Wednesday, 17 November 2021

The Paramount Problem

Season four of Star Trek: Discovery is less than 24 hours away for anyone subbed to Paramount+ in the US and Canada.

But the story away from those fair shores is a different story and one which has taken a twist only within the last 24.

Even at Destination Star Trek just this weekend, the cast of Discovery were reportedly still talking about the arrival of the show on Netflix from Friday 19th November, just one day after its US launch.

However that is not to be with Paramount+ announcing that Discovery's long awaited and much publicised fourth season will be held back until 2022 outside the US and Canada. Why? Because Discovery is now slated to start with the introduction of Paramount+ worldwide.

In our hearts we knew this day would come. We have to be honest with ourselves as fans that Star Trek, in all its forms, would at some point all congregate on the Paramount streaming service. That part at least is no surprise but the late announcement of Discovery's delayed premiere has really riled fans. 

Missing from the upcoming shows on Netflix, Discovery leaves the platform today, November 17th 2021 and in a sense it feels as though we are slipping a little back into the 1990's. The wait might not be three years as it officially was for TNG to drop into the UK but it will probably feel like that.

Surely this will push Discovery back into being one of the most illegally downloaded shows on
the planet just as it was (I seem to recall) back for season one - and even then it was actually on Netflix. Hardcore fans will not want to wait until the season is over before they see it. Indeed, the explosion of social media will also play into that with it being ever more difficult to avoid spoilers or reviews.

This time round we're midway through the show and many will feel that they are being held hostage by Paramount. There has already been the "reassurance" through fan groups on social media that Picard and Lower Decks are still on Amazon at least - but that's only for now and I would anticipate their departure in the new year to join Discovery.

The bitter taste will take a while to swill out and Friday, for fans of Discovery and possibly the larger franchise, will be a trying day without the anticipated Kobayashi Maru episode. I would say just flick on Netflix and head on back through seasons one to three but that will now be impossible. Netflix also holds TOS, TNG, DS9, VOY and ENT back catalogues so how long before those make a departure for Paramount+?

We do know that in 2022 the new service will be available both as part of a Sky subscription (but not what level you will need to get it "for free") and also as a standalone product. For now though we have to come to terms with the notion that Star Trek is not what it was a year ago let alone what it was 25 years ago. Paramount will undoubtedly see it as a money machine. Netflix paid a considerable chunk of money for rights to air the show and in turn paid for the bulk of its production but it's still someone else's property.

Paramount wants to make money from Star Trek and has relaunched the franchise extremely aggressively since 2017 and there's more on the way. No question Strange New Worlds will be Paramount+ exclusive from day one but again, not the point here.

The studio led fans around the world to believe right up to the 11th hour that everything was on track for a Netflix launch only to pull the rug quick sharp. The anger and frustration out there now is genuine. Social channels are filled with disappointment  and you can sense that boycotts and all sorts of petitions will start flying around. Be honest one more time though because none of those will matter and Paramount will not care. Sadly I also believe that this will mean a drop in overall quality and potentially a step even further away from Gene Roddenberry's original vision. 

For the first time since 1999 we were supposed to have two series running and premiering in parallel but that will now only be applicable if you're in the US or Canada. If we also recall that would be just six years before Enterprise was cancelled and the lethargy of a bloated and over worked franchise was put to bed for a few years. Movies would return after four years but it would be 12 years before a series launched again and then it would only carry half the number of episodes, be more arc orientated and cost a hell of a lot more.

They know that people will still sign up to their service in 2022 just to watch multiple Star Trek series and pull back some numbers. At the start, Discovery was CBS All Access' big show and their hoped for big draw however it didn't perform as desired. Now there's an audience built after three seasons, there's a better chance to pull in those viewers to Paramount's own home of streaming. The fans do not own Star Trek. It's Paramount's and they will do with it as they see fit to ultimately fill the bank account and make shareholders happy. 

There, said it and yes, it does make me feel awfully underwhelmed and sad that fans have been treated in this manner but you only have to go back to the beginning of Discovery, the first of the Kurtzman era to launch, to see the split in fandom. But the news is a fact and we're going to have to live with the decision. I would be adding "for the foreseeable" but I think we have to write in "permanently" instead. 

A gloomy week for Star Trek and the sign of things to come. This will not be the last twist in the tale but I certainly hope it will be the worst way it's done.

Where do you lie in the twists and turns of Paramount's handling of Star Trek and in particular Discovery?

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