After watching the second episode of Enterprise, I found myself pondering one potentially disturbing question: Do I actually like the most reviled of all of the Star Trek series…? Going on the basis of what I’ve seen so far, the answer may be “yes.”
I ask not because “Fight or Flight” was an exceptionally good episode – It was fun enough, despite some fairly obvious character beats and a frustrating lack of any mention of the “Temporal Cold War” which seemed to be the main plot engine from the previous episode and was left entirely unexplained there – but what I found myself really appreciating were the small things that nonetheless filled so much of the show: The idea that characters would have trouble sleeping because their simulations had gotten them used to the idea of the stars moving in one particular direction, but the reality was different, say, or the meals enjoyed by the senior staff every episode as a matter of course and tradition. I liked seeing Captain Archer have to interrupt his “Captain’s Star Log” recording because his dog was jumping all over him to eat some cheese – there was something very human about these moments, something that made it far easier to recognize yourself within the characters or imagine yourself within the story, especially compared with the more perfect Next Generation-era Starfleet crews that we’d become used to, prior to this series.
Also appreciated is the idea that all of the technology doesn’t necessarily work quite just yet; while the last-minute “And then the targeting computers worked!” climax to this episode is rather ridiculous, again, there’s something that feels honest about seeing Reed and Mayweather get frustrated that things still aren’t coming together no matter how much they work on it earlier in the episode, and the strange, seemingly out-of-nowhere scene where Archer is crawling around his quarters because he thinks he heard a noise was just… funny, and made Archer a much more easily-relatable character than he’d been before then (In part because it’s still early days, and Archer doesn’t have much of a character just yet). There’s a shoddiness in the show – an intentional one within the stories, I mean, not a meta one behind the scenes – that I find myself really drawn to, and if this continues throughout the series, I can imagine that I’ll end up bucking conventional wisdom and warming to what I’m watching more than I’d expected.
Weirdly enough, the b-story in “Fight or Flight” centers around one of the character traits that annoyed me in the pilot, “Broken Bow” – Namely, that linguistics expert Hoshi is insecure about her value on the mission and whether or not she wants to be on the Enterprise at all – but it works, weirdly, when taken as a center of the story as opposed to her one characteristic (It probably also helps that Hoshi not only confronts but, to an extent, conquers her insecurities in this episode, so that she doesn’t become the panicked, nervous member of the cast from this point onwards).
In terms of a-story, we get an abandoned spaceship filled with corpses, and a debate over what (if anything) the Enterprise crew should do about it. Worryingly, I found myself siding with T’Pol in this particular debate (Short version: They’re all dead, you don’t know who killed them, leave before they come back and kill you to); clearly, I would make a terrible Starfleet officer. But the debate – moreso than the fight that followed – felt both nostalgic enough to be appropriately Star Trek-y and also unfamiliar enough to be interesting and differentiate itself from the show’s we’re more familiar with. That everything ended up in a fight that resulted in a new alien race being befriended and everything else ultimately turning out to be okay may have been a disappointment, but it also a necessity considering the format of the series, which demands moving on to the next adventure next week.
From the first two episodes, I’m actually enjoying Enterprise much more than anticipated; it feels fresher and more interesting to me than Voyager did at this stage, and I’m still wondering quite where the drop-off in quality is going to happen. Can it be that Enterprise is actually much better than everyone claims, and that it just suffered from happening at a time when people had burned out on Trek in general…?
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