Lower Decks And More Animated Star Trek Is Coming
Star Trek is also boldly going where it's never gone before: the half-hour animated comedy route. CBS All-Access greenlit Star Trek: Lower Decks, an animated series by Rick and Morty writer Mike McMahan, who wrote season 1 classic episodes "Lawnmower Dog," "Meeseeks and Destroy" and "Close Rick-counters of the Rick Kind." Not related (except in spirit) to the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Lower Decks", McMahan's concept is to depict the lives of “the support crew serving on one of Starfleet’s least important ships.” As McMahan explained, "I want to do a show about the people who put the yellow cartridge in the food replicator so a banana can come out the other end." No release date has been announced yet, but with Lower Decks, Star Trek is poised to get a lot funnier.
Animation and short form episodes are going to become more important to Star Trek's future. In fall 2018, CBS All-Access launched the first four Short Treks, an anthology of 15-20 minute mini-episodes set at various points in the timeline. Alex Kurtzman has stated that more Short Treks will be coming and some of them will be animated. Furthermore, Kurtzman has plans to open the franchise up to younger viewers, citing that "Trek was always fully formed adults, already in Starfleet and people who have decided who they are. And it never was aspirational that way. It's important to me to find a way to go back and reach younger kids in a way that Trek should and never really has." This could mean a (possibly animated) Star Trek series aimed at children could be in development but nothing concrete has been announced yet.
What's Next For Star Trek?
Star Trek was born on television and, with the feature films in limbo, the franchise is doubling down on its television roots via streaming platforms. With CBS All-Access' far-reaching plans to expand the brand, the streaming service is setting itself up to be the prime destination for all things Star Trek moving forward. Star Trek: Discovery has established itself as a strong foundation to build upon and with Kurtzman at the helm, Star Trek is set to explore new ways to depict adventures in the 23rd and 24th century. However, CBS All-Access now looks to be the only way fans can enjoy new Star Trek. (International fans will continue to be able to see Star Trek: Discovery on Netflix, which will presumably carry any new Trek series as well).
The challenge for Star Trek going forward is in fulfilling the needs of the various generations of its fans. By hewing closer to the action-packed J.J. Abrams films in visual and storytelling styles, Discovery alienated a significant portion of the fanbase looking for a return to the more comforting and optimistic vision of classic Star Trek. With Discovery catering to newer fans who enjoy the updated style of Star Trek (especially without new movies starring Chris Pine to look forward to), Patrick Stewart's Jean-Luc Picard show hopes to satisfy those longtime fans by bringing back a beloved familiar face and further exploring Trek's 24th century time period. In addition, Star Trek is looking to bring in younger fans to cultivate the next generation of Trekkies with animated and comedic fare. If Star Trek can indeed become all things to all of its fans, this signals a bright future to look forward to.
And even though the U.S.S. Enterprise can be seen in Star Trek: Discovery season 2, Star Trek's expansion looks to be mostly about new characters and different starships. Overall, Star Trek is charting a future that isn't dependent on the venerable Starship Enterprise, but fans shouldn't lose hope - history has proven that Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock will once again find a way back to the final frontier.
Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 premieres Thursday, January 17th on CBS All-Access and the next day internationally on Netflix.