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Old May 2 2013, 07:57 PM   #1
Scotty
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“In Conversation” or “Berman and Braga vs the world.”

The first season of Enterprise was released this week in The Netherlands and I finally got to sink my teeth into this set (not literally). Much has been said about the mediocre A/V presentation so I’m not going into that. From the reviews I read the VAM was the reason to get this set. Adam Walker of Trekcore wrote this about the “In Conversation” piece (and many other reviewers agreed with him):

"In Conversation" for me, is the pičce de résistance from this set. Producers Rick Berman and Brannon Braga sit down together for a full hour to address some of the more contentious issues which fandom has debated for years. The piece starts off innocuously enough with the two discussing the ideas behind Enterprise and the cast, but quickly heats up as Braga turns to Berman and asks "Do you realize Rick, that some fans say we killed the franchise?" What follows is a fascinating insight into studio and network politics and the daily obstacles the producers had to overcome to keep Star Trek going. Rick Berman's story about the unnamed network executive's failure to understand what is meant by the ship's hull is hilarious, but also poignant as he recalls realizing that they were fighting a losing battle to keep Star Trek on the air.
Well I just watched it and I’d like to say that I can not disagree more with all the praise lavished on this feature. The piece starts off interesting all right even though it becomes clear quite early on that the genesis of Enterprise wasn’t as much of an uphill battle as B&B make it out to be. Berman wanted to set the first season on Earth and make it more contemporary and the network rightly called him out on that. The shows set in the 24th century were all huge successes (some more than others) so why would you wanna change that? Never does Berman in the conversation clarify why setting the show in more contemporary times would make it more interesting or compelling for the audience. Berman and Braga also neglect to discuss what the premise of the show was supposed to be and what they intended for the show to accomplish in the x amount of seasons they hoped it would be on the air. The reason for that is simple, they didn’t really have a defined path for the show and the prequel setting was just a gimmick that they didn’t exploit to its fullest potential. They even admit to this when they discuss certain aspects of the show like for example Travis being a boomer brought up on freighters.

After that the conversation quickly goes downhill when Berman and Braga go in full defense mode and start to blame everyone else besides themselves for the failure of the show. The network didn’t get the show and worked against the producers, the fans were too negative, the ratings had started to decline since DS9 and VOY, yada yada and so on and so forth. Followed by the denials; Four seasons IS pretty good for network show, the original Trek only got three, I still think the title song is pretty good! Never did they once just admit that after 18 years they were creatively exhausted and just didn’t have it in them to write another Trek show. The fact that the fans abandoned Enterprise had more to do with the unimaginative and rehashed scripts in the first 2 seasons than network politics. Even more cringeworthy are the annoying barbs made about Manny Coto (‘there’s no such thing as a bad Manny Coto episode Brannon”, quips Berman at one point) which made their closing remarks, about not being resentful towards anyone who would take over the Trek mantle, devoid of any meaning. To me it seemed that Berman and Braga felt that they never got the praise they think they deserved.

I don’t think Berman and Braga killed the franchise. In fact I know they didn’t because this month we will see the second part of a succesfull theatrical reboot. Every franchise needs a breather or a fresh perspective to reinvigorate the concept. This is what was missing on Enterprise and it was a shame that Rick Berman and Brannon Braga couldn’t see that and can’t to this day.
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Old May 2 2013, 08:24 PM   #2
Ho Ho Homeier
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Re: “In Conversation” or “Berman and Braga vs the world.”

Yes, I think Berman was just burned out and didn't realize it. Maybe he was aiming for 20 years with the franchise. I noted in one my episode reviews that he does deserve credit for keeping the franchise running for as long as he did. But as a producer/creator/writer, he was too close to the material to recognize when the stories with his own name on them were crap that never should have been produced.
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Old May 2 2013, 09:58 PM   #3
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Re: “In Conversation” or “Berman and Braga vs the world.”

Scotty wrote: View Post
Berman wanted to set the first season on Earth and make it more contemporary and the network rightly called him out on that. The shows set in the 24th century were all huge successes (some more than others) so why would you wanna change that?
Watch Demons/ Terra Prime, then you will understand it. It took the Reeves-Stevenes to prove that Berman's concept was totally right and that the risk-averse executives were wrong.
I am not against criticizing Berman but either he stayed in the franchise too long or he had too innovative ideas. You cannot have it both ways.

