Home > Movies, Science Fiction, Writing > The Undiscovered Nemesis: How to Finish a Franchise

The Undiscovered Nemesis: How to Finish a Franchise

For years the question has plagued the minds of series lovers: what is the best way to end a beloved franchise? How do you go about trumpeting the end of a run for beloved characters who we have grown to know and love? Many filmmakers have been faced with this issue, and it sticks with you from pre-production straight through to the life of the film on DVD. Did each character get their due? Were the consequences high enough, or did we let hem off with a final fluff piece?

Star Trek: Nemesis (2002)

The ending of a franchise only gets more difficult as you add in a longer run before the finale and more memorable characters. All of a sudden you have an ensemble cast of characters that all deserve screen time in a send-off film. You can learn a lot by looking at the way Star Trek brought their major film franchises to a close in Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country (1991) and Star Trek: Nemesis (2002).

Both franchises faced the issue of how to give each character their own unique send off. When all the characters of both the original series (TOS) and the Next Generation (TNG) are so beloved by the fans, it would be a crime to not see all the characters in the final journey. But before we go into characters, lets look at the way these stories are translated for the last film.

TOS was always a Space Western. Going from the TV series to the film series only set the Western on a grander scale. Kirk and his band went around dispensing good, old fashioned frontier justice. They battled the Klingons constantly, as well as a colorful rogues gallery. So it would seem fitting that their send-off would have them running against the one thing they can’t fight: peace.

Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country (1991)

With the Klingon Empire facing extinction on their home planet, years of conflict are inevitably coming to an end. For the first time the crew of the Enterprise is forced into inaction. The knee jerk reaction of heading straight into a gunfight won’t work this time, and the crew must remain complacent while awaiting results. Any action taken by the crew could plunge the universe into an interstellar war.

As a Trek fan, this is the last great battle that you could have hoped for. We all know at this point who will win in a firefight, but we’ve never seen the crew forced into a cold standoff where patience will win the game.

Kirk Meets Klingon Chancellor Gorkon

In Nemesis, the TNG crew is forced into a similar situation. For years on television, and films, the crew of the Enteprise-D paraded for peace. They could handle themselves in a firefight if need be, but it was always a last resort. Nemesis faces this crew with a situation that requires quick, aggressive action; something the crew is not entirely accustomed to.

Because of this, each member of the crew gets there own chance in the spotlight to prove that they are the crew we cell in love with over 7 tv seasons and 4 movies. This format is almost beat for beat the same as The Undiscovered Country, and I don’t mean that in an insulting way. Right down to the Star Trek jokes, both films include an illegal Romulan Ale joke, this fish out of water scenario creates a fitting send off for the franchise.

The TNG Crew Debates their Next Move

But what about individual characters? As an audience has grown to know and love characters over the series run, each character deserves their own send off that fits them personally.

The Enterprise and Excelsior Fire on Chang's Bird of Prey

Let’s look at James Kirk first. The last bastion of Western martial law. His send off has him struggle with the end of his era. But his era goes out with a bang, literally, as he calls for the Enterprise to fire, destroying the Klingon Bird of Prey. Thusly, Kirk has an interesting arc but still gets to go out as the character we all remember.

But what about right hand man Spock? Spock is also forced from his comfort zone when he needs to disobey federation orders to save his friend, Captain Kirk. But, in the end, he too is able to return to his logical ways, figuring out how to make a photon torpedo that can track emissions from a cloaked ship. There is even a nice play on the conflicting relationship between Spock and McCoy as they perform ‘surgery’ on a torpedo together. This gives McCoy his send off, and also gives the audience one last glimpse at these two characters on their own.

The TOS Crew on the Bridge

Each character is given their own finale by having their moment of confusion or conflict followed by their moment of triumph. Chekov demonstrates this by not understanding why the killers couldn’t have been vaporized. His moment in the sun comes later when he imparts this knowledge to McCoy.

Perhaps one of the greatest accomplishments of Star Trek VI is the feeling of closure and continuation it achieves at the end of the film. As the Enterprise sails off into the sunset, the Excelsior, under the command of Captain Sulu, sets off to continue their missions.

The Enterprise and Excelsior Ride Off Into the Sunset

This leaves the audience satisfied with the ending of the series, and happy with the promise that this will not be the last of Star Trek.

Nemesis also follows this model. Each character gets their own moment to shine: Riker faces off against Shinzon’s number one, while Troi takes on his telepath.

Troi's Foil: Viceroy Vkruk from Nemesis

Captain Picard faces off with Praetor Shinzon

One major difference between the two films is the yin/yang concept seen in Nemesis. Instead of each character getting a clear cut moment in the sun, as in The Undiscovered Country, each member of the crew is given a dark version of themselves to defeat, the most obvious of which is Picard as he fights his literal clone in Praetor Shinzon.

By facing off against the characters they could have been, the audience is allowed a trip down memory lane to reflect on the events that made these people who they are. The culmination of this is Data’s noble sacrifice in the end to save the crew, harkening back to another familiar beat from Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (1982).

In the end, the filmmakers use Data’s sacrifice to bring closure to the film and the franchise for the TNG crew. But a sense of hope and continuation is also given when the memory implants from Data in B4 seem to suddenly begin to work, possibly resurrecting Data.

B4 Begins to Take On Data's Personality

So what can we take from how Star Trek closed off it’s franchises? Did you think they were well done or was something lacking? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

Zac Hogle is a writer/director who has worked on several nationally broadcast series and documentaries. You can follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/zhogle.

All images are the copyright and property of their respective holders. No infringement is intended.

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  1. Gordon Durich
    January 25, 2011 at 1:26 am

    Great job… reads well and flows. Nice transitions and segues. You really show your skill with this genre.

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