Challenge accepted: Inventing a plausible far-flung future for ST: Discovery S3

Sonequa Martin-Green plays Michael Burnham in the third season of <em>Star Trek: Discovery</em>, which is set over 900 years in the future from the first two seasons.

Enlarge / Sonequa Martin-Green plays Michael Burnham in the third season of Star Trek: Discovery, which is set over 900 years in the future from the first two seasons. (credit: CBS All Access)

Star Trek: Discovery started out as a prequel to the original series, set roughly 10 years before Captain Kirk and his crew took over the USS Enterprise and boldly went where no man had gone before. But we’re now in uncharted territory with ST: Disco S3, which rocketed the ship and her crew over 900 years into the future. That posed a considerable creative challenge to stay true to the ethos of the franchise while reimagining its future—a challenge facing not just the writers, but series prop master Mario Moreira and science consultant Erin MacDonald as well.

(Some spoilers for S2 and the first five episodes of S3 below.)

The series stars Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham, an orphaned human raised on the planet Vulcan by none other than Sarek (James Frain) and his human wife, Amanda Grayson (Mia Kirshner)—aka, Spock’s (Ethan Peck) parents. So she is Spock’s adoptive sister. As I’ve written previously, the S2 season-long arc involved the mysterious appearances of a “Red Angel” and a rogue Starfleet AI called Control that sought to wipe out all sentient life in the universe.

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#cbs-all-access, #entertainment, #gaming-culture, #physics, #science, #science-fiction-television, #star-trek, #star-trek-discovery, #streaming-television


NY Comic-Con: the Dark Man cometh in first trailer for The Stand miniseries

James Marsden, Whoopi Goldberg and Alexander Skarsgård star in the new CBS All Access limited miniseries The Stand, based on the Stephen King novel of the same name.

It’s Stephen King’s world; we’re just living in it. During New York Comic Con, CBS All Access dropped the first official trailer for its ten-episode limited miniseries of The Stand, an adaptation of King’s sprawling 1978 post-apocalyptic fantasy novel about the aftermath of a deadly pandemic that wipes out most of the world’s population.

(Some spoilers for the Stephen King novel below.)

The Stand is widely considered to be among King’s best work, with a sprawling cast of characters and multiple storylines. It’s also his longest, with the 1990 Complete and Uncut Edition surpassing even It in page count. King has said he wanted to write an epic dark fantasy akin to The Lord of the Rings, only with a contemporary American setting. “Instead of a hobbit, my hero was a Texan named Stu Redman, and instead of a Dark Lord, my villain was a ruthless drifter and supernatural madman named Randall Flagg,” King wrote in his 1981 nonfiction book, Danse Macabre. “The land of Mordor (‘where the shadows lie,’ according to Tolkien) was played by Las Vegas.”

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CBS All Access to rebrand to Paramount+, expand internationally in 2021

Viacom-owned streaming service CBS All Access is becoming Paramount+, the company announced this morning. The name change, which will take place next year, aims to better reflect the expanded content lineup that has joined the service following the Viacom-CBS merger in 2019, including content from brands like BET, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Smithsonian Channel, TV Land, VH1, Paramount Pictures, and other sports programming. In addition, Paramount+ will expand internationally in 2021, initially to markets like Australia, Latin America and the Nordics.

ViacomCBS’ plans to rebrand the service were previously known. The company earlier this year had told investors a rebranded and expanded service would arrive sometime the summer. It later pushed that timeframe back to 2021, but continued to roll out new content.

ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish had earlier described the company’s plans for the expanded service as one which would allow it to showcase the company’s biggest franchises and deep library, but also one that would leverage the company’s IP for original content, as it has already done now with its multiple “Star Trek” series and “The Good Wife” spin-off “The Good Fight,” for example. The rebranded service would also continue to promote the company’s sports offerings, including its continual airing of NFL games as well as those from other leagues, like the NCAA and PGA.

All this would run on CBS All Access’ existing tech platform, not a new service built from scratch.

