Well, fellow Trekkers, I was planning a big cover story about “Star Trek: Discovery” this weekend, along with a review of the new series.
That’s not going to happen. Because CBS won’t screen the show for critics.
There are two possible explanations for this. The first is that “Star Trek: Discovery” sucks.
I really hope that’s not true, because I’ve been looking forward to this since it was announced. For that matter, pretty much since the most recent “Star Trek” went off the air more than 12 years ago.
But in the 27 years I’ve been a TV critic, I cannot recall a single time when something withheld from us turned out to be good. It’s like when movie studios don’t screen crummy flicks for critics — they’re hoping to sell a few tickets before the reviews are written.
I fear that’s the case with “Discovery.” After all, it has already been through production turmoil (including changing showrunners) and was delayed from January to May to September. And fans are ticked they’ll have to pay a fee to see “Discovery” on CBS All Access, so it could use all the good press it can get. Good press it would get from positive reviews.
(The pilot airs Sunday at 7 p.m. on CBS/Ch. 2; that and all other episodes will be streaming only on CBS All Access.)
CBS had screenings in New York and Los Angeles for a few critics, but their reviews are embargoed until after it airs on Sunday. Yes, HBO did that with Season 6 of “Game of Thrones” and Showtime did that with Season 3 of “Twin Peaks,” but for a major TV outlet to withhold a series premiere is unprecedented.
It doesn’t inspire optimism about the quality of “Discovery.”
The second possible explanation is that this is to prevent spoilers. And CBS claims this is a matter of security. But I get screeners with instructions telling me not to give away spoilers all the time.
Critics have seen all six new fall shows on the CBS broadcast network, as well as the two new series on The CW, which CBS operates. And dozens of other shows.
Yes, the first four episodes of Season 5 of “Game of Thrones” were leaked online in 2015, and there were widespread reports that it was traced to screeners sent to critics. At the time, I was the president of the Television Critics Association; I contacted HBO, asked who the culprit was and stated flatly that I would kick him/her out of TCA.
Turns out HBO got scammed by a fraud. Critics weren’t the problem.
Yes, I’d like to see “Discovery” because I’m not just a critic, I’m a fan. But as a fan, I can wait.
As a critic, I can’t do my job because CBS won’t let me. I could write a story with the interviews I did with the cast and producers, but what’s the point? They all told me it’s great — as you’d expect.
Maybe it is. Maybe this is just a case of CBS completely botching the rollout.
Let’s hope. We’ll find out on Sunday.