Sci Fi Trifles: Useless but essential pop culture tidbits and trivia from the worlds of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror. Once you’ve read them, you don’t know how you have lived so long without knowing them.
In 2009, the Star Trek franchise received a reboot with the J.J. Abrams helmed feature film the set off Kirk, Spock, McCoy and the rest of the crew of the Enterprise (portrayed by new actors) on an all new set of adventures. But did you know that in 2004, Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski proposed a not too dissimilar reboot to the franchise that unfortunately never took off.
Seeing the fourth Star Trek spin-off, Enterprise, struggling in the ratings and feeling like the franchise had run out of steam, Straczynski collaborated with Bryce Zabel (Dark Skies, The Crow: Stairway to Heaven) to put together a proposal for a new Trek series. In the proposal, they noted that the franchise had grown stagnate and lost its spirit of adventure:
Over the decades, Star Trek has become so insular, so strictly defined, and placed so many layers upon itself that some of the essence of what made us love it in the first place has been lost. The all-too-reasonable desire to protect the franchise may now be the cause of its stagnation.
Thus their idea, like Abrams, was to go back to the beginning and start all over again. But not by creating an alternate timeline, just reimagining the show from the start (sort of like what Battlestar: Galactica did at about that same time, though not as drastic of a change). They would return to the early days of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy (“warrior, the priest, the doctor” as the proposal dubs them) and find out how they got started in their careers in Starfleet, how Kirk became the youngest captain, and how he was awarded the fleet’s flagship.
Now this is where the proposal begins to diverge from the 2009 J.J. Abrams movie. Straczynski would take a page from his Babylon 5 book and build in a five year story arc for the series. This of course makes since seeing as the Enterprise was originally on a five year mission. But he would add a specific purpose to this mission and a reason that the Federation’s flagship was off exploring deep space far from its home base. This will involve the discovery of the existence of a lost race that may have had a hand in the origins of many of the intelligent species across the galaxy, including humans, Vulcans, and Klingons. The Enterprise is secretly tasked with uncovering more information about this lost race which would eventually lead to the discovery of “forces of darkness who may view our activities with more than a little hostility.”
But like Bablyon 5, this new Trek would have its share of stand-alone episodes as well. And the proposal suggests that just like the original show, well-known science fiction authors would be brought in to pen these episodes (or adapt their own stories to the new series). In addition, the other familiar characters from the series such as Uhura, Scotty, Sulu, and Chekov would return, and all of the principal roles would be portrayed by new actors. This plan would allow the new series to blaze bold new paths and present challenging stories, just like the original did back in the sixties. But it would have broken from the canon established by the series that preceded it and would no longer have that baggage weighing it down. And the proposal does take a bit of a dig at TNG through Voyager with this comment:
The original Enterprise never needed a holo-deck so that the characters could have exciting adventures because there were more than enough adventures, more than enough excitement, to be found in the real world they occupied every day. If you need a holo-deck to make an interstellar starship on the bleeding edge of the unknown interesting, something is seriously amiss.
So as you can see, this proposal took a similar approach to what Abrams would do several years later, but it would have returned the series to the small screen in an updated and revised format “re-born and re-tooled for a new millennium, applying hard lessons and building in new thoughts that shake things up creatively.” Unfortunately, nothing ever came of it and we can now only imagine what this series would have been like. Star Trek meets Babylon 5 in a new-meets-old series that brings us “The Best of Both Worlds!” You can read more about the origins of this idea and see the original proposal at this link.
Buy Babylon 5 and Star Trek on DVD from Amazon.com: