With "Star Trek Into Darkness" at the top of the box office right now, die-hard Trekkies have only one thing on their minds: What's next?!

J.J. Abrams's revamped take on the space-exploring franchise has introduced Kirk, Spock, and Bones to a whole new generation of viewers -- but with the director's plan to take on a new episode of "Star Wars," where does it leave the brainchild of Gene Roddenberry?

Obviously, we haven't seen the last of "Star Trek," but what form will its next adventure take? Which characters will make their presence felt? And when will we get to see it?

As we boldly step into uncharted new territory, Moviefone asked a panel of leading "Star Trek" experts for their insights into the future of the series. With a little bit of detective work, their theories shed the first light on what will happen next on-screen and off.

Anthony Pascale, TrekMovie I expect that Paramount will target the 50th anniversary and get the next movie out for the summer of 2016. The core team of Abrams, Burk, Orci, Kurtzman, and Lindelof will all be back as producers or executive producers, but there may be new creative as well, certainly a new director -- likely someone in Abrams's circle of trust who will continue with the same feel of the first two films. I hope they continue what they did with "Into Darkness" and tell an allegorical story that makes people think about our current society, although that doesn't have to be done on Earth.

I think there will be a debate on if they should do something entirely new, such as a new adversary race, or develop their own spin on something already established from the canon (like The Borg, The Dominion, The Gorn, etc). My view is that "Star Trek" is different than superhero movies where they expect you to use the characters from the comic books. "Star Trek" is about exploring today's human condition through the lens of exploring strange new worlds, emphasis on "new." So I think the fans would welcome Abrams' team fully embracing their new universe and telling us a story entirely of their making. Just make sure to drop enough fun Trek tidbits along the way.

And, more importantly, I think we should see these characters continue their arcs towards becoming the heroes that we knew from the original show, but not limited to that because they are different and are allowed to stretch them in new and interesting ways. (All that and a really cool space battle. You need one of those!)

Brian Wilkins, Editor, TrekNews.net The franchise has an important anniversary rapidly approaching. In just two years, "Star Trek" will turn 50. According to my sources, Paramount is targeting the summer of 2016 for the release of the next film to coincide with the golden anniversary.

Where the story goes from here is really anyone's guess. I'm sure Abrams, along with screenwriters Damon Lindelof, Roberto Orci, and Alex Kurtzman, have a basic outline for the Enterprise crew's next on-screen outing. However, those plans aren't set in stone and direction could change at any time. Moviegoers may have picked up on a few hints of what the future may hold. Following Starfleet's off-the-record manhunt that took Kirk, Spock, and Uhura past the neutral zone and onto the Klingon home world of Kronos, Admiral Marcus ominously told Kirk that "War is coming." With an already turbulent relationship with Starfleet and the "warrior race" making relatively small appearances in both the 2009 and 2013 films, a logical way to end the trilogy would be an all out battle between them and arguably Star Trek's best known villain: the Klingon Empire.

I'd say it's safe to assume that we'll see some aesthetic updates made to the NCC-1701 during her next big screen appearance. Regardless of the adventure or the release date, the next film will ultimately determine the direction the franchise for years to come.

Chris Wales, TrekCore"There are very few people who know really what the long-term plans are with Star Trek." So said Brian Miller, Senior VP at Paramount in an interview with TrekCore last month, before quickly adding his own name to the list of people in the know. Putting J.J. Abrams into the director's chair for the latest films could hardly be a clearer statement of intent: while Hollywood's rapidly-rising director has turned his hand to the A-class of summer blockbusters, he's actually far more at home on the small screen, taking novel concepts and turning them into genre favorites like "Lost" and "Alias."

Which is why Star Trek's future will be back on the television. Recent reports have suggested that the unfathomable decision to split the TV rights to the show from the film rights have placed holders CBS and Paramount at loggerheads, at least when it comes to rolling out Abrams's vision for the future of the franchise. It would certainly explain his seemingly bizarre decision to sign up for "Star Wars." So where next? The original plan had to take Abrams's shiny new universe and launch at least one related TV series, probably around the time of the third film. Given the already impressive resumes of the cast, we clearly can't expect to see the Enterprise and its new crew appear in a new series (save for the odd cameo, anyway).

This brings us to the question of Star Trek's soul (its katra, you might say). The two new movies to date have been full of both sound and fury but both felt somewhat absent when it came to "Star Trek's" most unique quality: its moral core. Creator Gene Roddenberry himself used to explain that episodes were "like short Bible stories": most often an exploration of some of the most fundamental questions about humanity and our existence, coated in a sweet sci-fi frosting.

Abrams has enough good writers around him who appreciate the show to ensure that the final chapter of his trilogy is much closer to the sort of story-telling" Star Trek" is known for. "Star Trek" will be back on TV, a spin-off from the main films that will have a tie-in to some facet of the next film; the movie cast and the ship will appear in at least the pilot. This will all happen around 2015, 2016 at the latest. And whilst it will look completely different to anything you've seen before, it will at least feel like a family member among the others, rather than an impostor bearing the name. As Brian Miller said at the outset: there are very few people who know what the long-term plans are. But there are most definitely plans.

Bonnie Malmat, TrekToday I would like to see the third "Star Trek" movie delve into the ramifications of the loss of the Vulcan and Romulan homeworlds. The militarization of Starfleet as a result of Nero's actions in "Star Trek" (2009) was addressed in "Star Trek Into Darkness," but how is the Federation affected by the loss of one of its founding planets?

How do the Vulcan address the loss of their homeworld and the need to quickly build up their population to avoid the loss of their race? What about mixed couples? Would Vulcans be encouraged to breed with other Vulcans at the expense of those relationships? Could the destruction of both Romulus and Vulcan mean a reunification of the Romulans and Vulcans due to the need for both races to build population and avoid extinction? Would this be possible, politically and, if so, how would that affect the Federation? Would the Vulcans on New Vulcan turn inwards and become less interested in Starfleet and the galaxy at large? Or would they not want to lose their influence in Starfleet?

Another topic would be how the destruction of a major enemy (Romulus) would affect Starfleet. Would the Klingons expand into their former areas, or would other antagonist races take the opportunity to fill the vacuum left by the destruction of Romulus?

Gustavo Leao, TrekWeb Abrams will only produce because of his duties as director of "Star Wars: Episode VII," so the quality of "Star Trek XIII" is in the hands of the new director who hopefully understands "Trek" -- Bryan Singer? Chris Nolan? Nick Meyer? Bill Shatner LOL ?

Sound off in the comments: What will happen next with the "Star Trek" franchise?
Star Trek Into Darkness Movie Poster
Star Trek Into Darkness
Based on 43 critics

The crew of the Starship Enterprise returns home after an act of terrorism within its own organization... Read More

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