How Shows Should End
It happens to all of our favorite series sooner or later: the dread Cancellation bug catches up with them. Sometimes it's a well-planned finale like Star Trek: The Next Generation gave us with its ready segue into movies, while sometimes it's an abrupt, untimely demise like Nowhere Man. We thought we'd take a look at how we hope some of our favorite series will fade to black...
Deep Space Nine can't exactly tie up all the loose ends of the Starfleet, because it is almost certain to cross over with the TNG movies and remain an active part of Trek lore. But the series has got to resolve the Cardassian-Dominion War, the issue of the wormhole, and the question of Bajor's relationship with the Federation. Delightfully, the major characters and their relationships are deeply invested in these problems (well, except for Worf, but he's always been a TNG transplant anyway). I can't make myself care about the fate of a Dax I haven't even met yet, and I consider most of the others to be minor characters; I hope the Ferengi end up happy, I hope the O'Briens get a better posting, I hope Bashir gets a promotion in spite of being bioenhanced, but it's Sisko, Kira, and Odo whom I really care about.
Sisko is going to have to figure out once and for all whether he can be the Emissary and a Starfleet captain at the same time...and if not, which is more important to him. He also may have to choose between his job, his destiny, and his son, which could make for a very compelling series of episodes. Kira may also ultimately have to choose among identities - she's been trying to be both a grounded citizen of Bajor and an intergalactic ambassador, and it's not clear she can do both. Moreover, she's going to have to decide whether her relationship with Odo can survive their physiological and cultural differences, as well as the fact that he's from a collective species sworn to opposition with her kind.
And Odo's going to have to decide whether his love for Kira, which has twice been the deciding factor in choosing between the changelings and the solids, will be enough to sustain him in the face of permanent exile. The stakes are enormous for both of them. DS9 is absolute proof that a series can incorporate simultaneously the conventions of science fiction and soap opera, improving on aspects of both. It took awhile, but Deep Space Nine grew up last season; I just want to see it complete the process.
Voyager, obviously, should get the hell home already and break out of its hung-hero premise. In a perfect universe, this would take place at the end of the series in a well-constructed half-year arc featuring hearings about the Maquis, potential courtmartial for Janeway over some of the non-Starfleet decisions she's made, lots of angst on the part of crewmembers about whether to return to families who have changed in their absence or whether to stay in Starfleet and stay on a ship which now feels like home, etc. The Doctor could face losing every single person he has ever met in his life, Neelix could deal with finding himself in a quadrant where he knows virtually no one and the people he does know are off to different lives. Janeway could sit down and think hard about what she wants to do with her life now that she no longer HAS to be captain, and work out the kinks in her friendship with Tuvok and her relationship with Chakotay apart from the roles they play.
But what will probably happen is that the ship will get home via a two-minute deus ex machina, and after ten minutes of greetings, Starfleet will send them all on their way again...and they will all go, without any angst or second-guessing, bumbling around the Alpha Quadrant the way they bumbled around the Delta Quadrant. Torres will make a great excuse for some Klingons to show up and Chakotay will make a great excuse for some Cardies to show up, but otherwise, it'll probably be the same-old same-old...ship finds anomaly, Janeway makes a stupid decision, Seven bails them out, Neelix throws a party. Why bother with character development when you have a Borg with big boobs, right?
Xena had an arc for most of last season, unlike Hercules which has rarely sustained a single storyline or tone over a long sequence of episodes, so it seems more important that the warrior princess get an appropriate climax to her show than the son of Zeus, who is probably immortal and can do guest appearances on spinoffs indefinitely. I'm torn about whether I want to see Xena put aside her personal demons and give up her warrior ways in favor of opening an academy for girls, or whether I want her to keep fighting the good fight forever, even when she and Gabrielle can barely stand on their own or see through their cataracts. I do NOT want her to become a goddess or an immortal. Part of what makes Xena compelling is that despite her strength, she's just like us. I would hope that any conclusion to the series would emphasize that, even if it means she won't survive to do a movie series.
Hercules is the one which has to decide whether or not to deal with the fate of the gods and the progress of history. The series has already suggested that Herc and Ares are running around contemporary Los Angeles, so there's no need to kill off the immortals and restore the universe to normalcy; but the show has suggested from the start that the ancient gods were in their waning days in Herc's time, so the potential for an Olympian power struggle which will leave a lot of them out of commission still lurks. It's always fun when the titans clash, so I hope the series ends with some more of that.
