I've been a fan of The Original Series (TOS) of Star Trek since it first aired (that'll give you some idea of my age!). It ran for 3 great seasons (I realized Season 3 was lower quality as I got older). I enjoyed The Next Generation but felt it rarely reached the heights of TOS and was mediocre TV except for a few standout episodes (I know many disagree with me on that). I didn't think Deep Space Nine was real Star Trek as they never went anywhere (but I do think it holds up better after 20 years than TNG). Voyager started out with a strong episode catapulting the ship across the galaxy, where it then sank and snorkeled its way back to Earth.
And Finally, There Was Enterprise
Back in 2001, when Star Trek Enterprise first aired on Sky One, I didn't much like the series. There was that woeful intro song (while I now like the melody, the lyrics still sound like a square song being hammered into a circular receptacle).
Then there was the fact that the ship looked far more modern than the TOS Enterprise, making it a bit jarring in terms of continuity.
Then it played fast and loose with Star Trek canon, rewriting history with apparent abandon.
I gave up watching it somewhere in the second half of Season 1.
Roll forward a few years (about 2007/2008) when the series came out on DVD. I imported the first season from the USA and did that new TV-watching thing - I binge watched it. While getting through the first several episodes was a bit of an effort, the series picked up in the second half of the season. I liked it enough that I bought seasons 2-4 and watched them. And I really enjoyed them.
Roll on to a couple of weeks ago and for some reason I decided to re-watch Enterprise. Maybe it was because Star Trek Into Darkness left such a bad taste in my mouth and I'd recently come across a story about JJ Abrams apologizing for his overuse of lens flares, that Trek came back into my consciousness.
So I delved back into Enterprise. And, you know what? I think it might be my favourite Star Trek series. While I love TOS, I've seen the episodes so often that I can't get anything new from them. And, even through my rose-tinted glasses, the series looks dated.
Binge-watching makes all the difference with some series as it allows you to immerse yourself in the world that's being presented to you.
What I like about Enterprise is that it captures that sense of adventure that was such a part of The Original Series. The ship and its crew go out exploring and do actually seek out new life and new civilizations. And they have to be resourceful in handling the outcomes when things inevitably go wrong.
I can forgive the changes to the Star Trek canon because the series' heart is in the right place, more so than any of the previous Trek outings (apart from TOS, of course).
Most episodes centre on a single story and devote the 42 minutes to it (as did TOS, though it had a longer running time of about 47 minutes). Where B and C stories do exist, they're low key and are related to the A story rather than being totally separate (and distracting) sub-plots as appeared in TNG and Voyager (I don't remember DS9 well enough to say).
There's minimal technobabble (a time-wasting exercise invented by bad writers), and stories move along at a good pace. And most of the episodes are good. There are always some clunkers in a series but overall, I found the episodes in Enterprise to be of better quality than in previous versions of Trek.
Enterprise really got into its stride in Season 2 and ended with a great cliffhanger that led into a much darker Season 3. Easily the best season of Enterprise, this season was one long story-arc rather than discretely episodic. Captain Archer is faced with strong moral dilemmas (a true facet of real Star Trek) along with his crew. All undergo trauma of some sort and each is radically affected by the events in this season. This isn't the touch-feely crap so prevalent in TNG - the closest affecting episode there would be The Inner Light (Season 5).
With the close of Season 3, Enterprise returned to more episodic territory in Season 4, though it was comprised of 2 and 3-part stories. This season also has the brilliant In a Mirror, Darkly. This story is set in the Mirror universe (first introduced in TOS) and stands completely separate from the rest of Enterprise. Even the opening credits were redesigned for these two episodes.
The Trouble With Vulcans
Most actors can't play Vulcans. They think they're humans with pointy ears. Actors are all about emoting and Vulcans are the antithesis of this. You can see how badly most actors portray Vulcans by wearing their emotions on their sleeves - smiling, grimacing, getting angry (this applies especially to Zachary Quinto's Spock), etc. Pretty much every actor in Enterprise who plays a Vulcan misses that stillness and stoicism that I've come to realize was so brilliantly characterized by the actors in TOS - Leonard Nimoy as Spock, Mark Lenard as Sarek, Celia Lovsky as T'Pau, Arlene Martel as T'Pring and even Lawrence Montaigne as Stonn. Anyone playing a Vulcan should watch the original Amok Time episode for a masterclass on how to play a Vulcan.
Jolene Blalock as T'Pol in Enterprise nailed it. She's the best played Vulcan since Spock and Sarek. Gary Graham has a recurring role as Vulcan Ambassador Soval but, again, he's far too emotional. He does get better as the seasons progress though.
Enterprise was cancelled after 4 seasons. It ended on a whimper. The final episode (an insult to the intelligence of the audience) was a complete let-down (like Voyager's was) and takes the format of Commander Riker (TNG) looking back at the final mission of the NX-01 (Enterprise) on the holodeck. Maybe cancellation came quickly and there was little time to put a fitting farewell episode together.
TOS didn't have a stellar final episode either (Turnabout Intruder), so Enterprise is in good company.
Enterprise is the forgotten gem in the Star Trek Universe. For me, it has everything that makes Star Trek Star Trek. It's got what JJ Abrams and his lousy writers completely missed - moral dilemmas, stories that make you think, proper character development, an understanding of Vulcans, it doesn't use "magic" technology to quickly solve a plotting problem, it has a true sense of adventure, of being "out there" for the first time, seeking out new life and new civilizations and boldly going where no one has gone before.
If you gave Enterprise a miss, think again. This is real Star Trek!
Reproduced with permission from Home Cinema Addict.
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