Star Trek: Lower Decks showrunner Mike McMahan recently explained why the show, which debuted last week, does not have a distributor lined up for international audiences.
On August 4th, during a guest appearance on the podcast How To Kill An Hour, McMahan explained that Star Trek: Lower Deck’s production, and subsequent partnering with an international distributor, had been effected by the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic.
Without a distributor, Star Trek: Lower Decks is exclusively available to Americans on CBS All Access and Canadians through CTV’s Sci Channel.
McMahan made it very clear that he and the team are working on it, saying, “I want everyone in the world to be able to see this show. And I think that, something the internet doesn’t quite calculate into, you know, it’s always a mystery, you’re always seeing like, ‘Oh what is CBS up to?'”
He continued by noting his aversion to saying too much publicly, stating “CBS wants all you guys to see it too. I want to be careful here, because I normally just go radio silent because I don’t want to speak out of turn because this business stuff, the deal-making, is not something I’m involved in. I’m involved in making sure a Trill symbiont is called a symbiont and not a symbiote.”
The showrunner would then proceed to drop the bomb that the global outbreak of COVID-19 disrupted their original timeline for release, revealing that “there are, in the works, a way for you guys to watch it. I don’t know the timeline, but the reason you guys don’t know yet is squarely because of COVID… because the timelines for everything we’ve been doing for production have been completely thrown out.”
McMahan admits that the show came out much sooner than expected for the crew, as “A lot of what we’re doing [for ‘Lower Decks’] unexpectedly got shifted two months earlier, because they were juggling around schedules and stuff. A lot of the different groups in entertainment — when you shuffle that stuff around, they can’t move as fast as [we in production can]. ”
A bit later in the episode, McMahan also explained that he had been tight-lipped on these behind-the-scenes issues due to “the thought of having CBS be like, ‘We were about to close [the international deal], but then you f***ing said something, and now people have to wait an extra month’ — because it complicated some deal or whatever… It’s been in the works for a long time, and I’m fine at people tweeting their frustrations at me. I get it. I’ve been frustrated at deal-making a million times before.”
He’d finish on the subject of Lower Decks being distributing internationally with a commitment, “But my priority is that you get it as soon as possible. So I know it’s frustrating, but it really is a symptom of our whole timeline moved up. We were not expecting to premiere [as soon as August], but because of circumstances being what they are, it was important to us to get this out in the world. And we had the ability to do it safely.”
In an editorial, Andre at Midnight’s Edge explored why CBS’s newest Star Trek entry is lacking international distribution.
As seen above, McMahan is towing the company’s line as to why Lower Decks was shipped out with no international distribution plan.
Rob from Midnight’s Edge also pointed out in another video how neither Netflix nor Amazon, arguably the two largest streamers on Earth, didn’t want to distribute Star Trek Lower Decks for CBS. With Netflix acting as a distributor for Star Trek: Discovery and Amazon for Star Trek: Picard; it is strange that neither entity had been in line to take on the show.
This isn’t the only troubling news for the animated show, as multiple media outlets have found the show to be less than enjoyable.
Mike Hale of the New York Times reviewed the first episode and drew attention to the show’s “lazy joke writing.”
Polygon wasn’t much kinder, as reviewer Samantha Nelson similarly noted that the show’s premiere episode “quickly fades into a series of lazy sitcom tropes.”
Bounding into Comics’ own Spencer Baculi reviewed Lower Decks and observed that, whatever CBS had created, it wasn’t for Trekkies, as he wrote “Ultimately, the most egregious aspect of Lower Decks is the fact that it is was clearly not made for fans of Star Trek. Between the low-hanging attempts at humor and the clear dismissal of elements unique to the franchise, it’s clear that Lower Decks was produced with the primary intent of courting the untapped market of casual viewers.”
With all these reviews, one has to loudly wonder if the problem is really corona or a lack of interest from distributors such as Amazon and Netflix who may prefer to spare themselves the disaster that is Star Trek: Lower Decks.