Star Trek: Short Treks

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Star Trek: Short Treks TV Poster Image
Series of short standalone films are lighter Trek fare.

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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Star Trek's messages are as they have always been: tolerance and compassion towards those who are different (and there are plenty of different creatures in Star Trek's world). 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Since these short films are one-offs, some of the quirkier characters in Star Trek's universe are explored, like Ensign Tilly, a sarcastic, smart outcast type who loves sugar, science, and serving in Starfleet. As is typical in Star Trek shows, the cast offers extensive racial and ethnic diversity, and women take on central roles. 

Violence

Violence will vary with each episode, but the intent of these shorts is not to horrify -- violence is confined to sequences like one in which an otherworldly visitor accidentally showers a break room with food and then hisses and raises sharp hackles. 

Sex
Language

Infrequent, but a hair more sensitive than on network TV: "hell," "holy s--t," "damn." 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Star Trek: Short Treks is a collection of standalone short films set in the Star Trek: Discovery universe. The vibe of these shorts is a little lighter than the regular show -- violence is confined to non-scary moments like when a trapped alien destroys a Starfleet break room -- and other content is dialed down too: no sex, more innocent language ("hell," "damn," one "s--t"). Positive messages about showing kindness to and helping others are common, as is typical on Star Trek-related shows; the cast is also characteristically diverse. 

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What's the story?

Jumping off from the Star Trek: Discovery characters and storylines, STAR TREK: SHORT TREKS is a series of standalone short takes starring characters who don't get a lot of airtime in the regular show: Ensign Tilly (Mary Wiseman) meets an otherworldly stowaway; Craft (Aldis Hodge) wakes up in an abandoned sick bay with an artificial intelligence interface as his only hope for survival. 

Is it any good?

Exploring some of the lesser-known corners of the Discovery universe, this series of standalone shorts is fun, but asks a question: Why weren't these just B-stories on regular episodes? Take the inaugural episode, Runaway, in which a lower-ranked officer has a meal interrupted by a shape-shifting alien on the run from her home planet. There's nothing about what happens next that wouldn't fit into a regular Discovery episode. Tilly and the alien bond over ice cream, talk politics in the sketchiest of terms, emit some science-y gobbledygook, and then resolve to Do the Right Thing for the Good of Your People. It's not bad Trek, it's just regular old Trek, instead of taking viewers somewhere out of the ordinary (using Trek standards). 

The brevity of Short Treks' episodes also subtracts time for nuance. Tilly convinces her alien to change the course of her life in about four lines of dialogue -- yet there's still time for a line in which the alien swiftly figures out how the transporter works: "Does it function by compensating for the position and direction of the subject's subatomic particles?" Uh, okay, yeah, thanks for breaking that down for us. Rabid Discovery fans -- and they are out there -- will be eager to watch this to get more of their chosen world, but the so-far non-converted aren't likely to be particularly won over by this one. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • If you have seen other Star Trek shows or movies, compare them to Star Trek: Short Treks. Besides the modern advances in visual effects, does this story eclipse the others in any other way? Does it do enough to make connections between itself and the series it's spun off from, or does it work better as its own show?

  • Why are shows about space and science such a staple on TV? What sorts of wish fulfillment or fantasy entertainment does it offer its audience? Why are people perpetually interested in what's out there in space? 

  • Star Trek is known for being a series with positive messages. What are the messages here? Can you find examples of courage and compassion? Why are these important character strengths

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