AKA: Where Enterprise went wrong.
It’s a funny thing but I find myself enjoying quite a lot of Enterprise, re-watching it in bulk. When it was airing I went out of my way to watch it every week, as it aired in the US, courtesy of a good friend. Something was keeping me interested and now I know what it is.
For the first few episodes Enterprise is really pretty decent stuff. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the crew deal with new frontiers of human perception and capabilities. Coming up against unexpected and unanticipated things and peoples. Weighing up T’Pol’s advice about cultural contaminations, because there is no prime directive just yet.
I was especially fond of two episodes, Fortunate Son and Breaking the Ice. Both of them appealed to the hard sci-fi reader in me. This might surprise you, but bare with me.
Whilst not directly hard science fiction, the story presented in Fortunate Son fascinates me in the way it deals with technology outpacing technology. Human spacers who are scared into making stupid decisions because the Warp 5 engine threatens their livelihoods. All the old freighters are about to be obsolete and they know they can’t afford to stay with the curve. All too often Star Trek shows us the great advances without showing the problems they cause along the way. To see it dealt with was a rare treat.
Breaking The Ice appeals in a much simpler way. I can’t imagine any other Star Trek in which the crew stumble across a particularly large comet and become fascinated by it because it’s particularly large. This is truly a crew who are seeing the universe for the first time.
I don’t have a lot to say about other episodes. Dear Doctor is something of rif on Data’s Day, Oasis is part TNG’s “The Survivors” and part DS9’s “Shadowplay”.
Which brings me to Cold Front. This is where Enterprise really goes wrong, for me. Whilst I love the basic Star Trek storytelling of races against time, diplomatic or ethical problems or encounters with strange new worlds, new life and new civilizations… (sorry, couldn’t help myself) I hate the temporal cold war. All too often a Star Trek Time Travel episode always felt like a bottom-of-the-barrel idea filler episode. It certainly feels over used and is often done rather badly. In a show where the appeal was a Star Trek without the deus-ex-machina solutions of tachyon emitters, transporters, shields, tractor beams, tricorders, etc I just can’t forgive the writers for writing in Crewman Daniels’ quartes. A convenient room full of technology from centuries beyond the tech seen in any of the other shows.
It’s a well I’m glad they didn’t go to too often, but it was there and that was a mistake. Also, the idea of a temporal cold war is such a nebulous and abstract one that the battle lines, combatants and allegiances never felt solid or consistant. Archer and Enterprise were just batted around by the players, aware that something was going on but unable to ever really be a part of it.
Why couldn’t they just get on with exploring space?
Oh and before I forget, the sin I can never forgive the writers for? Detained. You have Scott Bakula. You have Dean Stockwell. You have Scott Bakula brought into the room where Dean Stockwell is. The first line delivered by Scott Bakula in this scene should be, by mathematical law, “Oh Boy.” If it is anything else, you have failed as a writer.