Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-4 and the trailers and teasers for Season 5.
We’re going to have to delay my review of the latest Star Trek: Picard episode by a day or two in order to do something that I rarely do here on the website: cover some breaking news. If you haven’t heard, let me be the bearer of what may or may not – depending on your perspective – be a bit of bad news: Star Trek: Discovery is going to end after its fifth season.
Forgive me for thinking negatively, but as soon as I heard that announcement, I felt a sinking feeling in my gut. Since filming wrapped on Discovery’s fifth season late last year, no live-action Star Trek has been in production for the first time in a couple of years. Not only that, but Picard’s ongoing third season is going to be that show’s swansong… and despite a spectacular first season, there’s been no news on a third season renewal for Strange New Worlds, at least at time of writing, even though production on Season 2 wrapped months ago. So could this be, as I fear, the beginning of the end for Star Trek in its modern incarnation?
Discovery brought Star Trek back to its small screen home in 2017 after twelve years in the wilderness. The show served as a launchpad for the Star Trek franchise as it exists today – and it’s highly likely that we would never have seen Picard, Lower Decks, Prodigy, or of course Strange New Worlds were it not for the trail that Discovery blazed. But with its cancellation after Season 5 – which is due to be broadcast sometime in early 2024 – is Star Trek in a better or more secure place than it was in 2017… or in 2005?
I’d argue that it isn’t.
Shortly after new year, I published a piece here on the website titled 2022: A Great and Terrible Year for Star Trek, in which I took a look at what I considered to be the highs and (considerable) lows that the franchise endured over the course of a rollercoaster year. Although there was a lot to say, perhaps my biggest conclusion was simply this: franchise fatigue is beginning to set in. It’s through that lens that I must view the news of Discovery’s imminent ending.
Unlike with Enterprise in 2005, it’s my hope that Discovery’s writers will have known the end was coming well enough in advance to have planned out a conclusive ending for the series and its characters. Enterprise’s finale was divisive among fans, and the show’s final season seemed to leave more than a few characters and storylines up in the air by the time the curtain fell. If this recently-announced news had been known to the producers and creative team, hopefully they will have been able to put together an ending worthy of the show and its great cast of characters.
And as I’ve said more than once: it’s infinitely better for a show to end leaving its audience wanting more, lamenting that we didn’t get “just one more season,” rather than dragging on too long and having us regret that the end didn’t come earlier! Discovery has been an imperfect production, don’t get me wrong, but with the current state of Star Trek being what it is… maybe this is simply the right time for the show to come to an end. If there weren’t great ideas on the table for future story arcs, then I’d rather it came to a close with one last hurrah instead of dragging on ad infinitum.
Star Trek can’t keep up the pace that we saw in 2022, where more than fifty episodes across five shows all debuted in a single calendar year. It’s just too much – and it risks putting off new viewers, who are precisely the people that Paramount needs to convince to tune in if Paramount+ is to have a snowball’s chance in hell of surviving the streaming wars. Making Star Trek too dense, too convoluted, and just too large is what’s been happening over the last few years, so stepping back from that shouldn’t be seen as a bad thing. If anything, it should be a net positive for the franchise.
With Picard also coming to an end, there’s the potential to perhaps scale back Star Trek and refocus. Take what worked about the shows over the last few years and hone it, disregard failed experiments, and have Star Trek operate in a similar fashion to other streaming franchises – with a focus on quality over quantity.
But is that Paramount’s goal? With two live-action shows coming to an end, there’s the potential to put more money and energy into Strange New Worlds, for example, as that show was very well-received. But with no third season having been announced so far… I can’t shake the feeling that this really could be the beginning of the end for the franchise as a whole.
Depending on how things are scheduled, there’s enough Star Trek in production or post-production to coast through into the first half of 2024. But what then? A third season of Strange New Worlds – if one is to be produced – might also debut that same year… but 2025 could end up being like 2005: the end of the road.
If that were to happen, Paramount only has itself to blame. The corporation has mismanaged both the Star Trek franchise and its streaming platform in catastrophic fashion, seemingly led by the most inept team of morons to ever assemble in a boardroom. Before Discovery had even been conceived, an ageing corporate board with no knowledge or understanding of streaming or the internet saw the success of Netflix and said “make me one of those.” CBS All Access was born – and Star Trek was tapped to be its flagship franchise.
But was Star Trek ever big enough to place such a burden upon it? Even if Discovery had been flawless and had landed with minimal controversy, pinning the profitability of a streaming platform on its success was always a bad idea. It isn’t Discovery’s fault that CBS All Access – as Paramount+ used to be known – didn’t become the “next big thing” in streaming… and it isn’t Discovery’s fault that Paramount+ remains massively unprofitable today.
Paramount is in the wrong business. The board is right about one thing: streaming is the future. But they jumped into that market a decade too late, unprepared, and without the technical know-how or infrastructure to really make it work. The only thing CBS All Access/Paramount+ had going for it were shows like Star Trek – but I think Paramount is belatedly learning that the Star Trek franchise simply doesn’t have the mainstream appeal to carry an entire streaming platform.
So what does all of this mean for Star Trek’s future? Maybe it’s too early to hit the panic button… but I confess that I feel echoes of 2005. It’s been surprising to me that no spin-offs or new projects have been announced, and in a way, the announcement of Discovery’s cancellation was another opportunity to do so. The tone would be very different if the press release had stated that “Discovery is coming to an end… but Starfleet Academy or Captain Seven are entering production.”
So here we are. After a creditable six-year run, and numerous cancellation scares, Discovery will be coming to an end. Its imminent fifth season actually looks fantastic – and if it makes good on its promise of telling a different kind of story, perhaps in another world that could have set the stage for the show’s continuation. Perhaps the tragedy here will be that Discovery changed tack too late – that four whole seasons of “the galaxy is in danger and only Burnham and the crew can save it!” was just too much. That would certainly be my assessment, and as enjoyable as parts of Season 4 were, maybe if a different kind of adventure had been written last time around, we could’ve gotten an extra season or two.
There are a lot of unanswered questions. What of the backdoor pilot for a Starfleet Academy series that we seemed to get partway through Season 4? If Star Trek as a whole continues, will another series pick up Discovery’s 32nd Century setting – or does Paramount consider the far future to have been a bit of a misfire? Will Star Trek continue at all after Strange New Worlds Season 2 and Discovery Season 5? Is anyone at Paramount ready for a difficult conversation about what’s going wrong?
I’m not thrilled to learn that Discovery won’t continue. Although not every season and every character fully stuck the landing, there’s been some fantastic entertainment along the way – episodes and moments within episodes that hit all of the high notes that we know Star Trek can. Moreover, by the time the curtain fell on Season 4, I felt that Discovery had finally turned a corner. Having settled Burnham into the captain’s chair, and told a story about seeking out new life – the very core of Starfleet’s mission – it felt that the show had finally achieved its potential. Season 5 will hopefully capitalise on this – but it will be short-lived, with only ten episodes left for the series to shine.
The history of Star Trek is one of stepping-stones: series and films that lead to new, different, and often better things. Just as Enterprise and the Kelvin films led to Discovery, so too has Discovery led to Picard, Lower Decks, Prodigy, and Strange New Worlds. Whether these shows will lead, in turn, to new things, or whether the trail will go cold for a while, Discovery played its part. It may not have always done so perfectly, but I’m confident that its place in the franchise’s history is assured – and I suspect that at least some of its critics will be won over if they give it a second chance!
I’m still looking forward to Season 5 – but it’s now a rather bittersweet feeling, knowing it will be our final outing with Captain Burnham and the crew. Not to mention that this news has massively increased concerns for the overall direction – and indeed the future – of the Star Trek franchise as a whole.
Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-4 are available to stream now on Paramount+ in countries and territories where the platform is available, and are also available on Blu-ray. Season 5 will stream on Paramount+ in 2023 or 2024. The Star Trek franchise – including Discovery and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the Kelvin timeline films: Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness, and Star Trek Beyond. Spoilers are also present for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.
One of the worst things to happen to the Star Trek franchise last year was the disastrous announcement and rapid un-announcement of a sequel to 2016’s Star Trek Beyond. The film quickly fell apart as it became clear that Paramount had done nothing to secure the main cast, director, or even schedule filming dates and plan location shoots.
But it wasn’t bad for the Star Trek franchise because I desperately wanted to see a new Kelvin timeline film. In fact, I don’t know of any Trekkies in my immediate circle who would say that they’re desperate to get back to the Kelvin timeline! The reason why it was such a disaster is how damaging a mess like this is for Star Trek as a brand.
From the point of view of fans and the franchise’s broader audience, this kind of situation might not seem like a big deal, and I get that. But for folks who work in the entertainment industry, seeing how poorly Paramount handled this is going to have longer-term implications.
A sequel to Star Trek Beyond has failed to get off the ground for basically seven years at this point. More than one script that would have brought back the Kelvin crew has been considered, and pre-production has begun at least twice, yet the film hasn’t materialised. The chaos last year, with the film being pulled from schedules just a few weeks after its announcement, is just the latest in a long line of blunders from Paramount – and anyone working in Hollywood, whether they’re a lowly production assistant or a talented, well-known director, is now going to be thinking twice about attaching themselves to a disorganised corporation that’s repeatedly failed to make this film.
Matt Shakman, who had previously worked on WandaVision for Marvel and has also directed episodes of Game of Thrones, had been tapped by Paramount to sit in the director’s chair, but he exited the project when things fell apart last year. Recent comments that Shakman made have seemed to suggest that a Star Trek Beyond sequel may still be in the works, and several outlets have seized upon this news to begin speculating about what may or may not be happening behind the scenes.
But as you might’ve guessed from the title of this article, I’m not convinced that there’s a place for the Kelvin timeline any more. Maybe it’s time to leave it behind, and put the considerable money that would’ve been thrown its way into other projects.
More Star Trek is always a good thing, and that’s the caveat I will always give whenever we have discussions like this! If there is to be a new Kelvin film, I’ll definitely tune in when it comes to streaming or Blu-ray (my health prevents me from taking trips to the cinema any more, regrettably). It’s also worth noting that when Star Trek goes to the cinema it tends to pick up a much bigger audience than it does on television or streaming – and reaching out beyond the existing fandom and viewer base has to be considered a priority for Paramount in the months and years ahead.
With those points in mind, though, if I were in charge of the franchise for Paramount, a fourth Kelvin timeline film is categorically not the project I would choose to give the green light to.
Since Beyond premiered in 2016, we’ve had 144 episodes of Star Trek across six different productions – if you count Short Treks, that is. The Star Trek universe has massively expanded to include a huge variety of new shows set in different eras, appealing to diverse audiences, and with varying styles. I’m just not sure where the Kelvin timeline fits in with everything else Star Trek is currently doing – and in addition, adding an alternate timeline into the mix when the franchise is already playing in so many different time periods risks making Star Trek look even more complicated and convoluted than it already does.
Strange New Worlds has picked up several characters who are also present in the Kelvin timeline, and there’s a real risk that these two projects would trip over one another – or at least tread on each other’s toes. If I had to choose only one set of these recast or reimagined characters to stick with, I’d definitely choose the Strange New Worlds versions; Season 1 was absolutely outstanding, and seeing where Captain Pike and the crew will go next is one of my most-anticipated entertainment experiences of the year.
The Kelvin timeline served a purpose in 2009 when its first instalment premiered. It rebooted things, reimagined Star Trek for a new century, and stripped away some of the more niche and convoluted aspects of a more than forty-year-old franchise to ensure it would appeal to the widest possible audience. And it succeeded in that regard, with all three films turning a healthy profit and proving definitively that there was still life in a franchise that many had written off.
Without the Kelvin timeline, it’s hard to see how we’d have gotten Discovery, Picard, and the modern Star Trek productions that we’re continuing to enjoy, so we absolutely owe it a debt of gratitude for what it accomplished. But its original purpose has long since evaporated, with the idea of seeing “young” Kirk and Spock in their Academy days having been replaced by taking a look at their five-year mission. With Strange New Worlds also including Spock, Uhura, and even Kirk himself in some capacity, I just don’t see where their Kelvin counterparts fit any more.
As we can infer from Paramount’s failure to negotiate contracts with the Kelvin stars, several of them are probably beyond the reach of the corporation’s current budget. Zoë Saldaña has found fame in Avatar and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Chris Pine has been in Wonder Woman for DC, among other roles, and Karl Urban has received praise for his role in The Boys on Amazon Prime Video. While these people weren’t “unknowns” in 2009 by any means, their star power has risen, and with it, the money they’d expect to receive for a film like this has also increased.
A new Kelvin timeline film would be an expensive undertaking – far more expensive even than Into Darkness, which holds the franchise record with an approximate $190 million budget.
As a comparison, Season 3 of Picard is estimated to have cost Paramount somewhere in the region of $9 million per episode, and Discovery is also somewhere in the $8-9 million per episode range. Some quick maths tells us that, even if the new Kelvin timeline film were to cost the same as Into Darkness and not a penny more, it would still be more expensive than producing two ten-episode seasons of modern Star Trek shows.
Paramount does not have unlimited funds! And even when compared to the likes of Disney, Amazon, and Netflix, Paramount has to be a lot more careful with where it spends its money. I’d very much rather have two seasons of modern Star Trek than one new Kelvin timeline film – especially if those seasons are going to be anywhere near as good as Strange New Worlds Season 1 was!
It feels like the abandoned film helmed by Matt Shakman was the Kelvin timeline’s last realistic chance at a revival. Its collapse has caused all sorts of problems for the Star Trek franchise, especially with ambitions to return to the cinema still being held by Paramount, and those issues shouldn’t be overlooked. But it may be for the best in the long run.
It’s true that Beyond teased a sequel in its final moments, with Kirk and his crew looking out as the Enterprise-A was being constructed. There will be some fans who truly wanted to see where those versions of the characters might go next. But with Star Trek seemingly finding its feet again on the small screen, and having firmly returned to the prime timeline, I just don’t think there’s a place for it any more.
When the Beyond sequel was announced last year, it didn’t exactly light up the board, even within the Star Trek fan community. There was chatter and interest, of course, but there wasn’t the kind of hype bubble that there was in 2007-08, for example, when the first film was in production. Partly that’s because Star Trek as a whole is right on the cusp of oversaturation and franchise fatigue, with 51 episodes being broadcast in 2022 alone. But partly, it must be said, it’s because there was just never a whole lot of excitement for the Kelvin timeline to begin with.
I’d watch a new Kelvin timeline film… but I wouldn’t be wildly excited about in the way I am for Strange New Worlds Season 2, for example. And even if the film managed to pull in a decent audience at the box office, these versions of the characters are tried and tested by now. The chances of Star Trek 4 bringing in scores of new viewers to the franchise for the first time is slim.
The Kelvin timeline served a purpose in the 2000s and 2010s. The trilogy did a lot of good, and paved the way for the success Star Trek is currently enjoying. But it’s also difficult to see how to integrate it into the franchise as it currently exists – it’s off to one side in its own little narrative box. And because several of its characters are now part of Strange New Worlds, there’s even a danger that it could feel repetitive to bring back the likes of Spock and Uhura.
So to answer the question I posed at the beginning: no. I don’t think we still need the Kelvin timeline. And if I were in the room, I’d argue that there are better ways for Paramount to spend money on Star Trek than greenlighting a new film starring this cast – whether that means new seasons of television or alternative pitches for feature films.
The damage done to Star Trek as a whole by the film’s collapse last year can’t be overstated, and may take time to fully appear. Paramount needs to get a grip, because mistakes like that can’t afford to happen again. But maybe it will be for the best. The money that could have been spent on a sequel to Beyond can be reallocated… and with no new live-action Star Trek projects currently announced, that could mean that the likes of Discovery and Strange New Worlds will be able to continue for an extra season apiece.
There are reportedly other feature film pitches that Paramount is working on, and the Beyond sequel was one of two that were supposedly announced over the last couple of years. Whether the other film, written by Discovery and Short Treks writer and producer Kalinda Vazquez, is still going ahead… who can say? Paramount’s disorganisation and chaos is boundless, it seems!
Regardless, if there’s news about a Beyond sequel or any other Star Trek feature films in the months ahead, I’ll be sure to take a look at it here on the website. So I hope you’ll stay tuned!
The Star Trek films should be available to stream on Paramount+ in countries and territories where the service is available, and are also available on DVD and Blu-ray. The Star Trek franchise – including all films and properties discussed above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-2 and the trailers and teasers for Season 3.
This essay touches on the subjects of mental health and suicide and may be uncomfortable for some readers.
It’s taken me a long time to get around to dissecting Season 2 of Star Trek: Picard. This was something I’d initially planned to do last year, shortly after the season wrapped up, but the truth is that every time I started writing, going back to re-watch what was a thoroughly disappointing season of Star Trek just felt incredibly unappealing. It’s only now, with the imminent debut of Season 3 spurring me on, that I’ve finally been able to put metaphorical pen to paper.
There are many words we could use to describe Picard Season 2, but if you stuck with my episode reviews last year as the season rolled on, you might remember me using this one: “catfished.” By midway through the season, I genuinely felt catfished by Picard, because an absolutely wonderful premiere episode had quickly given way to a confused, poorly-paced, convoluted story.
This might be controversial, but my suspicion is that Picard Season 2 suffered at least in part due to the involvement of Sir Patrick Stewart in the creative process. Not unlike what happened with William Shatner and The Final Frontier, some of Stewart’s ideas simply didn’t work well on screen, or ended up contradicted or overwritten by other story beats as the season unfolded. Perhaps the most obvious example of this would be Jean-Luc Picard’s trauma and how that storyline was in focus for such a long time, but we could also point to Chris Rios’ character arc – in which he had to simultaneously hate the 21st Century and fall in love with it.
Sir Patrick Stewart is a fantastic actor, don’t get me wrong, and he’s inhabited the role of Jean-Luc Picard on and off for more than thirty-five years, becoming almost inseparable from his most famous role. But not every actor is a great writer or creator, even those who truly put their all into their roles and feel that they know their characters inside and out. We were told from the moment of Star Trek: Picard’s announcement that Sir Patrick Stewart was working closely with the writers and contributing his ideas… but after two muddled, meandering seasons of television, that may not have been to the series’ advantage.
Despite a pandemic-enforced delay giving Paramount and the creative team behind Star Trek: Picard plenty of time to process the reaction to Season 1, it’s disappointing to see that some of the same issues reoccured. My biggest criticism of Season 1 was that the story ran out of time and ran out of road; the season plodded along at too slow a pace and left the finale with too much work to do. Although there are other criticisms this time around, the same problem of a glacial pace in early episodes leading to a rushed, overburdened finale was present once again.
It remains to be seen whether Season 3 – which, lest we forget, was filmed back-to-back with Season 2 – will pick up any of these wayward story threads… but my suspicion is that, sadly, it will not. If Season 3 does continue some of these storylines, the mysterious anomaly most notably, then perhaps we can look on this side of things a little more kindly in retrospect. But that will have to be a conversation for another day.
The reason why I fear Season 3 will simply ignore things like the new Borg faction and the mysterious anomaly is, of course, because Season 2 ignored all of the storylines that had been left on the table as Season 1 stumbled across the finish line. Especially given the deliberately slow pace of most of the episodes, you’d think it would have been possible to at least acknowledge, even if in the most barebones of ways, what happened to Narek, the ex-Borg, the settlement on Coppelius, and what Starfleet may have planned to do about the Zhat Vash and Aia.
Even just picking one or two of these points and throwing in a line of exposition-heavy dialogue would have been something, and while I can understand some fans who may not have enjoyed the first season’s story saying it’s better to just move on, for me, I’d have liked to have seen some kind of attempt to bring closure to some of the biggest points that Season 1 ran out of time for.
In terms of main stories, side stories, main characters, secondary characters, complicated themes, and even the settings used for the majority of its episodes, Picard Season 2 came up short and failed to deliver. There were lofty ambitions here, and the most disappointing thing isn’t that all of these ideas were bad – though some were, I’m sorry to say – but that the season couldn’t find a way to make them work.
Season 2 manages to feel simultaneously overburdened with too many ideas and half-finished stories and also as if its main narrative was an overstretched two-parter; a story that could have worked a lot better in a shorter format without so much extraneous fluff and padding. And that kind of sums up other parts of the season, too: it’s an incredibly contradictory affair, feeling as if two very different teams of writers were actively working against one another, overwriting or undermining story beats from one episode to the next.
A big part of the story of Season 2 – at its core in more ways than one – were themes of mental health involving multiple characters. Mental health can be difficult to depict in fiction, and unfortunately in Star Trek: Picard we have yet another example of how things can go wrong.
Yvette Picard’s condition was left unnamed, and the way her suicide came across on screen felt that it was being played more for shock value than anything else. Exploring mental health is absolutely worth doing in works of fiction, and dissecting how characters both respond to and live with trauma is likewise a noble idea – in Picard’s case, he was living with trauma that extended all the way back to his childhood. But the inclusion of these elements has to be handled sensitively, and just as importantly, it should serve some kind of narrative purpose. Star Trek: Picard may just scrape a passing grade on that latter point – though even then it comes with the caveat that this was an incredibly convoluted and muddled story – but on the former, the way in which this mental health story unfolded on screen was shockingly poor.
I’ve said this before both as a criticism of the Star Trek franchise and of other properties, but here we go again: if there isn’t enough time to properly explain and sensitively depict a mental health condition in a work of fiction, I’d honestly rather it was skipped altogether. A stereotyped, trope-laden, over-acted presentation of an unnamed “mental illness” added nothing to a story that had its focus and attention elsewhere. While there seemed to be the kernel of a good idea in Yvette’s story, the way it came to screen leaned into decades-old stereotypes. It did nothing whatsoever for the cause of mental health, and these shoddy depictions in the Star Trek franchise have to stop. I’ve commented on this in Picard’s first season and in Discovery, too, and while I respect the creators and writers for wanting to include these themes, if there isn’t time to do justice to them, it’s better, in my view at least, to cut them out and do something else.
While Yvette’s story served a narrative function, it stands alongside the presentation of Su’Kal in Discovery’s third season and the really awful stereotypical presentation of ex-Borg in Picard Season 1 as being an unacceptable throwback; something I might have expected to see on television forty or fifty years ago. Better understanding of mental health has led to some truly wonderful and inspired representations across all forms of media in recent years, and it’s disappointing to see the Star Trek franchise continually failing to get this right.
Speaking as someone with diagnosed mental and physical health conditions, one of the things I’ve always found most appealing about Star Trek’s optimistic take on the future is the notion that, one day, many of the illnesses and conditions facing people in the 20th and 21st Centuries can be cured or overcome. The Star Trek franchise has depicted people suffering from mental health issues in a variety of ways going all the way back to The Original Series, but even in episodes with problematic elements, like Whom Gods Destroy, this theme of hope for a cure was present.