La Femme Nikita is too early in its run for real predictions about how it might go, but since the only way out of Section One currently is death, that situation would have to change in order for there to be any sort of a satisfying resolution for the series. Specifically, Michael and Nikita have got to get out. Whether or not they end up together, whether or not they can re-assimilate into normal society, they have to do something heroic and definitive which both makes Section unnecessary (taking out a LOT of terrorists at once) and somehow makes up for Section's excesses. This probably means that Ops and Madeline have to die, much as I adore the latter in particular; a woman who's that comfortable torturing and executing people is just never going to find satisfaction in an office job, not even if it's inventory control for The Pleasure Chest.
The alternative, of course, is for Nikita to get out of Section the old-fashioned way. This would not really be a satisfying ending unless she died so nobly that the fate of the entire world were wrapped up in her death; in that case, we're talking season-long arc with new, horrific terrorists from inside Section One. It would be sort of nice in such an instance if Michael were the only survivor, mourning Nikita and regretting that he let Ops and Maddie have as much power as they did or some such.
The X-Files is one of those series certain to spawn film sequels, so I don't hold out much hope that the series finale will actually resolve various alien or government mysteries, let alone Mulder and Scully's relationship. But in a perfect world, we'd get conclusions, and I think that would mean Mulder deciding to put the chase behind him once and for all. He may be making progress in uncovering terrible aspects of our society and in proving the existence of extraterrestrial life, but he's getting nowhere as a human being: soon he's going to be a 40-year-old with no friends and nothing but phone-sex recordings for companionship.
Scully, meanwhile, has had both her faith and her biological clock reawakened of late; as she had made abundantly clear recently, she is ready to give up chasing Mulder's demons, and has only stuck around this long because of him. I know it wouldn't make an interesting movie, but it would be kind of nice if Mulder took a job at a university and Scully got a good job in pediatrics. I don't really see them getting married and raising a couple of kids, but who knows?
How to End Deep Space Nine: Sisko and Kira both evolve away from their archetypes: when it comes down to it, Sisko decides he's more the Emissary than the Starfleet Captain, and takes Bajor's side when they conflict with the Federation, as inevitably they must. Meanwhile, Kira Nerys, the embittered Bajoran patriot, finds there are more things in heaven and earth than she has dreamt of on her embattled little world, and joins Starfleet. Sisko might become the virtual King of Bajor, or at least its spiritual fountainhead; given the Federation's bland neutrality toward Bajoran beliefs, I don't think an Emissary-led Bajor will be joining the Federation any time soon. They might, however, make some headway sending missionaries to convert the Dominion.
Oh, and the Dominion War ends with Odo's merging with the Founders, and the Founders absorbing some of his attitude, and abandoning their attempt to take over the galaxy.
How to End Voyager: Immediately. Let the suffering end.
How to End Xena: Warrior Princess: Xena should go down fighting, preferably in a battle similar to Thermopylae, in which she, and she alone, stands against the armed fury of the entire ancient world, defending the spark of civilization that will one day become the Western world. Joxer should go down fighting by her side, not all that well but as well as he can, and Gabrielle, like Percival, should survive to tell the tale. She is a bard, after all.
How to End The X-Files: (With thanks to Chris Galdieri) Scully lights a cigarette.
How to End Highlander: I know; they already did. But the Highlander mythos has its own built-in ending: There Can Be Only One. A nice twist would be if Duncan MacLeod and his buddies turned out to be the only ones left, and decided not to settle things now, or this century, or ever. There may be only one, but there doesn't have to be only one right now É
How to End Babylon 5: The Centauri and Narn races spiral down into an endless bloody struggle neither can possibly win, acting out on a grand scale the final scene in which G'Kar and Londo strangle each other. The whole B5 arc is about war, and what to do afterward: the Humans and Minbari swallowed their hatred and became friends, as symbolized by the marriage of Delenn and Sheridan. The Narn and Centauri didn't, or couldn't, overcome their centuries of hatred, and so they are locked in that bloody abyss forever, much as the Shadows and Vorlons were.
Once the wars are over (and the Centauri/Narn war, while it will never be over, has reached its final form, which is likely to sputter on pretty much as is for the next century or two), all that remains is to show where each character wound up after all the blood and thunder. That should take about five episodes, which is coincidentally the number that remain.
Unlike virtually all the shows listed above, I suspect B5 WILL end the series the way it SHOULD end the series. Bravo.
This column was originally written for AnotherUniverse.com.