Star Trek Update: 3/9/2021The Dark Herald
I’m afraid it’s mostly bad news for Star Trek fans.
A few months ago, I had said that I was certain that Star Trek: Discovery was hard wrapped. Secret Hideout couldn’t get any more funding.
I’m afraid that has changed. Here is the background from my old blog:
(A while back) there was an article in Deadline that said the newly hired president of the Paramount, Emma Watts claimed that her top priority was rebooting Star Trek. Alex Kurtzman’s name wasn’t mentioned once in the entire article. That was a significant smoke-signal in Hollywood.
Paramount wants to move Star Trek ahead without Alex Kurtzman’s Secret Hideout.
Beloved Readers: So why don’t they just fire him and move on?
Because they can’t.
This part is complicated.
Star Trek was originally produced by Lucille Ball’s company, Desilu Studios. In 1968, Gulf and Western were on a buying spree of TV production companies for their subsidiary, Paramount Pictures. And Desilu got snapped up for $130 million (in 1968 dollars), leaving Lucy laughing all the way to bank.
After that Star Trek was the property of Paramount, free and clear. All well and good.
Then back in 2005, Sumner Redstone decided to split Paramount into two separate entities. CBS/Viacom and Paramount Studios proper. Since Star Trek was a TV property it was handed over to Viacom which was controlled by Les Moonves at the time. And Moonves hates science fiction. He is the second executive in the history of the franchise to cancel a Star Trek TV series.
Consequently, when Paramount wanted to make a Star Trek movie in 2009, it had to get a license from Viacom. Moonves had a great relationship with J.J. Abrams. So, while he doesn’t like Star Trek personally, he was willing to sign off on the license.
Abrams for his part doesn’t really like Star Trek either, he likes Star Wars. Or at least his simplistic interpretation of Star Wars, which is Angry Guy Who Has a Big Spaceship Blows Up a Planet. That is all science fiction is to J.J. Abrams. Those are the Star Trek movies he made.
Somewhere along the line, a decision was made that Viacom’s Star Trek would be the only one that is “canon.” The reason for this was to keep the merchandise and toy lines separate. Bad Robot’s stories would not be canon, which gave birth to the Kelvin timeline and let Abrams blowup Vulcan.
Star Trek (2009) made about $400 million against a budget of $150 million, which qualifies it as profitable but not highly profitable. They were hoping to crack a billion but Star Trek is never going to make that kind of money. However, it was certainly worth a sequel or two. Star Trek Into Darkness pulled in $450 million against a similar budget but Star Trek Beyond had a lower take of $385 million.
It was still worth squeezing more blood out of that stone but J.J. had just landed his dream job of butchering Star Wars. “Five planets! I get to blow-up five planets at once!!!”
So Star Trek IV (the second) went into development orbit.
As I said, Les Moonves had a great relationship with Abrams and there was still blood in that aforementioned stone. While Moonves hates science fiction he loves money. So Bad Robot’s retarded little brother, Secret Hideout was given an ironclad production license which would last five years. Then Moonves got #MeTooed out of Hollywood.
Since it was owned directly by Viacom, Star Trek: Discovery would be (allegedly) canon. But since Bad Robot is a major stakeholder in Secret Hideout they are bound by Bad Robot’s original contract which requires any Star Trek they produce to be legally distinct (the number that gets floated around is “25% percent different”). This by the way is the real reason that C-3PO had a red arm in the Force Awakens. It made his action figures from that movie 25% different.
Now it pains me to be fair to Secret Hideout but I will grant this much. Original Star Trek was made in 1967-69. Each planet the Enterprise visited was so different from the next it was nearly an anthology series. The costumes are just plain silly by modern standards and can’t really be used today. The sets have the same problem. Besides, hard overhead lighting isn’t done anymore.
Fine. Changes needed to be made but dear god in heaven, it didn’t have to be made into something unwatchably bad.
Kurtzman doesn’t get Star Trek and he never will. Alex Kurtzman isn’t creative at all, he’s just a Hollywood politician. He’s been protected since his days on Hercules, and he’s failed upward ever since. While he doesn’t remotely understand Star Trek, he definitely understands Hollywood politics. The further Left he takes Star Trek, the more protected he is within the industry.
Bottomline, Secret Hideout’s Star Trek is a disaster and has significantly devalued the brand.
Recently, CBS/Viacom and Paramount were merged back together, and this actually made the situation with Star Trek worse.
Because of the terms of Secret Hideout’s license, Secret Hideout is now in charge of ALL Star Trek theatrical movies as well as the TV shows. The problem is that they can’t be trusted with any of them.
None of Kurtzman’s Star Trek projects, with the exception of a couple of cartoons, are getting any funding from Paramount/Viacom, and the outside sources have learned their lesson, there will be no more money coming from Amazon or Netflix. And Paramount can’t move forward with any Star Trek film projects without Kurtzman’s involvement.