In Picard Season 2, the way Yvette’s illness was handled felt incredibly “20th Century.” While again that served a narrative function, it was hardly something that we’d want or expect to see in the Star Trek franchise, and the idea of locking away someone who was clearly suffering from a very complex condition is already an outdated one today – let alone three centuries from now. To then see Jean-Luc Picard not only come to accept the way his father behaved, but to forgive him for it and even respect it, perhaps feeling he’d have acted the same way, was deeply disappointing and felt incredibly out-of-character.
There were also issues with the way Renée’s story worked from a mental health point of view. Picard’s ancestor was struggling with anxiety and, I guess, a kind of “imposter syndrome,” not feeling up to the task of taking a leading role on the Europa Mission. But at key points in the story, it felt as if, once again, this mental health angle was little more than tokenistic. The season brought this up when it served the narrative, only to drop it moments later when the focus of the story switched. We didn’t get anything close to a realistic portrayal of anxiety as a result.
The most obvious example of this came in the episode Two of One, where Renée had been given a pep talk by Picard. Almost being hit by a car – and seeing someone who had just spoken so kindly and reassuringly to her moments earlier being badly injured saving her – is something that you’d think would have had some kind of effect on Renée… but the story just dumped her as it raced to do a weird coma-dream sequence populated by amateur-looking B-movie monsters in the next episode.
Renée, despite her importance to the plot, feels insignificant and one-dimensional; less a real person than a plot device that the story could use when it was necessary and ignore the rest of the time. Despite the Federation’s very existence supposedly hinging on her presence aboard the Europa Mission, and Q’s entire scheme being based on stopping her, we spent remarkably little time with Renée. After being introduced, she was absent for several episodes before showing up again – briefly – in the season finale.
A character who’s so important to the plot shouldn’t be treated this way. And unfortunately, it feels as if Picard Season 2 almost took advantage of anxiety and anxiety disorders, using this very real and debilitating illness as a mere plot device. Renée’s story certainly had very little to say about mental health that was in any way positive.
The truth is that I’d almost forgotten about Renée. She’s far from the worst thing about the season, but the fact that such an important character, and someone on whose actions the entire plot turned ended up being so thoroughly forgettable should certainly stand as a comment on the way this character was both conceived and brought to screen.
Star Trek needs to aim higher when it comes to mental health stories, and I think that’s one of the biggest takeaways for me personally from Picard Season 2. Both Yvette and Renée ended up feeling tokenistic and outdated in the way they came across on screen.
On this side of the story we also got an amateur Freudian analysis of Picard himself and his mental health. As I said, there was the kernel of an interesting idea in looking at Picard and how he may have carried some hidden trauma for a long time – but it didn’t really succeed on screen. A story like this needs to explain in some fundamental way an aspect of a character or their personality… and I just didn’t get that at all. We certainly know more about Jean-Luc Picard, in a strictly factual sense, than we did before the story began, but none of what we learned informs us about him in any meaningful way. There was no “aha!” moment, where some aspect of Picard’s personality, behaviour, or characterisation suddenly felt better-understood.
Picard had romantic entanglements during The Next Generation era, and references were made to past romantic liaisons in several episodes, too. The fact that Picard had never settled into a long-term relationship wasn’t something that I ever felt was crying out to be addressed or explained, so this entire story was built on very weak foundations.
Picard’s close relationship with Dr Crusher in The Next Generation also stands in contrast to this. Yes, there was something stopping Picard and Crusher from “crossing that line,” but it was always suggested that what stopped them was Picard’s friendship with Jack Crusher. And of course, in at least one future timeline, he and Dr Crusher actually did take their relationship further. His relationship with Nella Daren, in the episode Lessons, likewise wasn’t hampered by some kind of innate fear of relationships, but rather that he struggled with the idea of being involved with someone under his command, for whose life he was responsible, and whom he might have to place in danger.
Then there’s the fact that, to be blunt, not everyone wants a relationship… and that’s totally okay! Plenty of folks are asexual and/or aromantic, neither seeking nor desiring a relationship beyond friendship. I’m not saying that Picard was ever written that way, and the relationships and romantic entanglements he had across The Next Generation would seem to rule it out. But, speaking as someone who is asexual myself, this idea that “everyone” should want to have a relationship, and that anyone who doesn’t want to be in a relationship must offer some kind of justification – such as childhood trauma – to explain or justify themselves is an outdated and regressive concept.
Season 2 told a story that put this aspect of Picard’s character at its core, but it was such a weak premise that it was ultimately unsatisfying. Add into the mix the fact that practically every theme of mental health that the season attempted to discuss failed for one reason or another – Raffi’s came the closest to success before being horribly undermined right at the end – and the entire thing feels like one massive misfire.
To be blunt, there are far better mental health stories out there. The themes that Picard Season 2 included touched on grief, childhood trauma, self- confidence, anxiety, one’s sense of identity, and even apathy and a lack of faith in humanity. But the story did justice to none of these, and fell back on overused and outdated tropes on too many occasions. It’s possible to include themes of mental health in ways that are relevant to a story like this, but the way in which they came across in Picard was poor across the board.
In terms of the other main characters, I think we have to view most of their arcs in Season 2 through the lens of their departures from the show. This news, which was hinted at midway through the season when we learned that the main cast of The Next Generation would be coming back, was finally confirmed shortly after the season finale, and it’s something I was very disappointed to learn. Of the new characters introduced in Season 1, only Raffi will be coming back in Season 3, so we need to consider this fact when we assess the rest of their arcs.
The only character who got a conclusive goodbye was Rios. And regrettably, Rios’ story was the worst and most confused in the whole season. There were clearly two very different, contradictory notions being used here: the first was that it had been determined that Rios was to be written out of the show ahead of Season 3, necessitating some kind of exit for the character, and the second was that at least some of the show’s writers and creatives wanted to use his story (and the fact that he’s Hispanic) to shine a light on the problems and abuses within America’s immigration system.
Because of the way in which Rios was written out of Star Trek: Picard, these two stories grated against one another for the entire season, and conflicted at a fundamental level. It’s impossible to watch Rios’ arc across the season and not be left with the distinct impression that two very different groups of writers with irreconcilable ideas for where to take the character simply could not agree on what he should do – leading him to both love and hate his time in the 21st Century.
Rios’ story undermined itself as the season wore on. What could have been a powerful message about the way the United States treats immigrants and refugees was completely lost, essentially overwritten by an abrupt turnaround in Rios’ characterisation as the need to jettison his character from the series became apparent.
And all of this came against the backdrop of Rios having completely regressed in his characterisation. I wrote in my review of the season premiere that a spin-off set aboard the Stargazer with Rios in the captain’s chair felt like a legitimate possibility… but having seen how he’d recovered, rejoined Starfleet, and was living his best life, Picard Season 2 dragged Rios backwards to the person he was at the beginning of Season 1: the roguish, “Star Trek does Han Solo but worse” type.
As captain of the Stargazer, the people under his command should have been Rios’ priority… but he didn’t once mention his ship or crew after the first episode of the season. After leaving them on the brink of assimilation and death, Rios seemed to forget that his crew even existed, and to me that’s an unforgivable storytelling mistake. Again, this is a consequence of Rios being written out of the series; it would have felt odd if his decision to remain in the 21st Century and not get home to his crew had come after he’d continually expressed his dedication to them. But all that does is reaffirm to me that this side of Rios’ story was completely wrong. There were ways to get him out of the show, if that’s what was needed, without dragging him through this utterly regressive arc.
Sticking with character failures, we have Elnor. As disappointed as I was to see Elnor killed off, as the season wore on, this character death began to feel right – or at least like a bold move that had positive repercussions for at least one other character on the show. This culminated in a powerful and deeply emotional sequence in the penultimate episode of the season in which Raffi’s season-long arc of coming to terms with loss and grief came to a head.
But for some inexplicable reason, Elnor didn’t stay dead. His death defined Raffi’s arc, and by extension Seven of Nine’s, too, but it was completely and utterly undermined by the decision to resurrect him with a few minutes to spare in the finale. Elnor got two very short scenes – clips, basically – after his resurrection, one in which he looked confused on a viewscreen and another at Guinan’s bar, where his disgust at a drink became the butt of a joke.
Given that actor Evan Evagora has confirmed that he won’t be reprising his role in Season 3, this resurrection is completely indefensible. It renders that deeply emotional sequence in the preceding episode impotent and meaningless, and ruins not only Elnor’s story, but Raffi’s too. Why bother spending eight episodes with Raffi going through the stages of grief only to rip it away for the sake of a gag that’s been done before countless times?
I like Elnor, and he was one of the new characters that I felt had a lot of potential when his inclusion in the series was first announced. But having decided to write him out of the show ahead of Season 3, the best option here was to leave him dead. His death, while not exactly fun, was something meaningful. It mattered, and while we can and should criticise the show’s writers for failing to really show the impact his loss had on Picard and the rest of the crew, it was at least the driving force for Raffi’s entire storyline. To undo that for no reason only to see Elnor disappear again at the beginning of Season 3? I just can’t get over how stupid a decision this was.
Another part of Raffi and Seven’s story bugged me in Season 2, and it wasn’t because of something the show did include. Rather, it was what felt like a glaringly obvious omission! In Season 1, we saw Seven of Nine having to cope with the loss of Icheb, someone she had come to view as a surrogate son. Icheb’s death had a massive impact on her life, leaving her with feelings of guilt in addition to the grief and loss.
In Season 2, we see a very similar situation play out with Raffi. She’d taken Elnor under her wing as he enrolled in Starfleet Academy, perhaps viewing him as a surrogate son as well. But neither Seven nor Raffi acknowledged this as their story unfolded. You’d have thought that Seven might have been able to draw on her own experience of dealing with Icheb’s death to empathise with Raffi or to at least have told her that she was in a better position than most to understand what that kind of loss feels like. It’s mind-boggling to me that the show’s writers could put these two women into such similar situations just one season apart, pair them up for almost the entirety of the story – and as a romantic couple, no less – but completely ignore this blindingly obvious and potentially incredibly useful point of comparison.
Imagine a scene or two like this: Seven tells Raffi that she understands what she’s going through because she had lost Icheb in comparable circumstances. Raffi lashes out, saying words to the effect of “no one could understand” and that Elnor’s death was Picard’s fault where Seven was responsible for Icheb’s death. This argument shakes up their relationship, leaving them both feeling hurt and angry. An episode or two later, Raffi apologises for what she said, and after a conversation, they share their memories of Icheb and Elnor, leading to their relationship growing and strengthening under the most awful of conditions.
How many minutes or lines of dialogue would need to be dedicated to something like that? In the context of a ten-episode season, hardly any time at all. And in the context of the plodding, muddled Picard Season 2… it would have been a great improvement.
So we come, inevitably, to Q and his plan to help Picard. In principle, I like the idea of Q wanting to help, and I like the idea of Q using the last of his “life force” in an act of kindness. But even by the standards of other Q stories in Star Trek, his plan this time was incredibly convoluted and hard to follow. Such a plan was already on pretty thin ice, but because of the way the season was structured, there wasn’t sufficient time dedicated to its explanation – and no explanation was even given for why Q might have been coming to the end of his life in the first place.
Even in episodes with complex and heavy themes, Q’s plots and schemes almost always served a purpose, and there was a clear line from action to explanation. In Picard Season 2… well, let’s try to explain it in words.
Q wanted to help Picard embrace the person he is, overcome his childhood trauma, and learn to fall in love. Aww. And he decided that the best way to accomplish this objective was by travelling back in time to the 21st Century, giving an ancestor of Data’s creator technology that could cure genetic diseases and mitigate climate change, and prevent a spaceflight involving one of Picard’s ancestors. This in turn led to the creation of a totally different timeline in the Star Trek universe, one in which humanity developed into a xenophobic, fascist state called the Confederation of Earth. Q then transported Picard – and several of his friends – into this alternate timeline shortly before their starship was set to self-destruct. Q knew that Picard would then have to travel back to the 21st Century to stop him, leading to his ship crash-landing at his family home in France, forcing him to re-live and confront those traumatic memories, finally overcoming them and learning how to fall in love with Laris, his Romulan friend. Who won’t be returning in Season 3 anyway.
Did I miss a step?
There’s nothing wrong, in theory, with a plan that’s complex or that requires multiple steps to get from beginning to end. And as a super-being with knowledge and foresight far beyond a human’s, we can give Q a bit of a pass in that regard if we’re feeling generous. But even then, Q’s plan was difficult to follow and feels more convoluted than complex. As the story meandered along, it wasn’t always clear what was Q’s fault and what wasn’t, and which characters were involved and why.
The biggest example of this is the team-up between Q’s 21st Century ally Adam Soong and the partially-assimilated Dr Jurati. These two characters had entirely opposite objectives: the Borg Queen wanted to prevent the Confederation from destroying the Borg in the 25th Century, and Soong wanted to make sure that the Confederation was established so he’d go down in history. Their aims may have aligned for a moment insofar as they both wanted to stop Picard… but there was no reason for them to remain allied, and after Adam Soong had served his purpose and given the Borg Queen an army of pseudo-drones, it made no sense for them to continue to work together.
Sticking with Adam Soong, his character arc is kind of Season 2 in microcosm: it started great, but quickly fell apart. In his first appearance, there was genuine nuance in Soong’s characterisation. His apparent desire to help his daughter could have led to a sympathetic, complex presentation of a man who was so desperate that he was willing to do anything – even something nefarious – to help his family. But that feeling lasted barely a single episode, and Soong quickly fell into the trap of being a bland, one-dimensional villain.
Some stories work well with that kind of out-and-out “baddie” who needs to be stopped at all costs – but this one didn’t. When there was the opportunity to present Adam Soong more sympathetically or at least understandably, perhaps as someone who didn’t realise that what he was doing would have ramifications beyond his own lifetime, it’s really quite disappointing that the writers would so quickly drag him back to that same overplayed trope. Brent Spiner can play villains incredibly well, and there’s nothing to fault in the performance. But the characterisation of Adam Soong left a lot to be desired.
To return to Q’s plan, it was something that needed a lot more screen time. By the time we arrived at the finale, there was – for the second season in a row – too much to do and not enough time left to do it. As a result, Q’s explanation for his actions, his death, and crucially, Picard’s reaction to all of it, was blitzed through in a matter of moments. Realistically, given the convoluted nature of Q’s scheme and the fact that he was dying, we needed more or less a full episode on just this topic – or Q needed to have a simpler, more easily-understood objective.
The way in which Picard responded to Q really bugged me. Not only did he accept, in an instant, that all of this death, destruction, assimilation, and drama was all being done for his sake, but he didn’t ask Q to undo any of it. When Q announced that he was dying, Picard didn’t even ask the most basic of questions: why?
In Star Trek, the Q as a race are essentially god-like: functionally immortal and with powers and abilities far beyond any humanoid race or any other race ever encountered by the Federation. Figuring out what could cause a seemingly immortal being like Q to die seems like something Picard should have at least been curious about. And on a personal level as well, Picard seemed finally ready to accept the friendship that Q was offering – so wouldn’t he have wanted to find out why his friend was dying?
The most-read piece that I published here on the website in 2022 was all about Q’s death, and I put together a handful of different theories about what could have caused it. The fact that so many Trekkies and viewers of Picard needed to seek out something like that speaks volumes: this should have been explained in the show itself, but it wasn’t.
Unlike some other storylines that seemed to run out of road or just hit the wall, this one was deliberately left unexplained. No explanation was written nor even conceived for Q’s death – and yet this point is a massive one in the overall continuity of Star Trek. As fans, and even for casual viewers, getting some kind of explanation for this, even if it would ultimately be little more than technobabble, would have been worthwhile, and would have made this side of the story feel closer to complete.
Although Q’s motivation for this entire convoluted plot was to help Picard, it was also his impending death that spurred him on, as he confessed to Guinan. Such an important part of what drove him for basically the entire story needed more explanation than “just because,” but the writers didn’t have one.
The decision to spend eight-and-a-half episodes out of a truncated ten-episode season in the 21st Century was a mistake. It was an experiment, an idea that someone at Paramount had – perhaps to save money – that had never been tried before in the franchise to such an extent… but there’s clearly a reason for that. What makes Star Trek, well, “Star Trek” is its optimistic look at the future. There’s always been scope to step back in time to see parts of how that future came about, or to “save the future” from some cataclysm or villain, but stories that involve travelling to the modern day have to serve a purpose. When the story was so contradictory, muddled, and just plain difficult, any sense of purpose that Picard Season 2 had got lost in the already underwhelming setting.
There seemed to be a desire, or perhaps a studio-mandated requirement, to end each of the ten episodes on some kind of cliffhanger – but this didn’t always work well, and caused issues of its own. Breaking up the story in this artificial manner was intended to keep fans hanging on, waiting for next week’s outing to see the resolution to the cliffhanger. But when the whole season operated like this, it soon wore out. Worse, it meant that several storylines that should have been one-and-done affairs ended up stretched out over more than one episode, adding to the pacing and timing problems that eventually contributed to the rushed finale.
The end of the episode Penance was an unnecessary cliffhanger, one that the next episode resolved within literally a couple of minutes. But those minutes took time away from travelling to the 21st Century, and this chain of cliffhanger upon cliffhanger as the season rolled on ended up wasting time. One or two of these instances could be forgiven, perhaps – and in a better story or one without such pacing issues, they surely would have been. But in Picard Season 2, circumstances conspired to make these cliffhanger endings more than just annoyances – they actively contributed to storylines running out of road.
There were key storylines and sections of the plot that relied on some pretty awkward contrivances, and as I wrote at the time, when one small push is enough to send the whole thing crashing down, that makes for a very unsatisfying feeling. To give perhaps the most egregious example: 90% of the plot of Watcher could have been skipped if the Borg Queen simply shared what she knew about the Watcher and where to find her.
At that point in the story, the objectives of the Borg Queen and Picard’s crew were in complete alignment: both needed to prevent the creation of the Confederation timeline by stopping Q. Yet for seemingly no reason whatsoever, the Borg Queen suddenly became evasive and uncooperative after arriving in the 21st Century, leading to one of the season’s slowest, least-interesting episodes as Picard had to slowly track down the Watcher. If this story beat accomplished something, and if the rest of the season had been stronger and better-paced, it would still be an annoyance. But considering other story failures and the rushed finale in particular, the fact that basically this entire episode ended up being little more than padding is utterly ridiculous.
Likewise, Seven of Nine and Raffi spent a significant amount of time on an overblown side-quest as they tried to track down Rios following his arrest and incarceration. That storyline got so little payoff before Rios had to make his abrupt switch that spending more than a few minutes on it – let alone dragging it out across several episodes – felt incredibly wasteful, and even more so in retrospect. Time wasted on these insignificant and overwritten narrative threads could have been reallocated to get Picard and the crew back to the 25th Century sooner, allowing for more time with the Borg and the mysterious anomaly.
Kore Soong was a non-entity in the season, a character who seems to have been created basically to throw a bone to actress Isa Briones when Soji had been cut – or a role for her couldn’t be found. Although Kore seemed to serve a purpose at first – to give motivation to Adam Soong – this quickly fell away when, as mentioned, Adam’s characterisation was switched to be a typical “mad scientist” trope. We’ve seen that kind of character so many times before in Star Trek that it fell flat.
But Kore’s story also felt incredibly repetitive, especially in the episode Two of One midway through the season. In Season 1, a huge part of Soji’s arc across multiple episodes was uncovering and then coming to terms with her synthetic nature and the fact that parts of her life and memories were a lie. Kore goes through a nigh-on identical storyline, learning that she’s a clone, a genetic construct, and the fact that the same actress played both parts just one season apart really hammered home its recycled nature.
All of the main characters (and most of the secondary characters too, come to that) were split up, disconnected from one another for most of the season. After getting together in the premiere and briefly reuniting in the Confederation timeline, the main characters were basically all in their own little boxes the rest of the time. There didn’t seem to be much communication between these characters or pairs of characters, with seemingly massive decisions being taken by one or two that affected the entire group – and this would happen with seemingly no consultation whatsoever.
Although there are dozens of examples of this, perhaps the biggest one came in the penultimate episode of the season: Seven of Nine and Raffi handed over control of La Sirena to the Dr Jurati-Borg Queen hybrid. Without so much as a word to Picard, they agreed to give her the ship – despite the fact that defending the ship was basically the whole team’s objective prior to that moment.
These disconnected character groups seemed to all be doing their own thing, with Rios transporting Teresa and Ricardo to La Sirena seemingly without telling anyone, Raffi and Seven of Nine taking off to chase after Dr Jurati without telling Rios and Picard, and earlier in the season, Dr Jurati being left to fend for herself with the Borg Queen.
Splitting up the characters meant that we hardly got any on-screen interactions between some of them, and that had an impact at points, too. For example, I never really felt that Rios and Picard were especially close. They were “work friends,” but not real friends, if that makes sense. So when Rios said that he’d come to view Picard as a kind of father figure, that bolt from the blue felt unearned. “Show, don’t tell” is a piece of advice often given to new writers or students taking their first creative writing class… and that seems to apply here.
So let’s start to wrap things up.
In Season 1, an enjoyable enough story was ruined by a poor ending. In Season 2, things started incredibly well before taking a nose-dive, and by the halfway point I found myself watching Picard more out of a sense of obligation than for any enjoyment. There were still highlights, moments within practically every episode that worked well, achieved an objective, or got me to crack a smile for a minute or two. But taken as a whole, for all sorts of reasons the season fell apart.
Whether we’re looking at the surface narrative or deeper themes, and for both main and secondary characters, Picard Season 2 had some interesting ideas – but couldn’t make them work. The season was muddled, confused, and seemed to work against itself. Its deliberately slow, almost glacial pace led to the mistakes of Season 1 being repeated, with a rushed conclusion to a story that, to put it bluntly, didn’t have enough actual narrative content to warrant something like that happening.
There were some outdated depictions of mental health, which was disappointing enough in itself, but what bugged me even more was that a character I respect and admire in Jean-Luc Picard came to accept the mistreatment of his mother’s condition at the hands of his father. Only Raffi’s story of coming to terms with grief was handled delicately and seemed to be working – until the last-second resurrection of Elnor massively and catastrophically undermined practically all of it.
Because it had been determined that, for production-side reasons, almost all of the main cast were to be dumped, several characters ended up going down disappointing paths. Rios’ presentation was the worst in the season, taking him from such a strong starting point that I genuinely felt he could carry his own spin-off through a total regression to a disappointing end. But he wasn’t the only character to suffer, and there were issues with practically all of the main and secondary characters that either took them to the wrong place or didn’t give them enough to do.
