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The Trek Nation - Hiatus Calm

Hiatus Calm

By Christian Höhne Sparborth
Posted at July 19, 1999 - 5:00 AM GMT

After the storm of new articles and features during the first few weeks after the Trek Nation's launch, last week was rather quiet on the opinion front. This is also reflected in the mailbag, which is a lot smaller than it was over the past few weeks. As ever, feel free to send in your mails about anything at all even remotely Star Trek-related to feedback@treknation.com, or your ideas for special articles to articles@treknation.com!

Subspace Buzz

We still got a few scattered replies about recent Trek happenings:

From: Alla Malko
To: feedback@treknation.com
Subject: RE: Defending Starfleet Academy

I absolutly agree with you on the way you defend Starfleet Academy and that it would be a great idea. When I saw the ad in UPN news, I was greatly excited that there was something new coming out, no matter what it was! I don't understand why the fans would disapprove of it.... what else do they wasn't?! The was I see it.... the fans should ask them what are they fans of....Star Trek? ....well, here's some more Star Trek with Starfleet Academy. Why would they not support it since its soething instead of no Star Trek at all!

Of course, one could argue that a great Star Trek series would be better than a so-so series, but I do agree with you that the Starfleet Academy idea at least has some potential - if Paramount manages to do it right, that is.

From: BW
To: feedback@treknation.com
Subject: Banner Ads

I don't mind some banner ads, but just make sure you don't "Over do it". And make sure to chose ones that visitors will want to click on and are related to the web site. Just a little of my thoughts. I certainly don't plan on adding any more banners to the site - there are quite enough of them already :-(. The advertising firm is supposed to serve up film & tv-related banners, so hopefully there will be something of interest for everyone. Let me also express my thanks to everyone who mailed me, both for the mailbag and in private, supporting the banner ads - it was a hard decision to put them in, and I'm very happy that everyone seems to understand the necessity for them :-).

From: Andrew
To: feedback@treknation.com
Subject: Jeff Mariote

Hey great thing with the comics questions thing! It's really great that dc comics have the startrek comics back again, I dont think they were very good at Marvel. I think it's great that Mr. Mariotte is working with the startrek books, and that he listens to the fans at your site. That shows they care about us fans and want to work together and dont just care for the profit. I think there should be a new frontier comic. Thanks, Andrew.

I'm also very happy that Jeff agreed to do the Q&A, and I agree with you that it chose that they're very open to the fans. Now, if only I could persuade Rick Berman to have a Q&A board here at the Trek Nation I'd be *really* happy ;-)

From: dernews
To: feedback@treknation.com
Subject: Your..Ads..to -Millions.....we do the work

There are over 60 million Internet users and thousands are joining the internet each day. Have you reached them?

DO YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A VIABLE PRODUCT OR SERVICE ?

Did you know that there is a method of marketing that costs pennies but have the same effect as direct postal mail? This can be made possible through recent Internet technology breakthroughs. You can now compete with the big boys, with exposure in MASSIVE NUMBERS, without expensive investments such as those associated with television commercials, radio advertising, direct postal mail, or telemarketing.

[...]

Sigh. Long Live Spam. I now return you to your regular programming.

'The Franchise's Future'

A week ago, we published the third installment of our successfull "The Franchise's Future" series of articles, written by Heather Jarman. Below you'll find Heather's own responses to the mails we received about her articles.

From: cian devane
To: feedback@treknation.com
Subject: voyager

Heather i agree with you totally ,i am afraid that berman and braga dont give a toss about voyager, which is a shame because it could have been amazing especially if moore had stayed . I love star trek and i always used to think it was such a happy and problem free show,and its sad to see rodenberry's vision just thrown out the window in favour of good ratings and demorgraphics .......

