The golden age of Star Trek absolutely ended due to oversaturation.
I’m not a big fan of people who try and rewrite history. Not with actual, important, human history and certainly not with Star Trek’s history. We can retcon thins in canon, sure, but to try and re-write the reality around to fit a narrative isn’t something I’m on board with.
The golden age of Star Trek television ran from The Next Generation in 1987 to Enterprise, which ended in 2005. There were four shows over that course of time, and seven films (if we count Star Trek IV in 1986). While that doesn’t sound like a lot, that’s actually 624 episodes between those four shows alone. Clearly, there was a lot of content going on.
Currently, Star Trek has/had five active shows with Lower Decks, Picard, Discovery, Strange New Worlds, and Prodigy; and altogether they’ve only produced 145. And right now, fans are worried about franchise fatigue.
It comes for everything. It came for the original Star Trek, it came for CW’s The Arrowverse and it’s coming for Disney’s MCU. It’s real and even former Star Trek head honcho, Rick Berman, said the franchise stalled due to fatigue.
Yet, there are writers out there who simply need to change the narrative, cue CBR. They put out an article entitled, “‘Star Trek Fatigue’ Did Not End The Next Generation Era of the Franchise“, and I’m sorry, but while all opinions should be respected, I don’t know how you can argue with the man who made the franchise so successful; Berman.
Star Trek ended due to franchise fatigue and it’ll happen again
The article doesn’t do a great job of explaining why it wasn’t “fatigue” that ended the golden era, stating that it was the “exact opposite”. The article also claims that those who were watching Enterprise weren’t the same ones watching The Next Generation, but that’s not true either. Star Trek fans are a habitual bunch. Sure, most of the Next Generation fans fell off Enterprise over time, but the debut clearly saw fans of the franchise tuning in to check it out.
Yes, the show made some new fans, but most of its core audience was franchise-long fans. There’s turnover all the time in fandoms, but most of the fans have been there through at least the Next Generation if not the original series. And that’s why the franchise fell in on itself.
The franchise folded after 600 episodes. Burnout is real. While the article tries to claim that not turning over the writer’s room, and going young may have helped extend the run, what the writer fails to understand is that writers’ rooms like on Star Trek often see a huge amount of turnover. It’s actually odd when a show doesn’t see significant turnover after four or five seasons.
So that wasn’t it either.
No, what doomed the show was being on for nearly 20 years, producing over 600 episodes of television, and not giving a two to three-year break between shows before launching another one.
Star Trek will suffer burnout again, as will every other franchise going. You can make some big, bold, sweeping claims like “Star Trek will never suffer from burnout again” but that’s just not true. At the end of the day, it’s still Trek. It’s still only going to cater to certain types of people.
Science fiction already only caters to a small group of people comparatively, and like in life, fans will move on when they’ve had enough or feel like the franchise isn’t “for them” anymore.
When fans realize that the franchise no longer values them as viewers, and instead tries to make content for people who aren’t Trek fans, those older fans will stop watching. Then the franchise’s image will take a hit, so newer audiences won’t want to be associated with a declining brand, and just like in 2005, the episode-centric series of Trek will go into a long hiatus where no new content will be made.
And then it’ll come back after some time away. It’s the circle of life with franchise entertainment.