Strange New Worlds: I just can’t get excited…

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Seasons 1-2, Star Trek: Discovery Season 2, and for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.

I’ve had a hard time lately knowing what to say about Strange New Worlds. When the series was officially announced just under two years ago, I had high hopes and it rocketed to the top of the list of TV shows that I was most excited to see. Even as 2022 approached, this was the mindset that I had. After the phenomenal portrayals of Captain Pike, Spock, and Number One in Discovery Season 2, I was among the fans who wrote to Paramount Global (then known as ViacomCBS) about getting a Captain Pike spin-off series, and Strange New Worlds’ very existence is the result of a powerful fan campaign that brought together Trekkies from all across the world. I’ve been proud of the small role I played in that.

But as the show’s premiere approaches, Paramount Global has completely screwed up. It became apparent late last year, when Prodigy Season 1 and then Discovery Season 4 were denied international broadcasts, that Strange New Worlds would follow suit, and I said as much back in November when the Discovery debacle was unfolding. And now, with barely five weeks to go before Strange New Worlds makes its debut in the United States, there’s been radio silence from Paramount Global about an international broadcast.

It’s time to talk about Paramount Global again.

Let’s get one thing straight right now: this lack of information and refusal to engage with fans and audiences isn’t merely something that might hurt Strange New Worlds’ chances in the future. Paramount Global’s blinkered “America First” policy is hurting the show right now. For every fan whose question is left unanswered, anxiety and apathy about the series grow. Instead of Trekkies and viewers all around the world being able to chatter excitedly on social media and in fan clubs, the discussion is suppressed. Everyone remembers the Discovery Season 4 clusterfuck and how damaging that was to both Star Trek as a brand and the Star Trek fan community – and people are being cautious, talking less about Strange New Worlds for fear of stoking arguments.

Because we live in a globalised world, it’s no longer possible for big entertainment companies or streaming platforms to region-lock their content. Doing so is incredibly stupid, harming the prospects of a series and practically guaranteeing it won’t live up to its potential. How many more viewers might Lower Decks have picked up if it had been broadcast internationally in its first season? We will never know – the chance to get untold numbers of new eyes on the Star Trek franchise for the first time in years was wasted.

A representation of how we’re all connected in a globalised world.

When a show is cut off and its audience segregated geographically – as seems all but certain to happen with Strange New Worlds – that has a knock-on impact that the out-of-touch and out-of-date leaders at Paramount Global seem totally unaware of. With the Star Trek fanbase being large and international, millions of people will miss out on Strange New Worlds – and as a result, they won’t talk about the series on social media. Hashtags won’t trend, posts about the series will reach far fewer people, and even within the United States, Strange New Worlds will suffer as its social media hype bubble deflates – or never inflates to begin win.

This is the real harm of this stupid, blinkered “America First” approach. By refusing to engage with fans, we’re left to assume that the reason for that is because the news is bad. As a result, millions of Trekkies aren’t talking about Strange New Worlds, just as they didn’t talk about Lower Decks or Prodigy. In the absolutely critical few weeks before the series premieres, when hype should be growing and excitement reaching fever-pitch… it just isn’t.

Paramount Global is refusing to engage with fans from outside of the United States.

Why should we, as Trekkies outside of the United States, bother to engage with Paramount Global on Strange New Worlds – or on any other Star Trek property, come to that? If we’re constantly treated as second-class, even in regions where Paramount+ is available, what’s the point in continuing to support the series or the franchise? I’m left in the position of actively willing Strange New Worlds to underperform at the very least. Maybe then, Paramount Global would begin to understand.

I’m all for supporting actors, writers, directors, and other creative folks. But they’ve already been paid for the work they did on Strange New Worlds, and moreover a second season has already been confirmed and entered production. So to the folks who say that they’ll pay to use a VPN to subscribe to the American version of Paramount+, or who plan to wait diligently for the service to be rolled out internationally, I have to ask: how are fans supposed to protest? How are we supposed to share our anger and frustration with Star Trek’s corporate overlords if not by voting with our feet and our wallets?

Season 2 is already underway.

This article began life as a breakdown of the Strange New Worlds trailer that was released a couple of weeks ago. But as I started writing, I soon realised that I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t sit here and happily ignore the corporate bullshit and the incredibly poor way that Paramount Global has treated its biggest fans and biggest supporters. I couldn’t just pay lip service to the problems with a line or a paragraph and then get chatting about Pike’s beard or the Enterprise at warp. I’ve lost my excitement for this series.

A few weeks ago I managed to get a print of the Strange New Worlds poster. It’s framed alongside my Picard Season 2 poster, and it overlooks my workspace where I sit to write these columns and articles. But even that was stupidly difficult, because Paramount Global didn’t make the poster available for purchase in the UK. I had to get a custom print of it ordered from a print shop. Just another way that Paramount Global is content to damage its own marketing, cutting off its biggest fans because of where we happen to live.

The poster in landscape form with the addition of the show’s logo.

