Star Trek Discovery and the Future of Streaming

Sunday night, like many Star Trek fans sat down to watch the premiere of Star Trek: Discovery.

This is the first new Star Trek series since Enterprise was cancelled back in 2005. 12 years us Trekkies sat with no new Trek on TV. We got some action movies in Star Trek, Into Darkness & Beyond, but nothing like The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine or Voyager.

I knew once Enterprise was cancelled that the chances of a new series coming out anytime in the near future was just about slim to none. When I heard that they were rebooting Star Trek I was hopeful that a successful movie might allow for a new series. No such luck. It wasn’t that big of a deal for me anyway as I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of the new movies. They’re not bad movies, but none of them really speak to me the same way the TV series did or how any of the previous movies spoke to me. The thing that really drew, and still does draw me to Star Trek is the hopeful vision of the future. The new movies focus more on the action aspect of things. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the action; it’s just not what really draws me to it.

Fast forward to this past weekend with the premiere of Discovery. I watched the first episode and left with a feeling of…well, indifference. I didn’t hate it by any means. The special effects were fantastic. The story wasn’t bad, but I’m not sure how much of it I really got in just one episode. As it stands, I wasn’t truly drawn in. Star Trek TV series often have this problem though. The first seasons of The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager were definitely each series’ weakest seasons. I also don’t think you can really judge any television series based on a single episode, especially the pilot.

This leads me to my dilemma. Star Trek: Discovery is only available on CBS All-Access. CBS All-Access costs $6 or $10 a month depending on if you’re willing to tolerate ads. Unlike the other shows on CBS, Discovery will not be broadcast past the first episode.

On one hand, I want to support Star Trek and the development of future seasons and series. The special effects for Discovery were impressive. They definitely felt better than previous series which can probably be attributed to both newer technology as well as a bigger budget. I want to support this and the development of more Trek on TV and a subscription should hopefully allow for it.

But on the other hand, I absolutely hate what CBS is pulling and don’t want to support it. I can’t think of any franchise that has the same pull that Star Trek does on both television and the movies. CBS knows this and is taking full advantage. How many other new shows do you think CBS (or any network) could put behind a paywall and expect the numbers of subscribers to be there? This irritates me to no end and I definitely feel taken advantage of. I figure Discovery will probably face increased piracy because of this. I won’t go that far, but I also haven’t ruled out waiting until next summer when all 15 episodes are out, getting the one week free trial, binging all the episodes and then cancelling my subscription. I also feel like CBS is basically torpedoing the series by making us Star Trek fans consider going down this route.

I also can’t help but wonder if this is the future of TV and streaming. All the different stations offering their own streaming service. We’ve already seen the beginning of it with Netflix, Hulu and Amazon getting exclusives. We’ve seen a first hint with Disney planning their own streaming service in the next couple of years. Imagine having to pay $5-10 each for every channel you want to stream. I’m sure this is part of their plans to try to make those planning to cut the cord think twice about it. But imagine if ABC, NBC, Comedy Central, and others each made you buy into their own services in addition to cable and broadcast like CBS is doing. (Now they can get double the payments!) The costs are going to add up fast. Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon at least add more value due to their diverse and large selection of TV series and movies. CBS doesn’t even provide full access to their back catalogue.

I still haven’t decided what I’m going to do about Discovery and CBS All-Access. I might very well just suck it up and buy the subscription to watch the series, or I might just wait until the end and binge watch it. Either way, I’m not sure I like where the future of streaming is heading.