Why CBS All Access Is Comfortable Developing So Many Star Trek Shows

star trek discovery michelle yeoh

For the twelve planet-bound years between 2005 and 2017, our televisions had zero Star Trek series to stoke fans’ imaginations and excitement. That all changed when CBS All Access unleashed Star Trek: Discovery, which served as a stepping stone to lots more sci-fi greatness coming in the future. CBS All Access Vice President of Original Content Julie McNamara took the stage at TCA and offered fans reassuring words that the streaming service isn’t going overboard.

While it may seem like there's a constant flurry of Star Trek activity, we're taking a measured approach to incubating, prepping, and releasing shows in this universe. The fans demand as much, and we take that responsibility seriously. Each show must stand on its own both in terms of quality and also by bringing a new point of view to the table.

Whenever Star Trek: Discovery was first announced, fans went wild at the thought of the franchise returning to television. (Some of that wildness was tied to the show appearing on a paid streaming service, but that’s neither here nor there.) Regardless of personal preferences about the show’s quality, it cannot be said that the creative team is just phoning it in with reckless abandon.

A greater potential for actual fan worries was set once CBS All Access relatively quickly announced that more Star Trek projects were going into development. It started off with the short-form anthology Short Treks, which has delivered limited looks at various corners of the Star Trek canon. The episodes have been largely acclaimed and embraced by fans, but it wasn’t long before even more Trek projects came to light.

Speaking to the press at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour, Julie McNamara spoke about the other trio of upcoming projects as well.

We're deep in prep on our Picard series, which will drop at the end of the year, with animated Lower Decks to follow. We're also developing a series set in Starfleet's notorious Section 31, starring Michelle Yeoh.

To McNamara’s point about shows that stand on their own terms, CBS All Access is definitely working with a variety of interesting concepts for their impending Star Trek expansion. Arguably the most exciting of the bunch is the one that involves actor Patrick Stewart returning to the role of Jean-Luc Picard. Not much is known about that standalone series just yet, but Stewart’s involvement alone should give it an instant pass.

But it’s not only Star Trek: The Next Generation that’s getting a spinoff, however spiritual that one may be, because Star Trek: Discovery is already set to build off of the flagship narrative with a story centering on Michelle Yeoh’s Mirror Philippa Georgiou as part of the highly mysterious Starfleet division Section 31. That likely won’t look much like the Picard show, unless Section 31 is filled with ageless Brits.

Then there’s the animated comedy Lower Decks, which was created by Rick and Morty writer Mike McMahan. It’ll tell the misadventures of a support crew situated on one of Starfleet’s least important ships. I’m hoping for some of the signature Rick and Morty plot density, if not the abundance of explicitness.

CBS All Access recently had its best weekend ever, thanks in part to the Season 2 of Star Trek: Discovery premiering that week. The episode introduced Anson Mount’s Christopher Pike, a beloved and rarely seen Star Trek character who finally gets to co-lead a Trek project. That kind of success likely makes everyone at CBS All Access comfortable in continuing to go where no network or streaming service has gone before with the franchise.

Star Trek: Discovery airs every Thursday night on CBS All Access at 8:30 p.m. ET, so be sure to keep watching to see when and where Ethan Peck’s Spock will finally get introduced. To see all the other new and returning shows hitting primetime soon, be sure to keep our midseason premiere schedule close at hand.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.