Friday, March 8, 2013

How To Decimate A Franchise, Volume 1 - Worst Trek Ever!

The Good: None. Honestly.
The Bad: Terrible stories, stiff acting, horrible characters, Guts the Star Trek tradition.
The Basics: In its first season, Enterprise abandons Star Trek traditions to create the universe over in a vastly inferior conception in this uninspired prequel.

The first mistake made in relation to Enterprise was putting the prequel series in the hands of a man who has gone on record many times as saying he hated the original Star Trek. This is a mistake from which the show never recovered and it is now immortalized on DVD in the Enterprise Season 1 boxed set. The whole plan with Enterprise was to create a new audience for Star Trek by gutting the old one. For its first season (and second, for that matter), the show is simply Enterprise, not Star Trek: Enterprise. They decided to distance themselves from the audience they had, distance themselves from the franchise by losing the name and ultimately they failed on all accounts. Enterprise - The Complete First Season on DVD is a testament, a memorial, to arrogance of lesser talents trying to capitalize on the successes of others.

This show, which happens approximately 100 years after the events in Star Trek: First Contact (reviewed here!) and about eighty years before the journeys of Captain James T. Kirk, shows no respect for the series' that have come before it and basically seeks to rewrite Star Trek in the Rick Berman/Brannon Braga vision. And it's terrible.

The NX-01 Enterprise is launched from Earth under the auspices of the arrogant and treacherous Vulcans who are disdainful of them. One, T'Pol, is saddled with the responsibility of guiding the humans through their new role in the galaxy and she accompanies Captain Jonathan Archer of the Enterprise out into space filled with her own prejudices and notions of how humans ought to be doing things. The ship immediately makes enemies with a powerful, heretofore unknown race known as the Suliban who are part of a Temporal War meant to stop the Federation from forming.

From the first episode, I knew the Temporal War would be an excuse for poor writing. "Wait a second, this contradicts what was said in . . ." "Umm, Temporal War, shut up." Sigh. It doesn't take long for that to manifest itself. Through the magic of the Temporal War, Captain Archer is soon treated to holodeck style technology that puts Star Trek The Next Generation's to shame.

The disrespect to the Star Trek franchise is systemic in Enterprise, from the look of the ship - which is in no way a logical predecessor to Kirk's Enterprise - to the alien races that are presented. Most notably is the treatment of the Vulcans. From their appearance in the pilot "Broken Bow" to their continuing storylines in "The Andorian Incident" and "Shadows of P'Jem" these are the least Vulcan Vulcans ever. They make the Vulcan from Star Trek: Voyager, Torik, not Tuvok, the Engineer who assisted Torres, look like a decent Vulcan.

In the first season of Enterprise, Vulcans are liars, manipulators and superstitious. They are not logical. They are not passionless. They aren't Vulcans. They are simply treacherous humans with pointed ears. The reason this is fundamentally a problem is that these are the early contacts (apparently) between the humans and Vulcans and in the established Star Trek cannon, Vulcans do not lie. Yet here, we are meant to believe that tenant exists independent of the earliest contact with the Vulcans where they are caught lying. In BIG ways.

The special effects on the show do not cover the terrible writing and the effects are not superlative in any way. The Suliban are over constructed shapeshifters that never really seem compelling as villains or even as aliens in general. And the season climaxes with a Temporal War story that does not thrill us enough to want to see how it is resolved.

The characters in Enterprise are:

Captain Jonathan Archer - The wooden, boring captain whose big character twist in the pantheon of Star Trek captains is that he owns a dog that he has aboard the ship,

First Officer T'Pol - A Vulcan who struts around in a bodysuit for no clear reason without much to add to the show other than pouty lips, big breasts and an attitude against humans that makes one wonder why she bothers to come along,

Chief Engineer Charles Tucker III - The Southern Engineer. Trek won't have an openly gay character, but they've finally gotten around to having a good ole' boy. As a friend of Archer he's in a lot of scenes,

Security Chief Malcolm Reed - The only remotely watchable character not by design but by decent acting,

Ensign Hoshi Sato - A claustrophobic translator who ends up in space making one wonder how a planet with eight billion people could only have one gifted linguist who could join the crew,

Ensign Travis Mayweather - The navigator/helmsman who doesn't have much in the way of character this first season (think the kid from "Galaxy Quest" who navigated that ship),

and Dr. Phlox - An alien doctor who uses slugs and herbs to treat his patients. I suppose somewhere along the line, medical technology took a turn back toward the dark ages in the Trek universe, though Phlox is a fairly likable character.

John Billingsley as Phlox gives his all and there are moments his stiff character seems to break into someone interesting, though there's not a lot of writing to support him. The problem is the dialogue. It's terrible. It's wooden. No one suffers from the poor writing more than Scott Bakula, who plays Captain Archer. His character is never remotely interesting in the first season and in large part that is because he has nothing remotely interesting to say. Bakula fails to emote effectively this season. He's constantly stiff.

The only one who seems to have any fun with his part is Dominic Keating as Reed. Keating never seems to take the role quite that seriously and as such, his character has a looseness to him that is rather organic. There are moments Reed seems to be enjoying being out in the universe exploring and I credit that to Keating's gleam in the eye that makes him worth watching.

But that's about it for this series. From the beginning it was so poorly conceived as to be unwatchable; and for those who have not read my other reviews, I am a pretty huge fan of Star Trek (the franchise).

My favorite story about Enterprise comes from Rene Auberjonois, who appears in the first season episode "Oasis." At a convention shortly after the filming of the episode, Auberjonois, who was a regular on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, then went onto Boston Legal (reviewed here!) and is both a fabulous actor and a wonderful person, told of how Scott Bakula approached him on the set, filled with pride over the episode. Bakula reportedly bragged about how good the show was and mentioned to Auberjonois that this might be their most original episode yet with a twist that was just incredible, to which Auberjonois reportedly said, "Yes, it was a very cool twist when we did it in the second season of Deep Space Nine."

Rene was right and the problem is throughout Enterprise; all the twists have been done before. All the "surprises" are old and repackaged. And Enterprise serves only to gut a franchise already in decline from years of poor guidance from those allegedly at the helm.

For a more accurate understanding of just what this season entails, please visit my reviews of the individual episodes of:
Broken Bow
Fight Or Flight
Strange New World
Terra Nova
The Andorian Incident
Breaking The Ice
Fortunate Son
Cold Front
Silent Enemy
Dear Doctor
Sleeping Dogs
Shadows Of P’Jem
Shuttlepod One
Rogue Planet
Vox Sola
Fallen Hero
Desert Crossing
Two Days And Two Nights


For other television reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013, 2006 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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