Announced at San Diego Comic-Con earlier this summer, CBS has revealed that its series of short, standalone episodes — Star Trek: Short Treks — would begin rolling out next month, and revealed more details about what each one would be about.
CBS describes them as short stories, “that delve deeper into the Star Trek: Discovery universe.” The episodes will roll out monthly, on the first Thursday for the next four months, and will each focus on three characters from Star Trek: Discovery.
The first episode (airing October 4th), “Runaway,” will follow Tilly (Mary Wiseman) after she “encounters an unexpected visitor in need of help.” The second episode “Calypso” (airing November 8th), will star a new character, Craft (Aldis Hodge), who wakes up in the sick bay of an abandoned ship, and his only companion is a computer interface. The third episode, “The Brightest Star,” will air on December 6th, and will follow Saru (Doug Jones) prior to his time in Starfleet, and the final episode, “The Escape Artist” will follow Harry Mudd (Rainn Wilson) as he finds himself on a hostile ship.
The standalone episodes are a novel experiment from CBS and its streaming platform, All Access. Websites and streaming services aren’t bound to the rules of broadcast television — which typically dictate a 20 or 40-minute-per-episode runtime, with commercial breaks — and there’s been some interesting experiments over the years. SyFy (then the SCI FI Channel) released a bunch of Battlestar Galactica webisodes between 2006 and 2008 that added to some of the show’s storylines, and Netflix’s has experimented with different runtimes for shows like Arrested Development and Longmire.
CBS’s standalone episodes can fill a novel purpose: telling a visual story that might not necessarily fit into the standard TV episode runtime, but which might serve as a useful point to add to a character or situation. We’ll see later this year just how well that works for CBS and Star Trek.