Having offered my own ideas of the direction I think Star Wars should have gone in after the prequels, why not do the same with Star Trek? Indeed, the courses of the two franchises in the 21st century to date have been remarkably similar in some respects: both inaugurated their first major prequel effort around the millennium’s beginning (Star Wars with “The Phantom Menace”, Star Trek with “Enterprise”) before turning to rebooting the franchise. Yes, Star Wars suffered a reboot too, though in its case it only affected the Expanded Universe, with the six films and The Clone Wars series being carried over to the new continuity. Both franchises’ reboots were even handled by the same man: J.J. Abrams.
Along with many other fans I can’t help but think a better timeline was possible. The pre-reboot era of Star Trek ended in 2005 when Enterprise was cancelled after its fourth season, just when it was getting good; if it had been permitted a full seven seasons, with three more seasons of similar quality to its fourth, it would no doubt have a much better reputation.
The Problems with Enterprise
Indeed, the obvious what-if is what if the first season of Enterprise could have been much more like the fourth season? Enterprise was sold as this dramatic departure from previous shows where we’d see the birth of the Federation, yet we saw the technology function more or less the same way as the previous four shows, and in its first three seasons we saw a lot more of the Suliban and the Xindi than any of the races we knew and loved from the era of the original series, more of the Temporal Cold War than the Earth-Romulan War, more of the 9/11-in-space Xindi attack than the birth of the Federation.
Enterprise’s fourth season was an original-series nostalgia trip in many respects, which as someone whose favorite show is the original series (TOS) suits me just fine (apparently many others, too; “In a Mirror, Darkly”, the most nostalgic episode, is beloved even by fans who otherwise hate Enterprise!), but that is baked into the very premise of the show in my view.
A Better and Trekkier Enterprise
I would have designed the ship to be much more TOS-like, both exterior and interior; I’d make a point to bring back the vivid colorful visions of that era of Star Trek, as TNG-era Star Trek was far too drab. Among other things that means colorful uniforms with miniskirts for the girls, not all-blue jumpsuits. The Third World War took place just a century earlier, and it makes sense women would want to be women and everyone would want to see bright colors after such a devastating time; this would also retroactively establish TOS’s aesthetic as a reaction to WWIII. That was a missed opportunity to establish a cool bit of lore!
The technology should have been more different. The transporter being unavailable, as previous lore suggested would be the case, would be a real point of departure. The ship should have been centered on a huge shuttlebay, with far more than just two shuttles available; the shuttles, at least the biggest ones, should also have been much larger than what we saw.
Another point of departure would be the slower warp drive, capable only of Warp 5. As in previous shows the warp drive moves at the speed of plot, but that doesn’t lead to it feeling slower. That opportunity shouldn’t have been squandered.
Mini-Arcs for every Planet!
To feel slower the ship can’t visit a new planet very week, but it doesn’t have to! The mini-arc format introduced in the fourth season would have worked very well for exploring just a few new planets per season. Arcs of 5-10 episodes each could really flesh out each planet (or each system; one solar system could contain multiple destinations of interest!), following an ensemble cast as they explore strange new worlds, often showing the first real contact between humanity and various races seen in the original series. To this I would add airy bright outdoor location shoots much like those planned for Bajor in the development stage of Deep Space Nine.
The “space boomer” concept was one of the few bits of worldbuilding they did for Enterprise that was actually interesting and befitting the 22nd century. In between the planetary mini-arcs there could be 5-10 episode long space-boomer mini-arcs, where our heroes intercept a slow-warp Earth cargo ship. These ships should have been vast habitats, given the long trip times between stars, and I would have made them rely on spin gravity a la harder science fiction works, insinuating the artificial gravity seen in later Star Trek is a recent invention as of the mid 22nd century. Not only would this be different, it would also neatly explain where vehicles like the decidedly circular Enterprise XCV-330 came from.
More Ideas for alternate Enterprise
Connecting the timeline further to TOS, I would have played up the nuclear technology TOS insinuates is common at this time; we should have seen some of those “primitive atomic weapons” Spock mentioned. Out with phase cannons, in with nuclear torpedoes!
Another idea of mine is Alpha Centauri having been colonized before warp drive but the chaos of World War III sundering ties with Earth, leading to them becoming a lost colony with ties not being truly re-established until the turn of the 22nd century, a few decades before the show’s time. For a twist I’d establish that it was Zefram Cochrane who led the expedition to re-establish contact, neatly explaining his association with Alpha Centauri. A character in the main cast who’s from there originally might be interesting.
The Myth Arc Enterprise should have had
The primary arc of my version of Enterprise (I’d use a different name for the ship, perhaps Discovery as it seems appropriate (the name wasn’t yet taken in 2001!)) would be the ship exploring Earth’s neighborhood in the earlier seasons, establishing diplomatic ties in the middle seasons, and waging the Earth-Romulan War in the late seasons, the signing of the Federation Charter being the grand finale. As I understand it this is what fans were expecting to see over seven seasons of Enterprise (Discovery in my version).
