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Coto: Trying To Save Star Trek: Enterprise

Posted by T'Bonz - 28/04/14 at 11:04 am


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Star Trek: Enterprise Writer/Co-Executive Producer Manny Coto gave his best effort to try to save the show, and even though Enterprise ended prematurely, Coto is proud of his work.

Coto shared memories of his first impression of Brannon Braga, his favorite show, trying to make a William Shatner guest appearance happen, and the controversial Enterprise finale.

When Coto arrived for work the first day, he saw Braga in his office. “Brannon (Braga) was in his office, standing at the window, smoking a cigarette and looking desperate, like everything was falling apart,” said Coto. “They were in a hole, script-wise, and I really got the sense that Brannon was kind of at the end of his rope, so to speak, as far as getting scripts. So it was an interesting sense of ‘Wow, desperation, this is either going to work well or it’s going to be a disaster.’ But I’ll never forget Brannon standing at the window, staring out glassy-eyed.”

Coto wrote or co-wrote fourteen episodes, including the well-received Similitude. “I’m very proud of Similitude,” he said. “I watched that again recently because I did the commentary for the Blu-ray. I was very pleased with how that held up. To me, that was a very good Star Trek premise. It had an idea that could only be done in a science-fiction context. It’s not science-fiction in the sense of cowboys in space, but it’s actually the question of ‘What if an individual can be grown in seven days? And what if that individual could then be harvested to help another individual?’ I thought it presented a fascinating dilemma and a great opportunity for drama.”

Fans may not know that William Shatner was under consideration for a guest star role in the Mirror Universe series of episodes. “Shatner would have played his Kirk counterpart from the Mirror Universe, which is a whole other story,” said Coto. “We talked to Shatner and he was ready to do it. I thought that would have had a chance of really popping in the ratings and maybe opening up a new audience to come in and say, ‘Hey, wow, look what this show is doing now.’ Paramount wouldn’t pay the money, and so that never happened. …The Shatner idea was one small way to maybe bring in a new audience or bring back our old audience.”

Fans were lukewarm to say the least when it came to These are the Voyages, the series finale. But Coto explained that this show was meant to be the finale to all eighteen years of Star Trek, not just Enterprise, and that the two shows before it, Demons and Terra Prime, make up the true finale to Enterprise. “I really liked those episodes. My heart was really in that because I felt it was a fitting end for the series,” said Coto. “The show ended up coming back to Earth and to our solar system, and the idea was that humanity still had one hurdle to go through, and that was a part of humanity was not accepting of aliens and aliens on our world, because some people felt we were being corrupted. We had to exorcise our last vestige of xenophobia. I thought it was a really fitting end for Enterprise because one of the basic tenets of Star Trek is Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. This was a way to address that idea, that we’d not quite reached there yet.

“You had a character played by Peter Weller who wanted aliens to leave the Earth and was against co-mingling with aliens. And we ended with a wonderful speech by Captain Archer and a wonderful performance by Scott Bakula in front of the nascent Federation, which kind of laid down the idea for Star Trek. It basically said that despite the myriad species we’re all the same and we all share the same heart. I remember being there on that day for the shooting of that. We knew at that point that this was the last season, so it was particularly touching to know that this was a fitting finale, as I saw it, for the show.

“I’m not saying that to deride These Are the Voyages… We – Brannon and Rick [Berman] and I – always looked at Demons and Terra Prime as the finale for Enterprise, and These Are the Voyages… was intended to be a finale for the entire eighteen-year run of Star Trek, starting with Next Gen all the way to Enterprise. That’s how it was looked at.”

Coto is currently working on 24: Live Another Day, a twelve-episode series which airs May 5 on FOX.

Source: StarTrek.com

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  • hostile_17

    Coto is awesome. Loved his work on Outer Limits, Odyssey 5 and then Enterprise.

    As to that finale… I always saw it for what it was: a STAR TREK finale, and it was good.

  • Bob

    Had Paramount brought in this guy at the start of Enterprise, and never would’ve let the Killer Bees (Berman/Bragga) even get involved with it, the show would’ve had its full 7-season run, no doubt in my mind. I liked what Coto managed to do in one season, given what he had to work with.

    But I’m still gonna give credit where credit is due–Berman/Bragga had a good run and gave us years worth of great shows. However, they had run out of ideas long before Enterprise. Paramount ran the series into the ground and just didn’t know when to stop.

    I’m saying this as a long-time Trekker who has paid a premium for *all* the seasons of *all* the shows as they came out (even Enterprise).

