Boldly Going Where We Have Gone Before

Star Trek: EnterpriseI’ve been watching the reruns of Enterprise that SciFi has moved to its Monday night lineup. I did enjoy watching the first season of Enterprise but after a few months my schedule became too busy and I lost track of the show.

I know many hard-core Star Trek fans disliked the show but every Star Trek show has been greated with equal hostility by fans of the previous show. When Star Trek: The Next Generation debuted, many of my friends gagged. I could barely watch the show during the first season. I was completely unable to watch it in the second season. I tried again in the third season and found that it had improved vastly.

When Star Trek: Deep Space Nine premiered, it was Deja Vu all over again. Dedicated fans of ST:TNG hated the show. In fact, some people claim the show was only saved by the arrival of Worf. I’m not so sure it was as simple as that, but DS9 did get more interesting about that time.

When Star Trek: Voyager came on the scene, people thought it was pretty mundane and boring. How the show survived as long as it did, I don’t know. They do say that Jeri Ryan turned things around. Was it Jeri Ryan or the Borg? I don’t know. I watched more of Voyager in rerun syndication than I ever did while it was in its first run.

So when Enterprise debuted, I was prepared for the inevitable fannish whining. Sadly, they failed to disappoint me. The complaints rang throughout fandom. Enterprise was not as good as Voyager. Archer is no Janeway. What were they thinking? All you have to do is change the names and I’d already been through this three times before.

So now Enterprise has entered life in the rerun zone and there it will be doomed to forever remain, one must suppose. I’m curious about what the franchise will do next. The Federation has tamed the entire galaxy. About all that remains to be played out is the inevitable civil war and then maybe, if the civil war doesn’t do it, the final collapse and demise of the corrupt, decadent Federation.

Those would actually make for two very interesting television series. And some people might argue that the Temporal Cold War we saw in Enterprise might constitute a civil war phase in Federation history, but I don’t think so. Time Travel is a tool that Star Trek has come to rely upon often (they used it at least twice in the original series that I can think of) but Voyager showed us in its “Year of Hell” episode (I think that was the name) that using time technology to wage a war results in endless and hopeless paradoxes and counter-intuitive results.

Somehow the Federation has to get past its love affair with time travel and become divided into two political camps that are so diametrically opposed they feel the only way to resolve their differences is war. I would guess one camp would have to be the Eradicators, people who believe the galaxy can only have peace if all the violent, war-like civilizations are totally humbled or destroyed. The other camp would have to be the Embracers, people who believe that all civilizations in the galaxy should be absorbed into the Federation, even at phaser-point if necessary, but once absorbed allowed some leeway.

The Eradicators would use the Borg as an example of a species that threatens the safety and individuality of every other species in the galaxy. But the Embracers would equally use the Borg as an example of what total domination costs galactic social evolution. As long as cultures enter the Federation peacefully, or with some shreds of their individual heritages intact, the Federation should be able to repair all fences.

These two points of view would represent Gene Roddenberry’s classic moral dilemma: can we use the power we obtain responsibly? Of course, a civil war between Federation factions bent on galactic conquest would depict such a perversion of Roddenberry’s hopeful future that people might argue it’s not really what Roddenberry’ intended. Perhaps he would never intend to show such a hardline future, but it would represent a logical progression in the sequence of cultural evolutionary phases that Star Trek has explored.

And more importantly, it would permit us to continue the morality play format Roddenberry practiced. There could easily be a pacifist faction within the divided Federartion that strives to restore peace and harmony. But there could also be a reactionary faction that wants to return the Federation’s priorities to its roots.

Ultimately, the solution to the moral dilemma would have to be found in a compromise between the principles of all the factions. I can easily see this kind of speculative story-telling last 10-12 seasons, if done properly.

And when the dust has settled and the old Federation is gone, we’d be able to look upon a new frontier for the descendants of the Federation’s citizens to explore. Hope would be reborn from the ashes, and humanity with all its brethren across the stars would have learned a valuable lesson: that we cannot force each to be what we are not, that we cannot destroy each other without destroying ourselves.

So what do you think? Where would you like to see Star Trek go? Why not share your thoughts in SF-Fandom’s Star Trek Forum? I’d like to know what other people hope to see in future Trek shows.