CBS and Viacom announced today that they will merge to form the new media conglomerate ViacomCBS, bringing subsidiaries ranging from Paramount Pictures to MTV to Nickelodeon under one umbrella again. The move also will reunify the Star Trek franchise for the first time since 2006, when the CBS Corporation spun off from Viacom, leading to a split in the television and film rights.
The property lay dormant at CBS for years, leading to a licensing of the various television series to stream on Netflix. Paramount rebooted the film franchise in 2009, with director J.J. Abrams overseeing a young cast as the classic crew of the Enterprise.
After the breakout success of the 2009 film, the rebooted franchise received two additional sequels, 2013's Star Trek Into Darkness and 2016's Star Trek Beyond. While the 2013 sequel performed better at the worldwide box office than its predecessor, critics and audiences were divided about the rehashed incarnation of the classic villain Khan Noonien Singh, drawing accusations of white-washing for the casting of Benedict Cumberbatch in the role. Star Trek Beyond similarly received a middling critical response and posted lower box-office totals than either of the previous two films.
Since then, development on a fourth film set in the reboot timeline has languished for years as Paramount lowered the budget, resulting in stars Chris Pine and Chris Hemsworth exiting the project. After losing director S.J. Clarkson, Paramount quietly shelved plans for a sequel entirely as it reevaluated the franchise's cinematic future. Recently, filmmaker and self-professed fan Quentin Tarantino had developed his own pitch for a film set in the reboot timeline, with the potential to direct the project, with Abrams attached as a producer, but it has yet to officially move forward.
In the meantime, CBS positioned the television arm of the franchise as the centerpiece for its premium streaming service, CBS All Access, with Star Trek: Discovery. Quickly becoming one of the most-streamed original series on the new platform, Discovery's success led CBS to significantly expand its new programming for the franchise, from planned animated projects to a new live-action series featuring Patrick Stewart reprising his beloved role as Jean-Luc Picard, with producer and Discovery co-showrunner Alex Kurtzman at the helm.
As the merger between CBS and Viacom has just been announced, its impact on the wider Star Trek franchise is unknown. Given its current success on CBS All Access, the merged company is unlikely to reverse its plans for television expansion nor replace Kurtzman as the television franchise's overseer. Instead, the unified property could completely fall under Kurtzman's supervision, especially given his previous experience as the co-writer and producer of the first two -- and most successful -- films set in the reboot timeline. Whatever the future of Star Trek may bring under ViacomCBS, the direction for the franchise will assuredly boldly go into the unknown together.