Today, CBS finally announced the premiere date for Star Trek: Discovery. The date comes quite close to landing on the 30th anniversary of the debut of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but the similarities go much deeper than that.
Star Trek: The Next Generation premiered on Monday, Sept. 28, 1987. At that time, the Star Trek franchise had been kept alive through four feature films, but new live-action Star Trek episodes had not aired on television in two decades. It was up to Star Trek: The Next Generation to turn Star Trek from a beloved science fiction classic to a true multi-generational franchise.
While most fans would agree that Star Trek: The Next Generation got off to something of a rough start, it did eventually find its footing and succeed its mission. Star Trek: The Next Generation ran for seven seasons and is as beloved by fans as the original. Its success led to the launches of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager and four feature films starring The Next Generation crew.
Star Trek: Discovery will debut in the last week of September just as Star Trek: The Next Generation did 30 years before and will be placed in a similar situation to The Next Generation in terms of its moment in Star Trek history. Like in 1987, the year 2017 finds the Star Trek name has been kept alive through a series of motion pictures featuring a version of the Star Trek: The Original Series crew. Now, just like The Next Generation, Discovery must prove that Star Trek is something more than just a series of movies and bring the Star Trek universe to a new generation of fans.
Where Star Trek: Discovery’s situation differs from Star Trek: The Next Generation is in the modern television landscape. When Star Trek: The Next Generation debuted all CBS could ask for was strong network ratings. Now, with the rise of prestige television and streaming media, the stakes are higher.
Star Trek: Discovery isn’t just a Star Trek TV show, it's CBS’s attempt to prove that they can compete with HBO’s Game of Thrones in the high-end television arena and that the CBS All Access streaming service can accrue users even when competing with Netflix and its long list of original programs (which will actually include Star Trek: Discovery as well in all countries outside of the United States and Canada).
Can Star Trek survive in the modern television market, or will the change in aesthetic and the barriers to entry posed by a subscription streaming service doom its mission? The answer will begin to take shape when Star Trek: Discovery premieres in September.
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