As even the more casual Star Trek fans know, after the original series came a series of six movies with the same cast. Making a spash with “The Motion Picture”, the second film ended up spawning two direct sequels, forming a trilogy, ending in “The Voyage Home” with the crew warping off into the wild black yonder.
From there anything could have happened. We got “The Final Frontier”, but what if instead we got a story all about the Romulans, doing a deep dive into their society and culture with the Enterprise-A’s crew? I’m thinking adapting Diane Duane’s worldbuilding from her “Rihannsu” novels would have made for an awesome new adventure after “The Voyage Home”.
A Romulan Trilogy for the Original Series Crew?
Now, Roddenberry and company hated Duane for whatever reason, so that probably wasn’t in the cards, but what if circumstances were somehow different and they were more receptive to her ideas? The fans, especially back in the 1980s, loved the Romulans, yet they were only featured a couple of times in the original series, and barely at all in the movies. “The Next Generation”, which premiered right after The Voyage Home, wanted to primarily feature new aliens, so an original-series movie featuring the Romulans concurrent with TNG wouldn’t conflict much with what the new series was doing. Indeed, in real life we didn’t really delve into the Romulans until as late as 2020, in the form of the “Picard” series!
Such a story would be ideal for giving the original crew something to do that would be interesting, be appealing to the fans, and really add a lot of worldbuilding depth into the Star Trek franchise. The basic idea of “The Final Frontier”, of rogue Vulcans hijacking the Enterprise to seek God, was actually rather interesting, but it’s a false-god story the likes of which we’ve seen before. Maybe if the Vulcan culture and history was featured a lot more, it would have been better, but much of that could be covered in a Romulan story anyway!
More radically, I’d have pushed for doing a whole trilogy of Romulan stories, all separate stories, but quite interconnected; serialization actually worked out very well for the second, third, and fourth movies, so why not take the same approach, but more deliberately this time? Filming back-to-back they could have economized on the per-movie cost and gotten three movies released in relatively short order. I’m thinking if they worked with reasonable rapidity they could have released movies around Christmas 1988, 1989, and 1990. Sort of like what was done about a decade later for “The Lord of the Rings”, though it likely would have required some vision to get the studio to green-light such a strategy.
The Romulan trilogy would have been Star Trek V, Star Trek VI, and Star Trek VII, leading us to the year “The Undiscovered Country” was released in real life: 1991. I’m thinking that “the wall coming down in space”, which is what we got in real life, is far and away the most obvious idea for the next story to tell after 1990, and the original crew were getting old, making the idea of doing a grand finale more compelling. If they started work while the second and third Romulan movies were polished up for release, they could have released The Undiscovered Country, which in this universe would be numbered as Star Trek VIII, in time for Christmas 1991 like in real life!
With this approach we could have had four consecutive years of Star Trek movie releases! Imagine that. If the approach was successful, we could have had more adventures with the original crew; in particular, George Takei might have gotten his own “Star Trek: Excelsior” spinoff series in the 1990s that he was pitching.
Nevertheless, I quite like how The Undiscovered Country had the Enterprise-A fly off into the sunset, leaving the original crew’s, and in particular Captain Kirk’s, fates up to our imaginations. I actually like “Star Trek Generations”, but I feel like it would have been better if after The Undiscovered Country the Next Generation crew got their own movies, without any involvement from the original cast.
Different Next Generation Movies
For The Next Generation’s movies a Borg movie, which we got with “First Contact”, is the most obvious choice, but after that it gets a bit murkier. One idea I’d love to have seen is to save the plot of the TNG episode “The Chase” for one of the TNG movies. It was very rushed in one forty-five minute episode, and would have been an awesome choice, combining a hunt for the origins of all life in the Alpha Quadrant, intimations of finding the ultimate weapon, a mystery, appearances from a variety of races, and Picard’s love of archaeology.
Assuming Deep Space Nine and the Dominion War are still done like they were in real life, Picard taking the Enterprise-E on a long-duration quest across the galaxy of paramount importance would neatly explain them being seemingly out of the picture in the Dominion War as seen in Deep Space Nine. It could even have been done as an epic trilogy, as, in this timeline, the Romulan movies were.
If First Contact still comes out in 1996, perhaps preceded by a different story in 1994, then The Chase could come out in 1998, perhaps succeeded by the other parts of the trilogy in 1999 and 2000. A fourteenth Star Trek movie could then have come out in the early 2000s, perhaps the first part of a trilogy, or an even longer series of films, depicting a grand finale for The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager cast, among others, in the form of a Federation civil war and dissolution, what I’d call the Abruption, in the wake of the Federation’s transformation into a militaristic authoritarian police state during and after the Dominion War, opening up new possibilities for 25th century tales, a third generation of Star Trek with a more fragmented galaxy on one hand and quantum slipstream drive enabling intergalactic exploration on the other hand, a rich vein to tap.
And that’s just one of many what-ifs for the Star Trek franchise. I explore some others in a previous blog post, and in the fullness of time expect to see more here.