Billingsley: Paramount Bean Counters ‘sabotaged’ Star Trek + Enterprise a ‘retread’

It has been over six years since Star Trek: Enterprise was cancelled and in that time actor John Billingsley has formed some frank opinions about the show and how Paramount treated the Star Trek franchise. In a new interview, Dr. Phlox pulls no punches. See below for excerpts.



Billingsley: Paramount Bean Counters sabotaged Star Trek + Enterprise a "retread"

John Billingsley has a new interview up at IndyStar covering a number of issues, but the most ineresting bit is when he is asked if Star Trek needed a rest after 6 TV series and 11 movies, Billingsley said in part:

…what happened with “Voyager” and our show “Enterprise,” and I don’t mean this in any way as a knock on our executive producers, … but Paramount was saying more, more, more, more, more, because they viewed this as a commercial product. Nothing (in television) works when it is brought into being by the marketing department. Paramount kind of sabotaged itself. I think they got greedy, and that’s what studios do, unfortunately, because they are run largely by bean counters.

I say this, sounding harsh to my own ear: Everybody is in business to make a buck. But the idea that you have to have a product that has some artistic viability, that it just isn’t cash in, sometimes eludes the folks who are looking at the bottom line.

Billingsley went on very candidly to explain the demise of Star Trek: Enterprise:

It’s a miracle we got four seasons. Any other TV show would have been yanked after one season. Our ratings were abysmal. We opened well, we had a great audience for the first episode, and they watched it and they said, “This is nothing new. It’s the same Star Trek I’ve been watching for years and years. It’s a retread. And they ran away.

More from Billingsley at

John Billingsley all smiles as Dr. Phlox on "Enterprise"
– now has some harsh words for Paramount "bean counters"

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Allen Williams
December 9, 2011 4:45 pm

I thought it was because the top level execs changed so much that Enterprise was the only Sci-Fi they had left. The new execs not liking it decided to cancel it as a result.

Commodore Mike of the Terran Empire
December 9, 2011 4:51 pm

I loved Enterprise. The First and 2nd seasons were not all that great. The 3rd was better an the 4th was on fire and was what should have been for the 1st season. To bad. After the 4th season when Manny Cotto came on board it was getting really excitting and tieing in with TOS nicely.

December 9, 2011 4:55 pm

Enterprise would have been much better without the Zindi. It wasn’t bad sci-fi but it wasn’t trek.

Commodore Adams
December 9, 2011 5:00 pm

I agree with John in that is Enterprise was a retread. There were some new ideas but like other trek before it, there are always ideas borrowed.

I have no idea what kind of Star Trek fan would stop watching the show. Compared to Voyager, I thought it was fantastic. I was there at the premiere episode and I was there at the finale.

Are fans going to complain if Star Trek pulls a Battlestar Galactica and does something fresh and new? Because the same thing will happen, the fans will not watch it. Star Trek is about change, it preaches among many things that change is good, and yet most Trek fans want the same old same old. How can a franchise function like that? It can’t! Star Trek needed change and I am glad the 2009 movie was the way it was. It was fresh and new, I had no idea what to expect. And THAT is what attracts me.

I hope a new TV series will be very different than what has come before.
And to hell to all those who don’t want to leave the comfort zone. Have fun festering in the past.

December 9, 2011 5:01 pm

Phlox was easily my favorite character of the series.
An alien that was really alien at times.

December 9, 2011 5:01 pm

Enterprise should have been about the Romulan War. Or actually should have started a little bit after the Founding of the Federation. They could have launched the Daedelous Class ships and used them to recruit members to join the Federation.

December 9, 2011 5:03 pm

Or another way to go would be to have the Romulan War and then the last season recruit members to join the Federation and the last episode show the signing of the Federation.

However I am not sure if either of these ideas I suggested would bring in the general audience also. Unless they like the Romulan War because of the action?

Radioactive Spock
December 9, 2011 5:03 pm

I’ve always been an Enterprise fan. Didn’t care for the opening theme song but it was much better than some give it credit for. Shame it got cancelled right when it was really starting to separate itself from cookie cutter trek. Was really looking forward to Romulan war!

December 9, 2011 5:04 pm

…that pretty much sums it up. Same old song and dance. JJ re-invigorated Trek with the old school classic Trek sensibilities that had been all but abandoned and breathed new life into that dead horse. Phlox speaks the truth.

Jeffrey S. Nelson
December 9, 2011 5:12 pm

Yeah, fourth season really amped up. If only The Shat had made that talked about guest appearance.