    Even though I’m a fanboy, at this point I’m glad Star Trek is now off the air, and frankly I could probably go for at least another decade before craving it again. I’ve seen the JJ Abrams movies, and if this is where Trek is going, even with a budget of hundreds of millions of dollars, then to be blunt, I don’t want a show back on a weekly basis.

  • Guest

    “Had Paramount brought in this guy at the start of Enterprise, and never
    would’ve let the Killer Bees (Berman/Bragga) even get involved with it”

    But it’s their show. They made it up. How could the show have existed without them being involved with it?

  • milojthatch

    I think you are forgetting one very important detail: Paromount/CBS TV and UPN. While I get that a lot of fans like to slam Berman and Braga, it seems so easy to forget that a lot of what they did was at the studio’s request/demand or just doing the best they could with what the studio and network wanted. Get rid of Berman and Braga and put in Manny Coto, and while something may have been different and for the better, I doubt much would have changed because Coto would have still had to deal with the studio and network.

    That said, to be fair, Berman and Braga were TNG minded on a pre-TOS show. Coto very much was a TOS fan and it showed in his work. This is not to knock Berman or Braga as they gave us hundreds of hours of quality Star Trek in four shows and four films, but I can agree that maybe the TOS touch was what was needed for Enterprise since it was mean to to lead up to the TOS world.

  • milojthatch

    Yes, These Are The Voyages was the finale to the entire original franchise, not just Enterprise.

  • AdmNaismith

    This.

  • Cosmo

    I used to be one of those people who railed against the “Killer Bees” … until JJTrek came along. Suddenly, the Killer Bees don’t, er, bug me (sorry) so much anymore! lol

    As for Enterprise, I only saw the pilot and a few early episodes when it first aired, then tuned out in disgust. JJTrek makes it seem new and fresh, and a lot better now. So, I did buy the first season on DVD for $15 recently, mostly just to have something different to watch. I’ll give it a chance, but after reading the above article and the comments, I really want to skip ahead to the fourth season!

    If only the overall look of the Enterprise series had been more retro. Especially that awful ship. What was it called at the time, the Akiraprise? ;)

  • milojthatch

    I realize that it goes against modern Corporate Hollywood, but I for one wish there had been no UPN and that Voyager and Enterprise has been syndicated like DS9 and TNG had been.

    A decade ago I did a little Berman/Braga joking, but it was more out of fun. After learning more about how the studio system works and how networks are run AND watching JJ-Trek, I don’t think I can slight B&B even out of fun anymore. They did some amazing stuff when one truly realizes what they were up against!

  • http://www.huiliehuilie.nl Christ van Silfhout

    Ow please stop bashing Brannon and Braga people. Or at least educate yourself on how much of your precious lore was actually co-created by one of the two or both. Without them there wouldn’t have been any of it, and Enterprise wouldn’t have even started. Bash the trekkies for their role in the cancellation of Enterprise. YES YOU! If you hadn’t ranted as much more people would have at least tried to watch the episodes when they aired, instead of watching much much later in syndication and then the ratings might have been really representative.
    No, It were the bitching trekkies that murdered the show with their incessant whining and crying not B&B
    By the way, keep it up with the bashing of the two Abrams movies, get funding for the third movie withdrawn, kill all of startrek while your at it!
    Dumbasses.

  • Zebra Snark

    The series finale as a self-contained story was fine. It worked. The problem was the “twist” ending, which was interpreted by many as nothing more than pandering. The implication was that the “Enterprise” cast couldn’t generate the desired ratings so let’s pull a stunt-casting gimmick and recruit a couple of the “TNG” cast members to go out with a bang. They went out with a bang, all right. Just not the kind of bang they wanted or needed. Trying to set the series finale as a “backward glance” from the Enterprise-D may have been a novel idea in the writers’ conference room, but the fact that William Frakes was a bit too bloated to play his Riker character from years earlier in that timeline was a classic miscue. Obviously, Patrick Stewart wasn’t going to do it and he’s aged a lot better than Frakes but the writers and producers should have known better. I think Braga and Co. simply were trying to recreate the “Newhart” moment in Bob’s series finale when he wakes up in bed next to his wife from his 1970s “The Bob Newhart Show” and the viewers learn that “Newhart” was nothing more than an elaborate dream. Newhart did it better, than, say, “Dallas” with Bobby’s shower scene indicating that the previous season of nonsense was a dream. But Braga clearly showed his desperation here as Coto points out by throwing in that last scene. Had Braga ended the series with Archer’s speech, it would have been fine.

  • Jon

    “Dumbasses”? Really? What are you? 10 years old? My friend…please calm down. Everyone else here has offered rational, measured observations on the subject at hand. Why can you not do the same without the snark and the profanity?

