CBS All Access Programming Head Wants To Get Timing Right For Star Trek’s TV Expansion

A merger with Viacom could have a big impact with CBS All Access

The past few months have seen a flurry of activity with reports and official announcements of a number of Star Trek shows in development for CBS All Access. A new interview puts all of this into some perspective, showing how CBS is playing a long game with Trek.

Mining Star Trek wisely

Speaking to The Wrap, CBS All Access Executive Vice President of Original Content Julie McNamara pointed out they are not planning on rushing a lot of Trek out all at once, saying:

“There’s no benefit to just pushing out into the marketplace tons of ‘Star Trek content. That’s not our intention. We’re looking to mine it wisely and effectively.”

Echoing comments made by Alex Kurtzman, the producer in charge of expanding Star Trek on TV for CBS, McNamara talked about the goal of offering variety within the Star Trek shows, and in spacing them out:

“In an ideal world, ‘Star Trek’ fans would be interested in great ‘Star Trek’ shows that could be a variety of talent and subject matter. They have to [feel] right, and the timing has to feel right.”

Scheduling Trek’s future

So far the only show in development that has been given a date has been the Picard series featuring the return of Sir Patrick Stewart, which is targetted for late this year, although Alex Kurtzman has acknowledged could end up being early next year. The Wrap article offers some clues for other planned shows, noting the animated series Star Trek: Lower Decks “won’t air soon” as the “animation alone will take a year.”

As for the Section 31 series starring Michelle Yeoh announced earlier this week the Wrap article notes how it is just “in development” at this stage and by the time the show premieres, Discovery may be over. As noted in our interview with Kurtzman posted earlier today, Yeoh is expected to return to Discovery for a third season. Today a report in Variety described a third season renewal of Discovery – which has not been officially announced – as a “fait acompli” with Alex Kurtzman expected to return as showrunner, telling Variety “I feel such a debt to the cast and crew of this show — I don’t feel like I can leave it.”

Putting this all together, it seems reasonable to conjecture that the Section 31 show would premiere some time after the Picard show and the third season of Discovery, with 2021 as an educated guess.

The longer-term prospects of Discovery are unclear. Alex Kurtzman has recently said he could see the show running for a number of years, but seven season runs, like the ’90s Star Trek shows, are now more the exception than the norm for peak TV drama.

How long Discovery and the Picard show might run is unknown, McNamara takes the long view, seeing the development slate being worked on by Kurtzman as giving her options when it comes to future programming, telling The Wrap:

“Some of these can be considered as replacements as opposed to additions. These ‘Trek’ shows take a lot of incubation, because they’re very prep heavy, visual effects heavy… we’re seeing it more as we’re getting a good jump on making sure that there is a good fulsome stream of ‘Trek’ material.”

Keep up with all the Star Trek: Discovery and upcoming Star Trek TV projects news at TrekMovie.

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There are still a lot of shows that go 5+ seasons, including NCIS/NCIS:LA/NCIS:NO, Arrow, The Flash, Madam Secretary, The 100, Criminal Minds, Chicago Fire, Chicago PD, Grey’s Anatomy, Supernatural, L&O: SVU, Hawaii Five-O, Blue Bloods, Blacklist.

And that’s just on the major broadcasters.

Most of what you just listed are procedurals (medical, cop shows, firefighters, etc). Those are not considered premium/peak TV. They’re cheap and easy to churn out using real world props, locations, etc. compared to a sci-fi show that has to invent everything.

I’m not totally up on the economics of the TV, but I would have thought if Star Trek has higher costs in having to make everything new like ship sets, fancy costumes etc, a way to recoup some of that would be through longer runs?

Being able to spread out some of that budget across more episodes is often economical, but it’s hard to really say if that applies in this case since all reporting I’ve seen seems to indicate that all the episodes have roughly the same budget. That could be from evenly spreading the entire season budget across all episodes.

A few cost-cutting “bottle” episodes could probably help with the effects budget. Some of Trek’s best (or at least most memorable) stories were bottle episodes.

I don’t think he means replacements in the way it seems at first glance. He likely doesn’t mean they will cancel Discovery and replace it with Section 31 (which is of course what Midnight’s Edge will take it to mean).

What I THINK he means is that they can take lengthy breaks between seasons and still have a show on the air. This is why he mentions them being “prep heavy.” While they’re spending 10 months in pre-production on Discovery Season 3, they’ll be animating Lower Decks, be in post-production on Section 31, and airing Picard, for example.

I think Game of Thrones has affected how the premium TV shows get planned and budgeted. For example, did you see The Alienist on TNT? I can’t imagine that kind of show being done a few years back…they constructed an accurate section of old New York to shoot on!

