Sci Fi Trifles: Useless but essential pop culture tidbits and trivia from the worlds of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror. Once you’ve read them, you don’t know how you have lived so long without knowing them.
We are approaching yet another May, when the networks announce their schedules for the upcoming season, and many fans are eagerly awaiting word on the fate of genre shows like Fringe, Alcatraz, The River, Awake, and more. But let’s take a look back at some cancelled sci fi shows from the fairly recent past and see what happened to them.
Farscape (Sci Fi Channel, 1999-2003) – This series debuted on the Sci Fi Channel to much acclaim in 1999 and quickly developed a strong fanbase that followed it through its four season. However, the cable network enraged the shows fans when they abruptly cancelled it before the fourth season began airing in 2002 (which would leave it on an unresolved cliffhanger). Sci Fi gave the usual reason of declining ratings in the face of high production costs (according to IMDb.com, the series cost $2 million per episode to produce which was quite high for a cable series at that time). Fans immediately mounted a campaign that launched letters, phone calls, and emails to the cable network demanding that they give the show a fifth season. The comic strip Fox Trot even jumped in as the uber-geek character Jason Fox directed his ire at the Sci Fi Channel and petitioned for them to change their mind. The campaign brought significant attention to the show and ultimately several European backers agreed to help with the finances which allowed the Jim Henson Company to produce the mini-series Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars which resolved many of the storylines from the series. But that was not the end of Farscape as it would live on in comics and Rockne S. O’Bannon is still working toward a revival today. He had mentioned plans for a web series several years back, but nothing has yet surfaced, though word is that he has not given up yet on reviving the beloved show.
Angel (WB, 1999-2004) – This spin-off to Buffy the Vampire Slayer had performed well on the WB for five seasons and was actually one of their higher rated shows. But the network made an early announcement in 2004 that the show would not be coming back for a sixth season in response to rumors that had leaked on the internet. Series creator Joss Whedon was surprised by the news and claimed that hearing it was like a “healthy guy falling dead from a heart attack.” One of the writers for the show claimed that the reason the WB cancelled the show was because Whedon had pressured the network into giving an early renewal for the series (but whether that is the actual reason is a subject of debate). Outraged fans organized letter-writing campaigns, blood drives, online petitions, and even paid for advertisements in trade magazines and on billboards to convince other networks to pick up the series (Buffy had moved from WB to UPN a few years prior). The WB could not be convinced to change their minds, and no other network took a flyer on the show, and thus Angel ended without resolution. The story would continue in comics, though, with the publication of Angel: After the Fall in 2007, Whedon’s official continuation of the series. And the characters from the series have remained a fixture in comics and have continued to expand on the “Buffy-verse” since that series debuted.
Star Trek: Enterprise (UPN, 2001-05) – Enterprise has the distinction of being only the second Trek series to end because of cancellation (TOS of course being the first). The show had picked up the baton from Star Trek: Voyager which ended its seven year run in Spring of 2001, but Enterprise never quite caught on as well as the previous three Star Trek spin-off series. It struggled in the ratings throughout its four year run, and when the fate of the show looked grim after its third season, fans launched a letter-writing campaign. UPN did renew it for a fourth season, though how much the campaign impacted that decision is uncertain. But the numbers continued to slide, in part because the show was moved to Friday nights, and also because of frequent preemptions. UPN then decided to cancel the show after its fourth season, but fans started up another campaign which included appealing to Congress to ask for a renewal as well as a drive to raise money to fund the fifth season! This however was not enough to change the mind of UPN executives (perhaps fans should have gone all the way to the president!), and the franchise was put on hiatus until J.J. Abrams rebooted it with his 2010 film.
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