December 9, 2011 5:13 pm

Have to agree with Billingsly. It took about three episodes for the storytelling to drop into Trek formula, and the ratings reflected that. Archer was the anti-Kirk, agonizing over every detail of command, and it got old, fast.

December 9, 2011 5:13 pm

Have to agree with Billingsly. It took about three episodes for the storytelling to drop into Trek formula, and the ratings reflected that. Archer was the anti-Kirk, agonizing over every detail of command, and it got old, fast.

Pensive's Wetness
December 9, 2011 5:14 pm

doesnt matter who humped whom back in the day. In the end, i just have reruns and movies to watch occationally. I dont have the power to ‘ZAP’ retards into the ether so i dont even b*tch about such things much anymore…

December 9, 2011 5:14 pm

Does anyone think Trek is done on TV and will just be relegated to the movie franchise? Would it be cheaper to do Trek movies than Trek TV series?

Gary S.
December 9, 2011 5:33 pm

No, but it will be awhile before we see the new series .
If they had waited two or even three years after Voyager and taken more time to develop The Early Federation threads, it might have worked .

December 9, 2011 5:38 pm

#15 Gary how long do you think awhile will be? 2020?

Praetor Tal
December 9, 2011 5:43 pm

John Billingsley is good people. And he’s totally right. Ditto also 2 and 10. I suspect we won’t see too many more Enterprise novels for a while, but I would like to see some of Manny Coto’s ideas for a fifth season worked into novel form.

John from Cincinnati
December 9, 2011 5:46 pm

The problem with Enterprise was they yanked it just as it was finding it’s footing and getting really good. Had the show been allowed to progress and show a logical lead in to the original series, I think you would’ve seen the franchise invigorated.

As it stands now, at least the franchise is back with the movies. However, I still think a “retro” tv series or a more, nostalgic take from the original series injected into the new movies would be successful.

December 9, 2011 5:49 pm

The creative folks working on Voyager and Enterprise need to look in the mirror and stop blaming the studio and others for the crappy Trek product they produced. DS9 was outstanding, and was under the same sort of financial pressures as these other two Trek series within the same overall time-frame.

And to John Billingsley, I found your character weak and not very useful to the storyline of the show. So stop whining about it being somebody else’s fault that your show was not all that great.

December 9, 2011 5:53 pm

“This is nothing new. It’s the same Star Trek I’ve been watching for years and years.”

True enough – and most people who might have formed an audience for the show were long since tired of Star Trek. There was no way for one more version of Trek as it had existed for decades to succeed.

Billingsley puts his finger on the reason that it was absolutely necessary to rethink, recast and reboot the entire franchise and start over from the beginning – whether hard core trekkies wanted that or not.

December 9, 2011 5:53 pm

Just getting sick and tired of all these supposedly disgruntled folks like Garrett Wang and John Billingsly from the latter Trek series coming out of the woodwork to bitch, bitch and bitch. Just shut the F-up and thank your lucky stars that you got to work on a Star Trek series.

December 9, 2011 6:08 pm

Billingsley isn’t disgruntled, he’s simply observant.

And he’s absolutely right.

December 9, 2011 6:17 pm

This is a video of Robert Beltran ranting on about how Trek sucks. Any thoughts about this ? lol

December 9, 2011 6:20 pm

Enterprise got royally screwed over. It’s still getting screwed over with the novel line abruptly ended.

December 9, 2011 6:22 pm

Billingsley was the only thing I liked about Enterprise. I stopped watching mid-season one. I periodically checked in and found I wasn’t missing anything. I became a regular again with season 4, after a friend told me it had finally gotten watchable.

Trek is episodic TV. I remember the middle years featuring pointless mystery aliens crawling around the ship for multiple episodes, or some such unwatchable crap. And what was that nonsense about some undercover spy division? Just tell a story… forget the damn “arcs”!!

Another annoying distraction was Jolene Blalock. A terrible actress. Nice to look at, but there are lots better places to ogle women than in the middle of a show that’s supposed to have a plot.

Khan was Framed!
December 9, 2011 6:24 pm

I disagree with Billingsly’s theory in part, despite my immense respect for his work:

There were definitely some who tuned into the pilot & didn’t see anything new so they didn’t keep watching, but the core audience that sat through seven seasons of TNG, DS9 & V’ger each, did.

Let’s face it, if we’re willing to tolerate Mulgrew for seven shrill years, we’d have sat through anything.

