Monday, May 08, 2006

A Letter To Dave 2

Dave; I’ve been looking into this entire cancellation thing regarding Enterprise and frankly old boy, this situation is about as ugly as it possibly could be. At first glance it appeared to be just another example of the usual anti-science-fiction bias in the television industry. While I was doing my usual research on the Internet I came across some info that indicates that the prime authorisation for the cancellation originated in the highest levels of the corridors of power in the United States. Of course I’m not speaking of the White House (that’s laughable) but of the true power in the United States; the cigarette lobby.

It’s a well-known "episode" (so to speak) in Star Trek lore, which is worth repeating here. During the second season of the Original Series Desilu Studios was approached by representatives of the Big Seven in the cigarette industry who wanted to be advertised on the show. Their idea was to have Mister Spock smoking “space cigarettes” (this is a true fact and was documented in the first book ever written about Star Trek called The Making Of Star Trek by Stephen Whitfield). Gene Roddenberry said ‘no way’ and the stage was set. The initial reaction from the butt-boys was slack-jawed rage. Nobody ever refused them, as a quick look at 1960’s television will show since back then everybody on television smoked, even the kids! The butt-boys first thought was to immediately cancel Star Trek, but the ratings (such as they were calculated back then) were too good and so Desilu refused to play ball (Desilu was owned by Lucille Ball and nobody told that chick what to do).

However nobody has ever accused the cigarette industry of having morals or anything so they figured some way to fake the ratings and due to the NBC television networks total inability to understand what they had hold of, a year later Star Trek was cancelled. The cigarette industry, which collectively has the memory of an elephant and the personal hygiene of a diarrhoeic gorilla, rejoiced. What they saw as an essentially anti-smoking show was out of the way and they could now turn their attention to other things like hooking an entire new generation on their carcinogenic product (enter Joe Camel.)

In one way this was a good thing for Trekies everywhere because it meant that the butt-boys attention was taken off the ever-growing popularity of Star Trek which lead (eventually) to the Star Trek movies, then Next Generation, DS9, Voyager and even more movies, and in all that filmed action there was not even one scene of some poor Starfleet guy sitting down for a relaxing smoke after a tough day fighting Klingons or Romulans or something. Actually, there were a couple of notable exceptions: in Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan (1982) there is a ‘No Smoking’ sign on the bridge of the Enterprise. In the Next Generation episode Deja Q (Production No. 161, Feb. 5, 1990) Picard and Riker each have cigars in their mouths at the end of the show. There was also a lot of smoking in the DS9 episode Little Green Men (Production No. 480, Nov. 13, 1995) but that episode took place in Earth’s past when everybody smoked, so it doesn’t count (there are a few time travel episodes that also fit into this description). At any rate, the cigarette companies, when they finally caught on, were not pleased. Not pleased at all.

Then a brand new edition of Star Trek came out called Enterprise and that was the straw that broke that camel’s back (so to speak)(Camels being a brand of cigarette)(get it?) It was time to grab the bull by the unit and this bulls name was Enterprise. Thus began a campaign of threat and intimidation that would have done many Christian Fundamentalist organisations or even the NRA proud. In fact this campaign would have been immediately successful had it been aimed at some poor TV news anchor, or perhaps at some “reality TV” host, but as it was it merely looked silly. Imagine trying to intimidate crack members of Starfleet such at the members of the crew of the NX-01 Enterprise. Not friggin’ likely. For four long years threats bounced off the crew like new ideas off the Taliban until it became obvious to even a bunch of world class maroons such as cigarette company executives tend to be that these tactics weren’t getting them anywhere. Time to shift target.

Sights were set on the bulging behind of the President, CEO and big poop of the TV network that owned Enterprise, UPN. This was the five time winner of the ‘Biggest Dope In The Universe’ contest, one Mister Danforth Quayle, a chicken-hawk with the mental agility of a flattened dust bunny and the proud whipping-boy of a rich wife. The butt company threat-masters pointed out to Danforth that his network would pull in lots of more dollarses if they came up with another reality TV show or two (one based on the movie ‘Supersize Me’ is expected to do quite well) and got rid of that Star Trek thing. Danforth “thought” about it and decided in his own muddled way that your average United Station doesn’t want television that might challenge he or she to think. Rather they want to watch a show about people eating too much fast food then puffing up like mushrooms and popping like frogs under a Toyota. To be honest, for all I know he might be right. I’ve been wrong about this stuff before.

Like I said buddy, it’s an ugly situation and the only slight bit of brightness I can see at the end of this tunnel is that Enterprise will at least be available on DVD and that’s where we stand now.

Anyway… Humouroceros

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