welcome back, mr. braga

Brannon Braga got seriously beaten up when running Enterprise. The Trek masses bandied about pitchforks and torches. To some extent, the ignominious end to the Star Trek franchise was a result of the artistic decisions made by Braga and Rick Berman. But I think the problem began long before Enterprise aired, with Deep Space Nine. Veering away from the vision of the future presented in classic Trek and The Next Generation, DS9 went into full-on battle mode, complete with the shady Starfleet organization Section 31. While there is apparently some disagreement as to whether or not Gene Roddenberry himself would have like DS9’s turn, I didn’t recognize Star Trek in the war stories and the ruthless, unethical actions of Section 31. And like many, I distinctly saw in DS9 the shadow of Babylon 5, a vastly superior series in many ways.

Then came Voyager, which had really interesting characters, very good actors, and a willingness to shake things up a bit. Unfortunately, the series overall represented a missed opportunity. There were some great episodes, but after the misfire that was the Kazons and, later, the over-reliance on the Borg, Voyager ended up rehashing familiar material instead of truly embracing the concept of exploring unknown space.

The off-kilter vision of the universe presented by DS9 combined with a Voyager’s play-it-safe approach were, in my view, the two factors that kept Enterprise from reaching it’s potential. And it did have potential, despite the problem posed by setting the series earlier than classic Trek. Manny Coto’s involvement in the last season teased at what could have given Enterprise stronger leg muscles from the get-go: a stronger tie-in to the familiar Star Trek universe and plots that go beyond the usual “conflict-with-enemy-X” formula.

Naturally, the deteriorating quality of the movies didn’t help either. Nemesis’ re-working of Wrath of Khan, complete with Data’s death and possible “resurrection” in the body of Beta, cemented the view that Star Trek was getting a bit tired. I don’t think it was the fans who suffered from franchise fatigue: it was the franchise itself that was fatigued.

Back to Braga: there’s no doubt that he shoulders some responsibility for some of that fatigue. In all fairness, however, it’s rather harsh to condemn him as the villain who killed Star Trek. For one thing, he was behind some of the best storytelling in Trek – TNG’s “All Good Things,” for example, which he co-wrote with Ronald D. Moore And with a monolith as big as Star Trek, with oversized fan expectations to match, it’s worth remembering that Braga did not work alone, but in a hugely political environment chock-full of competing visions.

To his credit, Braga is remarkably self-aware about the whole situation. In an interview with The Fandom, he avoids arrogance and defensiveness and candidly accepts the bad with the good. In regards to the Enterprise finale, he acknowledges the mistakes that were made and expresses understanding with dissatisfied fans. That’s hardly the mark of a villain; I think it speaks highly of him – and reflects poorly on his most vicious critics.

It’s regrettable that Threshold, the series he started with Paul S. Goyer, also failed. (Regrettable, but not entirely surprising for a variety of reasons that don’t really involve Braga.) I suspect that along with the burnout that came with Star Trek’s end, he either lost his cachet in TV land, chose to recharge his batteries, or both. However, after a few years out of sight, it would seem that he’s become a staff writer for seasons 7 of 24. Welcome back, Mr. Braga.

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