Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Top Ten Episodes Of Star Trek: Enterprise!

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The Basics: Star Trek: Enterprise did not have a single perfect episode, but there were some that were tolerable, even for fans of the larger Star Trek franchise. Here are the best ten episodes of the series!

Having concluded my reviews of each and every episode and movie in the Star Trek franchise with my final reviews of Star Trek: Enterprise episodes, it’s time to put up the Top Ten Episodes Of Star Trek: Enterprise! It is worth mentioning up front that the homogenously troubling nature of Star Trek: Enterprise to serious fans of the Star Trek franchise made it extra difficult to “pick the winners.”

It is worth noting that Star Trek: Enterprise, in my objective rating system, never had a perfect episode and that there are remarkably few I would actually recommend watching more than once. These episodes were the highest rated using my objective rating system and it is also worth noting that many fan favorite episodes do not appear on this list for a very simple reason: I am not impressed by special effects. Special effects account for only one point out of ten in my rating system, so the primarily special effects-driven episodes that are very popular with many of the fans may not score as high with me because so many of those episodes lack the distinctive or interesting plots, the genuine character development, or remarkable acting one might hope for. As well, many episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise suffer because of how they fit into the larger context of the Star Trek franchise.

What might be most surprising about this list of the Top Ten Episodes Of Star Trek: Enterprise is how few episodes from the final season ended up on the list. The fourth season of Star Trek: Enterprise is the best of the series . . . but so many of those episodes and arcs still had serious issues with how the episodes fit into the larger context of the Star Trek franchise. That said, if one feels they want to cull Star Trek: Enterprise down to the ten worth seeing, the best ten episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise are:

10. “Observer Effect” (reviewed here!) – Arguably the best acting exercise in the series, “Observer Effect” had Reed and Mayweather possessed by Organians, observing a scientific experiment the race from “Errand Of Mercy” (reviewed here!) put into motion. More than a generic, lame possession episode, “Observer Effect” allowed almost all of the main cast members to play a completely different character. While weak on the character development front (all of the character development comes from the Alien Of The Week Organians), “Observer Effect” was a smartly-written, well-acted episode that is strong enough to remind viewers what they were missing from the show’s prior seasons. This is also one of the most clever allusions to the original Star Trek that the series pulled off,

9. “Breaking The Ice” (reviewed here!) – The first truly smart, standalone episode, “Breaking The Ice” had a cool realistic element in the form of a long-distance classroom report that Archer has to deal with while the Enterprise visits a comet. The episode is light on plot, but is packed with character development. As Reed and Mayweather mine a comet, T’Pol learns the value of free will from Tucker when she resists the idea of the arranged marriage awaiting her on Vulcan. “Breaking The Ice” is (mostly) a bottle episode, but it was enough to give viewers some hope that Star Trek: Enterprise would not homogenously suck (the episodes that preceded it were not all that good). Unfortunately, it stood alone for a while in the first season, though it is a strong character episode that fleshes out the personalities on the ship enough to hook viewers until the next truly worthwhile episode,

8. “Cold Station 12” (reviewed here!) – Brent Spiner’s second episode as Arik Soong actually puts Archer’s crew in direct conflict with the scientist’s villainous Augments. This fourth season episode is action-packed, legitimately menacing and has an engaging character struggle for Smike, Phlox, and Archer. This episode revealed the potential of the corrective measures the writers and producers were using for the fourth season of Star Trek: Enterprise and it was enough to give viewers hope that the series would be improving,

7. “Shuttlepod One” (reviewed here!) – Two men (Tucker and Reed) are waiting to die from a shuttlepod that is out of the range of the Enterprise. It could have been a half-assed reworking of “Armageddon Game” (reviewed here!), which forged the bond between O’Brien and Bashir. This episode smartly became an “odd couple” episode that fleshed out Tucker and Reed extensively without making either seem like a placeholder for a prior character in the franchise. Good acting and engaging character development saved a slow episode and make it one of the best,

6. “Shadows Of P’Jem” (reviewed here!) – While “The Andorian Incident” (reviewed here!) might be one of the inarguably worst episodes of Star Trek Enterprise for anyone who was a serious fan of the Star Trek franchise, the follow-up episode is actually one of the best. Returning Shran to the mix, “Shadows Of P’Jem” finds Vulcan/human relations falling out as a result of “The Andorian Incident.” The Enterprise becomes embroiled in a Vulcan/Andorian conflict on Coridan that creates a legitimate bond between Archer and T’Pol as well as Archer and Shran. The action-packed episode is smart, well acted and actually has character moments that create an emotional resonance in the viewer! There’s a first time for everything and in many ways “Shadows Of P’Jem” was full of firsts for Star Trek: Enterprise,

5. “Future Tense” (reviewed here!) – The only episode from Star Trek Enterprise’s Temporal Cold War to make the list, “Future Tense” has Suliban, Tholians, and what is essentially a TARDIS! “Future Tense” coolly illustrated that at the technological level the crew of the NX-01 Enterprise was stuck with was woefully inadequate to deal with all that the ship encountered. As a result, this episode (which has almost no real character development) still plays well for Star Trek fans looking for a legitimate prequel. This is one of the first big time anomaly episodes and Star Trek Enterprise somehow managed to pull it off well,

4. “Proving Ground” (reviewed here!) – In a pretty tightly serialized season of Star Trek: Enterprise, the executive producers reminded viewers that outside the pocket universe of The Expanse, there was still a Star Trek universe moving right along. The return of Shran is cool and sets up a sense that the Andorians in the prequel will be more of a valuable ally to the humans than the Vulcans. As the Xindi continue to develop their weapon which will destroy Earth, Shran aids the Enterprise in getting the Xindi prototype. This is a wonderful action episode of Star Trek: Enterprise that speeds by each time one watches it. For all the problems with the Xindi arc, “Proving Ground” is not one of them,

3. “The Council” (reviewed here!) – For all of the problems with the third season and the Xindi Arc, no episode reminds viewers of the third season that they are still watching Star Trek the way “The Council” does. “The Council” is all about alliance-building and the triumph of intellectualism over action is a refreshing change of pace for the series. The episode’s tragic elements make the villains more villainous and the intellectual aspects make the heroes more heroic,

2. “The Communicator” (reviewed here!) – It’s “A Piece Of The Action” (reviewed here!) without humor and focused on cause instead of effect! “The Communicator” is a violent, political espionage episode packed with paranoia and a Star Trek sense of the importance of the Prime Directive (without the Prime Directive existing). While there is a bit of unfortunate torture in the episode, “The Communicator” has good acting and a decent amount of character development for a concept episode,

and finally . . .

. . . perhaps obviously to those who are fans of the Star Trek franchise . . .

1. “United” (reviewed here!) – Remember when the Star Trek prequel was first announced? Most fans had one of two reactions: 1. How can they possibly pull it off given how the technology would be so primitive? or 2. What the hell is the point?! The only obvious point to Star Trek: Enterprise is to reveal how the United Federation Of Planets was actually founded. VERY late in the fourth season, Star Trek: Enterprise came out with an episode that truly accomplished that goal. The episode was “United” and it clearly illustrated how aliens with different motivations and cultures could come together for a common cause. Too bad it was “too little, too late.” Still, “United” is arguably THE essential episode of the series for fans of the Star Trek franchise or just good television!

For other “Best Of” lists, please check out my lists of:
The Top Ten Episodes Of Star Trek
The Best Ten Episodes Of Star Trek: The Next Generation
The Top Ten Episodes Of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
The Top Ten Episodes Of Star Trek: Voyager
The Top Ten Episodes Of Frasier

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

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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