Boldly Going Behind a Paywall, and What It Could Mean for Star Trek: Discovery

So…CBS/Paramount is making a new Star Trek series about 12 years after the end of Enterprise. However, with the launch of a series, there comes a lot of baggage in the cargo hold.

We know very little about Star Trek: Discovery. We know the ship’s name, that is takes place in the prime universe, and it may or may not take place between The Original Series and The Next Generation. The main lead will also be a woman. I think that’s all I really know, and we’ll likely learn more later on.

We also know that CBS is airing the series on its All-Access premium service after the first episode will be aired on CBS’s TV network. I think this is a bad business move because it puts Star Trek behind a pay wall, alienating fans who are unable to afford or unwilling to pay for a service they don’t want. It also alienates new, potential fans because they won’t care about Star Trek: Discovery due to a lack of access. However, the series will be syndicated on Netflix in foreign countries, so maybe Star Trek: Discovery will bring in new fans from around the world.

The series will also be serialized as opposed to episodic. According to show runner Bryan Fuller, the serialized approach will “play out like a novel.” That approach makes me think of Game of Thrones. I’m hoping this new approach will work for a culture that loves to binge watch stuff, and for people who enjoy watching just an episode or two at a time. So long as the story they tell is interesting, I’m willing to watch it.

This isn’t a whole lot to go on. I’m skeptical about CBS’s decision to put the series on All Access. What scares me more is that I have low hopes for this series, largely thanks to Star Trek Into Darkness and the rather hit-and-miss Star Trek: Enterprise (which is a not-so-guilty pleasure of mine). I don’t know anything about this Bryan Fuller guy. I have better things to do than keep up with TV production people. What I want is a good series that appeals not just to Trekkies willing to pay for it, but a series that can revitalize Star Trek as a story-telling, theme-and-society-addressing machine that can appeal to younger people and new audiences who might be unfamiliar with Star Trek that can also be enjoyed and liked by Trekkies. However, due to CBS’s decision to put it behind a pay wall, I’m afraid it won’t happen.

I’m afraid that Discovery won’t get noticed by non-Trekkies, and it’s looking like that may happen. I’m also afraid of not liking it. Seriously, the last Star Trek televised series ended 11 years ago, and I’ve been a Trekkie to 10 years. Discovery could become my generation’s Star Trek, and that would be sweet! However, if it doesn’t tell a good, intelligent story, we Trekkies won’t watch it and Discovery may very well die before she can get past light speed to reach those strange, new audiences.

I’m also a bit afraid of how Discovery will be handled. Star Trek has always had an ethical core to it. The Original Series dealt with racial issues and themes. The Next Generation has a few episodes that are highly relevant to issues surrounding sexual orientation and gender identity, which are incredibly important issues today. Even Enterprise dealt with themes revolving around the Conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan in season 3, and season 4 had a two-part episode called “Terra Prime” which deals with issues surrounding immigration and contact with foreign cultures. Star Trek has always tried to discuss hard questions, and guide its audience at times. The new Star Trek movies don’t have that ethical core, and I don’t want that trend to bleed into the new series. I want Discovery to ask those hard questions, to open up those discussions among fans and new audiences.

There’s very little we still know about the series. Show runners confirmed recently that the leading role will be a woman, and it worked for Voyager. I’d have to see the first episode before I decide if I want to dedicate my time to Star Trek: Discovery. I’m not sure what to expect, but I’m hoping it’ll be good.

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