Saturday, February 05, 2005

All Good Things. . .

While concentrating on the State of the Union coverage, I almost missed what, in the long run, is far more important than what a third rate mind such as George Bush has to say. The announcement was made that Enterprise, the current version of Star Trek, was canceled by UPN as of the end of this season.

All Good Things was the name of the final episode of Star Trek The Next Generation, and the fact that all good things must come to an end now applies to the entire set of Star Trek shows. The Next Generation was the closest to the original Star Trek, updating the idea with the special effects and television standards of a new era. Before TNG even ended, Deep Space 9 was started, proving to be a worthy successor it its own right.

From there, things began to go downhill. Voyager could never attract the same degree of interest. For many Star Trek fans, the appeal was of watching the future of the Federation, and humanity itself, extend into the future based upon Roddenbury's vision. Being lost in space, Voyager did not satisfy this desire to see the entire future unfold. The next spin off, the currently airing Enterprise, was meant to be a prequel, taking place before the days of the Enterprise of Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock. It failed on the level of being, like Voyager, unable to continue the stories begun in Next Generation and DS9 forward, and initially also failed as a meaningful prequel. Finally, a new writing team was assembled, and this season they started to figure out where to go with the series. Even though Enterprise is much better this year, it did not bring in enough viewers to justify its high production costs.

Star Trek was also revived as a movie series, but this was not the right medium. Star Trek worked best in both carrying forward the story gradually over a period of time, and in showing the continuing story of groups of characters which fans cared about. An isolated movie could not capture the magic of an ongoing series.

Roddenbury had a liberal vision behind Star Trek. Started during the Vietnam War, the "foreign policy" was based upon the Prime Directive, which prohibited interference in the development of other cultures. This lesson is particularly applicable today, when we have a President who believes he can form Democracy in a foreign country by forcing it from outside. Star Trek often dealt with racial tolerance. The society was secular, but other religions were also presented in an atmosphere of toleration which current day Republicans could learn a lot from. The underlying philosophy was strongly pro-science, a welcome contrast from today's atmosphere where biology, cosmology, medicine, and even geology are under attack for teachings which vary from right wing religious dogma.

Star Trek still has a well known name, and a well established fan base. Therefore it is likely it will be back in some form. After 624 hours over eighteen years, perhaps Star Trek needs a rest, to allow for new ideas, and development of a new creative team. Some are predicting a hiatus of about three years before Star Trek returns to television. Another movie, with a new cast, also remains a possibility. The previous series remain available in both reruns and DVD, and there are numerous book adaptations for those who cannot live without new stories. Science fiction fans are also likely to be interested in the newly revived Battlestar Gallactica. Ron Moore, who previously wrote for The Next Generation and Deep Space 9, has turned this remake into a series far superior to the flawed original.

Star Trek has a number of characters well known to the general public, lending it to references in many areas, including political satire. This includes my report during the 2004 election, Star Trek Captains for Truth Attack Jon Luc Picard, and reports from 2000 on Al Gore's appeal of the election to the Federation Council (reprinted in the comments to the previous story).


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