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Star Trek: Enterprise – Zero Hour (Review)

Next year, Star Trek is fifty years old. We have some special stuff planned for that, but – in the meantime – we’re reviewing all of Star Trek: Enterprise this year as something of a prequel to that anniversary. This August, we’re doing the third season. Check back daily for the latest review.

There was a very real chance that Zero Hour might have been the last episode of Star Trek: Enterprise to air.

In fact, it was entirely possible that Zero Hour‘s distinctive (and downright provocative) closing shot of an evil!alien!space!Nazi might have been the last shot of Star Trek to air on television for quite some time.

Time is running out...

Time is running out…

Following the broadcast of Azati Prime in early March, Enterprise took a six-week break before returning with the final six episodes of the third season running from the end of April through to the end of May. Those six episodes were very well-received, and hold up rather well. However, they were overshadowed by larger discussions concerning the fate of the show. In a way, the drama unfolding behind the scenes during the final stretch of the third season was just as compelling as anything happening during the climax of the Xindi arc.

In early May, it seemed like Enterprise might be facing cancellation. This was not a surprise; Enterprise had been under siege for quite a while. The media had been circling the franchise like buzzards ever since they picked up the smell of blood following the commercial failure of Star Trek: Nemesis; the change in management at UPN towards the end of the show’s first season had meant that the production team could no longer count on the support and encouragement of a friendly administration.

A literal cliffhanger...

A literal cliffhanger…

The ratings were not great, but that was only part of the story. Enterprise did not fit with the bold new of UPN as a network aimed squarely at younger viewers. It was against this backdrop that Rick Berman and Brannon Braga would recall having discussions with executives who wanted to have boy bands playing in the mess hall and wondering what exactly a “hull” is. The show was struggling to stay afloat, and the third season had not boosted the ratings or cemented its footing.

In early May, it seemed like Rick Berman was resigned to the fact that Enterprise was not long for the world. “As to whether it could use a rest for a while, that’s a valid question,” the producer confessed. “I think, eventually, Star Trek will be taking a breather.” It seems a fair assessment, particularly considering that Berman had advocated allowing the franchise to rest a little bit after Star Trek: Voyager. Ironically, it was also around this time that Paramount began talking seriously about a prequel movie; the JJ Abrams era stirs gently in the background.

Everyone liked The Best of Both Worlds and Star Trek: first Contact, right?

Everyone liked The Best of Both Worlds and Star Trek: First Contact, right?

The cast and crew were uncertain about their fate – Jolene Blalock seemed pessimistic while John Billingsley was more optimistic. Between the broadcast of and The Council, the industry bible Variety reported that Enterprise was unlikely to return. Mere days before UPN announced its fall lineup on 20 May, the consensus suggested that the fate of Enterprise was “up in the air”, with the network commissioning two new pilots that could take up space in the schedule. It seemed like Enterprise was on the bubble line, at best.

As the announcement approached, word filtered out that Enterprise had been renewed for a fourth season. This was confirmed between the broadcast of Countdown and Zero Hour. By the time that fans sat down to watch Zero Hour, they could be assured that the series would return. Although UPN had shifted it to the same Friday night graveyard slot that had killed the original Star Trek all those years ago, fans could take some comfort in the fact that Enterprise had passed the threshold set by the original Star Trek.

Cool under fire...

Cool under fire…

Just as they did with the original Star Trek, fans played an important part in keeping Enterprise on the air. The Save Enterprise campaign launched in late March 2004, dedicating to demonstrating the grassroots support for the show. They took out high-profile advertisements in magazines like The Hollywood Reporter. UPN set up a dedicated telephone line to handle inbound calls. Executive Dawn Ostroff credited fans with helping to save the show. Of course, it would not be enough to assure the show a full seven-year run, but it was no small accomplishment.

Although Enterprise had been assured a fourth season by the time that Zero Hour was broadcast, the production team had no way of knowing how things would work out when the show was written and filmed. As such, Zero Hour plays as something approaching a final episode of Enterprise. It wraps up the Xindi arc that ran through the third season, but it also hints more firmly at the legacy of the show beyond the seventy-six episodes produced to date. It might not work as well as Demons, but it is a better fit than These Are the Voyages…

Coming apart...

