The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review
littlereview

Save Star Trek, Indeed

An open letter to the founders of TrekUnited, who have apparently taken issue with my repeating StarTrek.com's warning that no one officially at Paramount has guaranteed that Enterprise will receive a fifth season even if they are able to raise the $36 million to fund one:

You are advertising on the TrekUnited site that nebulous and unnamed sources have told you that if you show them $30 million dollars, they will commit to another season of Star Trek Enterprise. "The cast and crew is 100% behind us, and the Paramount execs have expressed their willingness to talk," says your FAQ. This is directly contradictory to what I personally have been told by people at UPN and at Paramount Television; publicly, UPN has stated repeatedly that Star Trek does not fit in with the demographic it is trying to build, which is the given excuse for not promoting the series using Viacom's vast resources (they could have been advertising on CBS, at Blockbuster, on the radio, on stations owned by Paramount groups), and Paramount Television has said that it is not interested in producing another season of this particular Star Trek show. If you have any formal commitment from anyone connected with Viacom, Paramount Television or any other entity saying that if sufficient funds are raised, then another season of the show will be produced, I beg you to produce it and post it, or at least post the names of your sources. It is also important to note that "willingness to talk" and "strong probability of acquiescence" are two very different things.

I've been involved in Star Trek fandom for more than 10 years. In that time, I saw one fan club president go to jail, two others face lawsuits, and a couple of others simply take money from fans and run without ever being held to any accountability beyond anger. I am sure that there are hundreds of fans with the best of intentions, and a few fans whose intentions may not be the best. What I see here is the possibility that people may send you thousands of dollars, based on their own belief that you have a firm commitment for production of another season of the show if you raise sufficient funds. I see people accepting your claims that you have direct contacts at Paramount who can and will make this happen if you show them the money. I see people putting funds into PayPal (and I am quite aware of how much transaction fees can add up to) without understanding that, given the unlikelihood of raising so many millions of dollars, they could lose a significant percentage of what they would offer to donate if a fifth season was in fact on the horizon. You have less than $30,000 raised; you are suggesting that you can and will raise more than ten times that amount under very tight time constraints. You've had a publicity bonanza the past few days, but you aren't advertising that any corporate sponsors have joined you. Exactly how much money will PayPal be earning off the forwarding and reversing of charges? Exactly how much will be skimmed off for web and advertising expenses or whatever else anyone involved in the campaign believes is his or her due? Where is the public documentation of those details?

You state on your web site that if a million fans each gave $36, it would pay for another season of Enterprise. I must tell you that if I had $36 to spend, I would be using it to buy a used copy of Deep Space Nine Season Five on DVD -- not on another year of Enterprise. Realistically, there's no way each of Enterprise's weekly viewers is going to send you even $12...if UPN can't bring in more viewers when they're giving the show away, you're talking about a very small group that is going to pay to see it. Realistically, I see a group of passionate fans sending you whatever sums they can, while more casual fans decide that they'd rather donate their money to tsunami relief or keep it for their own or their children's educations. This doesn't make them "bad fans." So far as I can tell from your web site, none of the millionaires in the production office are donating their money. Scott Bakula and the rest of the cast haven't announced that they will take a salary cut. Condemning fans for being realistic about the marketplace is extremely unfair.

And to suggest that people cannot be "true fans" if they prefer other incarnations of Trek, or if they simply think Enterprise has run its course, is also not fair to the millions of people who have watched Star Trek over the years. As I'm sure you can tell yourself from the ratings, there are millions and millions of viewers who were once fans of the franchise who no longer watch it weekly or even monthly. I don't want to get into a debate here about how much of this is UPN's fault or Paramount's or Viacom's or Rick Berman's, because I agree that a large amount of the blame does lie with them. But I do not believe that raising millions of dollars for a fifth season of Enterprise best serves Star Trek or its fans. There wouldn't be a "Kill Enterprise" web site and so many passionate critics of the show if the show's appeal was widespread among Trekkers, let alone among viewing audiences as a whole.

I do love Star Trek. But I don't want to see it cheapened in production values, and I don't want to see fans get ripped off. I would have posted that cautionary note whether it appeared on the official site or just some rival fan group's bulletin board, because these are very large sums of money you are asking from people and I worry a lot about what would happen to the Star Trek franchise if large numbers of fans believed that they had been defrauded, promised a fifth season if money was raised when there isn't even a guarantee that the money will bring about the desired result. If you know something I don't -- if Rick Berman or Les Moonves or someone else has given a firm commitment that the money will buy another year of Enterprise, with the support from Paramount that it needs to remain viable -- I'd love for you to announce that, but until you do, I'm going to stand by that warning.

I'm speaking only for me, by the way. If TrekToday wants to have a different official stance, that is not my call.

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