“The first duty of every Starfleet officer is to the truth!” Picard said those eleven words to Wesley Crusher in season five of TNG, but for me those were words I’d already been living by for a quarter century. I don’t hate much in my life, but I do hate lies. It’s one of the reasons I call out Axanar detractors when they make up provable falsehoods and why I publicly correct even my own readers when they say things like James Cawley used crowd-funded donations to build his TOS sets (he didn’t).
So what do I think about MIDNIGHT’S EDGE?
For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, Midnight’s Edge (and its sister podcast Midnight’s Edge After Dark) is a YouTube channel made up of hundreds of videos—most of them very well-produced—from different voice-over “reporters”covering films and TV shows from the sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and superhero genres. They bill themselves as “spin-free analysis of Hollywood corporate politics, film & comics.”
I will admit to only watching the videos they’ve made covering the behind-the-scenes “ugliness” of Star Trek: Discovery. And as I said, the quality of their graphics, sound, background music, transitions, and the organization of information is extremely good. I’m never bored and usually am quite engrossed for the entire extent of these 20-to-30 minute long videos. And that’s probably part of the reason these folks typically get views in the tens or even hundreds of thousands (occasionally even cracking a million!).
But every time I watch an episode ofMidnight’s Edge, I have to stop and ask myself: “Is this really going on?” I mean, it’s usually so JUICY—the intrigue, the back-biting, the incompetence, the panic at CBS!—that a cynical part of me certainly wants it to be true. Those with a passionate dislike for CBS and Discovery will likely get an emotional rush of satisfaction to see things unraveling behind the scenes at All Access as the house of cards appears to be crashing down.
But is it all, in fact, true…or are fans being duped?
Right now on the FAN FILM FORUM Facebook group, we’ve found ourselves needing to poll our members whether or not to continue allowing posted links to the latest Midnight’s Edge videos featuring “news” about Star Trek: Discovery. Personally, I’m not comfortable censoring anything that isn’t rude and crude, insulting, or patently false. And most of the time, I can’t say with any kind of confidence that the information on Midnight’s Edge is completely (or even partially) false. But I can’t say I’m 100% confident it’s all true either (hence, my love/hate relationship with it). But in the absence of being certain, I’d rather not censor…although I will abide by the votes of the group membership.
Why censor links to Midnight’s Edge, you ask? Unfortunately, these “inside scoops,” leaks, and rumors tend to paint CBS and Discovery in a very bad light, and they bring out the “I toldja so!” side of many anti-Discovery Trekkers. Meanwhile, those fans who really like the new Trek series and want to support CBS tend to respond in the way one would expect…and things explode into ugliness from there.
Already, a small number of other Trek-related Facebook groups have banned posts about Midnight’s Edge, and Fan Film Forum might or might not add ourselves to that list. (If you’re gonna vote, you’ve got until this Sunday.)
The problem with Midnight’s Edge is that, like “reality” TV and professional wrestling, it’s hard to know what’s real and what isn’t because Midnight’s Edge mixes truth and facts almost seamlessly with leaks and rumors…so seamlessly that you often don’t even notice when something they say isn’t attributed to an actual source. And sometimes those rumors, often stated confidently as foregone conclusions, turn out to be inaccurate or even completely false.
For example, as this video shows (warning: it’s quite vulgar) at the 27:45-29:15 mark, “rumors” had it during early 2017 that both AKIVA GOLDSMAN and ALEX KURTZMAN were out at Star Trek: Discovery. And yet both were later listed as executive producers throughout season one, and Kurtzman is the new Trek Czar at CBS. The above video spends an hour rattling off everything that Midnight’s Edge either got wrong or outright lied about prior to the summer of 2017.
But the problem is that not everything that Midnight’s Edge says is wrong or untrue. And the stuff that may or may not be true is often said with such gravitas and certainty that it SOUNDS like it’s true. Often, Midnight’s Edge states that something is a rumor, but not always…and that’s a problem (for me, at least).
Let me show you what I’m talking about through some specific examples from the latest Midnight’s Edge video, released on November 3. Here’s the video for reference…
Now, let’s pull out some facts and rumors and look at them more closely. I’ll provide the time code so you can jump to the points I’ll be analyzing…
“Star Trek: Discovery was green-lit only as a means to draw subscribers to the streaming service CBS All Access.”