Picard Season 2 teased us with a tantalising mystery: the return of the Borg and a mysterious anomaly. This presentation of the Borg was genuinely terrifying, and seemed to update one of the Star Trek franchise’s most iconic villains, readying them for perhaps one final encounter. But this tease went nowhere, with the Borg Queen ultimately revealed to be an assimilated Dr Jurati, and the mysterious anomaly got so little screen time that it ultimately didn’t matter to a story that firmly fixed its gaze elsewhere – on elements and characters that were far and away less interesting and engaging.
Star Trek is a franchise that has never been afraid to experiment, and this season was a bold experiment in more ways than one. That’s something praiseworthy, and it’s great that Paramount is accommodating to the idea of telling new, different, and experimental stories in the Star Trek universe. But Season 2 is ultimately an experiment that didn’t work, and I sincerely hope that lessons will be learned so that these mistakes can be avoided in future.
Star Trek: Picard is going to end after its third season. With that in mind, the fact that Season 1 is a difficult watch because of how poorly it ended and the fact that Season 2 was a meandering, muddled mess… it leaves me feeling truly dejected. Seeing Star Trek return to the late 24th Century and pick up the stories of characters from that era was something I’d wanted to see for close to twenty years – but Picard hasn’t been able to do justice to that wonderful concept. A season that spent most of its runtime either in an alternate timeline or the 21st Century offered scarcely any opportunities to tell the kinds of stories that I want and expect from Star Trek… and perhaps that’s why I disliked it so much. Picard Season 2 just didn’t feel like Star Trek for the most part.
Having re-watched the season partly for the purpose of writing this and partly because Season 3 is right around the corner, I have no plans to ever go back to it. There are practically no other stories in all of Star Trek that elicit that kind of a reaction, and even episodes and films that I don’t enjoy every aspect of I still find worthy of taking a look at from time to time. Unless something major comes along in Season 3 that could retrospectively change how Season 2 is perceived, this could well be the last time I’ll ever watch it. I didn’t want or expect to be in that position, especially with only three seasons of Picard being offered. To have to write off one-third of the show as essentially being unwatchable garbage is really disappointing to an old Trekkie who wanted desperately to have a good time with it.
Star Trek’s future feels less certain than ever right now, with Paramount+ seriously struggling in a very competitive market and under difficult economic conditions. While there are two more animated seasons to come that will look at the late 24th Century, when Picard’s third season comes to an end in just a couple of months’ time, there won’t be any more live-action stories in this time period. Picard Season 2 was ultimately a waste – a navel-gazing story that spent far too much time away from practically everything that makes Star Trek what it is. There were interesting concepts, but they got buried under a slow, confused, contradictory narrative that failed to make them work. And the unhelpful mental health tropes that dominated key storylines just adds to the disappointment.
Despite a poor ending to Season 1, I still felt hopeful that Season 2 could pick up the pieces and tell an interesting and engaging story. For the most part, it was neither of those things, and it wasn’t particularly fun or entertaining, either. The aspects of the story that could have provided points of interest or entertainment value were sidelined or ignored, and the season as a whole feels bitterly disappointing.
Can Season 3 save the day? Can a creditable ending be salvaged from amidst the wreckage? On the one hand, it feels like a tall order – and even if Season 3 is fantastic, the disappointment of Season 2 won’t be entirely expunged. But on the other hand, Season 3 actually has a pretty low bar to clear. Even if it’s not that great, it will still be hard for it to be as disappointing as Season 2.
And perhaps that’s the best thing we can say about Picard Season 2. For future Star Trek projects, it can teach lessons by serving as the clearest example of what not to do, while also providing an easy win. After all, it will be difficult indeed for any future Star Trek series or film to fail as comprehensively and catastrophically as Picard Season 2.
Star Trek: Picard Season 3 will premiere on Paramount+ in the United States on the 16th of February 2023, and on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and around the world on the 17th of February 2023. Seasons 1 and 2 are already available to stream or buy on DVD/Blu-ray. The Star Trek franchise – including Picard and all other properties discussed above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the entire Star Trek franchise, including the most recent seasons of Discovery, Picard, and Strange New Worlds. There are also spoilers for upcoming and unreleased Star Trek projects.
By almost every conceivable measure, 2022 has been a fantastic year for the Star Trek franchise. We’ve seen new projects become successful, ongoing series really hitting their stride, and more seasons and individual episodes of Star Trek than at any time in the past. Barely a week has gone by without a brand-new episode to get stuck into – and with different shows targeting wildly different audiences, it really feels like Star Trek in 2022 has had something to offer to practically everyone.
But that isn’t the whole story, and unfortunately it feels as though 2022 has also been a pretty dark year for Star Trek – one in which major mistakes have been made that could very easily lead to serious consequences in the medium-to-long term, and perhaps even premature cancellations for some or all of the shows currently in production.
On this occasion, I want to look back at 2022 from the perspective of a Star Trek fan, and draw attention to both the highs and lows of a rollercoaster year for the franchise. And there’s quite a lot to say, so make sure you’re sitting comfortably!
My usual caveat applies: everything we’re going to talk about today is the subjective opinion of one person. There are a lot of reasons to think positively and optimistically about Star Trek, and the fact that I have some negative or uncomfortable points to raise shouldn’t be interpreted as me being some kind of “hater” of new Star Trek. I love the franchise, I want to see it succeed, and I raise these issues not out of spite but out of genuine concern. If you don’t agree with me, that’s okay. There’s room within the Star Trek fan community for polite discussions and civil disagreements!
Now that that’s out of the way, we can begin.
It seems only fair to allow the Star Trek franchise to put its best foot forward, so we’ll start with what went well in 2022. And there are several incredible highlights, any one of which alone would ordinarily mean we’d consider 2022 to have been a huge success for Star Trek.
Some of the best entertainment experiences that I had all year came from the Star Trek franchise, and those incredible episodes and stories weren’t limited to a single season or a single show. In fact, it wouldn’t be unfair to say that all five of 2022’s Star Trek productions had some fantastic high points; episodes or at least moments within episodes that had me on the edge of my seat, jumping for joy, or in tears.
Strange New Worlds Season 1 was fantastic:
The first season of Strange New Worlds was, without a doubt, the best that modern Star Trek has had to offer – and one of the finest seasons in the entire fifty-six-year history of the franchise. A triumphant return to an older, more episodic style of storytelling that still retained many modern serialised elements represents a model that I genuinely believe every other current and upcoming project in the franchise needs to seriously consider adopting. The diversity of stories on display in Strange New Worlds Season 1 was unprecedented in the franchise’s modern era.
Strange New Worlds’ premiere was also the culmination of a fan campaign to get Anson Mount and Ethan Peck to reprise their popular and incredibly successful roles from Discovery’s second season. The show’s very existence is testament to Paramount’s willingness to take on board feedback from Star Trek fans and a wider audience, and the fact that the corporation backed up this relative gamble by awarding the series a decently high budget should be acknowledged. Paramount didn’t have to make Strange New Worlds – plans were afoot for other Star Trek shows and spin-offs, but the corporation reacted positively to feedback from fans and viewers, and the result was an absolutely outstanding season of television that has hopefully laid the groundwork for one of the best Star Trek series of the current era – if not of all-time.
It really is hard to overstate just how incredible Strange New Worlds’ first season really was. In my spoiler-free review I talked about how the show enthusiastically tried out different genres, managing to thread the needle of staying close to Star Trek’s roots while still feeling like a thoroughly modern production. There were ten fantastic episodes – and while I had a few story nitpicks, overall the season has to be considered the best since Star Trek returned to the small screen in 2017.
So Strange New Worlds is definitely one of the highlights of 2022 – not just for the Star Trek franchise, but in the entertainment space in general. It’s a show that should be accessible to new and old fans alike, with the potential to expand the Star Trek fandom beyond its current niche.
The Strange New Worlds-Lower Decks crossover announcement:
This is something that I genuinely was not expecting – but it’s a fantastic idea! Star Trek did a fair few crossover episodes in its heyday, and while I guess we can consider parts of Discovery and Strange New Worlds to have crossed over with The Original Series, it isn’t the same as bringing together two shows that are currently in production. With five shows occupying five different time periods and regions of the galaxy, a proper crossover felt like a remote possibility – until this announcement came along at Comic-Con in July.
I mentioned the diversity of genres that Strange New Worlds dabbled in in its first season – well, one of those was comedy! We had two episodes that had overtly comedic premises, and many other moments of humour throughout much of the season. A crossover with Lower Decks – an animated comedy series – is thus not as far-fetched as we might think!
As always in Star Trek, technobabble can account for most things! The crew of the Cerritos could find themselves in the 23rd Century thanks to all manner of phenomena, so there’s no real barrier to bringing the two shows together. With some creative scriptwriting, a solid foundation should be able to bring Boimler, Mariner, and perhaps other members of the Cerritos’ crew aboard Captain Pike’s ship.
This announcement has got a lot of Trekkies very excited, and that’s a great thing. Paramount needs to make moves like these to keep the fan community engaged, and while a crossover may feel very much like fan-service, there’s also a huge potential benefit to bringing together two different parts of the Star Trek franchise. Fans of Lower Decks may check out Strange New Worlds for the first time – and vice-versa. Crossover stories have the potential to benefit both shows and increase viewership, potentially turning casual viewers into fans of the franchise as a whole. If Star Trek is to survive long-term, we need to see more moves like this.
Visual effects and CGI:
Although Discovery’s first season felt like it brought to the table some excellent visual effects, there were some definite disappointments thereafter. The Romulan and Federation fleets seen in the finale of Picard Season 1, for example, were pretty lacklustre; copy-and-paste starships that all looked the same and, in the case of the Starfleet vessels, didn’t even have names and NCC numbers. There were also some pretty sloppy CGI moments in Discovery’s third season – one example that comes to mind is a digital sword that supposedly stabbed a character, but just looked awful.
But in 2022, all that changed. We had a big, beautiful Starfleet armada in Picard’s season premiere and season finale. We had other CGI moments in the Confederation timeline that looked spectacular. Strange New Worlds did some incredible things with practical puppets in conjunction with CGI and visual effects to create some wonderful moments. And Discovery brought to screen one of the most “alien-looking” alien races ever seen in the franchise: Species 10-C.
Both Discovery and Strange New Worlds made excellent use of Paramount’s fancy new AR wall, too. When the AR wall first debuted, I felt there were definitely a few moments where its use was noticeable. But by the time we got to 2022’s Star Trek productions, the creative team and effects artists had clearly grown in both confidence and ability, taking advantage of the AR wall to craft some wonderful environments.
Finally, I’d be remiss not to mention the digital de-ageing of John de Lancie in his initial appearance as Q. That moment, which came at the end of the Picard Season 2 premiere, was absolutely fantastic!
Some of these technologies are very expensive, and Paramount doesn’t have the same resources as the likes of Disney or Netflix, so I can understand why they’re used sparingly in some cases. But overall, I’d give Star Trek’s visual effects and CGI work an A grade for 2022.
Discovery Season 4 ended on a spectacular high:
Although Discovery’s fourth season seemed to drag in places, there’s no denying that the way the season ended was pitch-perfect and went at least some way to making up for earlier narrative missteps. Coming Home (the season finale) was an incredible episode: deeply emotional, visually stunning, and tied up all of the season’s loose ends.
The way in which Season 4 ended showed off the Federation at its very best, racing in to help a planet that had left the organisation simply because they needed assistance and it was the right thing to do. I still get chills just thinking about it, and the way Admiral Vance led the charge, bringing Federation HQ to Earth in its hour of need… it’s one of the best story beats in the season.
After the drama with Unknown Species 10-C was resolved, an epilogue saw Earth coming back into the fold, rejoining the Federation, and this has set the stage for what promises to be a different kind of story in the show’s upcoming fifth season. I would challenge any Discovery-avoider to watch Coming Home and not feel that the show has grown spectacularly since its premiere almost six years ago.
By expanding its cast with some genuinely interesting secondary characters, Discovery is starting down the Deep Space Nine road, where characters outside of the main headliners could be just as important to stories. Although it’s still “the Burnham show” in some ways, there’s movement away from a laser-focus on one character, with others being given moments in the spotlight. That’s all to the good – and as Season 5 approaches, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic.
So that’s what Star Trek got right.
There are some really amazing highlights, and were it not for some of the things we’re about to discuss, they’d have meant that the year 2022 would’ve gone down in history as one of Star Trek’s finest; the beginning of a new “golden age” that would rival the franchise’s 1990s heyday. Strange New Worlds truly excelled, Discovery did some bold and interesting things, and Picard put together a Starfleet armada that was big, diverse, and beautiful. And that’s not even mentioning solid seasons from both Lower Decks and Prodigy that continue to branch out in very different directions.
But that isn’t all there is to say, and now I’m afraid we have to consider some of the ways in which Star Trek went wrong in 2022.
Paramount did serious, almost catastrophic harm to Star Trek in 2022, and I genuinely fear for the franchise’s longer-term prospects. I had felt all but certain that we’d make it to the 60th anniversary in 2026 with new seasons and perhaps even new films being created… but that goal feels pretty far away right now, even with the promise of unannounced projects being worked on behind the scenes.
The simple truth is this: I have no confidence in the leadership team at Paramount. It seems as if they don’t know what they’re doing; they leap from disaster to disaster, damaging trust and confidence in the Star Trek brand, harming the Star Trek fan community, and above all, it feels as if 20th Century thinking is trying – and desperately failing – to lead Paramount into the 21st Century. Without a major change in direction at the top and a serious rethink of the corporation’s attitude and approach, Star Trek will not succeed and will not survive.
The international rollout of Paramount+:
If you’ve been a regular reader here on the website, you may remember that I’ve had a lot to say on this subject. The fact that Paramount was unable to speed up the painfully constipated rollout of its streaming platform – and crucially, the corporation’s unwillingness to broadcast Star Trek on other channels or streaming platforms in countries and territories where Paramount+ isn’t available – has been a dead weight around the neck of the Star Trek franchise, pushing Trekkies away… or into the arms of piracy.
Paramount sits atop a global media empire, and owns television channels in dozens of countries around the world. If the rollout of Paramount+ was so slow, the corporation had months or years in which to make other arrangements to broadcast Star Trek. Prodigy, for instance, is produced in part under Paramount’s Nickelodeon brand – and there are Nickelodeon channels available in more than 100 countries around the world. Why was Prodigy not broadcast on any of them until months after its first season had gotten underway? And why was Strange New Worlds not made available here in the UK on one of the dozen or so channels that Paramount already owns?
These decisions hit the Star Trek fan community hard. But more than that, they greatly harmed Strange New Worlds and Prodigy in particular. In a 21st Century media landscape, word-of-mouth on social media makes all the difference – and Paramount has consistently failed to learn that cutting off a huge portion of the potential audience for its shows means that posts get fewer likes, hashtags don’t trend, and the resulting lack of online chatter harms these shows in the United States as well. The blinkered, short-sighted “America First” approach that the corporation has adopted may have worked fine in the 1980s… but it isn’t the ’80s any more. The internet is one single worldwide audience, and by denying a huge portion of that audience access to Paramount+ and the Star Trek franchise, Paramount has done immeasurable harm to Lower Decks, Strange New Worlds, Prodigy, and the entire franchise.
At time of writing, Paramount+ doesn’t even have the faintest idea about a launch in countries like Japan or South Korea, and even in western Europe, coverage is spotty. And you can forget about the hugely growing markets in places like China or Africa – Paramount doesn’t even acknowledge their existence. If there were plans afoot to get Star Trek shown on other networks in those regions – whether Paramount-owned or not – at least that would be something. But no such plans have been forthcoming, so the option Trekkies have in much of the world is to either pirate Star Trek or miss out. There’s no prospect of bringing on board new fans as long as this attitude persists.
Why did Discovery Season 4 overlap Picard Season 2 by three weeks in the spring of 2022? And why was the Picard finale shown the same day (the same minute, in fact) as Strange New Worlds’ premiere? Paramount’s scheduling decisions were pathetic in 2022, as there was simply no need for the shows to overlap like this.
Had Picard Season 2 been delayed and not run alongside Discovery, and Strange New Worlds also been delayed a mere four or five weeks so as not to overlap Picard, that would have lined up almost perfectly with Paramount+ launching here in the UK. There would have been the option for Trekkies in the UK to join in with fans in the USA, watching Strange New Worlds together. This bizarre rush saw several weeks with two different shows on at the same time, and while that did also happen during The Next Generation era, in an age of ten-episode seasons and on-demand streaming… it just shouldn’t be happening any more.
You don’t see Disney+ having The Mandalorian and Andor overlapping one another – Disney makes sure that the Star Wars shows have room to breathe. I genuinely don’t understand how a decision was taken to have these shows clash. At the very least it should have been possible to spread out the release of episodes so that they weren’t on the same day, but Paramount even failed to consider that possibility, apparently.
Were it not for the rushed scheduling meaning that Strange New Worlds debuted in the USA weeks before Paramount+ arrived in the UK, I’d still find the whole thing pretty stupid. But when a slightly more spread out schedule could have allowed Paramount+ to land in the UK the same week as Strange New Worlds premiered… I honestly can’t forgive it. Whichever idiot at Paramount (and there’s no shortage of those, clearly) signed off the scheduling decisions for 2022 needs to be fired.
A premature announcement:
One of the most basic, entry-level rules of the entertainment industry is this: you don’t officially announce anything until all of the pieces are in place. Paramount became a laughing stock in 2022 by announcing a sequel to 2016’s Star Trek Beyond… before trying to quietly un-announce it only a few weeks later.
Whatever you may think of the merits of a new Kelvin timeline film, it should be patently obvious that this was not the way to handle it. It seems as if no main cast members had been so much as offered a contract, let alone been in a position to sign one and start work on a film that had a very ambitious release date of July and then December 2023. Paramount’s failure in this regard was spectacular, and practically unheard of for a big corporation in the modern entertainment industry.
Whether a new Star Trek film gets underway in the months ahead or not, this total own-goal from Paramount’s team of corporate morons has already damaged the film – and arguably the wider franchise, too. To make an official announcement, put a film on the schedule with an expected release date, and then have to walk it all back and try to quietly brush it aside is a bad look. It makes Paramount and the Star Trek franchise look disorganised, unprofessional, and chaotic. Who’d want to go to work for a corporation like that the next time they’re hiring?
I can’t even believe we have to say this, but here we go: if you don’t have all the contracts signed, don’t announce your film. If the executives at Paramount don’t understand that, then they need to be removed immediately.
Star Trek Day:
Oh, I feel bad about putting this on the list – but I’m afraid we must. Star Trek Day was hyped up as a celebration of all things Trek… but it was a spectacular let-down. Despite promises of “announcements and reveals throughout,” nothing major was actually announced at Star Trek Day… unless we count a scripted podcast. Which we don’t.
The live broadcast was also pretty amateurish, with hosts who seemed unprepared, guests who couldn’t answer the most basic of questions about their shows, and panels that were either cut too short or that went totally off the rails and fell apart. There were a couple of teaser trailers, but even then, Paramount seems to have been saving the biggest and boldest of those for Comic-Con a couple of months later.
By some accounts, Star Trek Day didn’t bring in much of an audience, which is a shame in a way. But if Paramount isn’t going to make this kind of celebration of the franchise and its fans a big blow-out, perhaps it’s better just to skip it next year – or at least make sure that expectations are properly set in advance.
I hoped for better things from Star Trek Day, and while I don’t want to be too critical of the main figures involved, it was a pretty big disappointment.
Social media failures:
We’ve already touched on this in a couple of places, but Paramount and the Star Trek franchise really need to get a better handle on social media. The way in which they used social media in 2022 was poor, and we need to see Star Trek becoming much more engaging and interactive with fans and viewers. Social media isn’t merely a billboard on which to paste an advertisement or show off a teaser trailer; Paramount needs to start treating social media platforms as spaces to engage with fans.
To just give a couple of examples, Star Trek’s social media pages could showcase fan art, highlighting the real passion that many Trekkies have for the franchise. And they could run competitions, with giveaways of merchandise or Paramount+ subscriptions as rewards. Take a look around at other big corporations and see what they’re doing; social media is a gateway that Paramount could open, giving new, especially younger fans a first look at Star Trek.
At the very least, Paramount and Star Trek need to be more active on social media. They need to respond to genuine questions from fans as much as possible, especially concerning things like release dates and availability. Frankly they also ought to curate their social media posts better, deleting hateful comments about some of the new Star Trek shows and especially about some of the actors. LGBT+ actors and actors from ethnic minority backgrounds are particular targets, and it’s a bad look when a post has comments of that nature.
Look at television shows as diverse as Game of Thrones, Tiger King, and Squid Game. What helped them blow up and break out of their original niches to attract massive audiences? Social media! Well-timed promotions and social media teams that actively leaned into the discussion, the jokes, the memes, and everything else helped those shows – and many more. Star Trek could have that too – if only Paramount could get someone competent to manage its social media operation.
When a director with the undeniable talent of Quentin Tarantino says that he wants to make a film for you, serious consideration of the proposal is warranted. For whatever reason, higher-ups at Paramount decided not to go ahead with a film that had been pitched by the famed director of Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and Kill Bill. No explanation has been given – and I really do fear that this could be a huge missed opportunity.
Here’s the short version: you may not like Tarantino personally or his filmmaking style. That’s okay. Maybe you’d hate his take on Star Trek. That’s okay too. Because what someone like Tarantino has that no one else who’s come anywhere close to Star Trek has is star power and pull. Tarantino’s films are on a different order of magnitude to anything else that Star Trek has ever done, and what that would have meant for the franchise is millions of new viewers turning up for the very first time. At least some of those folks would have stuck around, gone back to watch other Star Trek films and shows, and the fan community would have grown.
The very worst possible outcome for a collaboration with Tarantino would have been a mediocre film that made a decent profit. But beyond that, the potential for legions of viewers taking a first look at Star Trek – or a second look from folks who’ve not seen it in a while – is immense. To squander such an opportunity when it was seemingly presented on a silver platter may turn out to be an unforgivable mistake.
A standalone Tarantino film need not have impacted any ongoing series or project. It could have been a one-and-done thing occupying its own little piece of the Star Trek universe, inoffensively ignoring everything else in the franchise and doing no harm. Sure, there are potential pitfalls to working with someone like Tarantino… but the gains Star Trek could have made were massive.
Where are the Prodigy toys?
It’s been well over a year since Prodigy premiered, but there are still no toys, no dolls, no dress-up costumes, no replica phasers or combadges, no teddies… nothing. Prodigy must be the only kids’ show in the world to have zero tie-in products even after its entire first season has come and gone.
