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Your Guide to the Best Star Wars/Star Trek Bonus Content on Streaming

There are galaxies of docs, featurettes, and post-show chats on streaming. These are the essentials.
  • Photos: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Paramount+, Disney+
    Photos: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Paramount+, Disney+

    To really get a sense of the frenzy surrounding Star Trek and Star Wars — those beloved brands that stand like twin pillars of fandom — you have to look beyond the many spinoffs that keep popping up on streaming services like daisies in a field. It’s the stories about those stories that best demonstrate our inexhaustible hunger for these universes.

    On both Disney+ (the streaming home for Star Wars) and Paramount+ (the hub for Star Trek), there are hundreds of hours of bonus features just waiting to be consumed. Think of it like the “extras” section on the most extensive DVD collection in history.

    The sheer amount of this material can be intimidating, but there are some true gems waiting to be discovered.

    Here are some tips for navigating the deluge of bonus content surrounding sci-fi’s mightiest properties.

    What to Watch: Star Wars Extras on Disney +

    The best content here goes deep on how various Star Wars properties were made and marketed. That includes gems like unearthed footage from the original Star Wars movie (which most folks now call A New Hope), plus featurettes that ran on TV at the time and decades-old trailers that truly make the era feel far, far away.

    One of the very best historical treasures is A Conversation with Masters, which rounds up the creative team behind The Empire Strikes Back. It follows the long line of projects that burnish the brand’s origin myths, portraying the rise of George Lucas and Industrial Light & Magic as improbable, entirely bootstrapped triumphs.

    Meanwhile, the live-action, Disney+-era Star Wars series The Mandalorian, The Book of Boba Fett, and Obi-Wan Kenobi have opened up new documentary horizons. The best, by a parsec, is the 2020 Disney Gallery series on The Mandalorian, with half-hour dispatches from Season 1 on directing, casting, practical effects, and more. Among other geeky delights, we get to see inside The Volume, a wraparound digital environment that one-ups green screens for virtual filmmaking, and we’re treated to anecdotes from individual directors about creating their episodes.

    Another must-see is The Director and The Jedi, an artful dive into director and screenwriter Rian Johnson's The Last Jedi — arguably the best Star Wars film since The Empire Strikes Back.

    Sadly, there seems to be less interest in the franchise's animated series, most of which predate the 2019 debut of Disney+. This includes not only titles like The Clone Wars, Rebels, and Resistance, but also the Disney+ exclusive The Bad Batch. The only extras available for these are trailers, and that's a shame. The behind-the-scenes tick-tock of animated shows is just as creatively revealing as the work done on live-action series. For example: only one voice actor, Dee Bradley Baker, performs all the main characters' voices on The Bad Batch. Surely that merits a featurette.

    Meanwhile, you can skip past so-so shows that started as StarWars.com web series (Anatomy of Dewback), and you can absolutely ignore shameless garbage like the one-hour look at the Galaxy's Edge theme-park attraction.

    What to Watch: Star Trek extras on Paramount+

    In Star Trek's universe on Paramount+, there are zero DVD-style bonuses attached to the movies. That’s a disappointment, and it underlines why anyone who wants a truly exhaustive collection is still tied to physical media, where featurettes and other docs can always be found. That said, the service does offer goodies tethered to some of the newer shows, including short behind-the-scenes docs and loads of footage from Star Trek conventions, including panel discussions and a full-cast table read of the Season 2 finale of Discovery.

    The real draw, though, is the flood of post-show chats following each season of the new series. They’re collectively known as The Ready Room, and they started as remote video interviews between Star Trek: The Next Generation veteran Wil Wheaton (the host) and various cast members and producers. Now they’ve evolved into light, episode-by-episode strolls through the lore, screenwriting, and production of each project.

    The conversations are genuinely disarming and funny, capturing stars like Anson Mount (the dreamy new Captain Pike in Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds), Sonequa Martin-Green (the kickass Captain Burnham on Discovery), and various voice actors in unguarded moments that let them prove their own nerdery. It's dishy and fleet, even though Wheaton can at times come across like an overcaffeinated tween, so eager is he to prove his expertise.

    Compared to Lucasfilm's arm's-length sheen, The Ready Room feels charming and homespun. There's no sense that lawyers combed over the transcripts on their dining room tables, whereas every last second of Star Wars-related docs tends to feel calculated for maximum marketing impact.

    How to Watch: Finding the Content on the Streaming Apps

    So where are all these goodies? Disney+ consolidates its Star Wars content under a giant homepage button, next to umbrella brands such as Pixar and Marvel. It's a single-lane entry point from which you can steer into Extras and Suggested content on a title-by-title basis. Suggested menus also offer collections by theme — the Skywalker Saga or the Obi-Wan Kenobi Collection — alongside plenty of kid-friendly content, such as the Star Wars Lego features and shorts.

    Paramount+, on the other hand, is a hot mess. You're only able to bring up Star Trek content via search terms, and there are no landing pages to be found. Generic searches yield a tangle of films, series, and docs, random in both release order and narrative timelines. There’s even a bit of YouTube detritus. The bright spot is that The Ready Room episodes are hitched to the newer series, appearing after individual seasons of their respective shows instead of hiding behind extras buttons.

    Disney+ is the clear winner here. If Star Trek's handlers want to compete in the same sexy, action-packed galaxy as Star Wars, they need a slicker, more simplified presentation. That would help drive potential converts who aren't just looking to see the same few movies and shows for the hundredth time. If newcomers could find all the other material that’s available to them, they just might become lifelong fans like so many of the rest of us.

    John Wenzel is an arts reporter and critic for The Denver Post who has written for Rolling Stone, Esquire, The Atlantic and Vulture. He grew up in Dayton, Ohio, worshipping Guided by Voices and The Breeders, and has a hobbit garden in his front yard.

    TOPICS: Star Trek, Disney+, Paramount+, Anson Mount, George Lucas, Sonequa Martin-Green, Wil Wheaton, Star Wars