In Part 1, I looked at some of the striking similarities between the two franchises LOST IN SPACE and STAR TREK. And then I shared how my seven-year-old son and I absolutely LOVED the first season of the new Netflix reboot of Lost in Space, while I personally have been mostly disappointed with the new Star Trek: Discovery on CBS All Access (which I don’t let my son watch).
Yesterday, I provided an overview of why Jayden and I enjoyed LiS so much. It made us cheer. We rooted for the characters and wanted to see them get out of trouble and win. On the other hand, during the first season of Star Trek: Discovery, I found myself caring very little about any of the crew or nearly all of the other characters on that show.
But enough with the generalities! It’s time to provide some specifics of what I think LiS is doing right that Discovery is failing to do. So let’s dive right in…
Like Star Trek, LOST IN SPACE recently returned to television after a long absence with a new series…available only through a paid subscription service. Both shows are “darker” than their original versions, very expensive to make (about $8-$8.5 million per episode), and both are produced entirely in Canada (Star Trek: Discovery in Toronto and Lost in Space in British Columbia).
Both series debuted to very strong viewership numbers. When the first two episodes of Discovery premiered on the CBS network, 9.6 million people watched. When LiS debuted on Netflix, Nielsen estimated that 6 million people watched it in the first three days alone and that 1.2 million binge-watched all ten episodes during that time. More viewers—such as myself and my 7-year-old son Jayden, watched LiS several weeks later over the course of many nights.
While it’s not known how many people are watching Discovery (CBS keeps those numbers locked up tighter than the gold in Fort Knox!), estimates are that about 300,000-500,000 subscribers view Discovery on All Access with more watching on Space TV in Canada and on Netflix in other countries around the world. And despite mixed reviews from both critics and fans, both series have now been renewed for a second season.
So those are their main similarities. But what about their differences? And what is it about those differences that leaves me so much MORE enthusiastic about the new Lost in Space than I am about Star Trek: Discovery?
Don’t get me wrong: I actually like some aspects of the new old U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701 that briefly appeared in the season finale of Star Trek: Discovery. (For convenience, I’ll be calling it the “Disco-prise” since “Second-prise” is just plain silly!)
Now, the J.J. Abrams version of the U.S.S. Enterprise from the 2009 reboot Star Trek movie, that one I hated. I think it is a visual travesty, and we shall not speak of it further.
But the Disco-prise, it’s mostly okay with me. I don’t even mind those strange “tail fins” that seem to have been added to the back of the nacelles for no apparent reason (you all realize that there’s no air resistance in space, right?) I sorta like the design…but I definitely don’t love it.
On the other hand, the original U.S.S. Enterprise, designed by WALTER MATT JEFFERIES in 1965 (and altered slightly in 1966 when the Star Trek TV series was picked up for broadcast)…now THAT ship I LOVE. There is not an angle of that magnificent space vessel that I can’t look at for hours or draw from memory. In my opinion, that iconic starship is perfect, a profoundly elegant work of art! (I feel the same way about the refit U.S.S. Enterprise first seen in Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979.)
So why don’t I love the new Disco-prise? It’s not a bad design, but for some reason I couldn’t put my finger on, it just didn’t seem like the work of art that the original was. And about three weeks ago, I finally discovered the reason…
Now THIS is exciting! I don’t know whether the producers of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY intentionally leaked this snippet of the script for the first episode of season two or if it just “sneaked” out the door somehow. But it provides an intriguing look at the direction the creative team will be taking going into the second season.
As has been reported elsewhere, the writing team for Discovery re-assembled at the beginning of last month to begin breaking down season two. Co-creator Alex Kurtzman, who will be directing the first episode of season two, recently explained, “Breaking story is, in some ways, the easier and faster thing; it’s the ability to execute on it that’s much harder. We want to take the right amount of time and don’t want to rush.”
But with production on the first episode set to kick off later this month, the first script needed to be completed quickly. Jonathan Frakes, who just confirmed that he will be directing an episode later in season two, commented, “I just read the first script of the second season and the outline for the second script and it’s on fire now.”
Indeed! And from this leaked scene, I think he’s right.
Granted, there’s no guarantee that the following snippet from the season two premiere script will make it into the actual episode exactly as initially written. Dialog can get changed, segments added and cut, etc. But if this leaked scene does make it into the finished episode, I think we’ll all be very surprised and even enthusiastic about the new direction of the series now that the Klingon War is over.
