A funny thing happened to STAR TREK: DISCOVERY… (editorial)

Okay, San Diego Comic Con 2018 is now in the history books, and nearly every Trekker is now talking about Season Two of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY.

Fans now know that, in addition to Anson Mount playing Captain Christopher Pike, Rebecca Romijn (who played the shape-shifting Mystique in the early X-Men films) will play Number One, and yes, we will be seeing Spock at some point this season.  Other new characters, like Tig Notaro as Chief Engineer Reno, are also being added (not sure as regulars or guests stars), plus at least one actor whose character died during Season One will be returning in some undisclosed way.

In addition to the debut of Season Two of Discovery sometime in early 2019, four “Short Treks” (about 10-15 minutes each) will tell stories focusing on the histories of established characters like Tilly and Saru plus a new character named Craft, and a fourth featuring Harry Mudd (played by Rainn Wilson, who will also direct his mini-episode).  Reportedly, one of these four shorts will be released each month leading up to the January premiere of Season Two.  Whether these “Short Treks” will be exclusive to CBS All Access (and Netflix outside of America and Canada) or posted for free on the Internet has not been made clear yet.  Personally, I think they should be posted publicly to draw in more viewers to the subscription service…but what do I know?

(Side/snide note – for any fan filmmaker who’s been complaining, “You can’t tell a decent Star Trek story in less than 15 minutes…” well, CBS is about to either prove you right or wrong.  Stay tuned!)

But by far, the most excitement came from this intriguing Season Two trailer.  And for the 1% of you out there who haven’t seen it yet, here ’tis…

Not bad, huh?  But there was something oddly familiar about it…

At first, I couldn’t put my finger on it.  I was dazzled by Anson Mount as Pike and seeing more traditional Starfleet uniforms that didn’t look like something Elvis Presley would say were just too shiny to wear, baby.  Granted, I did think to myself, “What’s with all these spinning ships???” and did a quick Rorschach test with this freeze-frame image…

(Is it just me?  What do YOU see when you look at it?)

But for the most part, I was more than just cautiously optimistic; I was downright excited!  Sure, I might end up with some of the same complaints and frustrations that I had during the first season of Discovery, but I’m not being pessimistic about it.  Just the opposite, in fact.

I remember nearly a year ago to the day watching the Season One Discovery trailer that debuted at San Diego Comic Con 2017…

What a difference a year and a season makes, huh?  Back then, yeah, I was not only cautiously optimistic, I was even a bit worried.  But now I’m excited.  And it’s not just because I know Spock is coming or I’m looking forward to seeing the Enterprise and uniforms that aren’t all that same drab blue color.

I’m excited because I saw something I’d been complaining was all-but-missing during Season 1: BANTER!  Hooray for banter!!!

And it wasn’t just that the trailer was edited to be funny.  In order to include the humor, you first have to HAVE the humor.  Season One of Discovery didn’t feature dialog like this at all…

BURNHAM: “Trust me, Discovery has you!  Right, ladies?”
DETMER (panicked): “Gasp!  Oh, yeah!
OWOSEKUN (just as panicked): Absolutely!”
SARU: “Oh, dear…”

C’mon!  Did you ever see anything like that in Season One?  How about…

TILLY: “This is the power of math, people!”

or…

BURNHAM: “We’re on a collision course with a pulsar!”
RENO: “Oh, what a relief.  I though we were gonna die…”

or…

PIKE: “Wherever our mission takes us, we try to have a little fun along the way.”

Nobody would have said that in Season One…not even in the first half of the pilot.  Lorca would certainly never have said it.  (Man, that starship was morbid last season!)

And of course, there was the music soundtrack to the trailer.  It was hard-rockin’ Lenny Kravitz doing “I Want to Fly Away”…really catchy and upbeat.  Perhaps not “classic” Star Trek music, per se, but at least it wasn’t the Beastie Boys or some haunting slow ballad version of “I’d Love to Change the World.”

And that final scene in the turbolift where the alien crewman, Linus, sneezes all over Lt. Connolly—that was hilarious (albeit slightly disgusting and a bit over the top silly).