Wasn’t it she who said,not he? But yeah,I’ll be waiting for anything that comes along. I want a spin-off with Linus,LOL!

Where did you get the power to read Midnight Edge’s mind?

So crime shows, average to terrible superhero shows and a horror show. Not really seeing the diverse line up there.

Translation: we don’t want a year and a half between seasons but we also don’t want to rush out the next season.

It’s the best path forward.

Sounds like these guys are planning for the long haul. Took a cue from Marvel and the movie franchise, I suspect….

And we know how well the Universal cinematic horror universe went…

After this season of Discovery maybe they will go ahead and announce a spin off of Pike and the Enterprise which is what I am hoping for.

I dunno. We already got a show about that Enterprise,

But never a good one. (backs away slowly)

*Shakes fist* AFTERBURN!!!!!

Right. But it was cancelled 50 years ago… Dunno. Time to get back on board…;-)

Yes please.. only prequel I want

It’s coming soon.

I hope so too. A Pike show starring Anson Mount would be awesome. He’s such a great, charming actor. Maybe they’re teasing Pike and Spock on DISCO, rebuild the big E and after the events of DSC S2, they will spin it off into their own show.

At this point i’m not sure I want that. After “Brother” I kind of want him to stay Captain of Discovery.

No need to reinvent the wheel. He’s come on board for a show that needed some re-tooling. Let him stay captain there. Dragging him off into a spin off would only take Discovery back to square one.

The producers and CBS have been very insistent that they want all the new Trek shows to be very different from each other both in setting, tone and even technology (live action vs animation). A show with Pike on the Enterprise would probably be too similar to Discovery, especially after we’ve had a season with Pike on Discovery.

Agreed. I think at best, they may make a show after Discovery is over but having two starship shows in the same era probably won’t happen. It never happened in the past Trek shows and why DS9 was developed in the first place.

My guess is Pike and Spock will just be sticking around for future seasons on Discovery as we know Georgiou will be doing. I kind of hope not but can’t blame them for doing it.

There’s plenty of ways they can make it feel different. Just from an aesthetic pov they have the different (better) uniforms. Another way could be to drop the drawn out seasonal mysteries and go back to classic episodic Trek. That’s what I want more than anything from one of these new shows. They say they want them all of them to feel distinct from each other but I get the feeling, with the likely exception of the animated shows, that all the announced ones are keeping the serialized soap opera story telling.

Well all in all this is very good news. While the cramped announcement of so many shows may give a different impression, if some of these shows do not launch for several years (Section 31 in particular) that gives them time to take in the reception of current and soon-launching shows and make adjustments. As we know from the Trek 4 debacle it is also not unheard of that projects will be cancelled that already had stories and people attached.

Slow and steady wins the race, as they say.

Well I think this is good news. Rushing out too many shows at once can be a problem (although I would happily watch all of them lol). And the Section 31 show does sound controversial, it may be better to wait until people can get more use to the idea. And Lower Decks sound like its a ways off too.

And I’ll be 100% honest, all the other shows sound fine, but the Picard show is really the only one I’m super excited about. As long as that one doesn’t get delayed or cancelled I’m good with anything they do with the others.

So we’ll have Discovery and the Picard show for awhile, which sounds fine to me. And we know they will add more later. A year ago we only knew about Discovery and now we are juggling the idea of multiple shows including our first post-Nemesis show since Voyager bringing back Picard. None of this is bad news lol.

A more character driven Pike show would be nice.

Looking forward to all the new shows. Reminds me of my personal “golden era” of Trek when Voyager and DS9 were both on the air and First Contact was in production. My only concern is the all the pre-TOS & post-TNG jumping between the different series. It could get very confusing for the moderate viewer. Although it does offer an opportunity for interesting cross era storytelling. Something along the lines of the “Captain’s table” book series

I see what you’re saying but it wasn’t long ago that people thought having Smallville on the air and Superman Returns in theaters would confuse audiences and tun people off.

Now we have animated Superman films, a Supergirl show with Superman on CW, a Superman on film, and a Krypton TV series on Syfy. We have two Joker movies in the works, two Spider-Mans in theaters, and THREE different Batmans on TV & film, not including animated movies.

Skeptics said the same thing about “reboots too soon” but Marvel rebooted Hulk after 5 years, Sony rebooted Spider-Man after 4 years, again after just 2 years, and nobody has missed a beat.

Audiences have proven to be surprisingly adept. And even when or if it does confuse them, it clearly hasn’t stopped them from watching and going to the movies.