Today, ViacomCBS notes that the new service Paramount+ will also feature an expanded array of originals. This includes “The Offer,” a scripted limited series about the making of “The Godfather;” CIA spy drama “Lioness” created by Taylor Sheridan; a reimagined version of MTV’s “Behind the Music,” that will focus on the past 40 years; a true crime docuseries “The Real Criminal Minds,” based on the fictional TV hit; and a revival of BET’s “The Game.”

These shows will join previously announced plans for new kids original series “Kamp Koral,” from Nickelodeon’s “Spongebob Squarepants,” and the service’s plan to be the SVOD home for “The Spongebob Movie: Sponge on the Run.”

Paramount+ will also continue to feature existing originals, like “The Good Fight,” “The Twilight Zone,” Tooning Out the News,” “No Activity,” Why Women Kill,” “Interrogation,” “The Thomas John Experience,” “Tell Me a Story,” “Star Trek: Discovery,” “Star Trek: Picard,” “Star Trek: Lower Decks,” as well as upcoming series “The Stand,” “The Man Who Fell to Earth,” “The Harper House,” “Guilty Party,” and “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.”

The company says the broader lineup from this summer has already impacted the service’s viewership and demographics. Following the addition of the new content, including over 3,500 episodes of TV from across ViacomCBS’ brands, CBS All Access broke its records for total monthly streams in August and saw one of its best-ever months for new subscribers. These users were also measurably younger than the service’s overall average subscriber age, thanks in part to the addition of UEFA and other content.

As CBS All Access nears its 2021 rebrand to Paramount+, it will further expand its content lineup to reach more than 30,000 episodes and movies and continue to develop new originals from brands including BET, CBS, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Paramount Pictures and others.

“Paramount is an iconic and storied brand beloved by consumers all over the world, and it is synonymous with quality, integrity and world-class storytelling,” said Bob Bakish, President and CEO, ViacomCBS, in a statement about the changes. “With Paramount+, we’re excited to establish one global streaming brand in the broad-pay segment that will draw on the sheer breadth and depth of the ViacomCBS portfolio to offer an extraordinary collection of content for everyone to enjoy.”

Paramount+, notably, is also the latest to embrace the plus sign (+) suffix as part of its branding, following the launch of newer streaming services like Disney+, Apple TV+, ESPN+, TiVo+, and just yesterday, the kids-focused media catalog, Amazon Kids+. It’s unclear, however, if the name “Paramount” will resonate with prized younger viewers as much as the company hopes, or if this general trend toward adding a “plus” sign is helping these services truly carve out their own space.

ViacomCBS didn’t announce any plans to change pricing when the new service goes live.

In Q2 2020, ViacomCBS said its domestic paid streaming services, including CBS All Access and Showtime, had reached 16.2 million subscribers, up 74% year-over-year. CBS All Access had also broke its own records for paid subscribers, streams and minutes watched in the quarter.




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Star Trek: Discovery S3 goes back to the future in first trailer

Star Trek: Discovery returns to CBS All Access for a third season on October 15, 2020.

It’s Star Trek Day today, marking the 54th anniversary of the TV debut of Star Trek: The Original Series. CBS All Access celebrated by streaming an entire day of programming related to the franchise, including several panels for its ongoing and forthcoming series. Among other tidbits, CBS dropped the first trailer for Star Trek: Discovery‘s third season.

(Spoilers for first two seasons below.)

Discovery is a prequel to the original Star Trek, set roughly 10 years before Captain Kirk and his crew took over the USS Enterprise and boldly went where no man had gone before. It stars Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham, an orphaned human raised on the planet Vulcan by none other than Sarek (James Frain) and his human wife, Amanda Grayson (Mia Kirshner)—aka, Spock’s parents, which makes her Spock’s adoptive sister. 

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Apple bundles CBS and Showtime with Apple TV+, announces new Music radio stations

As iPhone sales have slowed, Apple has leaned on services like the App Store, Apple Music, and Apple TV+ to make up some of the difference. And while the first of those is currently gripped in public controversy, Apple today announced new developments for Music and TV+.

First off, Apple says Apple TV+ subscribers will be able to subscribe to a bundle that includes both CBS All Access and Showtime (both owned by ViacomCBS) for $9.99 per month after a 7-day trial, integrated with Apple features like the TV app, Siri, and Family Sharing.

