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Star Trek: Discovery, the first new Star Trek television series in 12 years, debuted last week. As with a number of recent Star Trek efforts, this is a prequel to the Original Series, occurring roughly one decade prior chronologically.

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The Original Series, the Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager occur in a chronological sequence that, generally speaking, moves forward (although TNG, DS9, and Voyager overlap to various degrees). The linear trajectory of Star Trek productions took a sudden shift with the television series Enterprise, which was set just over 100 years before TOS. This was followed by J.J. Abrams' 2009 film Star Trek, which created a new timeline and which followed the characters from TOS, but at a time that is also chronologically one decade before TOS.

Given that the last few interpretations of Star Trek were prequels in one sense or another, I was disappointed that Discovery was yet another prequel. I'd like to know why the showrunners decided to take this direction. I haven't been able to find any statements about the rationale.

That being said, I find it interesting that Star Trek (2009) was set in 2255-2258 and Discovery is currently set in 2256, even though they are ostensibly in different timelines — the former in the reboot timeline and the latter supposedly in the original timeline. Also, one of the showrunners for Discovery, Alex Kurtzman, was one of the principal members of the creative team behind the Abrams films.

Why did the creative staff behind Discovery decide to make another prequel? Does it have anything to do with the fact that Star Trek (2009) and Discovery are set in roughly the same years?

  • Setting the new show before TOS means no conflict with the Abrams alternate-future films. – The Photon Sep 30 '17 at 15:57
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    @ThePhoton : The Abrams films aren't an alternate future. They are an alternate timeline whose events occur before TOS. See the chronology outlined in the question. (If you are referring to the destruction of Romulus in the late 24th Century, then yes, that is something that writers would have to contend with if they made a series set beyond the 24th.) – Praxis Sep 30 '17 at 16:17
  • @Praxis, they're an alternate future to us because the original timeline is our true future? – ThePopMachine Sep 30 '17 at 16:26
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    @ThePopMachine : In the future, humanity's last unsolved problem is lens flare. – Praxis Sep 30 '17 at 18:03
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    @Praxis, no! That's the alternate future. Fortunately, we don't have that problem in the true future. – ThePopMachine Oct 1 '17 at 3:15
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According to a 2017 interview with Entertainment Weekly, reported by TrekCore, Discovery creator Brian Fuller's initial pitch had actually been to create an anthology series, in the vein of American Horror Story; Fuller's proposal would have started in the Discovery timeframe, but then progressed through more familiar eras and into the as-yet-unexplored future. It was CBS who wanted to start with just one series:

Fuller sat with CBS executives to deliver his pitch. It wasn't just for a 'Trek' series but for multiple serialized anthology shows that would begin with the 'Discovery' prequel, journey through the eras of Captain James T. Kirk and Captain Jean-Luc Picard, and then go beyond to a time in 'Trek' that's never been seen before.

[...]

CBS countered with the plan of creating a single serialized show and then seeing how it performed.

Although this isn't directly stated, it seems as though Fuller wanted his anthologies to proceed chronologically, so it makes sense to start with the "prequel" series. However, why CBS preferred the prequel over another timeframe isn't recorded here.

The specific timeframe of the series, though, appears to have been coincidental to that of the Abrams films; Yahoo TV reports on a panel at the 2016 Star Trek: Mission New York convention, where writer and producer Nicholas Meyer suggests that the timeframe allowed them some wiggle room to tell stories without trampling all over the canon:

"It was about finding a space in the chronology to maneuver and create stuff," Meyer says of the decision to pick that particular 10-year gap. "Bryan [Fuller, Discovery's initial creator] didn't want to use the same characters from other series, and a 10-year pre-Kirk thing seemed perfect."

In fairness, it's a pretty good timeframe for avoiding established characters:

  • Most (if not all) of the characters of the 90s shows haven't been born yet
  • The series is set firmly in Christopher Pike's command of the NCC-1701 Enterprise, so there's limited expectation of seeing any of the TOS cast
  • It's long enough after the Enterprise series that you wouldn't reasonably expect any of that cast to show up, with the possible exception of T'Pol
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    Thanks --- I find this strange for precisely the reason you mention at the end: if they want the ability to "maneuver and create stuff", why not set the show in a completed unsullied future time, post-Voyager? It all seems odd to me. – Praxis Sep 29 '17 at 20:46
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    @Praxis One thought that occurs is that setting it in the future would make them bound by all the continuity of the 90s shows, while a prequel is less bound by that. Another concern may be that, not terribly long after Voyager is when time travel starts being more prominent, which presents its own problems – Jason Baker Sep 29 '17 at 20:50
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    Sometimes I think it is the holodeck that killed Star Trek: anything and everything can happen on the holodeck (heck, the Hirogens fought an entire war on one). The line between reality and simulation is so blurry by the end of Voyager, and holography so heavily infused into everything, that it almost seemed like they made Enterprise so as not to have to do stories revolving around the holodeck or holograms. – Praxis Sep 29 '17 at 20:56
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    @Praxis Agreed. That and the whole "we beat the Borg" thing sort of ruins prospects for good storytelling post-Voyager. Not saying it would be impossible, but if they're going to follow the "bigger and better than last time" pattern that Hollywood always follows, it would be very difficult. Personally, I wish that New Trek had been a proper reboot of the canon, rather than a divergent timeline. – Steve-O Sep 30 '17 at 0:22
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    "Most (if not all) of the characters from the 90s shows haven't been born yet." Hmm - at least two would have been (Guinan and the Dax symbiote). Others might have been:Tuvok, Neelix (don't have an idea of the lifespan of his race), possibly Odo (unclear how long he might have been floating around before he was discovered).Oh, and Q, if you want to count him (Guinan wasn't part of the listed cast, but would fall into the same category as Miles O'Brien in TNG and Keiko, Garak, and Dukat in DS9; recurring characters {who, in universe, were around even if not seen]). – RDFozz Sep 30 '17 at 2:20

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