I think this is the crux of my concern: Trek becoming contaminated by focus groups and market research i.e. "Four out of five respondents to our survey felt a taller, blonder female captain would be less threatening." For a long time, Trek managed to do almost the impossible by being commercially viable and still keeping Roddenberry's vision in tact. Recently, as box office revenues for Insurrection have proved disappointing and ratings for Voyager become less than lusturous, Paramount has to be questioning the wisdom of allowing Trek to continue being its own quirky corner of geekdom. The geeks forking over the latinum like they used to. Capitalizing on Trek's name recognition, it's only logical that Paramount would attempt to craft a series appealing to the "hip" crowd in order to keep the Trek goose laying her golden eggs. Why shouldn't Braga and Berman attempt to cater to both the Paramount capitalist machine and still woo fans? Self-interest is a legitimate motive. Unfortunately for Braga and Berman, I think the fans are too savvy and smart to fall for their double-speak.

From: Gill Hoyle
To:feedback@treknation.com
Subject: Heather Jarman's Article

Hi,

I've just read Heather Jarman's, "The Franchise's Future" article, nodding my head in agreement from beginning to end.

Heather hit the nail squarely on the head - particularly her comments about TPTB writing off 'Voyager'. It needs to be given it's due by Berman & Braga. Now is most definitely *not* the hour for them to be dividing their time, loyalty and creative talent on developing yet another Trek show.

They have a job and characters to finish on 'Voyager' before they can move on, and I too would prefer to see the show end on a triumphant note.

I realise that hindsight is a wonderful thing, but the fans have been shouting long and hard for what they wanted to see - and we were continually ignored. Until the eleventh hour. Why didn't TPTB, Brannon and Rick listen to us? Was it arrogance? Or was it greed and the on-going search for elusive, casual viewers to hook and fleece? Have they become so far removed from the core fan base and Trek's original ideals that they've lost the plot?

In the past we've asked for:

1. A longer continuation of the Maquis/Starfleet tensions.

Ignored

2. The retention of excellent characters like Seska and Suder.

Ignored

3. Continuous character development/backstory woven through the weekly plots/episodes, so we could feel that we knew these people and that we shared in their hopes and struggles.

Ignored

4. Less Seven of Nine - and her all-powerful nanoprobes - and more of an ensemble cast working together to save the day.

Ignored

5. Less isolated characters, more emotional connection between people who have no one else on their epic journey - more romantic and platonic relationships, written realistically.

Ignored

6. Heck, some of us even shouted long and hard about keeping Janeway's hair up in a bun or a ponytail to keep her authoritive, efficient and damn sexy.

Ignored

So, who was right? Why has it taken until the eleventh hour for TPTB to listen to the real Trek experts?

Yes, an excellent article, Heather. Thanks for giving voice to my worries so eloquently.

Hey Gilly! I'd say as a J/C fan, you've got more to gripe about than even I do, having said that, I have to more the second the examples that you've provided. Internal continuity and character development doesn't have to be complex a'la DS9 to be effective. Voyager's success depends on her characters being compelling and well-developed: because the landscape changes weekly, the "hook" to keep the audience tuned in has to be making them care about what happens to this crew. This attitude the TPTB have about making completely 'stand alone' episodes week after week discounts the importance of developing characters that we can become passionate about. Even the most shallow action adventure show attempts to craft characters that have strong interpersonal ties and continuing character issues.

Take an early Jeri Taylor show like Magnum, P.I.. I'd never call "Magnum" intellectual material, but what made it fun to watch was the ongoing relationships he had with the regulars as well as the back story of the character. I can't remember the mysteries to save my life, but I do remember the interpersonal conflicts (like the episode where he met his daughter). TPTB at Voyager are stupid if they think action alone will satisfy the Trek fan base.

From: Daniel Margrave
To: feedback@treknation.com
Subject: (No Subject)

I agree with Heather, pretty wholeheartedly! I love Voyager, but I am growing weary of the "Illness, Time Paradox, Evil Race of the Week!" Good lord, haven't we had enough of this already? At some point the grease and fat will all come to the surface. Let's just hope that it doesn't drown the healthy organism beneath.

