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Star Trek: Discovery Won’t Let Critics Weigh in Before the Premiere, and There May Be Problems With CBS’ All Access App

Damage report.

Generally, when a property is restricted from advance critical review, that’s a sure sign that there’s no confidence in its quality and every attempt is being made to dodge bad press.

Critics flinch when a film isn’t offered up for review, and these days, we’re often given earlier access to TV shows in order to prepare reviews, recaps, and the like. I had to sit on my hands about American Gods episodes for agonizing weeks while I waited for you all to catch up. This was an instance of Starz believing so strongly in American Gods‘ quality that they made many episodes available for critics ahead of time so that we could offer our opinions before the show aired.

This will not be the case with CBS’ upcoming and much-anticipated Star Trek: Discovery. Reviews are embargoed until after Discovery bows.

There’s a hopeful side of me that hopes this may just be another ploy on CBS’ part to keep the show as secret as possible until the last moment—that they want to unveil Discovery in all its finery, no spoilers or hot takes. Successful shows like Game of Thrones do this now, but Game of Thrones also built on many seasons of fanatic reception before initiating this policy. Of Discovery, we know very little, and CBS will be trading entirely on the Star Trek name in expecting the fanbase to come out in force. As was evidenced with Enterprise‘s reception, branding something Star Trek isn’t always enough to ensure a show’s success.

And as my former colleague Katharine Trendacosta points out on io9, “A Star Trek show, done at all well, should review well. … Given all the problems Star Trek: Discovery has had since it was first announced, I don’t know whether if the show is actually bad or if this is just another misstep on the part of CBS.” But she’s afraid that this move means badness, and so am I.

Another potential problem on the horizon for Discovery: a Mary Sue reader, Alexandra, who is a lifelong Trek fan, sent us a message after investigating CBS’ All Access app, which provides access to watch Discovery. Alexandra is seriously worried about CBS’ ability to deliver the show to its audience. She writes:

… I went to the Google Play Store to look at the CBS app, its reviews, the permissions it requires, etc. And I was STUNNED to see the massive number of RECENT reviews from the last 4-5 weeks of users complaining about how the app was crap and didn’t work properly: tons of complaints about how users couldn’t get smooth streaming, that there was a lot of buffering and choking issues.

Ignoring all the OTHER complaints about the app (very limited content/the $9.99 commercial-free version still inserts annoying CBS promos into content, etc), what struck me was how TECHNICALLY the app doesn’t seem to be working well right NOW. And this is before allegedly thousands of people are going to suddenly get the app as we get closer to “ST:D’s” premiere on September 24th.

… I checked with friends who have iPhone/Apple devices and they screen captured for me recent reviews for the CBS app and I saw the exact SAME recent complaints! Tons of people complaining about streaming/choking/buffering issues. That the app just doesn’t work well.

Here’s the thing: I could be totally wrong, but this sounds like a CBS server/infrastructure problem…. not the fact that the app for BOTH Android & Apple OSs may be badly written. And THAT’S something CBS is unlikely to be able to suddenly fix in the next three weeks. Which means… what happens when thousands (tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands?) of users try to stream, “ST:D,” on September 24th/25th and literally CAN’T because CBS doesn’t have the proper technical support in place to make it happen (after all, people are used to the “seamlessness,” of Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc).

Can you imagine what would happen if CBS All Access streaming crashed on premiere night??

While I’d love to be confident that CBS has the resources to fix problems with its app prior to such a big release, I’ve also worked on the tech side, and as Alexandra points out, such issues with basic streaming functionality are worrisome and would be difficult to fix. The latest bad reviews I’m seeing on the Apple store are from just the last few days.

I don’t want to believe that CBS would go forward with a one-two punch of no reviews and the potential for technical problems when Discovery debuts. But considering that nothing with Discovery has been smooth sailing, I’m getting seriously concerned for the fate of our ship.

(via io9, image: CBS)

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Kaila Hale-Stern (she/her) is a content director, editor, and writer who has been working in digital media for more than fifteen years. She started at TMS in 2016. She loves to write about TV—especially science fiction, fantasy, and mystery shows—and movies, with an emphasis on Marvel. Talk to her about fandom, queer representation, and Captain Kirk. Kaila has written for io9, Gizmodo, New York Magazine, The Awl, Wired, Cosmopolitan, and once published a Harlequin novel you'll never find.