RSS iconTwitter iconFacebook icon

The Trek BBS title image

The Trek BBS statistics

Threads: 139,684
Posts: 5,430,493
Members: 24,830
Currently online: 371
Newest member: Old Man 51


Welcome! The Trek BBS is the number one place to chat about Star Trek with like-minded fans. Please login to see our full range of forums as well as the ability to send and receive private messages, track your favourite topics and of course join in the discussions.

If you are a new visitor, join us for free. If you are an existing member please login below. Note: for members who joined under our old messageboard system, please login with your display name not your login name.


Go Back   The Trek BBS > Welcome to the Trek BBS! > General Trek Discussion

General Trek Discussion Trek TV and cinema subjects not related to any specific series or movie.

Reply
 
Thread Tools
Old May 30 2010, 07:56 PM   #1
Andonagio
Commander
 
Andonagio's Avatar
 
Star Trek, Risk and SF Television

SF TV viewers are very strongly in favor of originality and risk-taking in their television. Nowhere is this clearer than in the last 20 years of Star Trek on TV.

When TNG premiered in 1987, it was unique to television. There hadn't been a lot of SF TV since TOS ended in 1969, and what we did have consisted largely of action shows or sitcoms with a sci-fi twist (The Six Million Dollar Man, Knight Rider, ALF, Mork and Mindy, etc.). Without much precedent to work from, pretty much anything TNG did was risky, fresh and original. In fact, the only thing TNG could really copy was TOS, which it did to some degree in the first two seasons. Consequently, these seasons are regarded as the weakest, and it wasn't until the show found its own voice in the third season that it really took off.

But by the time VOY premiered in 1995, the landscape had changed. TNG and DS9 were no longer the only kids on the block, and audience expectations were higher. During VOY's run, the X-Files and DS9 were already on TV, and shows such as Farscape and Stargate SG-1 premiered. TNG took risks and pushed boundaries during its time, and now these other shows were taking further risks while VOY was not. As a result, VOY, which was trying to go back to TNG, felt stagnant.

This was one of the chief complaints I heard about VOY: it felt derivative. What was fresh and original with TNG was becoming predictable and hackneyed by the time of VOY's premiere, and there's nothing that SF fans hate more than feeling their favorite franchise is withering on the vine. (VOY's setting in the Delta quadrant made the TNG-style stories feel even more absurd.) DS9 was trying to push the boundaries of Star Trek just as TNG had done during its time: why couldn't VOY do the same thing?

The situation was even worse when ENT premiered in 2001. If VOY felt predictable, ENT, which was still trying to tell the same type of story, felt totally uncreative. It wasn't until the fourth season, when ENT finally found its own voice and started telling original stories, that the viewers' complaints diminished.

I think this is also why there was so much fan protest when shows such as Farscape and Firefly were canceled prematurely. It wasn't just that they were good stories with strong characters: they were promising to push SF TV storytelling in new directions. A couple of years ago, I posted a thread asking why Firefly's cancellation was such a sin, and one respondent said that the Firefly universe "screamed for exploration." In other words, Firefly had a lot of potential that got lost with its cancellation.

And yet Enterprise, which was also on at the time, was getting renewed. So a show promising new ideas and original storytelling got canceled, while a show that rehashed the same ideas and tropes was getting renewed? It wasn't fair, and it created a lot of cynicism about TV networks, American audiences and the future of SF TV. If networks and audiences didn't support original SF TV, many argued, then there was no future on SF TV. You can't sustain the quality of the genre on television with stories, characters and tropes people have seen countless times already.

Why do SF TV audiences value risk-taking and originality so much? I think audiences of all genres do to a certain extent, but it's especially poignant with SF. Why? There are a multitude of reasons, such the close relationship between the fans and the fictional universe. But I think the most important reason is that SF has historically been a testing ground for new ideas, whether scientific, technological, social or philosophical. SF audiences understand that (at least subconsciously), so when a show or franchise stops presenting new ideas and no longer challenges its viewers, we feel that it's not living up to its potential as science fiction. We like SF because of the sense of exploration and discovery it gives us, and we're not exploring and discovering if we've been there already.