Subscribers to the bundle will be able to access programming from both services in online streaming and offline download formats, and this bundle includes the ad-free version of CBS All Access. Since Apple TV+ costs $4.99, that means the trio of services will come in at just under $15—about the same price all together as HBO Max on its own.

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Star Trek: Lower Decks review: Comfort food with a comic twist

Screenshot from Star Trek: Lower Decks trailer

Enlarge / Ensigns Tendi (Noël Wells), Rutherford (Eugene Cordero), Boimler (Jack Quaid), and Mariner (Tawny Newsome) reporting for duty. (credit: YouTube/CBS All Access)

Star Trek has been many things in the past 54 years: eight television series, 13 films, the better part of a thousand total novels, and the beating heart that arguably created modern fandom as it now stands. But for all the humor—both intentional and not—scattered throughout its storied history, there is one frontier it has not yet explored: the half-hour comedy.

The ninth and newest Star Trek series aims to change all that. Lower Decks is a half-hour animated series set in the timeline two years after the conclusion of Star Trek: Voyager. The half-hour comedy cartoon format is a definite change of pace from ViacomCBS’ other recent Star Trek offerings, the heavily serialized dramas Picard and Discovery. The question any fan might have then, is simple: does it hold up?

And the answer is yes, mostly—but don’t set your expectations to “stunned.”

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CBS All Access adds 3,500 new episodes before rebranding in 2021

ViacomCBS has announced a significant expansion to its streaming library, with the addition of more than 3,500 episodes of shows like “Avatar: The Last Avatar,” “Chapelle’s Show” and “Laguna Beach.”

Viacom and CBS were previously merged, then separated, then most recently merged again, and the additional content comes from across the company’s different brands — such as BET, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Smithsonian Channel, TV Land, VH1 and Paramount Pictures — plus additional sports programming, like exclusive U.S. streaming of the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League.

ViacomCBS had previously announced plans to launch an expanded and rebranded version of CBS All Access this summer, to better compete against streaming offerings like Disney+ and HBO Max. Today’s announcement suggests that the rebrand isn’t coming until early 2021, but positions this news as the first step in that process.

“Today marks the beginning of an exciting evolution of CBS All Access into the subscription streaming home for ViacomCBS and a preview of what’s to come,” said Chief Digital Officer Marc DeBevoise in a statement.

We’ve previously suggested that the main reason to sign up for CBS All Access is to get access to new Star Trek shows like “Discovery,” “Picard” and the upcoming animated series “Lower Decks.”  But this announcement feels like an attempt to lure non-Trek fans to sign up as well. (And just to be clear: I love Star Trek.)

Other original content in the works includes a Spongebob Squarepants spinoff called “Kemp Koral,” “The Spongebob Movie: Sponge on the Run,” an untitled project from director Richard Linklater and a miniseries adaptation of “The Stand.”

#cbs-all-access, #entertainment, #media, #viacomcbs


Ensigns are the scrappy underdogs in new Star Trek: Lower Decks trailer

Tawny Newsome and Jack Quaid lend their voices to the new animated series Star Trek: Lower Decks, premiering next month on CBS All Access.

With the success of Star Trek: Discovery and Picard, CBS continues to expand its offerings within the Star Trek universe, this time with a new animated comedy series: Star Trek: Lower Decks.  The series boasts a unique angle: it focuses on telling the stories of the lower-ranking crew members, with all the big dramatic events of a typical Star Trek episode happening in the background. As Ensign Beckett Mariner (Tawny Newsome, Space Force) says in the new trailer, “We’re not really elite. We’re more the cool scrappy underdogs.” That sounds like a Star Trek series the fans can get behind.

This is the first animated Star Trek series since the Emmy-award-winning Star Trek: The Animated Series (TAS) which ran from 1973-1974. That show served as a sequel to the live action Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS)—effectively a fourth season—with many of the original cast members returning to voice the characters. Among the new characters introduced were a three-armed, three-legged alien crew member named Arex, and a Caitian (a cat-like alien) crew member named M’Ress. The 22 episodes included a sequel to the famous “The Trouble with Tribbles” episode from TOS, in which the breed is genetically altered to not reproduce—with the tradeoff being that they grow extremely large (or rather, clusters of tribbles are able to function as a single whole).

