The decline of the ''Star Trek'' franchise is like the weather; people complain about it, but they don't do anything about it. Until now. Activision, which makes ''Star Trek'' video games, announced that it is suing Viacom, the media giant behind the ''Trek'' movies and TV series, for breach of contract, accusing Viacom of letting the franchise wither to the point where it hurt game sales. The suit, filed Monday in California Superior Court, seeks unspecified damages and termination of its 10-year license agreement with Viacom.
According to Activision, the terms of the 1998 agreement call for Viacom to supply ''a continuing pipeline of movie and television production.'' Since then, however, the missions of TV's ''Star Trek: Deep Space Nine'' and ''Star Trek: Voyager'' have ended, UPN's ''Enterprise'' is struggling in the ratings, and Viacom's Paramount Pictures has released only one ''Trek'' movie, last year's underperforming ''Star Trek: Nemesis,'' the first of the 10 films to gross under $50 million. Plus, Activision reveals, Paramount has ''no current plans for further 'Star Trek' films.'' (Promoting ''X2: X-Men United,'' Patrick Stewart told EW.com recently that ''Nemesis'' was the last voyage for the ''Star Trek: The Next Generation'' crew, but Activision says there are no film spinoffs of the other series in the works either.) Activision says, ''By failing and refusing to continue to exploit and support the Star Trek franchise as it had promised, Viacom has significantly diminished the value of Star Trek licensing rights ... and has caused Activision significant damage.''
Viacom responded with a statement on Tuesday, insisting that ''Star Trek'' remains a high-profile franchise. ''Activision's assertions and claims in its filing are manifestly unfounded as one can learn by simply turning on a television set or walking into a book, game or video store,'' Viacom said. It accused Activision of ''trying to use the courts in an effort to renegotiate a deal'' that has produced 10 game titles, including the newly released ''Star Trek: Elite Force II.'' At least there's one medium where ''Trek'' continues to live long and prosper.