I think we're starting to see the same problem now with SGU. In addition to complaints about the writing and characters, I think part of the reason there's so much resentment against the show is that it smacks of too many shows that have come before it. The setting feels like BSG. The "lost in space" concept has been played up repeatedly. Some of the characters feel like they walked in off of Lost. We've seen these characters and situations already, and we're growing weary of it. Once again, it's a show that's not demonstrating a lot of potential.

But that's just my perspective on SF TV. Thoughts?
__________________
"The idea of fitting in just...repels me." --Guinan, "Hollow Pursuits"
Andonagio is offline   Reply With Quote
Old May 30 2010, 09:11 PM   #2
Cornholio
Rear Admiral
 
Cornholio's Avatar
 
Location: U.S.A.
Re: Star Trek, Risk and SF Television

Andonagio wrote: View Post
In fact, the only thing TNG could really copy was TOS, which it did to some degree in the first two seasons. Consequently, these seasons are regarded as the weakest, and it wasn't until the show found its own voice in the third season that it really took off.
I would disagree that the reason the first two seasons of TNG are regarded as weak is because it copied TOS. I would humbly submit that the writing was the prime cause of this, and a secondary cause would be the acting.

Andonagio wrote: View Post
But by the time VOY premiered in 1995, the landscape had changed. TNG and DS9 were no longer the only kids on the block, and audience expectations were higher. During VOY's run, the X-Files and DS9 were already on TV, and shows such as Farscape and Stargate SG-1 premiered. TNG took risks and pushed boundaries during its time, and now these other shows were taking further risks while VOY was not. As a result, VOY, which was trying to go back to TNG, felt stagnant.
it's not that VOY didn't take risks, it's that those risks were already taken. not surprising.

Andonagio wrote: View Post
This was one of the chief complaints I heard about VOY: it felt derivative. What was fresh and original with TNG was becoming predictable and hackneyed by the time of VOY's premiere, and there's nothing that SF fans hate more than feeling their favorite franchise is withering on the vine. (VOY's setting in the Delta quadrant made the TNG-style stories feel even more absurd.) DS9 was trying to push the boundaries of Star Trek just as TNG had done during its time: why couldn't VOY do the same thing?
I would humbly, and respectfully suggest that there was simply too much Trek on TV at the same time. you can't dilute the writing teams, and production teams, and expect the same quality results.

I would use the analogy of expansion in professional sports. as each of the 4 major leagues adds teams, the quality of the sports goes down. some people think expansion is good thing, I disagree.

Trek was the cash cow of Paramount, and they beat it to death, dug it up, and repeated the whole process.

Andonagio wrote: View Post
The situation was even worse when ENT premiered in 2001. If VOY felt predictable, ENT, which was still trying to tell the same type of story, felt totally uncreative. It wasn't until the fourth season, when ENT finally found its own voice and started telling original stories, that the viewers' complaints diminished.
I tend to agree here. I never was too excited 'bout the prospect of a prequel. why go back when you can continue to go forward? all they did here was rip pandora's box of canon wide open, and then stepped on her neck. I did however enjoy the 4th season better than the first 3.

Andonagio wrote: View Post
I think this is also why there was so much fan protest when shows such as Farscape and Firefly were canceled prematurely. It wasn't just that they were good stories with strong characters: they were promising to push SF TV storytelling in new directions. A couple of years ago, I posted a thread asking why Firefly's cancellation was such a sin, and one respondent said that the Firefly universe "screamed for exploration." In other words, Firefly had a lot of potential that got lost with its cancellation.
interestingly enough, I just finished watching Firefly again last night. I'm debating whether to move on and watch DS9 again, or rewatch Firefly. I'd have to say I'm leaning towards starting Firefly again. the show was so farkin' good. way better than any of the Trek spin-offs. I was hooked instantly.

Browncoats rule!!

Andonagio wrote: View Post
And yet Enterprise, which was also on at the time, was getting renewed. So a show promising new ideas and original storytelling got canceled, while a show that rehashed the same ideas and tropes was getting renewed? It wasn't fair, and it created a lot of cynicism about TV networks, American audiences and the future of SF TV. If networks and audiences didn't support original SF TV, many argued, then there was no future on SF TV. You can't sustain the quality of the genre on television with stories, characters and tropes people have seen countless times already.
I've always been cynical about TV networks. there's nothing these days that I watch on the over-the-air broadcast networks. creatively bankrupt if you ask me. and there's very little that I watch on the cable networks either.

