It may have been enough of a success to merit a second season, but it would be fair to say that the first season of “Star Trek: Discovery” on CBS All Access split the crowd when it came to the devoted fanbase of ‘Trekkies’ out there. There was no denying that it brought a cinematic feel and a ‘big-budget’ aura that was singularly absent in the most recent “Star Trek” series “Enterprise” over a decade ago, but in the attempt to make the Star Trek format work for a new era, it broke with tradition a little too much for the hardcore fans.
First off, there was all the controversy about the Klingons. The most famous alien race in the “Star Trek” universe was given a complete redesign for the new series, and it was one that barely resembled the established concept at all. Even if you weren’t an avid “Star Trek” viewer, you know what a Klingon is supposed to look like. They’re big, they’re brown, they have long hair, and the men have beards. That was the case in all of the movies, and all of the television series that have been produced in the past thirty years. And yet when Discovery launched, they were hairless, multicolored and anatomically different. While some people were willing to give the producers credit for trying something new, most seemed to think that it was an insult to established continuity.
Then there was all the sex and swearing. Historically, “Star Trek has” (for the main part) shown us a Utopian future for the human race; one in which the idea of being impolite (or racy) had been left in the past, and humans were civil to each other at all times. Within the first couple of episodes of Discovery, the cast were swearing at each other and burning with sexual tension. Again, the intended audience for the show found this a little off-putting.
With the launch of the second season, with the central characters now established and the storyline war of season one out of the way, it seems like the show has had the chance to breathe, think about its own identity a little more, and relax into the patterns we associate more closely with the fifty-year-old franchise. A changing of the guard when it comes to the show’s producers may have helped with this, with a couple of senior figures who were apparently resistant to the idea of change making way for people who were more accommodating.
The result of those changes is a “Star Trek” series that feels more accessible. The first season felt like it occurred within a different universe to the Star Trek we’ve all known and grown to love, with the only real connection being the character of Michael Burnham being aggressively shoe-horned into the established continuity of Spock’s life. Season two is happier to work with the conventions we’re familiar with and tell us new tales within the established canon.
Season one ended with the appearance of the USS Enterprise, at a time before William Shatner’s Captain Kirk took command and the events of the original series began. Instead, we get to spend more time with Captain Pike; the ship’s first captain as briefly seen on-screen in the pilot of the 1960s show. Played with a Kirk-like flair by Anson Mount, he provides a physical connection between the world of Discovery and the world of the original “Star Trek.” Not only that, but we’re getting our first glimpses of Spock. The first couple of episodes of Season 2 showed us Spock as a child, from behind. Later on, we’ll see an adult Spock, re-introduced to us at a point before any of us came to meet him with Kirk.
The selection of a “Star Trek” series by CBS to promote their subscription series was a wise one; it’s a show that comes with a devoted audience who are almost certain to buy your product to watch the show, even if they don’t necessarily love everything you do with it. Take that property and add some of the things that fans already love about it; for example the Enterprise and Captain Pike, and you’re cooking with gas.
When a character as well-known and well-loved as Spock is added into that mix, your mixture goes from cooking with gas to boiling with chilli heat. You could say it’s more like the Chilli Heat Online Slot at roseslots.com; you have all the ingredients there on the screen, and if you assemble them in the right order you’ll get a big payout. For Chilli Heat players, that comes in the form of one of the slot’s major jackpots. For CBS All Access, it comes in the form of more subscribers, greater audience engagement and a platform upon which they can build for the future. It’s a different kind of jackpot to the one the slot game offers, but it is every bit as lucrative as far as CBS is concerned.
Having forged closer connections with the shows roots, re-introduced established tropes and characters from the past and shaken off some of the more controversial elements of the last season (the producers have promised that the Klingons will at least regain their hair and beards this time around), it looks like the second season of “Star Trek: Discovery” has every chance of eclipsing the performance of the first season. This wouldn’t be a surprise in the world of “Star Trek;” the exact same thing happened with the second season of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” which both critically and commercially outperformed the first.
Is it actually performing as well as CBS hope, though? As with any subscription or streaming service it’s hard to get a steer on the exact number of people tuning in, but with average demand expressions for the start of the second season exceeding 28.5 million, and Netflix carrying the show to the rest of the world on CBS’s behalf, the early indications are good. “Star Trek: Discovery” looks to have concocted a winning formula, and may go on to be the subscription service’s flagship for several more seasons to come.