Last Sunday something happened that I’ve been waiting for a long, long time. Star Trek returned to television for the first time in 12 years. Star Trek: Discovery premiered on CBS and to fans it was not only welcomed, it was praised. Because, you see, for the first time in – well it’s a matter of opinion depending on your particular preferences, but longer than 12 years – Star Trek is good again.
Too bad not many people will see it.
Only the first episode will air on “regular” TV, the rest will be moved to a new streaming service – CBS All Access. And this is a shame because, let’s face it, not many people have this service and not many people are likely to get it.
And that sucks.
I have been a fan of Star Trek since I was just a little kid. I watched the original series in perpetual reruns, saw all the movies on opening day, had the toys and t-shirts and went to conventions. Much of my Sci-Fi fandom and nostalgia revolve around memories of watching this program as a child.
When I was in High School the Next Generation began and later Deep Space 9 when I was in college. These shows became required, must-watch programming. My roommates and I even created drinking games with character dialogue and mannerisms to enhance the viewing experience. While I don’t necessarily recommend you partake in this practice, it did help to spread the love of the program across the campus. Just saying.
I even enjoyed Voyager and Enterprise for what they attempted to be even if those shows didn’t always hit the mark. But since the cancellation of Enterprise in 2005 there has not been a Star Trek show on the air…till now of course.
I would argue that Star Trek as a franchise belongs on television. Yes, the movies are good – sometimes excellent – but the premise of the show lends itself to long form storytelling. Rather than telling sprawling adventure stories filled with spectacle like Star Wars, Star Trek is at its best when it tells smaller, quieter stories. Trek focuses more on allegory or morality plays that examine the human condition and the place of humanity in the universe while giving a cosmic perspective to real world problems and events. This works much better in multiple episodes over a long period of time rather than a rushed 2 hours of cinema time.
And Star Trek: Discovery seems like it will be doing just that. The first two episodes look fantastic. This is easily the most cinematic series in the franchise to date. It has good effects, great lighting and the acting is top notch. The story looks as if it will be more serialized than stand-alone storytelling, more akin to DS9 or the last season of Enterprise.
The characters are compelling and even better they are new characters, with new ships and new situations. Basically this is what every fan wanted and seems poised to be the kind of show that could bring on new views and create new fans.
Again, too bad that seems as if it won’t happen.
Because CBS has deemed to relegate this potentially groundbreaking new series to the abyss of an unknown and unwanted streaming service the potential for it to be forgotten, missed or ignored is huge.
Look, I get it. CBS is a for-profit entertainment company. They are looking to make money and break into the relatively new realm of streaming TV, and they want to use a high profile franchise like Star Trek to anchor this endeavor. I don’t begrudge them that, more power to you CBS. Still, how many people want to pay extra for CBS?
And here lies the problem. Most people already subscribe to multiple services and cable or dish. Personally I have Netflix, Hulu, HBO and cable. Even if it’s just a few more dollars a month I can’t justify buying another service. And I know many who feel the same way.
So, I feel that inevitably this CBS All Access service is doomed to fail – and Discovery along with it. And, as with many properties in the past, the failure will be blamed on Star Trek for not being a popular draw, not getting ratings, rather than the fact is was aired on a service no one wants.
Am I being cynical? Oh, you betcha. It’s just I see such potential for this show, and like I said it looks great. I would love it if I’m wrong and the show does find its audience and does continue to get better. I love Star Trek. I want it to be good, I want it to thrive. But forgive me if I’m a bit skeptical.
Sure, I know some fans will seek it out. Some will pay the extra fee and even more I’m expecting will go the pirate route (a practice I do not endorse by the way), but as far me well…it seems I will not be watching Star Trek: Discovery anytime soon.
And that sucks.