Star Trek: Enterprise

ENT Title

Scott Bakula as Captain Jonathan Archer
Jolene Blalock as Sub-commander T’pol
Connor Trinneer as Commander Charles “Trip” Tucker
Dominic Keating as Lieutenant Malcolm Reed
John Billingsley as Dr. Phlox
Anthony Montgomery as Ensign Travis Mayweather
Linda Park as Ensign Hoshi Sato

Note: this was originally called Enterprise but renamed Star Trek: Enterprise later.

I can’t believe some hardcore Trekkies think the new movies by JJ Abrams have ruined Star TrekStar Trek: Enterprise is what ruined it (although in fairness, it is a black mark on those films that their timeline includes this show in their continuity…) I’m thankful I didn’t get UPN when it was on the air, saving me a lot of depression at watching something that used to be great go to shit. But lest some apologists of this show think I revealed something I shouldn’t have, let there be Netflix! I had heard that Enterprise got better later on like most of its predecessors. So I watched. And not just the later episodes. I’ve seen virtually every episode of the third season, much of the other three, and my position on the show stands.

It takes place a hundred years before Kirk. Humans and Vulcans are trading partners instead of members of the Federation, which doesn’t exist yet in any case. Klingons are first contacted in this series. Quite a concept, actually. To this show’s credit, there is a feel of of a crew both just barely in the space age and before humans are a major galactic power. Ships use grappling hooks instead of tractor beams, don’t have much in the way of recreation for crewmen, there’s no holodeck, food is natural, and the Enterprise for this show is less powerful than what some other species have.

Alas, that’s all that is done right with the premise. Now, I’m not about to bash this for stupid, uber-geeky reasons like ships looking more “advanced” (meaning the special effects are post-9/11, not worse than those of the ’60s) than they will in the future or the fact that there are species that never appeared in other series. I’ll even admit that Enterprise’s continuity problems are often exaggerated, with the exception of the Borg and Ferengi (and it should be noted that the Borg episode is one of the better ones) appearing despite being encountered for the “first time” in Next Generation. Besides, there were some gaffes in the past as well. Like the movie with the eye patch Klingon that dates the Federation/Klingon peace back to Kirk even though Next Generation, which takes place many decades later, strongly implies that the alliance is fairly recent. Where were fanboys then?

But episodes are pretty generic. More than a few plots were done on previous shows. More importantly, few episodes look like they couldn’t have been done on any of the other shows. They’re not particularly well-written, either. A generic Trek story on fanfiction.net could have more or less the same writing style as here.

And then there’s the characters.

ENT1

Left to right: white Sulu, female Spock, black Chekov, Kirk, Asian Uhura, Scotty, alien McCoy.

I got my first sinking feeling when I saw that image just before Enterprise went on the air. The cast is almost as interesting as that picture makes it look. Well, that’s not true. I do like Trip and Hoshi. But that’s all. T’Pol is a use of the same sex appeal as was used with Seven of Nine from Voyager. Archer is the worst. He’s basically Kirk with a little of Picard sprinkled on top. This kind of arrangement never works. The actors are actually acceptable but the forgettable characters don’t give them much to work with.

Enterprise went through a lot of changes over time. Its ratings were down nearly the entire way and lots of quick fixes were attempted. Brannon Braga, Enterprise head writer for most of its run, has claimed that Star Trek is simply too old a concept. The success of the 2009 movie and the comparable box office returns of Into Darkness (although it’s still in theaters as I type), to say nothing of franchises that have either been in cinema or on TV for decades, such as James Bond and the X-men, rather conclusively refute that. What Enterprise needed was competence.

As Enterprise changed over time, I think I’ll do little descriptions of each season.

Season 1: The pilot was fine. It had a well enough introduction to a “new” enemy: the Klingons. And it brought some nice conflict between the Humans and Vulcans. T’Pol’s brief betrayal went too far and other mistakes were made. Enterprise writers clearly needed to step up their game.

Instead, this season got to be possibly the worst in Star Trek history. Dialogue was cheesy, plots unimaginative, and character interaction token. Some goofy episodes like Trip being impregnated by an alien woman didn’t help. This season wasn’t quite as bad as what one of the show’s main competitor, Andromeda, was doing, but it sure was close.

Contrary to the obsessively critical fans I complained about earlier, some Star Trek geeks always have an excuse for any mistake this franchise makes. Their excuse for this season was that all Treks (save the original) start off weak. That they never conceived that this might have always been a problem speaks to why the franchise has so much trouble appealing to those who aren’t already fans: it’s isolated from conventional standards. Did the Simpsons, the Sopranos, or Smallville go through an early period of not knowing what they needed to be? No. An unwillingness or inability to rectify the mistakes of the past, more than anything else, is what killed this show.

Season 2: For the most part, no different from the first season. quality is still quite low. However, it did end with the creation of a new foe. The Xindi are an alliance of races who take orders from incorporeal creatures who mislead them about humans. This made some hopeful about the third season.

ENT2

By this point, they were sexing it up out of desperation. I’m SHOCKED that this didn’t save the show.

Season 3: This season is about the Enterprise crew trying to find the Xindi and assure them that Earth means them no harm. The first couple episodes prove to be pretty good. It was still the sort of storyline that could have been done on the other shows, but for the first time in a long time, there was some heart and soul. There was suspense tension. There were some good episodes. That scene near season’s end where the Enterprise is blasted by three Xindi ships and the decks are literally torn up from within was a classic.

In my review of DS9, I noted that it’s story arcs were advanced only every once in a while and sporadically. This show is the same way. The problem is that this approach to storytelling had come a long way since the 1990s. It had pretty much become the standards for arcs to proceed episode-to-episode. The result is that the Xindi plot stalled after the first few episodes. Result? Twenty hours worth of material are stuffed in the last five or six episodes of the season. Perhaps you see the problem.

All said, the third season was about hit-miss. But hit-miss actually qualifies for Enterprise’s glory days.

Season 4: Changes are made again. Instead of a constant story arc, this season has a few arcs that span two or three episodes each. Writing is again sloppy. The fourth season is nonetheless recalled fondly because of all the fanwankery in it.. There’s a trip to the mirror universe, the Orion slave girls return for the first time since the ’60s, we learn why Klingons look human in Kirk’s time, the great-grandfather of Data’s creator pops up, and for the finale, Riker and Troi appear.

Services to the fans do not make up for bad TV. As this was a bad show, it did not break my heart when I heard that Enterprise was to be cancelled.

And yet, some people apparently penned a series of “relaunch” books that continue Archer and the gang’s voyages. But I’ve had quite enough of this show. Catch it only if you have to see everything Star Trek.

Overall: 3 out of 10

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