On Sunday, US television station CBS aired “The Vulcan Hello”, the premiere episode of Star Trek: Discovery. The episode is slated to be the only one of the series broadcast on conventional television, with future installments exclusive to streaming platform CBS All Access. Discovery continues the long-running Star Trek franchise with the first series in the franchise to feature a black female lead.
The airing follows several months of development and delays, as the series was retooled by veteran television producers including Bryan Fuller and Akiva Goldsman. Initially announced in 2015 to celebrate Star Trek’s 50th anniversary the following year, the series has been plagued by setbacks, including departure of Bryan Fuller as showrunner in late 2016, collectively pushing its release date to move from January to September of this year.
Only Canadian station Space is to air the series on traditional television. In all other non-US countries, Netflix has the rights.
The series is the newest installment of the Star Trek media franchise. Discovery is a prequel program set before the 1960s original series, set to explore the relationship between the Earth-based Federation made up of several benign alien species who explore the universe to find new life, and the war-like Klingons who have been villains of the various films and television installments. Veteran US television actress Sonequa Martin-Green stars as Michael Burnham, first officer of starship USS Shenzou.
The series has earned praise and controversy for its decision to cast the lead as a black woman. Creators say this inclusivity is consistent with the franchise’s history, which has featured black male and white female leads. All casts have been multi-racial, starting with the original series, which included the black female character Uhura portrayed by Nichelle Nichols.
Discovery also marks a key part of CBS’s strategy for streaming its streaming video service All Access. Launched in 2014, the platform has a library of several thousand episodes from the network’s past programming as well as debuting two spin-off series: Big Brother: Over the Top, from the reality television franchise Big Brother, and the legal procedural The Good Fight, from The Good Wife. The CBS Corporation is using this drama as an incentive for signing up to their service, which competes with industry giants Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Hulu. Hulu is a joint venture including many of the broadcast networks in the United States but CBS only began sharing selected programming on this platform earlier this year. CBS claimed the debut resulted in their biggest surge in membership, without offering hard numbers.