    I assure you I do not want to “kill” ST, but I am certainly going to voice my opinion on the matter. Isn’t that what one is supposed to do when he/she is unsatisfied with a product? For some analogies: If your favorite music group puts out a new album and you don’t care for it, do you not state your opinion, and do you stop liking the group altogether? Is one’s job as a supervisor to sometimes give constructive criticism to those whom you supervise when they are not performing at their position as they need to be?

    I, too, was pretty upset with B&B towards Trek’s TV end…IMO, Voyager was mostly mediocre, and Enterprise didn’t seem any better at first. B&B were clearly burned out at that point, but couldn’t seem to make the connection that it was time to hand over the reigns to new blood (such as Mr. Coto). But I am thankful for the good they mostly did during the STTNG and DS9 days.

    I totally agree that when Mr. Coto took over the primary reigns for Enterprise, the show was MUCH improved and worth watching again, but by then it was just too late. I remember valiantly trying to convince some of my friends and family who had left Trek (often citing how boring it now was) that they should give Enterprise another chance during it’s last season, but they had pretty much moved on at that point.

    The good news is that Trek ’09 brought some of them back into the fold, but I can also sadly say that STID has pretty much put the kabosh on that as all of them (not some of them…but ALL of them) thought that STID was terrible and not all what “Star Trek” was/is meant to be.

    As another very prominent original TOS writer (I’ll refrain from giving his name) posted somewhere on ‘net shortly after the release of STID…the ending of the next Trek should have Wiliam Shatner (as Kirk of course) wake up next to Mr. Newhart, turn to him and say, “Bob, I just had the most horrific dream.” :)

  • Smithian

    “These are the Voyages” is a terribly written story though. It’s hamfisted and awkward. Everything from the clumsy way it’s shoehorned into the events from “The Pegasus” to the terrible kidnapping plot to the pathetic offing of the show’s best character, nothing feels like a love letter, least of all to any “Enterprise” fans. The general idea of the episode I get, it’s the shoddy writing and execution I still don’t excuse.

  • Smithian

    I wonder if part of this stems from Kenneth Biller’s decision not to kill off Seven of Nine in “Endgame.” Braga IMO had the right instinct – expand upon her inability to truly love like a human established in “Human Error” by having her sacrifice herself to save her adopted family. That would be a good call dramatically and it’s poignant. Hell, it might have even made someone think twice about killing Data in the same way which was too similar to “The Wrath of Khan.”
    Killing Trip was senseless (and not Tasha Yar senseless – this was just bad writing).

  • http://www.huiliehuilie.nl Christ van Silfhout

    You’re right ofcourse. I don’t know wha got into me to rant like that. Guess it was a drop and bucket or straw and camelback kind of thing. I don’t know, whatever it was it was total assholebehaviour and its never ok.
    I’m sorry.

  • http://www.huiliehuilie.nl Christ van Silfhout

    do still feel the problem wasn’t B&B though, i blame cbs and paramount. They were the ones with the yes or no decision power and told B&B what they had to make.

  • Cosmo

    I’ve made the decision to buy the rest of Enterprise on DVD, at the lowest prices I can find because I can’t really afford to do otherwise, since now my curiosity is getting the better of me. :)

    BTW, I always did like TNG and to a lesser degree VOY (loved Kes, couldn’t stand 7 of 9), but rarely watched DS9. My main issue with ENT so far is T’Pol (couldn’t she have been more positive with her logic?). Come to think of it, what’s up with the “statuesque female alien with an attitude” characters created on VOY and ENT? What the heck brought that on?

  • Bob

    Enterprise was not Star Trek and didn’t deserve to be made as a series at all. It only survived to 98 episodes so that paramount could flog the show in syndication to recoup the money wasted on this abomination of a trek show.

  • Jon

    In retrospect, I would have to agree that the higher ups were most definitely complicit in the descent of Trek into mediocrity. At the time, I wouldn’t have made the connection, but it certainly does seem evident with more of these interviews with B&B and others involved at the time that it was not all B&B’s fault.

    I do remember reading an short interview with Braga somewhere around the end of either the 5th or 6th seasons of Voyager where he was discussing the upcoming season that really got me peeved at him. In it he essentially said that the next season would have little to no changes in the show structure nor in the characters and it would just continue as is. This despite the falling ratings and a good amount of internet chatter decrying that these sorts of changes were exactly what was needed to bring back both quality and excitement to Trek, and hopefully lead to some improvement in the ratings.