Talking about innovative ideas, B&B came up with the 22nd century Vulcans, the Andorians, the conflicts among the future four founding members of the Federation and a show with a decent retro feeling. Sure, it felt too often like a 24th century show and wasn't retro enough but I just went over that in the previous paragraph, you have the studio to blame for that.
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Old May 2 2013, 10:25 PM   #4
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Re: “In Conversation” or “Berman and Braga vs the world.”

So it makes Berman a sell out. Same difference. The politics in hell entrenchment was probably why Menosky and Shankar and others left too. You can't have a show that's contemporary and cerebral at the same time. Manny Coto was the final nail in the coffin. When Braga saw his faceless evil clown cohort and future executive boss, he knew that the fat lady had already song and the space opera party was over. You can only supress talent and vision for so long before the boat hits the reefs and sinks, especially with Berman in total control at the wheel and helm.
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Old May 4 2013, 04:19 AM   #5
JirinPanthosa
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Re: “In Conversation” or “Berman and Braga vs the world.”

I believe that Berman and Braga wanted to make a more interesting show than we got the first two seasons.

But that doesn't excuse the quality of the writing. For years Brannon Braga wrote excellent scripts in the even more restrictive Roddenberry Box, why couldn't he write equally good scripts for Enterprise with equal restrictions? Why did it take a new executive producer to get some decent scripts, when Braga was responsible for some of the best TNG scripts?
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Old May 4 2013, 01:42 PM   #6
Scotty
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Re: “In Conversation” or “Berman and Braga vs the world.”

horatio83 wrote: View Post
Watch Demons/ Terra Prime, then you will understand it. It took the Reeves-Stevenes to prove that Berman's concept was totally right and that the risk-averse executives were wrong.
it's been a long time since I watched that episode, but let's not pretend that the writers did anything new there. All Trek shows had episodes set on earth and they were usually succesful. It is funny however that you mention the fourth season since it was the season that Manny Coto took over the writers room. Manny Coto unlike Berman had a clear idea about which direction he wanted to take the show. Coto made an effort to turn Enterprise into a birth of the Federation Trek show. He accomplished more in just one season then Berman and Braga did in three seasons.

I am not against criticizing Berman but either he stayed in the franchise too long or he had too innovative ideas. You cannot have it both ways.
Berman wasn't innovative. I was actually trying to point out the exact opposite.

Talking about innovative ideas, B&B came up with the 22nd century Vulcans, the Andorians, the conflicts among the future four founding members of the Federation and a show with a decent retro feeling. Sure, it felt too often like a 24th century show and wasn't retro enough but I just went over that in the previous paragraph, you have the studio to blame for that.
The studio isn't too blame. That's just wishful thinking from some of the fans. The studio just wanted a show set on a ship. Not a show set on Earth where apparently we got to see Phlox enjoying the food in Chinatown. They agreed with the prequel idea, they agreed with the contemporary setting, they even agreed with dropping the name Star Trek from the title. As for the day to day production of the show, never in the interview on the Blu Rays did I get the idea that the studio was very involved or hands on when it came to writing and producing. Enterprise failed to captivate the fans like TNG, DS9 and even VOY managed to do. And it's all because of the quality of the writing.

And it's a bit sad that Berman and Braga try to use these Blu Ray interviews to shift the blame for their failure. Man up, and take responsibility!
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Old May 4 2013, 04:14 PM   #7
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Re: “In Conversation” or “Berman and Braga vs the world.”

The fourth season, being in close proximity to Earth with the last two-parter, totally matches Berman's original idea of setting the first season on Earth and then slowly getting out there.
The show should have ended the way it started ... and Berman suggested this in the very beginning but the studio did not go along with it because they wanted the same shit all over again without even minor changes. And then fans whine that the show isn't innovative enough while blaming Berman instead of the studio. Totally ridiculous.
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Old May 4 2013, 05:11 PM   #8
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Re: “In Conversation” or “Berman and Braga vs the world.”

At the end of the day, Berman and Braga were listed as creators, executive producers, and their names were on many scripts with either sole writing credit or as story creators. It was their concept, they were in charge, and the show was in trouble from the beginning due to its approach. Their tendency to blame everybody else for the show's failure rings hollow.
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Old May 4 2013, 06:14 PM   #9
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Re: “In Conversation” or “Berman and Braga vs the world.”

