Tuesday, April 26, 2005

So Long, Star Trek…for Now

The New York Times bids farewell to Star Trek: Enterprise.

By the middle of May, the “Star Trek” franchise will be no more, having died a death as long and lingering as — well, insert your favorite Trekkie long-and-lingering-death simile here. UPN has decided to bring “Star Trek: Enterprise” – the latest version of the saga – to an end and to give the whole idea of “Star Trek” a creative rest. The producers of the show have rejected a hopeless last-ditch effort to raise funds directly from fans to continue production.

The original “Star Trek” series proved what a little imagination, a little patience and a lot of plywood and foam core could do for televised science fiction. It ran for only three seasons on NBC in the late 1960’s but attracted a devoted following that seems, somehow, to have replicated itself by cloning. It also inspired four additional series, 10 “Star Trek” movies and a delightful parody called “Galaxy Quest,” starring Tim Allen and Sigourney Weaver, which flirted momentarily with the nihilistic possibility that a television show about space might merely be a television show about space.

For “Star Trek” fans, a future with no “Star Trek” at all must seem as empty as one of those great space voids the ever-endangered starship Enterprise kept getting sucked into. But somewhere, a TV executive is undoubtedly repeating the slogan about going where no one has gone before – and wondering how to make that idea about direct fan-financing work.

Yeah, the franchise has kind of run out of steam, and there will be endless debates as to which was the best iteration of the concept. There are those who accept only the original, and those, like me, who think that the best work was done in the middle of the Next Generation series run when it wasn’t worried about proving itself as a worthy successor and before it began to run thin on ideas. (My favorite episode is “Ship in a Bottle.” Feel free to chime in with your favorite, if you had one.)

As for this being the end of the voyage, well, I wouldn’t bet on that. In 1976 the automotive world bid a fond farewell to the Cadillac Eldorado convertible, said to be the end of an era because no one wanted convertibles any more. Much to my delight, they were wrong. Thus it will be with Star Trek, and at some point, someone’s going to spilt their infinitives and take the chance “to boldy go where no one has gone before”…again.