Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Not that much of a surprise, really...

Not that anyone hasn't heard by now, but Enterprise has been cancelled. Let the post mortems begin. With a little luck, we may get some good magazine articles or books that take a candid look at the behind-the-scenes story of the last few years.

Was a prequel really the right idea? Some TOS fans were alienated by the new show and saw it as conflicting with the original Star Trek. Some fans just didn't care about the past of the Trek universe. For that matter, what was the point of doing a prequel that, until recently, pretty much ignored established continuity? Not that it necessarily violated continuity; it didn't really do any worse than any other Trek series in that respect. But if you set a show early in Trek history, why then spend a lot of time on alien threats and menaces that were never heard of again in the later eras covered by previous Star Trek TV series? And if you want the freedom to introduce big new alien threats, from the Suliban to the Xindi, and you don't really want to just deal with a few human colonies and a limited number of established alien races, why do a prequel? Many of the most popular Trek alien cultures were actually new to Starfleet in the later series, so you can't really do a lot with the Borg, the Romulans, the Gorn, the Ferengi, the Founders, and so on.

Was the storytelling a problem? For much of the first two seasons, the show told stories that could have been told on previous Trek series with very few changes. Similar look and feel, similar casting, similar direction... Enterprise and Voyager, compared to Farscape or the new Galactica, are obviously the same basic series. Add the familiar setting (a starship with a paramilitary crew exploring space with an alien or two for company), and it was hard to avoid feeling sometimes that this was just more of the same. Okay, there was the temporal cold war arc, but that just ended up being reminiscent of the conspiracy arc episodes on The X-Files. There was no sense that the show's creators really had a sensible explanation lined up and ready to go. Then there was the Xindi arc, which actually did try to do something different. Was it too little, too late? Or did it turn off casual viewers who didn't want to have to tune in every week to know what was going on?

Were the cast or characters a problem? I never really warmed to Scott Bakula, particularly. The other cast members were good enough in their parts, when they were given something to do. But Travis, Mayweather, and Hoshi never got nearly as much exploration as they should have.

What does this mean for Star Trek in general? Well, the books will do fine, but I'm not holding my breath waiting for the next Star Trek movie. I wonder if Paramount will shut down the Star Trek office and let the various people there go on to other things. With no TV series in the works, and no movie given the greenlight, will Paramount pay Rick Berman, Brannon Braga, et al. to keep sitting in their cushy chairs? If not, does anyone high up in Paramount or UPN have any loyalty to the current Trek producers, or will they feel free to bring in someone new if or when they decide to revive Star Trek in some form?

In a way, this is an exciting time now. Anything can happen. Quite possibly nothing will happen, for a year or maybe a few years... but the old order is getting shaken up. Business is not as usual. The status is not quo. Which means there are always... possibilities.

(Now playing: Tori Amos, "Ribbons Undone," The Beekeeper.)


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