I was reading an article about how Star Trek Picard is no good, very bad, and awful (which is true), and something towards the beginning really stuck out. It quotes Alex Kurtzman, destroyer of franchises, currently showrunning (into the ground) the Star Trek franchise. And, to my great shock, the words quoted actually were true! Just about had a heart attack, I did. So, what did he say? For those of you who didn’t click through and read the article:
If you really want Star Trek to reach people, then you’ve got to start young.
This is 110% true. Star Trek is a dying franchise. Almost literally: the bulk of the fanbase – or at least those willing to spend money – are 50+. There’s a reason the conventions are so expensive. There’s a reason there’s Star Trek: The Cruise. It’s all old folks. I figure I’m at the lower end – and I’m in my 30’s! To avoid the inevitable end of the fanbase, it needs to be replenished. You do have to start young.
Most of those old guys still going to conventions? They started young. Many with syndicated reruns of OG Trek, or with the old movies. People of my generation probably started with TNG. I’ve been watching since I was a baby: my parents were both into it, and were watching TNG as it started. My dad even had (almost) the complete collection of the TOS VHS collection, back when that was really expensive (buying physical copies of Trek shows has always been quite expensive for some reason). I still have some of those Micro Machines ship toys.
HOWEVER, that’s not what Kurtzman is actually doing. When he talks about young, he’s not talking about kids. He’s talking about folks in their 20’s. Adults. You can’t build a strong fanbase out of adults, not for something like Trek. It almost requires starting from very young. That was the thing with old Trek: it was for the whole family. Kids could watch and enjoy. So could their parents, older siblings, and everyone. Modern Trek is for people in their 20’s and older. It’s the exact opposite of family friendly. You can’t get small kids watching and enjoying this. (And really, most adults wouldn’t enjoy it either.)
That’s a big problem with Trek right now: it’s looking for a new fanbase, when what it needs to do is grow its fanbase. Current Trek is not for kids, and it’s not for old fans. The creators actively spit in the faces of old fans, yet don’t create a quality product that will actually get them that new fanbase they’re desperately hoping to get.
And even then, they’re chasing the wrong demo. Trek, like many franchises, lives on its merchandise sales. Have you seen any real STD or Picard merch? Or heck, even the stuff from the most recent movies? No, not really. Certainly not in stores, not even the specialty stuff. I remember being in university, going to Wal Mart, and seeing Trek stuff. No longer. Any merch still being sold is of the older Treks. Companies now won’t even license stuff, since it won’t sell. The old guys with money don’t want it, and the new audience – such as it is – isn’t the sort to buy that kind of stuff. Kids of course don’t want it, since they don’t even know the franchise exists.
So, Kurtzman said the right words, but he didn’t mean them in the right way. Indeed, his idea, as usual, was completely wrong and backward.