This spring I ran into an “old friend” on one of those retro cable channels and was so enamored by the encounter that I decided to fire up Netflix and devote some serious binge time to catching up on Star Trek: Enterprise and worrying about the new Star Trek series currently in production.
If you’re not a fan of the Star Trek franchise you’re probably not even reading this sentence so I’m not going to spend a lot of time on a lengthy explanation about a show you probably already know. Put simply for those fans who haven’t seen it, this series documented Earth’s earliest exploration of deep space using our planet’s newly developed warp technology.
Set in a time period immediately after the movie Star Trek: First Contact and well before the original Star Trek series (and prior to the creation of the Federation of Planets), literally everything is new to the crew of the Enterprise as they begin to cruise around the galactic block. This premise provides a lot of great opportunities for Captain Archer and the crew of the Enterprise NX-01 to get into all sorts of scrapes.
Longtime fans of the series (people like me) got a real kick out of seeing first encounters with species like the Andorians and the Tellarites, Romulans and Klingons. I especially appreciated that the producers developed storylines to provide exposition on elements of the Star Trek universe that had long been considered canon, from transporters to food replicators to the lack of true ‘shields’ for their ship. What the show lacked in innovation it made up for with prequel-y goodness.
Checking out Wikipedia I see that Enterprise was an anchor series for the brand new United Paramount Network (UPN), which was stationed way out on the edge of the UHF range in my neck of the woods. It was a gamble to run such an expensive show on a network that didn’t have widespread coverage around the country. The reasoning was that a successful new Star Trek show could help kick-start the adoption of UPN in many new markets, growing the business.
To use auto dealer terminology, Enterprise was a loss leader.
Ultimately, the series outlived the network and was passed to the control of CBS, which put the brakes on Enterprise at the end of season 4.
Twelve years after the cancellation of Enterprise, CBS is forging ahead with a new series titled Star Trek: Discovery. The way that I understand it, Discovery, just like Enterprise, is going to be used as bait to get viewers to sign up and pay for a membership for a proprietary streaming video service owned and operated by CBS.
I have to tell you, as a true Star Trek fan I am honestly tempted to pay for that service, but as a grown man with many digital irons already in the streaming fire, I’ll be darned if I can justify yet another video streaming service just so I can see one show.
Star Trek just isn’t worth it to me, and I consider myself a big fan.
According to a streaming service polling company called SymphonyAM, Netflix dominated the streaming scene in 2016 and I doubt that the audience for the aging Star Trek franchise will be significant enough to launch CBS ahead of Hulu or Amazon Prime, not to mention Netflix.
The widespread fear among fans is that Star Trek: Discovery will experience a similar fate as Enterprise – a promising launch, a so-so reception, and ultimate abandonment as network executives attempt to “fix” a problem that has nothing to do with the series and everything to do with their poorly thought out business model.
Naturally, I hope that I’m wrong, but there are lots and lots of reports coming out of Hollywood indicating that the series is floundering while it’s in production, which you could argue is a separate issue altogether if it didn’t sort of indicate that CBS might be having internal issues that reach well to the top of the organization.
I really do hope that the series gets made and even if I don’t see it in all its first run glory, I want there to be a 10 year backlog of episodes for me to watch when I finally do manage to see it. Best wishes to those making the series, from the top to the bottom.
But for gosh sakes, put it on Netflix.