Considering the position we’re currently in, the scheduling of Discovery Season 4, Picard Season 2, and even Prodigy feels incredibly weird and inept; another example of Paramount Global fucking things up. Why did Discovery Season 4 and Picard Season 2 overlap by three weeks? And why is Strange New Worlds scheduled to overlap with Picard as well? Delaying both projects by literally just a few weeks might’ve given Paramount+ more time to get ready for an international launch. We’ve been promised the service by the end of June and Strange New Worlds premieres in early May… if Paramount+ is still on schedule, can’t Strange New Worlds be delayed by five or six weeks so that more fans can watch it together? Where would be the harm in that from Paramount Global’s perspective?

On top of all that, as Season 1’s marketing campaign was just getting started we had a really stupidly-timed Season 2 announcement: the casting of a new actor to play James T. Kirk. I didn’t like the fan reaction in some quarters, with a lot of folks being incredibly critical and some of that criticism spilling over into hurtful remarks directed toward the actor – my firm belief is that we need to give Paul Wesley a chance to show us what he can do, and we need to be patient to learn more about the storyline (or storylines) that Kirk may be involved with. But I have to admit, I understand where the backlash came from… and it’s yet another indication of how poorly Paramount Global has handled this new series.

I was disappointed that some Trekkies attacked actor Paul Wesley… but this premature announcement was a stupid own-goal from Paramount Global.

There was no need to announce Kirk’s role this early. There had been a single leaked on-set photo showing actor Paul Wesley as an unnamed character, and there was no reason whatsoever for Paramount Global to comment on it. They could have said something like “that’s a secret for now, but stay tuned for Season 1!” and left it at that. Some fans would’ve speculated, some had already guessed that the character was James T. Kirk before the official announcement was made. But confirming it just made things worse, and turned an already depressed and underwhelming conversation around the new series positively toxic for a few days.

One way or another, I’m going to watch Strange New Worlds – and you can interpret that however you’d like! But what I won’t do is talk about the series here on the website or on social media. If Paramount Global doesn’t make it available here, why should people like me comment on the series or give it publicity? In my own small way, I plan to have a communications blackout – shutting down a portion of the conversation around the series and directing attention away from Paramount Global. I’d love to see others get on board and do the same thing – a full-fledged blackout would be symbolic of the fanbase coming together to tell a greedy American corporation that its behaviour is not acceptable. If you’ve ever watched Star Trek, that shouldn’t feel out of place at all!

A Strange New Worlds blackout would be unfortunate, but I would argue it’s necessary.

But it’s unlikely to happen, sadly. A lot of fan websites and social media groups work hand-in-glove with Paramount Global and wouldn’t want to risk losing their access or their freebies that the corporation provides them. So we’re in a difficult, unpleasant situation once again, with echoes of the Discovery Season 4 mess all over again. And I don’t know how to navigate it, I really don’t. I feel like I want to stick to my principles and do whatever I can, in whatever small way, to stick the boot into Paramount Global. I also feel that someone needs to make a stand on behalf of fans around the world who can’t access the series because we’ve been so callously cut off.

But I can also understand the argument that we should be supporting a series that was originally brought about thanks to a fan campaign – a campaign I participated in. And, of course, I’m aware that I’m such a small outlet that on my own I can’t make much difference.

Fans have been waiting for the next chapter of Captain Pike’s story for almost three years.

Maybe Paramount Global will surprise me with Paramount+ in time for the show’s premiere. Or maybe they’ll do the right thing and delay it if Paramount+ won’t be ready… but I’m not holding my breath. Right now it feels like we’re on course for a repeat of the Discovery mess, and the only thing I can do in this situation is refuse to cover the series at all. That isn’t the stance I wanted to take. I wanted to be spending this time talking with you about the minute details that I noticed in the trailer, or speculating about what role Kirk might play. But I can’t. And if Strange New Worlds doesn’t get broadcast here or in other parts of the world in a few weeks’ time, don’t expect to see any reviews, theories, or discussion here on the website.

I’m tired, and I feel like I can’t keep doing this. Star Trek is supposed to be fun; an escape from the realities of life. As someone who’s disabled and has mental health struggles, I need the positivity and fun that a show like Star Trek can bring. I’m not cut out for this kind of constant negativity, shouting and screaming at Paramount Global to get its fucking act together. It’s depressing and disappointing that we’re here again.

This is where I’d usually tell you where to watch Star Trek: Strange New Worlds and tell you that it’s the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

One step forward, two steps back

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.

We need to support Trek Central and other fans who have had their accounts attacked by ViacomCBS. If you’re on Twitter, the hashtag #FreeTrekCentral is the place to be.

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.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could see the Strange New Worlds trailer?

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.

The real Paramount+ slogan, apparently.

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.

Paramount+ will struggle under current management.

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.

Photo of the ViacomCBS board.

I noted this with disappointment in 2020 when Lower Decks was 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.

Prodigy remains unavailable to most fans around the world.

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.

Strange New Worlds will premiere in May… if you’re lucky.

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.