Is Star Trek: Lower Decks even getting an international release next month?

ViacomCBS surprised me at the beginning of the month by announcing that Star Trek: Lower Decks will premiere on the 6th of August. Since then we’ve also had a trailer for the new series, and if you read the piece I wrote looking at the the trailer, you’ll know I think it looks like a show with great potential. In fact it isn’t unfair to say that Lower Decks is the series I’m most looking forward to at the moment.

In the 1990s, during Star Trek’s “golden age” when The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager were carrying the flag for the franchise, it didn’t really matter that here in the UK and in other countries, episodes and seasons of the various Star Trek shows would be broadcast months or even years after they debuted on American television. The web was in its infancy, and with most people not online, spoilers were hard to come by. Online fan communities, social media groups, YouTube channels, and even websites like this one didn’t exist. There were fan clubs, of course, as there always had been, but we weren’t as connected as we are today. Because of all that, Star Trek could get away with splitting up its releases.

In 2020 that just isn’t acceptable any more to huge numbers of fans. It was absolutely awful for Disney to release The Mandalorian in the USA months ahead of the international rollout of Disney+. And what was the consequence of that decision? The show became the most heavily-pirated of 2019 across most of the world, in the areas where Disney+ wasn’t available. Refusing to delay the series – one of the new platform’s flagships – cost the company money and reputational damage in the long run.

The Mandalorian was heavily pirated in regions where Disney+ wasn’t available.

It felt as though Disney didn’t care about Star Wars’ international fans – a fanbase that numbers in at least the tens of millions – by denying them access to the first ever live-action Star Wars television series. And it feels as though ViacomCBS similarly places no value on Star Trek’s international fans too, as Lower Decks currently has no international premiere scheduled.

This is completely stupid.

As I’ve said before, Star Trek’s international fanbase must be at least equal in size, if not larger, than the number of American fans. Yet ViacomCBS consistently shows us how little we matter. The official Star Trek online shop offers a large number of items, but most of them will only ship to addresses in North America. In the run-up to Star Trek: Picard’s launch late last year I wanted to get a t-shirt of the show’s poster. Did Star Trek offer one to international fans? Of course not. I did eventually track one down – from an unlicensed printer here in the UK – as you may recall if you read my review of Picard’s premiere. But that’s beside the point – why is ViacomCBS gating off its merchandise? It’s free advertising; in fact it isn’t even free, fans like me are literally willing to pay money to wear a shirt or buy a poster advertising Star Trek. Why wouldn’t any company want to take advantage of that?

ViacomCBS has even gone so far as to block YouTube videos and parts of its website to international fans. Not shipping merchandise overseas may seem like an oversight – though that’s still a piss-poor excuse – but actively blocking the Picard trailer outside the US when it first premiered was a conscious choice. Why would ViacomCBS shoot itself in the foot so many times when it comes to marketing its shows internationally? Do they want international fans to give up on Star Trek? It’s bad enough that in order to watch both Discovery and Picard we need to subscribe to two different platforms, but some of these decisions are just blatantly disrespectful.

This screen greeted many Star Trek fans who wanted to watch the Picard trailer on the official CBS and Amazon Prime YouTube channels.

Then there’s Short Treks. Though the episodes are now finally available internationally as a blu-ray set, why were they never broadcast or made available to stream? The whole point of Short Treks was to keep the Star Trek brand alive in the minds of fans and the wider audience in between seasons of the main shows. In that sense, it’s half-story, half-advertising. Yet the episodes didn’t make their way here. That’s despite the fact that two episodes of Short Treks in particular were very important: Runaway introduced a character who would have a big role toward the end of Discovery’s second season, but most egregiously Children of Mars was a prologue leading into the events of Picard. For some inexplicable reason it wasn’t shown outside of the US before Picard premiered. If you read my review of it you’ll know I was underwhelmed, but this was our first look at the Star Trek universe in the 24th Century in eighteen years. Many fans, myself included, were incredibly excited to see Star Trek move beyond Nemesis, yet ViacomCBS didn’t care enough to make the story available here.

In the weeks leading up to Children of Mars, I was continually checking in with Star Trek and various unofficial sources to find out where and how I’d be able to watch. But ViacomCBS didn’t even bother to say that the episode wouldn’t be available internationally. Even on the day Remembrance (Picard’s premiere) was made available to stream, I was still half-hoping that Children of Mars would be too. But it wasn’t.

Children of Mars was supposed to be a prologue to Picard… yet it was never shown to international fans.

ViacomCBS are going out of their way to create another division in the Star Trek fan community: between fans in North America who can watch everything, buy all the merchandise, etc. and fans in the rest of the world who can’t. At least until now the main episodes of the shows were available, but it seems like Lower Decks may not be. Just looking at this from a business perspective, how is that any way to make a successful and profitable entertainment product? And as fans, being made to feel like we’re unimportant and that Star Trek isn’t interested in us is not going to end well – it risks building up resentment and upsetting people.

