When I first heard that CBS was going to make a new Trek tv show, I was thrilled. I’m a huge Trekkie. Janeway is my personal hero, Picard the man I most admire, and Spock a soulmate. I followed all the casting announcements like crazy. I admire all the showrunners and writers and actors involved.
Then I heard that CBS was going to air it solely on their online streaming service. I was puzzled at first, because that would limit the number of fans and advertising dollars. Why would CBS do that to themselves and the show? Didn’t they want to give it the best possible chance at success? We all know that just because it’s Trek, doesn’t mean it’s always going to be a huge hit.
I didn’t think about it much because it hadn’t even aired yet. Wasn’t even close, at that point. I figured CBS would come to their senses and change their minds… only they didn’t. And the longer this sales decision sat with me, the angrier I got.
Star Trek is no longer available to the poor, or even the working poor. It won’t reach children who dream of the stars but are ground down by life and their circumstances. It won’t be a role model to women of color who can’t afford to pay to watch someone represent them in an important role on television, like Captain of a starship. It won’t give hope to LGBTQ youth (or adults for that matter) that maybe, one day in the future, they’ll be treated like everyone else instead of ostracized by their sexuality.
Am I ascribing too much to a simple television show? I really don’t think so. Star Trek’s origination came from someone who wanted to challenge the status quo and shine a light on social issues. In order to do that, everyone needed to be able to see it. Granted, streaming wasn’t an option back then, but I believe Trek was too important to Mr. Roddenberry to limit its vision like this.
“But it’s only $5.99!” people keep saying. “It’s nothing!”
You know what? $6 is toilet paper. $6 is a school lunch. $6 is a box of pasta and bag of rice to make sure you eat for a few days. Sometimes, even $1 is the difference between having a bank account that’s not accumulating overdraft fees and getting sucked into the ever-deepening hole of fees and charges, let alone $5.99. That small amount that doesn’t matter to you? It matters a lot to the poor and working-poor.
I know that Trek’s a commodity. I’m not naïve. People need to make money in order to produce television, of course they do. I have zero problem with CBS making money. But they could make just as much, probably more, by airing Discovery live instead of online. They could double their fanbase by airing it live. This grasping after ever-more dollars at the expense of what Trek stood for leaves me hollow.
This isn’t going to change anything, but I had to get it off my chest.