CBS Won't Allow Any Reviews of Star Trek: Discovery Before It Airs

Image: CBS
Image: CBS

Welcome, friends, to the story that never ends: it’s Star Trek: Discovery and the flaming nightmare pile that has been every bit of PR for this show. It could be great, it could be bad, it has been impossible to tell. And it will remain impossible to tell, since CBS has reportedly made it a condition of seeing the show early that no reviews be released until Discovery airs.

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The Ain’t It Cool News reviewer who goes by Hercules shared this information via Twitter yesterday:

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And that’s usually a bad sign.

For movies, this is an established technique that’s often done to prevent critics from trashing a bad film before it’s released in hopes people will see it if they don’t hear the reviews; recent examples include The Dark Tower and The Emoji Movie. But it’s by no means a guarantee of badness—many horror movies don’t show screenings, which don’t traditionally get good reviews well, even if audiences ending up loving them. But it’s still hard not to see a refusal to allow early reviews as a lack of confidence in its quality.

And a Star Trek show, done at all well, should review well. A good cast and effects will get the show halfway there, and Discovery looks to have both in spades. And a serious contemplation of important topics in Star Trek’s usual allegorical-bordering-on-pretentious manner is the kind of stuff that gets attention and rave reviews these days. This isn’t fare that doesn’t fare well with critics—at least it shouldn’t be.

Given all the problems Star Trek: Discovery has had since it was first announced, I don’t know whether if the show is actually bad or if this is just another misstep on the part of CBS. I suspect, unfortunately, it’s probably just my wishful thinking that says it might be good. Maybe in the Mirror Universe, there’s a version of Discovery that came out on time, with Bryan Fuller as showrunner and its original vision intact, and had normal PR.

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We’ve reached out to CBS for comment and will update if we get it. Discovery premieres on September 24, at which point, presumably, we’ll get reviews of it.

Katharine is the former managing editor of io9.

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DISCUSSION

This does not bode well. At all. CBS seems to seriously want this franchise to fail, despite the goodwill it would get if it got it right.

This whole thing reminds me of something. Years ago, two shows about an SNL show-within-a-show launched. One was Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip by Aaron Sorkin, with Brad Whitford and Matthew Perry and tons of money and wit and known quantities. The other was 30 Rock by Tina Fey. I was sure Studio 60 would surpass it but 30 Rock ended up being better in every way, with Studio 60 flailing under its own weight.

I am kind of afraid that in the Discovery vs The Orville clash, we’ll see the latter soar and Discovery fail to boldly go.