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UPN in search of post-'Voyager' flagship

Saturday, January 6, 2001


PASADENA, Calif. -- Imagine being UPN and having to face the future without a "Star Trek" franchise. Sure, there's always "WWF Smackdown!" But if you're talking about programming for sentient beings, UPN next season faces an unknown that makes the Delta Quadrant seem as familiar as the back of your hand.

When "Star Trek: Voyager" ends its seventh season in May, it will be the first time in 15 years that Paramount won't have at least one "Star Trek" series on the air. Executive producer Rick Berman, who has been with all three of the modern-day "Star Trek" TV iterations -- "Next Generation," "Deep Space Nine" and "Voyager" -- admits it will seem a little strange, but he says he takes comfort in having continued Gene Roddenberry's vision of a future in which humanity and humaneness are oddly synonymous.

Will Voyager's crew make it home to Earth? Better yet, will their network make it without them?  
A teary Kate Mulgrew, the first woman to have the lead starship-commander role in a "Star Trek" series, thinks "Voyager" has much to be proud of.

"I think 'Voyager' has enhanced the legacy of its predecessors with a newfound humanity," she said yesterday.

Mulgrew has mixed emotions about ending the series, though. She says only recently has she felt that she completely "owned" her character, Capt. Kathryn Janeway. But she understands all series eventually run out of gas, or dilithium, as the case may be.

"It's time to land," she agreed.

Ah, but will the U.S.S. Voyager actually make it back to Earth?

Mulgrew isn't saying. And all Berman will say is: "I'm not telling."

In search of a HIT

UPN's midseason-replacement slate actually looks promising, with one subversive animation comedy ("Gary & Mike") and a spooky drama about odd goings-on at a haunted hospital ("All Souls"). But it's no slam-dunk. A third series, "Special Unit 2," about a secret Chicago police precinct that deals only with paranormal monsters who suck the life out of their victims, seems to be going for the smart/sly style of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," but its pilot episode misses the target.

"Special Unit 2" and "All Souls" don't have premiere dates yet. "Gary & Mike," a half-hour comedy about two irresponsible 21-year-olds on the road trip of a lifetime, premieres next Thursday at 9:30 p.m. (KSTW/11, after a truncated "Smackdown!") and moves the next day to its regular slot at 8 p.m. Fridays.


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