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Star Trek Enterprise Cancelled: I am a big fan of Star Trek Enterprise. The concept of the show is that as a "pre-quel" to the original Star Trek showing how Earth first ventured out into space, under the scrutiny of the Vulcans who are also protaganists, and how the United Federation of Planets is eventually established. I especially appreciated the lack of technology familiar in later Star Trek series, which rendered Enterprise more vulnerable in space, thereby increasing the drama of its interactions with other species (though gradually the technology is being introduced).

After a slow start, the serieshas really gotten good--especially during the past two seasons. But now the series has been cancelled by UPN, which is owned by CBS. Though resistance is probably futile, a letter writing campaign to CBS, Paramount, and the Sci-Fi Channel is being organized by Enterprise Fans. The emphasis is on getting the series picked up by the Sci-Fi Channel. Here is an advertisement they placed in the LA Times. And here are excerpts from an interview with Scott Bakula ("Capt. Jonathan Archer") who is obviously disheartened by the news:

Michiel: Is there anything we can do to save Star Trek: Enterprise from ending?

SB: I don't have a clear answer for that. Obviously we want everyone to tune in and watch the last shows because we're extremely proud of them and we're anxious to share them with the fans. It would be a disappointment if there was a dropoff in viewership because of the cancellation. But the reality is, as I see it, we're a little bit like a ship in a storm with no safe harbor. There really are no interested executives left at Paramount or UPN or CBS who would be willing to fight for the show. Everyone at Paramount who had history with the franchise is gone. So I wouldn't even know who to tell you to complain to, because there's not anyone who really is interested. We've fallen between the cracks in the changing of the guard. . . .

Melc: What are the chances of the show being picked up by SpikeTV or Sci-Fi?

SB: Specifically, to shop the show to another network, you have to have someone from your studio have your show's best interests at heart. To the best of my knowledge, and from reading the release that Paramount put out, they seem very content to let the show go and, I think, hoping that we would go out quietly.

They have a much bigger agenda and mandate from CBS to make new television shows for CBS and UPN. And once again, we don't fit the bill. It is ironic that with our numbers, and with our fan support, we would be very successful on Sci-Fi Channell or USA Network or almost any of the cablers.

But Paramount owns Star Trek, and somebody from here would have to want to search that out. In terms of bombarding Les Moonves with e-mails and letters, etc., knowing Les as I do, I would doubt very strongly that could possibly change his mind.

I was, however, reminiscing yesterday about the good old days when Quantum Leap was cancelled, or should I say, 'put on hiatus' mid-season, and Warren Littlefield had the good sense and good humor to run a commercial where he was having thousands of letters dumped onto him in his office and the commercial was something about "Enough already, we're putting Quantum back on the air!"

I got a good laugh out of that and I fondly remember Warren and his openness to the fan support at that time.
If you like Enterprise, it cannot hurt to write.

Update: An obviously knowledgable reader responds:

Two minor comments: UPN is not "owned by CBS". Both are owned by Viacom and, in fact, Viacom has owned Paramount long before they bought CBS. I worked for a Viacom-owned publisher just before it was sold to a competitor and Parmount label was everpresent (we had to use Paramount amusement parks and Paramount-produced movie titles in textbook examples and exercises).

Second, the kiss of death for Enterprise was moving it to Friday. No TV drama has survived a move to Friday or Saturday night. Homicide was a prime example. Critical acclaim and loyal audience mean nothing because Friday and Saturday numbers will always be low. For one, I find Law&Order: Criminal Intent to be the most intriguing of the three L&Os (soon to be four) and wonder if it will be the first to die (rumor has it that it will).

The third point that should made is that SciFi Channel (as well as USA and Bravo) are part of the NBC network, so, if Paramount still has all the rights to the series, there is a better chance of the show resurrecting in syndication on Spike (owned by a WWE scion). I very much doubt that anyone
would pick up the production costs for any new episodes, although that has happened to SG-1 and Farscape. The difference is that both of those shows were independent and in syndiction from the start, while Enterprise is a network show.
This all sounds right to me, except that I never enjoyed the Law and Order series.

The Joy of Blogging & More on Startrek Enterprise: I have made this point before, and so have many others, but one of the joys of blogging is benefiting from the knowledge of readers who are willing to share it. While bloggers are starting to get credit for what they do (e.g. in disciplining the mainstream media), outside the blogging culture it is not fully appreciated that it is the relationship between bloggers and the distributed knowledge of their readers that is doing much of the work. Powerline got MSM credit for "breaking" the CBS/Dan Rather story, but in the blogosphere is it well known that the original claim of forgery was posted by a reader on Free Republic, which was then picked up by the Poweline blog.

If I make the slightest factual error in a blog post, I can count on the readers to point it out PRONTO. This is why blogging can be more accurate than traditional journalism which relies on "editors" to catch the mistakes of reporters. And unlike traditional journalism, I have a ready means to correct errors almost instantaneously. How can an ordinary beat reporter correct even errors of which she or he later becomes aware? This is a real advantage of this media over that of traditional journalism that has nothing to do with the skill, good faith or biases of journalists. They do not have ready access to the knowledge of their readers and they cannot readily correct any errors they make.