Andonagio wrote: View Post
Why do SF TV audiences value risk-taking and originality so much? I think audiences of all genres do to a certain extent, but it's especially poignant with SF. Why?
I think it's because SF presents the opportunity to tell stories in a more metaphoric and allegoric manner.

Andonagio wrote: View Post
I think we're starting to see the same problem now with SGU. In addition to complaints about the writing and characters, I think part of the reason there's so much resentment against the show is that it smacks of too many shows that have come before it. The setting feels like BSG. The "lost in space" concept has been played up repeatedly. Some of the characters feel like they walked in off of Lost. We've seen these characters and situations already, and we're growing weary of it. Once again, it's a show that's not demonstrating a lot of potential.
the whole expansion of proffessional sports analogy works here too. what are there now, like 8 SG shows? I stopped watching years ago.

nice essay Andonagio.
__________________
I am not Herbert.
Cornholio is offline   Reply With Quote
Old May 31 2010, 04:44 AM   #3
Ziz
Commodore
 
Ziz's Avatar
 
Location: NY
Re: Star Trek, Risk and SF Television

Dennis Miller did a number of rants on his old HBO show about the lack of quality and effort put into TV shows of all types. Here are some of the highlights of all of them.

Now, I don't want to get off on a rant here, but between test audiences, exit polls and focus groups, the creative filmmaking process is now about as spontaneous and inspired as a Jesse Helms bowel movement.

The TV beast ate us whole, quicker than a dog on a dreamsicle. Most talk shows are just Bimbomercials. And many sitcoms need two longshoremen with a pipe wrench to twist the canned laughter dial.

TV producers say "Americans enjoy the stupid shit." But hey, it's the same reason Eskimos eat blubber - it's the only fuckin’ thing available in the Arctic buffet, okay.

To assure that everyone's going to "get it", the networks have to make certain that their programs are about as challenging as bowling during a 7.4 on the Richter scale. Their job is to make sure that the only thing that goes over our collective heads is that hat with the two beer can holders and the Styrofoam boobs on the front. Thus, they give us shows that are blander than Strom Thurmond's diet. And any show that doesn't pull numbers like a bingo caller on methamphetamines is immediately snuffed.

Indeed, in the business of television, brightness can often be taken from you and used as the scimitar to cleave your occupational head off. Now, there are many reasons for the cancellation of a show, and I'm pretty sure that the culpability flow chart on the demise of the program reads like the genealogy of the kid on the porch in Deliverance.

I'm also reasonably sure it has to do with the use of words like "genealogy", which I think most Americans believe to be when Barbara Eden visits her ob-gyn.

Now they're talking about five hundred channels. I can't wait to see what kind of brilliantly horrific programs are out there when we get up to half a thou. Hell, I'd give the "cat box" channel a chance if it came with basic cable.

I'm sure that in the near future, people will go to the hospital (or should I say, turn on the Hospital Channel) and have their brains taken out, just as a precaution.

And finally, the most moronic thing about modern movies has to be the catch phrase, the little signature line a performer feels he needs to use as a Pavlovian pork chop to wave in front of his devoted audience. It's just disrespectful to use some tired old hackneyed phrase as a lame crutch.

Of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.
At a glance, I agree with him, which is essentially the core problem with SF programming on TV - the suits talk a nice game about being "edgy" and "innovative" and "different" and (insert buzzword of the moment here) but the bottom line is, well, the bottom line - they're afraid to take the "BIG" chances because they don't want someone else to be able to say "I told you so" when something goes wrong...which ironically is exactly what happens when their "safe" show bombs out like you did back in high school when your friends slipped you that left over Easter candy that they made out of Ex-Lax after the spring break weekend 2AM run to Taco Bell.

I've become so sick of trying to find good SF TV when it's on that with rare exception I rather just sit back and read everyone else's opinions of it and just buy the DVD box set 6 months later. Then I can watch it at my own pace and without the commercials super-imposed on the screen the whole time telling me to watch something else.

Between direct-to-DVD releases and more content becoming available streaming online (either for free or for a chage), I'm actually looking forward to the day that the whole broadcast/cable/satellite business model implodes on itself like the RIAA effectively did with the whole MP3/file sharing controversy. Maybe then we can get TRULY creative programming instead of the majority of what we're given.

