How Firefly And Futurama Changed The Fate Of Star Trek: Enterprise

"Star Trek" was the undisputed king of sci-fi television in the 1990s, but it lost that crown in the 2000s; prequel series "Star Trek: Enterprise" ended the franchise's reign with an abbreviated four season run (2001 to 2005). Different shows won the hearts of online fandom, including two contemporaries of "Enterprise" — "Futurama" and "Firefly."

The legacy of "Firefly" far outlasted its 14 episode run; fan demand led to the creation of the finale movie "Serenity" in 2005. Meanwhile, "Futurama" enjoyed a respectable 72 episode run from 1999 to 2003, but enduring popularity has revived it twice, first from 2007 to 2013, and again for a new season which premiered this summer. Short length doesn't mean a show will be forgotten, especially when the Internet can sustain a fandom like never before.

As detailed in "Star Trek" oral history book "The Fifty Year Mission" by Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman, these three shows intertwined in an episode of miscommunication and Hollywood office politics. The incident in question concerns two writers: David A. Goodman, a "Futurama" alum who then wrote for "Enterprise," and Jose Molina, a "Firefly" writer (he wrote two episodes, including one of the best, hospital heist "Ariel"). As documented via Gross and Altman's interviews with both men, the two could've had each other's job.

From Trekkie to Trek writer

Breaking into Hollywood in the 1980s, Goodman was mostly a comedy writer; he got his start on "The Golden Girls" and his last job before "Futurama" was "Family Guy." As a die-hard Trekkie, he was a natural fit to write "Where No Fan Has Gone Before."

A loving "Star Trek" homage, this 2002 "Futurama" episode features the cast of "The Original Series" reprising their roles (minus James Doohan and the late DeForest Kelley). In the 31st century, "Star Trek" remains banned due its rabid fanbase starting a war in the 23rd century, after which the (heads of the) original cast left Earth. The Planet Express crew, at Fry's urging, sets out to find them and the only existing copies of the original 79 "Star Trek" episodes. They find the cast is being held captive by Melllvar, a gaseous alien and the ultimate Trekkie.

Goodman's next job was as a writer and consulting producer on "Enterprise" — "Where No Fans Has Gone Before" helped him get his foot in the door. While co-creator Brannon Braga hadn't seen the episode, writers John Shiban and Chris Black (who sat in on Goodman's interview) had. Goodman did his homework and repeated ideas Braga had said about "Trek" over the years ("'The great thing about 'Star Trek' is one week we can write a Western and one week we can write a mystery.' I was quoting [Braga], but he didn't know that"). Braga and his partner Rick Berman also wanted a comedy writer's lighter touch on the series, so Goodman soon got the job.

Goodman co-wrote three "Enterprise" episodes ("Precious Cargo," "Judgment," and "The Forgotten") and has solo credit on one ("North Star"), later calling the job, "a dream come true." Simple enough story, right? However, there was another reason that Braga wanted Goodman.

Two different paths

Before hearing about the "Enterprise" job, Goodman interviewed with Joss Whedon to write for "Firefly." He didn't get the job, but it helped him get on board "Enterprise."

See, the reason there was an open spot on "Enterprise" in the first place is because Molina turned down the spot for "Firefly." He was friends with Braga, but felt the job was a pity offer (his last show "Dark Angel" had been canceled and Business Affairs' offer was lowball). Molina was planning to reluctantly accept the "Enterprise" job before "Firefly" writer/executive producer Tim Minear called him with a counteroffer. Molina would later learn that Braga was offering the job because he respected his talents (Braga didn't even know about the lowball offer), but with the information and feelings he had at the time, Molina decided to go to "Firefly."

Goodman's agent was sure to mention his client's interview with Whedon to Braga who, in turn, wanted to get some payback on "Firefly" for stealing the writer he wanted. In his "Fifty Year Mission" interview, Goodman admitted, "[he owes] Jose Molina [his] career on 'Star Trek.'" In his interview, Molina jokingly regrets letting a "comedy hack [...] soil the good name" of "Star Trek."

Where are these two men now? Molina has had a steady career writing TV — the next time Braga offered him a job, on "Terra Nova," he said yes. He recently wrote for the CBS series "Blood and Treasure." Goodman has continued writing too; he built on both his "Star Trek" and "Family Guy" experience by penning episodes of Seth MacFarlane's "The Orville." He also served as president of the Writers Guild of America West from 2017 to 2021 and currently co-chairs the Guild's Minimum Basic Agreement Negotiating committee. Here's hoping he can help make other writers' dreams come true too.