The last time I posted a paean to blogging, I was chastened by readers who pointed out that blogging is largely parasitic on the factual investigation of traditional journalists. Although this is becoming a bit less accurate as time goes by--the original information about Eason Jordan came from the personal reporting of a blogger--it remains overwhelmingly the case for now. And the Jordan story had legs in the blogosphere because of the confirmation of the facts by, among others, Barney Frank, David Gergen and Chris Dodd. In addition, bloggers tend to get action only when the MSM picks up the story (though once again this does not entirely fit the CNN/Jordan story which had been largely uncovered by the MSM). But I think this is not bad. Bloggers & their readers are a check on the MSM but this does not make them a replacement for it--and vice versa. Checks and balances are good things.

The main point of this analysis is that whatever blogging's advantages over the MSM may be, they come from the structural nature of the media rather then any inherent moral superiority of bloggers over traditional reporters. If traditional reporters blogged rather then wrote stories that are published in the traditional manner, their work would benefit from these advantages.

Anyhow, sorry for the digression. These ideas are not original to me, but I think worth remembering nevertheless. And I suspect you need to be older to be in true awe of these developments in communication. Here is the email from Teri Bolke (co-owner of savefarscape.com about Star Trek Enterprise that moved me to remark on the joys of blogging. (I also found the blog by Ron Moore about Enterprise to which he links to be of interest.):

Hi,

In reply to the reader that emailed you....everything was spot on but for the remarks re syndication in regards to Farscape and SG-1.

>>The difference is that both of those shows were independent and in syndication from the >>start, while Enterprise is a network show.

Farscape only reached syndication this month. It was held by agreements with the SciFi Channel that made the reruns exclusive to SciFi until Fall 2005. During this year's NAFTE, Debmar/Mercury Entertainment was able to put Farscape in 85-90& of the country so far in a deal with Fox. They continue working to reach full market penetration.

Also, Farscape never left its home channel for the original 88 episodes. (Buffy:TVS is the only example I know of where a show was cancelled by one network and picked up by another.) Henson and SciFi shared the approximately 1.5 mil per episode cost of Farscape while it was in its first run. Due to a very complicated series of financial crunches, SciFi, EM.TV (then owner of TJHC) and Henson were unable to reach an agreement to fund a 5th season of Farscape and the fourth season was its last.

The recently aired mini-series was funded as a direct result of the fan campaign that began in 2002, with investors approaching Henson and allowing Brian, now co-CEO along with his sister Lisa, to fund the mini-series upfront. The SciFi Channel, while the logical choice to air the mini-series, had no hand in financing it. They simply purchased the airing rights. Lionsgate has recently released the mini-series on DVD.

AS for SG-1, it began on HBO and MGM later moved the show to SciFi, but not because the show was cancelled. Unlike Farscape, SG-1 has been in syndication for several years, on two different channels, while the show is still in first run. There was no shopping the show around to other networks to continue a first run. It begins filming for its 9th season in March, I believe.

From seeing Rick Berman's statement to SciFi Wire when the announcement was made, it looks like Paramount is pulling the plug because the entire franchise, not just this one series from the franchise, has been doing unexpectedly worse, so the situations are very different. They're calling it franchise fatigue; witness how lackluster ST:Nemesis did at the box office. Bringing in Manny Coto to revitalize the show was an excellent idea, executed entirely too late.

Enterprise is up for syndication this year, so there's always a chance that it can grow a larger viewer base. Keeping the show alive in the fan domain, and giving it solid ratings when it syndicates, is what will reassure Paramount that the Star Trek franchise isn't dead.

For an incredible tribute to the fans and their role in Star Trek, take a look at Battlestar Galactica Executive Producer Ron Moore's blog entry at the official Battlestar Galactica site.

I hope that this isn't the last of Trek and from everything I've read, I don't believe it will be. Keep the faith. Everyone told us we were nuts during the campaign for Farscape. We just smiled and ignored them.

Regards,
Teri Bolke


Update: Two readers wrote to say that SG-1 was originally a Showtime show not on HBO. As for series picked up after cancellation by another network, Jacob Levy writes:

While Buffy was often on the verge of being cancelled, WB did not actually cancel it, and the jump from WB to UPN was made as a result of UPN winning a bidding war in 2001. I *think* that JAG and "Grounded For Life" both got cancelled on one network and picked up by another. Maybe also "Sabrina the Teenage Witch." But not Buffy.
Another reader writes:

In addition to Buffy, shows that were cancelled, then picked up:
Babylon 5, cancelled after 4 seasons, was picked up by TNT The Pretender, cancelled by NBC, was picked up in Made-for-TV movie form by TNT. Hard to say if you count the Family Guy, cancelled by FOX, show in reruns for 5 years by TBS and Comedy Central, now picked up by... FOX.

So, it's certainly possible. Just not likely...
Distributed knowledge indeed.

