Star Trek: Discovery went where no Star Trek franchise had gone when it arrived on CBS All Access Streaming. The show was in an uncharted space where the series didn’t have to pace itself for commercial breaks. The episodes didn’t have to be a set time to fit in the slot. The viewers were the ones that could watch the episodes in order instead of what was on the TV schedule. This was a brave new frontier. And between seasons, the producers truly took advantage of what streaming could offer when they began posting Star Trek: Short Treks. What could a broadcast network do with shorter episodes that ran between 15 to 20 minutes? You can already hear a network scheduling executive whining about why they just can’t get complete episodes instead of “teasing” the audience. They fear hundreds of calls from viewers demanding to know why it ended so soon. But a streaming audience would be excited by being able to click onto a short that would give a bit of backstory to the upcoming season. Star Trek: Short Treks contains nine of the episodes that aired between seasons of Star Trek Discovery and Star Trek: Picard.
“Runaway” (15:20) gives us a glimpse into the relationship between Sylvia Tilly and her mother. When Tilly has decompressed from the hologram call, she discovers a Xahean has snuck on board. She takes charge in helping the runaway get to the next place. “Calypso” (18:05) pushes us 1,000 years into the future when the USS Discovery is floating in space and grabs an escape pod. The rescued person develops a relationship with the ship’s computer. The script was written by Michael Chabon (Wonder Boys). “The Brightest Star” (14:46) gives us the origin story of Saru (Doug Jones). Turns out his planet is mainly about fishing. Except for the longest time there has been a cruel irony as visitors fish them. How did Saru rise from this way of life to the stars? “The Escape Artist” (15:34) brings back Rainn Wilson (The Office) as intergalactic hustler Harry Mudd. Turns out a lot of his business deals have gone bad and he’s being transported back to the Federation by a bounty hunter. Harry recounts how often this has happened as he offers various bribes to escape.
“Q&A” (14:06) has Spock arrive on the USS Enterprise as a mere ensign and not a Mr. He serves under Captain Pike (Anson Mount). Number One (Rebecca Romijn) gets peppered with questions from the new guy on the crew when they’re stuck in a lift. “The Trouble With Edward” (14:37) unites the Star Trek universe with Bob’s Burgers, Archer and Dr. Katz. H. Jon Benjamin plays Edward Larkin, the Chief Science Officer on the USS Cabot. He has creative differences with Captain Lynne Lucero (Rosa Salazar). She doesn’t believe in his research on Tribbles being used for food. Once you shave them, according to Edward, they’re like scallops. When she decides to have Edward transferred, his research explodes. This would have been stretching it as a full episode, but clocking in at less than 15 minutes, it’s perfection. “Ask Not” (9:17) puts Cadet Thira Sidhu in a tricky spot when she must keep an eye on a high profile prisoner: Captain Pike. Did he really commit mutiny?
“Ephraim & Dot” (8:43) is an animated episode about a tardigrade poking around space looking for a perfect spot to lay eggs. The USS Enterprise appears to be that place except a droid doesn’t want the hull to be a nest. What’s interesting is that inside the ship we get classic Star Trek moments with vintage records of William Shatner, Ricardo Montalban and George Takei. “The Girl Who Made the Stars” (7:45) is also animated. A father tells his story a bedtime story to his daughter about a magical light.
Star Trek: Short Treks are 9 stories that add to Star Trek: Discovery and aren’t just toss off tales. These don’t feel like deleted scenes or a cheap promotional gimmick. The effects are as good as the regular show. We get to see things like a complete Harry Mudd con scheme, how the Tribbles went into overdrive and how Saru survived. If you skip the shorts, you’re getting less out of the series. Thankfully these 9 shorts are being released on Blu-ray so if you live in an area where streaming video can’t squeeze on your internet connection (or will cost you a fortune via the data plan), you can catch up on the shorts before Star Trek: Picard arrives on physical media. How can you not have the voice of Bob and Archer messing with Tribbles in 1080p?
The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic. The 1080p transfer takes you into space. The audio is DTS-HD MA 5.1. The mix sounds as good as a regular episode although they aren’t putting mics on too many actors. The episodes are subtitled.
The Making of Short Treks (4:25) goes into how Alex Kurtzman proposed doing a few short episodes in-between streaming seasons.
Audio Commentary on “Runaway” with Alex Kurtzman and Jenny Lumet. Anson Mount has a commentary on “Ask Not.”
Coming of Age (7:30) is from Runaway. Director Jenny Lumet talks about having to approach a shorter than a normal episode piece. She was told by Alex Kurtzman to watch animated movies.
Shall We Dance (8:51) discusses novelist Michael Chabon writing the script for “Calypso” that is focused on one character. Chabon talks about using the scene from when Ulysses is washed up on an island.
First Contact: Kaminar (5:09) has crew members talk about making a film that wasn’t a flashback, but telling a story from Saru’s past in a present tense. Doug Jones talks about this really informed his character.
Covered In Mudd (4:52) has Rainn Wilson discuss how Star Trek wanted him to star and direct the short about Harry Mudd after playing Mudd in an earlier episode. He did a lot of duty. He talks about how the storyboards really helped him manage so much with the crew.
Ensign Spock’s First Day (10:16) lets Chabon discuss working on this script while getting things set up for Star Trek: Picard. He couldn’t give up a chance to write Spock’s first day of the job. He sat next to his dying father’s hospital bed and wrote the script. His dad was a fan of the series.
Here Comes Tribble (3:43) talks about bringing the Tribbles back. They probably bought ever yard of fun fake fur in Los Angeles for this episodes.
Score (6:09) has the writers explain how they made an animated cartoon that touched upon the original series and reused the original dialogue.
Bedtime Stories (7:45) has writer Brandon Schultz describes how a line of dialogue inspired the short. They had tried to work it into an episode, but it wouldn’t fit right. But now with the short, the story could be fully told.
CBS Blu Ray presents Star Trek: Short Treks. Starring: Rainn Wilson, Mary Wiseman, Aldis Hodge, Doug Jones, Michelle Yeoh, Rebecca Romijn and H. Jon Benjamin. Boxset Contents: 9 shorts on 1 Blu-ray disc. Released: June 2, 2020.