    But again, maybe this was the network brass handcuffing him to at least some extent…

    My wish for Trek now would be a return to TV with a completely new set of writers/producers with no involvement of B&B or certainly not from the Abrams crew (or I’d certainly accept Mr. Coto at the helm :) ) with the caveat being that they need to watch the previous TV shows and/or at least understand what Trek is meant to be. And then see what they can come up with to keep things fresh while not ignoring what to me are the essential Trek core components of wonder, exploration, and/or morality plays that the current movie franchise has, at least as of now, completely abandoned.

  • Jon

    Bob, I agree with you to some extent, but I would say to at least give a watch to its final (4th) season. Mr. Coto did a terrific job and the show improved immeasurably with him on board. He really brought back the “Star Trek” feel and gave us some good stories that really tied into TOS well.

    Abomination? Eh…a bit strong in my view…I save that word for STID.

  • Kang the Unbalanced

    Oh, go to Ex Astris Scientia and read John Eaves’ rebuttal concerning the design. He makes a good case for it.
    Also… Enterprise is not exactly the predecessor to the original series. It does clearly follow the events of First Contact, which marks a definite change in the timeline and leads directly to JJTrek. Once I came to accept that, it made the too-advanced aspects of Enterprise easier to swallow. –Until they upgraded to “phase cannons” and “photonic torpedoes”.

  • Kang the Unbalanced

    Hindsight.

  • Lamont Cranston

    Frakes wasn’t the only bloated one.

  • Lamont Cranston

    The 4th season won’t be as good if you skip ahead. You can skip most of season 2 if you want, but part of what makes season 4 good is the relationship between Trip and T’Pol and you need season 3 for that.

  • Kang the Unbalanced

    It’s more the “unemotional hot chick in a catsuit”. Someone *cough*Brannon, who was dating her at the time*cough* got that bright idea on Voyager, and since it created so many fanboy boners improved the ratings so much, it of course had to be part of the formula from then on out.
    What sucks is Jeri Ryan is a good actress, and because they just wanted her to stand there and look pretty, she so rarely got the chance to actually act. It set Trek culture back to… Hm. I can’t seem to recall Trek ever having a designated armpiece before then.

  • Kang the Unbalanced

    Temporal paradox!
    It would have been better to have Berman, Braga, *and* Coto from the start.

  • Kang the Unbalanced

    I recognised it was a franchise finale, but I disagree that it was a good one.

  • Kang the Unbalanced

    I’ll respectfully refrain from doing so, but why do you not want to mention said writer’s name?

  • Kang the Unbalanced

    Indeed. I for years though Braga and Berman were the primary cause of the downfall of Trek, and have learned over time that while they were hardly blameless, the studios took far too much of a direct hand. Once that camel’s nose is in the tent, you might as well resign yourself to picking camel dung out of your teeth.

  • Bob

    Coto’s elastplast job in my view didn’t do anything to solve the real problem with the show, in that the premise itself was about the “adventures” of the crew of a ship that did not exist in canon, amongst other failings. As for Abrahms trek, I also find that an abomination too.

  • Jon

    I don’t know…I guess I just feel better leaving it up to him to fully reveal himself as he is known to peruse the various Trek discussion forums (including this one) from time to time. I know…it’s illogical in that the comment was posted under his name anyway, but I suppose I’m just being extra-cautious… :) .

  • Theragen Derivative

    Oh, amen. I always believed that the reason VGR and ENT went so terribly wrong was their status as network series. VGR in particular, since it was set up as the flagship show of a brand-new network and was thus subject to far more corporate interference than DS9, which was allowed to quietly do its own thing over in syndication.

  • milojthatch

    I fully agree.

  • milojthatch

    I was with you till you brought JJ Abram’s into it…

  • milojthatch

    Crazy thought: What if the flash forward had been all the way to the Earth-Romulan Wars, and Trip’s death was defending Archer from a Romulan?

  • Smithian

    I think Coto and/or Braga mentioned ramping up to the war was on the agenda. Trip dying that way could have been better, certainly. It probably couldn’t be something as simple as taking a bullet for him though since no one’s supposed to know what a Romulan looks like until TOS. But the war would have been a good reason to off any of the characters.

  • Smithian

    We’ve seen little snippets of how the network/studio interfered. With “Enterprise” the Temporal Cold War was a studio mandate as was getting the Enterprise launched in the series premiere. I’m of two minds if the nixed plan of not having the titular ship flying until several episodes later would have worked, but it could potentially have been very interesting and built to something triumphant. With “Voyager,” Braga pushed to extend “Year of Hell” for many more episodes but Berman and the studio balked. The idea of serialization in general looks to have been beaten out of the staff by the time of the brief stint Ron Moore had as a “Voyager” writer, much to his chagrin.
    Braga has expressed some envy at how DS9 was a bit less scrutinized and therefore could get away with more. Being a network’s flagship show had its ups and downs. They certainly were under the microscope more and only were able to do real story arcs when the rest of television was proving they were in fashion and when “Enterprise’s” limp to syndication was basically agreed to by the highest ups, probably at the end of season 2. At the same time, first run syndication’s viability died shortly after DS9, so “Voyager” would have struggled even more had it not been supported and insulated by UPN, and “Enterprise” would not have survived in that market or on a bigger network with larger audience expectations. UPN promos were often dire, but when their marketing team wanted to get eyeballs watching “Voyager” sweeps events, it happened. The show just wasn’t nearly as artistic as it could have been.