As much as I will miss DS9, as much as I miss TNG and will probably miss Voyager, let's give it a rest. Give us a few years to really miss it. Change the staff all around, get back to basics. Majel Roddenberry said her husband would never have allowed an on-going war? You know what?! I think she was right. I also think she was wrong. A war explores humanity to its very core, which is what her husband had intended with Trek. I realize that business is business, but at some point the people paying TPTB's salaries will just say, "Enough of this crap!" Folks, we are rapidly approaching that point.

There is rich material to pull from humanity. We need to explore today's issues . . . But give us a rest, let Trek return to health. If it does, bring on another series. If it doesn't, then we have had 33 great years! I don't think Trek will die . . . it may get mired in the muck for a few years, but as with bell bottoms and plats, we only have to wait for it to come back!

Daniel Margrave, "Dyed-in-the-wool Trek Fan!"

Excellent thoughts Dan. I like your "drowning" analogy because I think it fits. Frankly, I think Trek is at a point where it has (prepare for blasphemy) exceeded even Gene Roddenberry's vision of what it could say and the messages it could share. Though the Grand Dame Majel herself may disapprove of various story choices, I think you're right in saying that one thing Trek has always done well is address the issues facing the generation watching it. For example, Trek in the '60s dealt with issues of race, environmentalism, war, religion, social justice etc.--all issues being wrestled with by my parent's generation. Contemporary series like TNG and DS9 equally reflect the concerns facing the times that birthed them. I have no doubt that given a chance to rest and recouperate, Trek could re-emerge as a potent force for social change and commentary.

From: Matthew Conaty
To: feedback@treknation.com
Subject: Future of the Franchise

Perhaps more than any other writer thus far on Trek Today, Heather Jarman has captured the essence of the crisis that is fast approaching for the Star Trek franchise. Personally, I feel she is absolutely correct in her vision of what Trek is today and what it may become in the years ahead; I would, however, like to address the most pressing and dangerous damage Paramount is causing to the franchise and the Star Trek universe itself.

Consider what was perhaps the most powerful years in Star Trek's fandom history; the 1970s. Long deemed the "dark time" due to the lack of new episodes (the Animated Series nonwithstanding), Star Trek fans flourished in a creative and intellectual vein. Magazines like Trek brimmed with insightful and poignant explorations of the characters and meaning of the Original Series; fans created whole backstories and analyses based on only 79 hours of film. There was no Pocket Book series of novels, no extensive line of Playmates action figures, and certainly not a single bag of officially licensed coffee in sight. By all accounts, it was a period of despair for most Star Trek fans, and yet today, looking at the Best of Trek paperbacks or tattered fanzines, one can only conclude that Star Trek fans had (and have) never been more active in the exploration and celebration of the series they love.

Today, with four series and a veritable empire of merchandising and "canon" proclamations, Paramount has established Star Trek as a force to be reckoned with. Fans are overwhelemed in a deluge of shinkwrapped products, all of them catering to the "true" Star Trek fan. The question remains, in light of these four series and the new show on the horizon; what remains for the real Star Trek fan? With more hours than ever before, the logical answer would seem to be: a veritable treasure trove of hours upon hours of quality dramatic storytelling. This, though, is not the case; as Shakespeare would say, it is "more light than heat."

Just as the point-and-click realm of Windows 98 has made nearly every homeowner with a PC a "computer expert" and "techno-literate," so has hour upon hour of Star Trek made nearly every American a "diehard Trekker." Many fans today have the atttitude that "Voyager is kewl, but all other Trek sucks." While a valid opinion in itself, people are losing sight of what the franchise truly means, of where its roots truly are. When one looks at "The Disease" from Voyager or "Fascination" from DS9, or even "The Naked Now" from TNG, is "The Naked Time" considered as the inspiration, if not the source, of these plots? As more and more hours of Trek are churned out by Paramount, that "all-you-can-eat buffet" mentioned by Heather becomes more and more overwhelming, to the point where it overshadows the true meaning of Star Trek. Beyond Roddenberry's conception of what Trek was, beyond the interpretations of Berman, Pillar, and Braga, lies the true point of the Star Trek universe; true fans conception, interpretation, and portrayal of this universe through insight, contemplation, and imagination. As Paramount continues to expand the "official" vision, with perfectly licensed conventions, limited edition collector's plates, scores of "crossover" novels, and the like, it continues to erode at what Star Trek truly is.