Coming apart…

The threat of cancellation looms large over the script for Zero Hour. As with the script for The Expanse, Berman and Braga structure the finalé to provide a nice character scene between Archer and Hoshi so as to bookend their interaction in Broken Bow. Unlike The Expanse, that scene is important enough to make it into the broadcast cut of the episode. More than any other writers on staff, Berman and Braga have a fondness for the character of Hoshi. In conversation with Archer, she even alludes to their first encounter in Brazil all those years ago.

As the Enterprise prepares to lay siege to the Spheres, T’Pol finds herself reassuring the crew that they are still alive and kicking. “We’re not dead yet,” she advises Phlox, perhaps speaking for the show itself. As their attempt to destroy the Spheres finds itself under pressure, Phlox draws attention to the looming deadline. “There must be something you can do to abbreviate your plan,” he remarks to T’Pol. It is unclear whether he is talking about reducing the season order from twenty-six episodes to twenty-four, or the show from seven seasons to four.

Seeing red...

Seeing red…

In keeping with this “unofficial finalé” vibe, Zero Hour also features two small (but important) roles for established Enterprise guest stars. For all that the third season is presented as a departure from what came before and a detour on the overarching plot of the show, it is worth noting that Daniels appears more frequently in the third season than in any other season of the show. Similarly, Shran appears as frequently in the third season as he did in the first season, and more frequently than he did in the second.

It makes sense for Daniels to appear so frequently in the third season, despite the complete absence of any explicit reference to “the Temporal Cold War” in the overarching plot. The third season of Enterprise is largely engaged with existential anxieties about the future of the franchise, both philosophical and practical. The Xindi arc wonders if there is any place for the franchise’s optimism in an increasingly nihilistic world. More than that, the show is contemplating its own mortality and the possibility that it might literally be the death of Star Trek on television.

The catwalk...

The catwalk…

In Zero Hour, Daniels shows up to confirm what had been an unspoken assumption to this point. Enterprise is the story of the founding of the Federation, and Jonathan Archer is bound to play a significant part in the history of the Star Trek universe. “If you’re killed, none of this will happen,” he warns Archer, teasing a glimpse of the very first Federation Day. “At least, not the way it’s supposed to happen.” The very existence of the Star Trek universe is under threat. “It’s essential you be a part of this,” Daniels pleads.

There is a sense of frustration and remorse underpinning Zero Hour, a funereal atmosphere that seems uncomfortable with the burden that has been thrust upon Enterprise. Without any malice or ill-intent, Rick Berman and Brannon Braga found themselves overseeing the decline and collapse of the Star Trek franchise. Even allowing for its inevitable and eventual resurrection, circumstances had conspired to bring the producers to the point where they had been in charge of the decay and erosion of a franchise that had been on the air for almost two decades.

A confederation of interests...

A confederation of interests…

“You can’t ignore your place in history,” Daniels warns Archer. One wonders what Berman and Braga made of that line as they wrote it, aware that Enterprise would be lucky to survive another year at best. Star Trek fandom came to villify and resent Berman and Braga for the various missteps taken during the production of Voyager and Enterprise, tending to ignore the complex co-dependency of interests that keeps a show (and a franchise) on the air. Internet fan sites and message boards became noxious pits of self-perpetuating bitterness.

Berman and Braga were hated with a tremendous passion by a fanbase that felt betrayed and disappointed in how things worked out. It goes without saying that some of the criticism was deserved, but a large proportion of it was exaggerated and distorted. Perspective tends to get lost in fan discourse. It seems quite likely that the only reason fandom has softened towards the legacy of Berman and Braga is because they are no longer running the franchise and thus can be examined through the lens of nostalgia.

Fighting the future...

Fighting the future…

Nevertheless, in the context of May 2004, both Berman and Braga knew enough about the workings of Star Trek fandom that they had to suspect that they would become known as the men who killed (or perhaps “ruined”) Star Trek. It doesn’t matter that the reality is infinitely more complex than any such fan narrative. Nevertheless, it would haunt the two producers. Even half a decade after the show finished, Connor Trinneer was fielding questions about fans who “blame” the show for killing the franchise, while Braga would dismiss the accusation as “absurd.”

