Here's the reason 5 seasons is not the new normal for a Star Trek series

Five seasons has not become the new normal for Star Trek, because the mass cancelations we've seen is due to financial issues, not contractual ones.
Christina Chong as La'an in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds streaming on Paramount+, 2023. Photo Credit: Michael Gibson/Paramount+
Christina Chong as La'an in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds streaming on Paramount+, 2023. Photo Credit: Michael Gibson/Paramount+ /

Star Trek: Discovery and Lower Decks were both canceled this year, bringing an end to an unprecedented era of Star Trek television. At one point the franchise had five shows in active development with the idea of having 50 weeks of Trek in a given year, with Discovery, Picard, Lower Decks, Prodigy, and Strange New Worlds essentially running back to back to back to back to back.

From October 28, 2021, to Dec. 29, 2022, all five shows released new seasons, with Star Trek: Prodigy going first with the first half of season one which went until Feb. 3, 2022. Discovery hopped in with season four on Nov. 18, 2021, and wrapped up on March 17, 2022. Picard launched its second season on March 3, 2022, and concluded on May 5, 2022, just in time for Strange New Worlds to begin. That show would go from May 5 to July 7, 2022, with Lower Decks then starting on August 25, 2022. This marked the longest break between shows in nearly a year. Lower Decks would go until October 27, 2022, when, surprise, Prodigy's second half of season one would also start. Lower Decks would conclude on Dec 29, 2022, of that year.

That idea was extremely expensive and extremely short-sighted, as not every show brought in the same amount of fans, but all largely cost relatively close to one another to produce. It was a bad idea and by the end of 2023, only three shows would remain.

Picard was closed out in season three after Paramount+ essentially rejected the desires of Patrick Stewart and Terry Matalas to keep going. Prodigy was canceled during the production of season two. The long-forgotten Short Treks only got two seasons, while Discovery and Lower Decks each got five.

Some believe that the new standard for Star Trek's success is no longer the seven seasons it used to be on television, but five seasons; however, that's just not the case. Star Trek shows never went past seven seasons because that's what they were contracted for initially. The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine were sold as seven-season shows. Voyager was lucky to hit that mark because unlike The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, Voyager was not a syndicated series. This means they could be canceled prior to season seven.

It was just the best-performing show on UPN at the time, and the channel needed a big-ticket item like Star Trek at the time. Enterprise, and the Original Series, were not sold as seven-season shows for syndicated purposes. Enterprise was picked up with similar contracts in place that Voyager had, while The Original Series was a season-to-season order.

The cancelations of Lower Decks and Discovery doesn't mean that the new "standard" is five seasons, it's a sign that these shows were under-delivering in viewers and were costing too much. There's a reason that four of the five shows that were anchoring Paramount+ just under two years ago are all gone; they're expensive as heck to make.

This had nothing to do with a show hitting a natural stopping point and concluding the series because it got it's seven seasons (or in this case five seasons) in. This is a case of private equity firms and debt holders coming to collect the money that outfits like Paramount+ owe.

This is a financial issue more than anything, so to basically say because two shows got canceled heading into season five, that it's the new standard, is to severely miss just how problematic the entire situation at Paramount+ truly is. Every show is on the chopping block; that's not a standard of success, that's a failure of finance.

Don't try to spin this into something it's not. These shows were canceled because the money was gone and the viewership was gone. If it was anything other than that, then Picard and Prodigy would be on their way to five seasons still.