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Why It's Harder For Modern Star Trek Shows Like Discovery To Reach 100-Episode Milestones

Michael Burnham on Star Trek: Discovery
(Image credit: Paramount+)

Star Trek: Discovery officially surpassed 50 episodes during its fourth season and, with Season 5 on the way (alongside other new Trek content), there’s a chance it could hit more episode milestones down the road. Still, the Paramount+ series is a long way away from 100 episodes. And if it does hit that mark, it’ll have taken much longer for it to get there compared to classic shows in the franchise like The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager. According to an executive producer for Discovery, such a thing is hard for the newer show to accomplish for both obvious and not-so-obvious reasons.

I recently spoke to Star Trek: Discovery executive producer and director Olatunde Osunsanmi about the odds of the sci-fi series hitting that large number of episodes and whether a feat like that is even achievable in the modern era of the franchise. Osunsanmi, in response, discussed some of the practical obstacles the show faces on a theoretical road to the big 100:

It’s very hard to hit the 100th episode. It’s very hard to hit 50. To be honest, I wasn’t quite aware of [Discovery surpassing 50 episodes], and I think that’s an unbelievable accomplishment. From all the cast to crews, to producers, to CBS [and] Paramount+, that’s quite an investment. And I was just talking to a panel of other Star Trek directors that spanned from TNG, Deep Space Nine, all the way through to Discovery. That was the one thing I think they were struck at were the amount of resources that went into Discovery compared to what they had in the past. So, I think when you have this amount of resources and the amount of time it takes–sometimes it takes twenty weeks to build a set from design to completion–It’s harder to churn out twenty-episode seasons.

As Olatunde Osunsanmi (who directed Star Trek: Discovery’s Season 4 finale featuring that surprising guest star) mentioned above, a lot more resources go into making the show than perhaps a classic show like The Next Generation. Osunsanmi specifically mentioned the amount of work that goes into set-piece construction alone. Admittedly, though, there are likely far more examples of how modern Trek productions move along more efficiently than their classic counterparts.

It’s all great food for thought, considering the recent news that Discovery Season 5 is set to have 10 episodes, which is less than previous seasons. That number may ultimately change but, according to the director/producer, ten episodes is the ideal sweet spot for a production like this. It has to do with the age-old quality vs quantity argument. Nevertheless, he would definitely like to see one of the modern shows hit the massive episode mark:

You’re going in between ten and thirteen [episodes], I think we did fifteen in the first season. But ten is probably the sweet spot in order to maintain the quality because we’re shooting for the same amount of time that those [past] shows shot. But, we have half the output coming out. So yeah, I hope one of these shows get to 100. They should all celebrate whoever does it first. I guess we’re in the lead from the modern era. Hey, why not, but that’s going to be a tall order.

Though Star Trek: Discovery may be dropping fewer episodes during its next season, that’s not necessarily indicative of quality (especially given the great ending that Season 4 had). In fact, Olatunde Osunsanmi teased during our interview that there’s likely some plan for for the upcoming season to further address the infamous Short Treks installment “Calypso.” Ten-episode seasons may make it more difficult for the series to achieve a 100-episode milestone like Star Trek programs of the past but, if the quality remains the same, I’m sure very few fans will have complaints. 

While Star Trek: Discovery Season 4 is finished, anyone with a Parmaount+ subscription can stream all 13 episodes right now. There are also many other great Star Trek shows arriving in 2022, so now is as good a time as ever to get Paramount+ (opens in new tab) if you’re a fan of the iconic science fiction franchise.

Mick likes good television, but also reality television. He grew up on Star Wars, DC, Marvel, and pro wrestling and loves to discuss and dissect most of it. He’s been writing online for over a decade and never dreamed he’d be in the position he is today.