Alex Kurtzman On Streaming TV Challenges And How Shorter Star Trek Seasons Helps Avoid “Filler” Episodes

Star Trek series with up to 7 seasons of over 20 episodes each is a thing of the past. Alex Kurtzman, who is in charge of Trek TV for Paramount, is talking about the ups and downs of the streaming era.
Making every episode count
Last week brought the sad news that Star Trek: Lower Decks was going to end after its upcoming fifth season, matching Discovery, which is currently wrapping up its fifth and final season. Speaking to Cinemablend (before the Lower Decks news was announced) Alex Kurtzman called Discovery getting 5 seasons a “miracle,” noting how things are just different these days:
“I think most people watch two seasons of a streaming show, and they check out, you know, and that’s not specific to Trek. I just think that’s the watch pattern for television in the streaming world.”

Cast for the fifth and final season of Discovery (Paramount+)

Discovery will end its run with a total of 65 episodes. The final season has 10, which is the new norm for the Trek shows on Paramount+.  Enterprise, the last Trek show before the streaming era, had a total of 98 episodes over four seasons. 100 episodes used to be a key goal for all TV shows so they could be more easily sold for syndication, but television distribution has changed since then.

Alex Kurzman on the Discovery bridge set(CBS Studios)

Kurtzman told CinemaBlend that today, it is “unlikely” for any Trek show to get close to the 100-episode mark, but he also pointed out this is actually a benefit:
“I think what’s lovely about that is—it’s funny, you can talk to old writers of old Trek series, and they’re like, ‘Man, there’s a bunch of filler episodes in there. We are just trying to get to 22 a season,’ you know, and we all know which of those episodes were [filler], we know the ones that were truly stellar from the ones that felt like they were kind of spinning their wheels. And so I think what ten episodes a season forces you to do is really make sure that every story counts as much as it possibly can. And I like that… I like what that affords us now.”
With two dozen or more episodes to make for each season, it is true they are not all going to be winners. But one fan’s filler episode could be another’s favorite, and sometimes those mid-season episodes offered opportunities for character development or experimentation and off-the-wall ideas.

The second season cast of Strange New Worlds (Paramount+)

Of course, comparisons to the previous Trek shows are a bit of apples and oranges, as the modern series have significantly bigger budgets (even after inflation), plus each episode takes up to twice as long to shoot. 22-episode seasons are still the norm for broadcast television dramas, especially procedural shows. In contrast, dramas on streaming services and prestige cable TV shows tend to have fewer episodes; the 2023 Emmy nominees for Best Drama had seasons that ranged from 9 to 13 episodes. The modern Trek shows are also in line with other genre shows: The Star Wars show Andor had 12 episodes and the the latest season of Marvel’s Loki only had six.
So shorter series is just the new normal… until things change again.


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