In that context, it makes sense that Archer should resent having that responsibility thrust upon him. When Daniels insists that he is vital to the survival of the Star Trek universe, Archer tries to shrug it off. “Then it’ll happen some other way,” he insists. “Who’s to say whether it’ll be better or worse?” After all, Enterprise is its own show; it seems too much to saddle it with the weight of the twenty-six seasons and ten movies that came before. “My mission is to save Earth, not your Federation,” Archer remarks. There is only so much responsibility one person can take.

"You know, Degra could have just installed an off switch."

“You know, Degra could have just installed an off switch.”

Interestingly, one of the ideas suggested during the development of Zero Hour was that Archer’s mission to the Xindi weapon might become a heroic sacrifice. As Brannon Braga explained in In a Time of War, the network encouraged the show to ditch its leading man in the season finalé:

My memory of this is thin, because it was not me who was involved in the trench warfare at that point. It was Rick with the network. But they suggested killing Captain Archer in the final Xindi episode saving Earth and finding a new captain – a young, exciting captain; younger. Rick was extremely against it because he loved Scott Bakula. If you kill your captain, you’re basically admitting that your show doesn’t work on such a profound level. Because, I feel anyway, that a Star Trek show is only as good as its captain. And if you killed your captain… really?

It is an interesting debate. After all, no Star Trek show had every swapped out its lead actor in the middle of it run. The closest the franchise ever came to such a switch was the transition between Christopher Pike and James T. Kirk in the gap between The Cage and Where No Man Has Gone Before.

"I am Dolim. Hear me growl."

“I am Dolim. Hear me growl.”

One of the interesting aspects of the third season is the genuine tension that exists over the fate of Jonathan Archer. After all, his character has been fundamentally and undeniably altered by the events of scripts like Anomaly or Damage. It is hard to imagine the show ever going to back to the version of the character who existed in scripts like Canamar or Judgment, an innocent and optimistic explorer who played to Scott Bakula’s charm and likability. Bakula is a great actor, but he is not as comfortable with a darker and more cynical leading role.

More than that, it seems like Archer’s death could be positioned as atonement. One of the big recurring themes of the third season is that cycles of violence tend to repeat. Archer was a victim of piracy in Anomaly and became a pirate in Damage. Archer tortured in Anomaly and was tortured in Azati Prime. Degra’s fate was sealed from the moment that he destroyed a disabled reptile!Xindi ship in The Forgotten, leading to his own death at the hands of a reptile!Xindi in The Council.

Don't feel blue, Jonathan.

Don’t feel blue, Jonathan.

Although it does not dwell on the point, Zero Hour makes reference to the lines that Archer has crossed. He pushes Hoshi to help him find a way to disarm the bomb, even as she recovers from her own torture at the hands of Dolim in Countdown. At one point, a confused Hoshi mistakes Archer for Dolim. “You’ve got the three codes so why don’t you just kill me? Didn’t you say you’re going to kill me?” Dolim is very much a two-dimensional bad guy, but there are points where his “ends justify the means” philosophy resonates with some of Archer’s actions, including torture.

After all that Archer has seen and done, it seems like he might be too far gone to ever come back. In Azati Prime, it was suggested that Archer was willing to sacrifice himself in a suicide mission to destroy the Xindi weapon as some sort of penance for everything that has happened. The early scenes in Zero Hour suggest that Archer has no real plans of making it off the Xindi weapon alive, no matter what he might tell Reed and Sato. Sacrificing himself to save the world would be a fairly big gesture of atonement and reconciliation.

"The Andorian Mining Consortium is not to be triffled with!"

“The Andorian Mining Consortium is not to be triffled with!”

Archer’s plan to take the weapon hinges on his willingness to hang back and to let the others escape. “I’ll give everyone a chance to get to the outer framework,” he assures Reed. “You’ll be in charge of helping Hoshi.” When Reed alludes to the obvious issues with Archer’s plan, Archer promises, “I’ve no plans of dying on that weapon, Malcolm.” However, his actions seem very much at odds with that assurance, just like his actions in Azati Prime suggest that his suicide run was rooted in something deeper than a reluctance to order anybody else to their death.

One of the most interesting aspects of Archer’s character arc in the third season is the recurring sense that the character is dealing with the trauma of his actions, but is utterly unable to acknowledge or to articular that trauma. It is a piece of character subtext that is rendered as text in Home, when it becomes quite apparent that Archer is dealing with his own post-traumatic stress as a result of everything that happened during his mission into the Delphic Expanse.

