Going Boldy into the Future
As fans are anxiously awaiting the release of this fall’s Star Trek: Discovery, which until recently has kept much of it’s production “hush-hush”, Entertainment Weekly has been slowly releasing images and interviews from producers, actors and other staff involved with the production, much to the joy and chagrin of fans.
Today, they announced one of the biggest pieces of news yet: That the writers and producers have abandoned what has been coined as the “Roddenberry Box”…
What is the Roddenberry Box?
When Gene Roddenberry created Star Trek in the 60s, he had an idea for a utopian future where humans and aliens worked together to overcome their differences and expand their intellectual horizons. Part of that utopian future was the rule that no human characters (or Starfleet officers) would have any type of conflict with the other human characters. It was also a rule that the main characters shouldn’t have baser human flaws, as in this future we would have evolved past those flaws towards what the Borg might call “perfection”.
Now, while this doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, it put the writers of every iteration of Star Trek against a wall. Conflict between characters is what helps to create the drama needed for stories to be more than just a “alien/situation of the week” type-deal. When the writers are forced to only use “Outside forces”, like possessing aliens or the “bad guy of the week”, they felt that there hands were tied and that they were being put “into a box”. Hence the name “Roddenberry’s Box”, given to the dilemma by Michael Piller.
After Gene passed during Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s run, writers started to experiment with these types of conflict in various ways (See Deep Space Nine and the Dominion Wars, Enterprise and the Xindi/Temporal Cold War), all while trying to stay true to Gene’s vision of the future. Discovery will build off of and continue that new tradition.
What This Means for the Series
In an interview with show-runners Aaron Haberts and Gretchen Berg, Entertainment Weekly got the scoop about why they decided to ditch the box with this new iteration of Star Trek:
“We’re trying to do stories that are complicated, with characters with strong points of view and strong passions,” Harberts told Entertainment Weekly. “People have to make mistakes — mistakes are still going to be made in the future. We’re still going to argue in the future.”
“The rules of Starfleet remain the same,” Berg added in the interview. “But while we’re human or alien in various ways, none of us are perfect.”
The handling of these inner-Starfleet conflicts will still draw inspiration from Roddenberry’s ideals, however. “The thing we’re taking from Roddenberry is how we solve those conflicts,” Harberts said. “So we do have our characters in conflict, we do have them struggling with each other, but it’s about how they find a solution and work through their problems.”
Other Changes to the Format
Star Trek: Discovery will also be a heavily serialized series, according to the interview. This will allow them to tell larger, more complex stories over longer periods of time. This is not a new fact, but something that they continue to reiterate.
Each season will, in essence, be a chapter of a book, with each episode basically being just a few pages of each chapter. And while it will take longer to tell a single story, the complexity and scope of each story will be expansive, spanning multiple episodes and potentially even multiple seasons.
It has also been previously reported that the upcoming Star Trek: Discovery books and comics will build off of the stories in the broadcast series, making the stories even bigger and bolder than ever before.
What types of stories will they tell? What is the series really going to be about? At this point, we don’t have any solid answers, and only speculation. We may have to wait until Star Trek: Discovery premieres in September to get all the answers we seek.