The End of A Space Odyssey

By Frank Ahrens
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 8, 2005

"Star Trek" fans suspected trouble from the first moments of the latest television series, "Enterprise," when it launched in fall 2001.

It was the theme song.

"Trek" fans are accustomed to their 39-year canon of television shows and movies opening with stately, muscular, sweeping theme songs, all the way back to the original "Star Trek" with Capt. Kirk and Mr. Spock. Each "Trek" debuted with a miniature symphony of adventure. Horns. Strings. Kettle drums.

When "Enterprise" opened, there was none of this. Instead, fans heard a fey-voiced pop-opera crooner emoting:

"It's been a long road, gettin' from there to here . . ."

Great ghost of Sarek!

On Friday, the final two episodes of "Star Trek: Enterprise" will air at 8 p.m. on UPN (Channel 20). If you didn't know that, you could be forgiven. The show premiered with a socko 12.5 million viewers and then went steadily downhill. This season, the show has averaged about 2 million viewers per episode, the lowest of any "Trek" series.

More important than the passing of a little-watched sci-fi series on the sixth-rated network, however, is this fact: When "Enterprise" ends on Friday, it will mark the first time since 1987 that there has not been a fresh "Star Trek" on television.

Some will say: Finally. Our long national nightmare is over.

Others take a decidedly more Klingon attitude toward UPN, which canceled "Enterprise": We should kill you where you stand, for you have no honor.

Either way, the passing of "Enterprise" and quite probably all things "Star Trek" is a landmark television and cultural event. The franchise boosted William Shatner to icon status, created a long-running, highly successful film series, launched one television network and nearly another, inspired the name of the first space shuttle and gave birth to perhaps the oddest, smartest and most intense fans in pop-culture history.

After the original series' 1966-69 run, the franchise continued on television with "Star Trek: The Next Generation" (1987-94), "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" (1993-99), "Star Trek: Voyager" (1995-2001), "Star Trek: Enterprise" (2001-05) and in theaters with 10 motion pictures.

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