This is why I think Garrett Wang’s dream of having Voyager end with a silver screen movie was never going to happen. Voyager just never had the ratings TNG had. People didn’t want to watch VOY when it was free, so it was hard to imagine them paying to see it in theaters.
TNG was a massive hit when it was cancelled. It was one of the top three shows on TV (along with Seinfeld and Home Improvement). And its ratings were still on the upswing. There is no way it would have been cancelled if it were a network TV series. But it was syndicated, and the economics of syndicated shows are different. There’s just no incentive to go longer than 7 seasons for a syndicated show.
There’s probably more going on in that chart than just the appeal of the various Trek series. The way people were watching TV was changing; the Internet was luring many viewers away from their TV sets. And Voyager and Enterprise were shackled to the struggling UPN, which didn’t even air in all markets. Still, that steady downward trend is hard to ignore. (Note that contrary to popular belief, Seven of Nine didn’t improve Voyager’s ratings.)
That said…Voyager seems to be aging well. Netflix’s list of the most-watched Trek episodes has a whole lot of Voyager on it.
No TOS, which maybe isn’t surprising. It’s a really old show, and has been rerun so much that probably everyone has seen it a ton of times already. TNG has four of the top 10 spots. Curiously, no DS9 episodes made the list.
I suspect one reason for the declining ratings was “Trek fatigue.” Viewers were just tired of so much Star Trek. Maybe there would be interest in a Voyager movie now. Kate Mulgrew has suggested a Voyager mini-series.