May 27, 2004

Boldly Going Nowhere At Warp Speed...

Well, last night was the big Enterprise season finale, and as a hardcore Trekker, I was seriously disappointed.

Ya gotta understand - I was brought up on the original Trek; heck, it was one of the few things that my father and I actually agreed upon. (We both beat out Mom in the Kirk vs. Picard argument). I don't own a Starfleet Uniform, nor do I attend conventions, but I actually like Trek, which was one of the few shows that treated you like you were semi-intelligent.

Maybe the fact that I had watched the Deep Space 9 series closer, "What You Leave Behind". It was - and is - one of the few pieces of television that actually moved me to tears. Well-written characters, a great sense of ending plot, and (surprisingly) an almost cliche-free ending. It was uneven in places, and didn't wrap everything up in a totally nice bow...but it was a moving tribute to the cast and crew who worked on the show.

(For the record - TNG's series ender was merely a setup for the movie franchise, and Voyager...well, more on that later).

Enterprise, on the other hand, seemed to be lackluster, and even sprung a trick ending that was even more confusing than the twist of Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes. Wow, would the earth survive? Well, given that the show occurs about 100 years before the original, what a twist!

The end formally began with Voyager - what started out as a unique premise quickly turned into a mass of cliches, unoriginality (hey, let's trot out the Borg!), obvious pandering (what else explains Jeri Ryan's woodenness in Voyager, but her all-out humanity in Boston Public, and don't give me no "she was reclaiming her humanity" stuff).

However, Enterprise's main challenge has been working in a climate where even greater strides have been made. Want an example of extended story arcs? Babylon 5 started it (albeit awkwardly) and Buffy strengthened it. Want unique science-fiction creatures and storytelling? Farscape Want something a little more, er, "edgy"? Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda (Which, ironically, came from a failed Trek proposal, along with some of Roddenberry's other notes). In a climate where greater creative strides are being made, instead of leading the pack, Enrerprise is following...and eventually, seems more like a cookie-cutter version of Trek than the real thing.

Maybe, in the end, that's the key - TOS, TNG, and DS9 were (somewhat) influenced by a single vision, before Star Trek became The Franchise. It used to be about telling unique stories about the human condition - about how, as we reach for the stars, we learn more about ourselves. Sadly, it seems, both Voyager and Enterprise have boiled the vision down to base elements, as if having a person with pointy ears and green blood makes it valid and real, rather than exploring the character behind the traits.

Somewhere, out there, Gene Roddenberry is weeping...

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