When Star Trek Short Treks were first announced, they seemed to be little more than tools to keep CBS All Access subscribers. They’ve turned into much more.
What once appeared to be little more than a gimmick to keep Star Trek fans subscribed to CBS All Access between seasons of Discovery has transformed itself into a valuable storytelling tool. Star Trek Short Treks have proven to be a contextual element with more utility than originally thought.
The first Short Trek was a charming story about Cadet Sylvia Tilly meeting a princess from a distant world. In the earliest days, we couldn’t even be sure if these shorts would have any bearing whatsoever on the prime Discovery story, or if they would be mere standalone tales.
It turns out that from the start this was a vital storytelling tool because the relationship forged in that Short Trek ended up playing a role in recrystallizing the time crystal which was essential to the plot of Discovery’s second season.
Since then, Short Treks have been used to introduce relationships (like the one between Spock and Number One), new methods of animation, and even tease a potential new series perhaps involving Spock, Number One and Captain Pike.
They were used to build Saru’s relationship with his sister as well has how he met Philippa Georgiou and left Kaminar, and most recently, a Short Trek titled “Children Of Mars” was used to introduce Star Trek Picard. It revolved around an attack on Mars’s Utopia Planitia shipyards, bringing about a war that will cause Jean-Luc Picard to move back into action.
The days when Star Trek had 26 episode seasons and near-infinite time to tell stories and develop characters are long past. With the way stories are told today on television, every scene must have meaning and there is little room for wasted words or interactions.
Short Treks have moved far beyond amusing little stories shown during Star Trek’s offseasons. They are vital narrative tools, akin to footnotes in a story. You can get the picture if you don’t watch Short Treks, but you will miss the color and vitality of the tale if you don’t take them in as part of the whole.