There’s more to merchandise than just raw sales and profit. The way children engage with a franchise like Star Trek, especially in the moments where they aren’t sitting down to watch the latest episode, is all about play. Seeing exciting toys on shelves will literally get kids to check out the show for the first time, and seeing their friends dressed up for Halloween or playing with Star Trek dolls has the potential to expand the show’s audience.
The Star Trek franchise may be new to making a kids’ show, but Paramount isn’t. Paramount owns Nickelodeon, and has made many other films and TV series for children in the past – and knows how to make toys and merch for them. Moreover, the Star Trek franchise used to be much better at this, even giving Star Wars a run for its money in the ’90s with figures of practically every guest character, costumes for dressing up, prop replicas, and much more.
I waited and waited for Paramount to address this as Prodigy’s first season went on, then took an extended break. I hoped that we’d have gotten something before the first season finale aired… but it didn’t happen.
Most of Picard Season 2:
Now we’re getting into narrative decisions, which I admit is something quite subjective – but I’m certainly not alone in considering most of Picard’s second season to have been a disappointment. After a truly spectacular premiere (that I gushed over in my review, calling it “one of the best episodes of live-action Star Trek that I’ve seen in a long time”) the second season took a nose-dive, spending eight-and-a-half episodes wandering aimlessly in a modern-day setting that didn’t feel inspiring, exciting, or even interesting much of the time.
There were some highlights, and by the time the action returned to the 25th Century in the second half of the finale, things did improve. But by then it was almost too late; the damage was done. This was an experimental season, and it’s to the Star Trek franchise’s credit that the creative team are given leeway to try out different ideas. But this one didn’t work, and considering it was one of only three seasons that Picard is going to get, its failure feels all the more egregious and disappointing.
Picard Season 2 felt muddled, bloated, and unnecessarily long. Yet by the time it ended, there were still huge unanswered questions about key storylines and characters, questions that I feel all but certain the series has no answers to and no plans to even pay lip-service to in Season 3. A meandering, confused batch of episodes gave way to a rushed finale that didn’t have time to bring everything to a satisfactory conclusion.
Some storylines in Season 2 just felt confused, as if there were two writers working against one another. Rios’ story, for example, saw him experience the worst of the 21st Century, being incarcerated and deported. But a couple of episodes later, Rios was raving about how much he loves the 21st Century for the cigars and the food on offer at a fancy party. There were clearly ideas on the table that, had they been executed better, were potentially interesting. But the way the season as a whole came to screen was poor – and it’s a concept that I hope won’t be repeated any time soon.
Prodigy isn’t gaining much traction:
Right now, Prodigy is being watched mostly by existing Trekkies and some of their kids. It doesn’t appear to be finding much of an audience of its own, and there are a few reasons why that may be the case. The situation with toys and merch that we just talked about is definitely harming the show’s prospects, preventing it from reaching out beyond existing Trekkies for the reasons laid out above. But there’s more to say.
Prodigy hasn’t been marketed particularly well, with relatively few ads for the show cropping up online. Kids shows need to advertise where kids are – on apps like TikTok, for instance. Also, the show remained a Paramount+ exclusive until very recently, when a belated broadcast on Nickelodeon was announced. While I understand that Prodigy was made as a Paramount+ show, the platform itself is mostly being marketed at an adult audience.
Unlike something like Disney+, which clearly has a lot of content made for kids, Paramount+ just doesn’t have that reputation yet. As a result, I doubt most kids even know that Prodigy exists a full year and a full season later.
The question is this: who is Prodigy really made for? Is it for Trekkies who want to see more Captain Janeway and Chakotay? Is it for children of Trekkies as a way for their parents to get them into the franchise? Or does it have the ambition to bring in completely new viewers? The answer should be “all of the above,” but the way the show has been handled from its marketing and scheduling to its place in the wider franchise, it feels like a show that won’t succeed at growing Star Trek’s audience much beyond its current fans and viewers.
The Picard cast being unceremoniously dumped:
It was profoundly disappointing to me to learn that all but one of the new characters who had been introduced in Picard would not be returning for the show’s third season. That disappointment was compounded because most of them didn’t even get an ending to their character arcs/stories in Season 2.
There were some really interesting characters in the mix when Picard debuted, and over the course of two full seasons I feel that we didn’t really get to know all of them very well; after twenty episodes we’d barely spent any time with Elnor, for example, and Soji was absent for all of Season 2 bar a tiny cameo in the premiere. There was vast potential in these characters – but it’s potential that the show has now thoroughly wasted.
If the Star Trek franchise is to survive long-term, fans and viewers need to be given the opportunity to fall in love with a new generation of characters, because it’s these people who will drive the franchise forward in the years ahead. As much fun as I hope it will be to go on one last adventure with the crew from The Next Generation, it will be their final mission. That show is now more than thirty-five years in the past, and while there’s definitely still ways to bring back legacy characters, it isn’t exactly indicative of a franchise trying to move forwards.
It was my hope when Picard premiered that a new generation of fans would be just as excited in thirty years’ time to see Elnor or Rios make a return to the Star Trek franchise as we had been to see Picard come back. These new characters could and should have picked up the torch, taking Star Trek into the 2020s and beyond. Although I adore The Next Generation and will be happy to see its main characters make a return, it’s a bittersweet moment because of who had to be booted off the show to make it happen. And it’s a decision to double-down on nostalgia that I fear could have long-term ramifications for the entire franchise.
Paramount+ lost the Star Trek films. Twice:
On two separate occasions in 2022, all or most of the Star Trek films disappeared from Paramount+. Let’s restate that: Paramount lost most of the Star Trek films from its own streaming platform, sending them to Hulu or Peacock or one of those other second-tier streaming services for a number of months. Then, after getting them back, it happened again!
From the point of view of a Trekkie, we’re told that Paramount+ is going to be the place to get all things Star Trek. But that’s demonstrably not true, as some of the best stories in the franchise – and the projects which had the highest production values – have arbitrarily disappeared. If I’d been a paying subscriber to Paramount+ at that time I’d have been livid.
But it’s not just about Star Trek. It’s about Paramount as a whole, and what these mistakes say about the corporation and the platform it hopes to convince folks to sign up for. Losing parts of Paramount’s own back catalogue is something that simply should not be allowed to happen. It makes Paramount+ look inconsistent, cheap, and like a bad deal. The lack of communication about this – the announcement of the recent loss of the Star Trek films was made with just days to spare – also makes Paramount look chaotic, and Paramount+ look like a very poor relation indeed to the likes of Disney+ and Netflix.
Can you imagine logging into Disney+ and seeing a message that Beauty and the Beast, The Aristocats, Snow White, and more would no longer be available? Can you imagine Disney leasing the exclusive rights to those films to any other streaming platform? Of course not, because it undermines the entire concept of owning a streaming platform. Paramount+ is already on very shaky ground as a second-tier streaming platform in a massively competitive market. Mistakes like this cannot be repeated.
Was it simply too much?
2022 was a bumper year for Star Trek. In fact, the franchise barely had so much as a week’s break all year long – and as already noted, some weeks had two episodes at once. There were ten episodes each of Lower Decks, Picard, and Strange New Worlds, six episodes of Discovery, and fifteen episodes of Prodigy taking the total number for 2022 to a whopping fifty-one episodes of Star Trek. Is that too much for one franchise in a single calendar year?
There’s a danger, I fear, of “franchise fatigue” beginning to set in. Even the most ardent Star Trek fan would struggle to keep up with all the different productions, and I think there’s a case to be made that Paramount needs to take a foot off the accelerator and slow things down. The last thing we need is for fans and viewers to get burned out on Star Trek – or for the franchise to begin to look too complicated and too difficult to keep up with.
There is a balance somewhere that Paramount needs to find. After years in the wilderness with no Star Trek at all it may seem odd to be complaining about there being too much, but it feels as though the pendulum has swung too far in the opposite direction. It’s good and healthy for franchises to take breaks and not to be constantly on the air, and for both the creative teams and fans, I don’t think the level of Star Trek we saw in 2022 can be maintained.
And that’s a worry because if burnout sets in, it could prove fatal to the entire franchise. Take a deep breath, slow things down, and try to spread out some of these shows a little more. Taking breaks of a few weeks in between each series would be a good start – and this really ties in with what we said about scheduling. Paramount blitzed through fifty-one episodes of Star Trek in 2022… but there’s now nothing for at least six weeks. Had things been better spread out, we could have had short, consistent breaks in between each show that would have meant the entire franchise would be more balanced.
So that’s what went wrong.
In 2022, Star Trek premiered more episodes than at any other point in its history… but the franchise was massively harmed by decisions on the corporate side that prevented millions of fans from even being able to watch any of it. The glut of episodes was arguably too much, and poor scheduling decisions saw shows overlapping one another, and too many episodes arriving all at once.
Paramount’s failures behind the scenes have seen Strange New Worlds denied to most of the world, massively harming the show’s reputation and killing much of the online chatter. On social media, Star Trek not only ignored fans, but in some cases actively attacked them, using outdated copyright laws to get fan accounts suspended. The lack of toys for Star Trek’s first kids’ show more than a year after its launch and after its entire first season has finished its run is pretty pathetic – and is just another way that Paramount has harmed its prospects.
2022 was, as the title of this piece states, a great and terrible year for Star Trek.
I can’t overstate how much I enjoyed Strange New Worlds, and how that show’s first season has to be one of the strongest debuts in the entire history of the franchise. After three seasons that were of varying quality, Discovery finally seems to be hitting its stride, too. Season 4 wasn’t perfect, but it was the best the show has had to offer so far. Lower Decks continues to do its thing and do it well, though it isn’t really reaching out beyond the existing Star Trek fan community in a big way. Prodigy is also a fun series, continuing to build up its characters. Even in Picard Season 2 there were fun moments; highlights in practically every episode even if the overall story itself wasn’t stellar.
But I can’t shake the feeling that 2022 could be both the zenith and a turning point for modern Star Trek. The sheer number of episodes and the way in which they were scheduled was enough to start the process of burnout, and one of the key lessons for Paramount has to be to better schedule the Star Trek franchise and spread it out more.
Moreover, on the production side of things, Paramount had an absolutely atrocious year. Failing to bring Paramount+ to fans around the world is a weight around the neck of the Star Trek franchise and will continue to be for years to come. The lack of communication with fans, and Paramount’s piss-poor “America First” corporate attitude is also doing considerable harm to the Star Trek fan community and the wider brand.
In a difficult economic climate, it’s hard to see Paramount+ breaking into the top tier of streaming platforms, and on current form I would be surprised if it survives the decade. When Disney+ and Netflix – platforms with many more subscribers backed up by far bigger and more successful corporations – are struggling to turn a profit, one can only imagine how much money Paramount+ is losing and will continue to lose. If Paramount+ fails, will it drag Star Trek down with it?
Pull back the curtain and I’m afraid it was a tough year for Star Trek. I don’t see anything changing in the immediate term, either, as Paramount looks set to keep doing what it’s been doing for the past few years. No major changes seem to be coming on the horizon, and teases of unannounced projects came and went in 2022 with no major announcements for new shows. And of course the Beyond sequel had to be rapidly un-announced as it became clear that Paramount had completely screwed things up.
If you enjoyed having fifty-one Star Trek episodes in a single year, I guess what I’d say is this: don’t get used to it. For all manner of reasons, I doubt we’ll see another year quite like 2022. And maybe that’s for the best.
The Star Trek franchise – including all films and television series discussed above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
I’ve written longer articles and columns about several of the subjects discussed above, and you can find links to them here:
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the entire Star Trek franchise, including recent and upcoming seasons of Picard, Discovery, Strange New Worlds, Prodigy, and Lower Decks.
The 8th of September is Star Trek Day! That’s the date in 1966 when The Original Series premiered in the United States with the episodeThe Man Trap, and Paramount chose to mark the occasion with a live broadcast for the second year in a row. I tuned in with some degree of excitement; the press release promised “announcements and reveals throughout,” and with Picard finishing up its run next year there was hope, I felt, for some kind of big announcement of a new series.
Star Trek Day was overshadowed this year by the death of Queen Elizabeth II. I wasn’t entirely sure whether the event would go ahead as it became clear throughout the afternoon here in the UK how serious things were, but with the official announcement of her death coming mere minutes before Star Trek Day was due to start (and after most of the guests had already arrived), there wasn’t time to do anything about it. As someone who is categorically not a monarchist, this didn’t bother me in the slightest! But I hope that Star Trek Day proceeding as it did, with light-heartedness and humour, didn’t upset anyone in light of such an historic event.
There were some fun chats with stars of all of the present Star Trek shows, but Star Trek Day lacked any major announcements or reveals, in my view, to fully justify a two-hour live broadcast of this kind. It was fun – up to a point – but there were expectations that Paramount had placed on the event through its promise of “announcements and reveals” that weren’t met, at least not for me.
I’m not just talking about brand-new projects, either. We could have seen announcements for things like Lower Decks Season 5 or Strange New Worlds Season 3, the latter of which is surely being worked on at this stage with filming having already been completed on Season 2. But no such announcement was forthcoming at Star Trek Day, and really the only big news (if we can call it that) was the announcement from Nicholas Meyer that his Ceti Alpha V pitch is going to be turned into a podcast.
As the event’s hosts and guests gathered together on the stage to bid farewell to Star Trek Day, I was thinking to myself “surely that can’t be it!” Some kind of final announcement to wrap things up, like last year’s Picard Season 3 revelation, felt like a possibility. But then the live stream ended and, as it turned out, that really was it.
So I confess to feeling a little disappointed that we didn’t get any of the major announcements that I had been half-hoping to see. As I said a few weeks ago when previewing Star Trek Day, though: Paramount hasn’t been shy about making announcements and revealing details about upcoming projects this year, with news being made at events like Comic-Con. In a way, it’s a testament to how broad Star Trek’s base is as the franchise continues to enjoy its renaissance that so much news has been made so far in 2022. Still, a part of me feels at least a little sad that this made-for-fans event couldn’t have included some kind of big announcement.
But that’s enough about what didn’t happen at Star Trek Day! Let’s talk about what we did see, because there were some trailers and teasers, some fun conversations, some fan-focused moments, and some trademark Star Trek weirdness thrown in for good measure.
First up, to get this out of the way, there were some technical hitches that definitely didn’t go unnoticed. Hosts Tawny Newsome and Paul F. Tompkins both struggled with their teleprompters at different points in the event, leading to some awkward moments as they didn’t know what to say or how to fill the space.
Also on the technical side, at least on YouTube the live stream cut out at least half a dozen times. This only happened for a few seconds at a time (and thankfully not during any of the teasers or trailers), but it’s something that really shouldn’t be happening at this level. Paramount is a massive corporation with a big budget and with lots of experience in running live broadcasts. This wasn’t an issue at my end, either, as I saw a lot of people making similar comments on social media about the quality of the stream itself. This didn’t happen last year – and if Star Trek Day is to return in 2023, I hope it won’t happen again.
Last year, Star Trek Day felt rehearsed and choreographed. The hosts (Wil Wheaton and Mica Burton) felt confident, and everyone involved seemed to know where to go, what to say, and what was coming up next. This year… let’s just say that the whole thing felt a lot more “casual.”
Hosts Tawny Newsome and Paul F. Tompkins had great chemistry together and both brought a lot of energy to the stage, but neither of them seemed to have the faintest idea what they were doing, who they were about to talk to, or what was coming up next during the entire broadcast. There was chaos on stage at several points as one or both of the hosts got distracted, forgot what to say, or because of the aforementioned teleprompter issue. One or two instances of this could feel charming, but for two hours of occasionally cringeworthy viewing… I felt it rather outstayed its welcome. While I like both Newsome and Tompkins, and they definitely had great chemistry, I think a dress rehearsal of some kind would have been to their benefit. They didn’t have that many lines to learn, and several of the panels only consisted of a couple of questions, so it just feels as though on that side of things, Star Trek Day wasn’t as polished or rehearsed as it might’ve been or as it was last year.
This also applies to the DJ who was present throughout the event and the stand-up routine that took place partway through. Musical taste and comedy are both very subjective things, of course, but I felt that neither DJ Reggie Watts nor comic Brian Posehn excelled. Neither appeared well-rehearsed or coordinated, and I think that’s such a shame. Had a bit more effort or at least practice gone into their acts, Star Trek Day might’ve been a bit more enjoyable. As it was, both were pretty forgettable, with the only points of note being jokes that appeared to fall flat in the auditorium and a DJ who didn’t know what buttons to press and whose music didn’t seem to start on time.
Aside from big announcements of new projects, I was hoping to get news of Prodigy’s first season, Picard’s third, and Strange New Worlds’ second. We got a few tidbits of information about these projects, which was great, and in a moment I’ll break down the trailers and teasers that we saw. But first, a word about the live panels themselves.
Only Strange New Worlds felt fully-represented, with the majority of the main cast making an appearance. The Strange New Worlds panel was also probably the least cringe-inducing to watch, as host Tawny Newsome managed to get in a few interesting questions that prompted the cast to talk about both their experiences of Season 1 as well as drop a few teases about Season 2.
The other panels, however, were pretty lacklustre. Sir Patrick Stewart was present along with Michelle Hurd and Jeri Ryan to talk Picard Season 3, but the truncated panel only had time for a couple of questions before rolling the new teaser trailer. The Lower Decks panel completely fell apart, and while I don’t like to be too critical of performers who come down with a case of what seemed to be stage fright, Noël Wells and Tawny Newsome were not at their best as they seemed to have no idea what questions to ask or how to answer them.
The Prodigy panel was so short as to basically amount to nothing; Brett Gray, who plays Dal, barely got to say two words before a teaser clip for the second half of Season 1 was shown. I’m glad that Prodigy finally has a release date for those episodes, and I’m happy to see that Picard Season 3 will be on our screens in Feburary next year, but the panels were one of the parts of Star Trek Day that I was most looking forward to, and it’s just a shame that they were cut short. Better preparation from the hosts and some of the guests would have improved things, too.
The announcement of Ceti Alpha V as a podcast, that I mentioned earlier, is an interesting one in some ways. I’m glad that the Star Trek franchise hasn’t committed television or film money to this project, as it wasn’t one that I was desperately interested to see. But an audio drama of some kind is something different, and if Paramount markets it well it could become something of a sleeper hit. I won’t go into my full critique of the Ceti Alpha V concept again; suffice to say that I feel the chapter of Khan’s life in between Space Seed and The Wrath of Khan may not be the most interesting one to revisit. But if Nicholas Meyer was dedicated to it, perhaps an audio drama is a good compromise. I would say that Meyer didn’t seem thrilled to be making the announcement and specifically mentioned that he wrote it for television; perhaps there’s some degree of sour grapes there! You can read my full thoughts on Ceti Alpha Vby clicking or tapping here.
The teaser we saw from Prodigy seems to pick up fairly shortly after the events of the most recent episode, with the crew of the Protostar on the run. It looked tense and exciting, and really like more of the same; a continuation of the story and events of the first half of Season 1. I’m hopeful that Paramount will start to support Prodigy more strongly as I really feel that the show has so much untapped potential to convert a whole generation of kids into Trekkies for the first time. But if that’s going to happen, Paramount is going to have to do more to promote and assist the show. Toys would be a good start; we’re still months away from the first batch of Prodigy toys, and despite showing off some new merch at Star Trek Day, Prodigy was once again conspicuously absent from the lineup.
It’s good that Prodigy will be returning in late October, though – as soon as Lower Decks Season 3 wraps up, Prodigy can fill that slot. It means there’ll be new Star Trek on our screens all the way to the end of the year, which is fantastic. Although the clip that was shown seems to be from the first new episode, there’s scope for the crew of the Protostar to have lots of new adventures – and perhaps connect their story to Voyager in a significant way. I can’t wait to see what’s in store!
Strange New Worlds also showed a single clip from Season 2 in lieu of an edited and composed trailer, with the action focused on Lieutenant Ortegas as she prepared for an away mission. The planet Rigel VII was mentioned, which was a location first glimpsed in flashback sequences in The Cage and The Menagerie; Rigel VII is a planet Captain Pike has visited before and it’s home to fierce Kalar warriors.
The clip itself was interesting. We learned a little about the relationship between Ortegas and Spock as the latter’s analysis of information caused Ortegas to be dropped from an away mission she was excited for. We also learned that Captain Pike had once been a “test pilot” which made him confident enough to pilot a shuttle under what sounds like difficult circumstances. I’m getting a Gallileo Seven vibe from this story setup; perhaps the shuttle will crash in Kalar territory and the crew – led by Ortegas aboard the Enterprise, maybe – will have to mount a rescue! Am I over-interpreting a short scene? Well that’s a possibility!
A second announcement for Strange New Worlds’ second season introduced a brand-new character: Commander Pelia will become the Enterprise’s new chief engineer, taking over from poor Hemmer. I’m still sad about Hemmer’s departure from the series, but I can’t tell you how relieved I am that the writers managed to resist the temptation to replace him with Scotty! There’s scope to do more with legacy characters in Strange New Worlds, don’t get me wrong, but I want to maximise the time we have with some fantastic new characters, too.
Commander Pelia will be played by veteran actress Carol Kane, who you might know from Taxi, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, or the original stage production of Wicked. Landing someone of her calibre feels like a real coup for Strange New Worlds, and I’m hopeful that Commander Pelia will be a wonderful addition to the crew. I’m excited to see more scenes set in engineering in Season 2, as well!
We caught a glimpse of a new Lower Decks episode during Star Trek Day, too. The clip seemed to feature an aggressive Romulan adversary attacking the USS Cerritos, so I guess we should stay tuned for the Romulans to make an appearance later in the season! Maybe this is a controversial point, but I think Lower Decks may be in danger of over-using the “starship swoops in at the last second and saves the day” trope. It worked so well with the Titan in Season 1, and the Cerritos getting to be the saviour in Season 2 was poetic symmetry. But I think big, emotional moments like this should be used sparingly, so to see another starship doing the same here was… I don’t know. Maybe a little less impactful than it could have been.
However, all of this could be a moot point! It seems possible that the events we saw in the clip are taking place in an alternate timeline, a holodeck simulation, or something like that – because how else do we explain a Boimler clone with a different name in command of the other vessel? It was an exciting clip, though, and I’ll be fascinated to see that episode when it’s broadcast! Stay tuned for a full review!
The promised Discovery set tour was a bit of fun. Season 5 seems well underway, and it’s always nice to catch a glimpse behind the scenes. Wilson Cruz was a great guide, and although we didn’t get to see any brand-new sets, we got to see some of the details in Burnham’s quarters that are often overlooked. Cruz also drew attention to the dedication plaque at Federation HQ; again this is something I hadn’t seen up-close.
