It’s 2012, which means it’s only 139 years before humanity launches its first starship into space to return an unhealthy alien to his home planet. What better time to launch our weekly exploration into the least-loved Star Trek of all, Enterprise?
Enterprise (or Star Trek: Enterprise, as it was retitled later in the run) has long been a distant fascination of mine; for the most part, I missed the show the first time around because I was spending a lot of time traveling and never managed to be around enough during the first couple of years to really discover it, but even though I only caught a few episodes every now and then, I remember the reactions of fans as the series progressed and cautious optimism gave way to groans, gripes and outright hostility. Even moreso than the (unfairly, in my opinion) maligned Voyager, Enterprise seemed to be the Star Trek that even Star Trek fans didn’t like, and ended up becoming the first Trek to get cancelled since the original series. I have to admit, I’ve wondered why that was for years, without ever actually attempting to seriously watch the show and find out for myself; now, though, with the whole thing on Netflix Instant, it seemed like the right time to dive in to see what I was missing and, if possible, try and work out for myself why Enterprise doesn’t work… or, for that matter, if it did, and its bad reputation is entirely undeserved. Stranger things have happened, after all.
Based on the pilot, “Broken Bow,” I’m currently leaning toward the latter. There’s a lot that’s not quite right just yet – Outside of the core three leads, which seem very definite attempts to recreate the classic Kirk/Spock/McCoy dynamic, the characters are somewhat flat, and the central mystery of the Temporal Cold War gets ignored in the rush to finish the episode on an up note, most obviously – but this is a far, far more solid pilot than The Next Generation‘s “Encounter at Farpoint” or Voyager‘s “Caretaker,” more consistent in tone and with seemingly more potential for stories going forward. If you were to watch all of the Trek pilots without any idea of the series that followed, this wouldn’t be the show you’d suspect would enrage fans and get cancelled early.
(Maybe I’m imagining it, but there seems a similarity between “Broken Bow”‘s conceit of a Temporal Cold War and JJ Abrams’ Star Trek movie’s time travel plot, with both seemingly centering around the idea that someone from the future would try and manipulate reality by changing their past. I’ll wait to see what – if anything – happens to the Temporal Cold War plot in the series, but it’s an interesting idea and I can’t help but wonder if the movie was inspired by what turned out to be a good idea killed by the execution herein.)
But even with a good – not great – pilot, there are already warning signs of where Enterprise could end up going wrong in future, and I’m not just talking about the hilariously gratuitous decontamination scene (“Hey, sexy Vulcan chick! Take off your top so that the George Bush-alike engineer can rub oil all over your body… for science!” Really, everyone involved?); while jokes about the invention of things we’re already familiar with from other Treks can be fun, they already feel a little done by the end of this episode, and as I’d already said, I’m not sure about any of the characters in the show beyond the three leads, because everyone else seems to have been given one characteristic and left to their own devices. Still, that’s what future episodes are for, right…?
So, yeah; Enterprise‘s pilot is a weird one to look back on. As a one-off TV movie, I suspect it would’ve been much more of a success, because there’s nothing really wrong with it, and it’s a fun enough idea to look back at the first mission(s) for what would eventually become Starfleet as we know it. But there are definitely hints of how things could go bad in there, too. Guess I’ll find out what lies ahead as I boldly go, yadda yadda yadda.
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