Saturday, May 14, 2005

Trek's End

And so end the voyages of the USS least for the foreseeable future. It's hard to believe that 18 years of Trekking all came down to last night. With its two final episodes, Star Trek: Enterprise signed off of UPN, ending with it an unprecedented 25 season run of televised Star Trek that began in 1987 with the premiere of The Next Generation and continued through Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and of course, Enterprise.

In the end, Enterprise was full of much more promise than its execution would have led one to believe, and unfortunately it had more stumbles than successes in its aborted four-season run. That said, I mentioned numerous times during the past year the creative resurgence the show had undergone during this, its final season, and that made last night's affair even more bittersweet.

Of the two episodes aired as the finale, the first, "Terra Prime," was the superior entry, and a much more effective coda for the much-maligned crew of Enterprise NX-01. All the crewmembers got their due, and in an emotional closing, Scott Bakula's Captain Archer helps lay the foundation for what will eventually become Star Trek's benevolent United Federation of Planets. Archer's inspirational speech followed by the applause of gathered alien dignitiaries brought me back to another crew's emotional farewell, that of Kirk, Spock, and Co. in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

That said, just as Kirk came back for one last hurrah in the underwhelming Star Trek Generations, so too do Archer and crew return for the true final episode of Enterprise, "These Are The Voyages..." Conceived by creators Rick Berman & Brannon Braga as a "valentine" for the fans and a capper not just to this series, but the franchise as a whole, the bulk of this outing takes place 200 years in Enterprise's future, on the Enteprise-D of the Next Generation-era. The storyline centers on Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes) turning to a holodeck recreation of the final voyage of Archer's Enterprise to guide him during a difficult personal decision (hearkening back to "The Pegasus," from Next Gen's final season).

While it's obvious that Berman & Braga's intent in writing the finale in this manner was to give context to the entire series and make sure that Enterprise retains a place in the future pantheon of Trek, it's still hard not to be let down by "These Are the Voyages...", especially after the superior finale which aired right before it. That said, it was also hard not to get a little emotional with the episode's closing moments, featuring a montage of the famous "Space, the final frontier..." voiceover popularized in the original series, voiced by the three captains of the USS Enterprise: Patrick Stewart, William Shatner, and Scott Bakula.

While it's safe to say, in the greatest of Samuel Clemens traditions, that rumors of Trek's demise are greatly exaggerated, the end of Enterprise is nevertheless momentous in many ways. Whatever form Star Trek assumes in its next iteration, there seems little doubt that it will be vastly different from the franchise that ran for the better part of the past two decades.

Here's to the end of one trek, and the eventual beginning of another.

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