It's official: CBS is doing a new Star Trek.
I texted my BFF the news and she said, "That's great! How awesome!"
Yeah. It is awesome. Isn't it?
So why do I feel such a big, weird lump in my stomach?
Maybe it's this:
Star Trek has been a huge part of my entire life. And, for the last three years, it's been even bigger. I watch Star Trek every day and I write about it every day and I'm the first person to come to the defense of the new movies when people want to get snarky about them. I've argued for years that we need another Trek on TV and now... suddenly... it's finally here.
Or it will be. In about a year. So, again, why am I nervous and not jumping up and down?
Maybe I'm nervous that it won't be as good as we all hope. Maybe I'm nervous that it will be amazing but CBS will cancel it after twelve episodes--and then we won't get any new Trek for a very, very long time. Maybe I'm nervous that I won't have the same level of confidence when writing about a current incarnation of Star Trek--that I'll be out of my element. Maybe I'm nervous that this whole MYOST project has been based so heavily on nostalgia that it won't translate to brand new TV.
And, maybe, just maybe... this isn't about me (for once) maybe it's that you'll have to pay for the privilege to watch the show. The new Star Trek will be available exclusively on CBS All Access--CBS' new streaming service. So, no, you won't be able to catch it with your existing Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime subscription. OR with your cable subscription. OR with your antenna. You'll have to pay 5.99/month just for CBS and its shows--all of which are otherwise available on a weekly basis the old fashioned way--except for the new Trek.
So maybe that's why it bothers me just a little bit.
I've gone over this whole rigmarole before but here it is again:
My dad grew up really poor in the foothills of Kentucky. He watched Star Trek with an antenna.
My mom grew up really poor high in the Appalachian mountains of North Carolina. She tuned it in by adjusting the bunny ears on top of the family's black and white TV set.
I grew up (at times) really poor, moving from house to house, apartment to apartment, in and out of states, and I watched it with an antenna. Sometimes Picard was fuzzy but at least I could hear the message.
Thousands (millions?) of kids around the world have watched Star Trek new and in re-runs for the last five decades virtually for free. My best friend's dad watched it from his house in a war-torn Lebanon. My friend Rich tuned in from England. Whoopi Goldberg watched it in NYC.
Those epiosdes didn't cost a single darsek, dorak, or frang.
I'm not saying that the people over at the network ought to make a brand new Trek and put the show out for nothing. I understand that producing a big new SciFi weekly series is going to cost some serious quatloo and I'm guessing part of the reason it got this far was that a deal was struck--Trek has an existing fanbase and they're willing to pay so let's tell them to pay. But I do wonder if the higher ups have taken a page out of the Rules of Acquisition, realized how badly Star Trek fans want a new series, how many of us are willing to shell out our earnings for coffee mugs and replica phasers and tickets to cons and, why not, yet another TV subscription service.
So, yeah, I'll pay 5.99 for the chance to watch a brand new Star Trek series. But what about kids like my mom and dad? What about kids like me? Since when is Star Trek speaking only to the folks with a sturdy Wi-Fi connection and an extra six bucks to fork over for a single channel subscription service? Isn't part of the point that the Federation is an equal opportunity kind of place? Isn't part of the message that the future is brighter and better and no one will want for anything--not even TV?
Again, whatever makes this show happen, I'm willing to do. We need another Star Trek on TV. And financing a show like this isn't cheap. I understand compromises have to happen. I will pay the ticket price as many times as it takes and so will a million other Star Trek fans. But, the reason there are so many of us, the reason we can fill hotels and movie theaters and convention centers is that we all had an opportunity to fall in love the first time--no strings attached, no credit card needed.
Trek has given me a lifetime of excitement and exploration, wonder and romance, logic and reason, laughter and tears and it's never really asked for anything in return so I truly don't mind paying it back now. But I do hope that somehow, at some point, the new series will be made more accessible to the people who need it.
In the last few months, two of my childhood favorites have gone the way of pay-to-view: Sesame Street is the other one. HBO recently bought the similarly beloved and long-running institution and announced that we could pay for their service and get the episodes brand new or wait a couple months for them to show up on PBS. That's the compromise. You can still get it for free but you have to wait a little while. The show gets made, we don't have to worry about it totally disappearing, but it's still available to all kids with access to free TV. It a model that some people aren't super comfortable with but at least it keeps the show going.
I want to keep Star Trek going too. Since 1966 Star Trek has delivered a message of hope and optimism and, more than ever, we need that message. We all need that message.