Star Trek needs to focus on more episodes per series, not more shows

Star Trek worked best when only one or two shows were on at the same time.
L-R Melanie Scrofano as Batel and Anson Mount as Capt. Pike in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds streaming on Paramount+, 2023. Photo Credit: Michael Gibson/Paramount+
L-R Melanie Scrofano as Batel and Anson Mount as Capt. Pike in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds streaming on Paramount+, 2023. Photo Credit: Michael Gibson/Paramount+ /

Star Trek has gone from five shows in active production to just two, in a shockingly fast fashion. Just two years ago, Discovery, Picard, Lower Decks, Prodigy, and Strange New Worlds were all in development and airing in the same calendar year. Now, 2024 will only see Discovery and Lower Decks air, with both airing their last seasons. In 2025, we're expecting to get Strange New Worlds and we're not entirely sure when the second and possibly last season of Prodigy will air.

The reason this has happened is simply due to a lack of viewers and a lack of funds. Funds were being gobbled up unnecessarily, with many of the new series costing around $8-$10 million per episode on the lower side of things. Adjusted for inflation, you're looking at Picard and Discovery costing nearly twice as much as the core four classic shows while producing half of the content.

It's been reported that Picard and Discovery both cost around $8 or $9 million when the shows started. Now, the same price adjusted for inflation is about $11 million per episode. That's roughly $110 million for a series when it used to be about $72 million for a series twice as long. Adjusted for inflation, to make a show like Voyager today, it would cost you more than it did to make Discovery, roughly $140 million for a season. But remember, you're also doubling the amount of episodes per show.

Voyager, for instance, costs about $3 million per episode. That would mean that if you adjusted for inflation from the third and fourth seasons in 1997 when costs stabilized you're looking at about $5.8 million in today's money adjusted for inflation. It's clear that modern shows have far more money put into them than the shows from the 90s, even if you adjust for inflation. You could cut back a lot of costs by cutting back on production costs. That would make the shows more sustainable.

Those 21 seasons just between Deep Space Nine, The Next Generation, and Voyager gave you 185 episodes, for roughly $1.5 billion before inflation. After,r you're looking at just shy of $3 billion to do the same work then that you could be doing now in 2024.

Think that's an outrageous number? Just wait. To just do 65 episodes of Discovery, considering the massive jump in inflation from 2017 to 2024, the cost of an average Discovery episode is now around $11 million, up from the $8-$9 million originally reported in 2017. For just 65 episodes, that's $715 million. If we assume that all the new series cost about the same (which is what we did for DS9, VOY, and TNG), then you're looking at 185 episodes costing about $2 billion.

That doesn't even factor in the near-estimated $50 million that they spent on the failure that was Short Treks. The added effects, graphics, and visuals have not made Star Trek more popular. The overabundance of shows has not appealed to new fans to the degree to justify spending the amount they have.

Paramount has spent nearly as much now as they did back in the 90s for a fifth of the production output today; (504 episodes between three series in the 90s, 185 episodes between five series in the 2020s). To say that the current producers are not getting nearly as much money back on their investment is an understatement and it's why all of the shows are getting cancelled. They cost too much and too few fans are paying attention to justify the price.

Assuming it costs Strange New Worlds $11 million an episode today, you could easily give them 10 more episodes a year, and just cut costs by not producing more than one or two Star Trek shows at a time. It worked in the 1990s. Fans didn't have a variety of options and instead just focused on one show. You could cut down spending by nearly $300 million from the peak of spending in 2022, and instead put all of your focus and energy into one show.

That one show could carry you for a while, and if you spend your money wisely, you won't be wrecked by inflation, since you won't have to keep creating new sets to the same degree you're doing so now.

It's clear that financially this model of multiple shows is unsustainable because Paramount is hemorrhaging money. It's not all Star Trek's fault, they played their part but this is an industry issue. The answer isn't "less" Star Trek but more optimized Star Trek. Focus on giving longer seasons to the series that actually pull in an audience and more specifically, stop making shows that don't appeal to the masses.

A vanity project shouldn't be pushing towards the $1 billion mark, yet that's what some of these shows are exactly doing.