Feelings Of Reaction

By Fred Shedian
Posted at April 23, 2000 - 11:41 PM GMT

During the last two weeks, I decided to do something I haven't done in quite some time. I looked up my TrekBBS account ID and went into several threads, tossing out comments to certain topics I found interesting. One topic I was very interested in was one titled "excelsior can save trek?...prove it can." During this time, I spent quite a large amount of time responding to people's posts and giving remarks about my feelings of the EXCELSIOR Campaign.

Throughout the discussion several issues came up I believe are worth another look at. I have previously given remarks about this campaign, but would like to spend time today talking about fan reaction to it. I believe the reaction by some is simply disgusting, disgraceful, rude and makes me sick to the stomach.

To begin, an old expression goes "You ask why? I ask why not." The original question which started a week long discussion was "Prove Excelsior will save Star Trek." It is indeed a valid question, one many fans who are against the idea of a Sulu series ask every time the issue is raised. Using the old expression "You ask prove it? Others ask prove it can't."

This is an issue clouded with emotion. In summary, the major argument in favor of an Excelsior series is the fact it would have a chance at bringing back many long time Star Trek fans. In response, many say "The campaign shows they don't give a hoot about any current fans unless they liked TOS." This too is a valid remark. I would ask those who hold either of these feelings to take a step back and consider another side to the issue.

Discounting the "fans that loved TOS" is not the wisest move. It is something I believe Rick Berman has done in recent years. We are discussing a group of individuals that outnumber current viewers by a ratio of 2:1...due in part to twenty more years of exposure. Many fans of this era simply do not appreciate the "dark" vision recent Star Trek incarnations have provided.

One person said "If you use the same stuff, Trek is dead. We need something new." This is a valid remark...but for every one person who says this, there are ten others who say "You're already too different. If you want different go watch Babylon 5, Farscape or Star Wars. This is Star Trek."

These type of responses come because many feel that what made Star Trek popular was a hopeful/inspiring vision of the future. We were "Seeking out new life and new civilizations. Boldly going where no man...where no one...had gone before." Yet after The Next Generation, this mission seemed to change. For example, Deep Space Nine seemed to hold a mission of "Sit on a station, observe a culture's god develop, get involved in a war...repeat the process and rinse." Star Trek Voyager, which originally made remarks indicating they would deal with exploration, seems to now have a goal of "Get lost in space, look for some life sometimes, fight the Borg, nurture the Borg, convert the Borg and try to boldly go where people have already been before."

Many people believe Star Trek needs to get back to what made it popular. The show was not developed based on focus group feedback or on ratings, but on what it's ideals were. The original show was about exploration, a hopeful future and the betterment of the human race. It's ratings suffered at a time society was filled with violence...but the show didn't change simply to increase ratings. It remained about exploration....when is the last time that happened on a consistent basis aboard the USS Voyager? Some people believe this is a boring show...which makes me wonder if Star Trek isn't already dead.

The argument fans of the EXCELSIOR Campaign make is that if such a series went into production, it would cause the hard-core Star Trek fans from the 60's, 70's, 80's and early 90's who left to return to the franchise. Many might disagree with this assessment of the argument, but even George Takei has made remarks to the effect "Those against EXCELSIOR are not the ones who built the franchise."

Even if it is a failure, the recent Sulu campaign has shown one thing beyond a shadow of a doubt. There is a large gap between two generations of fans. There are those who still yearn for the hope, the peace, the exploration, the romance and the compassion Star Trek presented for over twenty-five years. Most of these individuals are the ones who laid the groundwork in 1970's and 1980's to bring Star Trek back to the small screen...and create what we now call the Star Trek Franchise. These are individuals who felt betrayed by Rick Berman with TV shows that many consider too dark, not giving hope for the future but instead gloom/doom, dealing more with death/destruction than any previous incarnation and finally producing a show with such poor ratings/writing that a character is added just to attract more male viewers.

On the opposite side of the spectrum are many fans who joined within the last seven/eight years. In many cases, these individuals seem to desire the action, the adventure, the special effects, the blood, the guts and the Borg. The line between "old school" fans and "new school fans" was drawn with the production of Star Trek: Generations. For many this ended an affiliation with the franchise. This movie was followed by one which had more death in it than every Original Series movie combined. And finally, the most recent movie was almost a complete flop...as the premise was other than death/destruction. It is indeed clear to me now many fans liked First Contact due to the simple fact the Borg were in it...and the Borg brought only death.