Of particular note during this segment was Mary Wiseman’s appearance. Lieutenant Tilly’s departure from the USS Discovery early in Season 4 was an unexpected move, but one that actually felt right for her character. Tilly got an emotional send-off before making an appearance in the season finale alongside Admiral Vance, and it felt possible that her departure could have set her up for a role in the long-rumoured Starfleet Academy series. That may still happen, but for now it seems that Tilly will be back aboard the USS Discovery in some form in Season 5. I’ll be glad to welcome her back – but I hope her return doesn’t detract from her wonderfully emotional departure in Season 4.
As the tour continued we saw a scene being prepared on the bridge set, with several characters in uniform. The bold primary colours that were reintroduced in Season 4 remain in place – something I’m pleased to see! A conversation with Stamets actor Anthony Rapp and one of the show’s costume/wardrobe artists was also interesting, and we saw Stamets’ familiar blue tunic in that segment.
Finally, a single promotional photo was shown off for Discovery’s upcoming fifth season – featuring Michael Burnham riding some kind of Star Wars-inspired speeder bike across a dusty or desert landscape. The image looks like it’s taken from an exciting sequence, and Burnham seemed to be out of uniform which could suggest she’s on an away mission or undercover assignment. But there’s only so much speculating we can do based on a single image! There was no release window for Discovery Season 5, but filming is well underway and I’m a little surprised that we didn’t get some kind of teaser trailer.
Star Trek Day paid tribute to Nichelle Nichols in very touching fashion. In fact, the pre-recorded segment was my favourite at the event, all things considered. Nichelle Nichols, who passed away earlier this year, made a huge impact on the Star Trek franchise – but more importantly in many ways, on the world beyond Star Trek and entertainment, too.
Performers Dawnn Lewis, Sonequa Martin-Green, Celia Rose Gooding, Wilson Cruz, Michelle Hurd, and more all contributed to the beautiful piece, and it really was the perfect way to salute a unique individual, someone who made a real difference not only on screen and within the Star Trek franchise, but far beyond the world of entertainment. As we discussed when I paid my own tribute to Nichelle Nichols, she played a huge role at NASA in getting more people from diverse backgrounds involved with the space programme. For Star Trek Day to take the time to salute her and recognise her legacy was important, and it was handled beautifully.
Picard’s third and final season now has a release date, and it’s nice to know that we’ll be having one last adventure with Admiral Picard in the early part of next year. The teaser trailer was interesting, and we got to see another new starship: the USS Titan! Spacedock also made a return to the franchise, which was beautiful to see. Sir Patrick Stewart told us that he and the crew are going back to space for Season 3 – after Season 2 spent most of its time on Earth in the 21st Century – and if the teaser is anything to go by, the crew’s return to the stars will be epic!
It was great to see Seven of Nine in uniform, and she seems to be playing an important role in whatever mission Admiral Picard will have to pick up. During the brief panel, Michelle Hurd mentioned that Season 3 will feature some kind of storyline involving the “criminal underworld” of the Star Trek galaxy, a premise that sounds interesting – and perhaps a little Star Wars-y!
The teaser trailer showed clips of all of the returning cast members from The Next Generation, with the notable exception of Brent Spiner. Spiner will be playing a role in Season 3, but who his character will be is still unknown. It could be a member of the Soong family, such as Altan Inigo Soong who was part of the story of Season 1. Equally it could be an android like Lore or B-4. We don’t know at this stage, but clearly Paramount is keeping that under wraps for now!
Aside from seeing the USS Titan up close, the teaser trailer played its cards close to its chest! The brief glimpses that we caught of the main characters were fun and exciting, but didn’t really communicate anything significant about the plot. At this stage, we really don’t know where the story will go or whether it will connect with anything from Seasons 1 or 2. I hope that it does, and that maybe some of the dangling story threads from those earlier seasons could be tied up… but my gut says we’re probably going to get something brand-new.
So that’s about all there is to say this time. Star Trek Day was… okay. There were no big announcements, no replacement for Picard, no season renewals for the current shows, and only two release dates for seasons that we already knew were coming. I think it would be unfair to call an event like this that was made for Trekkies “underwhelming,” but I really wasn’t blown away by this year’s Star Trek Day. A combination of technical issues, hosts and guests who felt unprepared, most of the panels being shorter and less-detailed than expected, and the lack of any major announcements or news all came together to put a bit of a downer on what should have been a fun extravaganza of all things Trek.
I felt that last year’s Star Trek Day event – which had a few issues of its own, don’t get me wrong – was better. Last year the hosts and guests felt better-prepared and rehearsed, there were none of the technical hiccups that impacted this year’s event, there were longer and more detailed panels featuring more guests, and there were bigger and more interesting announcements for all of the current shows. This year’s event just feels smaller and less exciting in comparison.
Despite that, I had a good time for the most part with Star Trek Day. I’m glad that Paramount put this together and I’m especially glad that it wasn’t locked behind a Paramount+ paywall and was thus accessible to all Trekkies. It’s no one’s fault that there weren’t any major announcements; that’s just the way it goes and if things aren’t ready, it’s infinitely better to wait than to jump the gun and announce something prematurely! Star Trek 2023 and the untitled Section 31 series stand as cases in point to that!
That’s just my take, though, and I sincerely hope that everyone in attendance and the legions of fans who watched from all across the globe had fun. We’re very lucky that the Star Trek franchise is going through a renaissance right now and that events like this still draw huge audiences! Long may that continue!
The Star Trek franchise – including all properties discussed above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. Star Trek series and films are available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States, United Kingdom, and other countries and territories where the platform is available. Star Trek: Picard and Star Trek: Lower Decks are available on Amazon Prime Video outside of the United States. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Paramount+ will officially arrive in just a couple of days’ time here in the UK, and there are a lot of questions over its viability as well as its short- and longer-term prospects. The fact that the UK is currently experiencing some of the worst economic issues of the past forty-plus years is going to have a massive impact, and that’s not Paramount’s fault nor is it something that the corporation could have done anything to avoid. But it’s far from the only issue that looks certain to affect the new streaming platform… and practically all of the other problems we’re going to talk about are Paramount’s fault.
In early 2021 I wrote an article here on the website titled The ad campaign for Paramount+ has been surprisingly strong. In that piece I took a look at some of the advertisements that had been created in the run-up to the US launch of Paramount+, some of which featured the likes of Anson Mount and Sir Patrick Stewart. Paramount (which was still known as ViacomCBS at that time) even spent an insane amount of money to advertise during the Super Bowl in 2021 – and Super Bowl adverts are the most sought-after and expensive in the United States.
I complimented Paramount at the time for not only the scale of the advertising campaign – which appeared to be pretty extensive over in the United States – but also for the content of some of the ads. The aforementioned Super Bowl commercial played the song Sweet Victory from SpongeBob SquarePants (as a Nickelodeon production, Paramount owns SpongeBob) and that was a masterstroke!
But with the launch of Paramount+ mere hours away, it’s hugely disappointing to have seen nothing of the sort here in the UK.
If Paramount+ is to stand a chance in a hugely competitive streaming market during the worst cost-of-living situation in decades, at the very least there should’ve been adverts for the service somewhere. Paramount+ is launching years behind its competitors, so if viewers are to be expected to take the plunge and part with our cash, Paramount needed to step up weeks ago and do something – anything – to sell it to us.
Star Trek’s use of social media is awful, I don’t think anyone would dispute that. And in a broader sense, Paramount hasn’t got to grips with social media in the same way as some of the other big entertainment companies. So it’s no surprise to me to have seen practically nothing from any of the official accounts – even the official Paramount+ UK Twitter account has only half-heartedly tweeted out a couple of messages “counting down” to the platform’s launch. There’s been radio silence elsewhere (though I have to credit some particularly dedicated Star Trek fans for doing the job of Paramount’s marketing team for them!)
This is purely anecdotal so take it with a grain of salt, but no one I’ve spoken to has seen any promotional material or advertising for Paramount+ either. I have several friends and neighbours who are subscribed to Sky TV – a well-known satellite television provider here in the UK – and they have likewise seen or heard nothing about the impending arrival of Paramount+. Why does that matter? Well, Sky TV and Paramount+ have teamed up to offer subscribers to certain package deals access to Paramount+ at no additional cost. I would have expected Sky TV subscribers to have seen something – an advert, a reminder… anything at all, really – with Paramount+ so close to its official launch.
Perhaps Paramount has already given up on the UK, at least for 2022. Knowing how bad the economic outlook is, and looking at how big streaming platforms like Netflix have been losing subscribers may have caused some in the Paramount boardroom to hit the panic button. As a result, a large-scale advertising campaign – something that costs a lot of money no matter how you do it – may have been taken off the table. Paramount may simply be content to get the biggest fans of its biggest franchises on day one, and save the advertising push for a future date when the cost-of-living crisis and inflation have settled down somewhat.
That’s my generous assessment. Now for the less-generous possibility: this is just the latest in a long line of decisions that show how Paramount doesn’t actually value non-American consumers nor the marketplace outside of the United States. The board may see the international launch of Paramount+ not as an exciting opportunity to bring in profit, but as a tiresome chore that must be completed in order to shore up their share of the domestic American market. In order to make Paramount+ look like a good investment, a safe long-term subscription, and a genuine competitor to the likes of Disney+ and Netflix (which, incidentally, it is not), they took the decision to roll out Paramount+ internationally. They did so not because they care one iota about viewership outside of the United States, nor even really to turn a huge profit, but simply to make Paramount+ look better to investors.
We’ve talked at length here on the website about the absolutely disgusting corporate attitude present at Paramount, an attitude that says “America First!” with Trumpian gusto. The Paramount board clearly and demonstrably does not care about non-American fans, viewers, or the marketplace in the wider world, and the state of Paramount+ when it lands in the UK this week is yet another testament to that. Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, which has broadcast seven episodes at time of writing, will arrive in the UK not with all seven episodes available, but with just three. The recently remastered 4K version of Star Trek: The Motion Picture – which was literally created exclusively for Paramount+ and has never been available or broadcast here in the UK – will likewise be unavailable when the streaming service arrives. The Halo series that I recently reviewed has already concluded its first season – but again, only three out of nine episodes will be available to UK subscribers this week.
Paramount has made a conscious choice to make its streaming service worse in the UK – with less content available – than it is in the United States. The corporation and its leadership continues to double-down on this selfish “America First” attitude, so in a way I shouldn’t be surprised that they can’t be bothered to launch even the most basic of advertising campaigns to promote Paramount+. That doesn’t make the situation any less disappointing, though… and this short-sightedness will have serious long-term consequences for the platform’s viability.
As things sit right now, I would wager that most folks in the UK are completely unaware of Paramount+. Some super-fans of franchises like Halo or Star Trek may have heard of it through the course of pursuing their fandom, but your average viewer knows nothing about an American-only streaming service. In order to simply raise awareness of the existence of Paramount+, some kind of advertising campaign was necessary. There needed to be television ads, cinema ads, radio ads, ads and promoted posts on social media, banners on websites, and perhaps some kind of “stunt” akin to SpongeBob at the Super Bowl to get people talking. Paramount has done none of that, and the result is now predictable: the service will land on the 22nd of June to absolutely dire subscriber numbers.
Obviously it costs money to advertise on television, in cinemas, online, and so on. But Paramount has had an ace in the hole that they could’ve taken advantage of: the advertisements and promotional material that they put together for the platform’s American launch. Those ads, as I noted when I took a look at them last year, were pretty good – and with a small amount of work they could’ve been repurposed for the UK market. Paramount would’ve still had to pay to air those ads, of course, but they wouldn’t have had the expense of creating them from scratch.
Here in the UK, Paramount has a significant media presence already. Their biggest property is free-to-air broadcaster Channel 5, but they own a number of other channels both on Freeview and cable/satellite such as 5Star, Nickelodeon, MTV, and the Horror Channel. At the very least you’d think there’d be a significant advertising presence on Paramount-owned channels in the days leading up to the launch of Paramount+. Doing so would be relatively inexpensive as Paramount wouldn’t have to pay itself to advertise on its own channels! But again, at least as far as I’ve seen, there’s been nothing – or next to nothing – to promote Paramount+ on any of these channels.
Paramount has recently announced plans to market Paramount+ “throughout the summer,” including setting up some in-person events in London, and that’s a positive noise from the corporation. But the time to get people excited for a new streaming platform is really in the days and weeks leading up to its launch – now is the time to have been pushing and seriously trying to sell people on Paramount+ as being the next “must-have” streaming service in their lives. Doing so slowly over the course of the summer isn’t bad… but it may be too late.
As a Star Trek fan (and a casual fan of other Paramount properties), I’m invested in the success of Paramount+. I want it to succeed and be profitable – including here in the UK – because that seems like the best way to guarantee the future of Star Trek and other franchises. I don’t want to see Paramount+ crash and burn – despite the insulting moves the corporation has made and its appalling attitude towards people like me – because that could very well mean the end of the Star Trek franchise. So I want to see a successful, profitable Paramount+ that brings in loads of subscribers. There are some great shows that either are or will be on Paramount+ that have genuine potential to blow up and become huge successes.
But the question is, does Paramount want that? Does the corporation see this international rollout as a glorious opportunity… or is it a torrid chore? Do they care about viewers outside of the United States… or is this merely an expensive exercise in branding? Does Paramount have a genuine ambition to compete against the likes of Netflix, Disney+, and UK television broadcasters… or has the board already resigned itself to lacklustre subscriber numbers for at least the rest of this year?
I wish I knew the answers, and I wish I understood why there’s been so little fanfare for Paramount+ with the service now only a couple of days away from its launch. But one thing is certain: Paramount has done everything in its power to make this launch as difficult and low-key as possible.
Paramount+ will be available in the UK from the 22nd of June 2022 as either a standalone subscription or as part of a Sky TV package. All franchises and properties discussed above – including Paramount+ – are the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Here on the website I often talk about potential Star Trek projects, storytelling and narrative choices, and some of the things that I’d like the franchise to do in upcoming series and films. This time I thought it could be interesting to do things a little differently – today we’re going to look at some technical and production-side changes that I think would benefit Star Trek going forward.
The renewed Star Trek franchise hasn’t been shy when it comes to trying new and different things since its return to the small screen in 2017, and while there are some ongoing issues – particularly relating to the way parent company Paramount is handling things – there are still a number of successes that deserve to be commended. This piece isn’t meant to detract from the accomplishments that Star Trek has made in recent years.
But there’s always room for improvement and new ideas! Sometimes that might mean pushing the boat out further and trying genuinely different things – a lesson that another sci-fi franchise could learn from Star Trek, in my opinion! Other times, returning to something that has previously been demonstrated to work well or be popular could be the way to go. There are different ways to approach such a big subject – and naturally, everyone is going to have different perspectives based on their own ideas and preferences.
I’m not an entertainment industry professional. The closest I came to that was working in the video games industry some years ago, and even then I was working in marketing rather than in a creative or technical capacity. So I’m categorically not an expert at how television shows are created and brought to screen! But I know what works for me, what I personally think looks and feels good, and I have some ideas for what I’d like to see from Star Trek in future. That’s what we’re going to talk about today.
My usual caveats apply: I have no “insider information,” nor am I in a position to set policy at Paramount! So it’s quite likely that much of what we talk about today will never make it to screen. This is a wishlist from a long-time fan, and nothing more. It’s also entirely subjective – so if you hate all of my ideas or I don’t include things that seem like common sense to you, that’s okay! We all have different perspectives and points of view; these are mine, and I share them in the spirit of civil and polite discussion about the future of Star Trek.
With all of that out of the way, let’s take a look at ten technical and/or production-side changes that I’d like to see the Star Trek franchise make.
Number 1: 4K and HDR.
If you’re unfamiliar with these terms, “4K” is a screen resolution also known as “ultra-HD.” Whereas a standard HD video image might be 1920 pixels wide by 1080 pixels high, 4K video footage is typically 3840 pixels wide by 2160 pixels high. The increased number of pixels means that image clarity is massively improved, and more detail can be shown with each frame.
“HDR” is an acronym that stands for “high dynamic range,” and in basic terms it makes bright colours brighter and darker colours darker, making for a more true-to-life image on screen. When viewed on an HDR-compatible television or screen, HDR footage looks significantly more real than non-HDR video.
Both 4K and HDR are increasingly common in home entertainment, and streaming platforms like Netflix and Disney+ are offering an increasing amount of their new content in 4K with HDR support. So far, no new Star Trek shows have been created in 4K HDR, despite the technology being available, and Paramount+ doesn’t support it right now. This has got to change – and soon – in order for Paramount+ to offer a comparable service to its competitors, and the Star Trek franchise is a great place to start.
There have been a limited number of 4K re-releases, such as the Director’s Edition of The Motion Picture, but realistically it’s now time for Star Trek to transition to producing its newest content in 4K HDR.
Number 2: Go big for the sixtieth anniversary.
At time of writing it’s just over four years to go before the Star Trek franchise will celebrate its sixtieth anniversary. At the time of the fiftieth in 2016, Discovery hadn’t yet premiered and while there was a whole lot of celebrating, it wasn’t possible to do a lot on screen. Star Trek Beyond was the only project to release that year.
But the sixtieth should be different! There are currently five Star Trek projects in production, with at least two others supposedly being worked on behind the scenes. By the time we get to 2026 the franchise should still be going strong, and that raises the possibility of some truly spectacular events to mark the milestone.
The 30th anniversary of Star Trek in 1996 saw projects like Trials and Tribble-ations and Flashback from Deep Space Nine and Voyager respectively that paid homage to the franchise’s history. Bringing back classic characters, telling fun fan-servicey stories, and more could all be part of a big sixtieth anniversary celebration – but I’d like to see some kind of major crossover event!
Imagine how much fun it could be if a crossover special were created that featured characters from every iteration of Star Trek. Star Trek’s version of The Avengers, where characters from every show and film found themselves – somehow – in the same timeline and era, needing to battle some nefarious villain. It might be terrible, it might be criticised for being too heavy on the fan-service, but as a one-off project there’s nothing I’d like to see more!
Number 3: Make better use of indoor sound stages and the AR wall.
To be fair, I think the investment that Paramount has made in the AR wall is already beginning to see some results (though I can’t be the only one playing a game of “spot the AR wall,” can I?) But since Star Trek returned to the small screen, it hasn’t been smooth sailing in terms of getting diversity in filming locations.
I felt this most acutely during Season 1 of Star Trek: Picard, and if you’ve been a regular reader since 2020 you may recall that I commented on it in my reviews as the season wore on. In short, every planet that Picard and the crew visited was a barely-disguised southern California, and in a ten-episode season that took them to a new locale almost every week, that became painfully obvious to the point that it detracted from the story in places.
This has also been something I’ve started to notice with Discovery, too. Certain filming locations (like a disused quarry) crop up multiple times, supposedly representing entirely different planets, and there’s just no need for it. Some of the outdoor shoots that I’ve felt were problematic barely lasted five minutes, so for the sake of a short sequence or a handful of scenes, making use of an indoor sound stage is preferable.
Partly this is because we’ve been spoilt by the likes of Game of Thrones with its multi-national filming locations all across Europe! But partly, it must be said, it’s because Star Trek’s producers have lacked either the budget or the creativity to do something different. The AR wall will be a big help going forward, I have no doubt, but getting diversity in the franchise’s filming locations is a big request of mine. Once you start to notice these things, you can’t un-see them!
Number 4: Make better use of social media.
Star Trek’s social media has been atrocious over the past couple of years, and in 2022 there’s no excuse for that. Social media can be a massive asset to any franchise, particularly in the run-up to big releases. But the way Star Trek has handled it has been poor.
Star Trek’s official social media channels – and the rest of Paramount’s, too – need to coordinate better. If a trailer is broadcast for a new or upcoming project, it needs to be available on every platform within minutes. Official Star Trek and Paramount+ YouTube channels don’t do this for some incredibly stupid reason, and it can be hard to find a good-quality copy of the latest trailers sometimes – something that I notice because of trying to get screenshots and still frames to use here on the website.
Moreover, Star Trek needs to be more conversational and interactive. Social media isn’t just a billboard; an empty advertising space to display posters and teasers and talk about what’s coming up. It’s a place to interact with fans. That means that when fans have questions, someone needs to be there to provide answers. If fans make art or jokes or memes, someone needs to react and respond to those.
In 2022, social media can literally make or break a television series. Projects as diverse as Game of Thrones and Squid Game blew up thanks to social media, and Paramount has continually failed to recognise what an asset social media could be if they used it right. This is one example, in my opinion, of how Paramount’s leadership remains stuck in the past. 20th Century thinking won’t cut it anymore, and wasting money on things like billboards in Times Square or posters on the London Underground won’t bring in viewers. Social media is where it’s at – so a complete overhaul of the way it’s handled is a must.
Number 5: Ditch the cinematic “letterbox.”
I admit that this one is very much a matter of personal taste, but I find that the “cinematic” format used for modern Star Trek episodes is just a bit… gimmicky. Most television shows use a 16:9 or maybe a 16:10 aspect ratio; modern live-action Star Trek episodes have insisted on using a 2.4:1 aspect ratio that’s more commonly seen in films.
If you’re watching a film at the cinema, that’s basically become the industry standard. But most televisions – and even many fancy home theatre setups – still use 16:9 or 16:10 screens, meaning that Star Trek episodes have awkward and ugly black bars above and below the picture. I just feel that this is an unnecessary gimmick, and that I’d prefer to see episodes in a standard widescreen format.
To be fair, this isn’t an issue that’s exclusive to the Star Trek franchise, as it’s been seen in shows like The Mandalorian and Obi-Wan Kenobi over in the Star Wars franchise as well, and seems to be increasingly in vogue for modern television series. But to me it still feels like a gimmick at best, and something that may end up making TV shows of this era feel dated in years to come.
Any time I watch a video with ugly black bars around it, it makes me feel like I’m not seeing the full picture; as if something has been cut off. This applies when watching older shows in 4:3 as well. So if everyone could stick to a standard widescreen format that would be great!
Number 6: A return to more episodic storytelling.
To be fair, this has already happened with the likes of Lower Decks and, of course, Strange New Worlds. But it would be great to see more of a focus on episodic, “monster-of-the-week” storytelling from Star Trek going forward. That was where the franchise began, and there are many benefits to this approach.
In the wake of projects like Lost and Game of Thrones we saw a lot of television shows try to take a more serialised approach – with varying results. Some series and franchises can pull it off more successfully than others, but the fundamental weakness in this approach – as Lost, Game of Thrones, and some recent seasons of Star Trek have shown – is that you have to absolutely nail the full story, and particularly have a well-written, thoroughly planned ending.
