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Old May 8th, 2005, 03:01 PM   #1
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Star Trek 'Enterprise' Lost

From The Mercury News:

'Enterprise' Lost

By Charlie McCollum
Mercury News
Sun, May. 08, 2005

This week, "Star Trek'' will boldly go where it hasn't gone in 36 years: cancellation.

The original series, with William Shatner as Capt. James T. Kirk and Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock, was axed by NBC in 1969 after three seasons. But, a cult favorite, "Star Trek'' was revived as a film in 1979 with the original cast, and a new television series -- "Star Trek: The Next Generation'' -- made its debut in the fall of 1987.

Since then, 18 years in all, there has been a "Star Trek'' series -- and sometimes two -- on television every season. (Unlike the original, none was ever canceled. The producers just moved on to a new version when it seemed like things were winding down.) With nine more theatrical films, numerous novels and comic books, and a vast merchandizing empire, "Star Trek'' has permeated American popular culture to the point where it stands with "Star Wars.''

That all comes to an end, at least temporarily, on Friday when UPN airs the last two episodes of the fifth "Star Trek'' series, "Enterprise'' (8 p.m., Ch. 44), ending a four-season run that saw viewership drop from 12.6 million to 2.5 million. At the same time, the film division of the "Star Trek'' empire also has gone into stasis after 2002's "Nemesis'' pulled in a lowly $40 million at the box office. (The top "Star Trek'' movie, 1986's "The Voyage Home,'' did $184.7 million.)

"There was some degree of fatigue,'' says "Enterprise'' executive producer Rick Berman, who has run the franchise since the death of creator Gene Roddenberry in 1991. "After 18 years and 624 hours of `Star Trek,' the audience began to sense a little bit of overkill.''

In a way, the very success of "Star Trek'' worked against "Enterprise.'' Repeats of the show's predecessors -- the original, "Next Generation,'' "Deep Space Nine'' and "Voyager'' -- turn up almost 24/7 in syndication and on cable channels such Sci Fi and Spike TV. So do the films.

"We found ourselves in competition with ourselves. `Enterprise' was running against the franchise,'' says Berman.

Nor did it help that UPN, home of the franchise since "Voyager'' started its mission in 1995, had gone from being a testosterone-driven network to one that emphasizes shows appealing to women. "It needs to be said that UPN has changed a great deal over the last few years,'' says Berman. "It's been skewed in a totally different direction than `Star Trek.' That's caused as much of a problem with our viewership erosion as anything else.''

But the fundamental issue has been the failure of "Enterprise'' to connect with not just a broad audience but also with fans of "Star Trek.''

Set in the earliest days of warp-drive space travel, "Enterprise'' was a retro take on the "Star Trek'' world with technology that was shaky at best and a crew that wanted nothing to do with such things as a nascent transporter system. If you pop in the DVD set of the first season, the first episodes look like a fresh and witty reinvention of the "Star Trek'' mythology and canon.

Certainly, "Trek'' fans initially were attracted. (The audience of 12.6 million was and still is huge by UPN standards.) But the appeal didn't last long.

"Enterprise'' soon was being slammed for pedestrian storytelling, and -- as a commander -- Capt. Jeffrey Archer (Scott Bakula) seemed to lack the gravitas of Kirk, Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) of "Next Generation'' or even Elizabeth Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) of "Voyager.'' There was no breakout character along the lines of Spock; Data (Brent Spiner), the android from "Next Generation;'' Quark (Armin Shimerman) of "Deep Space Nine''; or Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan), the bodacious Borg on "Voyager.''

And the Trekkers -- the deeply obsessed fans of the series -- slammed "Enterprise'' on the Internet for playing fast and loose with "Star Trek'' continuity, such as exactly when humans first met the Klingons.

"A lot of fans have discussed the fact that we have ignored the continuity of `Star Trek' and ignored the canon,'' says Berman. "That could not be farther from the truth. We live and breathe this continuity.''

But, adds "Enterprise'' executive producer Brannon Braga, "the success of a television show doesn't hinge on a tiny bit of continuity'' such as when the Klingons first turned up. "It seems to me there are much larger issues.''

Given the show's somewhat contentious history, it perhaps was inevitable that even the final episode has been cloaked in controversy.

Using as its basis a memorable episode titled "The Pegasus'' from the final season of "Next Generation,'' the "Enterprise'' finale puts as much emphasis on guest appearances by two "Next Gen'' characters -- Cmdr. Will Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) -- as it does on the "Enterprise'' crew.

That miffed the current cast, with the sharpest criticism coming from Jolene Blalock, who has played the Vulcan T'Pol and carries particular weight with fans because she was a devoted follower of "Star Trek'' before being cast. In an interview with TV Guide, she called the finale "appalling'' and "a reminder of why we're being canceled.''

Braga essentially dismisses those complaints, saying, "There were a couple of people who were slightly uncomfortable with the fact that we have `Next Generation' characters in the show and that it is a different kind of episode. But none of the actors have seen the episode, so they can't be dissatisfied with how it turned out.''

Besides, says Berman, "we were aware that this 18-year run was coming to an end, and we wanted to create something that encompassed a little bit more then just `Enterprise.' ''

(The episode "These Are the Voyages . . .'' does have a sense of history to it, and Frakes, looking less like the Pillsbury Doughboy than he has in recent films, gives a witty performance as Riker.)

Neither Berman nor Braga believes the "Star Trek'' franchise will really end with "These Are the Voyages.'' They point out that science fiction has never been more popular on TV, with the success of shows such as Sci Fi's "Battlestar Galactica'' and USA's "The 4400,'' and the major networks have a number of sci-fi/fantasy series in the pipeline for next season.

Braga also notes that there was a concerted effort by some devoted fans to save "Enterprise,'' which "sends a signal that there are people out there who still want `Star Trek.' ''

"The fact that we're going to go two, or three, or four years without a television series -- and the fact that the specifics of the next movie are not locked down -- in no way means that `Star Trek' as a franchise is over,'' maintains Berman.

"You can go anywhere in the world and people know what `Beam me up, Scotty' means or what a Klingon is. They're not going to go away.''

Star Trek: Enterprise

** (the series)

*** (the finale if you're a ``Next Generation'' fan)

Airing: 8 p.m. Friday

Cast: Scott Bakula, John Billingsley, Jolene Blalock, Dominic Keating, Anthony Montgomery, Linda Park, Connor Trinneer

Guest appearances: Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis

Note: The next-to-last episode of the series airs at 8 p.m.; the finale will be shown at 9 p.m.
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Old May 8th, 2005, 04:35 PM   #2
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Thanks for the article, Sci-Fi.

Seems like the author of the article forgot that Janeway's first name was "Kathryn".

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Old March 21st, 2014, 02:46 AM   #3
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Default Re: 'Enterprise' Lost

They should have solicited stories/scripts from fans. The folks who really understood Trek.
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Old March 21st, 2014, 09:00 AM   #4
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Default Re: 'Enterprise' Lost

Didn't like the way they ended it. It just stunk, still leaves a bad taste in my mouth after all this time its been off air.
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