Reaching Out?

By Fred Shedian
Posted at April 7, 2000 - 10:37 PM GMT

With the announcement made that a Birth of the Federation series may indeed be the fifth of the franchise, I started to think about the concept. I soon found myself asking one question over and over, "Did Rick Berman actually listen to those fans in the mid 90's who said it was time to do something "old" but "new" to Star Trek?"

Before I answer the question, let me remind every one of the context. In 1991 we watched the crew under Captain James T. Kirk fly off into the sunset. For most fans, this was the official end to the Original Series franchise. Three years later, in 1994, we were watching as Captain Picard traveled through time in an effort to make sure that some good things didn't come to an end. Indeed they didn't, with Deep Space Nine and Voyager continuing from where TNG left off.

The year of 1994 marked what I believe could be called "The Best Of Times, The Worse Of Times For Star Trek." This was year we had three series on the air, all attempting to go after each other. It wasn't until the conclusion of Next Generation we started to hear the voices of fans complaining. Although remarks had indeed been made prior, what appeared to almost be an organized campaign started on several fronts. The goal was express their annoyance at the direction the franchise was taking. Remarks such as "We're getting too far away from Gene Roddenberry's vision" started to appear during this time.

While thinking about a Birth of the Federation series, I wonder if Rick Berman has finally realized what all of us have known for a long time. Star Trek has been losing long time fans left and right. Many of these people are from the TOS and TNG generation...and most do not hold a fascination for the Borg. Is it possible Paramount has made the decision to finally reach out to these people after almost seven/ten years?

In a way I would think so. Moving a series to one aspect of the Trek universe which is vague, yet common at the same time, is indeed a new direction. If the reports are indeed confirmed, a Birth of the Federation series seems like it could only be directed at one group of people...long time fans. A survey I looked at several months ago clearly shows many viewers of Voyager have no concept of the "history of the Star Trek Universe." Yet, the same survey found fans of the Original/Next Generation fans were very well verse...partly due to the fact that half of TNG's fans were TOS. If this is true, then Paramount may be making one of the biggest gambles in the franchise's history.

The situation may be one like this. The Original Series and Next Generation are what many believe are the best of Star Trek. During this time, ratings were very good. If you don't believe me with the Original Series, I ask you to explain why six movies were generated. In any event, a large number of the viewers of these shows never moved to DS9 and Voyager. The gamble is a shocking one, that will either be very successful or a disaster. Will a series set in an era you can classify as "Original" rededicate and reinvigorate the thousands of fans who no longer watch?

Some may disagree with my statements. However, think about what current viewers have and what they won't have come Series V. The Borg, Dominion, Q, Cardassians, Galaxy Class vessels and anything that happened after 1969 will not be material writers can use on a regular basis. Although a 29th Century wrench will be tossed in to attract these fans, I don't think it will be enough to keep the "Seven of Nine Fan Club" a part of the Star Trek franchise when the show's characters will have yet to have visited the Beta, Gamma or Delta Quadrants.

Personally, if this is indeed the next show, I will be waiting with open arms. With luck the writing will be good...providing for some interesting stories. Is it possible we will finally get to meet Captain Robert April? Will we get to see the commissioning of the first U.S.S. Enterprise? Will we have the opportunity to learn of the first Klingon/Federation encounter? Will younger fans flee as older ones return?

I will leave the answer up to your imagination.

Until next time...

Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.

Fred Shedian writes a weekly 'A Take On Trek' column for the Trek Nation.