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Old May 12th, 2005, 02:24 AM   #1
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Star Trek Too big to kill

From National Post:

Too big to kill

Colby Cosh
National Post

May 12, 2005

On Friday, the finale of the much-derided Star Trek: Enterprise will air, and the Trek franchise will be given a break from television for the first time since 1987. There will be no first-run Trek series on the air and no Trek movies in production -- a scenario some have described as the "death of Star Trek."

Sure. And maybe you thought Spock wasn't ever coming back after that little incident in the reactor room at the end of Wrath of Khan.

For better or worse, Star Trek has grown too big to kill. NBC tried it in 1968, announcing the cancellation of the original series. But viewers rallied and inaugurated one of the first fan-mail interventions in TV history, which earned Trek a third season. The ratings continued to labour, and the axe was applied for real -- but within months Bantam Books was extending a successful line of Trek episode novelizations to include all-new content.

Meanwhile, the show proved perfectly suited to syndication, and a short-lived cartoon version appeared in 1973. When Star Wars was released in 1977 and rapidly became the pop-culture leviathan of the century, Paramount decided to reassemble the original Trek cast for a theatrical movie -- which grew a sequel, and another, and another ...

In retrospect, NBC's poor handling of the original series has come to be considered one of the all-time great media bungles. The executives who parked the show in a Friday-night timeslot and failed to discern the fan fervour behind the poor Nielsens have been living, ever since, in the personal hell of men who pass up a license to print money. But for Paramount, the content owner, the cancellation was a blessing in disguise. The merry-go-round of syndication allowed the episodes of the original series -- God help us, even the one where they meet Abraham Lincoln in space -- to achieve cult status and become the foundation for a canon. Going underground into books, social gatherings, and fan fiction was essential to the emergence of a wider Star Trek brand.

If the original Trek had survived through two more years of increasingly desperate writing, and through budget constraints intensified by rising cast salaries, it would probably be half-forgotten today. Which is why Viacom, which now owns Paramount and the Star Trek brand, is pulling the plug on Enterprise. It was ready to chloroform the show after the third season, but made provision for a fan-friendly fourth and the heavily hyped wind-up we are experiencing this week. It's all calculated to leave the Trekkies without a bad taste in their mouths, bring closure to the Enterprise experiment and build momentum for whatever comes next. (Though it is perhaps a little awkward that the timing coincides so closely with the release of the last original Star Wars movie.)

Clearly Star Trek isn't dying so much as taking a nap. Trekkies can rest assured that their herdlike tendencies are now appreciated, and valued correctly, by the marketplace. Ron Moore, a former Trek writer who is running the new Battlestar Galactica series, recently observed on his Web log that talk of "the next 50 years of Star Trek" is a commonplace in the Viacom offices. Still, there is always a chance that it will prove difficult to cultivate the necessary interest in a return to TV or the big screen. The success of Star Trek's various spinoffs will mean that 30 full seasons of Trek TV are now available to new fans. And all of it will be viewable at leisure on digital media; fans will no longer be prowling the dial for syndicated repeats the way Baby Boom and Generation-X kids did in the '70s.

But then again, how long will TV and movies exist as we know them? In his new book The Big Picture, investigative journalist Edward Jay Epstein argues that theatrical motion pictures are gradually becoming little more than expensive ads for DVDs. The Lord of the Rings movies were explicitly DVD-driven, and anyone who saw the recent Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie must have suspected immediately (or hoped) that it was merely the regurgitated, confusing foretaste of a more coherent home version. Television is clearly headed this way too; production schedules are becoming ever more irregular, and more shows are being "discovered" on DVD and earning money for studios despite mediocre ratings.

Very soon, we will see entire "television" series that are never released on network or cable TV -- series shot specifically for bulk home consumption. Indeed, this is already a semi-appropriate description of some long-form immersive computer games, and the line between gaming and television is becoming ever blurrier. We are already fairly sure what the next new Star Trek will be: A gaming company, Perpetual Entertainment, has been licensed to create a Trek MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) for release in late 2006 or thereabouts. MMORPGs -- virtual Internet worlds with written storylines -- are already a very big deal, with games like Everquest attracting millions of devotees and sprouting internal economies larger than those of actual countries.

