BREAKING: New ‘Star Trek’ TV series nearing warp speed

Word out Monday morning that CBS will pick up new series for both digital and TV platforms. New series  likely to air in 2017 to to mark original show's 50th Anniversary.

Image of the "Next Generation" Starship Enterprise, via YouTube video screen shot.

HOLLYWOOD, November 2, 2015 – Sources reported Monday morning that “Star Trek” is about to return to the small screen, but in a way that may point toward the future of cable and broadcast network TV.

Set to debut in January 2017, the new “Star Trek” series—topic and time setting as yet unknown—is to air on CBS, but will be the “first original series developed specifically for CBS All Access, its new cable-independent on-demand TV platform.

According to a late-breaking report on Deadline, the new series

“…will introduce new characters seeking imaginative new worlds and new civilizations, while exploring the dramatic contemporary themes that have been a signature of the franchise since its inception in 1966, according to the network. It will launch with a special preview broadcast on the CBS network. The premiere episode and all subsequent first-run episodes will then be available exclusively in the U.S. on CBS All Access. The franchise will also be distributed concurrently for television and multiple platforms around the world by CBS Studios International.”

It’s not yet clear from early reports just how this might work out for cable networks carrying local and national CBS broadcast programming. But it’s the clearest indication yet that traditional television networks are preparing for the inevitable day when all or most such programming gets “unbundled” from those increasingly unwieldy and cluttered (and overpriced) cable platforms most American TV viewers are continuing to endure.

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More or less designed to dovetail with the 50th anniversary of the original “Star Trek” TV series, which debuted back in 1966, the new series will be “shepherded” by Alex Kurtzman, “who will serve as executive producer” according to Deadline.

After the much-lamented cancellation of the original TV series, “Star Trek” fans, aka “Trekkies” brought continuous pressure to bear to revive the show, but to no avail. However, the characters from the original series were revived for a 1979 silver screen reboot, rather prosaically entitled “Star Trek: The Motion Picture.” Although the plotting and story line of the film were decidedly sub-par, delirious trekkies made the film a monetary success, leading to additional and generally better movie installments.

In turn, the success of the films rebooted the “Star Trek” franchise on TV, begetting the long-lived and generally well written “Star Trek: The Next Generation” (1987-1994), and follow-ons “Deep Space Nine” (1993-99), “Voyager” (1995-2001) and “Enterprise” (2001-05).

The latter series took a novel route, in effect serving as a prequel to all the other films and features in the franchise, tracing the adventures of the very first Starship Enterprise—one that launched without many of the bells and whistles of later iterations of the storied ship, mainly since they hadn’t been invented yet.

Unfortunately, after a decent first season, ratings for “Enterprise” were increasingly lame, and it was canceled in 2005 without any successor series in the wings.

The recently and successfully re-booted “Star Trek” feature films seem to have revived network interest in bringing the franchise back to TV—or whatever.

This morning’s announcement is the promising result of this harmonic convergence, particularly since it brings Kurtzman, one of the players behind the hit film “Star Trek: Into Darkness” (2013), into the TV tent. Desire to revive the series has actually existed for some time. But, according to The Hollywood Reporter,

“the franchise [had been] mired in rights issues between CBS and Paramount after Viacom merged with CBS in 2000. CBS Corp. absorbed Paramount for television, while Paramount Studios — the company that distributed the films — went to Viacom.”

Looks like that tangle got all sorted out this morning. Meaning that the new CBS series, whose working title is said to be “Star Trek Beyond,” is likely to become reality soon.

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Terry Ponick
Biographical Note: Dateline Award-winning music and theater critic for The Connection Newspapers and the Reston-Fairfax Times, Terry was the music critic for the Washington Times print edition (1994-2010) and online Communities (2010-2014). Since 2014, he has been the Business and Entertainment Editor for Communities Digital News (CDN). A former stockbroker and a writer and editor with many interests, he served as editor under contract from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and continues to write on science and business topics. He is a graduate of Georgetown University (BA, MA) and the University of South Carolina where he was awarded a Ph.D. in English and American Literature and co-founded one of the earliest Writing Labs in the country. Twitter: @terryp17