Shuttle Pod 43: Serialized Versus Episodic Storytelling

The Shuttle Pod Crew discusses the pros and cons of serialized and episodic TV, and how it relates to the Star Trek franchise and its newest member, Discovery.

Historically, TV shows were told in a narrative where there’s a pilot as the backstory and no particular end in sight, with every story just fitting somewhere in the middle – kind of like comic books. 

DVDs, DVRs, Internet resources, and notably streaming services have changed this, to where many shows (including comedies) will only do serialized storytelling over the entire season or series: you can’t just pluck one episode out of order and watch it because you’ll be lost.

Listen in as Brian, Jared, and Matt discuss the finer points of serialized versus episodic Trek.

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Boom! The Enterprise-D is hit with a disruptor, unelectable warp core goes critical the end. Or I’ll take a 50 year old Bird of Prey blowing her out of the sky. Important moral – less time holodeck and councilling more time at your station exploring the galaxy.


Must have been the Hillary Clinton model matter-antimatter intermix chamber.

Perhaps he meant “unejectable”?

Sorry iPhone spell check, should have been “un-ejectable warp core” resulting in yet another warp core breach.


I think your iPhone may be on to something; I can think of quite a few Trek warp-cores that I wouldn’t elect to use.


transitive verb

2 : to make a selection of

will elect an academic program

3 : to choose (something, such as a course of action) especially by preference

might elect to sell the business

intransitive verb

: to make a selection

I’m not a great fan of heavy serialization. Too often it’s like the Facebook of storytelling. No, I don’t want to scroll endlessly down your wall and know every detail about your life. Just tell me a story! But then I’ve always preferred short stories over novels.

Even episodic Star Trek is serialized to a point. Especially when they go back to a particular plot point or prop. And no one wants to watch episodes from season 2 before they see what went on in season 1…

I think balance is key. We dont need to have every detail of our story explained and re-explained. We need organic story telling which evolves natuturally. I hope Discovery goes for that balance and can still tell more ‘left field’ storys every now and again.

Are… are you guys insane? I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but what is “fun” about a “reference” to a number? You’re asserting that making 133 jumps is somehow an homage to a BSG episode titled “33” and that… that is something that you think is worth mentioning… to anyone? What is with sci fi fans? How is the supposed inclusion of a number from another show about other ideas, clever in any way whatsoever? What does it say within the story? What does it do within the story? Do you guys just give each other points for referencing… anything? Anytime anyone can quote anything, you bring the show to a complete stop, even when it doesn’t contribute to the discussion (which is mostly never does and Jared usually gets the quote wrong anyways). Ug.

Hey. Trivia. People like it. Why is 47 great and 133 bad? Just relax. The Shat once said: “It’s just a TV show.”

33 is maybe the most taut and dramatic BSG episode. The reference did not go unnoticed.

Yeah… being able to cite every score of every [Insert Sport of your Choice] all the way back to 1955 is so much better and more interesting…

My fav is strong continuity with a mix of mythos and stand-alone eps, similar to the way they did X-Files. I honestly got bored with Enterprise Season 3. Since when did it take any starship named Enterprise more than thirty seconds of screen time to locate the baddies? Just follow the ion trail or warp trace or whatever. Finding the Xindi was painfully slow. I liked the later eps, and the stand alone eps, but it took too long. The Xindi arc was only a three-parter at best.

The Year of Hell from Voyager probably had a better story to tell than the Xindi thing.

Stop shortening the word “episode”. Please.

Jack D,

Re: Stop shortening the word “episode”.

To what end?

You can’t reasonably expect English users to green light such an impertinent imperative, a demand not made any less impolite by adding “Please.” as an isolated afterthought, anymore than one’d expect English users to stop using apostrophes or period banished acronyms such as MADD on some other whimsical command.

And to look for adherence to such unreasonably strict codification of it on a forum where they worship never-spell-a-word-the-same-way-twice William Shakespeare as its wordsmith supreme is foolhardy at best, and self-flagellation at its worst.

