by Matt Johnson
It seems nothing changes, other than how we get our news.
Back in 1987 the announcement of The Next Generation was greeted with cries of "Rip Off", "Don't take away our heroes", "Roddenberry is just cashing in" etc. Marina Sirtis on the Graham Norton show said:
“The fans hated the fact that we were on,” she says. “I mean people assume because we became so successful that it was always that way. But no, I would go to conventions where there were like 30 people and they’d all be sitting with their arms crossed going, ‘how dare you take the place of our heroes.’ So we really had to win our audience.”
And yet here we are, 32 years later, TNG is one of the most important and seminal works of science fiction in history. Spanning a full 7 seasons and multiple award winning movies, for some people Star Trek is TNG, Kirk, Bones, Scotty and Spock were merely a warm-up act to the main event. And now here we are again, Star Trek Discovery has it's haters, people with the same kind of closed off mindset that was apparent in the 1980s, but now they have a new weapon, social media. A small but vocal minority are able to strike out and reach millions of regular fans of not just Star Trek but any TV show, in fact anything at all they don't like the look of, and they are heard.
Where once these were the ramblings of closet nerds and basement dwellers whose pasty faced complaints were more likely due to a lack of sunlight and vitamin D than anything to do with the merits of the actual show, their whining diatribes occasionally found their way to a national newspaper to be glanced at before being used to wrap our chips the next day, now these nihilistic prophets of doom are on every Facebook page, blog, Twitter and more, trolling, criticizing, slagging off and proclaiming they are the tip of an imaginary iceberg of disgruntled fans but with not a shred of evidence to back up their spurious claims. In fact the evidence would suggest the exact opposite. According to Parrot Analytics, a data analytics firm who measure demand for TV shows across the globe, Star Trek: Discovery season 2 was a measurable hit. Between April 6 and May 5 - the season 2 finale, "Such Sweet Sorrow", released on April 18 - Star Trek: Discovery was the most in-demand digital original series worldwide. Further, it was the #2 science-fiction series worldwide, narrowly beaten by The 100. (source https://screenrant.com/star-trek-discovery-ratings-most-popular-streaming-show/ )
In Star Trek Online Several episode arcs are still under construction based around DISCO and some of the main protagonists; and we will no doubt see a Picard spin off later next year.
CBS All Access may be yet another streaming service that hard pressed Americans have had to sign up to in order to watch DISCO, and this at least does seem to be a valid bone of contention for Americans, but around the rest of the world the show is aired on Netflix and has proven immensely popular. In 2017 DISCO was the 4th most popular TV show on Netflix (source https://comicbook.com/startrek/2017/12/17/star-trek-discovery-netflix/ ) and in May 2019 it was still 5th (source https://observer.com/2019/05/netflix-most-popular-shows-movies-ratings-in-the-uk/ ).
It is most likely the success of DISCO that enabled CBS to produce the much anticipated Star Trek: Picard which airs on January 23rd 2020, this time the franchise has been picked up by Amazon for the rest of the world whilst CBS All Access will stream the show in the States. Even more projects are planned as the Star Trek franchise goes from strength to strength, to continue it's 50+ year journey. Thankfully the studios didn't listen to the haters back in the 80s, if they had then we would have had no TNG, no Voyager, no DS9, no Enterprise, no DISCO and no Picard, and probably no movies.
Star Trek is all about exploration of space and the human condition, one of those conditions is fear, fear of the unknown, fear of change, fear that somehow something new will undermine that which we love, which of course it could never do. While the haters will hate and grow even more pasty faced, the rest of us will head out into the unknown at warp factor 13 into the Star Trek Universe full of wonder and excitement and hope, hope that we can succeed in real life even beyond the wildest dreams of Kirk, Picard et al, to make this world a better place and to spread our wings across the galaxy.