Let it go.
This from the NYT.
Its Long Trek Over, the Enterprise Pulls Into Dry DockStar Trek was rarely Science Fiction.
By DAVE ITZKOFF
Published: May 1, 2005
IN the sector of planet Earth known as Hollywood, it was business as usual on the Paramount back lot. On a sunny day in early March, green-skinned aliens with zippers embedded in their faces were eating catered lunches, stagehands were disassembling lighting rigs labeled "Thorium Isotope Hazard," and all were doing their best to ignore the fact that the warp engines on the starship Enterprise would soon be shut down, perhaps never to start up again. "Welcome," a security guard said with heavy irony, "to the last days of Pompeii."
On May 13, UPN will broadcast the final two episodes of "Star Trek: Enterprise," the most recent spinoff of the genre-defining science-fiction series created by Gene Roddenberry nearly 40 years ago.
When it was time to commit to a new season of "Enterprise," UPN ordered fewer episodes than in the past and shuffled them to yet another time slot. Still, some people clung to hope. "Being the optimists that actors are," said Scott Bakula, who played "Enterprise's" heroic Captain Archer, "you think, 'Maybe if we do a really good job. ...' But basically we were kidding ourselves."
And just for the record, Star Wars was never Science Fiction.
“The Minority Report?” Definitely. “Happy Accidents?” Yes. Even “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy?” You betcha.
But not so much Star Trek.
Figuring out if something is Science Fiction or not is really pretty simple: it is a literature – a genre – that depends entirely on the question of “What If?” What if you could reanimate the dead (“Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus”)? What if a computer could lead a rebellion in a Lunar prison (“The Moon is a Harsh Mistress”)? What if you could tamper with time (“A Sound of Thunder”)? If you yank out the science, the plot collapses: that's how you know if its science fiction or not.
It’s a test that Star Trek rarely passed.
Trade Colt pistols for phasers, and Conestoga Wagons for starships, and it’s “Wagon Train In Space”. Which is, in fact, how Gene Roddenberry marketed it to the executives at Paramount. It was a weekly morality play, wherein you could paint Frank Gorshen half-black and half-white and do an episode on race without it being banned south of the Mason-Dixon Line. And it offered a largely hopeful vision of the future, which was a very good thing.
But it wasn’t science fiction. And now that we can talk openly about race and sex and hate – on commercial teevee AWA cable – the need for an encoded “morality a clef“ series like Star Trek has passed.
Part of the inherent problem with the series had to do with its creator. Simply put, Roddenberry wouldn’t allow the characters to grow or change. The near-perfection of the humans that populated the series violated a basic rule of good writing that says that human nature does not change very much. Whether you’re slogging towards the Indus with Alexander the Great, or exchanging photon-torpedo broadsides with Klingons, humans are humans (and BTW, c’mon? FTL-driven starships blasting away at each other at arm’s length like 18th Century wind-and-wood naval fleets?) people are people, and always will be.
The Star Trek Universe was hermetically sealed, and despite, for example, some mighty imaginative fan fiction porn, the beginning-middle-and-end of any given episode was as carefully calibrated and predictable as Big Ben, and before the credits rolled, you knew that all characters would return to their default positions. A decision that robbed the series of an underlying sense of real tension that "Babylon Five" had in spades.
For thise keeping score at home, "Babylon Five" was science fiction.
For the uninitiated, the Star Trek Series chronology can be explained thusly:
Star Trek: We go into Space.
Star Trek TNG: We go further into Space.
Star Trek DSN: We stop, and let Space come to us.
Star Trek Voyager: Ooops. Went too far into Space in our Giant Shoe Stretcher Ship, now we gotta get back.
Star Trek Enterprise: How did we get into Space again?
Thematically, the series goes like this:
Star Trek: “Wagon Train” in space. We roll along into strange places, encounter strange people, and have adventures. Oh, and women wear, at most, miniskirts and go-go boots. Otherwise they wear Kleenex and green body paint. And we get laid like President’s Day sale carpet by a variety of hot, hot alien babes. Kirk first, and the rest if-and-when. Oh, and even robbed of her few lines by the Bill “The Ego on the Edge of Forever” Shatner, decked out in her miniskirt, with a seat as an equal on the bridge, the mighty fine Nichelle Nichols did more for race relations and reframing the place of African Americans than most.
Enough that when she was threatening to quit, Dr. King personally asked her to stay. Nichols went on to make recruiting films for NASA and it is fair to say that without Uhura doing her “Hailing frequencies open, Captain” thing, there is maybe no Dr. Mae Jemison, so how cool is that?
Star Trek TNG: The Broken Family. Everybody – and I mean everybody – in this series had a fucked up family. Almost all were orphans, or has lost a parent, or estranged from their families in one way or another. The series foundered around like rudderless ship until the arrival of The Borg. And then somebody remembered that Great Story requires Great Conflict, which needs a Great Villian.
The Borg showed one model of social order – one model of family: everyone cambered and tooled to fit into the Collective. The Federation showed us another model: the family as the protective shelter which encourages the individual to flourish. It is constantly changing – in a perpetual state of renegotiation between the family-as-a-unit and the family-as-a-safe-harbor.
Star Trek DSN: Religion. This one was my favorite. House Roddenberry finally let characters have flaws. Let them fuck up and fail. Let the villains have redeeming qualities and the heroes fall. And it took faith seriously: both as means and ends. And after trying it the other way, they let Avery Brooks shave his head and grow his goatee and go full badass: he was just one full-length leather coat and hand-canon away from being Hawk again...which was a goood thing.
Star Trek Voyager: Going home. Largely forgettable, although Kate Mulgrew had this no-nonsense borderline-dominatrix Captain thing going that I found immensely appealing.
“Ensign Driftglass, get over here and fuck me stupid. Now.” Yes ma’am! :-)
Star Trek Enterprise: Prequel City. Jut-jawed Captain boldly doing that going-and-doing thing that jut-jawed Captains do. IMHO, could have been a much bigger success than it was, but the Custodians of the Roddenberry Legacy couldn’t let it run loose enough to really rock and roll. Imagine if they had decided to go All In on it, and invited Neil Gaiman or Harlan Ellison over to script an episode or two? Or Greg Bear? Or Neil Stephenson? Or William Gibson?
Don’t know those names?
That’s because they write, among other things, a very important type of speculative literature called Science Fiction. Which for all of it virtues, Star Trek never was.