Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Star Trek: Enterprise cancelled

The link.

So, this throws a monkey-wrench into the "Franchise Friday" overview I was going to write for HBS this week, doesn't it? I think I'll still write it, because I am sort of uncomfortable with the homogeneity and lack of cool ideas in the four sci-fi shows that air that night, but there will have to be some more analysis of what led to this.

Personally, I think you can't redefine a franchise as often as Star Trek has in the past four years without shedding many more fans than you pick up. Enterprise was a tough sell in the first place, with a lot of fans saying "the past" (relative to Jean-Luc Picard, I guess) had no interesting stories to tell. For the first two years, they lurched between standard Trek fare with a nifty design sense and a frighteningly ill-conceived "temporal cold war" story arc. Then, for the third season, they went with the nearly-as-bad Xindi story. Then, finally, this season they packed the Xindi and TCW away and went with telling prequel stories to classic Original Series stuff.

Changing a series's direction is an act of desperation. For all the times it works, there are about a dozen times it simply drives part of the existing audience away and doesn't entice a new audience, because they already know they don't like the pre-change series and either don't know about the new direction or figure it's not new enough. Pull it enough times, and you'll whittle your core audience down to nothing, even if the end result - Enterprise's fourth season - is the strongest Trek to be captured on film/video since the end of Deep Space Nine. For the first time in its run, Enterprise is a show that I'll actually miss now that it's gone.

Granted, all that's been announced is that UPN won't be running Enterprise come September; it could hypothetically show up on Spike or Sci-Fi, but I doubt it. The question now is, how long will Paramount keep Star Trek on ice?

I'm guessing two years, at which point they'll notice that the ancillary merchandise for everything but The Next Generation isn't selling at all now that the show isn't "current" any more. Hopefully, they'll still have Manny Coto's phone number, because he's done great work on Enterprise this year, and deserves a chance to show what he can do without the fanbase burned out on what Rick Bermand and Brannon Braga have made a once-great franchise into.

And as for B&B, good luck finding work. You'll notice the DS9 people have been more or less constantly employed since their show ended, but B&B don't have their good reputation any more. That's what comes of holding on to the goose who lays the golden eggs so long and so tight that you eventually strangle it.

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