CBS is putting Star Trek: Discovery under a cloaking device until fans get to see it. In a highly unusual move, the company is not sending out screeners to critics for its super-secret new drama, and the company is embargoing any reviews from its upcoming New York and Los Angeles premiere events until after the show debuts on air.
The plan is similar to how HBO handled the return of Game of Thrones this summer (no screeners, one press screening, reviews with any significant details embargoed), and how David Lynch insisted Showtime manage the return of Twin Peaks this year.
Yet those examples have a key difference: GoT was coming into its seventh season as a worldwide hit and Twin Peaks was the continuation of an iconic show. Discovery is the latest entry in a legendary sci-fi franchise but it’s still an entirely new series with a new cast, setting, and storyline. Typically, networks try to get new shows in front of as many media insiders as they can, as soon as they can, and want as much press as possible.
But before assuming there must be some nefarious reason for not allowing advance reviews, insiders say the secrecy is an extension of CBS’ well-documented long-term handling of the show. The company has maintained an impressive level of silence surrounding the series throughout its production. Discovery has managed to be almost entirely free of outright leaks despite a high level of curiosity, which is saying something nowadays (as HBO can attest). Even the show’s cast hasn’t seen an episode yet.
And Discovery‘s event screenings next Tuesday will show critics the first two episodes — both of which debut Sept. 24. The new Trek is a serialized drama and we hear the first couple hours contain several major story twists. Given the production’s years of keeping a lid on the show, CBS wants to do everything they can to prevent Discovery‘s secrets from getting spilled via reviews or — worse — leaked footage. The network presumably also has some confidence that interest in the project is high enough that curious viewers will show up to watch even without a deluge of reviews.
Also a factor: The stakes for this show are really high. While The Good Fight was the first original series for the CBS All Access streaming service, Discovery is seen as The Big One that could really move the subscription needle. Plus, the Discovery premiere is a global event — Netflix is debuting the show overseas at the same time that CBS All Access rolls out the show here in the U.S. So any leaks wouldn’t just impact CBS, but also its worldwide distribution partners. So while this embargo is super unusual, it’s also really understandable.
In short: Discovery episode 1 debuts Sept. 24 on CBS. Then the review embargo lifts. Then episode 2 will debut the same night on CBS All Access.