It’s already a fantastically exciting time to be a Star Trek fan, with Discovery and its Short Trek spin-offs going strong, Patrick Stewart’s triumphant return in his own Picard series imminent and more projects – including the adult animation Lower Decks and a show centred around Michelle Yeoh’s Philippa Georgiou – in the works.
But a new development has paved the way for the rejuvenated franchise to expand still further and potentially rival the Marvel Cinematic Universe in dominating both the cinema and the small screen.
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On August 13, it was announced that media giants CBS and Viacom – which split in 2005 – had agreed to re-merge, becoming a new entity called ViacomCBS Inc.
Why is this of note to Trek enthusiasts? Well, the original CBS / Viacom divide fell around about the same time that Star Trek: Enterprise departed our screens, its cancellation marking the end of the franchise’s first era of TV domination.
Ever since, Paramount – owned by Viacom – has been producing Star Trek motion pictures (the JJ Abrams-directed Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness, and Justin Lin-helmed Star Trek Beyond), while CBS ventured back into the realm of small-screen Trek as of 2017, beginning with the launch of Discovery.
These two endeavours, though, were very much separate concerns being overseen by two different companies – and, to borrow a phrase from another franchise entirely, neither CBS or Paramount was allowed to cross the streams. Back in 2015, when the series that became Discovery was first announced, Deadline reported that the show would feature entirely new characters and settings since the original Trek roster, being used in the film series, were unavailable for a TV project.
Though the ViacomCBS merger is still in the early stages, it has the potential to once again unify Trek’s TV and film strands, recalling the heyday of the 1990s when the likes of Picard and William Shatner’s Kirk could jump from one medium to another all under a single branch of franchise continuity.
In fact, Deadline is now reporting that Bob Bakish – newly-minted CEO of ViacomCBS – has told investors that he sees Star Trek having a life “across all the companies’ platforms.”
In short, this could mean that the days of Trek living two lives – one in movies, one on television – could soon be over. The fact that the most recent wave of Trek movies appear to have ground to a halt also means that there’s one less obstacle to this grand re-unification – Tarantino keeps talking up his R-rated Trek flick, but a more traditional Star Trek 4 appears dead-in-the-water since Chris Pine (the rebooted Kirk) and Chris Hemsworth (playing Kirk’s father) stepped away from the project late last year.
The potential now exists for Star Trek to boldly explore a single universe across film and television, crossing over and spinning characters off into multiple mediums.
It’s the same cross-format approach that Marvel’s been attempting, with varying degrees of success, ever since it launched TV spin-off Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD in autumn 2013, and is rededicating itself to with the launch of five new shows on streaming service Disney+, all of which are expected to be more thoroughly integrated into the movies’ mythology than Agents of SHIELD or the later Netflix series ever were.
Watch out MCU, the Star Trek Cinematic Universe could well be on the horizon. Captain Pike movie series starring Anson Mount, anyone?