If you want a perfect example of what counts as "quality" vs. "original" material, check out what (and I hate to type it this way, but considering the level they're operating at now, it's appropriate) SyFy Channel runs during Sweeps weeks vs. the rest of the time. At Sweeps, they run movies you've heard of. The rest of the time it's their home grown, shot in a weekend, FX done on a Commodore 64, mix-n-match monster of the week crap that they only make so they can sell it to overseas markets that don't know any better.
__________________
Modular Models - Build your fleet YOUR way.
Ziz is offline   Reply With Quote
Old May 31 2010, 05:38 AM   #4
T'Girl
Vice Admiral
 
T'Girl's Avatar
 
Re: Star Trek, Risk and SF Television

Ziz wrote: View Post
If you want a perfect example of what counts as "quality" vs. "original" material ...
In my mind a good example of this would be "FlashForward." In terms of an original idea, oh my God, what a great idea for a sci-fi series, the pilot totally had me hooked, I was ready for this to become my new favorite series.

And I tried, I really tried to watch this gathering train wreak of a series. I remembered how good series in the past had faltered at first before finding their way. FlashForward just was worse written every week, steady decrease in quality. Finally it was time to discard this deception of a good idea. It was like meeting a cute guy at the bar, but when you get him home it turns out he just can't keep it up, no matter how much effort you put into him.

I removed FlashForward from my DVR and took a long hot shower.
T'Girl is offline   Reply With Quote
Old May 31 2010, 01:36 PM   #5
Anwar
Vice Admiral
 
Anwar's Avatar
 
Location: Regina, SK, Canada
Re: Star Trek, Risk and SF Television

Well, frankly Flashforward never had the best premise for a continuing series. A Single-season series possibly, but preferably a mini-series.

The problem with Trek was oversaturation and marginalization. This isn't like with mainstream shows like all the CSI or Law and Order programs which draw in tons of people, Trek has its niche and spread itself too thinly. There shouldn't have been more than one show on the air at the time. VOY should've only aired a year or so after DS9 ended.

Trek works best when it's syndicated and not at the whims of a single network (which is why TNG and DS9 had their creative freedom), VOY and ENT's main failings can mainly be attributed to UPN. Or they should've been on a BETTER network like Sci-Fi (which gave Farscape and BSG their freedoms, most of the time).
Anwar is offline   Reply With Quote
Old May 31 2010, 04:35 PM   #6
Andonagio
Commander
 
Andonagio's Avatar
 
Re: Star Trek, Risk and SF Television

I think oversaturation may have been part of the reason why VOY and ENT struggled creatively. With so much Trek, the writers were starting to repeat themselves and had a harder time pushing the envelope without an infusion of fresh talent. Trek fans picked up on this burn-out pretty easily.

That said, I think that if VOY and ENT had had more creative freedom and took more risks (by way of new incoming talent), the shows would've sat better with the fans. VOY could have pursued its own creative direction even with DS9 still on the air.

By the way, I'm a huge fan of Trek all the way through VOY. I think VOY was a great series, but I understand a lot of the criticisms levied against the show when I watch it. I'm doing a lot of playing devil's advocate here.
__________________
"The idea of fitting in just...repels me." --Guinan, "Hollow Pursuits"
Andonagio is offline   Reply With Quote
Old May 31 2010, 04:48 PM   #7
Anwar
Vice Admiral
 
Anwar's Avatar
 
Location: Regina, SK, Canada
Re: Star Trek, Risk and SF Television

Also, it would seriously help if neither had been on UPN. They either needed to be syndicated or be on a network that doesn't interfere much with their shows like Sci-Fi.

Berman thought that it would've been better if VOY hadn't been produced until after DS9, and that ENT shouldn't have aired until a few years after VOY ended. He wanted that time to better develop both shows and get new writers. I agree with him.
Anwar is offline   Reply With Quote
Old May 31 2010, 05:25 PM   #8
T'Girl
Vice Admiral
 
T'Girl's Avatar
 
Re: Star Trek, Risk and SF Television

Beyond fresh talent in the form of new writers, am I the only one who believes both VOY and ENT would have prospered creatively with different people in the upper levels of the production team?

