Star Trek: Enterprise nearly featured weekly musical acts in the mess hall, a network suggestion that indicated time was running out on the prequel series. Set about a century before the events of Star Trek: The Original Series, Enterprise struggled from the start; the show never quite found its footing creatively, and the ratings started out bad and only got worse. By season 3, Enterprise was in genuine danger of becoming the first Star Trek show to be canceled since TOS.
The failure of Star Trek: Nemesis at the box office in 2002 put an abrupt end to the film series starring the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Star Trek was entering arguably its darkest era, and Enterprise was barely hanging on. Producers Rick Berman and Brannon Braga attempted to boost interest in the show any way they could, such as longer form stories that reflected the new reality of the post-9/11 world at the time, embracing concepts from the franchise’s past like augments and exploring the discrepancy in Klingons’ appearances, and their perhaps most shamelessly and sometimes cartoonish sex appeal. Anything was on the table, including a rather ridiculous suggestion by a network executive.
Enterprise Almost Featured A Weekly Musical Act
Starting with Star Trek: Voyager in 1995, Star Trek shows aired on the UPN Network in the United States, rather than in syndication as had been the case with earlier series TNG and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. There were clear financial and promotional advantages to airing on a network, certainly in the case of UPN, where Star Trek had consistently been made a priority. The downside is network interference, often involving story and character suggestions from people who don’t fully understand the show.
This was clearly the case when Berman and Braga took a meeting with UPN executives during the show’s third season. One of the network executives pointed out that Captain Jonathan Archer’s NX-01 Enterprise featured a large room where the crew would eat and socialize – the mess hall. They suggested the mess hall feature a weekly young, hip band to play a popular song during the episode. A baffled Berman and Braga gently suggested this was simply not that kind of show, avoiding harsher, obvious questions like how a new band would even get to the Enterprise on a weekly basis within the context of the story. It was a clear sign the UPN regime at that time didn’t understand the show they were making, and that they likely wouldn’t be making it much longer.
Enterprise Was A Victim Of Shifting Network Priorities
While the suggestion of a weekly musical act on the Enterprise seems silly, it wasn’t out of nowhere. UPN was in the process of transforming itself into a network primarily aimed at young women and teenagers, and many of their shows at the time did indeed feature a weekly musical act. Enterprise had plenty of problems of its own making, but it was never going to be able to overcome the network’s shifting priorities.
Enterprise would be canceled by UPN after season four. It is, to date, the last Star Trek series to air regularly on a traditional television network, as modern Star Trek series all air on streaming services. Less than two years after Enterprise‘s cancelation UPN would morph into the CW, which would produce relatively low budget series aimed at a much younger audience. It was unlikely the struggling Star Trek: Enterprise was ever going to enjoy a long run on television, but UPN’s evolving priorities sealed its fate.
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