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 Friday, 3 January, 2003, 09:53 GMT
Star Trek: The final frontier?
Star Trek: Nemesis
Is this the crew's final voyage?

The 10th Star Trek movie, Star Trek: Nemesis, opens in the UK on Friday.

For some people Star Trek is not just a highly-lucrative TV and film franchise - it is a way of life.

In Maryland, in the United States, last week a couple married, exchanging vows in traditional Klingon.

Patrick Stewart
I feel like we don't want to be the last guests at the Star Trek party

Patrick Stewart
It is not an unusual ocurrence for fans who take their science fiction very seriously.

The late Gene Roddenberry's creation is now in its fifth decade with a 10th film in cinemas and a fifth TV spin off, Enterprise, keeping the franchise alive.

Final frontier

But the latest movie, Star Trek: Nemesis, looks like signalling the final frontier for the current incumbents of the film franchise.

"A generation's final journey begins," is the ominous tagline for the movie.

Patrick Stewart, who plays Captain Jean Luc Picard, said: "My feeling is that there is no reason why the franchise of Star Trek should not go on indefinitely.

"It is just that certain of us will fade out and move on."

Stewart, who has been in the US and the UK promoting the film, also hinted the latest film may be his last.

Worryingly

"I feel like we don't want to be the last guests at the Star Trek party," he said.

Star Trek facts
10 films
Five TV series
TV series shown in 100 countries
Movies earned $1bn
70 million books in print
Worryingly, Star Trek: Nemesis failed to grab the number one spot in the US box office charts after its opening weekend.

It took the least money out of the last four Trek movies in the same period.

The new TV series Enterprise, which has been given a more soapy feel than previous Star Trek series, has yet to appeal to the mainstream in the manner the writers hoped for.

But it is too early to predict the demise of the franchise because Star Trek has extricated itself from more dangerous scenarios in the past.

Cold War

Star Trek began life as a pilot for the NBC in 1964 as the space race between the US and the then USSR gathered momentum.

Creator Gene Roddenberry's vision of a benevolent imperialism in the form of a federation of planets, and storylines based around exploration and discovery chimed with the age.

The Cold War years were uncertain ones for many and Roddenberry's statement of hope for the future was comforting.

But the first pilot, The Cage, was never aired and it took another two years and a second pilot to convince NBC to commission a series.

Endless repeats

Star Trek was first broadcast on 8 September 1966 and lasted just three years before being cancelled, ironically in the year man first walked on the moon.

But the programme refused to die: endless repeats, worldwide syndication and the growing phenomenon of Star Trek conventions kept the show alive in the minds of fans.

Deep Space Nine
Deep Space Nine was the second spin off
A film and a new series were periodically discussed but never took off.

It took the success of George Lucas' Star Wars to convince NBC executives that there was still money to be made out of science fiction.

In 1979 Star Trek: The Motion Picture was released, reprising the adventures of Captain Kirk, Spock and friends.

Inevitable

Despite costing a then enormous $35m and boasting an overblown, pretentious plot it made $139m world-wide, and launched the franchise.

A second TV series became inevitable and Star Trek: The Next Generation was aired in 1987.

Captain Kirk and crew continued to star in the films while Captain Jean Luc Picard took the helm in the TV series.

The 1990s marked a furious amount of Star Trek activity, with three different series on air - The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager - and three movies made.

In 1994 the original star of Star Trek Captain Kirk, played by William Shatner, was seen handing on the baton to Picard in the film Star Trek Generations.

Natural death

From that point on the crew of The Next Generation became the stars of the film series and the Star Trek franchise seemed to be powering to warp factor nine.

But the cancellation, or natural death, of series The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager, has left the franchise without natural heirs.

The crew of new series Enterprise has yet to establish itself on television and the characters seem unlikely candidates for the big screen.

But Captain Kirk was able to make the transition from small to big screen despite a decade-long gap between his final TV episode and movie debut.

So there may be hope for the crews of Voyager and Deep Space Nine yet.

Ultimately it is about money - if Star Trek: Nemesis and TV series Enterprise fail to bring in the dollars the axe could fall on the franchise once more.

But even if that were to happen, it is never wise to write off the crew of the Enterprise.


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See also:

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