A FIRST CONTACT DAY SPECIAL POST I can remember the first time I learned that a new Star Trek show was coming. I’d picked up a copy of a new, slick magazine called Cinescape. Emblazoned on its cover was artwork for a cool new movie that would soon be out called Star Trek: Generations. Inside was a news section that talked about a female captain, a 100-year-old Vulcan and other characters that would eventually morph into Star Trek: Voyager. Don’t quote me, but I think there was another article that talked about the third season of another Trek show that would stand alone for the very first time and feature its own starship. What? Yes, this was the golden age of Rick Berman’s Star Trek stewardship. You had a reinvigorated DS9, Kirk and Picard teaming up on the big screen, and a new series spinning out of a TNG/DS9 storyline. Unfortunately, today’s Star Trek simply doesn’t engender that kind of feeling or reception from fans. That doesn’t mean today’s Paramount+ Star Trek is bad. It’s different. It’s somewhat boilerplate. It tries too hard to appeal to non-fans. But at the heart of each of the current series is a small piece of that spark Gene Roddenberry imagined for a space cruiser boldly going with a crew that represented the world and carrying the ideals of humanity across the stars.
On March 30, 2023, Paramount announced the new Star Trek series was called Starfleet Academy. Little information was provided other than it will feature cadets facing a galactic threat.
Starfleet Academy has been a white whale (no Star Trek IV pun) since the proposed Star Trek VI was to feature a young academy age Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. We’ve seen Academy era novels, action figures and a very, very good Marvel era Star Trek: Starfleet Academy comic. TNG and DS9 had Academy-infused episodes with Wesley Crusher, Nog, etc. But that doesn’t appear to be what’s going down with this new TV series version. Since we essentially know nothing, here’s my speculation about what we’ll see in Star Trek: Starfleet Academy when it debuts on Paramount+ in 2025.
The series is most likely to be set in the 32nd Century given the description of there not being a Starfleet Academy for years. This also means cast or characters from Star Trek: Discovery will appear or even be part of the series. This will also mean there are very little chance Berman-era Trek characters will ever appear.
While I don’t expect full on 90210 in space, I do expect “young soldiers in space.” There will be a galactic-sized enemy and it’ll be up to the cadets and their allies to save the day.
We’re probably going to see another serialized approach as opposed to the episodic formula. I have a feeling this will be very Star Trek: Discovery in its look and feel. That’s not necessarily a bad thing—after all, Discovery did bring back the Guardian of Forever!
The cast is likely to be mostly young cadets with, as I noted, the possibility of Discovery carryovers. The most likely is Tilly since she was already teaching at the Academy. There may be a nod to a classic Trek alien, but most characters will be from Discovery-era canon. I also expect most of the actors to be diverse. This isn’t bad either, but TNG, DS9 and VOY were both diverse and progressive and it doesn’t feel forced in the same way as Discovery does. In fact, the diversity factor feels like a part of the storyline—but not in a good way. Some of the creators of the Berman-era shows admit they missed the boat, especially with LGBT representation and modern Trek has course corrected that. However, Trek was and is always best when they make a science-fiction allegory to our world today—not shoehorning it in with the same language and wording that is relevant now. It sounds even worse when you’re talking about the 32nd century.
There will be a ship involved—but I’m not sure how. It could be a runabout-type vessel, or the cadets could be part of a starship crew. I hope they don’t go the route of having them be lower decks in live action. Lower Decks, the show, is great. Trying to copy that seems like a bad idea.
I’ve been a little negative about the Starfleet Academy announcement and I don’t mean to be. Any Star Trek would’ve been welcomed with open arms just a few years ago. But Discovery was not what we expected it to be. Picard was good, but until Season Three didn’t seem to know how to take advantage of the behemoth that was 24th century Trek. Both felt dark, conflicted, and far from the optimistic universe that Gene Roddenberry created, and Rick Berman shepherded. Lower Decks, while comedic, and Prodigy, less complex, are both very much in the image of their 90’s Trek predecessors. It’s the live action series that have failed miserably—that is until Strange New Worlds came along. Aside from canon that is stretched loosely, SNW is back to episodic storytelling and the stories themselves feel like modern version of classic Trek.
Will Starfleet Academy be any good? Will it stand on its own and not be a shadow of Discovery? We’ve got a couple years to find out! And if you really want to continue the adventures of the 25th century, make sure to let Paramount know!