Scott Bakula believes syndication would’ve saved Star Trek: Enterprise.
UPN was the home of Star Trek for a decade. From 1995 to 2005. During that time, two network shows aired. The first was the successful Star Trek: Voyager, which lasted seven seasons and was a statement show for the franchise. The second was Star Trek: Enterprise; a prequel series that told the story of how the Federation of Planets came to be. It was also the first Star Trek series to invest big money in the lead, bringing in sci-fi legend Scott Bakula as the main character, Captain Johnathan Archer.
Bakula was easily the biggest name Star Trek had ever brought in to build a show around, and they thought with that, a Rod Stewart written (but not sung) theme song, and the backing of a pretty big network in UPN, that Enterprise was set up to be a hit.
It was supposed to be a hit, and while it lasted just shy of 100 episodes and for four seasons, the show was ultimately canceled due to ratings in 2005. An ending no one wanted, even now 17 years later, and one Bakula believes would’ve gone differently had it not been on UPN.
Bakula spoke with the late Bob Saget on his Here for You podcast (quote via Slashfilm.com), and revealed that had the show been in syndication at the time, the series would’ve gotten a seven-season order from the jump.
"All the other [Star Trek shows] … set up their deals with all the little stations all around America for seven years, and they went and made a TV show for seven years. Which we would have done also if we had been syndicated."
Scott Bakula is sort of right about how Star Trek used to do things
Bakula is right, that with the original series, The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, each show was in syndication and the production company sold the rights to the show to every market. Yet, by the 90s, most local channels had started to merge and were owned by larger companies. NBC, ABC, CBS, and Fox all had their own syndicated networks around the country. Cable was starting to take a lot of viewers away from standard syndicated hours with an ever-expanding catalog of premium networks that allowed shows to do more and get away with more with regards to explicit content.
That’s partly why Paramount built and launched UPN, the United Paramount Network. They wanted to be able to charge more for shows from advertisers, and having a central place to air them was going to be necessary.
After all, in Syndication, a show could air in one network on Mondays at 11 PM, or on Saturday at 9 AM. There wasn’t a consistent schedule as each network would prioritize the show depending on the ratings they received in that market. Making it harder to sell advertising to national companies.
UPN solved that issue, albeit only briefly as they later went out of business.
That’s why when Voyager was launched, it went to UPN and not into syndication. Enterprise was never a candidate for syndication, as Voyager was a massive success for the network. Very few shows even came close to the show’s usual ratings, and the thought was that Enterprise would be able to at least keep what Voyager had at the end.
It didn’t happen and the show was unjustly canceled. It was usually just behind Smackdown in ratings and even held an advantage on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. UPN, as a network, canceled one of its more successful shows.
Truthfully, it wasn’t even the ratings, but the cost that sunk the show. By the end of the series, it was the only non-reality series or sitcom on the network besides SmackDown and was right there with the rest of the pack ratings-wise. So ultimately, the size of the show was its ultimate downfall.