Star Trek: Discovery doesn’t arrive until this fall, but it’s already had a pretty rough voyage. Jubilation at the prospect of Star Trek‘s return to TV gave way to annoyance when it was revealed that the show would be available exclusively on CBS’ subscriber-only streaming platform. Critics of the rebooted Kelvin timeline films were upset to see Alex Kurtzman, co-writer of 2009’s Star Trek and 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness as producer. Lauded showrunner Bryan Fuller, a Star Trek veteran responsible for cult hits like Hannibal and Pushing Daisies, resigned. Having been pushed back already, there is now no specific premiere date. And those are just the major issues that have caused many fans to grow cynical. But don’t worry. This is Star Trek. There’s always hope.
Many Excellent Shows Have Troubled Productions
Prior to its premiere in the summer of 2016, HBO’s Westworld–arguably the most acclaimed show of the year–had been in development for five years. Its pilot was ordered in 2013. It had been slated to premiere in 2015 and was later delayed. During that time it lost several cast members; Miranda Otto, originally slated to play Theresa Cullen, dropped out, as did Eion Bailey, who was slated to play Logan. As the project slowly gestated, observers began to wonder if it would ever make it to air. Not only did it eventually arrive, but it arrived after the writers and producers had taken extra time to plot out the story of future seasons to ensure they were telling their story the best way. The result was HBO’s biggest hit since the debut of Game of Thrones.
Game of Thrones itself had a difficult road to the screen. The project had been in various stages of development for over a decade, envisioned first as a film series, then as a TV show. Prior to its debut, many doubted that even a premium cable network could deliver on the promise of faithfully adapting the bestselling book series. A troubled production in no way guarantees a subpar final product.
Ambition Deserves Leeway
What we know of Discovery suggests it will be the most ambitious Star Trek show ever made, surpassing even Deep Space Nine in complexity. We know that the story will not focus on the captain of a ship, but a first officer played by Sonequa Martin-Green. Multiple starships, including the USS Discovery and the USS Shenzhou, will be involved in the narrative. Actor Anthony Rapp is playing the first openly gay character to be a regular on a Star Trek show. Classic characters will have their backstory revised and will be played by new actors. All of this is unprecedented in Star Trek‘s history.
Lofty goals entitle the creators to extra consideration. Their motives, geek cred, and ability to tell a story should not be second-guessed or dismissed. The producers have said that they asked for the show to be delayed to give them time to craft the best product. We should believe them.
Star Trek Has Been Here Before
Trekkies know that the original Star Trek pilot was rejected for being “too cerebral.” Even after the series was greenlit, the show remained under threat of cancellation. The production of Star Trek: The Next Generation was exceptionally troubled, as recounted in William Shatner’s documentary Chaos on the Bridge. Fans will remember the skepticism that greeted the “darker, grittier” Deep Space Nine before it debuted. And they should remember that in each case, things turned out well. Over five decades, the ratio of good Trek to bad Trek has always been a marvel.
It remains to be seen if Star Trek: Discovery will live up to fans’ massive expectations. But if it is bad, it will not be because of delays, or a casting change, or even Bryan Fuller’s departure. If it is bad, it will be because it fails as a Star Trek show. No matter what, its creators are working to deliver the best possible product. To write them off, or doubt them, without seeing a single frame of a single episode, is shortsighted. For now, we should trust the creators and hope it is worth the wait.