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Set Phasers On Bore!

Star Trek, that venerable institution, should have had the grace to pack up its molded plastic trunk and shuffle off into history back when there was at least a little shame left in the franchise. Instead, the desiccated corpse of a good idea and a few good episodes shambles endlessly through the wasteland of UPN, relying on two misguided Vidiots and a mass of very lonely fans to prop up its withered bones.

If there was any justice in the world -- and that Kate Mulgrew wears a collar with four pips is evidence that there isn't -- the last line in the Star Trek canon would have been "Fire!" That single moment -- Riker's order to destroy Locutus and the rest of the Borg in Season Three's cliffhanging "Best of Both Worlds" -- was a pinnacle that the nine grueling years since have done nothing to improve on, or match, or even approach.

Star Trek is played out, and has been for a long time. Forget arguments that interesting moral questions are being posed or that maybe a breather would help: there's no use talking about ethics or the future when the patient is a drooling vegetable. For the love of God, do the decent thing and just pull the plug. Things will never be like they were. While whatever incarnations of the Star Trek universe are currently running on those high-numbered channels may do a dandy job of tossing out cosmological stumpers, and while characters and situations may be just packed with potential, the franchise has suffered a much more fundamental problem for a very, very long time now: it's dull as dirt.

It's boring! It's silly! It's irredeemably awful! However Trek succeeds these days, in whatever manner it can be appreciated as anything beyond a full-employment act for facial prosthesis artists, it's not as entertainment. And, fundamentally, that's what it's supposed to be about, remember? It's TV! And for all television's failures, at the very least it's supposed to be entertaining.

Frankly, I got my fill of deep, dull nonsense in college, and at least "Ethan Frome" had the courtesy not to sully any good memories in the process of putting me to sleep.

I remember good Trek, good Trek was a friend of mine, and you, Voyager, are not good Trek. You are awkward, boring, stultifying Trek. Go away. You're not wanted.

Could you imagine if Next Generation had been canceled after the third season? Trek would have died a martyr. Riker's "Fire!" would have been the last, best memory of a show on its way up. That single moment was a brilliant combination of drama, tension, betrayal, regret. It worked, and worked in ways that television rarely does. As pure entertainment -- forget the franchise and the genre for a moment -- it succeeded brilliantly, and left me and millions of others breathless, overwhelmed, giddy.

The slide down from that single instant has been grindingly awful. Season Four opened with what would be a metaphor for almost everything since: their best shot a fizzling, useless dud.

I could list a whole ream of grievances here, page after page of embarrassments and disasters vomited out by Star Trek Inc. in the years since, but I very likely don't have to. Anybody who has managed to find any of the shows in well-nigh a decade knows them by heart. From Picard to Sisko to Janeway: who's next? Carrot Top?

In order to save Star Trek, it must be destroyed. To preserve anything of its (tattered, battered) reputation, to keep even the slightest (sullied, dirtied) memory, any current -- and future -- incarnations must be taken behind the shed and put out of their misery with an axe handle.

In fact, the proper thing to do isn't just end Trek now, but to go back in time -- or, heck, maybe jump to an alternate universe -- and make it so that the past nine years of almost entirely consistent weekly embarrassments never occurred.

Then, and only then, would you have a show worth praising, worth remembering, worth eulogizing, worth bothering with.


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