Before Janeway, Picard, Sisko, Spock and Kirk…there was Enterprise.
Back in 2001 the first Starship Enterprise ventured out into space on our TV screens. I remember at the time that it was strange that this unknown Historically significant Enterprise had never been mentioned before in the previous 600 episodes of Star Trek but looking back it just seems to fit in now. When the show first aired it was called only ‘Enterprise’ after the first Starfleet ship of the same name.
Casting Scott Bakula as the first Captain of the Enterprise seemed like a stroke of genius. I was eagerly anticipating the series after his casting and he seemed like the perfect and most natural choice. Having watched him for years on ‘Quantum Leap’ I could think of no better actor that could display the philosophies of a future generation to us and the past generation of Star Trek. But while I think he is an excellent actor he wasn’t the character I was expecting. I think I was looking for another Sam Beckett. There are times in ‘Enterprise’ when Archer and the human crew come across as a bunch of annoying tourists who don’t respect other cultures as much as they should, at times they seem to belittle T’pol and her Vulcan culture. In another episode they want to visit a Vulcan temple which T’pol reminds them is a place of solitude and peace. Instead of taking a hint the opinion of Archer and Trip is “well we came this far, we wanna see it!”. I’m not entirely sure if the characters were written this way because it’s set in an era closer to ours but the culture of Earth they represent isn’t always representative of all of Earth. A hundred years later or 45 years earlier depending on how you choose to look at it Kirk seemed to carry the flag of all nations on his back. It doesn’t help that Archer seems to continually get kidnapped and have the crap beaten out of him. Sam Beckett on the other hand was skilled in Martial Arts. Fans don’t usually like to see the Captains in such weak situations.
The episodes weren’t always as exciting either. Take the opening “Tease” for the show. In one Tease it’s Captain Archer falling in the shower, another it’s Phlox feeding his pets and then cut to opening titles. Why would a viewer be interested to keep watching the rest of the episode with that kind of a tease? Compare it to a Tease from BSG season 1 where a character wakes up and discovers that they have planted explosives across the ship without realizing it, or another Tease where a suicide bomber blows himself up in the opening minutes.
Other problems the show had were beyond just superficial things. The music sounds a little too similar to the music of the previous three shows of TNG, DS9 and VOY. The shooting style is also similar, wide angle, close up, tight close up, rinse and repeat. The writing on some episode used similar storylines from previous series. Everything was starting to get repetitive. TV was moving on with new ways to tell stories and dramatic ways to visualize them while ‘Star Trek: Enterprise’ stuck to the old and trusted formula instead of taking a risk and being bold as it had been previously. Take the New Battlestar Galactica series again which was everything Star Trek wasn’t. Some people hate it but at least it was fresh, exciting and new compared to tired and done before. I never believed Star Trek needed to be rested. It just needed some fresh blood and a little bit more risk. By risk I don’t mean embarrassing scenes of characters rubbing each other down in jelly as we saw in the ‘Enterprise’ pilot. The original concept for the show sounded far more interesting. According to Brannon Braga the first season was to be set on Earth with the final episode of the season being the launching of the NX Enterprise.
There are some really nice episodes in season 1 that show the promise of what the show could have been. I liked “Silent Enemy” and “Dear Doctor” quite a bit. “Silent Enemy” for showing the vulnerabilities and doubts of the ship and it’s Captain as they come under attack from an unknown species and we also get to see them instal new weapons slowly rolling out the goods that Treknology had to offer giving us a prequely feel to the episode. For the same reason I also like “Dear Doctor” that discusses the implications of saving a species that nature may have earmarked for extinction. Doctor Phlox points out that if Enterprise were to save these people they might be playing God. What if Aliens had helped Neanderthals? Then the Human race might not have existed. It puts Captain Archer in a morally difficult situation with no right answer and he is living in a time before the Prime Directive (the rule of non interference with less advanced species) was ever written up.
