This article asks why Star Trek ran out of gas. After all, it had been going on for 40 somewhat years. The reasons why are very simple.
Star Trek franchise’s ratings went down noticeably when competitors appeared during the 1990s (Babylon 5 among others). Science fiction shows are extremely expensive to make. Star Trek, including the original, had an outrageously high production budget. CGI, however, leveled the playing field. The enormous science fiction audience began to be split apart.
People watch TV shows for entertainment, not for politics. Political correctness ran amuck. Nothing against having a female captain or a black captain, but everyone knows that Janeway and Sisko were chosen for their gender/skin color. Star Trek shows became very preachy and less entertaining. One particular TNG episode that enraged many people was that warp speed was ‘damaging’ space and that the Federation regulated all star ships to ‘not go as fast’ to not damage space. This is ridiculous because space is space and is a thinly disguised environmental analogy. Star Trek’s audience tends to be smarter than the average TV audience. They won’t put up with bullshit.
The writing just got worse. Watching Star Trek used to mean you were more ‘cultured’ or ‘enlightened’ than the average bear. But when it got a comic book sized mentality, the franchise became stupid. TOS fans are vocal and proud. TNG and DS9 fans also are very visible. But the VOY fans hide. The ENT fans are non-existent.
The original Star Trek looked to westerns and naval literature for inspiration. The later Treks looked to the original Star Trek for inspiration. It was a copy of a copy, and the colors are no longer as bright.
–How the Shows Went Down–
The Original Series
None of the women wear pants. There is a very clear and definable celebration of masculinity in the original series. In one episode, Kirk is split into two where his evil side tries to rape a woman. It shows Kirk has ‘rape culture’ and that he knows how to control himself.
There seems to be very little science in the original series. The episodes revolve around Kirk being so masculine that his wit and courage win the day.
The show thrived in syndication because there was nothing like it on TV.
Star Trek I: The Motion Picture
Someone likes 2001 Space Odyssey. The movie wasn’t that great, but the bizarro ‘special effects’ of the time certainly delighted movie goers for their entertainment of the time.
Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan
This succeeded because it was not a movie, it was an opera. The actor behind Khan brilliantly played himself as the ‘hero’ of the story which made his character so compelling.
Star Trek III: Search for Spock
This is another opera. Star Trek was getting popular again so they had to revive Spock.
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
This was the most successful part of the entire Star Trek franchise. This movie did better than any movie (better than the new ones too). This movie did so well, it blew Paramount’s hair back and had them greenlight The Next Generation. The reason why this movie did so well is because it is a comedy. After two operas, Nimoy wanted to try a comedy.
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
Shatner wanted to direct this movie because Nimoy did Voyage Home and that did so well. The writing was not done well here. What a mess.
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
Good conclusion to the original movie series. The actors have become too old to do any more.
Star Trek VII: Generations
This tried to be a ‘crossover’ tale. It sucked because Kirk didn’t seem to belong in it and his death wasn’t handled that well. I thought the plot was interesting, but the plot took the show too far away from its Horatio Hornblower roots.
Star Trek VIII: First Contact
A movie about the Borg is what fans have been waiting for. Paramount believed this film did well (as well as Star Trek IV did well) because it was about Earth. I think it was because both films were consistently entertaining. The key word is consistent.
Star Trek IX: Insurrection
Terrible. Why was this a movie? It could have been just a regular episode. Bad writing plauges it. It also betrays the Horatio Hornblower Star Trek roots.
Star Trek X: Nemesis
This film wasn’t fun. It was just… dark. The Romulans aren’t that good as movie material either.
Star Trek Reboot Films
Fuck this shit. Inconsistencies being papered over by loud explosions.
The Next Generation
The Original Series was pretty campy by now. The Next Generation was a richly produced show that amazed people. Patrict Stewart was an incredible actor as well. While most of it may seem unwatchable now, The Next Generation celebrates the cerebral. The episodes are very cerebral with the high production values making the TV show seem first class. Any other sci fi show seemed third class if that. This was THE show to watch. Everyone I knew watched The Next Generation.
Deep Space Nine
This is the most complicated Trek and the closest we’ll ever get to a serialized ‘novel like’ Trek. Instead of a wagon in the stars, the setting was a frontier town in space. Sisko was to be the mayor, Kira the native, the green doctor Bashir with his ‘frontier medicine’ looking for adventure, and you even have the Sheriff (Odo) and the barkeep (Quark). When Voyager came out, the Paramount powers focused on Voyager and ignored Deep Space Nine giving the show more creative freedom. After the third season, it was decided the show needed more ‘flair’. So it went a militaristic approach which pissed off Mrs. Roddenberry (she ceased to do the computer voice after that). Deep Space Nine is also unique among the Trek shows in that it did not show a ‘Cold War’ like every other show. DS9 showed a ‘Hot War’. These shows are entertainment and more must be added to keep people watching. DS9 kept upping the ‘danger’ each season until they had no choice but to unleash war. Season 1: Exploration of Gamma Quadrant. Season 2: Hear about Dominion (like the Federation but evil). Season 3: Direct Encounters with Dominion. Season 4: Border Wars with Klingons. Season 5: Existential War begins with Dominion. Season 6 and 7: Full War with Dominion.
Deep Space Nine was interesting also in that it was the only Trek to show families. Each character has a full family unit which is fleshed out.
Season 1 and 4 are great. The rest are terrible. Voyager kept moralizing so much. Later episodes focused too much on Seven of Nine and The Doctor. While intense competition was goring DS9 and Voyager, DS9 at least differentiated itself. Voyager was seen as ‘TNG lite’.
Only season 4 is watchable. Season 4 showed that bad writing plagued the show’s earlier three seasons.
Star Trek got too obsessed over Cold Wars. TNG had the Romulans (who fucking cares about them, we wanted more Borg! At least the Borg would attack!). Deep Space Nine had a Cold War but made it hot (which is why people watch it today to see ‘the war’). Voyager had cold wars with the mediocre Delta Quadrant races such as the Kazon or Hirogen. It is a shame the Voth were in only one episode. Species 8472 was also a ‘Cold War’ which Voyager ended single handedly! Enterprise topped the stupidity by having a ‘Temporal Cold War’ with various time travelers. How stupid was all that?
I think a new show should be made, with inspiration of Horatio Hornblower, of a ship (Enterprise I?) hitting the equivalent of ‘The New World’ of the 1600s. It would be ‘Next Next Generation’. The Alpha Quadrant races could be the ‘Europe’ type powers while they all try to rush to settle and colonize this new part of space. Perhaps such a scenario will give possibility to both exploration and to serialization around various tensions (wars and whatnot). I think they should remove the ensemble way and focus mostly on the captain. Make the show a more masculine presence (like TOS). Keep politics out.