The first Star Trek series in 12 years was supposed to debut earlier this year in January on CBS All Access. Instead, producers decided to delay the launch for eight months in order to create a series that would be “huge” enough to satisfy Star Trek fans—and justify the $5.99 per month it costs to stream the series on CBS’ subscription service.
Star Trek: Discovery’s producers and cast explained the show’s delay as they discussed the new series Tuesday at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour in L.A. Meanwhile, CBS All Access announced plans to double its original series output in the coming year, adding three new series that will give it a new original episode of television each week.
Discovery will debut on CBS Sept. 24 and be available simultaneously on CBS All Access. After that, All Access will exclusively host all subsequent episodes, with the second episode available to stream immediately after the premiere. The season’s first eight episodes will air weekly through Nov. 5, with the latter seven episodes airing beginning in January. CBS All Access will also stream a Star Trek: Discovery after-show from the company that produces Talking Dead, which follows The Walking Dead.
CBS All Access had originally planned to debut the series in January. Discovery’s producers had been “looking for a way to bring something new to Trek that both fans and people who’d never seen the show before could experience, and we also knew that, in order to justify it being on a premium cable service, it had to be huge” in terms of scope, emotion, story and character, said executive producer Alex Kurtzman. However, “it became clearer and clearer that the world was massive and an airdate was looming that was going to compromise the quality of the show.”
Additionally, producers wanted to wait until Sonequa Martin-Green had wrapped her role on The Walking Dead in order to sign on as the show’s lead, First Officer Michael Burnham.
So Kurtzman appealed to CBS Corp. chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves to delay the premiere, explaining, “it’s going to be so much to bring this to life that we have to make sure that we don’t deliver a subpar product.”
Moonves agreed. After all, Star Trek: Discovery is the most important weapon in helping him realize his goal of having 8 million subscribers between CBS All Access and Showtime’s streaming service by 2020. The two services currently have around 3 million subscribers.
“We just wanted to do it right,” said Kurtzman. “So we took our time.”
The cast and producers insist the series is worth the wait. “This is an epically grand yet microscopically-tuned, deeply emotional story. We don’t take it for granted,” said Martin-Green. “We’re bursting at the seams from the weight of it and the breadth of it.”
The series takes place in the original timeline (i.e. not the one from JJ Abrams’ recent Star Trek films), 10 years before the events of the first Star Trek series. “This is a show created by fans, for fans, but also for people who don’t know Star Trek,” said Kurtzman.
CBS All Access doubles down
As CBS All Access eagerly awaits the arrival of Star Trek: Discovery, the streaming service is “exceeding expectations,” said Marc DeBevoise, president and COO of CBS Interactive, with 73 percent of its streaming occurring via connected TV devices like Roku and Apple TV (a percentage on par with Hulu usage). Sixty percent of All Access’ audience is in the 18-49 demographic, and 30 percent of viewers are millennials.
To keep them subscribing, DeBevoise announced three new original series for the streaming service, which doubles its original series slate (along with Star Trek, The Good Fight, which returns next March for a 13-episode Season 2, and Big Brother: Over the Top), and gives the service enough episodes to run shows continuously throughout the year, with approximately one new episode each week.
No Activity, its first original comedy series, is from Funny or Die and Will Ferrell and based on the Australian streaming series about the mundane people involved in a huge drug cartel bust. That will air in between Star Trek halves.
Strange Angel, based on George Pendle’s book of the same name, follows the true story of Jack Parsons, who in 1940s L.A. worked as a rocket scientist by day and a sex occultist by night.
Finally, $1 is a thriller set in a small town, following a $1 bill as it changes hands through a number of people tied to a multiple murder.