Sunday, May 01, 2005

Star Trek Retires - Finally

I haven't seen more than a handful of Enterprise episodes, the latest and apparently final Star Trek spin-off. We don't subscribe to cable, so I had to tape the show at my in-laws' house. I stopped after the very first episode. The series, which ostensibly takes place 100 years before The Original Series (Kirk, Spock, McCoy) got off to a rip-roaring start with a human chasing a Klingon through a field of corn in Kansas.

Full stop.

I loved The Original Series - I'll happily call myself a Trekkie. And while I'm not as fastidious in my Star Trek chronology as, say, Michael Okuda, I'm knowledgable enough to recognize a serious breach in the space-time-continuum when I see one. And this was a whopper.

Since I've already lost all but the few select readers who had a secret crush on Yeoman Rand (or - you tell me, Scott - Charlie X?), I'll steam ahead on short-hand: you can't introduce a Klingon 100 years before Kirk and Spock take to the skies, because in TOS they encounter Klingons for the first time - and comment on the discovery at length. It would be wrong to expect the Star Trek Franchise Managers to be religious acolytes of the show (acolytes make lousy entertainers), but is it too much to ask them to aquaint themselves with the foundational material?

Apparently the answer was "yes". No mention of the discrepancy was ever made, and the show plodded on, with the usual "warp core breaches", and shaking, and flashing, and what-do-we-do-now moments. I asked my friends about it from time to time, and was told nothing terribly new was happening. Some reported improvements, others said no - it was all very confusing, and quite discouraging.

It doesn't bother me that Paramount isn't spending development money on Star Trek. The money they did spend has been squandered for years, to the point where any Star Trek production is going to look suspiciously like a bloated cash cow. Best to let it languish on bookstore shelves for 10 years or so, like they did after cancelling TOS. Chances are the Franchise will rouse itself once again, and put together something sub-standard, but at least the buzz will be back. And that has to count for something.


Alan Kellogg said...

Actually, in the introductory episode (Errand of Mercy I think) previous Federation/Empire interaction is mentioned. Such as the Klingons' complaint that the Federation has been disrupting Imperial trade. So it's not the first time the Federation and the Empire have met. It's just the first time we've heard about it.

I figured all the discrepencies in Enterprise was because they were doing an alternate history. I stopped watching because it was a badly done alternate history.

Whisky Prajer said...

Rats! I knew I should have consulted the Star Trek Encyclopedia before writing this entry!

Thanks for the comment, AK. Your hunch about the "alternate history" was shared by many, I think, and raises some interesting questions. The Klingon in the corn-field had me speculating as well, but left me non-plussed because if this was an alternate history, it was ham-fisted and third-rate. Most Star Trek enterprises (ahem) start off on shaky legs, but this series stumbled badly.

What might a successful alternate history have looked like? I'm not sure, but I think to sell the alternate history you have to begin by pointedly acknowledging the Star Trek history we have. Let's say you present the Klingon in the corn-field. The rest of the episode proceeds on the pre-determined track, then concludes with Captain Archer walking obliviously by, say, O'Brien and Bashir (or any other affordable ST alumni). Fade-out. You don't have to bring those two in for a whole season if you don't want to, but you've at least established your familiarity with, and chosen disparity from, the source material that hard-core fans spend their hard-earned money on.

I dropped in on a few discussion-boards after posting this. It seems the fourth season of Enterprise was, belatedly, devoted to addressing an astonishing host of time-line disparities, including the physiological change in Klingons. Given the adulation that was generated around head writer Manny Coto, I'm now curious to see the last two seasons of Enterprise. Did the fourth season actually "work" - dramatically, logically?

Scott said...

"Did the fourth season actually "work" - dramatically, logically?"

Well, I used to say to some friends, "I don't watch 'Enterprise' and they'd say, "Me neither" but, this year, I'd say, "I don't watch 'Enterprise' and they'd say, "No, you should -- it's been getting really good!"

It sounds as though Manny Coto had truly revitalized the show but it was too little, too late. I stopped watched shortly before the end of year two, when Florida (the home of DisneyWorld, boy bands, Cuban drug rings and fundamentalist Christians) was wiped off the map.

Season three, the producers announced, would feature the Enterprise crew eschewing exploration in favour of finding the alien terrorists and kicking their asses. Season three, I announced, would carry on without me!

It's a shame to see the end (for now) of "Star Trek" but, with "Battlestar Galactica" one of the best things on TV and the new "Doctor Who" pure giddy fun, I can't say I'll miss it much.

Tom said...

The third season, spent in the "Expanse" was pretty good. A decent story arc encompassing the entire season. Something previous Trek's hadn't done very much of, except DS9.

A two parter which just aired, was set in the Alternate Universe (right, Spock with a beard...) except this time they made NO crossover to our universe. The title intro and music was changed, and it was a pretty good couple of episodes.

The final couple of episodes are to do with Riker and Troi of all people, which should be pretty terrible!

Tom, out!

Whisky Prajer said...

"Riker and Troy"?! Were the Ferengi rates too high?! That's pretty sad...

I actually stumbled across the second part of the Spock's Beard episode, and liked it, particularly the way they shot it - much like TOS, with cameras behind screens, etc. Fun.