A twist might be the Romulans, who would be waging a cold war against Earth in the middle seasons, successfully goading Earth into striking them first, as is their preferred strategy. I’d like very much to have seen that!
A First Season of “First Flight”
Another thing I would have liked to have seen is the first season being set on Earth with the ship getting ready to launch, with the launch occurring at the first season finale. The (excellent!) second season episode “First Flight” is a capsule of this concept, and I would have gone ahead and done it that way, ideally concurrently with the seventh season of Voyager.
In fact the original idea was to launch Enterprise with the sixth season of Voyager, but it was put off until post-Voyager due to the showrunners thinking “franchise fatigue” was the problem; in retrospect they were obviously wrong, considering Trek did much better when both Voyager and Deep Space Nine were airing than when Enterprise was the only show. I would have held off until Voyager’s seventh season, though; that way the first season of the prequel show set in space would follow directly after Voyager’s finale, keeping the number of Star Trek shows set in space constant at one.
Personally I think this version of Enterprise would have been awesome. Given seven seasons, we would have seen the signing of the Federation Charter at the finale most likely in spring 2008. Which raises the question: then what?
After Voyager and Nemesis: new Galaxies
What I would have done is skip forward into the future, much like TNG did after TOS. I would set the new show in the 25th century at earliest, perhaps as late as the 27th century. Using the next-generation quantum slipstream drive as introduced in Voyager, they are out exploring other galaxies, perhaps the Andromeda Galaxy. With quantum slipstream as depicted in Voyager they could reach Andromeda in a year (!).
After the Gamma and Delta Quadrants other galaxies are the logical next step; yes, technically there is much unexplored territory in our galaxy, but something much more new and exotic is called for in my view, and that qualifies. Spectacular regions of space would become accessible, permitting a much more vivid environment than just stars streaming by.
In Star Trek we saw two species that are definitively stated to be from Andromeda. The Kelvans in TOS’s “By Any Other Name” were decidedly non-humanoid (so the apocalyptic increase of radiation levels in the galaxy might affect them but not most other lifeforms), but on the other hand the makers of the androids in “I, Mudd” were; nevertheless, it’s possible that non-humanoid life is much more common. Given better visual effects techniques it could be a signature element of this “Star Trek: Andromeda” differentiating it from its predecessors.
Post-24th Century Technology
Technology aside from the slipstream drive will be more advanced of course; the weapons suite from “Endgame” (“Computer, deploy armor!”, not to mention transphasic torpedoes) might still be standard. Technologies lifted from the holodeck might be used more over the whole ship, as again was the trend in Voyager (the Prometheus had holo-emitters across the whole ship…). Perhaps the layout of the ship is more modular, with broad compartments being configurable using holomatter.
I would also make the ship much larger than any we’ve seen to date, along the same lines as the Enterprise-J from an alternate timeline in “Enterprise”. The idea is that while their comrades aren’t exactly unreachable the distances should be a certain sense of vastness.
The Abruption: toward new galactic Politics
A big part of the story is that the political situation has changed substantially. After five series with the Federation becoming ever-more powerful, I would dispose of the Federation in a wave of secessions in the turn of the 25th century, with various smaller successor states competing with each other, by the time of our far-future show stabilizing into a friendly rivalry with quantum slipstream ushering in a new golden age of discovery. The story possibilities with a large number of peer competitors containing races both familiar and unfamiliar would be very refreshing.
The Federation gradually slides toward being an outright villainous organization from early TNG through late DS9, and a crisis precipitated by that trend, perhaps the Federation passing its own Enabling Act in the name of national security, creating a de facto military junta abolishing the autonomy of member planets (and perhaps civil liberties as well), is the logical conclusion.
In an echo of the Maquis rebellion years earlier, member planets secede en masse, with the Federation center waging war to keep them in, all in the name of security. This ignites “the Abruption”, a civil war that ends in the victory of the liberal secessionists, but at the price of sundering the Federation for good; after being burned once the members aren’t eager to rejoin even a loose union again.
An epic Star Trek Film Trilogy and beyond
The potential for such a storyline for the TNG movie series should be obvious, and my idea would have been for an epic film trilogy depicting the Abruption, a grand finale for all our favorite characters from the 24th century, from TNG, DS9, and VOY alike. These films would have been released in the 2000s concurrently with Enterprise’s run, and would set things up very neatly for Andromeda’s premier, most likely in fall 2008.
Assuming my Andromeda series lasts for the customary seven seasons, the finale for that would likely be spring 2015. This more or less brings us into the streaming era (Discovery premiered in 2017), which opens up the chance to realize some of the abundant potential of stories in the post-Abruption era. In my scenario we may well have multiple concurrent streaming series set in that era by 2021. There could also be feature films set in that era.
Well, there you have it: what would have been my master plan for the Star Trek franchise post-Deep-Space-Nine. Creative approaches that shake up the setting while preserving the basic sense of optimism (even with the Abruption, there would be a strong “the Federation must die that humanity may live” theme) is what the franchise really needed and indeed still needs, and we haven’t really gotten that at all. I for one hope we will see that again soon, if not from Star Trek then perhaps from a new space-opera franchise.