Like a lot of other people out there, I watched the first two episode of “Star Trek: Discovery” on CBS All Access Sunday night. Also, like a lot of other people, it was the first time the thought had even occurred to me to use the service, because I don’t watch anything on CBS except for sports. I’m a millennial, so that’s not all that surprising.
The question for me going into the night was: Can this one show somehow convince me to pay for yet another streaming service?
Let’s take a look real quick at all the video services I’m currently subscribed to: I’ve got Netflix with the 4K option. I’ve got Amazon Prime. I’ve got Hulu. I’ve got freakin’ cable (OTT services like Sling don’t cover my full diet of sports), with HBO and Showtime.
To put it bluntly, I don’t need any more entertainment subscriptions. I’ve got way more than I could ever want, honestly, and I wish I weren’t stupid enough to pay for all that stuff. At this point, what’s another $6 a month for CBS All Access? Not much. But there’s a principle involved here. I don’t want to encourage TV networks to roll out proprietary streaming services, for one. It would be very tough for “Discovery” on its own to be good enough to override that.
And, no, “Star Trek: Discovery” is decidedly not good enough. The pilot looks like a live-action video game cutscene with its fan film-quality CGI and nauseating canted angles. It tries its best to be inaccessible to people who aren’t “Star Trek” nerds, kicking off with one of many scenes of Klingon philosophizing — and continuing to be as obtuse as possible even when it switches back to the Federation characters. First impressions are hugely important when you’re trying to sell a monthly subscription to people who signed up for a free trial in order to see what’s up. And this show’s first impressions were not great.
From a business perspective, though, gearing it toward “Trek” fans, and at everyone else’s expense, sort of makes sense. If you’re trying to dupe people into paying for a 26th separate streaming service that has very little original content, it’d probably be best to focus first on the easiest marks: the built-in fanbase. Those folks were already the ones who had the most reason to use CBS All Access given its library of “Star Trek” shows. Maybe a better name for the service would be “Star Trek All Access.”
But since I’m not part of that built-in fanbase, I can’t help but feel apathetic after those first two lackluster episodes of “Discovery.” I was intrigued by the idea of a Peak TV “Trek” show, but I have way too many other shows to watch — especially now that the fall TV season is kicking off — to care much for something that’s only available on a service I wouldn’t use for anything else.
The best case for “Discovery,” probably, is for the rest of the season to be good enough for, when people pay for a month to binge watch the full season after it ends, they’ll decide it’s worth a subscription in Season 2. I mean, who knows, maybe it’s actually CBS’ “Game of Thrones” and will end up being hella addictive.
I can’t say what the future holds. But I can say, right now, that the first two episodes of “Star Trek: Discovery” aren’t good enough for me to feel awesome about the idea of supporting a major corporation’s cynical attempt to foster a proprietary streaming service. Try harder, CBS. Get back to me when you have a real slate of new shows.