June 15 2024


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Billingsley: Studio Greed Killed Enterprise

2 min read

Star Trek: Enterprise‘s John Billingsley , who played Phlox on the series, spoke about what made Star Trek great and why Star Trek: Enterprise ended so soon.

According to Billingsley, the future that Star Trek portrayed was a hopeful one. “For me, its success originally came from the idea that it was positing the hope and future for mankind, and (creator Gene) Roddenberry certainly was of a mind that Star Trek was designed to say first and foremost, ‘Yes we can.’ There is a time when different cultures and different races can bury the hatchet and we can find a way through our problems and thrive and grow.”

“When the show premiered in the 1960s we were going through a period in our history not unlike the period we’re going through now,” said Billingsley. “There was a tremendous amount of divide in our country…race riots, divisions over the Vietnam War, we’d lost a president, we were in a tremendous amount of social turmoil. And I think Star Trek suggested it was possible to get through that.”

Billingsley himself is not as optimistic about mankind as Roddenberry was. “While I admire the conceit of Star Trek, and the optimism of it, I don’t necessarily share that opinion,” he said. “I’m considerably more cynical about mankind.”

Star Trek: Enterprise ended after only four seasons, and Billingsley blames that on the studio and its greed. “But what happened with Voyager and our show Enterprise, and I don’t mean this in any way as a knock on our executive producers, …but Paramount was saying more, more, more, more, more, because they viewed this as a commercial product. Nothing (in television) works when it is brought into being by the marketing department. Paramount kind of sabotaged itself. I think they got greedy, and that’s what studios do, unfortunately, because they are run largely by bean counters.

“I say this, sounding harsh to my own ear: Everybody is in business to make a buck. But the idea that you have to have a product that has some artistic viability, that it just isn’t cash in, sometimes eludes the folks who are looking at the bottom line.”

Low ratings didn’t help the show either. “It’s a miracle we got four seasons,” said Billingsley. “Any other TV show would have been yanked after one season. Our ratings were abysmal. We opened well, we had a great audience for the first episode, and they watched it and they said, ‘This is nothing new. It’s the same Star Trek I’ve been watching for years and years. It’s a retread.’ And they ran away.”

Billingsley will be attending Starbase Indy, which begins today and runs through Sunday at the Indianapolis Marriott East in Indianapolis, Indiana.

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13 thoughts on “Billingsley: Studio Greed Killed Enterprise

  1. He’s right… Thankfully, CBS/Paramount have learned from their past mistakes and won’t simply put out another tired retread in hopes of cashing in… oh… wait… yeah… Young TOS characters and Khan. Nevermind.

  2. I am sorry…writing killed the show early on…I’ve gone bacfk and watched Season 4 and I’ve really enjoyed. I originally fave up 1/3 into Season 3…was so slow and boring.

  3. I thought ENT was one of the best Star Trek of ALL TIME!!!! Season’s 1-4 were ALL great. I hate to tell you this, but REALITY TV killed off this show and many other good shows back then. The CW was going Reality TV crazy around the time of ENT so I don’t agree with Bilingsley here at all. Boycott reality TV (It’s mindless and stupid)! Only now are we starting to see the demise of reality TV and seeing good shows come back to the tube…

  4. He’s spot on – the show was retread. 18+ years of the same plotting and pacing, the same 80s TV sensibilities, the same character archetypes, it was a wonder it lasted 4 seasons.

  5. If only it were a retread, it might have been good. Instead it was mired in petty political conflicts and lacked the awe and wonder of space and, like TNG, the profound philosophical themes that can come out it.

  6. Mr. Billingsley in these quotes doesn’t tell us anything new. I was hoping for details.

    The thing that really brought the show down for me was the Temporal Cold War arc which seeped into the entire show. The arc should have been and could have been the formation of the Federation. Sadly, we only got glimmers of that especially in the final episodes. Time travelers should be used rarely instead of being an entire overshadowing story arc.

  7. “Nothing (in television) works when it is brought into being by the marketing department.” and “…because they are run largely by bean counters.”

