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Star Trek: Enterprise Showrunner Answers Burning Questions About The Last Season - Exclusive

Looper recently spoke with TV writer-producer extraordinaire Manny Coto, primarily about neXt, his upcoming show about people tracking a rogue AI. But we also took some time to talk about several of his past projects, including Star Trek: Enterprise. He spent time as a writer, producer, and showrunner on this 2001-05 iteration of the stalwart sci-fi franchise, and he readily answered some questions about the making of its fourth and final season.

Coto was brought on as a writer for Enterprise during season 3. He speaks highly of several episodes that predate his time on the show — especially "Cogenitor" and "Dear Doctor" — which he calls "great stuff that I think holds up with the rest of Trek." Even so, his episodes in particular are often held in high regard, particularly "Similitude," the first episode he wrote.

When the show was renewed for season 4, Coto was appointed showrunner. Critical approval for Enterprise improved each season, but ratings kept dropping. So was Coto going to stop the sinking and try to get a renewal?

Nope — everyone on board chose to read the writing in the stars.

"I knew going in that season 4 was going to be the last season," Coto recalls. "It was written. Everybody knew it. Paramount basically all but told us that." Even behind the scenes, series mainstays were already headed out the airlock. "That's why I think Brannon [Braga] took off," says Coto of the longtime Star Trek producer, "because he wanted to get his next series." Braga went on to produce Threshold, which debuted several months after Enterprise went off the air and lasted less than a season.

Going where my heart will take me

Coto recalls thinking, "I'm probably not going to do this again, unless a miracle happens" — though he also noted that "when a series has slid in the ratings as it did, no miracle is going to save it at that point." As he describes it, he wasn't driven by aspirations of saving the show, but by the thought, "Ah ha! I got this. They're going to let me do this season so I get to do the s**t that I want to see."

Knowing that a fifth season was off the table, Coto focused on storytelling. "I just set about trying to have as much fun and do as many interesting episodes as I possibly could." The final season saw a lot of changes and big swings, several of which were written by Coto himself — multi-episode story arcs, trips to the Mirror Universe, and a chance to witness the founding of the Federation.

Coto recalls that "Paramount was already thinking of the next incarnation" during season 4. That next incarnation turned out to be the 2009 reboot movie, which led to our current era — in which there's more Trek content going on at once than ever before. When asked if he'd like another shot at Trek, Coto didn't hesitate. "Oh, definitely. I would jump on it." Trek is what made him fall in love with the medium, so "it's in my genes and I will never really properly escape it."

In the meantime, Coto is busy with neXt. He enjoys bringing actors he's worked with in the past into new projects, "often from Enterprise because I really thought that was a great cast." In fact, one of the lead actors from Enterprise appears in the show's first episode — tune in to Fox at 9 PM EST on October 6 to find out who.