The guessing game about the new Star Trek series has started… at least there seems to be a lot of speculation happening around the merits of airing the new series on pay-to-view television. A handful of sites have let us know that a number of fans are apparently disappointed that only one episode (the pilot) will appear on free-to-air before the series becomes a pay-to-watch fixture on CBS All Access.
To balance the argument, a few sites are also telling us that a number of fans seem happy to see Star Trek transition from the old to the new, and take that next step to video on demand – which many industry experts have been saying is the future of television for a long time.
I guess they’re saying it’s 50/50?
As an Australian, Star Trek has been inconveniently free for me. By that, I mean episodes of the original series have haphazardly popped up now and again in reruns (and have done so since I was a child), but no Star Trek series has ever enjoyed a consistent run on Australian television screens. They usually end up in an 11pm time slot which doesn’t work for a lot of fans.
When Next Gen and DS9 aired in the late 80s and 90s I was at school and then university, and couldn’t sit up that late without risking my education – and of course, after uni, I was working and if I wanted to keep my job I had to be rested for work. Hitting the sack at midnight to get up at 5am wasn’t a good idea.
Because of that, my mates and I made an event out of Star Trek. We even convinced our girlfriends to get in on the act, converting them to Trekkers once they understood what the show was about and discovered they actually enjoyed it. We would rent the videos and then later the DVDs, and make a night of it with barbecues, group dinners, actual Trek themed parties and even drinking games (“Worf said honour again!” “Spock said it’s logical!” “Janeway’s hair fell out of her bun!”).
So, we were always paying to see Star Trek. After certain episodes, we were paying in more ways than one!
The same happened for Voyager and Enterprise when they were released, though Enterprise did stay on television at a decent time slot for a little longer than most of the other incarnations of Star Trek.
So, I’m not bothered by the pay to view twist that the new series has taken. And really, the rest of the world probably isn’t either.
When you think about the decision CBS has made, it makes sense. To avoid ads or to simply watch something decent, most of us are paying to view television these days. The popularity of paying to see what we want to watch has been growing for years, and let’s be realistic, commercial networks rarely support the genre shows we love. Great shows will air for a season, and then disappear because they didn’t get high enough ratings – usually because we’re recording them to watch later, or downloading them illegally (PLEASE stop downloading science fiction shows illegally, it’s killing them – and it’s ILLEGAL), or because we’re watching an entire season over the course of a weekend because that suits our hectic schedules.
CBS has made a sensible decision that fits with modern viewing patterns.
I guess change is rarely comfortable, so I can understand some people being a little miffed about what CBS is doing – and I also understand the fact CBS don’t actually have a lot of science fiction content, so many people will be wondering exactly what it is they’re paying for, but the thing that surprises me the most is that THIS is what we’re all focusing on, and which timeline the series will play in. There are so many other things to contemplate about this new series.
Personally, I do want to know which timeline the new Trek will be set in, but I also want to know about the new ship and whether or not it will be named Enterprise, and I really want to know about the new characters.
Will we have an alien or human captain?
Will the captain be male or female?
Will any of my favourite races feature in the crew?
Will we see a brand new bad guy threatening the Federation, or are we going to recycle the Klingons, Romulans or another familiar enemy?
What modern issues will the show comment on?
I can’t wait to start getting dribs and drabs of information. I hope the official Star Trek website and CBS take us on a journey and show us the new ship as it goes from concept to completed design (obviously keeping that completed design a secret until close to the air date), and show us some of the character ideas the writers are throwing around.
For example, most of us know that the Enterprise that appeared in Star Trek: The Motion Picture (which was originally the Enterprise for Star Trek: Phase II) started out looking very different to the finished design, as did the Voyager. Making us a part of the journey as the design evolves will help guarantee the success of series six. We’re fans. We love to comment, and we really love being involved. J.M. Straczynski proved that as he developed Babylon 5.
We also know that characters evolve from their original concept to final casting. Jean-Luc Picard was not the original creative decision for the captain of the Enterprise D, and neither was Kathryn Janeway the original creative decision for the captain of the Voyager. Paris started out as a different character, Tasha Yar was Hispanic, Kira was originally Ro Laren, and Worf wasn’t even meant to be part of the original cast of TNG. He was kind of a featured extra – what is also known as a ‘bit player’.
Sharing the process with us would be a wonderful reward for our patience as fans. It’s been 10 years since Star Trek was on television and we have waited and waited and waited. We deserve a little love and attention.
Hopefully we’ll see some of this speculation soon.
But back to what we do know right now – which is that there is speculation around which universe, and comment on free-to-air vs pay-to-view.
If you want to have a look at those discussions, here are a handful of links you can explore. Thankfully, one of them has some speculation on more than just VoD and which era of Trek the new series will be set in.
TrekCore (VoD feature – why CBS went there);
TrekNews (Les Moonves on VoD);
TrekNews (George Takei on VoD);
TrekMovie (more VoD stuff), and;
TrekMovie (one of the few commentaries on the universe and characters, as well as VoD via Podcast).
As more news on the new Trek series comes to light, I’ll post it here. For now, enjoy the above sites and throw any speculation you have in the comments below.