This isn’t quite a stalemate because according to reasonably reliable sources, Secret Hideout and Bad Robot get paid millions in license fees from Paramount/Viacom even if the only thing they bring to the party is sitting on their butts for the next three years. And breaking the contract will result in a nine figure penalty fee paid by Paramount to Secret Hideout. Now all of this stuff is standard industry practice and no one would care in the least if Kurtzman was capable of producing a Star Trek that Star Trek fans like. But he can’t do that. It’s just beyond him.
Now in normal times, Paramount would just sit out the contract, pay the license fees and flip Kurtzman and company the bird in three years.
But these are the End-Times.
Any entertainment company that depends on theatrical exhibition for their films is in financial agony right now. It’s not just Disney. All of the studios are hurting and may never recover (one hopes). Right now any asset that is not making money is a liability.
While I was right about all of this, there were some motives that I had missed and some developments I hadn’t anticipated.
The reason that Viacom and Paramount merged back together was because of the Streaming Wars.
CBS All-Access was a disastrous failure. And it was an unsurprising one. The only two things this pay-service brought to the marketplace were reruns of the Big Bang Theory and a couple of Star Trek shows that nobody was watching because Kurtzman. CBS All-Access had no film library at all, just reruns of past series and current productions. Paramount, on the other hand, had a huge library but no ready means of series production, which is critical if you are going to have success in the streaming business.
Getting back together solved both of these problems but created another big one. Paramount needs a “halo property.” Despite a promising start, HBOmax has been disastrously underperforming and it is universally agreed (within the industry) that the primary reason for that is no halo property. Disney Plus had, The Mandalorian but HBOmax didn’t have anything at all when it launched. Netflix and Disney Plus have rounded the outside turn while HBOmax has barely stumbled out of the starting gate.
Paramount has noticed. However, the only franchise they own the rights to free and clear is Star Trek. And while as I said, Star Trek will never make a billion dollars at the box-office, if it is done right it could (potentially) bring in a sizably significant and (legendarily loyal) fanbase who will be happy to pay $15 a month for a weekly series…
If. It. Is. Done. Right.
This circles back to the problem of Alex Kurtzman’s Secret Hideout. They own the rights for another two years and Paramount doesn’t have two years to wait. They need to have their own masthead show now.
Here comes the bad news. A deal has clearly and obviously been reached with Secret Hideout.
And While Alex Kurtzman is totally untalented as a creative, that does NOT mean he is stupid.
CBS All-Access (back when it existed last week) was not international, it was strictly for the American market. Which meant that the foreign rights for Star Trek: Discovery were up for grabs and Netflix grabbed them.
Here is the thing about Netflix they don’t commit for more than two years. They just don’t. Right of first refusal, sure but not a commitment. But the Big Red N paid BIG for those first two years. Enough that it covered all of the production costs and left a lot over for technology development. Kurtzman has been developing the kind of VR studio stuff that Favreau has been doing for The Mandalorian.
So, the first season of Star Trek: Discovery was an abject failure in every possible way. Kurtzman goes back to Netflix after the second season for more of that sweet, sweet Big Red N funding. Netflix basically told him, “get fucked, you’re canceled, deal with it.”
And Kurtzman sued.
I haven’t read the contracts, so, I can’t say for certain. But Netflix’s lawyers must have screwed up big time because Netflix appears to have gotten hurt in the arbitration.
Before the lawsuit, Kurtzman rented out every Canadian soundstage he could get his hands on for five year out. He has turned that around and started renting the ones he doesn’t need out to other production companies.
The other win that he had was when Netflix dumped him, Uber nerd Jeff Bezos jumped in and bought up the third season distribution rights for ST:D, plus Picard. Although Amazon didn’t pay anywhere near as much as Netflix did.
When Amazon pulled the plug (and notably DIDN’T get sued) that appeared cut off all sources of funding for Secret Hideout’s Star Trek projects. Discovery did some major changes to its third season in order to could call the last episode a series finale. That appeared to be it.
Like I said, Paramount Plus needs halo properties.
Also, there was a development that I didn’t see coming at all. Jeff Bezos losing a boardroom battle and control of his company to the Woke faction within Amazon. And they clearly love Woke Trek because the funding gates are open once again.
Star Trek: Discovery’s fourth and fifth season are now being shot simultaneously. Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (the Captain Pike series) is also in production. And the cartoon shows Star Trek: Lower Decks and (what was supposed to be the Nick series) Star Trek: Prodigy are also headed to Paramount Plus.
And Alex Kurtzman’s Secret Hideout controls all of them.
This is the future of Star Trek and it doesn’t have one.
Okay, I’m done here.