Star Trek’s New Starfleet Academy Show Is Set In the Far Future to Give Its Heroes Hope

Star Trek’s New Starfleet Academy Show Is Set In the Far Future to Give Its Heroes Hope

The series that started Star Trek’s streaming era came to an end this week, but as ever with the franchise’s current moment, all eyes are already on what’s next. But Starfleet Academy, the next new Trek show, won’t actually be making that much of a temporal jump from Discovery, staying in the 32nd century setting that show established midway through its run.

This makes sense for a lot of reasons—Star Trek already has a bunch of current and recently concluded series all operating in the familiar couple of decades established by TNG, DS9, and Voyager, around the last couple of decades of the 24th century, and the early years of the 25th. Strange New Worlds is already playing in the franchise’s other popular era, the mid 23rd century, the time of the original Star Trek, so it makes sense now that Discovery is over that there’s going to be a new show that plays about in the time period it’s leaving behind. There’s also the fact that Discovery’s ending leaves a ton of potential on the table for the 32nd century setting to be explored, as the de facto furthest frontier Star Trek has explored so far—so why not keep exploring it with new material?

But Star Trek architect Alex Kurtzman actually has a third, just as good reason—one personal but one also important to Star Trek’s core ideals. “As the father of a 17-year-old boy, I see what my son is feeling as he looks at the world and to his future. I see the uncertainty; I see all the things we took for granted as given are not certainties for him,” Kurtzman recently told the L.A. Times, explaining why Academy will continue on where Discovery left off chronologically speaking. “I see him recognizing he’s inheriting an enormous mess to clean up and it’s going to be on his generation to figure out how to do that, and that’s a lot to ask of a kid. My thinking was, if we set Starfleet Academy in the halcyon days of the Federation where everything was fine, it’s not going to speak to what kids are going through right now. It’ll be a nice fantasy, but it’s not really going to be authentic.”

“What’ll be authentic is to set it in the timeline where this is the first class back after over 100 years, and they are coming into a world that is only beginning to recover from a cataclysm—which was the Burn, as established on Star Trek: Discovery, where the Federation was greatly diminished,” Kurtzman continued. “So they’re the first who’ll inherit, who’ll re-inherit, the task of exploration as a primary goal, because there just wasn’t room for that during the Burn—everybody was playing defense.”

And… yeah, that’s actually a really good idea! If Starfleet Academy was set during the period of Star Trek that is, currently, where the bulk of its material is set—that hey day of the late 24th century—there is paradoxically an idea that the wider universe is in an incredibly secure place in terms of where the Federation and Starfleet are at, and where their primary goals remain optimistically exploratory, and both that it’s on the precipice of absolute disaster. That time period is eventually rocked by the outbreak of the Dominion War, a war that ultimately not just sees Academy students pressed into conflict unlike anything seen in centuries, but also sees the Academy itself attacked and heavily damaged when Earth is assaulted by the Breen—the trauma of which we’ve already seen teased and played out in characters like Beckett Mariner on Lower Decks, who was a young student at the Academy in that time.

It’s a very familiar era to audiences, yes, but if you want to make a show about the a new generation of explorers being trained to go out and boldly go, it’s one fraught with trying to have navigate that either there is this horrifying event perpetually on the horizon, or that horrifying event has happened, and already fundamentally altered the lives and headspaces of these young characters. “The Burn” from Discovery that Kurtzman mentions as a backdrop to Academy—an explosive event that rendered the vast majority of warp travel all-but-impossible for over a century, radically altering the state of interstellar politics, trade, and communication—is a similarly world-changing event for its young characters to have faced, but it’s not necessarily as brutally cataclysmic as something like the Dominion War was. It’s a point of diminishment for Starfleet, but not its near-destruction, and using that as a jumping off point for Starfleet Academy gives its incoming class of future Star Trek heroes a rare chance to look to their futures with hope you wouldn’t otherwise get treading familiar temporal ground.

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