Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Wither Star Trek?

In its first run on NBC from 1966 to 1969, Star Trek aired to absolutely abyssmal ratings. Despite this, it developed a cult following even while still airing on network television. In some respects, then, it should not have been a surprise that it would become a success in synication. It inspired a Saturday morning animated series that aired for two years starting in 1973. In 1979 it finally hit the big screen with Star Trek: the Motion Picture, the first of many movies. In 1987 a spinoff/sequel series debuted, Star Trek: the Next Generation. It would run for seven years and beget its own spinoffs--Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. Eventually there would also be Star Trek: the Next Generation movies and a prequel series, Enterprise. And, of course, there was tons of merchandise, from the Mego action figures of the Seventies to the video games of the Naughts.

After nearly forty years, however, it would appear as if the franchise has finally ran out of steam. Officially, Paramount (who owns the rights to the series) has no plans for any further motion pictures or televison series. Star Trek: Nemesis did poorly at the box office and was poorly received by critcs and fans alike. Enterprise suffered from ratings even lower than the original in its final season. For some it perhaps seemed like the writing was on the wall--people were no longer interested in Star Trek. At least that is the conclusion I am guessing Paramount came to.

Of course, to be fair I think that it must be pointed out that Star Trek: Nemesis was a very bad movie. It was poorly written and poorly thought out, with gaps in logic large enough to drive a Mack truck through. As to Enterprise, I always loved the series, but in its first two seasons many of the episodes were somewhat lacklustre. Indeed, in its first two seasons the series lacked any good villains. The original series had the Klingons, Romulans, and Orions. Star Trek: the Next Generation had the Borg. All Enterprise had in its first two seasons were the Suliban, who always seemed rather lame to me. Fortunately, the last two season were among the best of any Star Trek series. Indeed, the final season may have been the best. We got to see the Romulans and even the Orion Syndicate (who should have been Archer's archnemises from the first season onwards...). Unfortunately, it seems that it was too little too late. Ratings continued to slide until UPN cancelled the show. I think it could then be debatable that people are tired of Star Trek. It could be that they simply did not like the movies and shows that were currently being made.

Indeed, as proof that people are not tired of Star Trek, one can look to the various rumours surrounding what the next Star Trek will be. At one point William Shatner pitched the idea for a series that would chronicle Kirk's adventures when he was at Starfleet Academy. Reprotedly the series would have also featured Spock and even appearances by McCoy. I always had a problem with Kirk's idea for a series in that both Spock and McCoy are older than Kirk--on the original series Bones even had a grown daughter! It would be seriously rewriting history for Spock and McCoy to be at the Academy with Kirk. Still, if properly done, a series featuring Kirk's adventures at the Academy could be appealing. Rumours of a series or movie taking place at the Academy have persisted ever since.

Another rumour that has persisted of late is of a series or movie set in the Mirror Universe, which first appeared on the original series episode "Mirror, Mirror." Personally, I think this would be a good idea. "Mirror, Mirror" was among my favourite Star Trek episodes, as was the Enterprise episode "In a Mirror Darkly." A series set in the Mirror Universe would then have interesting possiblities. Of course, I think it would be best set in the time of Archer or Kirk, when the Empire was a thriving concern.

Regardless, to me such rumours prove that there is still interest in Star Trek yet. I rather suspect that it is just a case of finding the right concept and the right scripts. Certainly another movie along the lines of Nemesis will not do. And with the various series continuing in reruns and on DVD, I think it is inevitable that there will be another Star Trek project at some point. There are some series that simply cannot be kept down.

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