Enterprise and The End of Niche
When Star Trek Enterprise hit television in 2001, it took on the usual Channel 9 time slot which Star Trek had always filled; late on a weeknight, very late... Throughout the 90s when I was quite young, I would have my father tape Star Trek The Next Generation and Deep Space 9 so that I could watch them before school the next morning. With Enterprise years later, I watched a few episodes before deciding I would just wait until I could get them on DVD and just watch seasons right through. At this point, I had studies and work to think about and I was the only real Trekkie I knew so I didn't have to worry about spoilers, etc.
There was a change going on in the world of entertainment at the same time. We could now buy DVDs, download high quality media and even though this was still quite new at the time, I was looped into it all and figured I'd wait and watch Enterprise at my own leisure when I got around to it. I had in fact done the same with Voyager to some degree, waiting until video stores would get in new episodes and then watch them that way. In essence for me, Star Trek as a weekly television time slot show had ended. Enterprise was caught in the middle of this transition, and funnily enough was being created with a lot of the concepts which would be utilised by successful television shows today; High-definition recording, on-going story arcs and plenty of action. Well, in the end, I did watch the whole show in one go, from season 1 to 4 on DVD, unfortunately, that was to be it. No seven season run like the preceding series.
The quality of the show itself has been debated (at least in terms of writing as most can agree the production values were great) at length and though at first I wasn't really sure about the concept of a prequel show, overall, the show grew on me and was enjoyable. The first few seasons (like all Trek) didn't have too much which could be considered great but I dare anyone to say they loved The Next Generation, Deep Space 9 or Voyager based on the first two seasons. Each Star Trek spin-off took a few seasons to get going and none took off with the same pace as Enterprise once it did. Season 3 was a great overall story arc with some interesting science fiction concepts and Season 4 was quite unbelievable in terms of excitement, oozing with guilty Star Trek tie-in pleasure thanks writers such as Manny Coto.
However, I'm not really here to discuss the shows quality, I believe that both sales of DVDs and Blu-Ray are healthy and for the first time we are getting some objective discussion regarding the show. It's funny how things that are praised on their release can be looked back on and seen as not to being so great and vice-versa. Well I believe that true Trekkies are actually now missing Star Trek as a television show and are not so happy with what has happened to the franchise in the J.J. Abrams re-booted universe, now that the lens flares have faded and the dust has settled.
What I do want to comment on, is my frustration with the end of Star Trek as a niche product; something for geeks, something to be embarrassed to enjoy, something to be a closet fan of. When I was growing up, I could safely assume that 99% of people I knew didn't like Star Trek. This didn't seem to matter at the time, there was enough interest on the planet overall to create a decent market which allowed the series to go on and we could join our fellow outcasts at conventions. Nowadays however, there is no such thing. Television shows come and go almost overnight. They cost so much to produce that they need to hit big numbers in order to be viable. Star Trek for all its history, is not immune to this and had Enterprise been on today, it may have survived in an environment of better digital technology which makes it easier for fans to consume the things they like without having to wait for a network to put it on television at 11pm on a Tuesday. The campaign to bring the show back through Netflix is testament to this. Like that facebook page now!
So in a world where Marvel movies are making record-breaking money, George R.R. Martin books are best sellers and my girlfriend wants to watch fantasy, vampires and zombies... it's safe to say that science fiction has been consumed by mainstream culture. This has many advantages, such as bigger budgets, more comic book movies, etc. However I believe that it also means it has been sanitised for a mainstream audience; simpler stories with less cerebral concepts. People seem surprised when I tell them I'm not overly excited about Star Trek Into Darkness because I'm a Trekkie, yet they are looking forward to it. Yet, I am counting down the days before the next TNG Blu-Ray release. The reason is, I don't feel like the re-boot movies have anything to do with Star Trek, they are fast paced action adventures set in space but that couldn't make them less Star Trek! For example, the movie Moon, as far as I'm concerned, is closer to a Star Trek movie than what Paramount/Bad Robot released in 2009.
In the end, I'd be fine with a new Star Trek show, one that my girlfriend didn't want to watch or a new Star Trek movie which doesn't have the budget or marketing strategy of a summer blockbuster. I'd prefer a show that cost less to produce that was set in the Star Trek universe which I'd invested so much time exploring in my youth. A show by writer's like Piller, Braga or Ron Moore. One that sought out human stories and new technological concepts rather than re-hashing revenge plots. Let me enjoy a show that the mainstream media doesn't want to know about and that the general population makes strange noises at the sight of. Let me be a real nerd again.