  • trekfan

    I am also of the opinion that ENT should not have been made. At least not at that time. After VOY ended, they should have waited couple of years, 5 or 7 years, and come up with a new concept or simply do what some of the independent productions have done, namely continue the original 5 year mission of NCC1701′s crew. The show would only have two seasons (well, maybe more, who knows), but sometimes less is more. Had it been that way, we would (probably) have been spared of JJ’s travesty.

  • 1moreRobot

    Patrick Stewart was pretty ageless for quite a long time, but recently he seems to look a LOT older, really suddenly.

  • Zebra Snark

    True, but at the time they filmed this finale he looked relatively consistent to his Xavier appearances. Still, Stewart would not have consented to doing it anyway. He was done. And this plot twist should not have been done.

  • Zebra Snark

    After Voyager ended I had emailed Michelle Green who writes for this Web site that the next Trek show was going to go back to the beginning somehow. I had envisioned either a 90210/Melrose Place-flavored Star Trek Academy show (J.J. Abrams has come close with his Apple Computer-styled reboot for the Starbucks set) or something along the lines of the premise of Enterprise. The vision of connecting the dots between eras is a valiant one even if execution falters. One wonders how the parallel worlds concept that Abrams concocted will merge down the way should Paramount get desperate for quick payback as they cash in on the franchise brand.

  • Chris Butler

    UPN wasn’t available in my area until maybe Enterprise’s fourth season.

    That was true of a lot of areas in this country….and this was long before streaming was available?

    Could that have been one factor behind Enterprise’s (and Voyager’s) poor ratings?

    I always thought both shows would have done better syndicated.

  • milojthatch

    It wasn’t about ratings, it was about saying good bye to 18 consecutive years of Star Trek on TV.

  • milojthatch

    Oh, I agree, to stick with cannon, Archer at least should not see any Romulans. If Trip was about to be killed by one, I doubt that would have mattered had he seen one. Heck, that could have been our cue he was about to die as soon as he came face-to-face with one.

    I bet however that Trip’s death would have been WAY more heroic had it been in the Romulan War. A missed opportunity in my book.

  • trekfan

    The Golden Age of Star Trek.

  • Zebra Snark

    Despite the noble and sentimental intentions I think it failed and created more harm than good. Rather than resigning themselves to losing the producers, directors and writers should have been concentrating on developing better products that would have made it harder for the knuckleheads at Paramount to refuse. Heck, JJ had Alias and Lost under his belt. They could have plucked him to do a Star Trek TV series long before lobbing the film franchise to him to recreate the U.S.S. Apple/Microsoft Store in Space.

  • milojthatch

    I hear what you are saying, but I have a feeling things were not as easy working on those shows as we the fans sometimes like to imagine. As Berman has said, he wanted DS9 to run on it’s own for a while and warned the studio of franchise fatigue. He only stayed around to work on Voyager and Enterprise to make some attempt at preserving what Gene would have wanted, a thing I doubt someone else, like JJ, would care about at all.

  • Cosmo

    IMHO, it’s still an inappropriate and ugly ship design.

  • Cosmo

    Any relationship between those two seems as silly to me as Uhura and Spock in JJTrek.

  • Cosmo

    I will look up his OL episodes, but that series (I assume you mean the more recent version) was awfully weak!

  • Cosmo

    Some of the independent productions have been pretty amazing, especially the Takei episode of P2. Better than anything Trek I’ve seen since the ’90s. Most of the “fanfilm” regulars are not the best actors, but at least they try, and I think the P2 captain was better than the captains of ST Continues and Starship Exeter. Too bad P2 can’t manage to keep to their production or release schedules.
    I really believe however that people who can corral that much money and help into a filmmaking venture should do anything BUT a fanfilm, and try making a NON-Star Trek SF story from amongst the hundreds of public domain genre classics, where there are endless gems awaiting rediscovery and adaptation. Instead, we get retreads of retreads. Some very good, but still retreads.
    BTW, JJTrek is indeed a travesty. All flash and noise but no depth or substance.