Star Trek The Original Series Courtmartial Albert Whitlock Stabase 11 matte painting
The Communicator

The Biggest Questions About the New Trek Series (Are About Production, Not Characters & Timelines)

February 2016

Now that one of the biggest questions related to the new Star Trek series has been answered (Bryan Fuller as the showrunner!) there are still many questions left to ponder. While most fans are focused on queries regarding the new series characters and timelines, I’ve been focused on another set of big questions. What is the production schedule going to look like for this show?


Believe me, I’m also anxious to learn about the new characters, ships and setting for the series launching in 2017, but I can wait for those answers. (Honestly, I’d be just as happy to learn about the new captain and the show's setting as the show debuts on CBS Access, as I would being told that information months in advance.)


For me, a diehard fan of the below-the-line, behind-the-scenes production staff that has been so critical to Star Trek through the years, these are the biggest questions about the new series.


Will the series be launched as a week-to-week series

or as a block of episodes ready to be binged?

It certainly feels like the CBS All Access folks are thinking in terms of the old studio model and will be releasing one show per week. If they go this route, it is very much counterintuitive to the many streaming series that you know so well (House of Cards, Orange Is the New Black, Transparent, etc.). The Amazon, Hulu and Netflix model has clearly been to release everything at once. Prediction: This fan is very much hoping for a full-on Star Trek TV binge once the series is released, but something tells me that is not going to happen, and we are going to get a weekly release.


Will the series be completely “in the can” once it is launched?

Assuming the answer to the first question could easily be “a weekly release,” the next question is whether or not the series will be completely produced and "in the can" once it is launched? Or will it be produced in the old deadline-oriented, week-to-week studio model? There is absolutely no question that the most successful cable shows these days (and most of the aforementioned streaming successes) are 100 percent completed by the time they air (Fargo, Game of Thrones, Better Call Saul, etc.). There are dozens of advantages to this model, but ultimately it all boils down to one thing. The quality is better when you can create an entire block of programming without worrying about the constraints of weekly releases. Prediction: We should all be hoping that the show will somehow be created as a 12-to-15 hour block of programming that is not reliant on old school act breaks and decisions predicated by pressure deadline situations.


How many episodes will there be in a season?

Obviously, I want as much Star Trek as possible, but there is no doubt that the No. 1 lesson learned in the modern, golden age of television across the past 10 years is: "less is more." The bulk of many celebrated television series’ in recent years (Breaking Bad, Mad Men, The Walking Dead, etc.) are based on tight seasons with approximately 10 episodes. (And even when these series’ stretch to 16 episodes or so, they have been routinely produced and told in eight-episode split seasons.) These shows were able to successfully discard the narrative filler that clogs up just about every network series. That issue has even affected superior network series like Lost, The Flash, 24, and <gulp> Star Trek). Prediction: I am convinced that the showrunner and other producers will be sharp enough to insist on tight, confined storytelling that doesn’t stretch into 20-episode territory.


January 2017? Can it really be done by then?

Based on the February 2016 appointment of Bryan Fuller as the series showrunner, that answer is now unequivocally, “Yes!”