This was never a secret or some crazy conspiracy theory. CBS needed content for All Access, and Star Trek seemed perfect.
“Netflix paid so much for the international distribution rights that they effectively paid the full cost of producing the first season.”
Netflix paid about 75% of the cost. They ended up paying about $6 million per episode (according to the L.A. Times), and the actual cost of production was closer to $8 million per episode (also according to the L.A. Times). So CBS invested about $30 million of its own money into the 15 episodes of Star Trek: Discovery‘s first season…and that’s not chump change!
“Netflix made it abundantly clear to CBS that, unless they were given a considerable reduction in price, they would not be paying for season 2.”
Although a wonderful “wish fulfillment fantasy” for all those CBS-haters out there, this statement isn’t credited, and I can’t find anything online from a reliable media source confirming it. And this is the first example of a truly objective problem I have with Midnight’s Edge: the above statement isn’t attributed to rumor or an unnamed source. It’s simply stated as fact. It could very well be completely made up by the video’s creator(s). It sounds true, but it could be total B.S. (especially considering that Netflix is paying not only for Discovery but also for rights to the entire Star Trek television catalogue, and that’s a valuable commodity for them). Netflix could well be paying exactly what they did last year…or not.
“Dixon extrapolated the numbers further. He estimated the total viewership numbers was a maximum of 780,000 viewers per episode.” MOSTLY TRUE
And here, Midnight’s Edge actually attributes the statement to a source, in this case COLIN DIXON of VideoInk. And the number is close to the number of views reported to me by an acquaintance who works at CBS of between 250,000 and 500,000 views on All Access (no idea about Netflix) per episode. Of course, now I’m citing an “unnamed source” (if I name the person, they will likely be a former employee of CBS)…so take what I say with a grain of salt, too.
“Writer and producer Akiva Goldsman was, as of October 2017, adamant that Spock would never appear on screen in Star Trek: Discovery.”
And again, Midnight’s Edge reports a verifiable fact and even provides a screen-cap of the internet article. Good! Unfortunately, that move allows Midnight’s Edge to sneakily slip this in next…
“CBS executives reportedly demanded the Enterprise and familiar faces associated with it be brought in to save the day when Discovery underperformed.”
WHO THE HECK KNOWS???
Note the subtle use of the word “reportedly.” Reported by whom, though? This time, Midnight’s Edge doesn’t cite any source. And while this rumor might be true (I can imagine that some “course corrections” for Discovery were decided at the higher levels), it’s not been reported anywhere officially that I can find.
“The original ending that was filmed for season one reportedly featured Mirror Georgiou recruited to Starfleet’s clandestine operation Section 31…”
PRETTY LIKELY TRUE
Back in March, the famous Section 31 “secret scene” discussed above was shown to fans at WonderCon in Anaheim, CA. So, yes, it was filmed and not used. So in this case, “reportedly” becomes “most likely.” And in fact, most of what is said over the next minute of the video is also probably correct—except this…
“While the series’ focus would still be on Burnham and the Discovery, it would attempt to win viewers back by bringing in the Enterprise, Pike, Number One, and Spock…and build up to ‘The Cage.'”
You can’t “build up” to “The Cage” because Star Trek‘s first pilot episode took place three years BEFORE the finale to Discovery‘s first season. Also, show-runner Alex Kurtzman revealed at the New York Comic Con: “You guys like Talosians? We should see some.” Since Pike met the Talosians for the first time in “The Cage,” season 2 of Discovery most likely won’t be “building up” to that episode so much as following up on that episode.
7:52 – 10:30
SHOWRUNNERS FIRED segment
MIX OF FACTS AND RUMOR
There’s way to much to quote, but here Midnight’s Edge does one of the things it does best: throws a mix of facts and rumors and guesses at you so quickly that your mind likely doesn’t bother to think about what might or might not be true. The firings are true, and the going over budget is true (according to many media sources). The designers of the Discovery Klingons did, indeed, tell fans in Las Vegas that it was Bryan Fuller’s instruction to them to make the Klingons hairless. And the part about explaining the lack of hair on Discovery Klingons was also discussed at New York Comic Con. But the leaks about poor results for early test screenings? There’s nothing anywhere in the media about that. Might be true, might be false…no way to know for sure.