What killed Enterprise was that it’s fans (including myself) are nerds. Nerds who are enthralled by technology & were at the forefront of the downloading movement of the early 00’s.

Downloads, at the time did not register at all on Hollywood’s ratings radar, so those who were watching Enterprise online (so we could skip the horrific theme song) weren’t supporting the show from a commercial stand point.

Definitely the lack of distiction he is talking about played a significant factor in Enterprise not obtaining a new audience beyond the legions of loyal Trekkies already committed to the previous series, but ironically, it was the very technology that Trek celebrates which derailed it in 2005.

December 9, 2011 6:25 pm

#21 And if it was just another actor praising the series and saying nothing but good things about it and not understanding why so few liked it, your post would read more like “so sick of these guys not having a clue why we didn’t like it!”

December 9, 2011 6:28 pm

@14. Yeah, Trek is done on TV for now. Not so much because someone dosen’t want to do it, but the expense is prohibitive. Think about it, for the ratings sci-fi draws, you can produce an hour of similarly rated reality broadcasting at a tiny fraction of the cost.

December 9, 2011 6:28 pm

John is right. MJ, go dig around at Doug Drexler’s site and you will find stories about how CBS head Les Moonvies hated Star Trek so much he personally ordered all of the Enterprise sets destroyed by a bull dozer when the show was cancelled.

I don’t remember if it was Doug or someone else but they begged the guy on the bull dozer to let them go get a truck and they would take the Enterprise sets but the guy just kept smashing them. There were even pictures of this on his site.

December 9, 2011 6:31 pm

#27 I would think to justify the cost a Trek TV series would need at least 10 million viewers each week to stay on the air.

December 9, 2011 6:34 pm

Also in order to do that the next Trek TV series would have to be really, really, really good and both Trek fans and the general audience would have to love it.

Khan was Framed!
December 9, 2011 6:42 pm

He is right about Enterprise & Voyager being retreads!

Why can’t they do a series in the trek universe that isn’t a remix of the same seven people on the same mission in a ship that pretty much looks the same?

it’s a show about the future of the galaxy!! surley there are other things going on that could be equally entertaining.

the DS9 writing team were so devoid of creativity that when they tried to do different, they caved & brought in a ship!

c’mon people!

Michael Hall
December 9, 2011 6:46 pm

@ 9 Jonboc–

“…that pretty much sums it up. Same old song and dance. JJ re-invigorated Trek with the old school classic Trek sensibilities that had been all but abandoned and breathed new life into that dead horse. Phlox speaks the truth.”

Well, if you think Billingsley is hard on his own show (from what I’ve read elsewhere he doesn’t have a clue about what makes Trek tick, but in this case I think he’s mostly right), you should read what he had to say about Trek 2009.

December 9, 2011 7:02 pm

I don’t get the love for season 4 of ENT… To me it was even more a “retread” than the previous seasons. To me it was a step backwards from season 3 which was the only season that took any kind of chance. Season 4 retreated back to the safety of Trek’s past and was even more derivative than seasons 1 and 2.

December 9, 2011 7:05 pm

Enterprise and Voyager were both shows with great potential that they never lived up to. Solid cast, solid premis, just horrible execution by those in charge. I think especially had they left out the entire Temporal Cold War bit from Enterprise it would have been a solid show. But what’s done is done.

Show Syndication
December 9, 2011 7:09 pm

@27 and @28
The shows are expensive in that the production values have to be high because audiences demand it. You can’t do things on the cheap with fakey backdrops as in TOS. The ratings don’t necessarily have to be @10M because usually shows like these do not make money until syndication. And to sell a syndicated package, you need at least 100 episodes and more, which is about 4 years worth of shows.

December 9, 2011 7:39 pm

Enterprise works better now with the 2009 movie ahead of it rather than being behind TOS which made no sense technically. Flat screen monitors everywhere, warp nacelle illumination, phase cannons, a friggin’ grappler, technobabble decades ahead of its time, the Vulcan/Human relations. But it is non the less watchable. Netflix streaming looks really good.

December 9, 2011 7:55 pm

Should Trek just switch to video games only? This game company thinks DC Comics games do better than movies.

December 9, 2011 8:01 pm

Phlox is correct, imo.

I did try Ent for awhile, but even looking back now at the so-called great forth season, I still think it’s crap. Uncreative, immature, poorly acted, poorly written and just generally uninteresting.

Of course, I thought the same of Voy.

December 9, 2011 8:03 pm

Enterprise was pretty much the same as TNG.

