Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Where's Ten Years Gone?

With a flypast from two starships named Enterprise as Archer, Kirk and Picard recited the now famous "Space, the final frontier..." opening, the titles rolled and that was it.

Ten years ago today, 13th May 2005, These are the Voyages..., the last and by no means best episode of prequel series Star Trek: Enterprise aired. Yep, it's a decade since the crew of the NX-01 skipped a few years of adventures to tell one last story and become guest stars in their own finale. Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis tried their best to play Riker and Troi as if they were actually discussing events that happened during The Pegasus. Note to fans, that was an episode made 12 years earlier so any form of consistency was lost to begin with however much effort was put in.

From recent reports it continues to be nailed into our skulls that there's going to be no new series on TV. While the cash is rolling in thanks to the rebooted JJ Abrams universe which has already seen two multi-million dollar movies take the big screen by storm and a third, suggested to be titled Star Trek Beyond, lined up for 2016 it's movies or nothing. Think about this though - it was ten years from the end of The Original Series to the release of The Motion Picture and we've been lucky enough since the end of Enterprise to get two new movies and a whole ruck of fan series and flicks that have satiated some of our thirst for original Star Trek content. In some respects the future never looked so good especially in comparison to that barren decade of the 70's.

Now Some Kind of Star Trek has given a fair amount of column inches to the rumours, the stories, the suggestions and even THAT Captain Worf series. We could easily spend this 10th anniversary of the end of first run Star Trek by crying into our blood wine and lamenting its passing or moaning about the way in which JJ chose to take the franchise or that the likelihood that a new Star Trek TV series is an eternity away (please let's not get into that Jonathan Frakes angle).

So instead of picking over old bones once more, let's be uplifted. While These are the Voyages... might have been a poor way to say goodbye, what were the five best ways that Star Trek closed a season? What were the best finales the show produced over 49 years? I'm going to take a pot shot and select my favourites. Be free to disagree.

The Best of Both Worlds

Let's start with the obvious one and work away from it. Undoubtedly one of the biggest episodes of all time and arguably the defining cliffhanger in Star Trek history. The Riker sub-story, Picard captured, the return of the Borg, a seemingly lost cause, a magnificent, haunting soundtrack; all add to make this hit every single marker you could want. The conclusion is nowhere near as good simply because there was no way it could live up to the hype of part one. Those final few moments where we realise it really is that bad are seminal.

Notable Quotable: "Mr Worf - fire". - Riker

Key Moment: The cube ship appears for the first time accompanied by that haunting choral theme which plays out across the rest of the episode - we have engaged the Borg.

Cliffhanger: Jeez. Millions went into meltdown as resistance seemed to be 100% futile. Boxsets make it do much easier. Note that in part two however it's not Worf that does the firing but Geordi....!

All Good Things...

It formulated the way to make a show finale for both Deep Space Nine and Voyager with both series attempting to provide a "full circle" experience. Returning Q, linking three distinct time periods and bringing back a couple of our favourite characters made this a must see in every respect. Let's not forget it also marked the first time a Star Trek show had chosen to finish rather than being cancelled. Science fiction was growing in popularity thanks to the show and the future for Star Trek was increasingly bright with Deep Space Nine closing a second season and Voyager due for premiere in the following January of 1995. We all loved that final scene at the poker game and the whole episode was an exhilarating experience that did the show 200% justice and I can watch it again and again and again in a heartbeat. It's not about the suspense here, it's about the experience.

Notable Quotable: "Bye bye Jean-Luc it's been such fun but alas all good things must come to an end." (either than or the last line...) - Q

Key Moment: Admiral Riker's suped-up Enterprise-D blows the hell out of two Klingon warships.

Cliffhanger: Not applicable. This was the end. Until Generations....

In the Hands of the Prophets

Deep Space Nine planted itself firmly on the map with the closer from it's first season. In the Hands of the Prophets is all about the placing of key characters, a reflection on the pilot episode and the preparation for season two. Usually we'd expect (as we'd come to see on The Next Generation) that the finale would be simply concluded in the first episode after the summer break. Deep Space Nine broke that mould by introducing Winn and Bareil ahead of the election for Kai that would take another year to occur plus examined the pairing of Sisko and Kira and their journey since Emissary. A masterstroke that firmly said they would be back for a second year and that it would develop from the events of the first season. Still a tense episode, it's a lot more about the people and the Starfleet officers' acceptance that the station is becoming their home just as much as it's about the assassination plot. Watch it back after a thorough rewatch of the show and it's still brilliant. Bajoran politics never seemed so amazing.

Notable Quotable: "Is the Emissary of the Prophets blaming me for this act of terrorism?"
"The commander of this station is." - Winn and Sisko

Key Moment: The bombing of the school. Hands down that's one way to make fans take note of your season closer.

Cliffhanger: None. All about the set-up.

Call to Arms

It was a toss up between this and The Jem'Hadar because both of them were huge Deep Space Nine game-changers that altered the way in which the series progressed. Call to Arms finally delivered the long-awaited Dominion War in dramatic character-driven style that became the show's trademark. Dark, as far from optimistic as you could ever expect and grounded in the reality that Starfleet are on the back foot, there's a foreboding that this is going to get even worse before it gets better. Losing the station to Dukat and his Dominion allies was a masterstroke we would never have predicted when Emissary aired. This was a close knit family who had come to see the gloomy Cardassian mining station as home and didn't want to leave - a big change from where we were at the start of the show. I won't bore everyone about the whole baseball scene but needless to say it's simply one of the best episodes ever made and far better than Janeway losing Voyager in Basics.

Notable Quotable: "...But no victory could make this moment any easier for me. And I promise, I will not rest until I stand with you again. Here; in this place where I belong." - Sisko

Key Moment: Sod it. The baseball bit. I love it.

Cliffhanger: Not officially but that fleet sure isn't just for show. Deep Space Nine didn't like to do proper cliffhangers because almost every week was one by this point.


The what-Voyager-could-have-been story which was one of the best things the show ever did. A similar small science vessel forgets its principles for the sake of a quick trip back to the Alpha Quadrant. John Savage is perfectly cast as "Rudy" Ransom and the chilling modifications to the ship's EMH are a horrifying twist, showing just how far the captain is willing to go. Ultimately it's a comparison of how far the show and the cast have come since Caretaker. Experimenting on aliens is always a winner for the moral dilemma and while we kind of knew that Voyager would be OK, it was more about what the heck was going to happen to the Equinox crew. Personally I also think it's Voyager's best ever two-parter with the quality just as strong in part two and I'm a sucker for the Nova Class.

Notable Quotable: "May I ask you something, captain to captain? The Prime Directive: how often have you broken it for the sake of protecting your crew?" - Ransom

Key Moment: Hard choice but switching the two EMH's was a clever twist.

Cliffhanger: We never thought Janeway would be killed but it's all about the set up of where the characters are and how Voyager has been abandoned for dead by Equinox.

And now you're wondering about The Original Series  and also Enterprise? Fair enough. For me none of their season closers came close to the quality of these five. For The Original Series there was no real season close feeling - it was just another episode to turn out and for Archer's shift, it never reached the levels of excellence that I decided to go with. I, of course, look forward to your suggestions and reasons!!!

So what was your favourite closer or are you still lamenting the passing of Enterprise? Let us know in the comments below!

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