Lower Decks premieres in seventeen days’ time, but fans outside North America still don’t know how, when, or where we’ll be able to see it. The series should have never been announced without its international broadcast rights secured, and if it’s the case the negotiations are still going on behind the scenes with companies like Netflix, this needs to be concluded ASAP! Some fans may need to reactivate lapsed subscriptions – or pick up a wholly new subscription, as I did in 2017 for Discovery. For people on lower incomes in particular, knowing which platform to subscribe to to see the show is very important. And I don’t give any credence to the idea that ViacomCBS is somehow saving the international broadcast details to reveal at a later date – like this week’s upcoming panel at Comic-Con@Home. Leaving it to the last minute on purpose would be idiotic.

Star Trek’s logo for Comic-Con@Home.

If it’s the case that, for whatever reason, the series isn’t going to be broadcast internationally in August, fans have a right to know. As it is, many of us are holding our breath waiting for news, and the very least ViacomCBS could do is disappoint us now and get it out of the way instead of stringing us along providing no news.

The trailer for Lower Decks looked like so much fun, and I really believe that the show could be a success, both in North America and internationally. But in order to be a success it needs to be available for fans and a wider audience to watch, and so far that doesn’t seem to be happening. I think it would be a huge mistake to delay the international release too, as all of the momentum and excitement behind it will dissipate before people in the rest of the world get a chance to tune in.

ViacomCBS: please sort this out. Whether it’s going to be Netflix, Amazon, another streaming service, or a regular broadcast television channel, pick someone to be the international broadcaster, sign the papers, and get the word out before you lose the opportunity to show off Lower Decks to legions of potential new Star Trek fans. Your international fanbase is here waiting too, but we’re beginning to run out of patience.

The Star Trek franchise – including Star Trek: Lower Decks – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

A look at the first trailer for Star Trek: Lower Decks

Spoiler Warning: Spoilers will be present for the Star Trek: Lower Decks trailer, as well as for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise, including the most recent seasons of Picard and Discovery.

It was announced only a few days ago that Star Trek will be having a big presence at this summer’s big Comic-Con@Home event – the event will not only replace Comic-Con in the USA this year, but from ViacomCBS’ perspective, also fill a role usually served by Star Trek Las Vegas, the big Star Trek convention at which Star Trek: Picard was announced and other big announcements have been made. It was a huge surprise, then, when the trailer for Lower Decks was published on YouTube, as I felt certain they’d be saving that for Comic-Con@Home, which is taking place in only a few days’ time.

In case you haven’t seen it, I’ve embedded the trailer below. When you’ve seen it, I’ll take you through my thoughts on what’s included – or you can skip the full trailer and just read what I have to say!

Have you watched it yet? This is your last chance to avoid spoilers if you want to see it first! Okay, let’s go through what we just saw!

My first reaction was side-splitting laughter for pretty much the entire trailer! Lower Decks looks like so much fun, a perfect blend of Star Trek with comedy series like The Simpsons or co-creator Mike McMahan’s last project Rick & Morty. Both of those animated shows have clearly influenced Lower Decks, and if the series as a whole can succeed as well as the trailer did then I think we’re in for a fun time.

The aesthetic of Star Trek’s 24th Century was present throughout. I talked about this before, but the design of the USS Cerritos is clearly influenced by the Enterprise-D from The Next Generation. It manages to look like a less-important version of that ship, and although there’s been some criticism of its split-level design (which I think gives it a USS Reliant or Nebula-class vibe personally) it really does succeed for me as being a well-designed vessel.

A different angle of the USS Cerritos.

The shuttlecraft Yosemite was also seen in the trailer, and sported a design similar to shuttles from The Next Generation’s era. We’d seen a Discovery-era shuttle in the Short Treks episode Children of Mars, which was a prologue to Picard released in January. That design is fine, but I said at the time that it would have made more sense to use a familiar design from The Next Generation than reuse one from Discovery. Aesthetic and design choices are very subjective, and while I like both designs, it’s nice to see something closer to that seen in the 24th Century here. I also liked its “blast shield” – I’m sure that’ll come in handy for something!

We got our first look at most of the crew in action for the first time. It seems that at least two of them – I think Ensigns Mariner and Tendi – are new to Starfleet, probably having just graduated from the Academy. This may be their first posting aboard a starship. The disappointment they experience – seen plastered across their faces – when being assigned dirty, minor roles aboard the ship is clearly going to be a big part Lower Decks’ comedy and where much of the humour is going to come from.

Ensign Tendi arrives aboard the USS Cerritos.

