REVIEW: Enterprise – Season One – A Voyage Begins
Enterprise (later titled Star Trek: Enterprise) had a difficult time during the four years it was on the TV screens. It was produced at a time when Star Trek was at its highest saturation point. It was the fourth spin-off from the original series of Star Trek and by the time it had finished its fourth year, the Star Trek spin-off shows had been on for 18 years.
Enterprise was a prequel of sorts to the original Star Trek series. It told the story of the first human warp capable starship that left the confines of the Solar system. The show can be easily be broken down into several parts. The first two years were made up of mostly stand alone episodes with some running story arcs. The Third year consisted of a year-long story arc and the fourth season was made up of 2 or 3 part story arc storylines.
For this review I’ll be looking at the First season of Star Trek: Enterprise and its first 26 episodes. Let’s begin with the show’s lead and the commanding officer of the NX-01: Enterprise, Scott Bakula’s Captain Jonathan Archer. Archer is more like Kirk when compared to Picard, Sisko and Janeway. He’s headstrong, loyal and believes humanity has overcome its difficulties and can begin looking for other worlds and begin boldly going. Of course it isn’t long before Archer finds himself and his crew in any number of situations completely unprepared for what they face. The vast amount of the early episodes is also spent around his prejudice towards Vulcans who he believes had held Humanity back. This tension is mostly played out between Archer and his Science Officer Jolene Blalock’s T’Pol.
The opening 26 episodes are mostly built around Enterprise beginning its mission and encountering all kinds of various life forms and dealing with any number of situations. One of these recurring situations is the Temporal Cold War. I’ll hold back on my dislike for this story arc for now, the basic format is that factions from the future are trying to alter or mess around with the past. This is played out through the Suliban, a race of aliens who have been surgically and genetically altered using advanced future technology to give them an edge.
The biggest problem with the Temporal Cold War is that it defeats the whole prequel nature of Enterprise. The viewer knows that there will be a Federation without it being hinted. My argument is that the whole point of Enterprise is to tell the story of how the Federation is formed, how the Humans, Vulcans, Andorians and Tellarites will eventually form a galactic alliance. The whole temporal cold war feels completely useless and it serves as a way for the writer to continuously remind the viewers what is coming. Kind of a memory prod that they like to poke the viewer with so as if to say “you’re an idiot so I’ve got to remind you what happens next.” I often felt that the whole Temporal Cold War should have been abandoned and space made for other storylines that could have focused more on the prequel nature of Enterprise. The whole Temporal Cold War is the brainchild of Brannon Braga and Rick Berman who are already known for enjoying past/future time travel story-lines. Enterprise often comes away with the feeling that Berman and Braga were rapidly running out of ideas and had begun recycling episode concepts.
That is not to say Enterprise’s first season is all bad, there are some unique episodes that do prove the worth of the Prequel nature of the series and are highly enjoyable. Here would be my list of those episodes which I would consider of interest and crucial for Star Trek Enterprise viewers.
Broken Bow, Parts 1 & 2: The pilot episode. Not as enjoyable as the opening episodes of previous Star Trek pilots but still noteworthy in its own right. The episode introduces the main cast, the Enterprise itself, the tensions between the humans and vulcans and the Temporal Cold War itself. It’s enjoyable for watching and seeing Bakula’s Archer making his first steps into new worlds.
The Andorian Incident: Possibly my favorite episode of the First series. This episode provides the chronological introduction to the Andorian species and deals with the nature of the Vulcans. It doesn’t cast Star Trek’s logical species in a good light either. The ending of the episode was genuinely a surprise to me and I didn’t see it coming. Even more enjoyable was Jeffrey Combs’ great acting as Shran. The episode could also be considered as the very beginning of the origins to the Federation.
Civilization: The beginnings of one of Star Trek’s most fundamental laws are laid out in this episode. Archer and his crew encounter a pre-warp civilization and find through their investigations, put the civilization at risk. It leads to Archer beginning to ponder the formation of what would ultimately become the Federations most important law and rule. The Prime Directive.
Shadows of P’Jem: A direct sequel to The Andorian Incident, the consequences of that episode are felt in this episode as T’Pol begins to show how humanity and her time on the Enterprise is proving to be beneficial to her. It’s also an episode that continues the Birth of the Federation story arc.
Acquisition: Upon first viewing, I hated this episode since I felt it openly contradicted established star trek canon, specifically regarding the Ferengi. However that aside, it is still an enjoyable episode and it was also the episode that allowed me to warm to Connor Trinneer’s Trip Tucker the most who would go on to be my favorite character from the Enterprise series.
Detained: A so-so episode but worth it alone for reuniting Scott Bakula with his Quantum Leap partner in crime Dean Stockwell. It’s also a unique episode that makes Archer question his views about the Suliban.
Fallen Hero: A decent Vulcan episode that begins to show the formation of the unique relationship between the Humans and Vulcans. I have often felt that relationship often reflected the unique relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom, so it was good to finally have an episode that provided some basis for that analogy.
Overall, Enterprise’s first season has its ups and its downs. It’s not as established as other Star Trek shows were by the time they reached the end of their first season. But it is hinting the way and more importantly it is showing signs for improvement. Enterprise has taken her first flight and as with any good show, its learning as it goes.
Next Time: Season Two… Shadows of War