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Days Before Star Trek: Lower Decks' Premiere, There's Merely Hope for International Release

Our new Ensign friends make good use of the replicator.
Our new Ensign friends make good use of the replicator.
Image: CBS

In the last few years, CBS has turned Star Trek from a dormant franchise on television screens into one of its biggest assets. We’ve gone from no shows to our fourth new Trek about to air in the U.S. and Canada this week (and more on the way!). And yet, despite its global appeal, there are still frustrations about just when fans outside the U.S. can boldly go.

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This Thursday, Star Trek: Lower Decks, the new animated series from Mike McMahan exploring the comically tinged lives of a group of Ensigns aboard a D-List Starfleet ship, premieres on CBS All Access in the U.S. and CTV’s Sci-Fi Channel and Crave in Canada. It’s kicking off an unprecedented run of nearly six months of new Star Trek on the platform, being immediately followed by the debut of Star Trek: Discovery’s third season on October 15, and with another series on the way sometime next year—the kid-focused Nickelodeon series Star Trek: Prodigy. Now it truly feels like we’re stepping into that era of “All Trek, all the time” that CBS first pitched after Discovery took off.

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That is, if you’re living in the U.S. and Canada. While so far international support for Trek’s big return to TV has overall been solid—internationally, Netflix gets Discovery the day after episodes premiere in the U.S., and Amazon Prime does the same for Picard. But when it comes to Lower Decks, a show’s existence we’ve known about for almost as long as Picard, things have been bizarrely silent.

Outside of the announcement of its airing in Canada, nothing has been said officially about Lower Decks broadcasting on any of the platforms CBS already has streaming deals with. Also, a recently announced t-shirt subscription to support the show from a merchandising standpoint is currently restricted to American and Canadian fans who want to deck out their wardrobe with a frankly unnecessary amount of cute shirts featuring Boimler, Mariner, and the rest of the motley crew. The only indicator fans have had of an international release of the show came this weekend, when showrunner McMahan took to Twitter to reassure one fan not to worry about the show’s arrival outside of U.S. and Canada:

And yet, it’s not the first time international Trekkers have been left in the dark. The first batch of excellent Short Treks minisodes spinning out of Discovery’s first season, for example, did not reach international audiences day and date with their U.S. broadcast—simply being dumped on Netflix without fanfare just ahead of the second season’s arrival. But it’s easier to argue when it’s a 12-minute minisode that them arriving in fits and starts is not a huge deal. Lower Decks is being presented as the next big Star Trek show, a significant addition to this expansive world of Star Trek, doing things we’ve not seen from a major addition to the franchise before.

Fans who’ve been led along in silence as more and more news and information about the show has come out, with seemingly nothing more than a quiet reassurance on Twitter, are right to be frustrated when all they want to do is support Lower Decks legally in the same way their U.S. and Canadian friends will be able to do later this week. If CBS is going to be as serious about making Trek on TV as big as it’s spent the past few years hyping up, that also has to mean giving access to the series beyond a single continent in a timely manner without leaving people in the awkward position of either having to avoid official news entirely or seek access elsewhere.

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In this day and age—and for a series with such broad, global appeal as Star Trek, a series filled with show after show of people from across the world and across the universe coming together in shared interests and passions—keeping international fans in the dark is an increasingly baffling prospect. We’ve reached out to CBS to see just when international fans can expect to hear news about Lower Decks arriving on their own shores, and will update this piece if we hear back.

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James is a News Editor at io9. He wants pictures. Pictures of Spider-Man!

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DISCUSSION

data-chandler
Data Chandler

It might have something to do with this show just not looking very good, as in: not funny enough to appeal to the comedy people, and yet much too silly to get the old school Star Trek fans on board. And remember, this is the trailer for a comedy show so they probably put some of the "best" jokes in there, which doesn't bode well.

It also leads me to believe the international distribution (Picard with Amazon and Discovery with Netflix) hasn’t been a whopping success, financially speaking. Maybe that’s why they’re passing for now.

PS - Just so certain people will be less inclined to call me a mean negative gatekeeper, here’s some positive stuff: I will say I am appreciative of the production design of Lower Decks clearly being in line with a post TNG world, it looks like in that regard it will have more respect for canon than Discovery. And it doesn’t look absolutely horrible either, it just looks very, very bland.