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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

hooked, kinda, on ‘Enterprise’ on Sci Fi

It’s a weird thing to be hooked on a TV show, and yet not really hooked. Like me with Star Trek: Enterprise. I’ve been obsessed with catching up with the entire series since the Sci Fi Channel started running the show from start to finish on Monday nights in four-hour blocks. The 98-episode run (it originally aired over four seasons, from September 2001 to May 2005) will finish up next Monday, June 25, with the 7 and 8pm airings on Sci Fi … and then start all over again from the beginning with the 9pm airing of the series debut, “Broken Bow, Part I.”
I’m not quite caught up yet. I don’t actually watch on Monday nights — I’m usually out at a movie screening in the evenings — but this has been the first real workout my DVR has gotten since I made the digital plunge last autumn. I’m just now starting to watch the final season of the show, episodes I TiVo’ed a month ago … and now, maybe, I’ll actually start to really like Enterprise. See, cuz, I did try out the show back in Fall 2001, cuz I’m a big dork and an even bigger Star Trek fan. But I couldn’t stick with it. It wasn’t making a lot of sense to me. The show is set a hundred years before the original 1960s Star Trek, and was supposed to be all about how the Federation came in to being; we’re talking pre-Prime Directive, that law of noninterference that sometime stifled the drama, particularly in Star Trek: The Next Generation. My first thought was: This is gonna be so cool. Captain Archer (Scott Bakula) is gonna go out into the galaxy and do a lot of rash, arrogant, interfering-like things, and he’s gonna screw up, big time. I really thought we would get a series about how humans got a lesson in humility from the big bad universe.

But that never happened. Instead, and worse, we started meeting all sorts of aliens and time-travelers and witnessing major catastrophic events that we’d never had any inkling about in all the other Star Treks. (How could Kirk and Spock NOT know about the Xindi?!) And that led me to the horrible conclusion that the only way to keep the Trek timeline clean would be, by the end of Enterprise, to hit a giant reset button (narratively speaking): you know, Archer would be in the shower or would wake up next to Suzanne Pleshette and it would all have been a dream. Or Archer would heroically sacrifice his ship and crew in order to change the outcome of some battle in this “Temporal Cold War” the series kept coming back to, and we’d learn that this was all in a parallel universe and had no bearing whatsoever on the long tale of Trek we’ve come to know and love. And I felt like that would have been an enormous gyp, to have invested years in a show only to have everyone say, Hey, guess what? None of this meant anything.

So I stopped watching back in the day.

But then, after the show wrapped up in 2005, I started hearing from friends whose opinions I value that Enterprise got really good right at the end, that the show has one of the best finales SF TV has ever seen. So I’ve been investing all this time waiting for it to get good. Mostly, the show has frustrated me by hinting at something near genius but never quite hitting it. Oh, there have been some very good individual episodes here and there, most of them involving Connor Trinneer‘s chief engineer, Trip Tucker; it’s clear from the very beginning of the show that he was doing way more, as an actor, with his character than anyone else was with theirs (even Bakula), and it seems the writers picked up on that and started giving him more interesting things to do. Trip has had some fascinating arcs involving the death of his sister, an unlikely but rather touching romance with the Vulcan science officer, and more. (I have, inadvertantly, heard that Trinneer gets quite a dramatic wrapup for his character in the end.)

And now I’m just starting to watch that last season. I hope everyone hasn’t been pulling my leg, cuz it starts off with everyone back in time to an alternate World War II where the Nazis are winning. If there’s a bigger cliché in science fiction, I don’t know it. It doesn’t bode well for this final season. But I’ve gotten through three quarters of the show already, so I’m not gonna give up now.

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  • I dropped out of Enterprise early too, for much the same reason as Voyager.

    I always felt the two worst things to happen to Star Trek as a show were Time Travel, and the Holodeck. Both result in these messy scripts with way too many logical inconsistencies, and fall repeatedly into messy cliches and dream-sequence resets. (It was always a pet peeve to watch the “recreational” Holodeck generate AIs that could take over the ship with distressing regularity, without any of the implications for the intelligence of the ship computer that spawned them

    Soyou can imagine my disappointment when i get to se a show 100 years before the original Star Treck, and catch time travelers AND advanced holodeck technology in 2 of the first three episodes I watched? Pass.=/

  • MaryAnn

    I dropped out of Enterprise early too, for much the same reason as Voyager.

    Yeah, I gave up on *Voyager,* too, when in the second or third episode, all the inherent drama of the premise — good little Federation citizens and rebellious Maquis thrown together in one small space — was thrown away and everyone decided to just get along. WTF?

  • Just John

    I believe one of the creators of Battlestar Galactica said pretty much the same thing about Voyager: that the idea that the ship would be sparkly clean, that no changes would be made to Starfleet protocol, and that anyone would be allowed to waste energy prancing around in a holodeck made the series ridiculous.

    After watching enough of the series, try and catch the two-parter “Through a Mirror, Darkly.” Fun stuff, especially the very beginning.

  • Man, the first part of this could have been written by me. I too gave up on the show when it became clear that they weren’t going anywhere interesting or significant with Archer’s incredible arrogance – an arc that built up to it snapping right back in his face would have been so good, but it was quite evident that that was not to be. I too assumed that they would hit some sort of temporal reset button when the show ended, and I had no interest in sticking around to see myself proven right. There just wasn’t enough reason to.

    I don’t think I could be bothered to pick it back up, though, even if I did have cable. I just got too annoyed with it all. Especially with Archer. Shut up, Archer.

  • JSW

    I’m not sure where you heard that Enterprise has “one of the best finales SF TV has ever seen” because there isn’t a single person I’ve talked to who’se seen “These Are The Voyages” (the last episode of the series) and not thought it was a piece of worthless drek. However, the “Demons”/”Terra Prime” two-parter that immediately preceded TATV was far, far better, and it also worked as a thematic wrap-up for the show, so most people (myself included) just like to pretend that those were the actual last episodes of the series and just ignore TATV entirely, which is made easier by the fact that TATV actually takes place in the 24th century on the TNG Enterprise, with the Archer/T’Pol/Tucker et al bits just being a holodeck simulation.

  • Yeah, MaryAnn, you’ll be a lot happier if you hit “erase” on the last Enterprise episode without watching it. JSW is totally right on about Demons/Terra Prime. Stop there. If you DO watch the last ep, I’d be interested in your impressions.

  • giles

    Berman and Braga destroyed Trek. The reason that the last season of Enterprise actually has some descent episodes if because of the loving care of Juddith and Garfield Reeve-Stevens. You get the sense that if the Reeve-Stevens had been in charge from the get-go, we would get a series that reflected both the tone and quality of the original Star Trek. Maybe even some velour would be thrown in, and if they did throw in some mini-skirt uniforms, at least they wouldn’t have a Vulcan with breasts the size of um…really ridiculously large breasts.

    The reason the final episode sucks is because Braga and Berman CAME BACK and wrote it. Berman and Braga were the worst thing to happen to Trek ever.

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