Star Trek – An Inspiration for Creators

By Rodric David

Whoopi Goldberg and Rodric David close two-shot on the set of Thunder Studios' film Nine Eleven
Thunder Studios CEO Rodric David and Star Trek: The Next Generation actress Whoopi Goldberg

I am a Trekkie! I’ll admit it, I am an unabashed fan of all things Star Trek and have been since I was a little boy watching the first series, created by Gene Roddenberry, starring William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. September 8, 2016 marks the 50th Anniversary of the premiere of the first Star Trek episode aired in the United States on NBC.

Star Trek boldly went where no one has gone since and is the most successful content franchise in television history. The original TV series has spawned six additional television series, thirteen feature films, an animated series, and hundreds of comic books, novels and magazines. The franchise boasts two original constructed languages in Klingon and Romulan, numerous board and video games, a diverse range of merchandise and memorabilia, and an annual convention that includes a mass wedding where hundreds of trekkies tie the knot in a Klingon Wedding Ceremony.

Rodric David at Thunder Studios stairwell
Rodric David is the Chairman and CEO of Thunder Studios.

It is extraordinary to think that the first series was actually cancelled by NBC, after three seasons and 79 episodes, due to low ratings. The eventual runaway success of Star Trek as a franchise is due exclusively to the fanatical fan engagement during syndication that saw the Star Trek brand revive several years later into feature films and beyond. This type of fan engagement and interaction presents unique growth opportunities for creators.

Whilst there have been some significant feature film franchises during the past 50 years, notably Star Wars, Godzilla, James Bond, Harry Potter, and X-Men to name a few, none of them originated on the small screen. I believe that this is due primarily to the way television programming has historically been financed which caused creators to sell their franchise rights in order to obtain production financing from a distributor. The fracturing of the traditional distribution model globally and the rise of direct content streaming services creates a significant opportunity for future content franchises to be born on the small and mobile screen.

At Thunder Studios, we are experimenting with innovative ways to fund upfront production costs in partnership with creators, investors, and brand advertisers. I predict that we will see a new content finance model emerge that will break the tradition of creators having to sell franchise rights to fund production costs. In future, it might even be normal for core fans to interact with creative teams to develop plot lines, story arcs and character development and give nascent series the same boost the Star Trek fans did nearly five decades ago