“Allegedly, the only motivation for making the shorts was to sell them to international distributors—most notably Netflix—at an additional cost to bring in some much-needed cash into the production. [snip] The shorts were allegedly offered as a package to Netflix for $40 million…a sum CBS thought Netflix would agree was peanuts and fair once divided among their entire subscriber base. Alas, Netflix did not agree and laughed them out of the room. CBS then reduced the price to $35 million…then $30 million…then $25 million…then $20…then $15. Netflix still weren’t interested at any price point CBS were willing to go down to.”
Fortunately for Midnight’s Edge, this snippet starts out with “allegedly” and then adds an additional “allegedly” for good measure.
So the only motivation for making the Short Treks was to sell them to distributors, huh? Well, let me provide another “allegedly” for you—direct from my “unnamed source” at CBS—and you can decide which sounds more likely.
The shorts were actually designed for NFL football watchers…allegedly (wink, wink).
Yep. The problem with the timing of Discovery‘s season two debut on January 17 (my birthday, by the way!) is that football season is nearly over. And NFL football is what is currently driving the majority of subscribers to CBS All Access, and it’s also what they’re watching in numbers quadruple-or-more than Star Trek: Discovery (depending on the game). The problem is that most of these football fans stop watching All Access once the playoffs start in January. I don’t know for sure if these viewers cancel their subscriptions until the next football season begins in September, but I wold guess at least some of them do.
So CBS needed a way to get those football fans to stick around and watch Star Trek: Discovery after the NFL season had effectively ended. That wasn’t a problem last year when the first 9 episodes of Discovery aired DURING football season. But this year, these viewers might be gone by the time Discovery debuts. So what better way to give them a “taste” of Star Trek (to get them hooked) than to release four Short Treks DURING football season?
As for the asking of $40 million for Short Treks, that’s kinda preposterous to imagine for several reasons. First, Netflix paid $90 million last year for the entire Star Trek TV library plus 15 hour-long episodes of Discovery. It seems unlikely that CBS would have asked for as much as $40 million, even as an opening offer, for just 75 minutes of original content. And as enticing as it might be to imagine Netflix executives laughing as the embarrassed CBS executives scurry out of the conference room, I’m afraid those sorts of scenes only happen in the movies…allegedly. Remember: these are adults, each working for billion-dollar corporations.
And almost certainly CBS would stop going back to the well and not continue lowering the asking price in $5 million increments all the way down to $15 million dollars. This isn’t some sidewalk bazaar in a third-world country.
TrekMovie, which I generally find to be a much more reliable source, conjectures: “It is possible that the format of one short episode each month is an issue. Netflix does have certain requirements for short-form entertainment (short content is required to be bundled up into longer compilations), as well as showing preferences for bingable content.” To me, this sounds just as likely, if not more so, than the dramatic laughing-CBS-out-of-the-room scene that Midnight’s Edge painted.
The rest of the video is mostly responsible, fact-based reporting on the scandal and subsequent departure of Les Moonves from CBS, his replacements, and a certain amount of uncertainty on the CBS board of directors. And it’s all pretty much true. The remainder is just some conjecture about possible futures for CBS, Viacom, and Star Trek, and is presented as just that…conjecture.
So what’s my final verdict on Midnight’s Edge?
It’s hard to say. I certainly don’t believe everything it tells me. But then again, much of what Midnight’s Edge presents is clearly labeled as “leaks,” “rumor,” “reportedly,” and “allegedly.” So let the buyer beware.
Like midnight itself—which is both “night” (it’s the middle of the night) and also “morning” (since it’s now 12:00 AM)—Midnight’s Edge walks in two worlds at the same time. It’s reporting on actual news and facts while simultaneously passing along gossip, rumor, conjecture, and potentially complete fabrications. Deceitful? Duplicitous? Perhaps. Welcome to the wonderful world of click-bait, folks.
But as long as Midnight’s Edge identifies the rumors with “allegedly” and “reportedly” and doesn’t credit a source, they can pretty much get away with saying whatever they want to. And it’s up to the rest of us whether or not to believe them. If we had accepted back in 2017 that Akiva Goldsman had been fired and Alec Kurtzman walked away from Discovery, then shame on Midnight’s Edge for fooling us. But if we blindly accept everything they tell us and get fooled again…then shame on us.