Above all else, Star Trek is about possibility and about creating a future of optimism, hope, and promise. At its best, Star Trek has served as a mirror and a canvas upon which groups of people have found a common bond in their vision of what the years ahead will be for humanity. As the years have passed, though, fans have had to work less and less in envisioning this future, in shaping and molding the stories of the charaters of Star Trek universe in their own minds. Paramount has made casual viewers and true fans of the series into part of "the body," with new series and promotional stunts as "the Lawgivers." So, to this, I can only say; resist these new series, resist Paramount's attempts to commericalize and compartmentalize Star Trek fandom into a neat demographic and buying audience, and demand something new for the franchise. Let it be; let it rest, and someday soon, a new generation will rediscover Star Trek for a new time and a new America. Open your eyes, open your mind, and look beyond Paramount's marketing and commerical ploys today, to a future where Star Trek may be reborn. The episodes of Star Trek have already been co-opted by this capitalistic mentality; don't let the spirt of Trek be taken in the same manner.

As in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, Star Trek is worth fighting for, if only that true fans may say "Star Trek Lives" once more, and mean it wholeheatedly, literally and in spirit.

Wow. What can I comment on that you didn't say beautifully, Matthew? Only to second your statement that truly, Trek is what exists in the hearts, minds and imaginations of fans.

There is an old saying, oft quoted by such success gurus as Stephen Covey that says "Give a man a fish, he eats for a day; Teach a man to fish he eats for a lifetime." I think the same is true for grand fictions like Trek. Instead of reaching within ourselves to find meanings and to explore the relevance of specific epsiodes or developments to our own paradigms, we're like gluttons sitting behind our computer monitors and on our couches gorging ourselves. Instead of creating and giving back, we're becoming consumers. This abundance can make us lazy--it's easy to let the Franchise to think for us. As fans, we need to re-learn how to fish and not just blindly accept the party line.

From: S.Kathol
To: feedback@treknation.com
Subject: The Franchise`s Future by Heather Jarman

Dear Heather,

Firstly i must tell you that i liked your article. It is really good and it has some good thoughts. I also like Voyager. It is a good show with great characters. But like you i also must admit that Voyager weakend , especially during the last season. There were too many technobabble-inspired episodes and good character development was hardly possible. Why? I don`t know if it is only Brannon`s fault, but he is responsible.Sometimes i really believe that he doesn`t give a "shit" about Voyager.He seems to be more interessted in his career and in trying to keep his power as an executive producer!

Another problem is Voyager`s lack of continuity (Dark Frontier and Relativity are the best examples!) . The characters are good but they can`t grow due to this problem. Voyager has many ,let`s say, "standing-alone" episodes and doesn`t have story arcs. Those arcs would definitly help Voyager to survive her last two seasons!

I don`t think Star Trek will die but, like you Heather, i also believe that the new series shouldn`t come too early! Braga/Berman and Co should give Voyager two last good seasons before putting their energy into the new project!

I have to second your concerns. I've always been of the school of thinking that anything worth doing is worth doing well. If TPTB at Voyager could show her half the love and respect that were lathered on TNG, I think in the end, she could turn out to be quite a remarkable chapter in Trek history.

I have to go on the record as saying that I don't categorically object to a new series. I object to a new series crafted with an eye to demographics and market research. I also feel that a new series would benefit from some fresh blood in the writing and directing departments. It isn't that I don't trust younger writers like Bryan Fuller and Mike Taylor to carry the torch, rather that I fear that those "visionaries" behind the franchise are more interested in power and money than creating an intellectually, morally interesting series. And while I believe Braga has the talent to helm a series, I'd like to see him demonstrate more passion for the work than for his own ego. "The Play Is The Thing," fellow fans. If he would relax some of his control freak tendencies and attempt to create a more collaborative atmosphere, I think Voyager could only benefit.

Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Christian Höhne Sparborth is webmaster of the Trek Nation.