Underrated Star Trek captains need love too. Although Kirk, Picard, Sisko, and Janeway get the lion’s share of Trekkie attention, there are some other Starfleet legends who could easily return to the final frontier. And according to Akiva Goldsman, co-showrunner of both Picard and Strange New Worlds, he’s figured out a way to bring back Captain Archer (Scott Bakula) and Captain Sulu (George Takei). This is actually something Trek has tried before.
Tales of the Federation
In an expansive feature for SFX — the print magazine affiliate of GamesRadar — Goldsman dropped an intriguing idea for an anthology series that would pave the way for the return of at least two great Trek captains: Jonathan Archer from Enterprise and Hikaru Sulu, who became captain of the USS Excelsior in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.
“I'll call it Tales of the Federation, where you would just do one-offs, right?” Goldsman said. “So you could bring George Takei back for an hour, and do a show about Sulu as an older man, or find Jonathan Archer having now retired from his Enterprise and being on Earth ... You could grab anybody, from all the shows, because it's really hard to find enough for a series.”
To be clear, there’s no indication that Tales of the Federation will actually happen, but Goldsman’s idea is compelling. He also noted that anthology shows are “are finding their way back,” into the mainstream. Notably, what made the original Star Trek so groundbreaking is that it was one of the first mainstream sci-fi shows that wasn’t an anthology show, as opposed to series like The Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone.
Picard was almost a Short Treks
Ironically, the concept for Star Trek: Picard was originally part of an unmade Short Treks idea, which is a Trek anthology that actually exists. CBS All Access ran the series, which was mostly set in the Discovery and Strange New Worlds era, from 2018 to early 2020. However, when that anthology format was still being workshopped, Discovery writer and Picard co-creator Kirsten Beyer had an idea: A Short Treks episode in which an older version of Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) met a younger version of Jean-Luc Picard. In 2020, Kirsten Beyer told TrekCore:
“So, at the very, very beginning, we were talking about ‘Short Treks’ for the first time, and what kind of stories you could tell — and we were actually beginning with an Uhura story, and the idea was that we very much wanted to see we could bring Nichelle [Nichols] back in at this point in time, and then see what kind of stories [Uhura] might tie in to. And then Patrick’s name came into the mix, and could we get him, would he be interested… so the very first idea was a meeting between Uhura and Picard — a very, very young Picard.”
That idea eventually morphed into Star Trek: Picard. Obviously, we never saw an older Uhura in Picard, but we will see a much younger version of her in Strange New Worlds, now played by Celia Rose Gooding.
Will Short Treks ever return?
While Goldsman's idea for an anthology series called Tales of the Federation sounds fun, it’s interesting that Paramount+ already has a format to do anthology one-offs featuring Sulu, Archer, or pretty much anyone. Some episodes of Short Treks are nearly 20 minutes in length, meaning you could do justice to these classic characters within that existing format.
But will Short Treks ever return? It’s unclear. In 2020, Star Trek boss Alex Kurtzman said he “hopes” more Short Treks will happen, but since then we haven’t heard anything. Like the Star Trek: Section 31 series, it’s unclear if more Short Treks has been permanently moved to the back-burner. Though if Goldsman’s idea bears fruit, maybe Short Treks could morph into some stand-alone Treks that aren’t so short.
Star Trek: Picard Season 2 hits Paramount+ on March 3, 2022. Here’s the full schedule of Star Trek in 2022.