Star Trek: Discovery - Principle or Interest?

The latest series in the Star Trek franchise finally has it’s release date, September 24th, 2017. As a long-time Trek fan, I’m definitely interested in the new series. The casting looks good, the props, sets, and uniforms we’ve seen in the trailers also look good. I will say, though, the design of the Discovery we’ve seen so far is kinda meh.

The show’s been getting some criticism, probably mostly unfounded for a series that hasn’t aired yet. The biggest one, to me, is the general appearance, which doesn’t fit the period of ten years prior to the Original Series. As a fan since the 70’s, when my sister introduced me to Star Trek, I understand this criticism, but I’m also a realist. Recreating 50-year old sets and props (excuse me, “classic 23rd century design, black finish, silver highlights….”) may work for one-off Deep Space 9 or Enterprise episodes, but really won’t cut it for a new ongoing series. So maybe it shouldn’t be a prequel series? Maybe, but that’ll be another article. For now, I’ll leave it at yes, I’m interested and think it can be a good series.

The question is, can I bring myself to watch it?

As has been discussed a lot already, Star Trek: Discovery will be a streaming-only series on CBS’ in-house service, CBS All Access. And there’s the rub for me. Yes, I have the interest, but also this somewhat vague principle about subscribing to yet another streaming service, for just one show. And that’s nagging me, although I’m not sure it really should. The big-name streaming services, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, all have their exclusive series. But they also have a lot more to offer than one show. There are people who sign up for, say, HBO Now just to get Game of Thrones, but I’d bet they end up watching more than the one series. CBS has a couple of other exclusives besides Star Trek: Discovery, but nothing that’s getting the level of attention of the new Trek series.

I’m honestly not sure why I’m bugged as much as I am. The economics aren’t that bad, a CBS All Access subscription is $5.99 a month, so Star Trek: Discovery would come out to about $1.50 an episode, a reasonable price for a popular franchise. And it could be less if you wait and binge-watch it. So my objection isn’t financial. And if it were, it would be an easy decision. Too expensive, don’t watch. I lack enough of a sense of entitlement to justify pirating it.

I think my real concern is the Balkanization of content. We’re moving to a world, epitomized by the idea of “cord cutting”, where interesting content could be spread around a large number of services, potentially resulting in lots of subscription fees and making browsing for content that much harder. Search engines more or less solved the browsing problem for the Web in general, and possibly could for video content specifically. You know, sort of like a cable guide.

Per-episode or per-series fees are also a dream of the cord-cutting crowd, but I wonder if that would be a disincentive to try new series or content. Sure, $1.50 an episode isn’t much, but after a bit could end up discouraging me from trying something I’ve only heard about in casual conversations or in a brief reference. The alternative? Pay content providers like Netflix for groups of shows (let’s call those providers “networks”)? And maybe those networks could be collected together by a business entity for one overall fee, with some additions like a nice, browsable search engine (let’s call that a “guide”). Opps, we’ve reinvented cable TV…

Anyway, will I watch Star Trek: Discovery? At the moment, I’m hoping my wife makes me. :)

Written on July 1, 2017