New Discoveries.

TV Star Trek Discovery premiered on Netflix in the UK this morning and is fine, really, really fine. Like most revivals post Doctor Who 2005, it takes the elements of the original mythology and spins them around a different televisual language, in this case a single protagonist, multi-part story. Having spent the best part of a year watching my way through a year's worth of a Trek which even in the sequel and prequel series and films followed roughly the same formula established in the 1960s, it's refreshing to see the franchise attempt something different, partly for its own survival. Imagine if the show had returned in the same old mode, reiterating the usual three or four storylines, offering yet another version of The Naked Time or Data's Day.

But the real pleasure for me is in not having to wait to see it.  This is the first Star Trek series which I've been able to watch on "broadcast" almost as soon as it's been made available in the US and participate in the discussion, enjoy the reviews and as is the case in the 2010s, gorge on the YouTube videos listing easter eggs in exacting detail.  In the olden days actually seeing Star Trek was a frustrating process especially if you were in a non-satellite family tied to video releases and terrestrial broadcasts.  Having the entire series (including animated!) available at the touch of button Netflix is the kind of magic which busts Clarke's third law to smithereens.

Here's how I've watched Star Trek previously.

The Original Series 

-- the 1980s BBC Two broadcasts at 6(ish) with the teaser editing in after the titles - the one with the BBC Micro asterisk field beforehand

-- The Cage was a rental of the sell-thru version from Video City in Garston in the late 80s

-- episodes recorded from Sky by my Auntie

-- borrowed from a librarian friend (who also loaned by tons of the books)

-- the 90s "remastered" BBC Two version running at the wrong frame rate

Star Trek: Animated

-- Afternoon broadcasts from Sky One recorded while I was at school.  When we first moved into this tower block, Sky One and Sky News were being delivered via a BSB squarial on the roof.

The Next Generation

-- Random episodes from season one on rental VHS from Video City

--  BBC Two broadcasts, every Wednesday at 6pm.  Unless there was sport in which case it was pre-empted.  Sometimes we'd only see one episode in about two months

-- Sky bought first run the rights from s4 onwards which meant waiting for the VHS releases which were, I think, just two episodes a month for £12.99 which wasn't easy on pocket money.  Plenty bought as presents instead.  I received Devil's Due/Clues from friends as an 18th birthday present.

-- s5 and parts of s6 during ten hour binging sessions at university in halls because one of my housemates was able to get bootleg recordings of the US TV broadcasts sent to him.  Even then we didn't see all of them and not in the correct order.  That's definitely the first time I saw The Game.

-- s7 mix of bought tapes and episodes recorded from Sky by my Auntie.  All Good Things was another birthday present.

Deep Space Nine

-- Watched the first episode Emissary at a friend's house on what looked like a fifth generation recording of the US TV broadcast in which you could only really make out who everyone was by their outline, the whole thing resembling an impressionist painting.  Which I then had my own copy of and you can imagine what that visual smear looked like.

-- random s1 episodes recorded from Sky by my Auntie

-- Others rented from the Blockbuster video on Allerton Road.  Special rental tapes with four episodes on them.

-- By now I was unemployed and signing on and couldn't afford to buy the episodes.  Sometimes I'd visit the Virgin Megastore in town and stand and watch them on the preview tv screens clustered in the middle of the first floor.

-- The BBC Two broadcasts

-- But most of it was renting the sell-through releases from Roughley & Gerrard newsagent on Aigburth Road.


-- The Caretaker during Star Trek night on BBC Two, 10:50 in the evening on 26 August 1996.

-- BBC Two broadcasts until they lost interest and Sky became the exclusive broadcaster

-- First five seasons rented from Roughley & Gerrard until I lost interest

-- which meant the first time I saw most of season six and all of seven was earlier this year on Netflix


-- Box sets rented through Lovefilm, although this blog post indicates this was after the show had been cancelled.


Of course, all of this happened pre-internet and hose-pipe rather than bucket social media so the concept of spoilers wasn't really an issue with most of us reliant on Starburst or latterly SFX magazine for news and reviews of episodes.  Most people I knew didn't have Sky and those who did weren't fans so when the BBC broadcasts were the main source we were all watching it together any so it felt like a new series even if the episodes were over a year old.  Now I can't imagine how I'd cope having to wait for a home release of Discovery.

[Related:  How I became a Star Trek fan.]

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