13 May 2005

Where Everyone Has Gone Before

OK. I'll admit it. I Was a Teenage Trekkie (although not a rabid one, by any means), prior to the first movie. Enterprise is finally getting the coup de grace tonight, and in celebration the Seattle Times asked for ideas for the next Star Trek series. A few were serious; a few were outright loony; and a few were seriously loony. On the whole, though, they show far more attention to the franchise's potential than have the last two series, four films, etc. The whole list includes some real gems, such as Star Trek: Cold Case (trying to discover who murdered ST) and Star Trek: To Boldly Go (finally recognizing that sleeping with all those alien women is going to have consequences… including the need for a Legal Officer), both of which have vastly more potential—either as lampoons or taken seriously—than did either Enterprise or Voyager.

Ultimately, the real problem is the American concept of TV scheduling. One of the things that has always kept British TV humor fresh is that it is not extended across a 20 to 26-episode season; instead, a "season" is six to eight episodes. That is also at the root of most dramatic series' failures: the critical information has to be parcelled out so gradually, spread among so many writers, that it gets lost, devalued, and misinterpreted by everyone. (Exhibit A: Tru Calling in the 2003–04 season; Exhibit B: Easy Street in the 1996 replacement season.) Far better to set up an "annual rotation" of four or five four-episode miniseries (two-DVD sets, eventually), with some overlap of characters and environments but no necessary plot overlaps, each set created by a single writer and single director. That works for cop shows (let's see, we're at the 36:30 mark, time to start closing in on the bad guy), non-cop crime dramas (we can actually let full DNA profiles run in the lab for 72–96 hours and do something meaningful in the interim), comedies (no more "Dyn-o-mite!" having to carry 22 episodes of upper-class ghetto living), etc. It most especially works for any show involving culture clashes as a central element… which is definitely the core of what Star Trek should concern.

But that's just me theorizing again, isn't it? I suppose that I could try to tie this into the fan fiction essay that is slowly winding toward a conclusion (I said it's coming), given that Star Trek is one of the largest sources of fan fiction out there. That, however, would be about as challenging as finding a crooked politician in Chicago shooting fish in a barrel.