During the last golden age of Star Trek on television from 1993-2005, fans became ever more connected due to the internet, and specifically fan sites dedicated to Trek and message boards. While this was wonderful in bringing us together, every episode and series was analyzed, criticized, and the writers sometimes vilified. Of the many who faced the ire of Trek fans during the respective runs of Voyager and Enterprise, none received as much vitriol as Brannon Braga despite him being responsible for some of the most celebrated Star Trek episodes in the entire franchise.
Like many of you, I was part of this internet community back then, often posting on the now-defunct Trekweb.com about the latest episodes, and specifically my gripes with VOY and ENT. In my opinion, both series failed to live up to TNG and DS9, and my newfound-love for Babylon 5 made me yearn for serialized storytelling that was absent in VOY and ENT. With the perceived decline in the quality of Trek on television and in the cinema, many of us (myself included) directed our ire at the so-called “powers that be,” which became synonymous with Rick Berman and Brannon Braga, who would become known as B&B.
Over the years, as Star Trek began to suffer from so-called “franchise fatigue,” many fans blamed B&B for the decline of the franchise and, unfortunately, the comments directed at both men were vitriolic and hateful. Fans blamed Berman and Braga for running what we held so dear into the ground. I was one of these fans, as I would often post on Trekweb.com how I could not stand the two men and wanted them to have nothing to do with the franchise. I viewed everything they touched in a negative light, and was one of the many posters who viewed them not as people trying their best, but as scapegoats for not producing the type of Trek I was looking for.
Now that we are roughly eleven years since the cancellation of ENT, and twenty years since VOY premiered, I decided, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary, to revisit both shows for the first time. While neither show was perfect, much to my amazement, I found numerous episodes to be incredibly enjoyable and thought-provoking. I appreciated VOY and ENT much more the second time around with the maturity of my 30s, whereas when they first aired I was a teenager with intractable views of what each show should be.
After watching both shows again this year, I can not believe how wrong I was and how ashamed I am for acting the way I did.
Following the Writer’s Room panel on the final day of the 50th anniversary convention, Ronald D. Moore, Naren Shankar, and Brannon Braga signed autographs on a complementary basis. Being a massive fan of Battlestar Galactica, I was prepared with something for Moore to sign. However, I had nothing for Shankar or Braga to sign. Initially, I did not plan on approaching either. However, I went up to Shankar first and we chatted about The Expanse, an intriguing show that he runs.
Next was Braga, and I decided to do something that I had not planned to do: apologize.
I told him how, during his time working on VOY and ENT, I was one of the many who had vilified him. I said that it was completely unfair and immature of me to do so, and that I had recently revisited VOY and ENT and found that there was so much to love in both series. I told him that, had I been in his shoes, I did not think I could have handled such intense, and unwarranted, criticism. I told him that I felt terrible for being one of the cacophony of voices on the internet who had blamed him for everything, and that it made me feel terrible looking back on my behavior. I thanked him for his involvement in the Trek franchise, and pointed out that he had so much to be proud of. Braga seemed genuinely touched by my comments, and he stood up and shook my hand, telling me how much my words meant to him.
If we were to objectively look at Braga’s contributions to the Trek franchise, it is difficult to overlook episodes like VOY’s “Threshold” and ENT’s “These Are The Voyages” as examples of his obvious failures. However, it is easy to overlook how many fantastic episodes and films he brought to the franchise. Here is a list of but a few that stand out to me:
TNG: “Reunion,” “Cause and Effect,” “A Fistful of Datas,” “Frame of Mind,” “Timescape,” “Parallels,” and “All Good Things…”
VOY: “The 37’s,” “Flashback,” “Future’s End,” “Scorpion,” “Year of Hell,” “Prey,” “The Killing Game,” “Living Witness,” “Timeless,” “Someone to Watch Over Me,” “Equinox.”
ENT: “Broken Bow,” “The Andorian Incident,” “Shadows of P’Jem,” “Shuttlepod One,” “Carbon Creek,” “Shockwave,” “A Night in Sickbay,” “Cogenitor,” and “Azati Prime.”
Let us not forget that Braga and Moore penned Star Trek: Generations simultaneously as they were writing “All Good Things…” I have found Braga to be an introspective man who knows his mistakes, rather than stubbornly sticking to every decision he made so many years ago. At the 50th anniversary convention, he conceded that “All Good Things…” should have been the first TNG film instead of Generations.
It is of note that Braga first joined TNG as an intern at the age of 25. Three years later, he was simultaneously writing the series finale and first TNG film. He co-wrote the beloved Star Trek: First Contact at the age of 31 and then took over showrunning duties on VOY that same year. He helped conceive ENT at 35 and parted with the Star Trek franchise before he was even 40. Moore, commenting at the 50th anniversary convention, believed that perhaps they were too young for the responsibilities that he and Braga were given during TNG’s final season.
Following Star Trek, Braga became executive producer for 24‘s seventh and eighth seasons, co-created Threshold and Terra Nova, and helped revived Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, where he earned an Emmy for his efforts. His latest creation, Salem, was WGN’s first scripted show and was nominated for a coveted Saturn Award in 2015.
Whatever you may think of the direction both VOY and ENT took from season to season, there is no doubt that there are standout episodes whose stories were created by Braga. He brought us the best TNG film in First Contact, and some of the most memorable TNG episodes such as “Frame of Mind” and the series finale. Looking back on how I treated him all those years ago, it simply was not fair. As I am now the same age he was when he ran VOY, I cannot imagine the pressure involved in running a Star Trek series. I also cannot fathom continuing in such a role when fans are ripping me apart on the internet.
There can be no doubt that Braga is, and always shall be, a Star Trek fan. He sought to do the best he could as showrunner, storyteller, and writer, and more times than not, he hit it out of the park. There are times when he failed, just as we all do in our professions. As a writer myself, there are many pieces that I cannot stand to look back on because of their poor quality by my current standards. However, my reflection upon his work shows me that he succeeded far more often than he failed, and that we have him to thank for countless hours of some of the best Trek ever written.