Much of the TV run of “Star Trek” has been defined by its episodic nature – the various series boasting individual episodes are driven by different plots and thematical elements. Certainly, there were recurring characters and story threads that would come back around at times, but it was a product of 1960s and 1990s television when serialised storytelling on the small screen was in its infancy.
“Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” helped change the game somewhat, a series that started out episodic for its first two seasons before becoming gradually more and more serialised until the back half of its last season was one giant story. “Enterprise” experimented with the serialised format as well with its third season being one giant story arc.
CBS All Access and Netflix’s “Star Trek: Discovery” series changed things up again by being the first Trek series strongly serialised from the very start. In a new interview about the series, CBS CEO Leslie Moonves says the adoption of that heavily interconnected format was a direct result of the network’s decision to put the program exclusively on their streaming platform:
“Star Trek could have gone on CBS, it could have gone on Showtime, it could have gone directly to Netflix instead of just international, for a lot of money. There is a distinction. The Good Fight is a spin-off of a successful CBS show. It is sort of different on All Access, they can be serialized. On CBS we try to avoid that generally. Network television generally works better when it is not serialized.”
CBS of course is famous for being the king of procedural and episodic television and ratings-wise there remains a massive audience for that kind of television even as there has been a big rise in binge-watching fueled by the increase in serialized television which started off in the 1990s in genre shows from “Twin Peaks” to “Buffy,” “Babylon 5” to “Xena” and moved into more mainstream shows by the early 2000s.
“Star Trek: Discovery” is now playing on CBS All Access in the U.S. and on Netflix around much of the rest of the world.