I don’t doubt the average viewer’s ability to adapt. I just doubt their willingness to try. I will admit it a small cloud in an otherwise blue sky. I’m really excited for the possibilities for what is to come.

I get the feeling that general audiences are more willing to try than parts of the hardcore fanbase.

But Superhero movies and shows are in fashion right now. They are what the audiences want and the studios can supply them at a profit.

Meanwhile in the real world, Kelvin 4 has been canned because no one can be convinced it can recoup its budget, and on TV Discovery alienates almost as many as it pleases.

I’d like to think a good Star Trek show will emerge from this, but regretfully I have my doubts.

Reminds me of my personal “golden era” of Trek when Voyager and DS9 were both on the air and First Contact was in production

Yeah, ‘cuz VOY, and in particular first season VOY, was what made the “golden era” of Trek so golden.

Actually the first season of Voyager was probably the most accepted season by fans at that time (not counting TOS), especially compared to the first season of TNG and DS9 which were very divisive. And ratings wise it was one of the highest in Trek history. Caretaker is still the biggest ratings for a Trek pilot ever with 21 million viewers. No other Trek pilot has ever gotten close. Discovery only got 9 million and it was the first Trek show in over a decade.

And it should also be pointed out First Contact was the biggest TNG film and one of the biggest in the franchise at the time WHILE also having two Star Trek shows on the air. It was the first time there were two shows and a film all running at once. So it proved over saturation wasn’t an issue, because people watched both shows loyally and then went to happily watch the movies.

It tells you just how excited people were for the franchise at the time. No it didn’t last but it was a very fun time to be a fan just like its starting to feel like an exciting time again, except the movie verse seems to be dead for the moment sadly.

I grew up during that time and between DS9 and Voyager being on the air, and TNG still strong in re-runs, movies every 2-3 years), and then in 1998, the original series was aired totally unedited (for the first time in almost 30 years) on the Sci-Fi (SyFy) Channel.

I would say that the golden age (for me) was pretty much all of DS9’s run (1993 to 1999), between getting TNG/DS9 and DS9/VOY at the same time and theatrical films, it was glorious.

I just re-watched Voyager and DS9 in chronological order and Voyager’s first season is actually pretty decent. The individual stories are pretty good, but what fails (pretty quickly) is that they hit that big reset button at the end of almost every episode. They swept the Maquis conflict under the rug by the 3rd episode, only bringing it up when convenient with the plot. The same goes for things that should have impacted characters greatly like crewmen deaths or extreme damage to the ship. I think it took Trek fans at the time a few years to really pick up on this, and instead of course correcting, the people running the show just kept on chugging along with stand-alone stories all the way up to the final episode.

People blame Trek’s later demise on viewer “burnout”, but I think it was more creative burnout. Insurrection was uninspired and not ambitious enough (the initial story ideas were a lot more grand) and Nemesis was sabotaged by a director that didn’t understand any aspect of TNG. With the same shooting script, Frakes would have cut a much better film had he been the director (it wouldn’t have been great, but it wouldn’t have been the generic action film we got). Voyager was criticized for playing it safe (as I mentioned above), and Enterprise started out too much like Voyager (reset every week, safe, bland characters). It improved greatly in season 3 and excelled in season 4, but the damage was done.

I honestly do not know why people keep saying Nemesis was terrible. I’d like some reasons why rather than essentially, “it just was.” The fact that the director was not as familiar with Star Trek is not necessarily a bad thing. Meyer was admittedly not a fan when he helmed WoK. Conversely, I have no idea why TVH is so loved. I can understand why non fans enjoyed it. But I saw it to be the least Star Trek film of all the Star Trek films.

Anyway, onward.

What we mean to say is that we saw that Star Wars screwed it up with flooding the market with too much stuff and then we remembered how we flooded the market with too much Star Trek stuff in the 90s as well.

I would really enjoy seeing a series with Gary Seven. Maybe that could be explored in the Section 31 series?

Personally, I think the issue with Trek in the early 00’s wasn’t too much Trek. It was too much of the same thing. Towards the end of Voyager and the start of Enterprise there was a severe lack of originality in story telling and a tendency to keep stories safe.

If there was going to be overlapping series its important they have their own tone and avoid falling into the old story telling traps/tropes.

Saiyan… “It was too much of the same thing.”

Exactly. Enterprise was announced as a different kind of Star Trek (it even lacked “Star Trek” in its title for two seasons) with a new pre-Federation setting explicitly to allow new types of stories to be told and bring a fresh vibe to the franchise. But for the most part it ignored that setting for the bulk of the series. It really felt like Voyager-lite, but with grumpy Vulcans.

