The recent arrival of Star Trek: Discovery got us thinking about the nature of television and the many reasons given as to why Star Trek can’t be more like it used to be. Officially, this is an op-ed calling complete and utter bullshit on many of those reasons. To be clear, this is not a review of Discovery, nor is it saying Discovery is a terrible show. After watching the one measly half-episode CBS aired there’s not much to be for or against. However, time and again people say Star Trek has to change with the times, which makes sense, except the times haven’t changed as much as we think.
1. Episodic TV Is Dead.
Really? Sure, Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones are the shows that get a lot of attention. But consider all the shows on TV. Consider that NCIS is in its 15th season. Bones just finished 12 seasons. Big Bang Theory is a juggernaut. All these shows are, for the most part, entirely episodic. Tune into any random episode of NCIS, and you’ll likely not need to know much about what came before. The point is, the vast majority of TV shows are episodic, so why can’t Star Trek keep those roots? And that’s not to say you can’t add season-long arcs. Look at shows like The Flash which has a season arc, but individual episodes are, for the most part, self-contained. Deep Space Nine did a similar thing back in the mid-90s and is considered one of the best Trek shows ever.
2. Action Is A Must.
Really? Let’s look at Game of Thrones to bust this myth. Is Game of Thrones an “action” show? If you said yes then you only remember something like the Battle of the Bastards, also known as the typical one big action set-piece of the season. Ninety percent of GoT is talking, character building, creating small stories within the larger story that adds to the whole. There is little to no action in Game of Thrones. On most network shows, there is also only brief periods of action. Fact is, what makes a TV show great, are story and character. Intrigue. Performances. The Flash is downright silly most of the time, but Gustin Grant makes viewers care about the exploits of Barry Allen and company. No show does this better than GoT which creates a sense of empathy for our heroes and then challenges it over and over — mostly always with “boring” dialogue.
3. Everything Has To Be Gritty.
Really? Consider every show on TV and now consider how many of them are truly gritty, or dark, or heavy with dramatic weight. Some of the most popular hour-long dramas on TV are not any of those things. This Is Us is real and touches on some heavy themes about life, but it’s not depressing or dark. NCIS, 15 years in the running, dims a teeny bit to darkness only rarely when the story calls for it. Stranger Things has a horror vibe but is mostly an adventure science fiction show with kids. Orange Is The New Black as the most improbably well-lit prison, has plenty of humor, but also heavy themes that aren’t done in a gritty way.