Star Trek: Discovery has been flirting with the timeline of Star Trek’s original series for the last five episodes. They have made it clear that none of the costumes, technology or even characters will appear beyond this series’ run. As they tried to link it to the established universe in the pilot with the introduction of Sarek (Spock’s father), that is where all connections seem to end. According to producers, that assumption is correct.
According to Polygon, producer Akiva Goldman stated that while Spock does exist in this universe don’t count on seeing him. He has made it perfectly clear that Spock will not board the Discovery. Goldsman has made it clear that Discovery exists within its own universe. Meaning that it largely ignored the feature films and the entirety of the Star Trek franchise.
“We are an original timeline,” Goldsman said during a press conference at New York Comic Con. “We are not operating within the movie timeline or the TV timeline. We are wildly aware of everything that appears to be a deviation from canon and we will close out all of those issues before they arrive at the 10-year period and hit The Original Series.”
At one point, that theory makes sense. In order to create an interesting and original story, you will need to ignore some canon. However, when you essentially throw out all the technology and limitations of the series, then you are treading on sacred ground. Largely, the technology of the current series surpasses the technology of the last series in the future Star Trek: Voyager. If you wish to do such a thing, then don’t tell fans it takes place 10 years prior to the Original Series.
Why does it have to be a prequel at all? The future of Starfleet and the Federation is not written in stone. The series can be set 20 years after the adventures of Voyager. There you would be able to tell more complex stories and use the visual effects of the day to make it more like an Apple Store. It can be a whole new crew and a whole new mission. Many things can happen in twenty years.
Then there’s this
“We get to focus on character story over plot,” Goldsman said. “If Kirk had to deal with Edith [Keeler]’s death as if it were real, it would take a season or a series. It wouldn’t take a week. The gift we have with contemporary story is that we can stretch those feelings out over a season. It is how these people discover who they are and as a representation of the Federation reaffirming who it is. You get the gift of getting to start somewhere which is different from where you end.”
Episodic versus serialized narrative has been around for years. Many online commentators forget that Enterprise was serialized in its third season, due to the success of 24. Then they moved to three-part episodes, but serialized Star Trek was outlawed by Gene Roddenberry. He had a goal of making Star Trek and TNG episodic so people can jump in anytime and not be lost. However, as the audience intelligence grew, the storytelling needs to.
Many people that watch Star Trek watch series like Doctor Who, which has a season-long story arc. For the producers needing to explain that is silly. Many of the people that complain about this current story-telling aspect have not watched The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Doctor Who, The Flash or anything else out there in prime time or streaming. However, with a limited episode arc, it can still be difficult to fill at the episodes without some filler.
In The End
Star Trek: Discovery would most likely be a better show without having to be a prequel. Too many studios and networks believe that setting a prequel would be easier. It’s not. In a culture of fandom, you are locking yourself into a timeline. Somewhere, somehow, something is going to collide. Star Trek is about the future but television is obsessed with its past. If you want complete freedom in telling a story and bringing the essence of Trek to life, then look ahead. Not behind.