OK, J’k D.

When you have a full-time job, a wife, a kid, a life and all that goes with it, the hours in a day during which you have free time are few. Being able to watch a one-hour, whole-story-start-to-finish Star Trek episode over these many years has been very enjoyable. I think re-watching just one episode of Discovery – if I choose to someday – won’t be that same enjoyable hour. The episodes just aren’t designed that way.

I can understand that.
But, for me, as long as there is one good thing that I can take from each episode, than, i am okay with it.
and btw, i don t see how you can see the second Mudd episode as serialized.
That pretty much ended.
We also got a resolution to the tardigrade story.
Serialized doesn’t necessarily mean stories are not resolved it just means that we get some storylines that continue while others wrap up.

That’s a good point, Gary. The second Mudd episode was pretty stand-alone, and rather amusing, too. May give that one another shot at some point.

TNG tried to build an arc leading up to ‘conspiracry’
but did better in s3 building on romulan and klingon arcs and then cardassian arcs later on.
not serialized but a/b/c arcs.

ds9 got it right with s6/7.

DS9 did get it right and they used war as a backdrop, too.

Voy’s jonas arc-how not to serialize ‘trek’.

I don’t pick up a book and proceed to read the 4th chapter, and I will never re-watch an hour long installment of Discovery. Serialized TV has it’s place, but when I’m done with it, I’m done with it. I prefer a little more re-watch-ability with Star Trek. Not getting it with this series.

We know you are not getting it. You mention it at every chance you get. Ad nauseam.

Did I mention what we’ve seen, so far, really isn’t very good drama? In my opinion, of course.

Ad nauseum. So stop watching and shut up already. You are a broken record always saying the same thing. We get it.

This is the main issue I’ve had to wrestle with personally. I love the episodic nature of older Trek. The main reason being, episodic means they can have the “monster of the week” or main idea being the focus of the show. The situation, the alien, the crazy dilemma becomes the STAR of the show. Serialized television for better or worse means the human characters and the soap opera drama becomes more important. I want to know more about the few aliens we’ve seen so far, but we don’t get that. We barely touch on the Pahvoans, the Crepusculan. Even the Klingons, who they’ve rebooted once again, are just humans with Klingon skin. Having said that, I’ll give Discovery a pass because times have changed and I’m ok with mixing things up a little. There’s usually more to like than to dislike about Star Trek. Keep on keeping on. Thanks for the podcast discussions too.

well said!

its not ‘ soap opera drama’ if we get to know the characters in a trek ‘show’ as we did in ds9, Voy or Ent.
it enriches the shows themselves.

I wouldn’t want to watch an episode from a serialized show if I hadn’t seen the series before in order but once I’ve seen it and am familiar with the overall arc I don’t see why you can’t go back and watch individual episodes if you want to. Just to use one example, lots of DS9 episodes from Seasons 6 and 7 are great for rewatching without necessarily binging full seasons.

“Just to use one example, lots of DS9 episodes from Seasons 6 and 7 are great for rewatching without necessarily binging full seasons.”

Parts of DS9’s later seasons were “serialized” (mostly the final 10 or so episodes of the series). The rest of season 6 and 7 had a very heavy arc, but they were still largely self-contained stories (not serialized) in that they still had a distinct beginning, middle, and end to the a-plot.

its the nature of current tv shows and ‘trek’ has adapted to that with Dsc.

The Problem with 1 Hour closed Stories is simply that there is next to no continuity…
And any ST Series showed that so far… Apart from the ever increasing Stardate there aren’t any references that the story advances at all and for all its worth it could have happened all in one evening.

It’s just 30 different stories from 30 different people that have absolutely nothing in common but the most basic plot points and that gets somewhat boring fast.

I like big Arcs, sprinkle some stand-alone episodes in here and there but keep it in line otherwise.

when you do a show like ‘q who’ or ‘sins of the father’ you have to follow it up and not do a ‘re set’.

and the events of these shows will ripple through the series.