Hey, wait-a-minute!  Now I know why this Season Two trailer feels so familiar to me!

Take a look at this other Comic Con 2018 trailer for the second season of another sci-fi series that’ll be debuting at just about the same time as Star Trek: Discovery

It’s all right now, baby…it’s all right now!

What Discovery seems to be doing in Season Two is what The Orville did in Season One.  I could totally see that turbolift sneeze scene happening on Fox’s flagship sci-fi series, but it would NEVER have happened during Discovery‘s first season.

So what’s going on?  It’s hard to say with certainty, but I suspect that the folks behind Discovery (and the executives at CBS) are not ignoring what what has happened with The Orville.  Fox’s show debuted to comparable ratings as Discovery‘s pilot, and, even though total viewership dropped after its premiere, The Orville still pulled in 3.5 million viewers in the Nielsen overnights and even higher numbers in the 18-49 demographic when adjusted for delayed DVR viewing over the following three nights.

By comparison, some estimates of viewership for Discovery via CBS All Access are as low as only 250,000 to 500,000 per episode.  (Actually, it’s closer to 250K, but I can’t tell you how I know that.)  And even if every subscriber to All Access was watching Discovery (which isn’t the case), that’s still a million viewers less per episode than what Orville gets domestically.

Granted, CBS makes more from subscriptions than Fox makes from advertising (per viewer).  But when the domestic viewership of The Orville is ten times greater (or more) than the domestic viewership for Star Trek: Discovery, CBS would be—well—irresponsible on a purely business level not to look at what The Orville is doing that Discovery isn’t.

So that’s at least one possible reason…not just for the added banter and gags but also for the brighter-colored uniforms and—did you notice?—more brightly lit sets.

Another reason for the changes might be the departure of executive producer Akiva Goldsman before the beginning of Discovery‘s second season.  Later on, it was reported that executive producers Gretchen J. Berg and Aaron Harberts were also let go (that’ll free up some much-needed space in the opening credits!), leaving Alex Kurtzman to take over as show-runner.  Personally, I suspect theDiscovery changes were more due to Goldsman leaving, as most of the scenes included in the new trailer were likely taken from the first five episodes of Season Two.  Goldsman was already gone, but Berg and Harberts weren’t booted from the show until early June when episode five was in the can.  Kurtzman takes over with episode six.


Anyway, this isn’t a blog trying to say that The Orville is better than Discovery or vice-versa…so please don’t start yelling at me in the comments!  Instead, I was simply noticing an interesting change to the approach of Discovery going into its second season, based on the trailer.

And truth to tell, I’ve often kinda thought that The Orville might have been a little too silly in places with some of the locker-room humor bordering on inappropriate and tasteless (at least to me).  Sometimes the awkward jokes from Season One that seemingly came out of nowhere felt like speed bumps on a freeway.

So in that way, maybe The Orville could benefit from moving slightly more in the direction of Discovery while keeping the banter but ditching some of the forced gags.  In the same way, I’ve said that Discovery needs a little more of The Orville magic, too, showing crew members chatting and joking around a little, loosening up from the stress-filled Starfleet dysfunction of Season One.  Yeah, the turbolift sneeze gag might be overshooting that mark a little bit, but I think both shows are heading in the right direction going into Season Two.

Fingers crossed!

36 thoughts on “A funny thing happened to STAR TREK: DISCOVERY… (editorial)”

  1. Weren’t you saying one possibility was ORVILLE would pull in more viewers because it was on FOX? 92% of all households receive a FOX affiliate and do not have to take extra steps to receive it. That’s what you said last year.
    I look forward to season two or ORVILLE. Never mind Christmas, December 30th can’t come fast enough!

    1. Yes, I did say that. However, I suspect that CBS had hopes for much better numbers for Discovery on All Access. Yes, CBS makes money directly from subscriptions. But in terms of return on investment, they’re getting much more bang for their buck licensing the NFL than they are from producing Discovery. In fact, were it not for for the licensing fees they’re getting from Netflix for all of the Star Trek TV series, CBS would be losing a LOT of money on the production of Discovery.

