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10 Years, And Still No Trek On TV

But then again, Michael Hinman isn't saying that's necessarily a bad thing

If you're at least as old as I am, you likely remember when Star Trek returned to television for the first time in 13 years (yeah, we're counting "Star Trek: The Animated Series").

I remember being so worried, at the age of 11, that Star Trek series could only boldly go for three years. To me, I would be 14 and without new Star Trek again, and I really liked Capt. Picard and the crew of the USS Enterprise-D.

But as we all know, it was far more than three years. Try 18 years ... and sometimes, much longer than maybe it should've been.

What would become four television series, both in syndication and to help launch a new television network, would end on a whimper when "Star Trek: Enterprise" bowed out after a quiet four seasons. That happened this month 10 years ago, and Star Trek hasn't been back on television since.

Do we miss it? I know I do. And I'm sure you do, as well. But with the success of Star Trek in the movie theater once again, is it time for Star Trek to return to the small screen?


Part of what killed Star Trek was Viacom's inability to control the urge to oversaturate a market (for a seven-year stretch there were two Star Trek series on at the same time), refresh its personnel when needed and ensure the franchise itself evolved with the times. Gene Roddenberry knew when he started working on "Star Trek: The Next Generation" that it would have to be different from the original "Star Trek" series.

That's because audiences evolve, and television shows are supposed to evolve with it. And Star Trek made that evolution into TNG, but then decided to hold tight and never change again — as if making a change would somehow destroy the Star Trek franchise.

And it's not that people didn't try. Ira Steven Behr did everything he could to move "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" into the last part of the 20th century by creating more story arcs and not being afraid to shake things up. He would fight regularly with executive producer Rick Berman, according to reports, on everything from how long the Dominion War was supposed to last to how many legs Nog should lose in a military firefight.

I can't blame Berman. He was in a tough position where he was suddenly the man holding the Star Trek torch, and he didn't want to let Roddenberry down. But ultimately he did, because Trek became so stale, even some of its biggest fans like me were ready to say goodbye when "Enterprise" finally signed off.

Now I worry that CBS won't let Star Trek evolve even more. Yes, any move the media company makes will create backlash, but nothing is going to change that. Sometimes, we're right as fandom, but sometimes we're wrong. But CBS knows how to make television. It knows the best approach, and what audiences are looking for. And it has to treat Star Trek's history with respect, yes — but not at the expense of the franchise, but keeping it anchored in the past with no hopes to evolve just won't work.

Television audiences become more and more sophisticated, and viewing habits change regularly. When "Enterprise" ended, the term "binge-watching" didn't even exist. Now viewers want to view television shows at their pace, not what a network dictates. These same audiences more and more are looking for stories that stretch over multiple episodes, but are still contained in a single season — the anthology series, for example, is something that has become a popular medium in recent years thanks to "American Horror Story" and "True Detective."

I've also pushed for 10-episode seasons, or maybe 13 episodes at the most. There are so many good programs out there, we don't need to invest 22 to 26 episodes each year — and it creates the opportunity for filler stories that would never see the light of day otherwise. Shorter seasons allow audiences to invest more, and even to binge to catch up. I didn't start watching "Empire" on Fox until after the season ended, but if it were more than a dozen episodes, I may have never given it a chance.

Star Trek might work on television again, but it has to be allowed to evolve. And we can't pound the market with it — create just enough to keep us satisfied, but also keep us interested. And don't be afraid to shake things up. Star Trek audiences are ones that always have been the most sophisticated of television audiences, straight back to "The Cage" in 1966 — so make sure you, as a media company, always respect that.

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