Once a franchise has been around as long as Star Trek – and seen so many highlights – the opportunity for milestones multiply like Tribbles on their honeymoon. 2012 was the 25th anniversary of TNG. 2013 was the 20th anniversary of DS9. This year is the 20th anniversary of VOY. Next year is the 50th anniversary of TOS.
BUT TODAY is actually a milestone of a low-light: the 10th anniversary since a new episode of Star Trek aired on TV.
On May 13, 2005, UPN aired the final episode of Enterprise (These Are They Voyages …). The reception to the episode at the time and its legacy since then have not been particularly warm, with Brannon Braga describing it as “crappy,” Jolene Blalock calling it “appalling,” and Jonathan Frakes saying it “stinks.”
The primary criticism is that by shoe-horning it into a TNG story, it made for a terrible ENT finale, which is true. But it wasn’t what the episode was supposed to be – the preceding two-parter (“Demons” and “Terra Prime”) finished ENT, fitting the modern Trek model of ending series with two-parters.
Rather, “These Are The Voyages…” was the finale for the unprecedented 18-year run of 600+ hours of a single TV franchise. And regardless of people’s reaction to the episode, honestly tell me you didn’t get a bit of a lump in your throat with this final montage of the three Enterprises:
I just wish they’d had Avery Brooks and Kate Mulgrew recite a line as well.
The question for the last 10 years of course has been: was “These Are The Voyages…” the final episode of that run OR was it the final episode of Trek on TV ever.
The hunch that many people have now is the studio will “wait and see” how the third Abramsverse movie does and go from there. If that makes tons of money, we’ll probably just get more movies. If it only does so-so, there’s hope that the franchise will get “demoted” back to TV.
Which really leaves people like us in a weird situation: we all want Trek 3 to be good, but we want it to do badly enough that we get another TV show.
I have gone on at length about how impossible it would be to bring Trek back to TV, but keep in mind that the TV landscape is much different now than it was in 2005, when Trek was still following the decades-old model of “get as many episodes as possible into syndication.” I am worried that the powers that be are still stuck in this model.
Because Trek should not return to TV – in the format we’re accustomed to.
Quality has long since overtaken quantity on TV. The prestige-format of modern TV, led by HBO then replicated by basic cable and now Netflix, is to take your time doing 10 to 13 good episodes of a series per year (rather than rushing out 20 to 26).
Moreover from a “thinking outside the holobox” standpoint, Trek could be resurrected as a cartoon again (as our friend John Champion at Mission Log has pointed out) – which would easily allow actors from previous series to reprise their roles in any time period. Trek could be reiterated in TV mini-series or made for TV movies like Babylon 5 did. Maybe an anthology series, where each season you recast the same actors in different roles like on American Horror Story (parallel universes, anyone?). Or high-concept video games with quality voice talent like the Batman: Arkham series.
Or a webseries of short films. Given the popularity of fan-produced movies, the easiest thing from a creative standpoint would be to create a Star Trek scholarship program and just let us do the work.
Obviously Trek’s business interest going to make a decision based on what is most profitable, which we shouldn’t begrudge them. What’s so teeth-gnashingly frustrating is that – from a business perspective – the profitability of a TV show or a movie or a web series is inconsequential compared to the profitability of Trek merchandising, which people will spend more money on the more excited they are about the property.
For example, when it was announced that Spider-Man would be joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe, rather than continuing to appear in stand-alone films produced by Sony, sales of the web-slinger’s merchandise spiked – and note that in 2014 Spider-Man was already worth $1 billion.
Money is being left on the table by letting Star Trek lay fallow during this era of fandom explosion – especially given the inevitable trickle down that will come from renewed interest in the Star Wars franchise this year. It’s like one old country doctor said, “If you’re gonna ride in the Kentucky Derby, you don’t leave your prize stallion in the stable.”
So on this 10th anniversary of Trek sailing off the airwaves, raise a glass of Saurian brandy or synthehol or Romulan ale. And when it finally returns – in whatever format – we’ll all be able to say, unironically, that “it’s been a long time, getting from there to here / it’s been a long time … but my time is finally here.”