Will The New STAR TREK Show Have Anything To Do With The Movies?
The news that Star Trek is, at long last, returning to episodic adventures (I still have a hard time calling a streaming service 'TV'), has heartened many Trekkies. This is where Trek belongs, with the movies being nice additions to a larger canon that was formed one hour at a time. That news also brings with it a big question: in which reality will this new series be set? Will it be in the same time/universe as the Star Trek movies - ie, around the dates of the original series but with advanced tech and no planet Vulcan - or will it be set in the original continuity, which didn't end but was only abandoned?
There are a lot of clues, some of which are conflicting, but first we have to look at the history of Trek and Paramount. CBS and Viacom, Paramount's parent company, split in 2006, and with them was divided the rights to Trek. All of the original universe stuff stays at CBS, who has continued creating licensed merch that celebrates Shatner's Kirk et al (they just released the autobiography of Shatner's Kirk, for instance), while all the reboot movie stuff has stayed with Paramount. As part of the split CBS retained rights to future Trek TV shows; this was a stumbling block that kept JJ Abrams from creating a transmedia Trek empire in the wake of the new timeline. That split is real - within CBS the JJ universe is referred to as the alt timeline, with the understanding being that the stories told in the original series and its spin-offs are the real universe. You're watching some Earth-2 shit in the movies these days.
CBS has a real stake in keeping that original universe alive. They still make a lot of money on original universe merch, and they have hundreds upon hundreds of hours of content set in that universe, episodes and movies they would prefer to not see rendered irrelevant by making the JJ verse the main universe. Setting this new show in the main universe - Next Generationing The Next Generation, perhaps - would be a smart move that would allow them to continue working with, and building on, five decades of continuity. By skipping ahead a generation after Picard and friends they could maintain the futuristic visuals of the new series - the Apple Store bridges, the new uniforms - while keeping their history alive.
But CBS has hired Alex Kurtzman to run the show. He was one of the architects of the new films (alongside Roberto Orci, who I imagine will never get to see the inside of another starship), so his involvement in the new series raises questions. Why bring this guy in if you're not working in the JJverse? The answers may be simple and boring: CBS Television Studios already has a deal in place with Kurtzman, and he's a proven commodity on television. Kurtzman's not actually involved in the main Trek films at this point (and after Star Trek Beyond it's possible that JJ Abrams' Bad Robot won't be either), but if he can help create any sort of connection between the universes that would be a plus. And telling new audiences that you have one of the creators of the new Trek movies is sort of like shorthand for saying "This won't be as deathly dull as The Next Generation."
The official announcement was very vague, saying only that the new show won't be connected to Star Trek Beyond, but that could simply mean it's a show about a non-Enterprise crew. It's possible that CBS hasn't even decided where to set the series just yet - with a 2017 debut they have a little while to firm up their exact plans, although one imagines that Kurtzman had a strong pitch to get the job.
There are two ways this could go: the DC way or the Marvel way. Marvel's TV series and movies are linked, however tenuously, theoretically offering a lot of opportunities for cross-promotion and also creating a sense of FOMO in the hardcore faithful (god knows that's why I've stuck with Agents of SHIELD into season 3). Meanwhile the DC TV shows are not only disconnected from the upcoming movies, they're disconnected from each other - Supergirl and The Flash do not live on the same planet. So far there's not enough data to really decide which approach is better, and each has their fans and their detractors. We don't even yet know whether DC's approach will create confusion in audiences when The Flash in the movies is not the same The Flash on TV.
The Marvel approach does seem like it makes the most sense for CBS, who is selling the new show as part of their CBS All Access app at 6 bucks a month. That's not a terrible price - if the show is weekly it's like $1.50 an hour, way cheaper than comic books or movies - but it's a decent price for a service that feels like it's replicating other services for which we already pay. While the new Trek films haven't exactly set box office records they still outperform all previous Trek iterations, and bringing in some of that audience would behoove the company on the launch of this service. At the same time CBS may decide they would rather double down on the existing fanbase and simply cater to those people who are already used to spending lots of money on Trek stuff.
Neither approach is wrong, but considering the buzz I've heard from within CBS - they don't love the reboot movies - I wouldn't be surprised to find that the new series takes place in the original continuity. With the reboot films doing okay but not great we might find ourselves in a a situation where the JJverse withers away after Star Trek 4 (if they even get there - Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto signed on, but if Star Trek Beyond doesn't perform Paramount's just gonna disengage) while Trek boldly goes on TV. Or streaming, which is the new TV. Still, they'll be boldly going in the same universe in which WIlliam Shatner is Kirk and where you can still land your shuttle on the surface of Vulcan.