The demise of Star Trek

By Sarah Wood
Published March 5, 2005 in The Gainesville Sun

They all murmur the same word: disappointed. For 24-year-old Cecil Davis of Gainesville, who spent 12 years earning the rank of a "Star Trek" admiral, and 42-year-old Anne Zecca, who speaks Klingon and Romulan, television just won't be the same.

The news came a few weeks ago. "Star Trek: Enterprise" will enter the realm of cancellation on May 13, when UPN will air the last of the series' 98 episodes. There are no immediate plans for another "Star Trek" series. "Trek" fans - for the first time in 18 years - will be without any new episodes.

"When I first read the news, I was absolutely devastated. It couldn't be right," said Jib Davidson, a Gainesville resident and a fan since the original series debuted in 1966. "For the first time, there was a possibility this would give me a coronary heart attack right there on the spot."

Despite hard-core supporters like Davidson, the ratings have been trending downward - 2.9 million nationwide viewers in its fourth season, down from 5.9 million in its first season.

"A lot of it has to do with what someone has referred to as 'franchise fatigue,'" longtime executive producer Rick Berman said. "The fact that we've done 624 hours of 'Star Trek' over the last 18 years, you can take one too many trips to the well. There's a point at which you can reach a sense of overkill."

But for Davidson and his wife, Teresa, four seasons just weren't enough.

The Sci-Fi Belt

The Gainesville area abounds in science-fiction fans. In fact, the 2004 Lifestyle Market Analysis by the Standard Rate and Data Service ranks Gainesville ninth out of 210 market areas across the country in the category of science-fiction interest.

In addition, Gainesville may be part of a "sci-fi belt," said University of Florida advertising professor John Sutherland, who first learned about this phenomenon at an academic conference in the early '90s.

Evidently, this highly concentrated population of sci-fi viewers is heaviest along the West Coast of the United States, but it also reaches east to sit right on top of Gainesville.

Still, not all Trekkies or Trekkers, both names designated for the more dedicated fans, have always been as enthusiastic about the "Enterprise" series. For instance, Davis said the program, which acts as a prequel to the other "Star Trek" installments, lacks some of the space saga's forward thinking.

"We knew that 'Enterprise' was doomed from the get-go," said Davis, a Brooksville resident, who grew up in the area and frequently visits family in Gainesville. "It doesn't hold to Gene Roddenberry's (the show's creator) ideals."

He argued that by going backward in time, the show did not carry the same forward-moving philosophy. Nevertheless, the end of "Star Trek's" run on television disappoints Davis, and it's easy to understand why. Davis first became enamored with "Star Trek: The Next Generation" in 1987, when he was seven years old. The technology and visual effects, such as the starship zipping into warp speed, initially drew his attention, but the show's message soon became his mainstay.

"The basic philosophy of 'Star Trek' is the exploration of space, the obtainment of knowledge, and to become more than what we are," said Davis, who at 11 joined his first fan club and worked his way up to the position of "Star Trek" admiral. This feat took him 12 years of dedication and service.

Last November, he helped to start his own online fan club: Interplanetary Alliance. Davis, an owner of a metal-fabrication business in Brooksville, easily names characters and actors, recounts episodes and speaks a few phrases in Klingon, but his six-hour-a-week involvement goes beyond mere entertainment.

"'Star Trek' is more than just a TV show," he said. "It's a way of life. It's a glimpse into our future, a chance to look past our differences of race, of creed, of land."

Gainesville Trekker Anne Zecca agrees. Zecca, a freelance writer, participates in community charities such as March of Dimes to promote the mission of creating a better world and to improve the image of Trekkies.

"It puts a positive light on what 'Star Trek' fans are about," she said. "It shows that they're not just geeks, and they don't fit a stereotypical mode."

Zecca, or Dhael Hwaerianh, her Romulan name, meaning "soaring," belongs to four different "Star Trek" fan groups, which are mostly online-based. Her dedication of three to four hours a week paid off when, in 2001, she was named captain of her local fan unit, a division of Starfleet Command.

Zecca owns a number of homemade "Star Trek" costumes, speaks two fictitious alien languages and has gone to a few conventions, but the news of the cancellation of "Star Trek: Enterprise" didn't surprise her. For the most part, she thought the story lines were rehashed versions of previous "Star Trek" episodes, but they were getting better.

"I'm a little disappointed that they did not give 'Enterprise' enough of a chance to develop its stories, to see how the federation really took off," Zecca said.

The Final Voyage?

Jib and Teresa Davidson, however, were devastated. Although they don't consider themselves Trekkies, they have avidly watched "Star Trek" since the original series and became die-hard fans after entering the University of Florida as freshmen in the 1970s.

"When we lived in the dorms, we all got together from 5 to 6 every day to watch the 'Star Trek' reruns before dinner," Jib said.

Now, they have a variety of "Star Trek" toys - character figurines, posters, a remote control shaped like a phaser - occupying their playroom. Even their boat's name, Make It So, comes from a favorite phrase of Captain Picard (played by Patrick Stewart) from "The Next Generation." They also named their dingy, Shuttle Craft, after the series, and every year their Christmas tree dons "Star Trek" ornaments.

Overall, the Gainesville fans will miss "Star Trek," but many believe "Enterprise's" cancellation only presents a short rest and not the death of the saga.

Producer Paramount Television views the change as a break, not a retirement. "Trek" generates big revenue from merchandise and overseas sales.

"It's probably good to lay fallow for a while to rejuvenate," Berman says, though he expects that will mean a minimum three-year hiatus, with cable or syndication the most likely future home.

"We're not going to sit idly by and let them just end 'Star Trek' all together; it's not going to happen," Davis said. "The fans aren't going to do it. They didn't last time. It took them almost 20 years to convince them to pick up and do 'Star Trek: The Next Generation,' but they finally did it."

For more information or to get involved with Interplanetary Alliance, e-mail Cecil Davis at daviscecil@hotmail.com.

For the Starfleet Command fan club, visit http://www.starfleet-command.com.

USA Today contributed to this report.

A trek through time: Sidebar

"Star Trek": The original television series first boldly went where no program had gone before in 1966, lasting only three seasons on NBC. The show's creator, Gene Roddenberry, constructed the episodes around a theme of international unity, where space exploration was a harmonious effort among all nationalities and (human) races. Now, reruns are shown on more than 120 stations within the United States and in about 100 countries worldwide, according to a BBC Web site.

"The Next Generation": Beaming into 1987's primetime, this second series in the saga lasted until May 1994. During this time, it won 18 Emmy Awards and attracted more than 11 million viewers at its height, according to The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

"Deep Space Nine": Replicating its predecessor's high ratings, "Deep Space Nine" became the highest-rated series premiere in syndication history when it aired in January 1993, according to the BBC. Lasting seven seasons, the series switched the "Star Trek" focus from the starship Enterprise to a space station and acted as a companion piece to "The Next Generation" story line.

"Voyager": A series based on a journey home after being marooned nearly 70,000 light years from known Federation space - lasted from 1995 to 2001. It won seven Emmy Awards, including makeup, hairstyling and visual effects.

"Enterprise": A prequel to the original "Star Trek" series, "Enterprise" takes place during the early pioneering days of deep space exploration when interstellar travel is in its infancy and 100 years before Capt. James T. Kirk (William Shatner) takes the helm of the famous starship.

Back to Clips