Star Trek: Lower Decks is a different beast. It’s part of a five-year overall deal Discovery co-creator and showrunner Alex Kurtzman signed with CBS to expand the franchise. Kurtzman tapped Rick and Morty head writer Mike McMahan to spearhead the project. “Mike won our hearts with his first sentence: ‘I want to do a show about the people who put the yellow cartridge in the food replicator so a banana can come out the other end,’” Kurtzman told Variety back in October 2018. “His cat’s name is Riker. His son’s name is Sagan. The man is committed. He’s brilliantly funny and knows every inch of every Trek episode, and that’s his secret sauce: he writes with the pure, joyful heart of a true fan.”

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Netflix, Disney+ or HBO Max? The best streaming service for your watching habits

Gone are the days of not having enough time to catch up on all of those movies and TV shows you’ve been meaning to get around to. For the foreseeable future, at least, many of us have nowhere to go and nothing but time on our hands.

We’ve already offered a few suggestions for ways to spend your newfound downtime, but there’s a more pragmatic question at hand. With this week’s arrival of HBO Max, an overcrowded streaming market becomes even more competitive, particularly here in the United States.  Gone are the days of Netflix’s streaming supremacy (at least from a content perspective). There’s a streaming service for virtually every need and nearly every one is best at something (with the possible exception of Apple TV+, with its fairly sparse selection, and whatever is going on with Quibi).

In a perfect world, we would all be able to subscribe to every service and never have to leave the house again. But those $5-$15/month fees add up pretty quickly when you’re not looking. For most of us, choosing the right service or service requires a bit of strategic spending. As such, we’re going to make life a bit easier on you and your wallet by designating the top services across 10 key categories.

Again, this is a U.S.-focused list, since that’s where we’re based. But many of these services are available outside the States, or will be in the next year or two.

The best service for … Prestige TV

Winner: HBO Max

The debate about the best TV show of all time always seems to wind up on HBO. The premium cable network has transformed expectations around what television can and should do, with shows like “The Sopranos” and “The Wire” regularly cited at the top of the list of all-time greats. And then there’s “Westworld,” “Game of Thrones,” newcomers like “Succession” and top-tier comedy like “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Eastbound and Down” and “The Larry Sanders Show.” Not every series has been a slam-dunk, but as far as prestige episodic television is concerned, you’re not going to do any better than HBO. (B.H.)

The best service for … Blockbusters

Winner: Disney+

Disney has dominated the theatrical box office for the past decade, thanks to its acquisitions of Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm/Star Wars — not to mention the continued popularity of its animated films and live-action remakes. Disney+ is where you can catch up with almost all those big-budget hits, and it will be the streaming home for future Marvel blockbusters. (A.H.)

The best service for … Classics

Winner: Criterion Channel/HBO Max

While Criterion’s reputation can seem forbiddingly arty (see below) — of course, some art films are stone cold movie classics — the service also offers plenty of classic Hollywood titles, like a recent retrospective showcasing Columbia noir. If you’re a kaiju fan, it also has nearly every old-schoool Godzilla movie in its library. That said, it isn’t the only place you can find classic titles. HBO Max, in particular, is the streaming home to Turner Classic Movies, with some of the best films of all time, including “Casablanca” and “Citizen Kane.” It also has a deal to offer some Criterion titles, too. (A.H.)

The best service for … Documentaries

Winner: HBO Max/CuriosityStream

As with its drama and comedy series, there’s really no one out there who can touch HBO’s documentary output. The network has consistently racked up Emmy wins since the late ’90s. It’s had some added competition from Netflix in recent years, but HBO continues to deliver, including last year’s heart-wrenching ‘Leaving Neverland.’ If you like your documentaries served with a side of more documentaries, however, there’s always CuriosityStream. $20/year will get you a boatload of original docs, broken down by category. (B.H.)

