-barrier, which TNG and Voyager writer Michael Pillar called “Roddenberry’s Box.” This peaceful ambiance wasn’t the case for every episode of every season of every single Star Trek series, mind, but it was always something for the shows to aspire towards, spearheaded by Roddenberry’s firm beliefs about the 22nd Century. But for today’s anti-hero-filled television scape, writers and producers probably feel like they need conflict, because conflict is drama.
Speaking to Entertainment Weekly , Harberts said, “We’re trying to do stories that are complicated, with characters with strong points of view and strong passions… People have to make mistakes — mistakes are still going to be made in the future. We’re still going to argue in the future.”
“The rules of Starfleet remain the same,” Berg added. “But while we’re human or alien in various ways, none of us are perfect.” Hartberts continued, “The thing we’re taking from Roddenberry is how we solve those conflicts, so we do have our characters in conflict, we do have them struggling with each other, but it’s about how they find a solution and work through their problems.”
This isn’t the only big Star Trek staple of writing that will change in Discovery. That same EW piece talks about the new series being “heavily serialized” rather than the string of standalone adventures, or two- or three-parters (ignoring the outlier that was Deep Space Nine ‘s “Dominion War”). Because of this, the conflict will almost have to include internal struggles since we won’t be counting on external threats (like Klingons) and predicaments every week.
It sounds a lot like Star Trek: Discovery is going down the same path as Battlestar Galactica (even though the Cylons did not have a plan), and other major hit genre series like Game of Thronesand The Walking Dead. And while those are popular, I worry that once we start changing several of the things that make Star Trek what it is, we’re only chasing ratings based on a name brand rather than bringing the show back properly. Just my two cents.
What do you think? Can Star Trek: Discovery boldly go where no Roddenberry allowed before? Let me know in the comments below!