It is both funny and frustrating bearing witness to Berman, Braga and willing abettors trying to rewrite history and re-forge legacies. They fubared Trek - no ifs, ands, or buts about it. They can throw up their hands in the mock outrage of a Robert Blake and point fingers while trying to dupe folks with a sorry song & dance of why none of Star Trek's misfires (Insurrection, Nemesis and Enterprise) was their fault, but the majority of fans know and remember.

And all this malarkey about the success of Abrams reboot of Star Trek as proof that Berman & Braga didn't kill the franchise is mind numbingly inane. Trek should never have required resuscitation. And like all the fictions regarding things coming back from beyond the grave what we have been given to date is something of a ghost of what we had at Trek's cinematic heights of the 80s to early-90s.

Sure, "Star Trek Into Darkness" is getting some good reviews but those same critics are also warning folks to just overlook the many plot holes and how J.J. has turned the new Trek experience into an exercise in Pavlovian conditioning. IOW, because of Berman & Braga's dark works we are left with a "franchise" that has been reduced to something simple-minded and devoid of even the illusion of being about anything more than just explosions and fistfights.

Of course this is just my humble opinion. YMMV.
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Old May 4 2013, 06:27 PM   #10
Ho Ho Homeier
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Re: “In Conversation” or “Berman and Braga vs the world.”

In some ways, B&B's denial of responsibility mirrors Roddenberry's claims of responsibility for Star Trek's success. Though I will add, I had a pre-TNG LP album where it was Roddenberry discussing Star Trek (Inside Star Trek, 1976), and he often said something like "we did this, we did that" rather than using the singular "I".

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Old May 4 2013, 06:53 PM   #11
Danger Ace
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Re: “In Conversation” or “Berman and Braga vs the world.”

Melakon wrote: View Post
In some ways, B&B's denial of responsibility mirrors Roddenberry's claims of responsibility for Star Trek's success.
Good point.

Though I will add, I had a pre-TNG LP album where it was Roddenberry discussing Star Trek (don't remember the name), and he often said something like "we did this, we did that" rather than using the singular "I".
In Solow and Justman's book they suggested how Roddenberry wouldn't directly claim credit for everything rather he wouldn't correct any of the misperceptions regarding what others contributed - that by his silence he denied others credit when credit was due them.

It was also by his silence that lead some people to believe he had been beat cop and a producer on Have Gun Will Travel.

So his were generally lies of omission.

Update: For those interested:
Inside Star Trek [Limited Edition, Import]

It is a double album CD containing both TMP soundtrack and Roddenberry's Inside Star Trek.
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Old May 4 2013, 07:00 PM   #12
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Re: “In Conversation” or “Berman and Braga vs the world.”

Yeah, even from what I remember about that album (reissued 20 years later with additional tracks), he wasn't generous with other people's names.
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Old May 4 2013, 07:01 PM   #13
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Re: “In Conversation” or “Berman and Braga vs the world.”

I don't think it's either unusual for people in his position to proclaim the fact that a project like this is a group effort (hence the "we" vocable), nor that he claims some credit back through this passive-aggressive manner.
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Old May 4 2013, 07:07 PM   #14
horatio83
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Re: “In Conversation” or “Berman and Braga vs the world.”

Melakon wrote: View Post
Their tendency to blame everybody else for the show's failure rings hollow.
They have actually frequently said that ENT wasn't perfect. But this wasn't enough, B&B bashers want to hear a mea maximum culpa. And even that wouldn't have been enough, it would have rather reenforced than soothed the bashing.
I do for example not like the creative work of Orci. I think he is an abysmally bad writer. But I would never expect the guy to apologize for anything just because I don't like his work. Personal preferences about a television or movie show aren't facts.
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Old May 4 2013, 07:08 PM   #15
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Re: “In Conversation” or “Berman and Braga vs the world.”

You're right, Lee, but it demonstrates how B&B seem to blame everyone but themselves for Enterprise's failure.

Horatio, I didn't see any of Orci's work (anywhere) until getting the series collection this year. I've watched most of his season only once so far, and have yet to draw a conclusion. There are things I didn't like on first viewing.

I saw the first two years of Enterprise in first broadcast, and realized it was in trouble early on. This impression is not due to fan reaction as I wasn't heavily active on fan sites like this in those days. I was watching Star Trek since 1966, and all the shows have elements I didn't care for.
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