Star Trek: Discovery is the first live action Star Trek series since Enterprise, and CBS is very aware that they’re getting ready to put the crown jewels on parade once more. Somehow, we think CBS has finally figured out that putting out alarmingly bad preview pics of canon characters and going after fan films in court (you can’t ask for better free advertising than fan films) was starting to put a serious hurt on their public relations.
When they put out their trailer on YouTube, many more fans saw the trailer than voted on it than did people who saw the trailer for the Trek parody The Orville, so engagement for The Orville was several hundred percent better. Even worse, for Discovery, only two of three fans who voted liked it, as contrasted to the parody Orville, where six of seven fans who voted liked it.
And this is Star Trek we’re talking about. The preeminent American sci-fi series with a hard core fan base should be able to attract better than two votes in three. We have no direct evidence of it, and this is pure speculation on our part, but this may have been the point at which CBS realized they had a serious problem.
So now they’re trying to pivot in place and fix it.
We know they’re trying a pivot, because they’ve just announced that they have hired a few Star Trek fact-checkers to camp out in the writer’s room. In a recent interview with CNET, producer Alex Kurtzman said they plan to revisit themes and ideas from The Original Series, while also filling a writers’ room with hardcore fans.
“If you are a fan of Trek you are going to see a lot of things which hearken back to the original series and elements of the original series…I’m not just talking plot, but the spirit of what that show was. We are going to be revisiting a couple of things on Star Trek: Discovery that I think people are going to find familiar. Without spoiling anything we are adhering to a timeline and sticking to the rules, but also I think finding some new areas and avenues that have only been alluded to, but never fully explored.
You’ve got a roomful of people with very different and very devoted relationships to Star Trek in that writers room. And that carries on a pretty proud tradition of Trek being written by fans. You have to respect canon as it’s being written. You can’t say, ‘That never happened.’ No, no no, you can’t do that, they would kill you. Star Trek fans would kill you. No, you have to respect canon. You have to understand the timelines and what the different timelines were and what the different universes were and how they all worked together. You have to keep very meticulous track of who, what, where, when and why. And we have people in the writer’s room whose sole job is to say, ‘Nope, can’t do that!’”
They’re making the right noises, and apparently taking the right actions. This represents a pretty major attitude shift on the part of CBS, whom one would think would have learned from watching the PR disaster Paramount inflicted upon themselves playing whack-a-mole with Star Trek fan web sites in the late 90’s.
Star Trek: Discovery premieres September 24 on CBS, and after that the series will be viewable by American fans as an exclusive behind the the network’s CBS All Access streaming service paywall. Star Trek fans everywhere else in the world will be able to see it for no additional cost as part of their Netflix service.