Yesterday, an informational photon torpedo hit the geekosphere. CBS has green-lit another Star Trek series. No, not the one starring Sir Patrick Stewart. This is something completely different. It is a comedy animation.
There has been a Star Trek animated series in the past. And while there has not been a pure Star Trek comedy, the series has been brimming with comedy almost from the beginning. The first season of Star Trek the Original Series took itself pretty seriously. But it loosened up over the years enough so that “Trek” Movies Four, “The Voyage Home,” and Five, “The Final Frontier,” were more comedy than not.
CBS News released more details.
“Lower Decks” will focus on the support crew on one of Starfleet’s “least important ships,” according to a press release. The series will be produced by CBS Eye Animation Productions, CBS Television Studios’ new animation arm, Secret Hideout and Roddenberry Entertainment. Secret Hideout’s Alex Kurtzman and Heather Kadin and Roddenberry Entertainment’s Rod Roddenberry and Trevor Roth and Katie Krentz will serve as executive producers alongside McMahan. Aaron Baiers, who brought McMahan to the project, will serve as a co-executive producer.”
Some fans may consider this a good news/bad news scenario. The good news is that CBS ordered two seasons. The bad news is that those seasons will likely be sequestered on CBS All-Access: CBS’s paid streaming service. The streaming service was heavily criticized for its many technical difficulties while streaming Star Trek Discovery and for its viewer-hostile commercial break practices.
While many fans tuned in to watch Discovery, there was little reason to maintain the subscription afterward. It is possible that CBS is doubling down on Star Trek series to provide a reason for viewers to maintain their subscriptions year-round.
As to why CBS chose to do a comedy, it could have something to do with the surprising success of another comedy space opera called The Orville on Fox. Seth MacFarlane is the braintrust and star of the show. Some Trekkers flocked to the show after expressing disappointment with Discovery for diluting the Trek ethos.
The Orville is definitely a comedy. But is also very “Trek”-like. It is easy to understand why CBS might want to capture the zeitgeist of the show. In some ways, CBS All-Access is an experiment in building a paid service around a single show, and soon, an entire franchise. In some ways, that is exactly what UPN with the seven-year hit, Star Trek Voyager.