Ensign Boimler seems to be the Starfleet “fanboy” we heard mentioned during the initial pitch for the series. He’s caught by Ensign Mariner recording a pretend “captain’s log” in what looked like a closet aboard the Cerritos. These two characters seem to have an incredibly fun dynamic, playing off each other’s strengths and weaknesses to make a fun duo. There also looks to be a personality clash – Boimler seems anxious and by-the-book, whereas Mariner seems much more laid-back and outgoing. As the two human main characters, putting them together and making them the focus was perhaps inevitable, but I hope we’ll see more of the other two ensigns as well; they didn’t feature as prominently in the trailer.

Despite Lower Decks’ premise of featuring unimportant crew members on an unimportant ship – “rarely going where no one has gone before”, as the show’s tagline hilariously puts it – they do seem to have some adventures. At one point, Ensign Rutherford was seen fighting Borg in what I assume was the holodeck or a training room. Rutherford may be an ex-Borg himself, or he could be a human who’s been augmented in similar fashion to Discovery’s Lieutenant Detmer (the helm officer).

Lieutenant Shaxs and Ensign Rutherford.

We saw several glimpses of the Klingons in the trailer, including one who seemed to be serving in Starfleet. Taking a look at Federation-Klingon relations after the end of the Dominion War is potentially interesting, though I’m unsure how much detail we’re going to get. It did seem as though the USS Cerritos may be headed to Qo’nos or a Klingon colony though, as there was another scene set at an outdoor area emblazoned with Klingon insignia. It was suggested in Voyager’s finale that the Klingons may have moved away from their alliance with the Federation by the early 25th Century; they’ve also been major antagonists in Discovery, so I wonder if Lower Decks plans to go down that route.

There were a race of purple-skinned aliens with ridged heads that I didn’t recognise. It’s possible they’ve been seen in another iteration of the franchise and I’m just not remembering them, but they may very well be brand new in Lower Decks. A planet or moon seemed to be breaking up near their homeworld – this could be one of the USS Cerritos’ second contact missions.

What’s happening to this planet or moon?

At least one story is going to feature some kind of battle or combat situation, as we saw the USS Cerritos’ bridge crew and the ensigns teamed up together, fighting an unseen opponent. Action is great and all, but it’s definitely going to be nice to see some of the slower, less exciting side of serving in Starfleet. It looks like we’ll get a mix of both!

The USS Cerritos is described at one point as “falling apart”, which I think adds to the sense that this is an unimportant vessel in the fleet. It also opens up possibilities for both drama and comedy as parts of the ship break down and/or need to be repaired. In the aftermath of the Dominion War – Lower Decks is taking place approximately five years after the conflict ended – it makes sense that Starfleet may not be back at full capacity, and some ships may have been in service longer than they otherwise should be.

Ensigns Mariner and Boimler look like a fun duo.

The animation style seems to borrow at least some elements from Rick & Morty – which makes sense, as some of the team behind Lower Decks worked on that show. I’m thinking of the characters’ mouths and the way they speak in particular, as well as the design of one of the large aliens or alien-plants seen trying to eat Ensign Boimler in one sequence. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing; Rick & Morty is popular with many people, and it’s not unfair to suggest that Lower Decks is aiming itself squarely at Rick & Morty’s audience, at least in part. Any new show has the potential to bring in new fans to the wider Star Trek franchise – something it will need in order to survive into the future.

I’m a little surprised by the choice of uniforms. They’re neither the kind seen beginning in First Contact and used for the back half of Deep Space Nine, nor are they the style that debuted in Picard earlier this year, used in the show’s flashback sequences. The combadges are different too – they’re a simple silver Starfleet emblem similar to those used in Discovery. Of course Star Trek is no stranger to changing things up – The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine both went through two styles of uniform, and Deep Space Nine went through two styles of combadge too. I like the uniforms overall, and they fit well with the bright colour palette that the show is using. The choice of combadge is perhaps not one I’d have opted for – but it may have been designed to stand out better against the uniforms.

A closer look at the uniform and combadge designs.

I’m very worried that there’s still no international release date! ViacomCBS is cutting this very close – with the show set to air in three-and-a-half weeks, fans outside the United States need to know how and where we’re going to be able to watch it. This should have been taken care of ages ago and announced along with the show’s US premiere date. In the 1980s and 1990s it was commonplace for release dates to vary wildly from country to country, but you can’t get away with that in 2020. If Lower Decks premieres in the USA and there’s no international release, people will just pirate the show. It often seems as though ViacomCBS places very little value on Star Trek’s international fans, despite the fact that the number of Trekkies outside of the US has to be at least equal in size, if not larger, than its American fanbase. This continues to be disappointing, and it’s a mistake that a major corporation should not be making if they want to remain successful.