Future imperfect...

Future imperfect…

According to In a Time of War, writer and producer Manny Coto was actually intrigued at the idea of killing Archer off at the end of Zero Hour:

I was in the room with Rick and he were discussing Bakula dying. And I got to admit – I love Bakula – I did think it was an interesting concept. Not so much to save the series, but I thought it was a cool idea to do a series midpoint where you bring in a new captain. And how the crew would react to that. It seemed like a great batch of dramatic possibilities. But, ultimately, it was the right decision not to kill Scott. But I just always tend to run with a cool idea.

Coto has a point; there are a wealth of storytelling opportunities there. However, it seems rather optimistic to believe that UPN would allow the production team any measure of freedom in exploring them.

Tortured soul...

Tortured soul…

The ending of Zero Hour is rather controversial. Most obviously, it ends on a cliffhanger; that is a rather bold move for a show facing cancellation. Most of Zero Hour is structured so that it might function as a satisfactory series for Enterprise if the show didn’t get a fourth season; Archer saves the world and maybe dies in the attempt, T’Pol saves the universe, the Xindi plot is resolved, the audience gets to witness the foundation of the Federation, and even Shran shows up at the last minute to help as proof that perhaps the familiar Star Trek universe is closer than we think.

So the cliffhanger is a rather strange choice, particularly given that it doesn’t quite come out of nowhere. A solid seven minutes of the episode are devoted to setting it up. In some respects, it looks like Berman and Braga were practically goading UPN into greenlighting a fourth season; imagine the internet chaos if the final image of Star Trek on television had been a creepy-looking grey alien wearing a Nazi uniform. It might even have garnered some mainstream media attention, even as it consigned Enterprise to the status of a televisual curiosity.

"It is only logical that the season should have a stinger..."

“It is only logical that the season should have a stinger…”

There are considerable urban legends around the cliffhanger ending to Zero Hour. One of the most persistent myths is that the crew actually shot a number of alternate endings to the season. In contemporary interviews, Scott Bakula joked about the series finalé:

“Well, there are all these wonderful rumors out there,” Bakula said on the show. “I think we shot three endings. One of them, we get back to Earth. One of them, we don’t get back to Earth. And one of them, the ship gets back to Earth and I’m not alive.”

Brady “oohed” and “ahhed” at the news before Bakula offered jokingly, “And the other one is something about I wake up and I’m on a couch at William Shatner’s house. Talking to him … I’m not kidding.”

Those rumours took on a life of their own, fueling speculation that there existed a cut of the episode that would have omitted the cliffhanger just in case the series was actually cancelled after its third season. Given how provocative and ridiculous that closing shot was, it is understandable.

evil!alien!space!Nazi!

evil!alien!space!Nazi!

That speculation was undoubtedly fed by the secrecy surrounding the ending of Zero Hour. Recalling his small cameo appearance in the episode, veteran Star Trek guest star J. Paul Boehmer explained:

“It was really interesting, because it was the first time that I hadn’t received a full Star Trek script in the time I’d been working with them,” frequent Trek guest actor Boehmer told the official site. “I just received my pages, with a big notice on the front saying ‘Absolute Secret,’ don’t show it to anybody, and all the ramifications if I did. Brannon [Braga] and Rick [Berman] were both very concerned about who was on the soundstage when we were shooting that, [so] it felt like a high government, Mission: Impossible kind of work doing that.”

Dominic Keating recalled receiving the script in a very security-conscious manner, as if the production team were afraid of leaks to the press and the media.

The original plan was to end season four with Archer getting out of the shower, but the production team decided that this had been done and they needed a fresh approach. So, time travel and Nazis!

The original plan was to end season four with Archer getting out of the shower, but the production team decided that this had been done and they needed a fresh approach. So, time travel and Nazis!

Of course, the truth is a lot less interesting that the mythology. There is absolutely no indication that any alternate ending to Zero Hour was properly considered, let alone shot. When Keating was asked about the possibility at a fan convention, he responded, “Lies! Lies I tell you!” When Scott Bakula was asked the question during an official chat on the Star Trek website in the run-up to the fourth season, he confessed, “I hate to break the news to everyone and all of the conspiracy theorists out there, but we only shot one ending.”