    I couldn’t agree more. There is no artistic endeavor that can’t be corrupted by the bean counter mentality. In movies and television this is, unfortunately, more the rule than the exception. The bottom line is generally controlled by the bottom of the American audiences’ taste. Sad.

  8. I enjoyed this series, Voyager was to predictable whereas Enterprise had so many possibilities storywise. Season 3 was an improvement, more dramatic & the entire series made good use of CGI & great sets.

  9. It’s easy to be unpredictable when you throw continuity and common sense to the winds.
    The last season (when they hired actual writers who gave a crap) was a huge improvement, but a lot of damage had already been done, both to the series, and to the franchise as a whole.
    A lot of the problem with Enterprise overall is it was very market-driven: obligatory alien comic relief, obligatory emotionless hot chick fanservice, cameos by alien races that weren’t discovered until the 24th century, anachronistic technology, and the arrogant assumption that fans would continue to swallow whatever crap they gave us for a full seven years.
    It’s very hard to fix that kind of damage. The Reeves-Stevenses did a good job showrunning, and we got some really good stories. But Paraquat cancelled it anyway, and then Brannon Braga had to piss all over it and make the finale a half-baked NextGen episode.
    I agree the sets were great, a nice blend of old and new. The CGI was excellent. Once I got over the design of the NX, I could at least enjoy the way the show looked.
    I think if they’d had another season, even half, the show could have gotten its legs under it, erased the painful memories of the first few years of it, and been really good.

  10. Definitely. They laid the ground work for the Federation, and then decided lizards and time travel were more marketable. Hmm, though it would have been nice if they’d wrapped up the temporal cold war by fixing some of the glaring continuity errors…

  11. Agreed. Enterprise was very formula, Paratwit milked that dead horse into the ground.

  12. I don’t disagree with anything you’ve said, particularly, except that I don’t actually think Enterprise violated continuity… except in terms of certain tech, no doubt… but with regard to events, etc. I think they get a bad wrap. Sure, they’re seemingly contradictory, but they don’t have to be.

    One of the biggest issues for a lot of people is the treatment of the Vulcans. However, there was never really any detailed examination of the Vulcan culture or history. How could there be if Romulans weren’t even seen for a hundred more years and not known to be related to Vulcans until then? If humans didn’t know that 150 years into an interstellar alliance, it does beg the question of why… particularly after fighting a series of wars that leads to the very foundation of the Federation itself… So, the Vulcans were pretty closed off about their past.

    The problem with all that was that the fans didn’t believe there was a plan to take the Vulcans as presented in Enterprise and move them directly into the Vulcans we see from TOS forward. The fans just saw it as a mistake. A mistake the writers and producers were never able to fix because they ran out of time. Now, I’m not suggesting they deserved the time to tell the full story, but it was fan impatience that prevented that from eventually being told. All that said, the fans didn’t give them the time to tell that because they had so mishandled everything else… Not necessarily mishandled in a Trek sense, but I think they mostly failed in terms of basic quality storytelling. Who were we supposed to be interested in? Archer? The most boring captain we’ve ever seen. T’Pol? She wasn’t even that attractive, let alone interesting. Travis? LOL. Trip or Reed? Hoshi? Phlox was the most interesting and was almost uniformly wasted.

    Every story in that series would’ve been fine if the characters were better… Not great, but not cancelled. But at the same time, I don’t really think they violated canon or continuity all that much… The transporter, phasers, warp for the Romulans, etc, sure… But, and I could be wrong, I get the impression that you and others think they violated much more than that. I’m curious what those perceived violations are.

    In the end, studio greed combined with a lack of recognition that B&B’s creative storehouse was empty by that point is exactly what destroyed ST on tv… But I contend that was accomplished as much during Voyager as it was Enterprise… Enterprise was just the last straw. By that point the studio had so tied Trek to B&B that tossing them meant tossing the show… and I don’t know anyone who doesn’t think Trek would’ve been better off with Manny Coto and the Reeves-Stevenses in charge.

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