On this day in 2063, Humans and Vulcans established First Contact, and the Star Trek universe as we know it began to take shape. April 5 might not be the most important date in Star Trek history (that’s probably September 8, the day the first episode aired in 1966), but it is a symbol of one of the broadest, most powerful themes of the franchise: Exploration is good. Humanity reached for the stars, and what they found wasn’t terror; it was friendship.
Nearly five decades after its debut, Star Trek is still exploring, and right now we’re living in one of the most exciting times the franchise has ever seen. So to celebrate First Contact Day and the spirit of boldly going into another 50 years, here are five reasons to be excited about what’s next for Star Trek
1. STAR TREK RETURNS TO TV
Though the movies have been a huge success and have given us some of the best Trek stories ever (e.g. The Wrath of Khan and The Voyage Home), for many fans the franchise’s true home has always been the small screen—not just because that’s where it began, but because that’s where we first got to know James T. Kirk, Spock, Jean-Luc Picard and more. The movies can offer a bigger scale and a more sophisticated design, but on TV Star Trek can reach its full storytelling potential, spanning genres and exploring big ideas over the course of entire seasons. It’s where the full scope of Gene Roddenberry’s creation can really be shown.
For years, though, rights issues meant that we weren’t likely to see a new Star Trek TV show, and hopes that a series would launch to celebrate the 50th anniversary in 2016 were dashed. Then, just like that, an agreement was reached, and in just a few months CBS will return Star Trek to its roots with a new show. We know very little about it so far, but we do know that we’ll finally be seeing a new Federation crew’s adventures on a weekly basis again very soon. I don’t know about you, but that’s the most exciting Star Trek news I’ve heard in years.
2. BRYAN FULLER’S RUNNING THE SHOW
You know Bryan Fuller, right? Over the past decade he’s built a reputation as one of the most inventive and brilliant creators in television with shows like Wonderfalls, Pushing Daisies, and the amazing Hannibal (which I hope is running for 10 seasons in some alternate universe where the world is a better place). He’s also a huge Star Trek fan who got his start in TV writing for both Deep Space Nine and Voyager in the late ‘90s. When the new Trek series was announced, Fuller’s name was high on a lot of fan wishlists of which writers should return to the franchise fold.
Well, it turns out Fuller’s not just writing for the new Star Trek. He’s also the showrunner.
This is good news for two reasons. One, Fuller is a devoted Trekkie, not just some network yes-man devoted to efficiency and ad revenue. What Star Trek fans want most is someone who “gets” the franchise and will fight to preserve it, and Fuller will no doubt be a faithful steward. Two, as a TV writer, Fuller is great at making old things new again. Hannibal was not a show that should’ve worked, but he took a character and a world we thought we’d already learned everything about and breathed beautiful, complex new life into it. No doubt he’ll do the same for Star Trek.
3. SIMON PEGG
Speaking of people who “get” Star Trek, it’s time to talk about Simon Pegg’s contributions to the film side of the franchise. After two films in the rebooted continuity kicked off by J.J. Abrams in 2009, a clear divide emerged between Trek fans (trust me on this; I run with a weird crowd): There were fans who enjoyed the bombast and action-driven energy of the new films, and there were fans who hoped for a more cerebral approach driven by the same philosophies that so dominate much of Star Trek’s history (exploration, diplomacy, personal development etc.). After Star Trek Into Darkness, the pendulum seemed to be swinging toward the former, particularly when it was announced that writer Roberto Orci would be making his directorial debut on the third film. Then something changed.
Orci left the project, leaving it without a writer, and Pegg—who co-stars as Scotty in the films—stepped up to co-write a new script with Doug Jung (Dark Blue). Pegg’s involvement on the scripting side of things for the first time might end up being the best thing to happen to Star Trek cinema in ages. Pegg’s a talented writer who’s proven that he’s able to blend humor, action and deep character work in projects like Spaced, Shaun of the Dead and The World’s End, but he’s also One of Us. He’s a massive nerd, to the point that J.J. Abrams actually ran story point for Star Wars: The Force Awakens by him. When you get called in to lend your Nerd Seal of Approval to one of the biggest movies of the year, you know you’ve got some street cred. Hopefully Pegg will lend that same sense of enthusiasm and stewardship to Star Trek Beyond.
4. IDRIS ELBA
Listen, defend Star Trek Into Darkness if you want, but the villain was weak sauce, and I don’t just mean because Abrams and star Benedict Cumberbatch spent months lying about his true identity. If you’re going to reinvent a classic Star Trek villain, maybe don’t go with Khan, the most famous villain in the history of the franchise, and maybe don’t just make his return an unneccessarily convoluted rehash of an old movie. Star Trek isn’t necessarily always about the villains, but when you’re setting up a Bad Guy, you need to really bring it.
That’s why it’s so exciting that Star Trek Beyond drafted Luther star Idris Elba to play the Big Bad. We know almost nothing about his role, but as Elba’s proven in performance after performance, he can be brutal but likable at the same time. I can’t think of a more exciting choice to improve Star Trek villainy on the big screen.
5. THE RETURN OF NICHOLAS MEYER
If you’re not a die-hard Trek fan, you might not know Nicholas Meyer’s name, but he’s easily one of the most important creative figures in franchise history. After Star Trek: The Motion Picture proved underwhelming, the future of the franchise on the big screen was in jeopardy. An impressive sequel was needed, and Meyer swooped to save the day, writing a draft of what would become Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan in less than two weeks (he’s uncredited for contract reasons) and ultimately directing the film, which many (including Yours Truly) consider to be the best Trek ever got on the big screen. He wasn’t done, though. He returned to help develop both Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Depending on who you ask, those are the three best Star Trek films of all time. Meyer looms large in Trek fandom because of his contributions, but for more than two decades it seemed he was done with the franchise.
Then Bryan Fuller came calling, and Meyer joined the writing staff of the upcoming Star Trek TV series. So that show is not only in the care of a faithful and talented Trek writer; it will also feature work by the man who arguably saved the franchise in the early '80s. That’s a pretty impressive start for a show many of us thought we’d never see.
Star Trek Beyond will hit theaters on July 22. The as-yet-untitled Star Trek TV series will arrive next year.