REVIEW: Enterprise – Season Four – Birth of the Federation
The Fourth and final season of Enterprise moved the series away from the Xindi year-long story arc that had taken place throughout Season Three. Instead the season was made up of two or three-part storylines that each formed their own individual story arc. On the plus side, the Temporal Cold War was finally brought to an end and wrapped up. This was mostly a studio decision and the storyline had been a running thread as far back as the pilot episode.
The main benefit of this was that it allowed Enterprise to move towards episodes that looked at the origins of several concepts that were in use by the Star Trek Original Series. Concepts such as the Klingon’s differing appearance between the Original Series and other shows, the transporter, the Vulcan move towards Surak and logic along with the very beginning of the concepts such as the Earth/Romulan War and the United Federation of Planets.
Some episodes still remain weak and badly put together. The two-part opening episodes Storm Front, while clearing up the Temporal Cold War story arc prove to be badly written and badly put together. The Cold War ends, but it ends messily and it feels incredibly rushed. I can understand the studios and producers efforts to bring an end to the cold war. But in doing so, they possibly inflicted harm to the series. The whole alternate world war 2 concept has already been done to death and once again, it feels a lot like they were just re-using story elements from previous star trek shows. This is a problem that was running throughout the entire run of Enterprise and there are many episodes that feel like they are just covering ground already established in previous star trek shows and are just merely updating them to the Enterprise era.
Another badly put together episode is the final episode itself. These Are the Voyages… is meant to be an epilogue to star trek itself, not just Enterprise. I can understand this concept, especially since the episode was bringing to an end 18 years of Star Trek TV production and when the Star Trek format would return, it would be vastly different. On top of that, there’s the whole thing regarding Trip’s death. Trip had grown to be my favorite character of Enterprise. The death of his character was badly written and was badly directed. It just felt incredibly out-of-place and I had a lot of trouble accepting at its value. I had heard about the novels attempts at bringing him back, i’m yet to read them myself but hopefully they will provide a decent explanation. Along with this, there’s the appearance of Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis as Riker and Troi. The reveal that the episode is actually a holographic recording on the USS Enterprise-D was a little jarring. At the time of filming, 10 years had passed in-between The Pegasus and These Are the Voyages… that’s a lot of time. While it was great to see the Enterprise-D’s conference room and ten forward once again, the aging of the actors was just too noticeable. If it had been moved forward to the setting of Star Trek: Nemesis then that would at least have been believable. This is not to say it’s all bad. The Pegasus had been one of my favorite episodes of TNG, but the negatives outweighed the positives of what should have been a noteworthy episode. The only time the episode actually delivers is the final few seconds with the speeches of Picard, Kirk and Archer giving their speech. A great way to bow out, but not enough to save the episode.
Noteworthy episodes are…
Home: While this episode serves as an epilogue to the Temporal Cold War and the Xindi arc. It does allow further exploration of the characters. It reminds me a lot of the Fourth Season episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation Family and how the events from the Borg two parter The Best of Both Worlds were handled by the Enterprise-D crew. It appropriately ties up some story points from the previous 3 years of the show but also allows the show to move in its own new direction now and plants a few storyline seeds that will be picked up throughout the fourth season.
The Vulcan Arc (The Forge / Awakening / Kir’Shara): This 3 part episode, while removing Admiral Gardner from the show. Begins to show how the Vulcans going from a suspicious species to the logic based ones of later Star Trek shows. The episodes answers these questions fairly well and also allows further exploration of the Vulcans themselves and their society. By the end of the episode, it feels like the shackles are beginning to come off with Earth and the Enterprise beginning to be treated not only as an ally but also as an equal.
The Coalition Arc (Babel One / United / The Aenar): for the first time, it begins to become clear where the seeds of the Federations foundation begin in this story arc. While enjoyable itself for a storyline involving the Romulans (and also hint to the Earth / Romulan war). The 3 episode story arc allows the writers to finally move towards the Federation and show how Humans are beginning to play a role in galactic affairs. It has always been wondered why the Humans, who have only recently emerged onto the galactic scene were going to play a founding role in the Federation. The answer is soon made clear as the Humans are the only ones who are on good terms with the Andorians, Tellerites and the Vulcans who before had all been fighting each other. It also makes clear how the Romulans soon begin to view Earth as a threat. Up until now, they had been able to use the varying warring fractions and play them off each other. United, it begins to make them a threat.
The Klingon Arc (Affliction / Divergence): While it feels like a bit too long, this episode does go a long way to explain the cosmetic differences between the Klingons that occurs between the Original Series and subsequent productions. The explanation doesn’t give everything away, but it does leave the viewer with at least a possible explanation to a problem that had been in place after Mark Lenard’s Klingon made his first appearance in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
The Mirror Universe Arc (In A Mirror, Darkly Parts 1 & 2): Probably my favourite episode of Enterprise overall. Through this episode the producers, writers and actors are allowed to play outside of the confines of established canon and deliver some great moments. The addition of the Tholians and the reveal of what happened to the USS Defiant from the Original Series episode The Tholian Web is of particular note since it shows the first time how well the sets and technology of Star Trek stand up to now. It’s a great storyline and very little with weakness. Excellent twists and turns allow the episode to feel unique. Especially with the addition of an altered opening sequence that sets up the difference between the Mirror Universe and the Star Trek one.
Terra Prime: The second episode of a two-part storyline, This was a so-so episode but it’s worth it alone for the final moments of the episode. Archer’s speech about Humanity at its best serves as the best example I can find for what Enterprise and what Star Trek stands for. I never expected to see my favourite quote from a Star Trek episode to originate in Enterprise. But Archer and more importantly Bakula deliver a great speech as the Coalition of Planets as formed and the path begins towards the founding of the United Federation of Planets.
So Enterprise ends, did it deserve a Fifth Season? I would like to have certainly seen a Fifth Season of Enterprise. The Third and Fourth years of the show felt like the show had learned from the mistakes of its first two years and made advances forward. I would almost certainly have liked to have seen how the Earth / Romulan War would have played out. Unfortunately it was not to be, I can understand the reason to bring Star Trek to an end. It had been on tv for 18 years and it had been over-saturated. When The Next Generation had aired, it had been one of the few tv shows that revolved around a science fiction setting. By the time Enterprise had come to its end, there had been endless amounts of science fiction shows and the standards had been raised higher, higher than i think Enterprise could have delivered.
Thankfully These are the voyages… didn’t prove to be the end of Star Trek. It just needed a rest, after a few years. Star Trek would be back and it would be better than ever. With a sequel to J.J Abrams Star Trek on the way. The voyages of the USS Enterprise are yet to reach their truly final frontier.
Previously… Enterprise – Season Three – The Xindi Incident