Following a lengthy stay in development hell, the upcoming CBS series Star Trek: Discovery is finally in full production. The series’ goal is to bring the franchise back to its small screen roots after J.J. Abrams and Justin Lin lit up the box office with the most recent trilogy of big budget Trek films.
Fan-favorite Bryan Fuller was long attached to helm the upcoming sci-fi series as showrunner, but eventually had to step down due to scheduling conflicts with his Starz series American Gods. The role has since been passed on to executive producer Alex Kurtzman, whose writing credits include both of Abrams’ Star Trek films. Also on board to produce are original Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s son Rod and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan scribe Nicholas Meyer. The writer’s room features the likes of Hannibal's Jesse Alexander, playwright Kemp Powers, Star Trek: Voyager veteran Joe Menosky, and Trek novelist Kristen Beyer.
On paper, this all sounds fantastic. Surely with so many talented people in one room, the first glimpse at footage from the heavily anticipated series would leave Trekkies frothing at the mouth for more, but the release of the first trailer for Discovery has left a big chunk of the fan base disappointedly scratching their heads.
Set ten years before the time of Kirk and Spock and their adventures aboard the starship Enterprise, the trailer introduces the series’ leading character, First Officer Michael Burnham, played by Sonequa Martin-Green (The Walking Dead) as well as most the show’s supporting cast. The acting appears to be fine, but it is the presentation and tone of the trailer that is leaving many Trekkies confused.
Discovery is clearly trying to replicate the sleek look of the new movies originating in 2009’s Star Trek (even including some lens flares that those familiar with Abrams’ work will pick up on), but the show doesn’t appear to understand the essence of the new film series. Abrams and Lin set out to make fun movies that happened to feature Trek characters, resulting in movies that were quickly paced and light-hearted space romps. By comparison, Discovery’s trailer is very dull and lackadaisical in its editing.
The wonder of Star Trek is the thrill of exploration and adventure, yet nothing in the trailer accomplishes the goal of getting the viewer excited for more spacefaring episodes. By trying to blend the methodical approach of the various Star Trek television iterations with the vibrant look of the new movies, the trailer has no true identity. It’s almost as if CBS is trying to have their cake and eat it too.
They are trying to appease everyone, and a result, could end up pleasing no one.
Now to be clear, this article is a review of the trailer, not the show itself. Poorly designed trailers for movies and television programs are very often the result of less than efficient handling on part of the marketing department, and not the creative teams. It isn’t unusual to see great trailers for what end up being bad movies and vice versa. It’s just a shame that after more than a decade of Star Trek being absent from television screens, Discovery didn’t get everyone ready and willing to boldly go where it wants to take us.
The show’s pilot will air on the CBS television network before moving exclusively to the channel’s monthly subscription service, CBS All Access. Season one will feature a 15 episode order.