In the original "Star Trek," it was the chaos of small sounds we believed to be emanating from everywhere on the bridge. For "Star Trek: The Next Generation," it was the background rumble we would hear that would remind us that drama was unfolding onboard a large starship.
Realism is part of the reason we've all fallen in love with Star Trek over the decades. And if there are efforts underway to bring Star Trek back, then what has become much more sophisticated audiences are going to demand even more realism than ever before.
Star Trek can't lose sight of that if it wants a successful return to television. So these are our suggestions to the next developer of a Star Trek television series to hopefully make sure it's done right:
The captain does much more than bark orders
We know the current bridge configuration, where the captain is the center of attention, just sitting in his chair. But he sits there as if he's about to watch a movie on the big screen in front of him.
Sure, Capt. Kirk always had little buttons to press, and he could swing around to interact with the members of his crew. Capt. Picard, however, sat down like the curtain was about to rise. The same for Capt. Janeway, and even later, for Capt. Archer. What exactly are they supposed to do once they sit and give commands? Watch the stars go by, like my screensaver from 2002?
It might be more interesting watching the three-dimensional pipes being created.
The captain is not just the command person. The captain is also the chief of the ship. His or her station on the bridge should be a working station, so that once an orderis given, the captain can then do other work.
TNG tried to show the captain working more by giving Picard a ready room. But then that just makes his seat on the bridge more tantamount to a throne for show as if he were a royal, then actually being something functional.
Speaking of thrones ...
More than one episode has had a red alert or a communication interrupt our crew. Many times they are sleeping, or they are reading a book, or schlepping around on the holodeck. But why did Capt. Sisko never get an emergency alert about a Dominion attack while he was on the can?
I'm sure the Romulans never use toilets, but we know humans do. And it would not hurt to show one once in a while. I don't mean we need to see anyone using it, or even flushing it -- but just like the noises on the bridge, or the rumble of the starship engines in the background, a toilet reminds us that this crew is relatable to us.
The bridge should be moved to a less-vulnerable part of the ship
It's amazing that in all the battles a ship of exploration has, that no one has successfully targeted the bridge. I mean, they go for the engines, the shields, the transporters -- but yet, there is this big target at the very top-center of the saucer that's screaming "shoot at me! shoot at me!"
Targeting the bridge means that you then make the rest of your battle much easier, especially since there's no one giving commands, and all the key mechanisms (like shields and defense) are also controlled in that one spot.
TNG once again tried to address this by giving us a battle bridge, which is actually hidden inside the backbone of the ship -- that is, until the saucer section was separated. And then, it's just as exposed as the old bridge. And the funny thing? They only used the battle bridge when the saucer section was detached.
"Battlestar Galactica" (the new one) had this one right: put your control center deep inside the ship, so that if there is an attack, you will be the last to get destroyed, as it should be.
Yes, the chess is three-dimensional, but so is space
We are so used to being on a planet, that we think if we are in the same area as another ship, we have to stop and get out of their way. But space is infinite in all directions, not just like a flat surface, and it must be treated that way.
Sure, "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" took advantage of this three-dimensional landscape, but then we would get later adventures where it seemed writers totally forgot themselves. If you put up a blockade, say in the TNG episode "Redemption, Part 2," know that unless that tachyon field is huge ... it wouldn't take much for a ship that can go faster than light to get around it by going underneath it, or above it.
Landing parties shouldn't land without appropriate protection
Yes, the red shirts are infamous for being killed in Kirk's landing parties of the original series, but exploration of any kind can be dangerous. Just ask any of the European explorers who made landings in the Americas -- they would be crazy to not have protection following them around ... in full armor.
Not only did the away teams go down with crappy protection, but then they had to walk everywhere. No one thought about putting some wheels on the ground until "Star Trek: Nemesis," and even then it was nothing more than a dune buggy. At least "Lost In Space" had the family bus they could drive around everywhere.
Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations ... works for aliens, too
When we think of Klingons, all we think about are warriors. When we think of Romulans, all we think of are scheming politicians or military leaders. But there has to be more to all of these species than that. Someone has to cook. Someone has to clean. Someone has to develop technology.
With the major races, we have seen touches of that, like with "Star Trek: Voyager" and "Star Trek: Enterprise" when it comes to the Klingons, but we need to stop painting other alien species with broad strokes. Not every Klingon is looking to start a blood feud. Not every Andorian has an issue with "pink skins." Not every Ferengi is going to try and make a profit off us. Not every Borg wants to assimilate ... wait, scratch that one.
The richness of these different alien species comes from the diversity that we see. Not every human is alike, and the same can be said about Cardassians, Kazon, Vulcans and even the Gorn.
Don't let technology solve problems
The biggest concern with early TNG episodes was the fact that Wil Wheaton's Wesley Crusher was always the one saving the day -- with technology. Not just his intellect, but his intellect when it comes to technology.
Basically, the message there is that if I'm ever in trouble, I need to turn to my iPhone. That might help me find when the next train is going to arrive in a strange city, but when the Breen are trying to shut down all the electrical systems in my car? I think I might need some of my own ingenuity with a dash of Picard diplomacy to get out of that.
There has been far too often that I've watched the spinoffs of Star Trek, and feel it's more a boasting of advanced technology than advanced thinking. Sure, technology is great, and it's taken great minds to create it -- but it should only be a tool to a solution, not the solution itself. And that's what Star Trek has to get back to.
About the Author
Michael Hinman is the founder and editor-in-chief for 1701News, Airlock Alpha and the entire GenreNexus. He owns Nexus Media Group Inc., the parent corporation of the GenreNexus, and a co-founder of 1701News. He lives in Tampa, Fla.Email author