By DAVE ITZKOFF
New York Times
New York Times
IN the sector of planet Earth known as Hollywood, it was business as usual on the Paramount back lot. On a sunny day in early March, green-skinned aliens with zippers embedded in their faces were eating catered lunches, stagehands were disassembling lighting rigs labeled "Thorium Isotope Hazard," and all were doing their best to ignore the fact that the warp engines on the starship Enterprise would soon be shut down, perhaps never to start up again. "Welcome," a security guard said with heavy irony, "to the last days of Pompeii."
On May 13, UPN will broadcast the final two episodes of "Star Trek: Enterprise," the most recent spinoff of the genre-defining science-fiction series created by Gene Roddenberry nearly 40 years ago. The scenes filmed in March will bring closure to the story of a futuristic space vessel and its intrepid crew, but the end of "Enterprise" also casts into doubt the future of a venerable entertainment property that is entering a realm where no franchise has gone before.
Almost from the moment it was canceled by NBC in 1969, the original "Star Trek" set about defying television conventions: a three-season dud in prime time, it became a success in syndication, spawning a series of motion pictures, a merchandising empire, and three television sequels (the syndicated hits "Star Trek: The Next Generation," "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" and "Star Trek: Voyager," which helped start the UPN network in 1995).
"Enterprise," a prequel devised by the veteran "Trek" producers Rick Berman and Brannon Braga, was supposed to be the series that would take the franchise into the future by venturing into its past. "We knew that in the 23rd century, Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock were out exploring the universe, and they were comfortable in space," said Mr. Berman, who was put in charge of the film and television properties after Mr. Roddenberry's death in 1991. "But who were the first people to have to try a transporter? The first people to come into contact with hostile alien species; who were hesitant about taking these first steps into the galaxy?"
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