The upcoming series Star Trek: Discovery is looking to blur the lines between television and film to give fans the best experience possible. The franchise began on the small screen in the 1960s, a time when there was a very distinct and obvious difference between what movies were able to do visually and what TV shows were able to achieve. Later, Star Trek crossed over into the world of cinema and all sorts of visual possibilities opened up, and the original TV series began to look a little quaint by comparison.
Over the years there have been more TV incarnations of Star Trek and more movie incarnations, and arguments have ensued about whether Trek is better-suited to the big screen or small. In the end it all may boil down to taste: Do you prefer your Star Trek big and cinematic or small and story-centered?
But maybe nowadays Trek fans don't have to make that choice. With the arrival of the new streaming series Star Trek: Discovery, the distinction between movie Trek and TV Trek may finally have been wiped out. At least that's what producer Alex Kurtzman thinks has happened with the newest incarnation of Trek. As Kurtzman told Collider, these days you can pretty much forget about those old TV vs. movie distinctions:
Look, here’s the other thing that’s happening, and you know this to be true. The line between film and television is utterly blurred. Not just at a storytelling level, but visually now. What we’re doing on Star Trek right now, that’s not that different from what we’re doing in the movies. I think that’s what people expect when they pay for Netflix, or for HBO, or whatever they’re going to pay for. That actually makes, as a storyteller, it makes it, in the many ways, you’re not limited by oh, we could never really do that on television scope wise because now, take a look at Game of Thrones. That’s a movie.
The brief glimpses we've gotten of Star Trek: Discovery via trailers promise a show that is visually superior to any of the previous series, so perhaps Kurtzman isn't just hyping when he says the show is on-par with the Star Trek movies. But even if the new show is visually much more cinematic than past Trek series, that doesn't necessarily mean it will be better.
For the various Trek series, the point has never been great visuals but strong storytelling and character development. If Discovery doesn't succeed in these areas, in fans' eyes it will merely be terrific eye-candy and not a worthy successor to The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and the other shows.
Ultimately, the hope is that Star Trek: Discovery can deliver on all levels: as a genuinely movie-level visual experience and as a piece of storytelling that upholds the legacy Gene Roddenberry established all those decades ago with his cheesy-looking but smartly-written science-fiction classic.
Star Trek: Discovery debuts in the fall of 2017 on CBS: All Access.