As a Trekkie, I have long had on my list to catch up on the "Star Trek: Enterprise" TV series that ran from 2001-2005. This week I finally finished going through most of the four-season run of the show, and I have to say I'm both glad to be finished and a bit sad that it's over.
"Star Trek: Enterprise" is commonly derided among Trekkies as the worst of all of the "Star Trek" series. Fans complained that the plots were unimaginative and derivative, the characters were one-dimensional, and the overall point of the show was muddled and unclear. Pandering scenes like this one didn't help.
I have to say that for the most part, I enjoyed "Star Trek: Enterprise." I thought that several of the characters were compelling — particularly the prickly Andorian commander Shran, the Vulcan subcommander T'Pol, and the Denoblian doctor Phlox. The effects and set design were top notch, surpassing many of the "Star Trek" movies. And I enjoyed many of the battle and action sequences, both in-person (space marines!) and in space.
I liked the idea of the first Enterprise (NX-01) being much more vulnerable and untested than future Enterprises, going out into the unknown and typically being outmatched by whoever they encountered. That whole theme of journeying out into uncharted territory as explorers was compelling to me.
The major problem for me was that I found the main human characters to be either bland (ensign Mayweather), irritating (ensign Sato), or just not that interesting (commander Tucker, lieutenant Reed.) Most damningly, they didn't really evolve at all over the four seasons. Commander Tucker and first officer T'Pol were constantly being thrown together, but never really had a functioning relationship of any sort. Ensign Sato never really got over her first flight jitters and self-doubt. Ensign Mayweather was as wooden and boring in the last episode as he was in the first.
Scott Bakula as Captain Archer had him moments, playing him more akin to Captain Kirk than to Captain Picard. He had that reliance on gut instinct, adherence to higher moral principles, and emotional outbursts that were nearly Shatner-ian. That said, he never really did it for me when he got on his moral high horse in the way that other Enterprise captains had, or even Captain Janeway on Voyager.
The darkness of Season Three was certainly something different from previous "Star Treks." I found the gravity of their mission — literally to save the earth from destruction — to be chilling and powerful. It echoed the popular sentiment in a post-911 world, perhaps too closely. That said, it became a show that was much more about combat than exploration.
On the bright side, the entire four hit-and-miss seasons were almost worth it for "In a Mirror Darkly" Parts I and II in Season Four. I loved the clever references to classic TOS Trek and the re-visiting a classic Trekkian trope of an alternate universe where every good guy is a bad guy. I even loved the cheesy, sexist female uniforms.
Other favorites of mine were :
- "The Andorian Incident" (season one)
- "Vanishing Point" (season two)
- "Regeneration" (season two)
- "Impulse" (season three)
- "Twilight" (season three)
- "Strategem" (season three)
- "Doctor's Orders" (season three)
On the flip side, the final episode "These are the Voyages" was complete garbage. As someone who was just starting to like several of the characters, these last episode did almost nothing to bring any closure to the show or the larger arc of the storyline. I found it totally infuriating and bewildering how they framed the episode as a holodeck recreation on the "The Next Generation" Star Trek. And the fact that none of the main characters had any real resolution to their individual storylines made no sense at all.
I'm just glad that this series was not the end of "Star Trek" as a franchise, and that the current J.J. Abrams helmed films seem to be taking the Star Trek universe in a much more interesting and entertaining direction.
If you are to some degree a Trekkie, I recommend watching at least the most highly rated "Star Trek: Enterprise" episodes from the excellent Jammer's Reviews website. I agreed with almost all of his assessment of the episodes, with the exception that I enjoyed the fanboy action sequences more than he did. Seriously, SPACE MARINES!