We're just a month away from what is supposed to be an epic season of television, as The Walking Dead is set to drop bodies with the debut of Season 7. There will undoubtedly be several seasons set to follow this one, but it's hard to know how many. If AMC;s President and CEO Josh Sapan is to be believed, though, we might be watching stories within the Walking Dead universe for decades. Here's how Sapan put it, drawing comparisons to another super-popular sci-fi franchise.

[It] has incredible long life left in it. . . . [Star Trek] came and went three times [sic]. We do think we have a franchise that is one of the rare franchises that you occasionally come across in what we do for a living.

That's some mighty big dreams. As far as goals go, Rick attempting to take out all of Negan's Saviors without knowing anything about them was lofty, but aiming to make The Walking Dead - and, by extension, Fear the Walking Dead and any other eventual spinoffs - as big as Star Trek is orbital. But not necessarily impossible. After all, as Sapan told The Wrap, AMC has five of the top ten cable dramas on TV right now, so there will likely always be a big enough audience to justify renewals.

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While I'm not clear on the "three times" Josh Sapan was referring to, since there have been five live-action Star Trek series (not counting Discovery) and two film franchises, his meaning is clear. This post-apocalyptic universe has two central storylines happening in it, and while The Walking Dead doesn't have a literal galaxy of narrative paths to choose from as Gene Roddenberry's creation does, there are still many thousands of other stories that can be told within these zombified parameters, and Fear has already moved the action out to sea and into Mexico, so international projects aren't off the table. Some of those ideas might allow for crossovers, too.

Of course, just because Josh Sapan wants The Walking Dead to potentially go until Maggie's kid is applying for AARP doesn't mean that it'll definitely happen. Creator Robert Kirkman likely won't keep the comic series going for another 13 years - though he's more than welcome to - and there's no telling how long he'll want to keep The Walking Dead prime and Fear going. (There have even been talks about ending the flagship show and the comic at the same time.) And it's possible Sapan won't even still be atop AMC in another five years.

But how interesting would it be if The Walking Dead was like a soap opera, lasting long enough to see generation swaps and the passing of torches for lead characters. Kirkman has said The Walking Dead will end with Rick's death, but it wouldn't necessarily have to. Or, if that would be the case, then a spinoff could immediately go into production with other characters. The popularity of the franchise basically means the sky is the limit for its future, although I doubt there will be a Klingon companion series for The Walking Dead.

But before we all start making fan art of Carl as a 60-year-old pirate, there are more Negan-centric things to worry about. The Walking Dead will return to AMC for Season 7 on Sunday, October 23, at 9:00 p.m. ET. Head to our fall TV schedule to see when all your other favorite shows are coming.

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