Naturally, the most exciting thing about this leaked snippet is that fans get a glimpse into how the series will be handing the character of Captain Christopher Pike of the USS Enterprise who, like Sarek, Amanda, and Harry Mudd, has already been seen in canonical Star Trek history. Will Captain Pike hew closely to his original version (like Sarek does), or will he be a radical departure (like Harry Mudd)?
Wonder no more!
I’m not sure if I’m even allowed to post this, so read it fast before I get an e-mail on Monday morning from someone with the initials of “C.B.S.” telling me to immediately take it down.
Over this past weekend, at WonderCon in Anaheim, CA, STAR TREK: DISCOVERY show-runner AARON HARBERTS released what he referred to as a “secret scene. ” He told the audience, in what I thought was a strange comment, that they decided to cut the scene out of the season one finale because it would be “…more exciting to bring it to a place like [WonderCon].”
By now, many of you have probably viewed the two and a half-minute “secret scene” (complete with a full minute and a half of credits…which seemed odd and unnecessary to me). If you’re in the U.S., you can view the clip below…
And in a case of international legalistic inconvenience, those folks in Canada can only watch it here, and the rest of the world can see it here.
Almost immediately, fans started talking excitedly about this “new” scene and what it means for season two. And not surprisingly, a whole bunch of folks e-mailed and/or IM’d me to ask what I thought about it. I guess all those Discovery blogs I’ve written have marked me as some kind of fan barometer or something…or maybe they were just hoping I had some interesting insight or that maybe I’d find some fun way to trash the scene. Who knows?
But since I’ve had a bunch of people ask for my opinion, I thought it best to just write it once. Obviously, I’m not going to put any spoiler warnings here, as the season ended last month and the “secret scene” is right here on this blog.
Ever since William Shatner first said the words, “Space, the final frontier…” every Star Trek series has had an opening title sequence featuring, well, space! All but one, that is…
STAR TREK: DISCOVERY broke with tradition to give fans an odd montage of seemingly random images—a drafting sketch of the USS Discovery, the Victoria Crater of Mars, a human nose/mouth/neck, a close-up on a human eye, an EVA-suit, a phaser, a communicator, a Vulcan salute, a Klingon blade, a weird giant plant spitting out the Discovery, a grappling hook, two space-gloved hands reminiscent of the iconic “The Creation of Adam” biblical fresco by Michelangelo, and finally the logo for the series and a fly-by of the USS Discovery again.
But no space (the final frontier).
The music is an eerie-sounding composition that transitions into a sometimes driving, sometimes mournful orchestral piece culminating in the familiar opening melody of the original Alexander Courage Star Trek theme. Composed by Jeff Russo, the Discovery music combines with the visuals to create an intensely surreal impression similar to the opening title sequence of the series Westworld.
For those who haven’t watched Discovery yet, here’s the opening title sequence that begins each episode…
Like the series itself, people seem to either love or hate the opening title sequence for Star Trek: Discovery…just as they did for the “Faith of the Heart” opening for Star Trek: Enterprise.
But Enterprise was canceled before YouTube existed (or rather, just as it was being launched). Now, however, fans feel quite comfortable making and posting their own new versions of the opening title sequence, and there are currently dozens of videos out there!
After reviewing all the ones I could find, I selected my TOP TWELVE. Yeah, I know it’s supposed to be TOP TEN, but I just couldn’t eliminate the final two. They were just so good!
I’ve assembled those twelve fan-made videos here in one blog—ranked in order so that my favorite is last. Which one is YOUR favorite?
Yesterday, I began by noting that there were a number of Trek fans who believed that CBS was somehow in a “panic” about the poor performance of Star Trek: Discovery, and that there was some kind of pressure being put onto the production team to retool the series, possibly bringing in the USS Enterprise to somehow replace the USS Discovery…or some nonsense like that.
It’s true that, at best, Star Trek: Discovery is just about breaking even for CBS…or possibly losing a few million dollars. I didn’t do all the math yesterday as I ran out of space, but I’ll do it quickly here for you.
Since last September when Discovery premiered, CBS All Access has added approximately 500,000 new subscribers (going from 2 million to 2.5 million). I learned that the majority of those subscribers were actually tuning into the NFL on All Access and notDiscovery, but let’s assume that they all joined because CBS added a new Star Trek show.
All Access allows subscribers to watch with commercials for $6/month or without for $10/month. Let’s average that to $8/month. Discovery was on for five months:
[ 5 months x $8/month x 500,000 subscribers = $20 million ]
As I mentioned yesterday, Discovery cost CBS about $30 million to produce (the portion not covered by Netflix licensing).
