Fan Companion – Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

1991 was a special year in franchise lore. It was the twenty-fifth anniversary. Above and beyond the failure of ‘The Final Frontier,’ fans still had an abundance of affection for a cast they had followed for so many years. It would take a lot more than one bad experience to kill Star Trek again, especially now that five films and a second TV series and crew had been introduced. One final film with the original cast was warranted, and probably demanded, for the occasion, and so was released ‘The Undiscovered Country.’

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Fan Companion – Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

1989 saw a unique challenge for Star Trek. For the first time in its history, there would be two competing incarnations. ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ was entering its third season, while the original series crew prepared to continue what had suddenly become a popular film series. Where the TV show was entering into new creative heights, infused with emerging voices behind the scenes that would soon take the franchise into startling new directions, the fifth film was undertaken by a combination of players who had never successfully guided Star Trek on their own. Harve Bennett always benefited from his collaborations with Nicholas Meyer, while the director for ‘The Final Frontier,’ William Shatner, continually struggled against his own ego. Is it really any surprise that the result was, at least until that point, the least successful venture in franchise history?

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Fan Companion – Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

Star Trek is always at its best when it is deliberately crowd-pleasing, as evidenced by all the episodes in the original series that continue to be warmly remembered to this day: “The Naked Time,” “Shore Leave,” “The Trouble with Tribbles.” So it’s no surprise that the original cast met its greatest film success in the time travel romp ‘The Voyage Home.’

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Fan Companion – Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

The movie in the entire film series that I think has always gotten the shaft, and for no discernable reason, other than coming between the ones fans (‘Wrath of Khan’) and general audiences (‘The Voyage Home’) really love, the middle part of the original crew trilogy that can be too easily dismissed as merely utilitarian. My argument is that it’s so much more than that. It may be, pound for pound, the most completely satisfying Star Trek movie.

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Fan Companion – Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Whatever else ‘The Motion Picture’ had been, it was a relative failure, one that disappointed fans and general audiences, but it was success enough to have demanded a sequel, and so work was quickly begun to figure out how exactly to follow it up. Even that was proving difficult, however, until Nicholas Meyer sauntered in and changed everything. When the finished product was delivered to theaters in 1982, Star Trek had delivered the word, and the word was “good.”

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Fan Companion – Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Contrary to popular belief, Star Trek did not enter the movie business simply because of the success of ‘Star Wars’ in 1977 (with apocryphal accounts suggesting Paramount more or less remarking, “What’ve we got like that?”). Gene Roddenberry, the fans, and even the studio that had seen the original series apparently run its course after three seasons in 1969 were looking for ways to revive it throughout the 1970s, including the relatively obscure but still famous ‘Phase II’ attempt to launch a new TV series, which led directly to what audiences finally saw at the end of 1979.

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Fan Companion – Star Trek: Enterprise Season Four

The fall of 2004 marked the dawn of a whole new era in genre programming, with the debut of ‘Lost,’ which, at least temporarily, opened the floodgates to networks becoming receptive to wild ideas, bold concepts, and big stories. But wide audiences weren’t flocking to sci-fi, at least not in the traditional sense, at least not outside of cable (where niche fans were gobbling up Stargate and ‘Battlestar Galactica’ with renewed vigor), and certainly not to Star Trek, which was now seen as a relic. And the only victim left was ‘Enterprise,’ which had just completed one of the most ambitious franchise seasons ever. The fourth season would be one last-ditch effort to win fans, if not audiences, over again.

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Fan Companion – Star Trek: Enterprise Season Three

“The Expanse” had already prepared fans for what they could expect in the fall of 2003, when ‘Enterprise’ would take Star Trek for its most sustained serialized storytelling ever, an entire season of a single arc. ‘Deep Space Nine’ had done direct stretches of six and ten hours, sure, and famously had the most involved writing in franchise history, but this was going to be more ambitious still. Would it be enough to win back the interest of viewers?

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Fan Companion – Star Trek: Enterprise Season Two

Like every other Star Trek before it, ‘Enterprise’ spent its second year in apparent ignorance that its original approach wasn’t connecting with fans, which at this point was either really a problem with viewers or really a problem with the creators (isn’t it a little hard to understand, putting it into such stark language?), but probably not both (but then again, probably both). Either way, the season began in 2002, which was notable as also seeing the release of ‘Star Trek Nemesis,’ the final ‘Next Generation’ film, to incredible apathy (and some outright vitriol), which helps mark this year as the hammering of the final nail of the coffin in this incarnation of the franchise. History, really, was just repeating itself. The original series probably would have been more of an actual success if it had been able to truly capitalize on that second chance. But it didn’t, and by that point, the third really didn’t matter. Wasn’t that just true of ‘Enterprise,’ too?

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Fan Companion – Star Trek: Enterprise Season One

Everyone remembers the fall of 2001. The new millennium wasted little time in making history, and Star Trek had nothing to do with it. Yet that’s also when the fifth live action TV series in franchise history launched, at the time hotly anticipated, at last a moment when all the fans seemed to be buzzing with positive energy again, arguably for the first time since 1993, when ‘Deep Space Nine’ launched. Yet the enthusiasm, as everyone would soon realize, would be short-lived.

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