To paraphrase Charles Dickens, ‘It was the best of Trek, it was the worst of Trek’ seems like an apt way to describe my rapport with this prequel series to Star Trek; The Original Series, There was a lot I liked about it, for example how it turned the whole relationship between humans and Vulcans on its head, while making the oh-so-superior and smug aliens seem a lot more fallible, and things I didn’t like as much, like the temporal cold war time travel story arc, which like so many attempts at time travel stories, became a bit odd and confusing. Although it included some intriguing ideas, like the Suliban and their genetic upgrades, the temporal cold war ended up being more of a distraction than adding anything really more interesting, or fun to the show.
Star Trek: Enterprise (titled simply Enterprise until the third episode of season three is an American science fiction television series created by Rick Berman and Brannon Braga, like the new Star Trek Discovery (2017) as a prequel to Star Trek; The Original Series It originally aired from September 26, 2001, to May 13, 2005, on UPN, spanning 98 episodes over four seasons. Set in the 22nd century 100 years before the USS Enterprise‘s five-year mission, the series follows the adventures of the crew of the first Warp 5 capable Starfleet starship, Enterprise, and was meant to serve as the genesis of the mythology of all the ships given that iconic and legendary name,
Like a lot of Trek series, it had a somewhat bumpy beginning and it took some time getting used to. Part of the reason, of course, was getting familiar with a new crew. As with all Trek series, a lot hinges on the crew and how they are received by fans. In comparison to say Star Trek TNG, it was about the same for me in terms of what crew members I warmed up to immediately and those I didn’t. For example it was a long time before I warmed up to William Ryker (Jonathan Frakes) on TNG and the same could be said for both Commander ‘Tripp’ Tucker (Conner Trinneer), and the ship’s Captain Johnathan Archer (Scott Bakula) in Enterprise, but it wasn’t long, about a season and a half, before I was fully on board with the new show. The show evolved, the dynamics and chemistry between them soon became as natural and acceptable as if I had been watching the show for years, any misgivings I had experienced earlier soon gave way to enthusiasm for the series
Other members of the crew I took to right away, for example, Dr. Phlox (John Billingsley), and of course the sexy ladies on the show, both Sub-Commander T’pol ( Jolene Blalock), and Ensign Hoshi Sato (Linda Park), brought a welcome feminine charm to the series, as well as being the interesting characters they became as part of the mix on the bridge. T’pol, in particular, became a most engaging and fascinating part of the series with a much deeper mythology of her own, as well as being a big part of the show’s new way of portraying the Vulcans as more than emotionless robot-like characters.
Of course, another important factor in the success of any genre series is the look and feel of it, and everything that the show uses to accomplish that is important from costume design to props and sets too. Enterprise did well in this regard, starting with the ship itself, The NX-01 was designed to serve as a prototype for earth’s Starfleet vessels going forward, utilizing the same iconic configuration, while replacing the almost seamless appearance of the hull in ships that followed with a retro look composed of metal plates with visible rivets, reminiscent of an armored ship. It was a good looking design for the forerunner of the Enterprises to follow.
In fact, almost everything on the show was designed with the same idea in mind, a retro-styled prototype that reflected what would follow in the series that took place later in the timeline, Also included was a more military approach to levels of command and the uniforms created for the show.
Besides turning the whole Trek Vulcan mythology on its head, the show also had a lot of fun with the Vulcan’s nemesis species, the Andorians. It created several memorable and enjoyable moments by playing with the tensions between the Vulcans and the Andorians. Not only was it delightful to see the blue-skinned aliens upgraded with actual moving antennae, but Commander Schran (Jeffrey Combs) and his all business subordinate, Tarah (Suzie Plakson) became two of my favorite characters on the show and I always looked forward to seeing more of the gruff and amusingly serious Commander who played an important role in several of the series arcs.
Of course, the writing is an important part of any series, the stories, plots and subplots along with both shorter and long term story arcs are indeed the lifeblood of any fictional genre production. I can’t even think how many times I have thought a series would be worth getting invested in only to have it ruined by shoddy, unimaginative writing. This series had its hits and misses, starting off well with a great pilot that set the stage pretty thoroughly for what would follow. The show’s take on the earlier encounters with alien species we knew Starfleet would encounter later in TOS was usually pretty well done and even at times exceptional.
Speaking of exceptional, when the show had earth attacked by a whole new species of aliens, or I should say, three new species who had all developed spaceflight technology simultaneously was when the series really took off in my opinion. The entire Xindi arc was, in my opinion, exceptionally good science fiction and represents some of the best science fiction I have ever seen on tv.
I have to wonder how Discovery will do recreating the mythology of Trek just a decade before Kirk, Spock and the rest. Will it be something grandly original and interesting or will it be more of the same with a new paint job? Fingers crossed and hoping for the best, I look forward to seeing more Trek in the form of a television series where it began
All in all, Enterprise was a good solid series in the Trek canon and deserved more love and respect than it seemed to receive. It left on a sour note with a disastrous finale episode, but it’s still one of my favorite Treks after TNG and DS9, which I think edged it out for the overall quality of material, characters and is just plain good science fiction. As a fan, I am grateful for all three and still go back and rewatch either part of or the whole series again from time to time without the need to make use of time travel.