New writers can only do so much if it's the same few people running the show.
T'Girl is offline   Reply With Quote
Old May 31 2010, 08:56 PM   #9
Gotham Central
Vice Admiral
 
Location: Chicago, IL
View Gotham Central's Twitter Profile
Re: Star Trek, Risk and SF Television

T'Girl wrote: View Post
Beyond fresh talent in the form of new writers, am I the only one who believes both VOY and ENT would have prospered creatively with different people in the upper levels of the production team?

New writers can only do so much if it's the same few people running the show.

You are certainly not the only one.

The biggest problem with all Trek after DS9 was that they were created and run by yes men. Men who were desperately afraid of challenging the network.

One of the things that I loved learing about the behind the scenes on DS9 was that Ira S. behr was that he actually would FIGHT for his, and his team's creative vision. He did not easily take no for an answer...and would at time find ways around the silly rules that Berman tried to impose.

Berman, conversely, had no vision or back bone. The result was that Voyager and Enterprise were as bland and formulaic as UPN demanded. He would not fight for anything.

Ironically, It took Manny Coto to come in with a vision and then push for creative change.
__________________
Well maybe I'm the faggot America.
I'm not a part of a redneck agenda.
Now everybody do the propaganda.
And sing along in the age of paranoia

Green Day
Gotham Central is offline   Reply With Quote
Old May 31 2010, 09:38 PM   #10
Anwar
Vice Admiral
 
Anwar's Avatar
 
Location: Regina, SK, Canada
Re: Star Trek, Risk and SF Television

Even if Berman was more "F you" to his bosses, it wouldn't have changed anything. Behr just likes to overstate how they had it in DS9. The core difference between VOY/ENT and the other shows was that the former were network shows on a notoriously BAD network. If Ira Behr was on VOY he'd have either quit in frustration 1/3 through season one or been asked to leave (fired).

By the time Coto was in charge of ENT, the UPN higher-ups had also decided to back off. It wasn't just Coto but upper-management deciding to stop interfering that also helped.
Anwar is offline   Reply With Quote
Old May 31 2010, 10:13 PM   #11
xortex
Commodore
 
Location: Staten Island, NY
Re: Star Trek, Risk and SF Television

That would have been great if anyone agreed with Behr's vision. Coto was just regurgitating TOS and cannabalizing it - subtracting from it.
xortex is offline   Reply With Quote
Old June 1 2010, 12:05 AM   #12
Anwar
Vice Admiral
 
Anwar's Avatar
 
Location: Regina, SK, Canada
Re: Star Trek, Risk and SF Television

I think Micheal Piller had the right idea for Trek, myself. But he moved onto Dead Zone after nearly averting the creation of Stargate SG-1 with his RDA show "Legend" before it was canceled.
Anwar is offline   Reply With Quote
Old June 1 2010, 01:15 AM   #13
xortex
Commodore
 
Location: Staten Island, NY
Re: Star Trek, Risk and SF Television

There is a man in a remote town in Italy who could do it - the mighty Menosky!
And why is it always someone named Rick??
xortex is offline   Reply With Quote
Old June 1 2010, 02:36 AM   #14
SFRabid
Commodore
 
SFRabid's Avatar
 
Re: Star Trek, Risk and SF Television

I never saw anything new or risk taking about Firefly. It is one of the few scifi shows that I gave up on. Farscape was good for a few years but then I seemed to get stuck in a loop towards the end. Maybe it needed fresh writers.

For me, the biggest problem with Voyager and Enterprise was too much too fast. Maybe that is why so many people enjoy those shows more after waiting a few years to watch them.
SFRabid is offline   Reply With Quote
Old June 1 2010, 03:02 AM   #15
retrogradeloop
Captain
 
retrogradeloop's Avatar
 
Location: Mount Sharp
View retrogradeloop's Twitter Profile
Re: Star Trek, Risk and SF Television

I'd really appreciate some specific examples of what constitutes "risk taking" or "pushing the boundaries" esp. in TNG. I never thought of it as particularly innovative, although like you, I enjoy everything.
retrogradeloop is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump



All times are GMT +1. The time now is 11:29 AM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.6
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
FireFox 2+ or Internet Explorer 7+ highly recommended.