The best service for … Kids

Winner: Disney+

All the big streaming services have a selection of movies and shows for kids, but it’s hard to beat the titles in Disney’s library — all their animated classics, plus Pixar, plus Disney Channel hits like “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody,” “Hannah Montana” and “High School Musical.” HBO Max is a strong runner-up with Sesame Street and the full Studio Ghibli library, but if your kid wants to sing along to “Frozen” over and over again, this is where they can do it. (A.H.)

The best service for … Indies

Winner: Hulu/Criterion Channel

Most streaming services (save for Apple TV+ and Disney+) have a pretty sizable selection of indies. The quality of the films varies greatly from service to service and film to film, but nearly all of them have some hidden gems for when you’re looking to spend a bit of time outside of the studio system. As far as the mainstream ones go, I was surprised to discover during this quarantine that Hulu has the best selections of the bunch, courtesy of deals with top notch indie distributors. If you want a straight shot of the stuff, however, the Criterion Channel is your best bet — and the supplementary content is unmatched by other services. (B.H.)

The best service for … Free stuff

Winner: Tubi/Vudu

To be honest, I had no idea Tubi existed until recently. I was searching for a Korean movie about a baseball playing gorilla (it’s real, seriously), and landed on the site, where it was streaming for free with ad breaks. You would probably end up banging your head against the wall if you relied on Tubi as your sole streaming service, but its selection is surprisingly solid. There are genuinely good films in there, in amongst the dregs. There are also plenty of dregs there, if that’s your thing. Also check out Walmart’s Vudu. In addition to your standard rentals, the service also has a decent selection of free films. (B.H.)

The best service for … Star Trek

Winner: CBS All Access

It might seem silly to build an entire streaming service around a single entertainment franchise, but a) Have you met Star Trek fans? And b) That was clearly the strategy behind CBS All Access, which has already released two Trek spinoffs, “Discovery” and “Picard.” Although the newly remerged ViacomCBS seems to have broader streaming plans, Star Trek still seems like a centerpiece of that strategy, with a whole bunch of new Trek content being developed under the supervision of Alex Kurtzman. (That said, Netflix, Hulu and Amazon are sufficient if you just want to rewatch The Original Series or The Next Generation.) (A.H.)

The best service for … Arthouse

Winner: Criterion Channel

Been missing trips to the local arthouse theater? With places like the Anthology Film Archives, Museum of the Moving Image and Angelika temporarily shut down here in New York, I’ve been finding some respite in the Criterion Collection’s truly excellent curated selection of films. While it’s true that sometimes the best thing for the pandemic is a little mindless movie watching, if you want to take in some culture without leaving the house, Criterion’s got you covered. (B.H.)

The best service for … a lot of everything

Winner: Netflix

You may be wondering why we’ve barely mentioned the streaming world’s biggest player. That’s because Netflix isn’t actually the best in any one category — at least in our view. Instead, it’s pretty good in a whole bunch of categories, whether that’s older TV shows, classic films, original series like “The Crown” and “Stranger Things,” reality hits like “Tiger King” and original movies like “The Irishman.” So if you want a single service that scratches a whole bunch of different itches, Netflix is still your best bet. (A.H.)

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CBS All Access greenlights ‘Strange New Worlds,’ a new Star Trek series about Pike and Spock

CBS All Access isn’t done launching new Star Trek shows.

After bringing the franchise back to TV with “Star Trek: Discovery” in 2017, then revisiting some beloved characters with “Star Trek: Picard” earlier this year, the streaming service has placed a straight-to-series order for “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds,” which will depict the early days of the Enterprise, before Captain Kirk took command.

We already got a glimpse of that in the second season of “Discovery,” which saw Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) and a young Spock (Ethan Peck) join the cast — but they left Discovery and returned to the Enterprise at the season’s end, in what felt like an obvious set-up for a spinoff.

“Strange New Worlds” will star Mount and Peck, along with “Discovery” guest star Rebecca Romijn as Number One. The premiere will be written by Akiva Goldsman (also a writer and director on “Discovery” and “Picard”), with a story by Goldsman, Alex Kurtzman and Jenny Lumet.

“This is a dream come true, literally,” Goldsman said in a statement. “I have imagined myself on the bridge of the Enterprise since the early 1970s. I’m honored to be a part of this continuing journey along with Alex, [executive producer] Henry [Alonso Myers] and the fine folks at CBS.”