  2. Another thing they could do to raise viewership is GET RID OF THAT STUPID PAY WALL AND OFFER THE EPISODES FOR FREE ON HULU OR NETFLIX OR AMAZON OR WHATEVER!

    Sorry for the shout, but I think that combining a darker tone with a streaming service separate from the others is idiotic. After all, people got INTO streaming because it offered the choice and schedule freedom of having a video collection without all the shelf space. NOW it seems that everyone wants to bring back all weaknesses of cable that we all embraced in streaming to get away from.

    Sigh. We just can’t have nice things.

    1. You do realize that “offering for free on Hulu or Netflix or Amazon” is an oxymoron, right? Each of those services is also available only through paid subscriptions, Jason…just like All Access. The only difference is that All Access has mostly rerun content with a MUCH smaller percentage of original programming. Even now, years after launching, All Access only runs four original shows: Discovery, The Good Fight, Strange Angel, and (ironically titled) No Activity. The last two only score about 70% from critics on Rotten Tomatoes, by the way. There are also two “extender” series: AfterTrek and Big Brother–Over the Top. But beyond that, the NFL, and some of the awards shows, All Access doesn’t offer a lot that’s “new.”

      I think Season Two of Discovery is going to potentially be a tipping point for CBS All Access. If all of the adjustments and “big exciting things” don’t up those subscribers and viewership numbers much more significantly than Season One did, I suspect CBS is going to start thinking very long and hard about the viability of their All Access platform.

      1. I already HAVE Netflix and Amazon, but I suppose I see your point.

        The reason why I get honked over this is I refuse to spend MORE on streaming services than I spent on my Blu Ray player. Maybe that’s stubborn, but I thought streaming was supposed to REPLACE physical media.

        Ooh, that reminds me of another gripe: WILL THEY RELEASE DISCOVERY ON BLU RAY?

        Y’know, I wouldn’t be so mad if they just said that this is the Kelvinverse.

        1. It’s not the Kelvin-verse. I’ve seen Kelvin-verse Klingons, and those ain’t them.

          As for streaming services costing less than what you spend on your Blu-ray player, well, I don’t know what you spend on your Blu-ray player! That said, CBS is trying to get into this business to make money, not to be charitable. Like you, I wish they’d just put Discovery onto the CW. Sure, it’d be a “smaller” show, but I actually don’t think that would have been so bad. At least the Klingons wouldn’t have been so drastically redone (those are some EXPENSIVE aliens!). But CBS wanted to try this experiment. We’ll just have to see how long it lasts.

  3. Without debating the whys and wherefores, I did notice that the respective trailers for Disco and Orville kinda course-corrected toward each other.

  4. Uniform color scheme is all wrong. They didn’t use the Red, Blue, and Green/Gold uniforms until after the second pilot. Rewatch both pilots, The Cage and Where No Man Has Gone Before.

    1. Oh, I’m well aware of that, Michael. I still see Discovery as taking place in a different timeline. That’s just my own head canon, and I know that Alec Kurtzman is determined to explain away all of the inconsistencies. But for me, this is the Disco-verse.

      That said, it still doesn’t change the fact that I absolutely loathe those shiny Starfleet uniforms used in Season One. So even if the Enterprise uniforms aren’t perfectly-colored to match the muted velour of the first two pilots, at least they look better than the sparkly disco (not Disco with a capital “D”) suits.

  5. From the Season 2 Orville trailer and the comments I think your wish for Orville is going to be born out:

    “MacFarlane said the first season taught him The Orville could be a genuine sci-fi show and didn’t have to rely on humor if it didn’t serve the story. Season 2, he promised, would be even heavier science fiction.” https://www.slashfilm.com/the-orville-season-2-2/

  6. I’m wondering if that weird image is something to do with V’Ger. Spock being drawn to something perhaps.
    It looks a kinda like one of the valves from inside V’Ger. Just a thought.

    1. That’s definitely not what I’m seeing, Gaius! 😉

      Also, including V’Ger nearly two decades before the Enterprise encounters V’Ger seems a little…frustrating is the best word I can think of. After all of the other inconsistencies, this one feels like an additional slap in the face of continuity.

