Friday, September 13, 2013

The Gutting Of Star Trek Continues, In Name, But Slightly Better: Star Trek: Enterprise Season Three!

The Good: Generally strong serialized story
The Bad: Uncompelling villains, Terrible character "development," Dull acting, Divergences in Plot
The Basics: While the Enterprise blasts its way through a region of space heretofore unexplored and unheard of, viewers wonder what happened to the once mighty minds behind Star Trek.

It is worth saying that regardless of the strength of the overall storyline of Star Trek Enterprise - The Complete Third Season, the show still falls dramatically short of the quality one expects out of the Star Trek franchise. Moreover, as insulting as the Temporal War was as an "out" for the writers to disguise their terrible attention to details in the Star Trek timeline, the concept of the Expanse is equally inane.

Ultimately, what season three of Star Trek Enterprise (and it finally does acknowledge being Star Trek now) asks the viewer to believe is that the NX-01 Enterprise has entered a region of space called the Delphic Expanse that is essentially one massive field of warped space maintained outside normal space by the Xindi, who attacked Earth at the climax of season two. This suspension of disbelief; that there existed in the Star Trek universe a massive area of space essentially constructed by aliens that there has never once been occasion to reference before now.


Now a few weeks into the Delphic Expanse, the Enterprise is desperate for information about the aliens that attacked Earth. They soon learn that their enemies are the Xindi, a race comprised of five distinct species and that the Xindi are responsible both for the attack and the existence of the Expanse. With the aid of their M.A.C.O.S. (think Marines in space), the Enterprise continues deeper into the expanse in search of the Xindi.

As Captain Archer becomes more and more vengeful against the Xindi (one might think the opposite would occur as the anger from the immediacy of the attack wore off), the Enterprise is put in increasingly dangerous situations as it attempts to stop the Xindi from building an even more powerful weapon.

Finally, at last, there is something positive to say about a season of Star Trek Enterprise, other than it finally acknowledges that it is Star Trek. Season three of Enterprise follows an almost completely serialized arc. Despite witless sidetracks like the Western planet ("North Star") and the Tucker Replicant episode ("Similitude"), the season mostly focuses on Archer's attempts to learn about and thwart the Xindi.

The problem, then, is that the Xindi never truly come alive as compelling villains. Sure, they attacked Earth (something we are told in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had not happened in hundreds of years and that even the Klingons had not dared to try), but this season, on their turf, they are factionalized and often come across as silly as opposed to menacing. Sure, they are building a superweapon (yes, it even looks like a Death Star), but what is motivating them is unclear and later nonsensical. Having the ability to create things like the Expanse, one would think the Xindi would have the power to keep any threats far away if what they truly wanted was to be left alone.

In addition to the problems of the villains, season three attempts to bring back prior guest stars who had been enjoyable, like Jeffrey Combs as the Andorian, Shran. The problem with such cameos this season is that it makes all the experiences the Enterprise goes through seem like some sort of hoax. It begs the question, why is Shran able to show up and get so deep into the Expanse when it took Enterprise this long to get this far.

Maybe Shran should have had his own show. It probably would have been more interesting.

This season guts any sense of Star Trek philosophy in exchange for action and combat. In the process, it creates such ridiculous villains as zombie Vulcans and the Sphere Builders, who look remarkably like the Founders on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. The addition of the M.A.C.O.S. is fundamentally against the supposed peaceful mission of StarFleet. But honestly, season three is all about revenge. There is no enlightenment here, there is no hope for humanity (or Vulcan, really, with T'Pol's participation) and no silver lining.

Here is how season three finds the intrepid warriors of the NX-01 Enterprise:

Captain Jonathan Archer - Obsessed with getting revenge on the Xindi for their attack on Earth and determined to stop the construction of more doomsday weapons, he takes on the clearly more advanced race(s) in the most improbable fight the Star Trek universe has seen,

T'Pol - For the most part abandons her Vulcan logic and pacifism to join the crew on their galactic butt kick, but hey, any problems with her being emotional can be blamed on The Expanse. Not crappy writing, it's the area of space Enterprise is in,

"Trip" Tucker - Now that Archer is acting more like a savage, Tucker has the chance to move in on T'Pol. Otherwise, he just supports his Captain on his quest for revenge,

Malcolm Reed - The security chief is actually given a mild amount of character through conflict with the M.A.C.O.S. After all, what is the purpose of a security chief when you have 'roided up Marines to go shoot everyone,

Hoshi Sato - Occasionally they remember she's aboard to have her translate something,

Ensign Travis Mayweather - Sits at the helm and drives Ms. Daisy, er, Captain Archer,

and Dr. Phlox - He's busy patching everyone up because they get into a lot of fights.

It cannot be emphasized enough that even though Star Trek Enterprise - The Complete Third Season tries to hold together the show with one continuous arc, the twenty-four episode season continues to run on empty. There are two time travel episodes that draw the same conclusions as one another and a third time travel episode because, well, the writers just keep falling back on that dead one-trick pony. Add to that witless rewrites of prior episodes, written by essentially the same group of people - "Doctor's Orders" is a recast version of Star Trek Voyager's "One" (reviewed here!).

Star Trek Enterprise's third season essentially wraps itself into itself, creating a show that can say "it doesn't matter what we do in here because the resolution to this crisis will not have an effect on everything we know about the franchise. That's just stupid. That's not Star Trek. This DVD set might be enjoyed by people who like mindless, action-adventure science fiction, but fans of Star Trek will find little to enjoy here.

For more detailed reviews of the episodes in the third season of Star Trek: Enterprise, please visit the reviews of each episode in this boxed set. The episodes in the third season are:
The Xindi
The Shipment
North Star
Carpenter Street
Chosen Realm
Proving Ground
Doctor’s Orders
Azati Prime
The Forgotten
The Council
Zero Hour


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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