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.