You Want to Sell Star Trek?!

NBC Apparently Wants to Buy Star Trek

The rumor going around today is that NBC/Universal is apparently working on a bid to buy Star TrekOriginally conceived as "Wagon Train in Space", Star Trek was released during the height of the Hollywood Western film and TV boom. While the concept CBS originally asked for had a western vibe, it was the smart, intellectual stories set in a future utopia of science and exploration that proved vital to the series' long impact on popular culture.. Apparently Seth McFarlane is involved, rumor is as one of the co-buyers for the franchise, and that the deal would be to buy all the assets off current TV home CBS, which would grant the new owners access to all the old shows and movies (pre-Kelvin timeline, since that portion of the franchise is wholly owned by Paramount). It's a good deal for NBC if they can make it work as Trek is a big series, one that CBS has, so far managed to bungle (the series isn't a detective procedural meant for the over-60 crowd so CBS is way out of its depth). Even the good seasons of their Trek shows have been uneven, and apparently audience opinion of Picard (which, two episodes in, I think is great) has been lackluster as well.

Star Trek: Picard

In short, I an understand why CBS might think it was time to sell the franchise. It's still a weird thought that they would since the first season of Discovery helped to launch the CBS streaming portal and if CBS gets rid of the franchise one of the portal's major draws would go away (I know that without Trek I certainly wouldn't have any need for that streaming service). So while, in the short term, maybe I can see why CBS would want to sell, I don't think it's a smart long-term plan.

Of course, as someone who has actually gotten invested in Discovery (and is eagerly hoping for a Captain Pike-led U.S.S. Enterprise series) as well as Picard, I have to wonder what would happen to all these shows if CBS sold the rights. I don't see how the shows could continue since all the contracts for the casts of those shows are with CBS; everything would have to be renegotiated, a lot of props and sets and costumes would, presumably, have to be transported or rebuilt (unless NBC buys the rights but keeps filming on the CBS-rented lots). It is, in short, a lot of work to keep any part of the franchise going and I doubt NBC would want to do that.

More likely, in my mind, is that NBC would just reboot the series, at least a little. I can envision them doing something similar to Disney when that company bought Star WarsThe modern blockbuster: it's a concept so commonplace now we don't even think about the fact that before the end of the 1970s, this kind of movie -- huge spectacles, big action, massive budgets -- wasn't really made. That all changed, though, with Star Wars, a series of films that were big on spectacle (and even bigger on profits). A hero's journey set against a sci-fi backdrop, nothing like this series had ever really been done before, and then Hollywood was never the same., saying that all the movies and shows that had come out were canon but everything from the Extended Universe was eliminated. Here, NBC might keep some of the movies and original shows (certainly I'd think anything from before CBS All Access came about could be kept except for maybe Enterprise which, really, everyone wants to see eliminated) but anything after )and certainly anything NBC doesn't control, like the Kelvin-verse) is no longer canon in the series. That gives NBC a more or less clean slate to build from.

Heck, they could eve side-step it and just launch a new era for the show. We've already seen the 23rd and 24th centuries, so maybe it's time to jump ahead to the 25th. "Yes, we know these shows aren't going to continue, but how about this new show with the distant ancestor of Jim Kirk who is captain of the Enterprise-R? Doesn't that sound good?" No, it actually doesn't, but it at least gives NBC a chance to tell new stories without having to address the current continuity.

What I really have to wonder is what benefit is there for NBC beyond having this show? Yes, Star Trek had name recognition, a big selling point, but it also has a lot of baggage. Aside from the fact that two shows (and a series of web shorts) are already air, there are two other shows (a comedy and a kids show) in the 'verse that are also in development. Plus, again, there's all that extra continuity from all the old shows, but if the network fully reboots it the fans would likely freak out and boycott the show and, at that point, the franchise would be hobbled in a different way (half the fan-base is super pissed about the Kelvin movies which probably doesn't help their bottom line at all).

I mean, I get why NBC is bidding for it: Seth McFarlane really wants to own Star Trek and he's convinced to studio to make a play for it. He's already shown a great love for the series, even crafting his own Trek-clone, The Orville (which, seriously, is the best Trek on the air right now). If anyone could take the franchise and craft a solid story out of the material it's McFarlane (and considering how much I usually hate everything he does, you can see how much I appreciate The Orville). I have faith in the Trek he could create were he given the chance.

Sure, NBC was the original home for the show, airing The Original Series back in the day. There is a certain symmetry, then, for the studio to come back and want to have Trek again. And if they want it, and McFarlane is attached, their effort has my blessing (which I know they so desperately wanted). I still have to wonder if it really would be a good deal for them.

The obviously had the same thought since the price they put in for the show apparently wasn't what CBS wanted, and CBS's offer was way too high for NBC's pocketbook (so, as the rumor goes, McFarlane and NBC's reps all walked out of the meeting early). Maybe this is all moot speculation and either the rumor isn't true or maybe a deal just can't be reached. If it does go through I think this team, McFarlane and NBC, are probably the best hosts for the series we could hope for. CBS seems clueless on how to keep the series running properly so maybe it is time for someone new to take over.

Still, if some deal does come to sell Star Trek, I have to hope it's this deal with these people involved. Another studio might not have the reverence for Trek that McFarlane would (let me again make a nod to Disney and mess that is the current state of Star Wars). If the franchise sells let it be now. Otherwise, CBS, figure out your shit. Make sure the shows we have continue forward at their current clip and, while you're at it, give Captain Pike the show he deserves. This franchise still has life in it so long as you take proper care of it.