‘Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’ Belongs on Network Television
The first two episodes of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds are about to air on CBS. Here’s an idea: keep it going.
Some people love the streaming era of Star Trek, some don’t. But one thing most people agree on boils down to one question: why isn’t Star Trek on TV?
In 2017 when Paramount Plus (then-named CBS All Access) first launched, the number one reason to subscribe to the brand-new streaming service was Star Trek: Discovery. Yes, there was other programming, but the biggest selling point was that Star Trek was coming back but only to the new streamer.
However, the backlash at the time was intense. “Why isn’t Star Trek on TV?” More than anything else, that question permeated the discourse. The answer is not complex. Paramount Plus needs subscribers. Early adopters tend to be nerds. Nerds watch Star Trek. Hence, Star Trek is the carrot to get early adopters to try a new streaming platform.
Frustrating? Sure. But not unsensible. However, five years later (and with multiple spin-offs), the Star Trek landscape is different, the streaming landscape is different, and network television is different, too. Now more than ever, it’s time to re-examine the question: why isn’t Star Trek on TV?
Star Trek Day 2023
September 8th is the anniversary of Star Trek‘s premiere. Every year now, there’s a “Star Trek Day” to celebrate. Usually, this means actors and writers come out to talk about the history of the show and where it’s going next. This year is different because the ongoing WGA and SAG strikes mean most actors and writers will not be in attendance. And while voice actors are exempt from allowing Jack Ransom voice actor Jerry O’Connell to host, there’s not a lot going on this year.
However, there is one interesting development. On Star Trek Day, the first two episodes of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds will air on CBS. This marks the first time the show will air on network television and the first time streaming-era Star Trek has aired on CBS since Star Trek: Discovery first debuted back in 2017.
Considering that there’s no end to the strikes in sight, there’s a real possibility that, after Star Trek: Discovery season 5 airs on Paramount Plus, there won’t be any more new Star Trek period for a while. And that has us thinking: isn’t it time to just start airing some of these Star Trek shows on CBS?
It’s not just that there’s no new Star Trek filming. There’s no new anything filming in the USA. So what is there to lose in introducing the streaming Star Trek shows to a non-streaming audience?
Here’s why it’s a good idea, especially for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.
The Case For Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Airing on CBS
To date, there are three live-action Star Trek series from the streaming era. Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Picard both tell specifically serialized stories. Each episode is effectively one chapter more so than its own, individual narrative. And that, more than anything, is the thing that makes them a better fit for streaming than for standard, weekly broadcast television. Miss one episode, you might not know what’s going on and stop watching.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, despite being a direct spin-off of Discovery, is much more episodic in nature. While it does have ongoing story elements that carry forward, each episode operates more as a separate story. Ipso facto, you miss one episode as it airs on CBS, you can still pick up with the next episode the following week.
Basically, there’s a no-pressure incentive to jump onto SNW at any point. This makes it a lot like Star Trek: The Next Generation back in the day. And a big part of TNG‘s success came from how almost every episode stood on its own. The reset button made nearly every week a jumping on point. Star Trek: Strange New Worlds comes very close to being that easy to watch.
And there’s one more compelling reason for SNW to be on network: history.
Syndication Saved Star Trek
The original run of Star Trek was not very long: 1966-1969. And while the OG die-hards exist, the way most people found Star Trek is thanks not to its original run, but to reruns. Yes, Lucille Ball, in her infinite wisdom, basically invented the rerun with I Love Lucy. And since Star Trek was also a Desilu production, one of the first things to happen to the show post 1969, was syndication. Star Trek was basically everywhere.
The rest is history. The very existence of the Star Trek movies, and every subsequent spin-off is thanks to reruns. Nearly 60 years of Star Trek exists because someone thought “let’s re-broadcast these puppies.
There are likely a lot of people out there who have not seen Star Trek: Strange New Worlds yet. Put it on CBS weekly for its first 10-episode season at least and you give those people instant appointment television. Make fans happy. Sell some ads. Bob’s your uncle.
In 2017, it made sense to keep new Star Trek solely streaming. It doesn’t anymore. It’s time. Let that Federation flagship fly by bringing Star Trek: Strange New Worlds to CBS.