Requiem for Star Trek
|Title:||Requiem for Star Trek|
|Date(s):||very, very early 1968|
|Fandom:||Star Trek: TOS|
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The essay contains Vardeman's thoughts on the popularity of Star Trek: TOS, as well as speculation on the show's future as it finished up the second season. The essay includes lengthy reviews of the second season episodes.
Vademan wrote at the top of the essay:
This being Part the First goes out to only those of you who have expressed interest in Star Trek and to those of you who I suspect of having pointed ears. Part the Second will be published after the end of the current season of programming. All artwork by Robert E. Gilbert.
Some Topics Discussed
- can television present quality shows, or is it a pablum for the stupid and the the young
- is Star Trek: TOS a quality show, quality science fiction?
- "ST is too good to continue but isn't all that it could have been."
- pessimism regarding a possible third season
Excerpts from the Essay
People wonder why anyone can get hung up so on a TV show like Star Trek. First of all, it is the first continuing attempt to bring really good sf to the public and as such deserves support. "But ST isn't all that good" is shouted back by fannish critics and the only answer to that is, "No, it isn't all that good. But it, or its successor, just might be if it can be shown that adult sf can appeal to a mass media audience."
Second, the characters are, for the most part, well portrayed - and that is enough to recommend any TV show. Third, the special effects are of a high competence level in spite of having to appeal to overt booboos to tell everyone What's Happening (like shock waves in deep space hitting the Enterprise and shaking everybody aboard around a bit).
But now we come to why I've chosen A REQUIEM FOR STAR TREK as the title [of this essay]. ST is on its way out. Each half season produces a serious crisis with imminent cancellation a stark reality. ST will not be able to hang on to survive to a third season simply because it is not standard TV fare. The majority of TV shows are a combination of emotional vampirism and contrived (and identical) plots week after week. A program that attempts to make the viewer think before enjoyment is attained is doomed by the precedence of the stupidity established by the networks as a criterion for a "good" show. If the accounts of the ST viewership are correct, the show has anything but a mass media audience. The NASA scientists, college students, those interested in science and sf - and this is a very minor segment of the potential viewing audience. The kids under 12 and the adults with mentalities under 12 are where it's at in TV popularity.
And ST isn't where it's at. So ST is going to have to face up to the fact that it was simply too good to continue.This seems like a contradiction - and it is. ST is too good to continue but isn't all that it could have been. It appears that ST was doomed regardless of its quality - too good and it went over the heads of most potential viewers, too mediocre and fans would never have had a glimpse at their Valhalla of good sf. This season has been of a low quality considering the standards set last year but it still has been bettor (much better!) than Lost in Space or Voyager which are obviously aimed at the majority of viewers.
Looking back on 1967, there have been four shows deserving the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation.
Space Seed by Gene Coon and Carey Wilber, City on the Edge of Forever by Harlan Ellison, Journey to Babel by DC Fontana, and Wolf in the Fold by Robert Bloch. But even though there were as many Hugo-calibre shows in the first part of 1967-68 as there was in the latter portion of 1966-67, the shows this season have been generally lower in quality. But it must be remembered that ST started off slow last year and ended with some very good episodes.
POOR shows: Mirror, Mirror; Apple; Doomsday Machine; Friday's Child
Below ST average: Amok Time; Deadly Years; Obsession
Average ST fare: Who Mourns for Adonis?; Changeling; Catspaw; Metamorphosis
Above ST average; I Mudd; Trouble with TribblesHugo Calibre: Journey to Babel; Wolf in the Fold
That there are almost as many poor and below average shows as there are average and above indicates that ST hasn't made it back into the groove yet. And with the NBC banshees screeching outside the door, I don't think that ST will survive. Batting 500 in the major leagues is stupendous but on TV it can spell "RIP" unless the Great God Nielsen also gives His Blessings. The decline of the space program, the growing apathy/antipathy towards things scientific and the rise of comedy (well, They call it comedy; and quiz shows all nibble away at ST's chances for a third year. And the handwriting on the wall says "Cancellation".
I am known as both a cynic and a pessimist and all that I can say is that I sincerely hope that I am wrong. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than admitting that I was wrong about the people responsible for NBC's programming and that I had done them a gross injustice. I hope that ST lives to complete its five year mission. But I doubt it.If ST is renewed. Requiem part 2 will, instead, be called Reincarnation 2. If ST is killed, may it rise like the phoenix from its funeral pyre 'and soar once again in a future more favorable to adult science fiction.