December 9, 2011 8:06 pm


Sorry to double post, but completely agreed. I didn’t like season 3, but I could at least respect that they were trying. I’m baffled when people say season 4 was good. I thought it was awful, embarrassingly so.

December 9, 2011 8:40 pm

Captain Archer was such a sap- a groveling little corporate sales manager with no sex appeal, and nothing in his personality to make him believable as the CO of a Starship. He played with his dad as a kid, for sure, who invented the NX-01’s warp drive. And….? Exactly.

On the Bridge? Generic Korean (linguist!), generic black guy (black guy!), generic English(!) dude with a lisp, and generic Vulcan(!), sorry, I mean generic cat-suited T&A(!) with an attitude. Or both. No chemistry at all. Phlox was thankfully separated by several decks. Trip Tucker was only slightly less annoying than his cohorts.

Then you had the newly-constipated Vulcans and the wimpy Earthers adding an annoying subplot which Manny Coto finally flushed down the can in S4, along with the onerously mis-handled ‘Temporal Cold War.’

In the end, Seasons 1 and 2 were shite, Season 3 is a blank because no-one cared ( I watched it straight through, and all I remember is the Enterprise-J and some dudes in a fish tank), and Season 4, which is still in my regular rotation despite the weak main characters.

December 9, 2011 8:45 pm

Enterprise wasn’t helped either by the fact that both Berman and Braga disliked the original series, and refused to watch the first series. To explain the apparent discontinuity that existed between Enterprise and TOS, Braga said that First Contact changed the timeline. Unbelievable.

IIRC, the reason that we didn’t see DY series starships and Daedalus-class starships was that TPTB didn’t want to use these designs in the series. However, they were very happy to use a retcon Akira-class starship and Romulan Bird-of-Preys.

In the end, the series was terrible, and won’t be remembered.

December 9, 2011 8:48 pm


Yes, I think Trek on TV is done. TV itself I think is on its last legs, the unlikelihood of a future weekly Trek is just a byproduct of scripted television’s decline and fall. Syndication was responsible for the revival of Trek, but syndication of scripted programming is dead as a door nail, replaced by original cable programming. But no cable channel has remotely the audience to justify a new high-budget series like Star Trek (SyFy could not even support Galactica, which was a cheap show by Trek standards.) The “Big Five” networks are launching fewer and fewer scripted shows, Their audiences are declining at an alarming rate, and in response they are replacing scripted shows with cheap reality shows that only serve to drive even more of their audience away. Their few recent attempts at weekly science fiction (“Terra Nova”, “V”, “Sarah Conner”, “FlashForward”) have been commercial failures, with only “Fringe” surviving beyond about 20 episodes, and that at extremely low ratings. The only chance for a Trek series now would be on something like HBO or Showtime, but I think even that is a very remote possibility.

Trek on TV is consigned to history. TV as we know it… I give no more than 8-10 years. The first to go dark will be The CW, followed within a year by NBC.

Michael Hall
December 9, 2011 8:58 pm

“TV as we know it… I give no more than 8-10 years.”

And, maybe, lots of other things we’re accustomed to, as well.

December 9, 2011 9:09 pm


I’d be interested to see what AMC could do with a weekly sci-fi series. Of course, they may not have to budget for such a thing. Going to space may be a tad more expensive than going back to the ’60s or building the transcontinental railroad.

December 9, 2011 9:10 pm

@44: NBC? Really? I doubt it.

But, yeah, scripted TV shows are a thing of the past.

I think the future of episodic story-telling lies in video games.

December 9, 2011 9:11 pm

Correction: “THE budget for such a thing.”

December 9, 2011 9:27 pm

VZX… Yeah, NBC. I’m actually not even sure The CW will go first, NBC is in such dire straits. NBC is a train wreck of a network now, surviving almost entirely on Sunday Night Football.

December 9, 2011 9:31 pm

Enterprise was awful. Seasons 1 & 2 were nauseating, season 3 was better but had a terrible ending (alien Nazis?), and season 4 was watchable but that’s it. They rushed it in every way possible. The casting was bad therefore the acting was poor, the writing was worse, and it stepped all over the shows that had come before it.

Season 5 would have been where the show broke through into something worthwhile (Romulan War), but they never got their chance. Figures that the “bean counters” would pull the plug right before the show hit its stride.

I bought the first Romulan War book thinking it would be what Season 5 would have been, but now I’m reading that the book series will never be finished? Can Enterprise ever get to the end of a run without being canceled?