Although people use online polls to support their case one way or other, let us remember that these are not accurate. The fans who would make the difference and hold the deciding vote on whether or not EXCELSIOR would be a success are those now 40 or above. Many of these individuals do not even know the campaign exists...and do not participate in polling. Not that many are members of online Trek groups...making a count almost impossible. Remember, many old time fans now fall into the 40-80 age group...and this generation is currently the largest on the planet. Making a series for them would more than likely generate ratings that would surpass anything in history.

I deeply enjoyed Deep Space Nine and enjoy Star Trek Voyager, however not to the point of the Original Series or The Next Generation. Any future incarnation I shall a give chance and base opinions on it's merit. However, let us remember some of the following: A) Since TOS/TNG, ratings for the franchise have been on a steady decline. You can claim other shows were a cause, but that argument is void by the scores of reports indicating fans didn't leave Trek due to competition...but writing quality. B) At the same time of the decline, loyalty among longtime fans has dropped. C) Many older fans who had been watching for twenty years or more have hung up their "Save Spock" shirts due to the darkness/difference presented. These are the individuals EXCELSIOR is attempting to rally together. It is an honorable goal, one I wish the campaign the best in.

I do not write this column today in an attempt to persuade people. I write it as someone who enjoys Star Trek...and someone who wishes to see the franchise continue for another twenty years. I do not know if a Captain Sulu series would save the Star Trek Franchise, I do not know if it would be the "Be all/End all" of the shows history. However, my support and remarks stem from appreciation for the folks who are trying to make their organized voices heard. I find it honorable that a group of fans are attempting to get organized and make their feelings known...far better than the scores of people online complaining about the show's current status yet not taking the time to write to Paramount.

I am deeply annoyed and troubled at the reaction of the nonsupporters of the campaign. Remarks from calling it's organizer a fool, to a liar, to using spin control, to using media manipulation, to false statements and more is simply inexcusable. Holding strong feelings is one thing, having undeniable proof that someone is falsifying documentation is quite another. I would ask those who are against the EXCELSIOR Campaign idea to refrain from insulting a group of fans who have organized themselves in an attempt to make a difference. If you believe they are lying in figures, numbers, words or other aspects...I ask you to contact the campaign and request a copy of the data they used to produce their figures. Only then, after direct scrutiny, does anyone have the right to say "They're lying pigs!" Everyone has the right to disagree, but no one has the right to condemn.

I myself, after posting in support of the efforts EXCELSIOR has made, have recently come under fire via hate mail. These individuals are angry I support what EXCELSIOR is attempting to do, angry I support a group of fans who have organized themselves into a campaign which has some merit.

And people wish to discuss how unprofessional the EXCELSIOR Campaign is?

Let us remember, it was indeed the "old, boring" material which made the franchise popular, what made it a success and what generated ratings. The recent "new, exciting, special effects filled, dark" new age is what has caused ratings to nose dive, fan loyalty to disappear and long time fans to be replaced by hormone driven folk waiting to see Seven of Nine in a nude scene.

Although there are arguments which run both ways, I concur with an increasing number of people that the pointless debate is getting somewhat tiresome. If the support for campaign is there, then a difference will be made. If support is not there, we will probably hear about it again when ideas pop up for Series VI.

I have written this column in an attempt to clarify my views on this subject. Although I am sure I have offended someone, while I am sure there are thousands of people who are exceptions to what I have said, everyone needs to remember one thing.

Star Trek is supposed to be about "Space, the final frontier." The second it no longer is, is the second Star Trek ceases to exist.

These will be my final remarks on the subject. I ask everyone to stop the hateful personal attacks which are now taking place. As the expression goes, "If you can't say something nice, don't say it all." Being frank, there are a large number of people online who need to grow up, act their age and figure out how to hold a discussion/support their position without resorting to disgusting, hateful, vindictive, arrogant, sarcastic personal attacks which make many sick...including myself.

If you don't like EXCELSIOR, so be it...don't go after those that do. Unless you can do so in a civil manner, you only make yourself look like an idiot.

I apologize to those I may have annoyed. I do not mean to insult or unfairly group people. As always, feel free to submit feedback to feedback@treknation.com.

Until next time...

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