Other than that, my biggest concern right now is that Lower Decks will fall victim to something I’ve termed “The Simpsons Movie phenomenon”. At least here in the UK, 2007’s The Simpsons Movie put literally every single one of its good jokes, one-liners, and even visual gags in its trailers and television ads. The film was heavily marketed, meaning I’d seen the trailers a dozen times or more by the time I got to watch it, and because I’d already seen practically all of the funny moments from the entire film I came away seriously underwhelmed. If, however, Lower Decks can keep me entertained even half as much as it did with this trailer, it’ll be a great show.

Star Trek: Lower Decks will debut on CBS All Access on the 6th of August in the United States. There are no details yet of its international release. The Star Trek franchise – including Lower Decks – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Star Trek: Lower Decks arriving before Discovery Season 3!

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers present for Star Trek: Discovery Season 2.

I’ve been eagerly awaiting what I believed was an imminent announcement of the release date for Star Trek: Discovery’s third season. Season 2 concluded well over a year ago, in mid-April 2019, and while Star Trek: Picard took up what had been Discovery’s early-year broadcast window in 2020, I still thought we’d have seen the show in late spring or early summer. Even with the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic, I thought that Discovery should have been well on the way to finishing its post-production work by the time Picard Season 1 was drawing to a close. I was surprised to see no mention of Discovery aside from a very brief “coming soon” placeholder image when Picard concluded, but I still thought we’d see the show around the midpoint of the year.

It took me by surprise, then, when it was announced that Star Trek: Lower Decks is going to premiere on the 6th of August – in just five weeks’ time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited for Lower Decks and I was still hoping to see it this year, but I always thought that the plan for 2020 had been to release Picard in the early part of the year, then follow that up with Discovery Season 3, before dropping Lower Decks in the autumn. So it’s a little bit of a surprise that Lower Decks is going first!

The main characters of Star Trek: Lower Decks.
L-R: Ensigns Tendi, Rutherford, Mariner, and Boimler.

Evidently what must’ve happened is that Lower Decks is ready to be broadcast while work is still continuing in some areas on Discovery Season 3. If you follow Star Trek and Trekkies on social media, you may have heard over the last few weeks that some of Discovery’s post-production crew have said they’ve finished their work, but it seems there’s still more to do! Partly this is due to coronavirus impacting schedules and forcing many folks to work from home. But partly it seems that Discovery’s third season wasn’t as ready-to-go as I’d expected. I didn’t think we’d go from Picard’s first-season finale straight into Discovery Season 3, but I did think we’d see a release date announced.

As excited as I am for Lower Decks, I’m at least slightly disappointed with what feels like a delay to Discovery’s third season. With the ship and crew having left the 23rd Century behind in the finale of Season 2, I’ve been eagerly – and somewhat anxiously, I admit – waiting to see what kind of future they arrive in. I recently took an in-depth look at the Season 3 trailer – and you can see what I thought by clicking or tapping here.

We got a little more information about Lower Decks in the announcement, including a first look at the ship the show is set on: the California-class USS Cerritos. Named for a city in the Los Angeles area, the Cerritos is a pretty cool design in my opinion. With obvious visual elements of The Next Generation’s Galaxy-class, the ship has a familiar “Star Trek-y” design that’s instantly recognisable as part of the franchise.

The USS Cerritos.

It definitely feels as though care has been taken with this design, and that it was designed by someone with an appreciation for the Star Trek franchise as a whole. By being a smaller starship than, for example, a Galaxy-class ship, I think it also does a good job of conveying that this is a minor ship; not a flagship by any means, the Cerritos is of lower importance among the fleet. The saucer-plus-nacelles design is reminiscent of ships like the Miranda-class and Nebula-class; the former being best-known as the design used for the USS Reliant in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

I guess for now we’ll have to put Discovery on the back burner and start getting excited for Lower Decks! Star Trek can do animation very well, but this will be the franchise’s first fully-animated series in 45 years, as well as the first attempt to make a comedy series. The team behind the show – including Mike McMahan – have a good track record at producing successful shows just like Lower Decks, so there’s reason to be hopeful.

Unfortunately, as of right now ViacomCBS hasn’t announced who has the international broadcast rights to Lower Decks. Netflix has Star Trek: Discovery and Amazon Prime Video has Star Trek: Picard, so it could be the case that either of those companies snaps up Lower Decks as well. Hopefully an announcement will come soon, so we can get the show within 24 hours of its US premiere, as has been the case for the other two series since Star Trek returned to television.

So all that’s really left to say is this: roll on the 6th of August and the premiere of Star Trek: Lower Decks! Let’s hope for a successful first season.

Star Trek: Lower Decks will premiere on CBS All Access in the United States on the 6th of August 2020. International broadcasts have not yet been confirmed. The Star Trek franchise – including Lower Decks and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.