All Star Trek Movies and Episodes in Two Charts

Star Trek seems to be everywhere at the moment – which is no wonder regarding the fact that the premiere just took place and the worldwide release is only days ahead.

So, I thought I add my part to the crowd, do some statistical analysis and put together all numbers for almost the whole franchise. The results are two charts into which all those numbers are condensed.

For one, I took the box offices of all movies of the Star Trek franchise, adjusted them to today’s ticket prices and put them into one chart.

For the other, I searched for all Nielsen Ratings of all episodes of all Star Trek series from The Next Generation to Enterprise and put them together. The result you will see below is in many ways the ultimate series chart of Star Trek any Trekkie should love and hate at the same time.

The Movies

Let’s begin our analysis with a look at the box offices of all Star Trek movies. To get a better impression I adjusted the box office to the average ticket prices of 2008, which – according to BoxOfficeMojo – are at $7.18. How much will the new Star Trek movie make? We’ll see in the future…

Update May 7th: According to ScreenRant, the ticket pre-sales indicate that Star Trek is true blockbuster material. Taking the ticket sales of Wolverine into account, Star Trek might very well reach or even break the 100 Million mark on its first weekend, blasting ahead two other Trek movies at least.

Update May 9th: The movie earned around $29 million, so Star Trek doesn’t seem to be able to break the 100 immediately (Update: indeed it couldn’t – my prediction was right. Yay.).

Update May 17th: Another Yay! the numbers I work with in my internal Excel sheet seem to be right. The ranking based on sold tickets is exactly the same!

Final Update: Star Trek is officially the second most grossing entry of the franchise (see updated chart below).

Star Trek Movies Box Offices

Star Trek 2009 aside, this chart got me by surprise. According to these numbers the most successful Star Trek movie of all time neither was The Wrath of Khan nor the fourth installment with the whales (although it comes close). No, it’s the first movie called Star Trek: The Motion Picture with an adjusted box office of 235 Million USD. Admitted, I would have never guessed this.

This chart also shows that although the second movie might get much love from the audience and fans it didn’t break the record of the first movie. Luckily, it came close. At least my impression of the success of The Voyage Home was not wrong as wrong as with Wrath of Khan. Whew.

But there is also one nasty thing that gets obviously visible: after a good dive of The Final Frontier, Star Trek never managed to reach its former heights again. Although the movies indeed increased their respective box offices again, we can say that from Star Trek 6 to Star Trek 9 the numbers didn’t vary very much. Star Trek: First Contact is a small exception to this rule yet the quality of the movie didn’t result in an enormously increased box office.

Well, after First Contact there was only one way for the franchise: down. Can J.J. break this curse? The next few weeks will tell us.

The Episodes

Star Trek is not Star Trek without its episodes. Of course, the movies play an important role (especially in today’s times where J.J. Abram’s take is the only thing “trekkie”) but Star Trek was and is primarily a TV franchise.

So, I accepted the craziest job ever and searched the whole internet for every Nielsen TV Rating I could find and put those numbers in one big Excel sheet. It is well beyond crazy but very fitting for the title “madmind” I think. And I also think it was worth it because the result is the Ultimate Star Trek Chart:

The Nielsen Rating of all recent Star Trek TV Episodes

This chart shows the sad but very well known truth about this franchise: with each new series, Star Trek went down a little bit further.

Admittedly, this chart above is a little bit confusing at first with all the tiny dots flying around. So here’s a different look at the franchise, this time the dots are replaced with an averaged curve of all Nielsen Ratings over the past:

The averaged Nielsen Ratings of all Star Trek TV Episodes

This chart makes one thing even more obvious: with one notable exception – The Next Generation – each series followed a downward trend that couldn’t be stopped whatsoever. The begin of the big war in Deep Space Nine didn’t help, neither helped the exchange of a female crewmember with a sexed up alternative in Voyager. It’s somehow depressing to witness that nothing the producers tried really mattered in any way. Silly storylines and bullshit ideas in Enterprise? Not a chance, it kept declining. (Although this was a good thing in some ways)

As you can see, The Next Generation is the big exception of this rule. What’s astonishing is the rather small decline of viewership in the first two abysmal seasons. On the other hand, it is visible that even this series began a downward trend. In this case, however, the producers seemingly made the right decisions and managed to stop this trend at the beginning of the third season (to be precise with the episode called “The Bonding“, “Who watches the watchers” was the last one of the bottom).

It’s also noteworthy that each new series after TNG indeed had its chance. Every pilot had a massive Nielsen Rating compared to the rest of the respective seasons yet this factor wore out extremely fast. Basically, for every new series the Nielsen Ratings was in a free fall for at least one season.

It will be interesting to see whether a new Star Trek series will be able to reverse the numbers and reach the former heights.