So how does Discovery break even if it’s losing $10 million? Advertising. Also, not all of those subscribers canceled after 5 months, so the revenue continues. In other words, Discovery is doing just fine as far as CBS is concerned.
On the other hand, the license to stream the NFL on All Access likely cost CBS upwards of $250 million…and there’s no way they didn’t lose money on that deal! So why keep throwing major bucks into All Access if you’re CBS? Hasn’t this experiment essentially failed?
And to make matters worse, this is how All Access looks when measured up against Netflix and Hulu subscribers (and this is only in the U.S. alone)…
YEESH! Sucks to be CBS, right? So why not put All Access out of its misery? Why bother keeping Star Trek: Discovery on the air and losing money on the NFL?
Like a number of Trek fans, I watch and enjoy the Midnight’s Edge video podcast. The production values are high, and the updates are interesting and informative. But they’re also full of rumor, conjecture, and innuendo.
I sometimes feel as though I’m listening to fan “wish-fulfillment” and conspiracy theories, and I occasionally find myself wondering what is true and what is simply something that the creator(s) of Midnight’s Edge WANT to be true.
It’s often really hard to tell the difference! In their most recent video podcast, Midnight’s Edge mentions that, “There were reportedly no Star Trek: Discovery toys revealed at the 2018 Diamond Select ToyFair.” Note the word “reportedly.” It’s a relatively careful word. The “report” they reference was a single tweet from Gabriel Koerner, who was apparently there…
Three days later, however, TrekMovie.com reported that McFarlane Toys was displaying a brand new Star Trek: Discovery phaser at ToyFair. So perhaps sourcing a single tweet from a roving, non-reporter VFX artist might not be the most reliable way to confirm one’s facts.
And so it was that I took the following quote from the most recent Midnight’s Edge video podcast with a pretty huge grain of salt:
“While CBS displayed confidence to the public, there was rumored chaos and panic behind the scenes, and the latter episodes of the series were allegedly retooled to address fan concerns going forward. Because from season 2 onwards, it is going to be increasingly important to win back the fans.”
Sounds all juicy and dramatic, don’t it? Of course, notice the words “rumored” and “allegedly” included in there. Some fans, dissatisfied and angry about the new series not hewing more closely to TOS and established Star Trek designs, would love to think that there are huge regrets at CBS about the way Discovery was rolled out and handled…and that the higher-ups are putting pressure on the producers to fix this and that. It’s certainly a compelling narrative if you’re an angry and resentful Trek fan.
It’s kind of like Special Agent Fox Mulder on The X-Files wanting to believe in the most far out conspiracy theories. And who knows? Maybe they’re right. But I seriously doubt it.
So it’s time for me to put on my Special Agent Dana Scully red wig and provide an alternative, more reasonable analysis of the situation currently going on with CBS and Star Trek: Discovery. Then you can decide whom YOU want to believe…
As STAR TREK: DISCOVERY completes its initial season, I have one final chance to kvetch about the new series before what looks to be a year or more hiatus while production proceeds on season two.
I know it seems like all I ever do (or most of what I do) is criticize this show…and many have asked why I’ve even bothered watching it in the first place. It’s a fair question, and the answers I can come up with are: 1) it’s not that the show sucks, and 2) I’m a 50-year Trekkie…how could I not watch this show? Even if I’m choosing to be critical of it (as I am of the rebooted Star Trek films, as well), I want to know what it is that I’m criticizing.
But as I said, folks, the show doesn’t suck! It’s well acted, well produced, well edited, has great music, mostly great pacing, looks visually stunning, and is obvious the result of a team of very dedicated individuals working very hard to produce a quality television series.
So why the heck don’t I like this show more? Why don’t I LOVE it???
It’s not simply that I don’t like the bling-shiny uniforms or that I wasn’t thrilled with the new-fangled Klingons and their crazy ship designs that look more like bats and the Federation technology that looks like 25th century rather than 23rd. I moved past all the cosmetic issues I had with the series early on. So their USS Enterprise NCC-1701 doesn’t match the original. My head canon can just shift this entire series into an alternative reality, and all is good.
So again, why don’t I like this show more?
I know I’ve sounded like a disgruntled broken record in my editorial reviews. But that’s just me trying to figure out the answer to this question in my head (and sharing those thoughts with all of you).
And as the first season brought with it what I considered to be a very unsatisfying end to the Klingon war, I finally put my finger on what’s been bothering me the most…