Bloggers v. Journalists: In response to my Joy of Blogging post a reader writes:
I have seen this sentiment posted on many blogs, and I think it displays a lack of knowledge about the newspaper industry. As someone who has done my time in the trenches of a small town daily newspaper, I can assure you that readers do not hesitate to write, call, email and stop by offices if they see an error. Misspell the name of the winner of the local Girl Scout cookie sale and you can be sure that there will be multiple phone calls in your voicemail within minutes of the issue hitting the streets.

As to the timeliness of corrections -- that is something in the innate nature of newspapers, true. But I fail to see why that negates the entire value of a newspaper. Television news can correct instantly, as can radio news. Each medium has its own strengths and weaknesses.
I think this comment underscores the point I was making, the second half of which is the fact that journalists have no way to immediately correct their errors even when they learn of their mistakes. Advantage blogs. And the cost of contacting a journalist to report an error is MUCH higher than emailing a blogger, coupled with a much diminished incentive to incur the cost since corrections are so unlikely. I don't doubt that readers do it as this person reports, but I am quite certain that many readers do "hesitate to write" to report an error. Heck, I just had a profile in the Newton Tab in which my son's name was completely wrong and I did not bother to let the reporter know. (I cannot link to the story because it is now "archived" and I do not see how to access the archive. Another advantage blogs.) Given that no correction would be forthcoming, it just didn't matter, and why make the very nice reporter feel bad about his mistake? Even newspaper websites are not updated the way blogs are. So here too I think that blogs are at a comparative advantage to traditional journalists. And far from "negat[ing] the entire value of a newspaper," I pointed out that traditional reporters remain the primary source of information that feeds the blogs.
" 'Dja Get That? " Great final line by Keifer Sutherland on last night's 24. And it wasn't even a season finale like this final line from ST TNG: "Mr. Warf, Fire." Do you have a favorite line from a TV series? I think this will be my last TV blogging for a bit, so I thought I would enable comments (a first for me) to let readers post their favorites. No fair quoting Deadwood. There are probably 15 to 20 good lines per episode.

Update: I don't seem to be able to make comments function. I need to go to class to teach now. Perhaps by the time I get back I will get instructions on how to make this work. I will post another update indicating that comments are working. Sorry for the inconvenience. I do want to hear about other great lines.


Update: COMMENTS NOW WORK!

23 Comments
Interesting Star Trek Initiative (UPDATE: NEVER MIND): A reader just passed along to me this link to an interesting posting by J. Michael Straczynski, the creator of Babylon 5. (Volokh readers have much praised Babylon 5 to me but I could never get into it during its first run.) After a discussion of how the Star Trek franchise evolved to this point, here is how it provocatively ends:
Last year, Bryce [Zabel (recently the head of the Television Academy and creator/executive producer of Dark Skies)] and I sat down and, on our own, out of a sheer love of Trek as it was and should be, wrote a series bible/treatment for a return to the roots of Trek. To re-boot the Trek universe.

Understand: writer/producers in TV just don't do that sort of thing on their own, everybody always insists on doing it for vast sums of money.

We did it entirely on our own, setting aside other, paying deadlines out of our passion for the series. We set out a full five-year arc.

But when it came time to bring it to Paramount, despite my track record and Bryce's enormous and skillful record as a writer/producer, the effort stalled out because of "political considerations," which was explained to us as not wishing to offend the powers that be.

So on behalf of myself and Bryce, I'm taking the unusual step of going right to the source...right to you guys, fueled in part by a number of recent articles and polls, including one at www.scifi.com/scifiwire in which nearly 18,000 fans voted their preference for a new Trek series,
and 48% of that figure called for a jms take on Trek. (The other choices polled at about 18% or thereabouts.)

See, if somebody doesn't like a story, doesn't want to buy it, that's all well and good, that's terrific, that's the way it's supposed to be.

But when "political considerations" are the basis...that just doesn't parse.

So here's the deal, folks. If you want to see a new Trek series that's true to Gene's original creation, helmed by myself and Bryce, with challenging stories, contemporary themes, solid extrapolation, and the infusion of some of our best and brightest SF prose writers, then you need to let the folks at Paramount know that. If the 48% of the 18,000
folks who voted at scifi.com sent those sentiments to Paramount...there'd be a new series in the works tomorrow.

I don't need the work, I have plenty of stuff on my plate through 2007 in TV, film and comics, so that's not an issue. But I'd set it all aside for one shot at doing Trek right, and I know Bryce feels the same.

Update: NEVER MIND! Here is a follow up post from J. Michael Straczynski:

Actually...belay everything I just said.

In the 24 hours between the time I composed the prior note, and sent it, and it made its way through the moderation software, two things happened:

1) I heard from a trusted source that Paramount is giving the Trek TV world a rest for maybe one to two years, depending on circumstances, no matter who would come along to run it. So it's not right to have folks putting in time doing something that ultimately would be pointless, I don't think that's a proper use of anybody's time.

2) At the same time as the above, an offer came in to run a new TV series for fall of '06, and since there's no way anything Trek can happen in the interim, I've said yes (now we have to negotiate the deal, but that should be fairly straightforward).

So on two counts, the whole thing is kind of moot.

We can reconvene a year or two down the road to see where this takes us, but in the interim...my apologies for waking everybody up in the middle of the night.

As you were.
Well, THAT was fast!