When Manny Coto came on board Star Trek: Enterprise as co-writer during the third season — and then as co-executive producer during season four — the beloved sci-fi franchise was struggling. But Coto did his best to try and save what would be the last Star Trek TV series to be on the air, and he's proud of what he achieved.
In an interview with Star Trek.com, Coto — who wrote and co-wrote 14 episodes while Enterprise was on the air, including the fantastic “Similitude” (one of season three’s strongest episodes), reminisced about his first day on the job and meeting Brannon Braga:
The first thing I remember is when I walked in for my first day. Brannon (Braga) was in his office, standing at the window, smoking a cigarette and looking desperate, like everything was falling apart. They were in a hole, script-wise, and I really got the sense that Brannon was kind of at the end of his rope, so to speak, as far as getting scripts. So it was an interesting sense of “Wow, desperation, this is either going to work well or it’s going to be a disaster.” But I’ll never forget Brannon standing at the window, staring out glassy-eyed. It’s kind of how we are now on 24. I think every show runner gets to this place somewhere in the middle of a season because it’s just an incredibly hard job with so much to do that it becomes overwhelming. The other thing that I remember is that when I came in to meet about the show, Brannon had a Borg arm that they were testing. It was an arm, I think, for season two, when they find the Borg in the ice. I’ve never forgotten that. That was pretty exciting.
Coto then explained what he tried to do with Enterprise when he became co-executive producer during its fourth and final season, saying:
I wanted to tell more complex stories. One of the first things I wanted to do was to tell stories in three-episode arcs, where we could actually create little mini-feature films. Television has become… an episode is now 42 minutes of actual content. It’s very hard to tell a story with a beginning, middle and end when you only have 42 minutes. The Original Series, they had 50 minutes. They had almost an hour to tell a story. That makes a difference. I wanted to tell epic tales, so we had to tell them over more than just a 42-minute period. So we came up with the idea of doing two- or three-episode arcs. And I wanted to tell more sweeping tales that tied into The Original Series, because Enterprise was a prequel and I felt that, at a certain point, the show should begin to tack toward things that we remembered from The Original Series. I thought it would be nice and fun and tremendously rich to explore facets of The Original Series and of the Star Trek universe that were there but had not been fleshed out.
Coto even tried to convince UPN to pick up the show for a fifth season, but was denied, despite the fact that the franchise was clearly re-invigorated under Coto's watch:
You’re always hoping that they’ll change their mind and that the ratings will pick up. In reality, once a show’s ratings go down, they rarely, rarely pick up. Usually, it’s impossible. But it wasn’t go for broke. That season was not going to be unwatched. Star Trek has a long history. Every episode airs somewhere and is on DVD, and they’re watched and re-watched and expanded on in novels. So we were really creating something to last, even though I knew the writing was kind of on the wall. But I will say there was a small part of us that was hoping that if the ratings at least stabilized – which they did, I believe – Paramount might keep the show going.
Coto also touched base on “Demons” and “Terra Prime,” a two-parter that was essentially meant to be the show’s finale, while “These Are the Voyages” was meant to be the finale for the entire 18-year run of Star Trek — from Star Trek: The Next Generation right through to Enterprise:
I really liked those episodes. My heart was really in that because I felt it was a fitting end for the series. The show ended up coming back to Earth and to our solar system, and the idea was that humanity still had one hurdle to go through, and that was a part of humanity was not accepting of aliens and aliens on our world, because some people felt we were being corrupted. We had to exorcise our last vestige of xenophobia. I thought it was a really fitting end for Enterprise because one of the basic tenets of Star Trek is Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. This was a way to address that idea, that we’d not quite reached there yet. You had a character played by Peter Weller who wanted aliens to leave the Earth and was against comingling with aliens. And we ended with a wonderful speech by Captain Archer and a wonderful performance by Scott Bakula in front of the nascent Federation, which kind of laid down the idea for Star Trek. It basically said that despite the myriad species we’re all the same and we all share the same heart. I remember being there on that day for the shooting of that. We knew at that point that this was the last season, so it was particularly touching to know that this was a fitting finale, as I saw it, for the show.
I’m not saying that to deride “These Are the Voyages...” We – Brannon and Rick and I – always looked at “Demons” and “Terra Prime” as the finale for Enterprise and “These Are the Voyages…” was intended to be a finale for the entire 18-year run of Star Trek, starting with Next Gen all the way to Enterprise. That’s how it was looked at.
Do you guys agree that Star Trek: Enterprise was at its strongest during Manny Coto’s tenure as co-executive producer during season four? Should UPN have given it another chance?