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CBS Didn’t Think ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Would Succeed on TV

Star Trek Discovery CBS All Access Explanation

Even before pushing back its premiere and losing Bryan Fuller as showrunner, Star Trek: Discovery had a world of work to justify fans signing up for CBS All-Access to watch. CBS naturally sees the new Trek as a flagship attraction, but it seems bosses didn’t think Star Trek: Discovery would have survived broadcast demands anyway.

The new series will still premiere on CBS itself in May, before moving weekly premieres onto CBS All-Access, though it remains an open question if fans are willing to make the investment. CBS Interactive CEO Jim Lanzone told Recode Media that even if the CBS All-Access platform has only moderate success, it still eclipses their expectations for Discovery having succeeded on CBS proper:

Sci-fi is not something that has traditionally done really well on broadcast. It’s not impossible, for the future, if somebody figures it out. And things like LOST and Heroes have had parts of sci-fi, but historically, a show like Star Trek wouldn’t necessarily be a broadcast show, at this point. So, you kind-of look at the other networks we might have, The CW and Showtime, it just fit the digital audience. And it’s something unique for All-Access that would bring subscribers.

That said, a digital space does allow for some redefinition of broadcast standards, so get ready for hardcore alien nudity!

“The showrunners were like ‘Oh yeah, we could do that,’” Lanzone recalled. “Of course, the response is, ‘As long as it serves the story.’ But yeah!”

“Naked aliens, and humans?” Kafka asked.


“And swearing?”

“Whatever future swearing, 300 years in the future, would be.”

Shooting in Toronto, the new 13-episode Star Trek: Discovery is officially said to take place 10 years before Kirk’s original Enterprise mission, as well to be “heavily serialized,” akin to a novel, more-so than episodic. The new series will also feature a non-captain female lead, with a Klingon captain and a British doctor, and explore the fallout of an event referenced, but never seen in the original series.

Wrath of Khan director Nicholas Meyer has also joined alongside Gene Roddenberry’s son Rod, fan-favorite Voyager novel alum Kirsten Beyer, franchise vet Joe Menosky and Heroes writer Aron Coleite. So reads the initial synopsis for the series, which debuts on CBS in May 2017 before moving to All-Access:

The brand-new “Star Trek” will introduce new characters seeking imaginative new worlds and new civilizations, while exploring the dramatic contemporary themes that have been a signature of the franchise since its inception in 1966.

Additional details will hopefully emerge within the next few weeks, but what do we make of CBS’ approach to Star Trek: Discovery so far?

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