In short, the weakness in serialised storytelling is that one or two bad episodes, particularly if they come at the end, can sour an entire season or even an entire series. Look at how the two-part finale of Picard Season 1 put a downer on the whole season, or for a more extreme example how Game of Thrones’ eighth season effectively killed off the entire series.
Episodic storytelling is less risky in that regard! One bad episode doesn’t ruin an entire story, and that’s a big point in its favour. But moreover, the Star Trek galaxy is well-suited to these kinds of one-and-done stories. It allows for a lot more freedom and creativity, and would allow us as the audience to take a look and many more aliens, many more planets, and to get a much broader perspective. There’s a place for serialised storytelling within Star Trek – but not in every project.
Number 7: Properly address international distribution issues.
One of the main weights around the neck of the Star Trek franchise right now is the appalling international distribution situation. It really feels like Paramount doesn’t care in the slightest about any non-American fans – and in the globalised, connected marketplace we’re in in 2022, that’s not acceptable.
Star Trek is one of the big selling points for Paramount+… but if the streaming platform isn’t available and there are no concrete plans to make it available in the short-term, Paramount needs to do something else to ensure non-American fans can watch the latest episodes of Star Trek. As I’ve already pointed out, Paramount Global owns or co-owns a massive number of television channels all across the world, and they have the ability to do deals with the likes of Netflix, Google, Amazon, and others.
The lack of international distribution for Lower Decks Season 1, Prodigy, Strange New Worlds, and most egregiously Discovery Season 4 was entirely Paramount’s fault. They chose to broadcast these shows in the United States without getting international broadcasts set up, and they could have either worked harder to get that set up or delayed those shows if they couldn’t.
There are many Trekkies outside of the United States who feel hurt by this – and as I continue to point out, this harms the reputations of Paramount and Star Trek all across the world. Paramount needs to do more – and quickly – to address this situation and ensure that fans all over the world can watch and share in every new episode of Star Trek. If they won’t do that, the Star Trek franchise and Paramount+ will be in serious jeopardy. It’s that simple.
Number 8: More official merchandise.
As I said last year when Prodigy premiered, it was incredibly poor from Paramount to broadcast a television show aimed at kids while offering no kid-friendly tie-in products like toys, playsets, and dress-up costumes. Merchandise is a money-maker in itself, of course, but it’s also a great way to signal that the Star Trek franchise is back and here to stay.
One of my earliest Star Trek memories isn’t an episode or film, but a product. My uncle showed my a toy phaser that he had when I was very young, and that memory has stuck with me. For kids, toys and games can push them to check out a television show or franchise for the first time, and just by seeing Star Trek-branded products on shelves, more people will be aware of the fact that new shows and films are being made.
Star Wars has an excellent approach to merchandise – and that’s always been the case. In the 1990s Star Trek was a close competitor, and I have a number of figures in my collection from that era. Even relatively minor characters like Morn found themselves turned into action figures – and Star Trek needs to get back to doing that. There’s a place for expensive collectables too, but more than anything Star Trek needs the playsets and toys that it used to be so good at creating.
We’re seeing moves in the right direction here, with the likes of Mego and Playmates coming online and starting to produce more toys and products, but Paramount still needs to do more. At this rate, Prodigy’s entire first year will have come and gone without a single toy or tie-in product being created, and to me that just screams “amateurish.”
Number 9: Restart the Short Treks series and create more one-off stories, mini-episodes, and TV movies.
There are many Star Trek concepts and ideas that don’t have a place in the wider franchise. Some pitches from well-known actors and writers may not make for a great film or series, but could be adapted to be a one-off, a mini-episode, or even a TV movie. With the investments that have been made in sets, the AR wall, and so on, it’s easier than ever to do this.
These one-shot projects would also be commercially useful for Paramount+, convincing subscribers to remain engaged with the platform in between seasons of Star Trek’s main shows. That was the original purpose behind Short Treks (even if it was never stated up-front!) and it makes a lot of sense.
Short Treks as a format could be the gateway to some incredibly diverse and varied stories, potentially revisiting classic characters and episodes in a way that the franchise’s main shows wouldn’t be able to. And aside from the fan-service, one-shot episodes and TV movies could be excellent gateways into the Star Trek franchise for newbies or for viewers who’ve just begun to dip their toes into Star Trek.
By making use of existing sets and props as much as possible, at least some of these projects could be relatively inexpensive to create – another big point in their favour.
Number 10: Use less CGI in favour of more practical effects and props.
Some episodes of modern Star Trek are overladen with CGI, including in places where no CGI should really be necessary. CGI is great in some instances, don’t get me wrong, but it doesn’t have to be used in every case for every shot!
Star Wars has found success by returning to physical props and puppets and making use of more practical effects, and those moves have won praise from many fans. Star Trek could absolutely go down the same road, creating more models, physical props, and prosthetics for alien races instead of relying entirely on CGI.
Some older episodes of Star Trek haven’t aged well because of some of their sets and props, but I think that can also apply to CGI. CGI-heavy projects from 10-15 years ago can look pretty amateurish by today’s standards, so we shouldn’t worry too much about how “dated” something may or may not look in the years ahead.
There are some wonderful sets, some amazing prosthetics, and some fantastic props that have been created for modern Star Trek. And as I pointed out above, relying too much on one set or one outdoor location can be detrimental, too! But for my money, Star Trek could absolutely make use of more physical props, puppets, and visual effects.
So that’s it!
“If I ruled the world…” or in this case, if I were in charge of the Star Trek franchise, those are some of the changes I’d like to make. Some are more important than others, naturally, and none of this is to say that what Star Trek has been doing so far is bad. Just that there are changes that could be made to improve things. In my subjective opinion, of course!
I hope that this was a bit of fun, and you can find longer articles that go into more detail about some of the subjects discussed above right here on the website. If you’re new around here, I write about Star Trek a lot! So stay tuned for more Star Trek content to come.
The Star Trek franchise – including all films and series mentioned above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Here we go again. Paramount continues to double-down on the disdain its corporate leadership has for anyone who doesn’t happen to live in the United States. First came the news that the London edition of Destination Star Trek – one of the biggest conventions outside of the United States – was being cancelled with only a few weeks’ notice, and shortly after that we learned that when Paramount+ finally arrives here in the UK later this month, it won’t bring with it all of the episodes of Strange New Worlds that have been broadcast in the United States.
Let’s break these down and deal with them one at a time.
It’s been over a decade since I was last able to attend an in-person convention. Unfortunately my health pretty much rules out things like that these days! But London’s Destination Star Trek has been an event that a lot of folks have on their calendars. Hosted by a company called Massive Events, under license from Paramount, the convention is one of the few big official events to take place outside of the United States and (pandemic disruption aside) has been running for a number of years.
Not only was the event cancelled on very short notice, but there was a mess for several days surrounding the issue of refunds. At first, Massive Events were unwilling to offer full refunds, instead only offering tickets to a hypothetical future event. Perhaps under advice from their legal team, that line has now changed. If anyone reading this has tickets for Destination Star Trek that they haven’t refunded yet, I believe you only have about ten days to contact the company to sort out your refund, so you better hop to it!
Take this with a grain of salt, but fan-site Trek Central has been reporting a “leak” from an insider at Massive Events that places the blame for the cancellation entirely at the feet of Paramount. According to Trek Central’s “whistleblower,” Paramount simply has no interest in promoting big conventions and events in Europe. Small events may continue to happen, they claim, for “promotional purposes,” but the days of officially licensed conventions in Europe may be over.
I’ll link the full article from Trek Central below so you can see their piece in full, and as always I encourage critical thinking and ensuring you’ve done your homework and placed everything in its proper context! But suffice to say that if Trek Central’s “insider” is right, this just confirms our worst fears about the appalling nature of Paramount’s corporate attitude.
I’ve written about this several times here on the website, but Paramount Global as a whole is in a pretty bad place. Corporate leadership needs a complete clear-out, with old and outdated thinking in dire need of being replaced by new people who have a better understanding of the way entertainment works in this day and age. The damage done to Star Trek by continuing to treat non-American fans like second-class citizens can and has spilled over into Star Trek’s domestic market, and I don’t understand how Paramount doesn’t recognise that.
We live in a globalised, connected world, one in which the internet and social media in particular bind us all together. For all intents and purposes, the entire world is one big marketplace for Paramount’s products, and decisions to hurt potential fans and viewers in one part of that marketplace have a huge knock-on effect.
Let me try to break it down for the “America First” Trumpians on the Paramount board: imagine you’ve launched Paramount+ in three out of fifty states: California, Oregon, and Washington. All of your marketing and all of your events target those states and those states only, and you ignore and cut off potential viewers in New York, Wyoming, and everywhere else. You cancel events due to take place in North Carolina, and when Paramount+ finally lands in Nevada a year after its original launch, it doesn’t have the same content – new episodes of new shows are missing.
That’s the approach Paramount has taken to the rest of the world: to cut us adrift, not share their latest creations, and ignore all questions about it. The resultant harm that has been done to the Star Trek brand is impossible to gauge right now, but it’s significant. Projects like Lower Decks and Prodigy should have been gateways into the Star Trek franchise for untold numbers of new fans… but because of Paramount’s pathetic “America First” approach, we won’t know how much bigger or more successful those shows could have been.
If Paramount hopes to break into the top tier of streaming services and make Paramount+ into a genuine competitor to the likes of Netflix and Disney+, this ridiculous and outdated approach to the rest of the world needs to go. Why should I sign up for Paramount+ here in the UK if doing so won’t give me access to the same episodes and the same content as viewers in the United States? As I’ve said before, Paramount+ does not exist in a vacuum and fans can easily find alternative methods of accessing that content.
There needs to be a root-and-branch overhaul at Paramount, and particularly in its streaming division, if there’s to be any hope of salvaging Paramount+ and the Star Trek franchise. Strange New Worlds has been an impressive series across its first five episodes – but if those episodes are cut off and only available via piracy, Paramount isn’t getting any attention or benefit from that. Casual viewers – who make up the vast majority of any television show’s audience – won’t even be aware of the existence of Strange New Worlds if Paramount+ isn’t available in their part of the world, but more significantly for Paramount, many potential American viewers won’t become aware of it either.
For every social media post that doesn’t reach many people, for every hashtag that doesn’t trend, Paramount’s influence is reduced. And because social media is global, fans across the world need to be able to talk about their shows and films together. When a huge portion of the audience can’t do that, it doesn’t just harm the reputation of Paramount in those areas, it harms it at home, too. That’s the lesson that the Paramount board has continually failed to learn.
These disgusting moves won’t stop people like me from being Trekkies. I’ve been a fan for more than thirty years, when I first watched The Next Generation during its original run here in the UK, and that isn’t going to change. But what Paramount’s approach guarantees is that there will be fewer and fewer new fans from the UK, Europe, and all across the world. Where Star Trek was once as powerful and as influential as Star Wars and other big brands, that reputation will continue to diminish. Fewer fans means less online chatter, and less online chatter makes it harder for any new Star Trek project – or any other project from Paramount – to gain traction, even within the United States.
Although I’m not about to quit the Star Trek fandom, these moves harm fans’ enjoyment of new shows. If we’re constantly made to feel like we aren’t important, it’s hard to get as excited or as engaged for a new show, and while I’ve been happy to watch Strange New Worlds and Prodigy over the past few months, I haven’t been talking about them online, reviewing them, or bigging them up on social media. Paramount has taken away at least some of my excitement and enjoyment – and I’m hardly alone in feeling that way.
If this approach continues, with the United States being prioritised over everyone else, franchises like Star Trek won’t last long. Paramount+ is about to launch at perhaps the worst possible time into an incredibly difficult market, and there are no guarantees that it will be anywhere close to successful here in the UK. If Paramount wants to convince Star Trek fans that it’s worth the investment, they need to demonstrate that. They need to stop cancelling conventions and stop ignoring us on social media, but more importantly they need to make every episode of every show available to everyone.
Why should I pay for Paramount+ if I can’t watch the latest episodes of Star Trek? If the service I’m getting is clearly and demonstrably worse than the same service an American would get, how does Paramount possibly expect to sell it to me? Perhaps someone senior should ponder those questions.
So Paramount screws up and continues to disappoint its non-American fans. What else is new?
I’m trying to get my thoughts in order with June just around the corner. Here in the UK we’re just over three weeks away from the (alleged) launch date of Paramount+, and despite my criticisms of Paramount Global and the jokes I’ve made on social media, I truly want to be able to sign up for the platform and give my financial backing to the renewed Star Trek franchise. But I’m not sure that I can, at least not at the moment.
As a disabled person on a fixed income, the current inflation and cost of living crisis is hitting me particularly hard. Since the start of this year I’ve cancelled my plans for an upgrade to my slow internet connection and also let go of my Netflix subscription. I’d originally signed up for Netflix in order to be able to watch Star Trek: Discovery in 2017, and although there are still Netflix projects that interest me, the removal of the Star Trek franchise from the platform was a big factor in choosing to cancel that subscription.
Right now I have two subscriptions that I pay for: Xbox Game Pass and Disney+. In order to be able to afford Paramount+, realistically I’d have to cancel one or the other. And the problem there is simple: I regularly use and enjoy both. Subscribing to Game Pass has meant that I’ve only had to buy one game since the start of the year (Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, in case you were wondering). It’s a good service – for now, at least – that offers a decent number of games, and although I don’t spend as much time gaming as I did say a decade ago, Game Pass still has a lot to offer.
Disney+ has a few new shows that I’m interested in, like the current Obi-Wan Kenobi series, but more than that it’s a service that carries a lot of shows that I’ve enjoyed in years past. The likes of Futurama or Scubs make great background viewing; light entertainment that I don’t need to think too deeply about. Kids’ cartoon Phineas and Ferb is one of my comfort shows that I turn to on days when my mental health is poor, and Disney+ even carries shows like Lost and a diverse array of documentaries and films.
I feel like the debate I’m currently having internally about streaming kind of encapsulates a broader issue with the oversaturated streaming market, but more significantly for Paramount Global and the Star Trek franchise, it shows how being too late to the party can be incredibly costly. I’m not trying to decide between Paramount+ and Disney+ in a vacuum with both services on an equal footing; I already have Disney+, so in order to be able to afford Paramount+, Paramount needs to convince me to give up what I already have.
Perhaps the cost of living crisis of 2022 has blown the lid off things – it certainly has for me, at least – but these kinds of conflicts were inevitable, and not every streaming service currently on the market can survive. Perhaps current events will accelerate the decline of some of the lesser ones – such as CNN+, which cost parent company Time Warner over $300 million and lasted barely one month – but with the market having become so crowded and so anti-consumer, there simply isn’t room for everyone.
I’ve argued this point before – in an article that you can find by clicking or tapping here – but I really think it makes a lot of sense for some of the lesser companies to get out of the streaming game and focus instead on making content, not trying to make their own platform. The Star Trek franchise could be a good example of how this could work; Discovery was sold to Netflix, but Picard and Lower Decks were sold to Amazon Prime Video. Other media companies could take a similar approach, selling their shows and films to the highest-bidding streaming platform without making a cast-iron commitment to always work exclusively with a single platform.
That has to be the future, doesn’t it? It isn’t affordable for most households to pay for four, five, or six different streaming subscriptions even at the best of times, so something’s got to give sooner or later. As inflation and the cost of living continue to bite around the world – and with no sign of things improving at least in the short-term – I’d expect similar conversations to be happening in a lot of households. It’s possible that we’ll even start to see the impact of this on the streaming market pretty soon.
I’ve written about piracy here on the website on more than one occasion. Although it can be hard to explain how I feel in just a few words, I’ll give it a shot: when a series, film, or video game is made available, I’m firmly in the camp that says “pay for it.” If everyone turned to piracy there’d be no future for entertainment; it wouldn’t be possible to keep creating new films, games, or shows if no one was paying for and supporting the creation of those projects. So with Paramount+ slowly stumbling its way towards its UK launch, almost by default I felt sure that I’d be signing up.
As a big Trekkie and someone who loves the Star Trek franchise, I want to be in a position of contributing to its success, even when Paramount Global as a corporation has misbehaved when it comes to international fans. The reason for that is pretty simple: I want Star Trek to be financially successful so that it’ll continue to be produced for many years to come. I don’t want to be a pirate, especially not when it comes to Star Trek. The fact that Paramount forced fans like me into piracy with their decisions over Discovery Season 4, Prodigy, and Strange New Worlds remains a source of disappointment.
But now, with the cost of living and inflation biting me in the backside, I’m left wondering whether my best option in the short-term is to rely on my DVDs and Blu-rays for older shows and pirate the final few episodes of Strange New Worlds. By the time Paramount+ lands in the UK there will only be three weeks left in the first season of Strange New Worlds – and even if Prodigy or Lower Decks are going to be hot on its heels, it hardly seems worth signing up for a new subscription to get three episodes of a single series.
Perhaps I’m clutching at straws trying to justify accessing media that I can’t afford. Maybe it’s the curse of those of us on low and fixed incomes that, in a world of dozens of streaming subscriptions, it’s too expensive to be able to afford to watch everything. Do the cost of living crisis and inflation justify piracy? Is piracy, as some like to claim, a form of theft? If I can’t afford Paramount+, shouldn’t I find ways to cut other things out of my budget so that I can – and if I’m unable or unwilling to do that, shouldn’t I then stick to that commitment and stop watching these new Star Trek shows?
These are some of the questions rolling around in my head at the moment! Maybe I should just shut up, review new episodes of Star Trek and whatever else, and let everyone reading assume that I paid for everything completely legitimately. But this website is my only real outlet for talking about some of these issues, and with the cost of living and inflation being big worries at the moment and weighing on my mind, I wanted to talk about it and not just cover it up and pretend like everything is fine.
This is far from the worst financial crisis I’ve personally had to deal with. Ever been so broke that you had “sleep for dinner?” I’ve been there. I’ve been to the supermarket with only a bunch of coins that I managed to scrounge up from pockets and down the back of the sofa, buying food for a couple of days without knowing when or how I’d be able to afford the next shop. And I’ve been in a position of turning off the heat and wearing a coat, gloves, and three pairs of socks in the living room in order to save money. Compared to that – and compared to what many folks are going through right now, too – having to choose between different streaming services because I can’t afford all of them… well it doesn’t exactly matter, does it?
But at the same time, there is a broader point here. Paramount+ is about to launch in an incredibly difficult market, one in which some of the biggest fans of the corporation’s most popular franchises are going to struggle to afford the service. The longer-term prospects of Paramount+, and whether it will ever be able to break into the top tier of streaming platforms alongside Netflix and Disney+, remains very much in question – and with that question comes fears for the longer-term sustainability of Star Trek. As a fan, that concerns me.
Decisions going back a decade or more on the part of big entertainment corporations have led to this point, and while the current jump in inflation and rise in the cost of living may have exposed some of these issues of affordability sooner than expected, it was inevitable that we’d reach this point in such an oversaturated marketplace. As a Star Trek fan I want to support Star Trek and I want the company that owns it and the platform on which it’s available to be financially successful – but I can’t commit to backing Paramount+ with a long-term subscription at the moment. If the cost of living crisis worsens in the months ahead – and with energy bills set to rise significantly in October, just in time for the winter, it very well may – I’ll be needing to cut back even more on the few services I already pay for, and there’ll be absolutely no place for anything new.
It’s a tough market, and Paramount Global’s many mistakes and offensive decisions have not endeared the corporation or its latest venture to the people who should be its biggest supporters. I wish Paramount+ well as a Star Trek fan who wants the franchise to succeed… but I’m unsure whether I’ll be able to make a long-term commitment to it right now.
Paramount+ is available in the United States, Scandinavia, Australia, and parts of Latin America now, with launches in the UK and South Korea in June 2022. Further international launch dates are yet to be announced. Paramount+ and the Star Trek franchise are owned by Paramount Global. Some stock images used above are courtesy of Pixabay. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-3, Discovery Seasons 1-4, Short Treks Seasons 1-2, and minor spoilers for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.
At time of writing, the most recent episode of Short Treks aired two-and-a-half years ago in the run-up to Season 1 of Star Trek: Picard. Since then, Paramount has been content to put the format on ice, and although it’s been mentioned more than once in interviews and conversations, no new episodes or seasons have been forthcoming. I think that’s a shame, because in 2022 Short Treks has a lot of potential – arguably more than it did just a few years ago.
As a concept, Short Treks always felt nakedly commercial to me. At a time when many subscribers to what was then still called CBS All Access would watch their favourite show and then cancel their subscription, the corporation in charge hoped that dropping a handful of short episodes in between seasons would be enough to keep some of those folks paying their subscription fees. Promises that Short Treks stories would tie into the world of Star Trek: Discovery in a big way were part of this, too.
However, as Short Treks rolled on, there seemed to be a bit more leeway given with the kind of projects that were greenlit. Short Treks became more experimental, producing an overtly comedic episode, two animated episodes that used wildly different storytelling and animation styles, as well as continuing to connect with ongoing or upcoming Star Trek projects. It’s this experimental aspect and the potential to create some truly different and interesting one-off stories where I feel Short Treks could excel in the years ahead.
Not every Star Trek character or concept can be spun out into a film or an entire season of television, and there’s scope to use Short Treks to tell one-off stories that wouldn’t fit anywhere else. Robert Duncan McNeill’s Captain Proton pitch, for example, could absolutely work as a one-off short story, and I think that could be a cute nod and wink to fans of Voyager.
There would be scope to bring back legacy characters in this format as well, particularly if actors are unable or unwilling to make a longer commitment. Fans have asked for a long time to see Captain Sulu aboard the USS Excelsior, for example, and a Short Treks story featuring George Takei could be a truly excellent way for the franchise to celebrate his decades-long association with Star Trek. Rather than trying to shoehorn legacy characters into ongoing shows – or writing out main characters to bring back legacy characters, as happened in the case of Picard Season 3 – giving some of them their own Short Treks stories could be an alternative option.
The Short Treks format could even operate as a kind of backdoor pilot to test the waters and see how fans respond to concepts that could go either way. Michael Dorn’s Captain Worf pitch, for example, could be converted into an episode or two of Short Treks, recycling sets built for Picard Season 2, as a way to see how interested fans would actually be and whether the character truly has spin-off potential.
Star Trek has never shied away from being an experimental franchise, and that continues in its modern iterations. But given the serialised nature of shows like Picard and Discovery in particular, the scope to go completely off-topic and to different thematic and narrative places is more limited than it ever used to be. Short Treks could be the catalyst to bring more of that experimentation back to Star Trek.