  7. Orville did what STD failed to do in the beginning; they captured my attention. I’ll be sticking with Orville because of all the behind the scenes changes at CBS. Personally it doesn’t give me much faith that the course started in S2 will continue unimpaired.

  8. Screw discovery it’s shit and nothing but shit. If it’s funnier this year then it’s funny shit.

    The Orville has nothing to learn from discovery. It’s a comedy in space not science fiction.

    If this is what discovery calls improvement then perhaps in 3 or 4 more seasons it will graduate from shit to garbage. Of course that can’t happen until they admit they aren’t in the Prime timeline, put the Klingons back to normal and erase the entire concept of Michael Burnam.

      1. Yeah sorry Jonathan, that was always going to be extra work on your part, just let it go, and let us go nuts =)

        I know you were worried about your kids and other young’uns reading this, but honestly, it doesn’t matter how young they are, they already know a lot more swear words than you do =)

          1. I sincerely appreciate keeping the language civil… seriously.

            There is no need for foul, gutter language. Keep it intelligent. 🙂

          2. I’ve been directly involved in broadcast radio on and off in different ways since 1978! 🙂 One of the first things I learned…
            RULE#1: “Treat *EVERY* microphone as if it is LIVE!” and
            RULE#2: “*NEVER EVER* swear in the studio area! See Rule #1”
            So, there’s that. 😉 But spewing obscenities not only looks unprincipled, undisciplined, and unintelligent, it’s counterproductive and offensive to some folks. 🙂 That’s my 5c on the topic. 😉 I forget which Star Trek Fan Fic it was, but when they started using F-bombs, I clicked out of it. 🙁

  9. Yeah, I saw something that, shall we say, a gynecologist would be working with… It just seemed very out-of-place and WEIRD!!! What’s with that?? As for The Orville, I am VERY MUCH looking forward to this 2’nd season!! The 1’st season definitely had some really good, outstanding episodes! Seeing that Seth “Gets it” with relation to the bathroom humor falling flat, is VERY encouraging! 🙂 Now… if CBS really wants Discovery to have HALF A CHANCE, they need to stop insulting the majority of die hard Trek fans, for one thing… and for another, PUT IT ON REGULAR TV!!! Scrap the stupid pay channel delivery! UGH!! (I already pay too much for Cable, and don’t need/want to be paying MORE!)

    Thanks for this blog. 🙂 I always enjoy reading it… even when it’s not exactly “fan fiction”, like today’s installment. 😉 LL&P!!

    1. The great thing about writing one’s own blog is that one can write about whatever one wants to. Granted, I need to focus on fan films simply because—well—I bought the domain FanFilmFactor.com. But yeah, the occasional tangent into other things is a luxury I enjoy from time to time. Glad you do, too, Willie.

  10. STD season two looks to be anther blah story that if it did not have Star Trek in the title could be just another mediocre science fiction show. I think that this season will be just as blah and non surprising as the other. While a descent show STD ranks down there at the bottom of my Start Trek favorite series.

  11. I’m seeing nuthin’ but Sauron in that image. Oh. I see your point now. The Disco Klingons are really orcs.

    The inscription on Pike’s insignia reads in fine print:

    “One Kling(on) to rule them all, One Kling to find them, One Kling to bring them all and in the Darkness bind them.”

    Still recovering from ComicCon, as you can see.

    Hey, how come you never came by my wife’s small press table? Or my panel?

      1. Well, THAT’s no excuse . . . (I’m still pouting)

        One fantastic cosplayer walked by our table in an orange stormtrooper/Vader/Trump outfit who was a dead ringer for Mark Hamill. I was impressed: looked like Old Luke. Turns out we found out later it WAS Mark Hamill.

        Then Friday night just at closing we had a very enthusiastic guy with a strong Latin accent stop at our table and was very enthralled about our comic’s pitch. After he left our neighbor pointed out to us he was actually Ignacio Serricchio from Lost in Space. My wife and I were thinking “no way!” It could have been . . . . I don’t keep tabs on these things . . .

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