After almost 40 years of seeking out new life and new civilizations, the Star Trek mission has ended. UPN is canceling Star Trek: Enterprise, the fifth series in the franchise, whose final episode is May 13 (8:00-9:00 p.m. ET).
The original Star Trek ran a mere three seasons, from 1966 to 1969. By today's standards, the sets are cheesy, the special effects are laughable, and the acting is over the top. But it holds up, thanks to strong plots and memorable characters-Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty.
After an 18-year gap, Star Trek: Next Generation continued the voyage from 1987 to 1994. Then the series replicated and sometimes overlapped: Deep Space Nine (1993-1999), Voyager (1995-2001), Enterprise (2001-2005).
The sequels worked hard to re-create the original's focus on characters, and usually they succeeded.
The original series was hailed for being ahead of its time in its treatment of racial relations and cultural diversity, so that became a preoccupation of the new series. Sometimes themes that arise naturally can become preachy and forced when turned into a self-conscious formula. "To boldly go where no man has gone before" became less bold when the new generation changed it to "where no one has gone before." Many stories sacrificed themselves to uphold the politically correct slogans of their day, as when Riker of Next Generation destroyed all of the embryonic clones of himself, because "I have the right to control my own body."
Still, the saga often offered more thoughtful fare-such as the collectivist union called the Borg-and it kept the distinct imagination of science fiction on television. So Star Trek deserves a Vulcan Salute as it passes into reruns.