Bring Back Kirk: The Objective Reasons
Written By: Marc
Published: Issue 15
Perhaps one of the most commonly asked questions regarding the Bring Back Kirk campaign is "Why should Kirk return?" The reasons are numerous, but for the executives at Paramount, there is only one bottom line, money. The purpose of this article is to lay out some of the objective reasons for Kirk's return, and why in addition to the sentimental reasons, it will make Paramount money.
First, let's look at Shatner's books. In his novels, William Shatner gives the Bring Back Kirk campaign exactly what it wants -- the return of James T. Kirk, in an optimistic crossover with the Next Generation. Seeing Kirk and Picard on the cover clearly sent a message to Trek fans that this book would be special. And the results were fabulous. THE RETURN is the first post-Generations story, and Trek fans made it the best-selling original Trek fiction book of all time. It is important to note that THE RETURN came out in an off year -- a year in which there was no movie to bolster interest in a Trek novel. Unlike FEDERATION, which was bolstered in part by being released in conjunction with GENERATIONS, THE RETURN's numbers speak volumes of just how much Trek fans miss Kirk and want to see him back.
But the fans did not stop with THE RETURN. The subsequent post-GENERATIONS Kirk stories, all featuring prominent roles for the crew of the Next Generation, did very well. AVENGER also made the New York Times Bestseller List, and SPECTRE and DARK VICTORY found themselves on Bestseller Lists around the country.
Cynics would argue that perhaps that shows a market for Kirk's return five years ago, but not today. However, the most recent book, PRESERVER, Shatner's sixth, released in June 2000, is currently the best-selling Trek book. As of July 11, 2000, it is ranked #34 on the New York Times Bestseller List among fictional hardcovers. It is also ranked #22 on the USA TODAY bestseller list among fictional hardcovers. And on Amazon.com, PRESERVER is ranked #4 among best-selling sci-fi books, even ahead of a Star Wars book.
Clearly, the fans are saying that they will embrace Kirk's return, in any form.
Some might argue that books and movies are apples and oranges. To an extent, that's true. Movie grosses far outdo book grosses. And many books do not translate well into film. But Star Trek books are unique. We already know how these characters act, what they look like, and who they are before we even pick the book up. Fans choose books based on what they would like to see because they are reading a story that they can visualize their characters doing. What better test sample for James T. Kirk's return than the monster sales of the Shatner books, which give us James T. Kirk's return?
Some people give credit to other elements in Shatner's books, such as the presence of the TNG crew, the Borg, and the fact that these books seem to encompass the entire Trek universe. The response to that is, so what? Shatner's books include something for all forms of Trek fans, even new crews for new fans. Rick Berman should see that this formula is successful, and use it on film. Give the fans a Trek film that brings back Kirk and Spock, with the TNG crew, in an optimistic 35th anniversary celebration, and the fans will respond as they have with Shatner's books.
One of the biggest issues regarding Trek in recent years has been over the ratings. Season 6 of TNG, which aired before the word leaked of Kirk's death, peaked the ratings of the last few years at an average of 12.53. News of the end of TNG and Kirk's death broke in early 1994, and the ratings of TNG Season 7 were 12.32. Now, nearly six years later, the ratings of Season 6 of Voyager came in at 3.56, an all-time low. See http://web.archive.org/web/20010221034545/http://www.treknation.com/neilsens for the source. Star Trek has lost about 70 percent of its audience since Captain Kirk was killed. While Kirk's death is not the only reason for this decline, it is a fact that GENERATIONS is probably one of the most divisive movies in Trek history, and basically sent the Classic Trek fans a message that their viewing was no longer required. While that is probably not true, the bottom line is that the ratings in Trek are currently at an all-time low. INSURRECTION had the second lowest domestic gross in Trek history, even without adjusting for inflation, while having the highest budget by far. Trek needs an event that will make it money. And no better event exists than the return of Kirk. Here are some objective reasons Kirk's return will bring in ratings or dollars:
When the Sci-Fi Channel first started airing the original series, the ratings in that timeslot doubled.
When "Trials and Tribble-ations" aired, it scored a 7.7 in the ratings. The average DS9 rating that year was 5.7, which means that the episode added approximately 35 percent to the ratings.
Though Star Trek the franchise is currently at an all- time ratings low, William Shatner has recently experienced a major resurgence in his career. Few people don't know of his work with Priceline.com. He put that company on the map. He received rave reviews for his work in FREE ENTERPRISE, and got an Emmy nomination for his work on 3rd Rock From the Sun. Shatner is as popular as ever. And Shatner's latest appearance on 3rd Rock got over 20 percent higher ratings for that show than in the week before.
Star Trek became the phenomenon it became in large part because of Shatner and Kirk's popularity. That popularity continues to this day. It is a safe bet that Shatner's return, with the added nostalgia, combined with the return of Nimoy and the TNG crew, would bring in fans like no other Trek film idea can. Anything less is just ordinary.
William Shatner has said on numerous occasions that he wants to return as Captain Kirk. All that needs to be done is for Paramount to ask him. One would have to be blind not to see that William Shatner = ratings and/or box office receipts. Star Trek could use the shot in the arm of the return of Kirk. With the 35th anniversary and tenth movie coming up, what better way to celebrate than to return Captain Kirk to the fans? Paramount, if you're out there, please wake up.