The episodes The Girl Who Made The Stars and Ephraim and DOT showed off a very different style of animation and storytelling to anything we’ve seen so far in any iteration of Star Trek, and with advancements in animation happening all the time, there’s even the potential to use animation to bring some of these concepts to life. Where it might seem prohibitively expensive to tell a story set in an alternate reality where the Borg have conquered large swathes of the Alpha Quadrant, for instance, an animated Short Treks story could delve into that concept in a way live-action couldn’t.
When we look at the production side of Star Trek, too, Short Treks has a lot more to work with than it did in the 2010s! New sets have been constructed in recent years for Picard, Strange New Worlds, and Discovery’s 32nd Century that could all be taken advantage of to tell stories set in different eras. With a few changes here and there and some clever set redresses, Short Treks stories could be set in basically any era of Star Trek without having to spend excessive amounts of money on design and construction.
Then there’s the AR wall – the massive video wall that’s been used to great effect in Discovery and Strange New Worlds to bring depth and scale to some of the sets. The AR wall opens up all kinds of possibilities for unique designs: starships, planets, and more could be brought to screen without having to construct new sets. It would even be possible to use the AR wall to reconstruct something like the bridge of the Enterprise-D and tell a new story set during the events of The Next Generation.
If Star Trek chooses to settle on one primary era for its main shows – such as the 32nd Century or the 25th Century, for instance – then Short Treks could be the way to keep other eras and alternate timelines alive. Short Treks would be great to tell one-off Mirror Universe stories, for example, or stories set in the 22nd or 23rd Centuries if those aren’t going to be the franchise’s main focus in the years ahead.
A particularly fun idea could see Short Treks expand on our knowledge of the events of individual episodes. We could see one of the battles of the Dominion War from the perspective of another Federation ship, for example, with its crew coming to the aid of the USS Defiant. Or how about the same battle from the Cardassian side? A Short Treks episode could absolutely do that.
There are many Star Trek stories that, while not exactly incomplete, are definitely able to be built upon to show us more. The Lower Decks Season 2 episode wej Duj took a unique format showing us the crews of several different ships who were all part of one larger story, and Short Treks could do something similar. By picking up story threads that we only caught glimpses of in classic episodes, there’s scope to expand our understanding of some of these stories.
There’s also huge potential to dip into the wider lore of Star Trek. What happened in the years in between The Undiscovered Country and The Next Generation Season 1, for example? This massive eighty-year span of Star Trek’s history contains many interesting events that have been mentioned or referenced but never explored on screen, and Short Treks could change all that. We could see, for instance, the “Tomed incident” that led to the Romulans entering a prolonged period of isolation and find out what happened to cause the Federation to give up cloaking technology.
With sets already built for the USS Stargazer that we saw in Picard Season 2, Pike’s Enterprise, and more, as well as the AR wall, there’s a heck of a lot that Short Treks could do with existing sets that it couldn’t a few years ago. That has greatly expanded the number of potential stories that episodes could tell, and right now it really does feel as though Short Treks is a concept that Paramount is not taking advantage of.
Not only would some of these ideas be interesting and fun for longstanding fans, they could serve as soft landings for newcomers to Star Trek too, providing fans of shows like Prodigy with new experiences that build on their burgeoning fandom. Fans who’ve only just begun to fall in love with Star Trek could find one-off episodes that serve as easy ways into what can be a complicated and convoluted franchise, and that’s another massive benefit to creating stories like these.
From Paramount’s perspective, the original idea behind Short Treks is still valid. While 2022 may yet see five different Star Trek productions, in years ahead there will still be downtime; gaps in between seasons of the franchise’s main shows. Short Treks stories could fill those gaps, keeping Star Trek alive in the minds of fans and casual viewers alike, providing one more reason to sign up for and remain subscribed to Paramount+.
The experimental nature of some of these stories could see Paramount test out pitches that may be able to be expanded into full series of their own – just like Short Treks episodes featuring Pike, Spock, and Una helped prove that a Captain Pike series would be viable! Stories that draw significant reactions from fans, or that bring back elements from past iterations of Star Trek that prove popular, could be spun off into their own miniseries, show, or even films, setting the stage for Star Trek’s continued expansion.
In short, there are a lot of ways that brand-new episodes of Short Treks could be utilised to not only tell fun, entertaining, and fan-servicey stories, but to give a boost to Paramount+ and provide a way for the creative teams to experiment with completely different ideas that would be difficult or impossible to fit into any of the existing shows. Short Treks has a vast amount of untapped potential.
The first two seasons of Short Treks are available to stream now on Paramount+ (in areas where the service is available). Short Treks is also available to purchase on DVD and Blu-ray. The Star Trek franchise – including Short Treks and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Here we go again. When Trekkies all over the world should be talking with boundless enthusiasm and unbridled passion about the latest Star Trek announcements, we’re slapped down hard by ViacomCBS – sorry, that should be “Paramount” or “Paramount Global” now – and the corporation’s latest mess. I’m genuinely getting worried for the medium-to-long-term prospects of the Star Trek franchise under the corporation’s current leadership.
Just when I thought ViacomCBS had hit rock bottom with the Discovery Season 4 debacle, paying Netflix to remove the show internationally and preventing fans outside the United States from being able to watch, the corporation has, through sheer ingenuity, managed to sink even lower. Using outdated copyright laws and social media platforms’ heavy-handed DMCA policies to actively attack Trekkies is the latest move; a new low for a corporation that I naïvely assumed could sink no lower.
ViacomCBS (or whatever it wants to rebrand itself as now) is a corporation that has consistently failed to move with the times. It’s a corporation where 20th Century thinking is trying – and failing – to lead it into the 21st Century, and that’s the poisoned well from which all of these ridiculous, outdated, and harmful policies continue to flow. ViacomCBS has an “America First” fetish that would make even Donald Trump blush, brazenly ignoring fans outside of the United States – even going so far as to point-blank refuse to broadcast brand-new episodes on international versions of its own streaming platform, Paramount+. When will this end?
An investor event today – which was live-streamed on social media – showed off a new teaser trailer for Strange New Worlds, the upcoming Star Trek series bringing back Anson Mount as Captain Christopher Pike. Yet ViacomCBS then went on the attack, literally getting some fans’ social media accounts banned for daring to share still frames and screencaps of the trailer. At time of writing, the trailer itself has yet to be published on any of the official Star Trek social media channels, meaning fans know it’s out there but have no lawful way to access it.
There was also “news” – and I use that term in its loosest possible sense – about the painfully constipated rollout of Paramount+ internationally. We knew as early as the middle of last year that the planned launch window for the UK was “early-to-mid 2022,” so today’s so-called “announcement” that the mediocre streaming service will arrive “before the end of Q2” means absolutely nothing. The lack of so much as an attempt at precise timing, or even a narrower window, does not fill me with confidence.
Strange New Worlds – the show whose trailer is now being deliberately hidden and used as a pretext to attack fans on social media – is due to premiere in the United States in early May. The end of the second quarter of the year (or “Q2” in corporate-speak) is at the end of June. Assuming Paramount+ remains on what we could generously call its “schedule,” that seems to suggest that very few Trekkies outside of the United States will be able to watch the show.
And if Paramount+ repeats what it tried to do with Discovery Season 4 and successfully did with Prodigy Season 1, then even being a Paramount+ subscriber might not be enough to guarantee that non-American Trekkies will be able to watch Strange New Worlds anyway. In both of those cases, Paramount+ outside of the United States didn’t broadcast new episodes at the same time as they were broadcast in the United States. Paramount+ is already a second-tier streaming service on a good day, but if it gates off its own original content outside of North America, what exactly is the point in becoming a subscriber? Maybe someone at ViacomCBS should ponder that question.
Every time I think we’re starting to see signs of progress, it feels like ViacomCBS takes one step forward and at least two steps back. The corporation has no clue how to act in a 21st Century media landscape that has shifted under its feet, and despite having its own streaming platform for over seven years (CBS All Access launched in late 2014) there’s been no evidence so far that the corporation knows how to successfully operate it, let alone how to bring it to audiences around the world.
I want to support Star Trek. I want to offer my financial backing (in whatever small way I can) to ensure that the franchise continues to be successful and will continue to be produced. And there are some positive signs – Paramount+ has been adding new subscribers, Discovery has been its best-performing series, and shows like Halo and Yellowstone have attracted attention and been picked up for additional seasons. But like I said, for every step forward, there are two steps back. The reputation of ViacomCBS remains in the sewer with many of Star Trek’s biggest fans, and rebranding under a new name won’t fix that.
Social media is the biggest and most important way for any entertainment corporation to get its message out and to bring in new audiences and new subscribers. Look at shows as diverse as Game of Thrones, Chernobyl, Tiger King, and Squid Game. Social media buzz and hype were a huge factor in their success, and why they blew up far beyond their anticipated audiences to become absolutely massive. When ViacomCBS mistreats its biggest fans so badly on social media, and when its own social media marketing strategy is so painfully inadequate, it actively harms the potential success of Star Trek – and all of its other programmes.
I noted this with disappointment in 2020 when Lower Deckswas denied an international broadcast, and again in 2021 when the same thing happened to Prodigy. The two most different and interesting Star Trek projects in a generation had practically unlimited potential to expand the franchise and bring in boatloads of new fans – but because ViacomCBS chose to carve them up, deciding for itself which viewers were “worthy” of being allowed to watch the new shows, that potential was wasted.
When ViacomCBS cuts off its own shows at the knees, it doesn’t just harm their potential success in the rest of the world. It harms it in the United States as well. Social media is worldwide, and if fans in the rest of the world aren’t able to participate, the potential buzz and online chatter dies down. The hype bubble deflates, hashtags don’t trend, social media algorithms don’t pick up or promote posts, and untold numbers of potential fans and viewers miss out. They never even come to hear that Lower Decks, Prodigy, or Strange New Worlds exist because ViacomCBS made sure that millions of Star Trek fans don’t talk about them online.
Attacking fans is a new low, and rebuilding trust between ViacomCBS and Trekkies should be top priority for the corporation as it moves forward. It won’t be, but it should be. But there are more problems deeply-rooted within ViacomCBS and its corporate attitude, one which puts “America First” with vigour. That kind of thinking was outdated by the turn of the millennium, and fixing it is going to be essential to the future success of Paramount+.
One way that the corporation could win back fans’ support would be to guarantee that Strange New Worlds won’t be broadcast until Paramount+ has been rolled out to more countries. If there’s a delay in the rollout, there should be a delay in the new show as well. I’m sure some American Trekkies would be disappointed, but others wouldn’t mind waiting an extra few weeks or months if it means more Trekkies will be able to join in. It would be good for the fan community, and for the reasons mentioned above it would be good for Strange New Worlds’ prospects, too.
As for me, I remain extremely disappointed with Star Trek’s corporate overlords. If Strange New Worlds doesn’t come to the UK at the same time as it does in the United States, we end up right back in the piracy debate. I feel fans have an absolute moral justification to go right ahead and pirate it – if ViacomCBS chooses not to make it available lawfully, piracy becomes the only way to access the show. I will certainly have no qualms about going down that road.
But if Strange New Worlds doesn’t come to the UK, why should I cover it? In my own small way on my little corner of the internet, I offer the Star Trek franchise what amounts to free publicity, talking about shows and sharing my passion. It would feel wrong to offer my support to a series that ViacomCBS has, for what would be the third time in as many years, tried to deny to millions of fans around the world.
My message to the board and leadership at ViacomCBS (or Paramount as it’s now going to be known) is simple: do better. Treat your fans with basic respect, stop abusing outdated copyright laws, fix your social media marketing, find a way to bring your shows to the millions upon millions of fans who are literally opening our wallets and offering you our cash, and if you can’t do all of that, then get out of the way and make room for other people who can. Your intransigence and outdated thinking have already caused immeasurable harm to Star Trek, so you need to fix those things – before it’s too late.
The Star Trek franchise – including all properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS/Paramount. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
In the course of researching Star Trek: Prodigy for my review of the first part of Season 1, I learned something very odd. The first half of the season was itself cleaved in two, with a few episodes being broadcast, followed by a month-long break, before a second batch were broadcast leading up to the mid-season finale. This appalling scheduling – and on a streaming platform, no less – already made no sense and arguably damaged Prodigy, making it harder for the series to gain traction and retain viewers, and that’s something I addressed in my review. But one thing that’s even worse is that for Paramount+ subscribers outside of the United States – such as in Australia – the second batch of episodes weren’t broadcast at all.
When ViacomCBS announced its intention to take Discovery Season 4 away from fans, the same thing happened. Although Paramount+ existed in Latin America, Australia, and Scandinavia, those regions weren’t going to get Discovery Season 4 at the same time as the American version of Paramount+, effectively meaning that Trekkies in those regions had paid for nothing.
We’ve talked on several occasions about ViacomCBS prioritising American Trekkies and viewers over those of us in the rest of the world, but I had hoped that the rollout of Paramount+ internationally would finally bring an end to this disgusting, outdated attitude. Although the pace of the streaming service’s rollout would make a snail covered in molasses riding a sloth up a glacier look fast by comparison, I’m still halfway hopeful that it’ll arrive here in the UK before the end of 2022 – and if I dare to dream, I’d hope that Paramount+ will be available worldwide… one day.
But even if ViacomCBS magically finds competent leadership in the months ahead, meaning Paramount+ will indeed be available here in the UK in time for, say, the debut of Strange New Worlds, it now seems as though the corporation can’t offer fans a guarantee that subscribing to Paramount+ will actually mean we’ll be able to watch any new Star Trek. So… what’s the point of Paramount+, then, and why should I bother subscribing at all?
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote that there are some big questions that ViacomCBS and the team behind Paramount+ need to answer as soon as possible regarding the availability of upcoming Star Trek productions. But we can add into the mix the very real and very serious question of whether any non-American Paramount+ subscribers will be able to watch any new or upcoming Star Trek shows at the same time as viewers in the United States. And then we’ll have to decide for ourselves whether we can trust the answer given the corporation’s poor track record going back several years at least.
Last year, when Paramount+ debuted in the United States and began its painfully slow international rollout, I was optimistic and even dare I say looking forward to the streaming platform’s arrival here in the UK. Being able to subscribe to Star Trek’s home, its native platform, felt like a good opportunity, and as I’ve said on several occasions: I want to offer ViacomCBS and the Star Trek franchise my support and financial backing in whatever way I can.
But now, having seen just how poorly ViacomCBS has been treating Paramount+ subscribers outside of the United States, the idea of signing up for Paramount+ when it eventually arrives in the UK is getting harder and harder to justify. That’s before we get into the technical issues that plague the platform: in just the last couple of weeks there was an episode of Prodigy that wasn’t available, error messages about servers being “too busy” that seem to be trying to force subscribers to pay for even more expensive packages, and myriad other glitches and screw-ups that leave Paramount+ in the United States feeling like a poor quality product.
Given that viewers in the United States are ViacomCBS’ priority – which they clearly and demonstrably have been thus far – that hardly leaves me feeling optimistic about the kind of service I can expect if and when Paramount+ makes its way across the Atlantic. If Paramount+ were to repeat the Prodigy mistake or their initial Discovery Season 4 plans with Strange New Worlds, for example, then why should I – or any other Trekkie, come to that – bother to sign up? It brings us right back to the arguments about piracy: if ViacomCBS offers fans no lawful way to access their new shows, then piracy becomes the default option.
Paramount+ does not exist in a vacuum. The choice fans are presented with is not “pay for Paramount+ or don’t watch anything.” Piracy exists, and with a minimal amount of effort it’s possible for anyone with a phone, tablet, or computer to watch or download every new episode of Star Trek. To compete against that successfully, Paramount+ has to do what Netflix, Disney+, and others have done: the platform has to be a compelling, inexpensive alternative.
That means it needs to work, first and foremost. If fans log in and try to watch the latest episode but find that it won’t play or, as happened with Prodigy Season 1, Episode 9, it just isn’t there at all, then the entire argument behind paying to subscribe falls down. And if fans in the rest of the world can’t access something that fans in America can, how on earth does ViacomCBS expect to convince anyone that a Paramount+ subscription is a worthwhile investment?
We’re facing inflation and a significant rise in the cost of living. Speaking for myself, as someone on a fixed income, I’m already considering that it may not be possible to keep all of my current subscriptions, let alone add a new one into the mix. In order to overcome that, or to make sure folks are willing to consider Paramount+ a must-have subscription that they can’t live without, ViacomCBS has to demonstrate that the service is a solid investment. That means basic competence to begin with – fixing technical issues, ensuring that the service works properly, and that it has an intuitive, easy-to-use interface. But from the point of view of someone outside of the United States, it means ViacomCBS and Paramount+ need a major attitude adjustment. The corporation and its streaming platform need to demonstrate to Trekkies – and to viewers of all of their other programmes – that they aren’t just fixated on America; that those of us in the rest of the world matter to them too. If they can’t, I see no reason whatsoever why we should offer them our money.
This is an own goal; a self-inflicted wound from Paramount+ that the streaming service absolutely does not need to make. Take a look at the competition: Disney+ doesn’t gate off shows like The Mandalorian or films like Encanto – once they’re on Disney+ they’re on Disney+ for everyone, and while Disney+ has had its own international rollout issues, the service is streets ahead of Paramount+. Paramount+ has existed in its current form for almost a year – and going back to CBS All Access, for almost five years. There has been time for ViacomCBS to learn how to act and how to get this right – but they have consistently failed to do so.
There’s no question in my mind that ViacomCBS is mismanaging Paramount+ in a serious, potentially fatal way. For a second-tier platform like this to survive the “streaming wars” it has to make an offer that viewers simply can’t refuse. It has to compete not only against the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime, but also against the option of piracy, and it has to convince folks like me that I’ll actually get a decent service if I part with my money. So far, I don’t see Paramount+ as a compelling investment as someone living outside of the United States. And even if I were in America, given the other issues and faults with Paramount+ the best I can say is that it might be a service I pay for one month out of twelve to binge-watch a few shows before cancelling.
In short, bringing Paramount+ to the UK – and to countries and territories around the world – will only matter if the service brings with it all of the new and upcoming shows that American viewers can look forward to. If it doesn’t, or if those shows are going to be delayed by many months, then fans are pretty quickly going to see Paramount+ as a bad offer. If the corporation allows that mindset to take hold, it will be very difficult to change the narrative later on, so they need to get this right from day one. Paramount+ needs to bolt out of the gate with a strong, good value offer that can compete with Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Disney+. That means the current “America First” attitude of the ViacomCBS board has got to go.
Paramount+ is owned and operated by ViacomCBS and is available in the United States, Scandinavia, Latin America, and Australia. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There may be minor spoilers ahead for the Star Trek franchise.
Yesterday we got some fantastic news about the direction of the Star Trek franchise over the next couple of years. I’m sure you’re already aware of all of it, but just in case, here are the key announcements in brief:
Star Trek: Discovery has finally been renewed for a fifth season.
Star Trek: Picard Season 2 will premiere on the 3rd of March.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds will premiere on the 5th of May.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds has been officially renewed for Season 2.
Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 3 will premiere this summer.
Star Trek: Lower Decks has been renewed for Season 4.
Star Trek: Prodigy Season 1 will take a break when Discovery returns, before broadcasting the second half of the season later in the year.
Star Trek: Prodigy has been officially renewed for Season 2.
All of these announcements take the Star Trek franchise well into 2023, and when you add into the mix the as-yet-untitled 2023 film as well, there’s a massive amount of content to come over the next couple of years. It seems as though scarcely a week will go by without at least one new Star Trek episode premiering throughout all of 2022!
This is all unequivocally good news. Star Trek has made an absolutely triumphant return to the small screen since Discovery premiered in 2017, and the franchise has grown beyond my wildest hopes and most optimistic expectations in a scant five years. I hope that this is just the first phase of a new Golden Age, with more Star Trek on our screens taking us to the franchise’s sixtieth anniversary in 2026 – and beyond.
But it hasn’t been a smooth ride for Trekkies in recent weeks, especially for those of us who live outside of the United States. Star Trek: Prodigy is well into its first season for American viewers, but the rest of the fanbase hasn’t been able to see so much as a single episode – at least not via “conventional” means. This is despite Prodigy being a co-production between CBS Studios and Nickelodeon; the latter being a kids’ television channel that is available in more than 70 countries and territories around the world and is wholly owned by ViacomCBS. Surely a Prodigy international broadcast should have been possible – yet the corporation running Star Trek has consistently chosen to prioritise its American audience ahead of fans in the rest of the world, even when doing so makes no sense.
The same situation initially befell Discovery’s fourth season, when an insultingly-worded, awfully-timed announcement saw the series pulled from Netflix with 48 hours to spare. It was only thanks to the huge backlash that ViacomCBS received, leading to a significant fall in the corporation’s share price, that Discovery was shopped out to Pluto TV, Amazon, YouTube, and other platforms. Fans won in the end – but it was a battle that we should’ve never needed to fight.
At the time of the Discovery disaster, I wrote a piece here on the website in which I asked a difficult question: what might the situation and the precedent it had set mean for future Star Trek productions, including those shows that have just been renewed or had premiere dates announced? You can check out the full article by clicking or tapping here, but to briefly summarise: I am not optimistic that the painfully slow rollout of Paramount+ can be sped up, nor that shows like Strange New Worlds will be granted an international broadcast at all.
ViacomCBS is a poorly-managed corporation with leaders and executives who seem utterly incompetent – or who are dusty old relics, ill-suited to a 21st Century media landscape. The lack of care and preparation with which the Star Trek franchise is being handled is indicative of this, and the franchise lags far behind old rival Star Wars in many areas. Where are, for example, 4K HDR episodes? This is something Star Wars has been doing since 2019 with The Mandalorian, and many other television shows on Amazon, Netflix, and Disney+ are now streaming in 4K HDR. Where are the toys that should have been available in time for Prodigy’s debut? And, come to that, where’s the rest of the Star Trek merchandise for other shows?
These are just a couple of examples of how the Star Trek brand is being mismanaged by ViacomCBS, and unfortunately the breach of trust between the corporation and a sizeable chunk of its fanbase means that the plethora of announcements made yesterday are, at the very least, seen through a new lens. At worst they’re completely tainted, with excitement and hype replaced with either apathy or anxiety as fans ask whether we’ll be able to watch any of these new shows and new seasons – and if we can’t, why should we care?
Since I created this website in 2019, I’ve reviewed every Star Trek episode that has been broadcast – except for Prodigy. Why? Because ViacomCBS deliberately chose not to make Prodigy available here in the UK (by lawful means, at least) despite owning and operating the UK version of the Nickelodeon channel and thus having the ability to do so with ease. When a corporation behaves in such an insulting manner, I feel it’s difficult to support practically any announcement or project that they have going on.
