Back in 1966, when the original Star Trek series debuted, no one could have imagined that this spaceship crew's five-year mission would stretch to a half-century legacy...and beyond. The show spawned four follow-up series, two spin-off movie franchises, and the current big screen reboot which kicked off with 2009's Star Trek.
That reboot's third installment, Star Trek Beyond, will hit theaters this summer in honor of the original show's 50th anniversary. Less than a year later, a sixth TV series will premiere on CBS. The pilot episode will air on broadcast TV in January, but U.S. fans will only be able to watch subsequent episodes on CBS All Access, a digital subscription video on demand and live streaming service.
Despite being the launchpad for the new Star Trek series, CBS Entertainment's new president Glen Geller revealed to Slashfilm that the show has been developed exclusively by and for the All Access streaming division.
"I'm not sure about the plans creatively for new characters. I don't have anything to do with it. It really is for All Access. While the network will be broadcasting the pilot, I actually can't answer any creative questions about it. I’m looking forward to seeing the new Star Trek. I think it’s going to be an exciting project."
With even the head of Entertainment at CBS in the dark about plot and character details, not much is known about the direction of the upcoming series. The official description of the show sounds much like its ancestors, promising a new crew exploring "imaginative new worlds and new civilizations," with storylines touching on "dramatic contemporary themes."
While Geller says the new TV show will have no connection to the upcoming film, it may be inspired tonally by that franchise. Alex Kurtzman, who co-wrote and produced the J.J. Abrams-directed Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek Into Darkness (2013), will executive produce the 2017 series. He'll be joined by Heather Kadin, with whom he also produces CBS series Limitless and Scorpion.
The first episode of the sixth Star Trek series will have to be impressive enough to convince viewers to sign up for a subscription service to see the rest. Netflix has set a precedent for getting new fans to sign up in order to watch episodes of series like Orange is the New Black and Daredevil, and CBS will be hoping longtime Trek fans will be extra motivated. For $5.99 a month, viewers can watch the new Star Trek series, plus every episode of its five predecessors. The service also includes on-demand viewing and live streaming of many of CBS's other shows.
It's a strong possibility that the new series will be serialized, similar to the multi-episode story arcs in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Leaving viewers with unresolved plot threads after the pilot would definitely add incentive to sign up for more. It also allows for developing more complex ideas, a good way to get back to the political, multicultural, and existential philosophizing that made the previous series so popular. The films have recaptured some of the swashbuckling fun and wry humor of the original characters, but hopefully the TV show will strive to go deeper into those "contemporary themes" the network is promising.
Star Trek Beyond opens in U.S. theaters on July 22, 2016. The new Star Trek TV show will debut on CBS in January 2017.