Why Star Trek Has To Come Back To TV

A blog about business and economics.
May 15 2013 9:58 AM

Why Star Trek Has To Come Back To Television As The Cable Show It Was Always Meant To Be

HOLLYWOOD, CA - MAY 14: Actor Peter Weller (R) and Sheri Stowe arrives at the premiere of Paramount Pictures' 'Star Trek Into Darkness' at the Dolby Theatre on May 14, 2013 in Hollywood, California.

Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

My "completist" feature—a comprehensive review of every episode of every live-action Star Trek TV show and film—is now up for your reading pleasure. One point I make that's of general business interest even to non-geeks is that the commercial failure of the final Trek TV show is very much a relative matter. The show in question, Enterprise, aired on the then-new UPN network (since merged with the WB to become the CW) which aspired to the kind of mass audience that broadcast television could still count on in the 1990s. But compared to a modern-day cable television show, Enterprise was extremely popular: "The highest-rated Mad Men episode ever, the Season 5 premiere, drew 3.5 million viewers—a mark that even the failed Enterprise series beat in the majority of its episodes."

Which is just to say that if you think of Enterprise as representing the hard core of Trek fandom then it's clear that there's a very healthy audience out there for a Star Trek cable show. Of course you could make a Star Trek show on cable that everyone hates and it would fail. But to succeed, all you would need to do is make a show that hard-core Star Trek fans like. The tension between trying to make something that appeals to the fanbase and trying to make something that recaptures the mainstream success of The Next Generation would be alleviated.


I find it really hard to believe that if you asked Jeri Taylor and Manny Coto to forget about JJ Abrams' trashing of the continuity and devise a new show designed to make Trek fans happy and designed to operate with basic cable budgets and audience expectations that you'd have a huge hit. Everything about the economics of the television industry—from the falling cost of CGI effects to the general shift toward fragmented audiences and niche programming—is working in favor of Star Trek returning to TV. And of course you could do it like a modern-day TV show, with short seasons and season-long plot arcs. Deep Space Nine was working toward that kind of more sophisticated approach, and during its best stretches it offers the best Trek that's ever been aired. It could, and should, happen again.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.



Don’t Worry, Obama Isn’t Sending U.S. Troops to Fight ISIS

But the next president might. 

The Extraordinary Amicus Brief That Attempts to Explain the Wu-Tang Clan to the Supreme Court Justices

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company. Here Are Its Six New Devices.

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.

How Much Should You Loathe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

Here are the facts.

Altered State

The Plight of the Pre-Legalization Marijuana Offender

What should happen to weed users and dealers busted before the stuff was legal?

Surprise! The Women Hired to Fix the NFL Think the NFL Is Just Great.

You Shouldn’t Spank Anyone but Your Consensual Sex Partner

Sept. 17 2014 5:10 PM The Most Awkward Scenario in Which a Man Can Hold a Door for a Woman
  News & Politics
Altered State
Sept. 17 2014 11:51 PM The Plight of the Pre-Legalization Marijuana Offender What should happen to weed users and dealers busted before the stuff was legal?
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
Sept. 17 2014 6:53 PM LGBTQ Luminaries Honored With MacArthur “Genius” Fellowships
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 17 2014 6:14 PM Today in Gender Gaps: Biking
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
Brow Beat
Sept. 17 2014 8:25 PM A New Song and Music Video From Angel Olsen, Indie’s Next Big Thing
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 9:00 PM Amazon Is Now a Gadget Company
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 17 2014 11:48 PM Spanking Is Great for Sex Which is why it’s grotesque for parenting.
Sports Nut
Sept. 17 2014 3:51 PM NFL Jerk Watch: Roger Goodell How much should you loathe the pro football commissioner?