It will take time – and most importantly, a significant amount of effort from ViacomCBS – to repair the breach of trust between the corporation and Trekkies. And while these announcements are exciting, I can’t bring myself to fully board the hype train, not until we have more information about how and when these shows are going to be made available.
Here are several key questions that ViacomCBS needs to address in pretty short order:
When will Paramount+ be available here in the UK?
Are there any plans to make Paramount+ available in Asia, Africa, and other regions?
If there are no plans to roll out Paramount+ in a particular country or territory, will these new Star Trek shows be available via some other broadcaster?
Will new episodes of Star Trek be available on Paramount+ outside of the United States, or will the international version of Paramount+ delay the broadcast of some or all of these episodes (as initially happened with Discovery Season 4 in Australia, Latin America, and Scandinavia)?
Can you offer fans a guarantee that Picard Season 2 and Lower Decks Season 3 will be broadcast on Amazon Prime Video this year?
Will Paramount+ be available internationally in time for Strange New Worlds Season 1?
If not, will Strange New Worlds be available on another broadcaster or platform outside of the United States?
I love Star Trek. Heck, I run a Star Trek fan website – and in my small way I offer ViacomCBS free publicity and advertising by talking and writing about the franchise in my free time. But I can’t blindly support a corporation that has continually taken decisions that harm Star Trek’s international fans, and until ViacomCBS is willing to answer some of the questions fans are rightly asking about the availability of upcoming productions, it’s going to remain difficult for any of us to fully get on board and be as excited as we want to be.
ViacomCBS needs to get a grip and put real effort into accelerating the international rollout of Paramount+. If Paramount+ isn’t going to be available in time, then the corporation needs to make plans to ensure international Trekkies can watch the likes of Strange New Worlds at the same time as fans in the United States. Star Trek is not an American entity, solely the preserve of American fans. ViacomCBS and its predecessors encouraged the creation of a global fanbase because they saw profit overseas – but that fanbase has been bruised by a slew of poor corporate decisions that have damaged the reputation of Star Trek and Paramount+, and which have unfortunately seen shows like Lower Decks underperform.
As Star Trek gears up for an exciting couple of years, the team in charge has a lot of work to do to rebuild trust between ViacomCBS and Trekkies. Star Trek’s long-term success depends on fixing the problems of the past couple of years and getting things right going forward. I’m interested to see how ViacomCBS will respond – and willing and able to hold their feet to the fire if they continue to get it wrong.
The Star Trek franchise – including all 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.
It’s been 24 hours since ViacomCBS clumsily dropped the news that Star Trek: Discovery Season 4 will be kept away from international audiences. The resultant PR disaster has caused significant harm to the corporation’s reputation, as well as that of its streaming service, Paramount+. Once my anger at the situation had simmered down, I became mired in thought. I had a whole series of articles planned here on the website about Discovery: episode reviews and theory posts twice a week, as well as keeping space open for other occasional discussion pieces about the series over the next three months. Should I put all of that on hold for now, even though Star Trek and writing are two of my biggest loves? Or should I power through despite knowing that, even in my small way on my minor slice of the internet, I’m promoting and drawing attention to a series and a company that I just don’t want to support right now?
I’m not one of the big Star Trek fan sites… obviously. I don’t have a huge audience who’d feel let down if my reviews weren’t around, or conversely who would feel the need to mute me or unsubscribe if I carried on posting about a series they aren’t able to watch. So the decision is mine alone, and I confess I’m struggling with it.
I feel absolutely morally justified in pirating Discovery. ViacomCBS has willingly chosen to remove the series from distribution here in the UK and around the world. They actively spent money to buy out Netflix’s share in the series so that Netflix wouldn’t be able to broadcast Discovery internationally. Just to reiterate that last point, because I think it’s an important one that’s gotten lost in the heated discussion: if ViacomCBS had done nothing, Discovery would have been broadcast internationally. This isn’t a case of failing to agree licenses in time or broadcast rights expiring, they actively and willingly chose to remove the series from broadcast, and they paid money out of their own pocket in order to ensure it wouldn’t be available to international fans.
Not only that, but in some countries where Paramount+ is available – such as Australia, for example – Discovery Season 4 is still not going to be available to stream. You read that right: Australian Trekkies who’ve already subscribed to Paramount+ and paid for it still won’t be able to watch Discovery Season 4, as will any other Trekkies outside of North America whether they have Paramount+ in their country or not. Why? Because ViacomCBS loves arbitrary bullshit, it seems.
So I feel all of us outside of North America have the moral high ground and the absolute right to pirate Discovery – and the rest of Star Trek too. When a corporation voluntarily chooses not to share their creation, piracy becomes the only way to access that content. When a film, game, or television series is available to purchase, stream, or rent, I think the vast majority of folks would agree that the moral thing to do is pay to enjoy it. But when that option is taken away, there is only one remaining option – and from a moral, ethical, and philosophical point of view I see no reason at all why international Trekkies shouldn’t pirate Discovery Season 4.
This is not the choice that I would have made. I’m a Netflix subscriber and an Amazon Prime subscriber. I first signed up for Netflix in 2017 specifically because Discovery was about to be available there; Netflix earned my subscription because of Star Trek. Over the past four-plus years I’ve paid my dues on both platforms where Star Trek is available, and if CBS All Access and/or Paramount+ had been made available here in the UK I’d have signed up for them in a heartbeat.
I’m a Star Trek fan. I want Paramount+ to succeed because I want Star Trek to succeed. I want as many people as possible, from casual viewers and total newbies to hardcore fans like myself to be able to watch Star Trek – and to pay to watch it. That’s the only way Star Trek will succeed in the medium-to-long term, and that’s the only way that the franchise’s future will be secure.
But this transactional approach is not a one-way street. It isn’t good enough for ViacomCBS to insist that fans pay to sign up to their mediocre second-tier streaming platform – and then make sure the vast majority of fans can’t because it isn’t available. It isn’t good enough to roll out Paramount+ to countries like Australia and then tell fans they still can’t watch a show that others can.
In 2021, this kind of gatekeeping is simply not acceptable. Segregating the Star Trek fanbase by geography, deeming some “worthy” of being able to watch the latest shows and others not, is not only unacceptable, it’s the complete antithesis of everything Star Trek as a franchise has always stood for. What happened to infinite diversity in infinite combinations? What happened to the dream of a better, more egalitarian world? What happened to United Earth – a place where national borders have no meaning? The answer is that it was all nonsense in the eyes of Star Trek’s corporate overlords, mere words that they don’t believe in yet were happy to sell to anyone stupid enough to pay. Star Trek is a corporate product – that’s the only way ViacomCBS sees it, bankrupt of any real-world meaning or creativity.
All that the corporation cares about is profit – yet they’re so blind, thinking purely about the short-term, that they can’t see how this pathetic, awful approach is going to cost them a hell of a lot more money than it will ever bring in.
Let’s be blunt. Paramount+ will never be Netflix. It will never be Disney+ or Amazon Prime Video either. The platform arrived on the scene ten years too late, plagued by technical issues, running some of its biggest shows in DVD quality, lacking new original content, seriously mismanaged, and with an international rollout that would make a snail riding a sloth look like Usain Bolt. Paramount+ might survive the streaming wars, but even if it does it will forever be a second-tier platform, the kind that people subscribe to for a few months out of the year to watch a show or two and then cancel.
From the moment CBS All Access was conceived in the mind of some ageing corporate moron it was fighting an uphill battle. Netflix was already dominant in the streaming realm, and it seems to me that some halfwit with little to no understanding of streaming or the internet looked at the money that Netflix was making, then looked at CBS’ modest library of television shows and said “make me my own Netflix.” The fact that CBS All Access had to be rebranded less than three years after it launched was already a bad sign.
Now called Paramount+ and supposedly bolstered a little by the re-merging of Viacom and CBS, the service continues to flop around like a dying fish. Paramount+ must be run by the most incompetent team of morons any corporation has ever assembled when you consider its track record. Lower Decks Season 1 didn’t get an international broadcast. Prodigy Season 1 didn’t either. All of the Star Trek films disappeared for several months because of licensing conflicts with another streaming platform. Prodigy’s broadcast schedule makes no sense. And now Discovery Season 4 is being pulled from Netflix – and ViacomCBS is willingly spending money in order to pull it from Netflix – months or perhaps even years before Paramount+ will be available internationally.
It’s so disappointing to see ViacomCBS mishandle and mangle their biggest franchise. How can Star Trek have a shot at success with this team of corporate fuckwits running it into the ground at every opportunity? If Paramount+ fails in the years ahead, and drags Star Trek down with it, it won’t be the fault of the writers, producers, and actors across the various shows. It’ll be entirely the fault of a corporate board who haven’t got a clue what they’re doing and who don’t understand the most basic realities of running an entertainment company in 2021.
We live in a connected, globalised world. ViacomCBS (and their corporate predecessors) pushed hard to create this world because it means more profit. More Star Trek fans equals more revenue equals more profit. But the global, interconnected fandom that ViacomCBS has created means that the internet – our primary communication tool – is going to be awash with spoilers. Even the most ardent Trek-avoider would be hard-pushed to steer clear of everything Star Trek-related online, especially if they have friends within the fandom.
YouTube channels, websites, and social media will be drowning in spoilers, making the dilemma that much more tricky for the Trekkie with a moral compass. If they decide to be patient and wait it out, despite ViacomCBS not actually providing anything close to a specific timeframe – “2022” could mean January or it could mean December, and I don’t believe for a moment that the hapless fuckwits will be able to deliver the rollout on time anyway – chances are sooner or later they’ll stumble upon a spoiler, or be served up spoilers on a plate by an algorithm. Some websites and social media outlets have pledged to tag any spoiler material, but even then it’s still highly likely that things will slip through the cracks.
Over the past 24 hours I’ve been continuously trying to think of ways to try to mitigate the situation, given that the Netflix decision is clearly final. One compromise could have been to simply delay Discovery Season 4 for everyone – including North American viewers. Waiting until next year would mean we could all watch the series together. But that won’t work.
The painfully slow rollout of Paramount+ is going country by country and region by region, with many parts of the world having received no information about if or when the platform will be available. In the UK at least we know that there’s a target: 2022. Many countries, such as Japan, don’t even have that. So this idea – while well-intentioned – would either delay the series indefinitely, and certainly well beyond the end of next year, or still end up shutting out a huge number of fans and viewers.
So that brings us to the Trekkie’s dilemma. The way I see it, if you’re outside of North America (which 95% of the planet’s population are, lest we forget), you have three options: wait patiently for ViacomCBS to decide that you’re allowed to watch Discovery, use a VPN to trick Paramount+ into thinking you’re in North America, or pirate the series.
The first option is what the corporate morons assume everyone will do. That isn’t true, of course, and the PR clusterfuck of the last 24 hours will seem like nothing when Discovery rockets to the top of the most-pirated shows list next week. I think we can expect to see some significant share price falls for ViacomCBS over the coming days and weeks – I certainly wouldn’t be investing in ViacomCBS stock if I were you.
The second option is the worst of the bunch. Not only are you having to jump through hoops to watch Discovery, but you’re paying ViacomCBS for the privilege. They’ve slapped you in the face, and in response you’ve pulled your wallet out and slipped them some cash while saying “do it harder next time, daddy.”
The third option is the one I daresay many Trekkies will avail themselves of. With a tiny amount of effort it’s possible to find any film or television show online, either to stream or to download, and in 2021 if ViacomCBS doesn’t know that then they’re even more out of their depth than I thought.
ViacomCBS is pushing people to take the third option: piracy.
I’m going to watch Discovery Season 4. Interpret that however you’d like. But I’m not going to cover the series extensively here on the website. Rather than individual episode reviews, what I’ll probably do is write up a full season review at the end as a single article. And Fridays, when my Discovery Season 4 reviews would’ve been published, can instead be dedicated to write-ups of older episodes of Star Trek – something I’ve been meaning to do more of here on the website for a while. I’ll pick thirteen Star Trek episodes from the franchise’s extensive back catalogue and write about those instead.
I don’t want to give ViacomCBS or Star Trek: Discovery any more attention at the moment. The corporation has chosen, for utterly inexplicable reasons, not to share the series with its most ardent supporters, so I refuse to do anything to support the show right now. I feel sorry for the actors, directors, and the rest of the creative team, because their incredible hard work under difficult circumstances during the pandemic is now soiled by this truly disgusting corporate mess. But I can’t in good conscience publish weekly reviews, theories, and other discussion pieces drawing attention to the series when I so fundamentally disagree with the way ViacomCBS has conducted itself.
I opened my wallet and offered ViacomCBS my hard-earned cash. I’ve paid for two streaming platforms in order to watch Star Trek. I’ve bought the merchandise. I provide the Star Trek franchise and Paramount+ free publicity here on the website simply by discussing the various shows. My website has an American audience, so I know for a fact many of the folks who read my reviews and theories are engaged with Paramount+. But this relationship has turned toxic, and even though I was offering ViacomCBS my cash, my time, my effort, my passion, and my attention, they chose to throw it back in my face. They told me to go fuck myself, so I’m returning the favour.
What should you do? I can’t answer that. Your conscience has to be your guide. Are you confident in your ability to avoid spoilers for the next few months? If you live in a region without a Paramount+ release window, are you okay with the idea of waiting perhaps two years or more to watch the show? I can’t officially condone or encourage piracy – it’s almost certainly breaking the rules wherever in the world you happen to be. But from a philosophical point of view, if you’re a Trekkie outside of North America I think you’re absolutely morally justified in pirating the heck out of Discovery – as well as every other Star Trek show and ViacomCBS production.
I would usually put a disclaimer here saying that the Star Trek franchise is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
In early March, CBS All Access is being relaunched under the new name Paramount+. As a Trekkie, I’m invested in the future of Star Trek, and it’s my hope that Paramount+ will be a successful, stable home for the franchise in the 2020s and beyond. The rebranding of CBS All Access is in many ways a positive thing, especially as ViacomCBS will be taking Paramount+ international, beginning with launches in Australia and the Scandinavian countries.
At the same time, though, I can’t help but feel that, if CBS All Access had proved to be the runaway success ViacomCBS was hoping for, the rebranding would be unnecessary. ViacomCBS has never been totally up-front about subscriber numbers, viewership, or revenue, so it’s hard to tell how big of a success CBS All Access has really been. But we’re drifting off-topic.
The rebranding has led to an ad campaign in the run-up to next month’s launch of Paramount+, and I have to admit that I’m surprised at how fun the commercials have been.
As someone who doesn’t watch broadcast television any more, I don’t actually see a lot of ads. But because I follow Star Trek and Paramount+ on social media I’ve seen most of the adverts made for the new service, including one which was broadcast during the Super Bowl – the single biggest and most valuable day of the year in terms of television advertising in the United States. The fact that ViacomCBS paid millions of dollars for a Super Bowl commercial shows how seriously they’re taking the launch of Paramount+.
Star Trek has been front and centre of this ad campaign, with the stars of Discovery, Picard, and the upcoming Strange New Worlds all being featured prominently. There was also a separate Star Trek Universe ad that showed off the franchise. These ads have been clever and funny, and above all they’re memorable. After being shown prominently during the Super Bowl, and being discussed online, I don’t think there can be many folks in the United States who are unaware of the impending arrival of Paramount+ – and hopefully that has already begun to translate into pre-orders and subscribers to the service.
Sonequa Martin-Green reprised her role as Michael Burnham – albeit in the “old” Discovery uniform – for the ads, and Anson Mount returned as Captain Pike too. We also saw Ethan Peck’s Spock, and of course Sir Patrick Stewart was heavily featured and narrated the commercials. The message was clear: Star Trek is back, and the best place to see it is on Paramount+.
A couple of years ago Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of SpongeBob SquarePants, passed away. There was a campaign online to have the song Sweet Victory from the cartoon incorporated into the Super Bowl halftime show, but fans were left disappointed when it was only given the barest of mentions. The Paramount+ Super Bowl ad featured the song – as SpongeBob SquarePants is a Nickelodeon show, and Nickelodeon is a ViacomCBS company. This alone has brought a huge amount of online attention to Paramount+ from fans who felt the 2019 Super Bowl didn’t go far enough, and whoever it was in ViacomCBS’ marketing department that came up with the idea deserves a raise!
There are still arguably too many streaming platforms, especially in the United States. And over the next few years we’ll see which survive and which end up either closing down or amalgamating in order to remain competitive. Paramount+ is not quite at the same level as Netflix or Disney+ – but ViacomCBS have a huge advantage over the likes of Apple TV+ in the sense that they can draw on a huge library of content that they already have. They’re not starting from scratch with original content nor having to pay expensive licensing rights to other people’s films and shows. In my opinion (as someone watching from the outside) that does give the service a boost.
As SpongeBob SquarePants showed during the Super Bowl, building up goodwill and using nostalgia to hook in fans – especially younger ones – is a step in the right direction as Paramount+ gets ready for its debut. I never used CBS All Access as someone who doesn’t live in the United States, but one of the criticisms levelled against it was that it didn’t have a lot going on. Besides Star Trek – which was the flagship franchise, especially when it launched – a lot of folks felt that CBS All Access was rather barebones, and I know of a lot of people who would subscribe during the run of a show they wanted to see – like Star Trek: Discovery – and promptly unsubscribe when the season was over. Hopefully Paramount+ will have enough new and legacy content to prevent that from happening.
Paramount+ is also promising live sport – something relatively uncommon in the streaming world. Here in the UK, Amazon Prime Video have paid for the rights to some Premier League football (soccer) matches, but as far as I’m aware there aren’t many other platforms that do so regularly. If sport becomes a big part of Paramount+, that will certainly be another way to attract subscribers.
So the ad campaign has been fun, and it was especially cool to see Star Trek at the Super Bowl! I doubt that’s happened before! I’m rooting for the success of Paramount+, and I hope it will be a successful home for Star Trek – and its promised “mountain” of other content – going forward. Please bring it to the UK soon – I know of at least one person who’ll subscribe!
Paramount+ will launch in the United States on the 4th of March 2021. Launches in other countries and territories are already planned for early- and mid-2021. The service will be the new digital home of Star Trek. Paramount+, the Paramount logo, and all titles mentioned above are the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
We’ve known for a few months that CBS All Access is planning a major rebranding as Paramount+ this year, and more details have just emerged. The new service will launch – or should that be re-launch – in March, and will be the new digital home of Star Trek in the United States. Paramount+ is also going international, with launches planned for Latin America, Canada, Australia, and Scandinavian countries all before the summer of 2021.
Paramount+ was made possible by the coming together of the two halves of ViacomCBS in 2019, and in addition to content from American network CBS, the streaming platform will offer shows and films from Nickelodeon (where Star Trek: Prodigy will make its debut soon), MTV, Comedy Central, Paramount Network, and most significantly, films released under the Paramount Pictures brand.
Licensing rights are complicated, though, and with many shows and films contracted to Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, etc. it seems likely that Paramount+ won’t have everything in its library immediately available in every country and territory. Star Trek: Discovery, for example, looks set to remain on Netflix outside of the United States – even in countries where Paramount+ will operate – at least in the short-to-medium term.
There was no mention of a UK launch for this new service, which from a personal point of view is a bit of a double-edged sword! On the one hand I’m disappointed that we aren’t being prioritised by ViacomCBS for this new service, but on the other hand I’m already subscribed to Netflix and Amazon Prime Video for my Star Trek shows (as well as Disney+) and I don’t exactly relish adding a new streaming platform to my monthly bills!
And that encapsulates the challenge facing Paramount+. Since CBS All Access launched in the United States in 2017, most people I’ve spoken to or heard from either aren’t subscribed at all or only subscribe for a few weeks to see whichever show they’re interested in, then cancel their subscription when the season ends. Netflix offers a huge library of content such that many people are content to have a year-round subscription – will that be true of Paramount+?
The name Paramount carries a certain gravitas, far more so internationally than CBS, which as an American network is not particularly well-known overseas. The addition of shows from the likes of Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, MTV, etc. as well as Paramount’s extensive back catalogue of films does make it seem like an appealing package – but is that good enough?
There are a lot of streaming platforms competing for attention in the current market, so much so that we’re in an era dubbed the “streaming wars.” People who cut the cord and stopped paying for cable or satellite television did so to save money first and foremost, as well as to watch what they wanted on their own schedule. Expecting viewers to pick up half a dozen or more subscriptions pushes them back into cable television-scale costs, and for many it just won’t be worth it to pick up a second-tier service like Paramount+, especially if they already have Netflix or one of the bigger services.
However, ViacomCBS is clearly going all-in with Paramount+, and a wider international rollout looks likely, as well as taking back shows and films that are currently available elsewhere. As Paramount+ grows its library of content, both with new shows and films and by returning its older content to the platform when contracts and licenses lapse, it has the potential to be a pretty big and interesting service – certainly bigger than the likes of Apple TV+, which has to rely entirely on brand-new programming due to having no back catalogue.
Decades worth of films and television shows broadcast across multiple channels could be Paramount+’s ace in the hole. There’s a trend for nostalgia and returning to classics of the past – which is a big part of why Star Trek is back in the 2020s – so with that in mind, many people will be at least a little interested to see what else Paramount+ has to offer.
Paramount+ will need a well-designed user interface and a decent marketing push, but I feel the name, branding, and greater library of content are all appealing and will bring in an audience. It can take time for a streaming service to both establish itself and become profitable, so as long as ViacomCBS is willing to make the investment and give it time to pay off, hopefully the platform will at the very least become stable as time goes by.
The rebranding is a risk in a way, and its international rollout may mean in the longer term that some Trekkies who had access to Star Trek elsewhere may lose that access as rights and licenses change. But anyone who wants to watch the various upcoming Star Trek productions will know that Paramount+ is the place to do so, and I guess that’s a good thing.
If Paramount+ were coming to the UK I would sign up, and although it will be an expense it’s one I’m happy to absorb if it means more Star Trek! The business people who own and operate the Star Trek brand decided years ago that pushing their own streaming service was the way to go, and while we can debate the merits of that versus the option of just producing shows and selling them to the likes of Netflix, it has resulted in the broadest and most varied lineup of Star Trek productions ever – something I do appreciate.
So I wish Paramount+ well. Hopefully it will be the home to Star Trek productions new and old for a long time to come, and the catalyst for continuing to expand the final frontier into new live-action shows, animated series, miniseries, and feature films. Please bring Paramount+ to the UK soon… and while you’re at it, this is a great excuse to finally remaster Deep Space Nine and Voyager – doing so would surely bring in viewers who loved those shows during their original runs.
Paramount+ will launch in the United States on the 4th of March 2021. Launches in other countries and territories are already planned for early- and mid-2021. The service will be the new digital home of Star Trek. Paramount+, the Paramount logo, and all titles mentioned above are the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.