The market wasn’t flooded, the quality of the product just became increasingly more patchy over time. People aren’t idiots, they just noticed and changed their viewing habits accordingly.

Agreed. It was just two Trek shows on at a time, how is that ‘flooded’? Today CW has FIVE DC shows on playing together and MORE are coming. We just live in a different time today. I agree it’s probably not a good idea to throw five shows on at once but if they roll them out slowly, which seems to be the plan now, then it will probably be fine.

We live in a world today with 500 cable channels and more and more streaming options (hence the subject ;)). There has never been more TV shows then there are right now and yet no one is complaining its TOO much TV (and it is lol) but because its also a big audience out there and no one is expected to watch everything. The beauty is we have wide options today and we have a choice on how we can watch those options we didn’t have 20 years ago. People should stop comparing viewing habits from the 80s, its not the same world today and audiences are just way more sophisticated. It’s why they can handle so many serialized shows and shared universes that actually scared networks in the past because they felt people would either get too lost, confused or bored. Today the opposite has been proven.

It’s debateable whether the reason Star Wars is currently in the toilet is due to over saturation.. Hmm, not sure that bathroom metaphor works..

I don’t remember that being a problem in the 90s because it was all fun to watch. Discovery is anything but fun to watch.

“but seven season runs, like the ’90s Star Trek shows, are now more the exception than the norm for peak TV drama.”

Pretty much the only way to do 7+ seasons is to keep it mostly episodic, mostly upbeat and light, and don’t get too political in the majority of your stories.

NCIS is a good example of how to do a long running show and Stargate SG1 was a good example until they went serialized in the last couple seasons when it became boring and a chore to watch.

For what it’s worth, a staggered release of diverse Trek series sounds sensible. Having a whole variety of “Treks” throughout the year is pretty appealing, as others have noted. I’ll just add the thought that Discovery has tons of potential that will hopefully unfold in seasons two and three, further enriching the prospects. There’s lots yet to learn about Discovery’s cast of characters.

I do not know if it would really take away viewership or not from the Discovery series , but knowing this new version of Capt Pike on the Enterprise, and being that it is about 10 years prior to Kirk taking command, I would certainly enjoy a series about Pike and his character more on the Enterprise.

In an ideal world, ‘Star Trek’ fans would be interested in great ‘Star Trek’ shows that could be a variety of talent and subject matter

In an ideal world, BREAKING BAD fans would be interested in shows that cover a variety of talent and subject matter. So let’s do a third show that shows Jesse’s fate: becoming a cross-dressing animal-rights activist in Homer, AK. It’ll be like LA CAGE AUX FOLLES meets NORTHERN EXPOSURE!

In an ideal world, THE AMERICANS fans would be interested in shows that cover a variety of talent and subject matter. So let’s do a sequel where Paige becomes a NASCAR driver and has to grapple with whether to accept sponsorship from oil companies (just to keep a touch ‘o politics in there).

In an ideal world, MY BRILLIANT FRIEND fans would be interested in shows that cover a variety of talent and subject matter. So let’s do a spinoff featuring the minor, third friend, Carmella, but make it a raucous teen sex comedy, because that will draw in teenage guys and expand the franchise beyond its feminist roots.

In an ideal world, SOPRANOS fans would be interested in shows that cover a variety of talent and subject matter. So let’s do a spinoff featuring Jackie Aprile’s wacky uncle Herman, who’s an amusement park operator in Palm Springs and has converted to Conservative Judaism and has a Hindu roommate. Much hilarity ensues.

In an ideal world, M*A*S*H fans would be interested in shows that cover a variety of talent and subject matter. So let’s do a spinoffs featuring Walter on the farm in Iowa and Klinger and Father Mulcahy stateside. (Uh, on that point…)

Sheesh. This is the most idiotic comment to come out of Hollywood and bodes very ill. And it makes all the reassurances about “yeah, we’re aware of the potential for killing the golden goose” look about as credible as a Trump press conference.

I just don’t understand how you can have a streaming service called ‘CBS All Access’ when people have to pay to access anything.

Did you know the term, “free range chickens,” doesn’t actually mean that they went outside, but that the farmers opened the door allowing them to leave.

However, chickens have become agoraphobic after tens of generations being stuck inside, so they don’t want to go outside.

To say it another way, words mean less now, and nothing has to be what it says it is.

I know, it’s a shame isn’t it. My problem ultimately is with every studio opening up streaming services with exclusive programming it means more of these services will fail because there is too many of them, same goes for the TV shows.

Wow… It almost sounds like Discovery will only be around for 3-4 seasons.

A bit optimistic I feel especially as it’s locked to a streaming service.