In fact, Rick Berman himself confirmed that the season would end with a cliffhanger that would bleed into the fourth season in the middle of the cancellation crisis. “If I tell you more right now, I will give away the ending of the season,” he admitted when pressed for details about the future of the show. There is no indication that the third season would ever have wrapped up without that striking final shot of an evil!alien!space!Nazi looming over the unconscious form of Jonathan Archer.

Arresting development...

Arresting development…

According to Brannon Braga, the production team had actually settled on the cliffhanger quite early in the development of the third season arc:

“When we were first developing the Xindi arc a year ago, over a year ago, we knew that they’d save Earth,” Braga recalls. “And we used to joke around that they’d save Earth and we’d want to get back to Earth and have some twist where the crew gets home and giant cockroaches are ruling the Earth. It started as a joke, having some bizarre twist. Then, as we got closer to the end of Season Three, we realized, ‘You know, we could do something.’ We knew we had to wrap it up, but didn’t want to end with a Xindi cliffhanger. We knew that wouldn’t be satisfying. But then we thought, ‘Well what if we did throw a left turn in there? And what would that be?’ We went through a lot of different scenarios about what they would find when they got back home. I can’t remember who said ‘Nazis,’ but we just somehow ended up with Nazis. Then that didn’t even feel like enough, so we decided to make them alien Nazis. We decided to do something that would just be completely unexpected, yet give us something fun for next year, to kick off the season with something really interesting. So we took a stab at it.”

It seems like the team really didn’t have any ideas beyond the closing image of the season, given that it is hard to reconcile those US Air Force fighter jets with the status quo revealed in Storm Front, Part I.

Cracking under pressure...

Cracking under pressure…

However controversial that closing shot might be, it looked like Enterprise had just about accomplished its mission. Limping home after an adventure well outside its comfort zone, the crew lived to fight another day. The future was secure. For the moment, at least.

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18 Responses

  1. Let me leave you with a Phil Sandifer joke:

    “…But there’s something deeply charming about the fact that, when told he can write an adult novel, Terrance Dicks is apparently the sort of person who goes, ‘at last, I can put something really horrible in my book. LIKE NAZIS!”

    • Ha!

      I seem to be the only person who did not hate the evil!alien!space!Nazi cliffhanger on sight. (Note: this should not be construed as an endorsement of Storm Front, which I didn’t hate but certainly didn’t like.)

  2. Great analysis of the episode. While I’m not a huge fan of ENT, and think overall it’s mediocre with some really painful moments (the theme song, a good deal of the first two seasons, miscasting and mediocre characters), I do think the series drastically improved with season 3. If you read about the inital plans for Enterprise (detailed here if you haven’t: http://www.startrek.com/article/previewing-enterprise-season-four-blu-ray), once they got into space, they would face regular dangers not only from aliens but strange occurrences that would kill crew members and damage the ship. While the idea never had anything to do with time travelers and evil reptiles, I feel the regular danger they face in season 3 is basically what was originally what the writers and producers had in mind, and despite the confusing and messy story, it actually works rather well. I know there’s going to be Trek fans who would line me up and shoot me for this, but some of the space battles and dramatic action in ENT season 3 surpasses the rest of the franchise. And it also seems to be what Braga and Berman wanted from the infamous cancelled “Year of Hell” arc planned for Voyager.

    Overall I wouldn’t rank it among the “best” of Trek, and I rank the fourth season over it (which I also wouldn’t say is the best Trek offers, but close), but I still enjoy it, and it shows that without executive meddling and Braga and Berman, ENT could have been decent. What do you think?

    • Oh, this is superficial but the effects in season 3 are impressive for a tv show at the time, that’s a plus especially during rewatches, compared to the often dodgy effects in season 4 (apparently due to a reduced budget).

    • I’d probably rank it fourth as well, but I suspect with a greater gap between it and Voyager than itself.

      I’ve been over this before, but I’m generally quite sympathetic to Berman and Braga in light of the network restrictions imposed upon them. The third season is really Brannon Braga getting to do his big epic Star Trek story, and it turns out quite well, for the most part. It’s the first two seasons where you have the episodic structure and the change of management at UPN that really screws the show over.