At the moment it is highly unlikely, though, that a new series will reach us. Even if the new Star Trek movie will be a massive success, the numbers are too depressing and too obvious for producers to risk their money on.

But I could also be very wrong with this assumption. What do you think?

Comments

  • I can’t believe that you searched the internet number by number like this. It’s amazing! I have no words…

    I’m a star treck fan too, though I can’t remember the begining of the big war in DS9 (maybe because this is the series I liked least, if you don’t count Enterprise after the attack on Earth)

    I found you because I’m trying to write a project on sociology of the image (actually, I name it like this, because if ever I’m able to write a project on this, it will be something really marginalized, because loads of experts study cinema seriously but not tv, so i’ll study tv in a field called sociology of cinema… )

    Well, I just wanted to tell you that your charts gave me a lot to think – really a lot… Although I’m having difficulties writing my project, if I ever succeed, I’ll make a point quoting your page.

    Well, this is a lot to tell in a first hello, but I hope you don’t mind if I try and keep in touch once in a while…

    • Gunther Heinrich

      Thanks for the praise and yes, of course you can keep in touch. Your project sounds interesting.

  • Michael C

    This article is fantastic – exactly what I was looking for. Seeing ratings data in a graph like this really makes it easy to see trends over time. I wonder if the decision to cancel a TV series usually takes place when the ratings are on a long decline and cross some threshold of profitability or opportunity cost.

    Then again, as you point out, ratings week-to-week don’t tell the whole story. First of all, there is critical acclaim – maybe you could try plotting a scatterplot of ratings vs. fan reception (you could take the fans’ rating for each episode out of 5 stars from memory-alpha.org for example) and see if there is a positive correlation – my guess is the relationship would be only weakly positive.

    For example: I loved the later seasons of Deep Space Nine and yet the ratings were in decline. Enterprise had some great season 4 episodes and yet the ratings were in decline.

    Thanks again for your work on this!

  • I would love a copy of the episode ratings spreadsheet you put together. Any chance I could have a copy forwarded? :-)

  • Flavia

    Hi, MadMind! I guess it’s time I told you I started my grad school on Star Trek. I’m literally going mad on the subject :) I saw your graph has been reposted on Star Trek Magic and I had to come and visit.

    I decided to work on the post-Cold War optimistic view on foreign policy that can be read from STNG. :)

  • JohnLewis

    Wow, certainly a lot went into this. I’d like to point out a few flaws IMHO, though. First on The Motion Picture being the highest grossing of all films. This isn’t surprising when you consider the ten year wait for our crew to come back and the huge success of Star Wars. The same effect accounts for the 2009 reboot movie’s success.
    The hero in all the movies is The Wrath of Khan. Done on a shoestring budget due to the critical failure of TMP(which isn’t a bad film if you watch the original director’s cut), it saved the franchise without a doubt. It also had superb acting, excitement and most importantly a compelling story paying homage to the history of Trek. This story allowed for a three part series w/ The Search For Spock and The Voyage Home all being successful.
    Agreed STV was a mess and STVI was more of a political movie out on it’s own, commenting on the end of Communism. Generations had a natural curiosity to it being the first TNG movie and the Borg always reels viewers in. The rest of the other TNG movies are nightmares best forgotten!
    As to the series, you don’t include TOS, but the irony there is that it had the highest ratings of all! But of course it was a different time. So when we look at TNG ratings, they have an unfair advantage over Voyager and even Enterprise. TNG was syndicated in every major market, reaching the whole country, accounting for higher ratings as well as viewer loyalty, as you knew when and where it would be on each week.
    DS9 did start off well, but when looked at in depth seems to have lost viewers when Worf was forced upon the show. Even so, ratings were respectable averaging about 5 mil/wk over the shows lifetime.
    Voyager is a unique situation at the time of introduction, UPN was a fledgling network and Voyager was it’s flagship show. However due to this not being syndicated, but on a network, it was not available for viewing in many markets across the nation, including NYC. As time went on and UPN failed to succeed, more and more affiliates jumped ship, leaving more markets w/o the opportunity to view Voyager.
    Enterprise suffered even worse as UPN was certain to end at this point. It also had a fatal flaw built in from the start–prequel status, throwing all that loyal viewers thought they knew under the bus.
    Into Darkness succeeding doesn’t mean much to our universe. It’s a time of marginal acting, paper thin scripts, no respect for the past and whiz bang CGI effects. As long as it delivers action packed scenes, an interchangeable score and hot, young cast it will succeed.
    You see, being an “old true blue” Star Trek fan is obsolete. As we are in danger of becoming if we don’t adapt to what the casual movie goer wants. Personally, I’d rather die with my boots on and think of all Star Trek reboot movies as stand alone action flicks, with no connection to the rich history I love. Taken as that, perhaps I can find some enjoyment in the new universe.

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