Why 'Star Trek' fans can thank Marvel for their new TV series

CBS has announced it will debut a new 'Trek' TV show in 2017. As the movie series (presumably) continues, those behind 'Trek' are attempting to dominate multiple forms of entertainment as the comic book company Marvel has done.

Zade Rosenthal/Paramount Pictures/AP
'Star Trek' stars Zachary Quinto (l.) and Chris Pine (r.).

Trekkies can look forward to more adventures with the characters not just on the big screen. "Star Trek" may be returning to TV as well, and fans may have Marvel to thank.

CBS has announced it will debut a new “Star Trek” series at the beginning of 2017. The program will get a “preview broadcast” on network TV, according to CBS, then after that it will be available on CBS’s subscription streaming service CBS All Access.

The show will center on new characters, rather than those seen in previous “Trek” stories. 

Of course, the science fiction franchise is no stranger to the small screen, getting its start in 1966 on NBC, with the original show starring William Shatner as James T. Kirk and Leonard Nimoy as Spock.

Since then, multiple other “Trek” shows, including “Star Trek: The Next Generation” starring Patrick Stewart, followed. The newest movie series stars Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto as Kirk and Spock at the beginning of their careers. 

So why do “Trek” fans possibly have Marvel to thank for their new TV show? 

The comic book company has been king of the multiplex over the last several years, with their various films about superheroes such as the Avengers, Captain America, and Iron Man dominating the box office. And the company has now proven itself a force on TV as well. The ABC shows “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and “Agent Carter” as well as Netflix’s “Daredevil” and several upcoming Netflix programs all take place within the Marvel universe. 

In 2015, Marvel has shown it’s possible to have success on multiple platforms – all at the same time. TV shows have been adapted as movies for years. The stories of successful movies have also come to TV. But Marvel’s world is called the Marvel universe for a reason – rather than progressing from one medium to another, the company launches projects across various forms of entertainment simultaneously. Fans can follow their favorite characters across them.

CBS’s announcement about the new “Trek” series centering on new characters is also telling. This new show won’t center on Kirk and Spock, it will be about new people also living in the same universe. Marvel's universe is populated by many characters, many of whom often interact. Perhaps these new "Trek" characters will bump into Kirk, Spock, or Uhura on a mission.

In addition, a TV show premiering in January 2017 means there will be a continuous stream of "Trek" content, if a fourth movie is planned.

That's what Marvel does. It lines up its projects so that Marvel content is debuting all year, with the stories synced up so that the new stories often reference the ones released just before them. (For example, on an April 28 episode of the TV show “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” a “S.H.I.E.L.D.” character finds out where the tool of a villain is located and in the movie “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” which opened on May 1, the beginning of the movie shows the Avengers following up on this information.)

If the "Trek" TV show moves forward, the “Trek” universe will have a similar plan. The new “Star Trek” film, “Star Trek Beyond,” is set to debut in the summer of 2016. Then the new “Trek” TV series will debut that following January. Presumably, if “Beyond” is successful, fans can then follow the franchise to another movie. 

All this presumes that the movie series will continue successfully, which it might not. The series has undergone a creative shakeup, with director J.J. Abrams leaving for "Star Wars" after having helmed the first two movies. The second film was also less well-received critically and grossed less than the first movie.

Will moviegoers and TV watchers get tired of “Trek”? Will the new TV show be a creatively satisfying story? No matter what, “Trek” fans will have months to wait until the next project, as the first one to arrive will be “Star Trek Beyond” next summer.

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