Things I liked overall. It’s a Prequel! So everyone says Star Trek is about Humanity moving forward and it should be continually set in the future but I think that is taking too much of a literal stance. It’s about Humanity moving forward. I think Century isn’t important. It’s the ongoing story of the Human spirit. Seeing a Prequel of where they were going and how they get to a more enlightened time appeals to me. The problem though is this: it didn’t feel like a prequel. The setting seems far too advanced to the hints we had been given before. I had always hoped for a different looking series that truly set itself apart doing away with the saucer. Other good things: Uniforms, Pulse Weapons, Grappler, shuttle pods, Time Travel (but not in execution), The cast, the Dog, Sick Bay, Vulcan ships.
With all that said, now that the show has been off the air for a few years and it’s had time to mature I find myself liking it more. Season 1 in particular was strong and I think from Season 2 onwards it shifted to a less appealing show. I really like the cast of Enterprise but it seems a little unfortunate that some of them are given less screen time after season 1. Malcom Reed, Mayweather, Hoshi all had more screen time when the series started. Malcom Reed was a strong character and in season one had formed a fun onscreen relationship with Trip Tucker which added some nice lite moments to the show. Unfortunately these characters got squeezed out and the series became the Archer, Trip and T’pol show. I realize that these three actors had in their contracts to appear in every episode but I find there was too much story surrounding them. The same thing happened on Voyager with the show focusing on Janeway and Seven of Nine.
Time Travel Aspects:…where to start…
I get why the producers decided to introduce the Temporal Cold War aspect to the series to keep the show relevant and make the audience think that just because it’s a prequel doesn’t mean the future is secure. There had been rumors of a Time-Travel only show and this seems to be something of a go between. Probably influenced by the prequel hype created by Star Wars.
The problem here is that the TCW was an Arc that was never really developed and was carelessly handled. In the first season episode ‘Cold Front’ the time Traveler Daniels tells Archer that it is “imperative we find out what Silik is doing and who is behind this”. Three seasons later and we were none the wiser about what was going on. Nothing was resolved and everything was nonsensical. Silik stopped the Enterprise from exploding. Daniels took Archer out of his own time to protect him and destroyed his future. Future guy offers help to Archer at the end of season 2 against the Xindi. Just what was going on and who was helping who. Nothing is ever made clear. If the events of the TCW were always a part of the timeline it makes the concept rather pointless as the outcome would surely be already known by factions involved. But since these factions have knowledge outside their own time it’s likely that these events are new and will become part of the established timeline. Therefore Humans and Klingons encounter each other sooner, Earth is attacked by the Xindi when it never was in the first place and the Enterprise may have had a very different fate to what happened in the series. So all that means we have a definite altered timeline, not alternate depending on your view of Quantum Theory.
One thing that is sure about this TCW mess. Daniel’s is either the Evil Mastermind (future guy) or he is a complete and utter idiot who destroyed the timeline through careless actions. I lean towards the latter.
It’s quite clear Enterprise is dealing with only one timeline. So is it Paradoxes, Predestination or an Altered timeline? Klingon first contact doesn’t seem to contradict anything as some claim. The McCoy line in “Day of the Dove” about the first contact around 2218 doesn’t exist and was cut from the script. Picard’s statement in TNG that First Contact with the Klingons was disastrous is partly true. A Klingon Ship crashed on Earth and each encounter the NX Enterprise had with the Klingons things only got worse in Human and Klingon relations.
It could be that the first Starfleet Ship was supposed to be called Dauntless as screen evidence in Voyager suggests. Possibly Zefram Cochrane seeing the Enterprise-E in the 21st Century might have changed the name and design of the ship to reflect what he saw through his telescope.
Favorite Quote: “Someday… my people are going to come up with some sort of a doctrine, something that tells us what we can and can’t do out here, should and shouldn’t do. But until somebody tells me that they’ve drafted that directive… I’m going to have to remind myself every day… that we didn’t come out here to play God.” – Captain Jonathan Archer