2 Jul 2015

Re-imagining Star Trek

Star Trek has become somewhat stale, playing with the same themes over and over again, in different starships with different captains, and aliens with different make-up, but basically the same themes over and over again.

It’s time for a fresh new Trek. To begin with, set it in the period before the invention of the warp drive, and therefore before Enterprise. Without warp drive, we’ll be limited to our solar system. Imagine taking three months to reach Pluto. What would that be like? What would the view be like from each planet of the solar system? What would sunrise and sunset look like? What would the earth look like?

How would it be to have a permanent moon base? What would the view be like, of an unchanging, desolate landscape, with no vegetation and no animals, and no rivers and no rain? Just rocks against the harsh landscape. And because the moon always has one side facing the earth, assuming the moon base were built on that side, you’d always see the earth at the same position in the sky. Would that be reassuring? How would the stars look against the pitch-black sky?

How would you account for the temperature swings through the day, from -170 to 120 C? Surely, you’d have insulation to prevent the heat from escaping at night. What about the day? Perhaps the roof and walls would have a mirror on their entire area, to keep the base cool? What if a meteorite shatters the mirror on the roof? Would that endanger everyone in the base?

Exploration would perhaps be confined to dawn and dusk, when it’s neither too hot nor too cold. One can have stories based on someone losing their mind, and leaving the base at the wrong time. Or going on an excursion and being deliberately left behind to die in the heat or cold.

What kind of recreational activities would you have? A running race across the lunar landscape?

Imagine the storytelling possibilities that exist for a base on the moon. What if you had a base on Mercury, where the temperature swings are more extreme, from -170 to 430C? Could we even construct a base that copes with these temperature changes and remain habitable?

Imagine a base floating on the sulphuric acid clouds of Venus, or on the liquid surface of Saturn, like a boat. Imagine the risk of falling down into the acid clouds or the dark, icy cold sea all around you.

Since there are no aliens in our solar system, the show wouldn’t be about meeting them. We’ve had enough of aliens, in different flavors. Let’s make this a show about space itself. Look at this beautiful, emotional scene from Voyager, where two crew members are stranded in the void of space, their oxygen running out, their ship nowhere near. They are rescued in the nick of time. We need more of this, more about the wonders and dangers of space, rather than merely using space as a setting for moral, philosophical or diplomatic issues. Nothing wrong with the “space as a setting” approach, but it’s been rehashed many times over the decades. Let’s try a fresh approach this time, making the show about the wonder of space.

And the dangers. It’s silly and at times unbelievable that people on Trek take insane risks and everything almost always comes out fine at the end. Why doesn’t the captain die, in any of the series? Or becomes maimed? Or his second officer? You can’t take crazy risks without ever paying a price. Because it then becomes like a cartoon, losing its believability. I know that you can’t kill off the main characters, but you can maim them. Or kill off secondary people, like Miles O’Brien in TNG. It has to be a familiar face, not an anonymous disposable character who’s introduced to die.

In addition to not having warp, we wouldn’t have transporters, shields or phasers. And no subspace communication. A message sent from Pluto takes 5.5 hours to reach earth. So, in a crisis, you’re on your own. And when you communicate, it would be like sending messages back and forth, rather than having a live conversation.

This would be a fresh, novel approach to Star Trek. Trek as it exists today shows us a wonderful future. But how is that future built? Let’s have a show that tells us how we got there from here.

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