Star Trek: Beyond the Final Frontier



9 p.m. Monday, Feb. 19
History Channel

This two-hour History Channel documentary that transports fans into the ongoing pop culture phenomenon that is "Star Trek" in all of its TV and feature forms is pretty much a must for the Trekkie in your home.

Hosted with typically low-key eloquence by Leonard Nimoy (which is nothing if not logical, as Mr. Spock might say), "Star Trek: Beyond the Final Frontier" uses the prism of the 40th anniversary of the launch of the first "Star Trek" (last fall) and a massive auction of about 1,000 "Star Trek" artifacts by Christie's to examine the roots and tentacles that continue to define a multipronged franchise without peer in the annals of entertainment. The overview visits with surviving castmates (Nichelle Nichols, James Takei, Jonathan Frakes, Avery Brooks, Patrick Stewart, Marina Sirtis) and members of the various production crews. It also peers in at both the aforementioned auction and at "Trek" conventions to measure the temperature of a marvel that still burns hot about four decades after it all began.

What's perhaps most fascinating to consider while watching the comprehensive overview is just how improbable this long, strange trip has been en route to 10 feature films, five series and more than 700 hours of TV all told. The original 1960s series on NBC was a flop, with three seasons of declining ratings. The second, referred to by those in the know as "Next Gen," was initially savaged by critics as blasphemy. But Paramount clearly knew what it was doing, transforming the ashes of failure and hostility into an extraordinary cash cow. And now, of course, Vulcan ears, Klingons and Tribbles are as much a part of the showbiz vernacular as Munchkins, Dorothy and Oz. As this tasty little journey into the sci-fi world of the Starship Enterprise confirms, sometimes it pays off handsomely to boldly go where no network failure has gone before.