Until now, CBS All Access has been distinguished primarily for its willingness to greenlight a range of Star Trek spinoffs — it’s also developing an animated series called “Star Trek: Lower Decks”, along with a show focused on Michelle Yeoh’s Philippa Georgiou and the nefarious Section 31.

This summer, the newly re-merged ViacomCBS plans to launch a rebranded version of the streaming service, drawing on content from across ViacomCBS brands like Nickelodeon, MTV, BET, Comedy Central, Smithsonian and Paramount. But it still looks like Star Trek will remain a big part of that mix.

There’s no release date announced for “Strange New Worlds.” After all, it may be a while before any show can resume production.

#cbs-all-access, #entertainment, #media, #star-trek


Good timing: Jordan Peele’s Twilight Zone S2 trailer drops on Twilight Zone Day

The Twilight Zone season 2 trailer.

It’s national Twilight Zone Day (no one knows why), and what better way to mark the occasion than with the official trailer for the second season of Jordan Peele’s reboot of The Twilight Zone? We got our first look at still photos a few days ago, and, combined with the trailer, we’re optimistic that Peele can pull off another strong season and do this classic science fiction series proud.

(Some spoilers for S1 below.)

Rod Serling created the original Twilight Zone anthology series for CBS in 1959, and it was an instant hit with viewers. Serling was a fan of both pulp fiction and science fiction, and he combined those passions with a strong interest in social commentary on topics such as nuclear war and McCarthyism. And he loved a good twist ending. The series was successfully revived in the 1980s and again (less successfully) in 2002. There was also a 1983 feature film, notorious because star Vic Morrow and two child actors were killed in a freak helicopter accident during filming.

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Actor Ethan Peck talks taking on iconic role of Spock for Star Trek: Discovery S2

Ethan Peck took on the iconic role of Spock for the second season of <em>Star Trek: Discovery</em>

Enlarge / Ethan Peck took on the iconic role of Spock for the second season of Star Trek: Discovery (credit: CBS All Access)

Star Trek: Discovery takes an admittedly leisurely approach to storytelling, particularly in S1, but that’s frankly part of its appeal. It’s very much a character-driven show,  taking the time to explore complex emotions and relationships. As we wrote in our year-end roundup, “When Discovery shines, it’s like a supernova against the night sky—and much of that light comes from the stellar cast.” One of of those sources of light is actor Ethan Peck, who plays Spock on the series. Peck recently sat down with Ars Technica to talk about the challenge of stepping into some pretty big shoes to portray the canonical character.

(Some spoilers for first two seasons of Star Trek: Discovery below.)

Discovery is a prequel to the original Star Trek, set roughly 10 years before Captain James T. Kirk and his intrepid crew took over the USS Enterprise and boldly went where no man had gone before. It stars Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham, an orphaned human raised on the planet Vulcan by none other than Sarek (James Frain) and his human wife, Amanda Grayson (Mia Kirshner)—aka, Spock’s parents, which makes her Spock’s adoptive sister. (Certain purists might object that this violates Star Trek canon; Ars’ own Kate Cox prefers to call it “sanctioned fanfic. There was undefined room around the edges to fill in, so they did.”)

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Review: elegiac Star Trek: Picard brings all the feels in bittersweet finale

Nobody can deliver lines with Shakespearean gravitas and comforting emotional resonance like Patrick Stewart, which is why the actor—and his famous Star Trek character, Jean-Luc Picard—remain so beloved in the franchise. He gives yet another sublime performance in the new CBS All Access series, Star Trek: Picard, anchoring the larger-than-life stakes of the broader narrative with his intensely personal portrayal of a grief-stricken, disillusioned retired Starfleet admiral who feels the world he once dominated has passed him by.

(Some spoilers below, but no major reveals.)

As Ars’ Kate Cox noted in her review of the pilot episode, the events of 2002’s Star Trek: Nemesis “are the plot and emotional scaffolding over which the initial episode of Picard is draped”—most notably, Data sacrificing his life to save the rest of the Enterprise crew. Honestly, that loss drives the entire season, along with 2009’s Star Trek film reboot of the franchise.

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