For Trekkies, the MMORPG will be the ultimate killer app -- an explosive hybrid of professional content and fan creativity. Why watch Scott Bakula captain a starship (or cavort with a Vulcan hottie in the "decontaminant chamber") when you've known all along you could do it better yourself? The direct-to-fan interactive approach is perfectly suited to science fiction, partly because home PCs now have the processing power to render sophisticated graphics on the cheap, and partly -- one must admit -- because sci-fi fans tend to be intense about their favourites, yet none too discriminating about dialogue and acting.

The usual interpretation of this is that these fans care about the grand vision of a human future, rather than mere technique. Yet "vision" has been perhaps the most glaring weakness of Star Trek. The Trek universe is a future realm from which most sources of ugliness or envy have been arbitrarily proscribed. Money and politics, mystifyingly absent from the original series, were reintroduced grudgingly (and lamely) in later incarnations. Star Trek's human species has somehow just skated past class distinctions, ethnic strife, aging, civil war, and ethical questions about emergent technology.

Through 30 years of TV, no credible account of this astonishing progress has been offered. For all its occasional power, Trek often seems like future history written by Marxist amnesiacs. No, it won't die -- and perhaps that's a pity.
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Old May 12th, 2005, 01:06 PM   #2
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Is it just me, or does it sound like that guy really really didn't want to have to write that article?
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Old April 29th, 2013, 06:02 PM   #3
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Default Re: Too big to kill

No, it sounded like a whiney critic who doesn't understand why people like something he can't fathom.
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Old May 9th, 2013, 02:37 AM   #4
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Default Re: Too big to kill

Ooh another fashionable inter-lecter-ual bash at Sci Fi, that nasty popularist stuff that outsells real literature, out seats foreign language masterpeices and has people doing social interaction stuff at conventions across age, gender and social economic divides.

He missed the nerd in the basement jibe.. was he being ironic??

I wikied and got a hit on Colby Cosh as a Canadian uni student who had a student paper comic strip called Colby Christ that replaced one called Space Moose and then got booted out for the return of Space Moose by popular demand (That Moose just happened to wear a Star Trek uniform.. I sense unresolved issues here..).
He also writes sports pieces.

So is this the bitter musings of a hockey jock who got whupped in public by a Moose in a Sar Trek uniform??

Cheers
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Old May 9th, 2013, 04:30 AM   #5
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Default Re: Too big to kill

Don't mince words, Lara. tell us what you really think.
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Old May 9th, 2013, 09:41 PM   #6
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Default Re: Too big to kill

I seem to recall a statement about "Hell having no fury......" and I will gladly remain out of the view of the one scorned. Does wonders for my longevity, dontchaknow.



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Old May 11th, 2013, 10:40 AM   #7
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Default Re: Too big to kill

Does anyone realize that this article was written four years before the release of (and who knows how long before the production of) the JJ Abrams Trek film?

I didn't see anything here that seemed deriding or berating of anyone in terms of fandom. It read more to me like acknowledging the fact that fans and aficianados of the series kept it alive for as long as possible.

It also acknowledges that tv shows and movies are indeed becoming nothing more than forerunners for said shows' or movies' digital releases (DVD -- and now--although unmentioned because of the time it was written-- blu-ray). Remember when movies used to run for months, or even upwards of a year or more in the cinemas? Now, even a blockbuster movie is lucky to get two or three months on the big screen before being formatted for DVD/blu-ray transfer. (Hell, most companies already have their crews and actors providing commentary for DVD/blu-ray before those films are even released to the big screen.) I think the film "Independence Day" was the last of the long-run cinematic events before finally getting released to VHS the month following the end of its cinematic reign.

I just cannot agree with anyone's dismal assessment of this report. Show me anywhere where the author suggested he did not like or could not fathom Star Trek or its popularity?

It should say more like "Hell hath no ambivalence like a Klingon shrugging his shoulders."
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