“My goal is that there should be a Star Trek something on all the time on All Access,” CBS TV Studios president David Stapf told Deadline in 2018, when the return of Captain Jean-Luc Picard for a new Star Trek series was a glimmer in the mind’s eye. Five years and a name change later, Paramount+ achieved that for a time — and with its own hubris, promptly destroyed it.
Paramount+, née CBS All Access, didn’t have the smoothest of launches out of spacedock in the rise, and now fall, of its quest to become the definitive online home of Star Trek content. But today the streamer’s attempts came to a crashing, messy conclusion with the controversial removal of Star Trek: Prodigy. This time last year, the series was the bold vanguard of an attempt to bring the venerable sci-fi franchise to new audiences in a way Star Trek hadn’t attempted in years, and the latest in what was now a whole fleet of Star Trek shows on the platform. In a swift, single move — not just the takeback of a second season renewal, but the complete erasure of the series from its platform — the studio’s stratospheric ascent seems to have come crashing down all around it.
Of course, the only reason that Paramount’s decision is so galling, and so enraging to Trek fans, is that they have spent these last five years just as awkwardly gluing the so-called home of all Star Trek together in a series of re-acquisitions. Classic Star Trek used to stream across the world on various platforms, including Netflix at its apex, before, piece-by-piece, Paramount grabbed each title back to lock them down to its own service — at a time when that service didn’t actually exist beyond the shores of the U.S. (even now, Paramount+ is available in less than 30 countries worldwide).
As Star Trek as a franchise began to re-expand again with the launch of Discovery and other new series, the studio’s reach beyond America saw the likes of Picard and Lower Decks go to other streaming platforms abroad for a season or two, only to be wrenched back when Paramount+ slowly made its way around the world. Even the launch of Strange New Worlds saw this, as international fans were left waiting for months after American audiences saw the series, kept locked to the aforementioned rollout.
The first familiar foul-up with parallels to the Prodigy situation Paramount finds itself in this week came just a few years ago: days before the premiere of Star Trek: Discovery’s fourth season, Paramount announced the abrupt removal of the show from Netflix internationally in its entirety, leaving fans expecting to watch a new season that same week in the dark until whenever Paramount+ hit their region. Then, it took just over a week of backlash from fans and Discovery cast and crew alike for Paramount to partially roll back the decision. But with Prodigy, things are not so easy — and there’s no real way to take back what Paramount has done any time soon.
But if this is really the end of Paramount’s attempts to make itself the only place for Star Trek streaming, the signs have been on the wall for a while that the streamer’s house was built on shoddy ground. From random episode removals to the encroaching contraction of the franchise — Discovery is set to end next year for good, and Picard is seemingly over too, now leaving just Strange New Worlds and Lower Decks as current series, back catalogue aside — it’s been clear for a while that Paramount’s grasp of the franchise it did so much to keep hold of has been loosening in all the worst ways in recent years. It’s just that the fateful blow comes amid a spate of industry reckonings with the cost of these streaming walled gardens, as the services that rose up alongside Paramount+ slowly lose their grip on the content they’d chased and gobbled up over the last half-decade, and doesn’t sting quite so much when it’s not as such an own-goal as it is with a series as big as Star Trek is now, in part thanks to that streaming age ascent.
Paramount+ may want to try calling itself the home of Star Trek for a good while further — but after today, it never truly will be, and fans will never get truly on board with whatever the streamer has planned for Trek’s future, knowing it can be shut off with the blink of an eye and a need for a tax break. For five years Paramount made Star Trek its streaming guiding light, a franchise dream that pushed Paramount’s own digital walled garden to where it is today. Now, those stars are starting to blink out, and the studio only has itself to blame.