For today’s Retro Review – we’re going all the way back to 2001!
I was never very interested in this series, but I recently went back and watched the pilot on Netflix.
Love Enterprise? Hate it? Never saw it and aren’t sure what to think? Check out my impressions below the cut!
Many sci-fi fans were in love with Star Trek at this time. The Next Generation brought us all back to TV Trek. Towards the end of that run, we got Deep Space Nine. DS9 did not take place on a ship, featured a distinctly darker set of characters and focused quite a bit more on intra-galactic politics and war – a darker Trek for what was becoming a darker time. Then, once TNG went off the air, we got Voyager. We were back on a ship, and I hear that the Borg stuff was pretty interesting, but by the time VOY ramped up, I had already sworn off of TV, and didn’t really go back for several years.
As Voyager was set to end, the producers of Star Trek needed something new to fill the starship-shaped hole in the TV schedule. So they came up with Enterprise, a prequel series about the crew of the first (Maybe second? When was Starfleet founded?) Starfleet ship to bear that name; the Enterprise NX-01.
The two-part pilot of this series, ‘Broken Bow,’ shows us how the crew of the Enterprise comes together and sets the stage for a pre-federation galaxy, and Starfleet’s first real excursions into that galaxy.
In this prequel we have an Enterprise crew for whom the Vulcans are only just barely allies. It seems they have been guiding the development of Human technology since they first witnessed the launch of a warp-capable craft from Earth a century before. But there is resentment in this arrangement. The Humans feel that the Vulcans are intentionally holding information back and stunting the growth of Human technology. The Vulcans clearly feel that the Humans are not ready for the wider Galaxy.
At this point, please bear in mind that I really have no idea where this series goes. These are just guesses and impressions from the Pilot.
This Enterprise crew also has never seen a Klingon before. Stranger still, the Klingon we do see looks just like the more modern ones! This takes place before the original series, when the Klingons did not have their prominent brow ridges (though I understand that they eventually explain this, it is potentially confusing!). In fact, the Human crew of the Enterprise seems utterly ignorant of the other species and cultures that await them in the galaxy. If the Vulcans are, indeed, trying to keep the Human race down, they’ve done a fine job of it!
This pilot did some things very well. Although there is a large crew, the pilot only gives us significant background information on Captain Archer and only alludes to the idea that his Vulcan science officer (sound familiar?), T’Pol, has worked for a secret Vulcan agenda for many decades – since at least Archer’s childhood. The other characters exist, and even have names, but we learn only the most rudimentary things about them.
Speaking of T’Pol… Is anybody else bothered by the idea that the Vulcan science officer is distractingly sexually attractive. Now, I would never say that a scientist cannot also be a beautiful woman; but T’Pol is an alien from a race that values logic above all else. I feel like a race such as the Vulcans would have either had overtly sexual mammalian traits bred out of them, or else their garb would be of a more utilitarian and traditional desert style – not form-fitting jumpsuits. Maybe it’s nothing. It’s certainly for the sake of the fanboy eye-candy. But things like this, that are clearly just fan-wank or trying to appeal to a “broader base” only serve to jar me out of the narrative. /rant
There’s some great action in this episode. There’s a shootout on an alien world. There’s an outer space firefight reminiscent of The Wrath of Khan. It’s all very fun, and believable without having to over-explain the technology involved. They do let the fans know that the tech is different from what we’re familiar with, but they don’t spend any significant time on it.
As much as I find T’Pol detrimentally distracting, they do use that to good effect. There is a scene in which T’Pol and another character must be decontaminated from exposure to an alien world. In earlier series, the transporter automatically removes foreign bodies when the crew return to the ship, but since the transporter is generally considered a new and untrusted technology in this time, they have to bathe in Purell. T’Pol and Tucker are ‘forced’ to strip down and decontaminate each other. The scene never breaks down into anything overtly sexual, but the tension is palpable! I’m aware that this relationship does develop later in the series (uhmm…. Spoilers? Ooops.), and I just hope that the writers remain as adept in presenting it. There is a lot of promise in exploring the relationship between two characters of such drastically philosophically different races.
The show ends, and I don’t think this is a spoiler, with Starfleet deciding that Archer’s Enterprise crew is ready to begin their mission of exploration; seeking new life among the nearby stars. T’Pol signs on as the semi-permanent science office (though still as a representative of the Vulcans, and not a member of Starfleet).
I had never given this series a chance before, but I think I may now. I enjoyed that pilot episode. It just feels fresher than Voyager did! To me, Voyager just felt like TNG; take two! This feels like a new show, with fresh ideas, set in the same, familar universe; but the characters know less about the universe around than the viewers do! I actually can’t wait to continue, but it will have to wait until I finish the run of DS9 that I’m on.
My recommendation? Watch it! It streams from Netflix, and many episode are available online.
Let me know in the comments what you think!
FINAL NOTE: THAT THEME SONG
Okay… I couldn’t end this without mentioning this. Star Trek: Enterprise is the first and only Star Trek not to have an orchestral theme song. Instead, they used some sort of acoustic rock ballad over the opening credits. It’s terrible! I don’t hate it in and of itself. It just doesn’t sound right! They should have used something more traditionally Trek. Maybe I’ll get used to it?