      I mean, there is every possibility that Braga’s original plans for the show – to spend half a season on Earth doing The Right Stuff – could have sucked. Certainly, First Flight doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence. But the truth is that we’ll never know.

      I mean, the two best spin-offs, TNG and DS9 were both syndicated shows that operated without network interference. DS9 had even more freedom because it was also the lower profile Star Trek show while it was airing, and so got less attention from the studio itself. Of course, The Way of the Warrior demonstrates that the DS9 writing staff were much better at working with studio notes than Voyager or Enterprise, but even then one suspects they were afforded more leeway when it came to “compliance.”

      • I actually think the original idea sounds cool, but I agree ENT probably always would have sucked, at least at first, because of Braga and Berman. They blame executive meddling for all the problems nowadays, but the reality is they had been churning out mediocre crud since the TNG days, and of course look at most of VOY. I don’t find this all that convincing given their entire record. They were burned out, and the franchise needed new blood, but it was little too late, and let’s remember their failure with ENT led to the transformation of Trek into some low rent Star Wars rip off with JJ Abrams “reboots” so I guess in that sense, ENT deserves all the hate leveled at it.

        ENT only became watchable after Braga and Berman took a backseat, and arguably only became “good” once they had practically nothing to do with the series (the sometimes praised fourth season, of course). It’s telling the much (rightfully) despised series finale was written by them and not who wrote the rest of the season. Season 3 actually further proves this, since they only wrote a handful of episodes, therefore there was a (sometimes dramatic) improvement in writing and episode equality. They’re just bad writers and bad producers, hence why they have nothing to do with Star Trek, or anything as far as I know anymore.

      • That’s a very absolutist position.

        I don’t think Braga is a bad writer. I don’t think any writer with a credit on Frame of Mind, Cause and Effect, Parallels, All Good Things… and First Contact could be considered a bad writer. To say nothing of his legitimately good scripts for Voyager and Enterprise, like Projections or Shuttlepod One.

        I do think it’s fair to say that he was not a brilliant executive producer, at least not when he first ended up in the job. But he did a number of very worthy things with Enterprise. Not all of them worked, but they were good ideas. His attempt to staff the first season writers’ room with non-Star Trek writers like the Jacquemettons or Fred Dekker was an ambitious experiment, even if it failed spectacularly. Then again, given the success that the Jacquemettons have enjoyed in the years since, hiring them seems to be a defensible position. (Only Ronald D. Moore can really compete when it comes to “Star Trek’s connection to and influence on prestige television.”) And producers trying to do new things often fail, to the point that DS9’s third season could largely be seen as a trial run for a fourth season that did much of the same stuff, only better.

        And if Braga is to blame for the mistakes of the first two seasons, and he is for at least some of them, then he also deserves credit for the third season at the very least. Braga has noted that the third season was the only point he enjoyed absolute freedom on Enterprise, and it resulted in a much better show. Even if he’s not credited on the best episodes, that was still his vision. And yes, it was far from perfect – as Extinction and Carpenter Street will attest – but it was still pretty good.

      • Also it’s not true that TNG didn’t have executive meddling, it had tons, especially in its earlier years but throughout the series all kinds of risky ideas were dumped in favor of “playing it safe”. Overall it’s a great show, though not without its faults, but I wouldn’t say TNG is a product of total creative freedom.

      • TNG is a product of much greater creative freedom than either Voyager or Enterprise, by virtue of airing in syndication rather than on a network. The network has much greater control over a show it produces than a show that airs in syndication, to the point that decisions like “drop the conflict between the Maquis and Starfleet on Voyager” and “can we get these young attractive people on Enterprise more naked?” are forced on the production.

        TNG was narratively conservative, but it was very much its own master. Particularly during the Michael Piller era, which is considered the golden era of the show.

      • – Maybe it is a bit absolutist, but this is television, not real life socio-politics, so I don’t see the issue.

        “Frame of Mind” Yeah, that’s an okay episode, but I didn’t say everything he wrote was garbage, not even everything he wrote in ENT was bad. “Cause And Effect” Actually I really do like this episode, I’ll give Braga this one. “Parallels” Again, it’s okay. Perhaps I should qualify that Braga was a decent writer back in the early days when he had proper supervision. “All Good Things… and First Contact ” Aren’t these more the result of Ronald D Moore? You know more of Trek history though, so feel free to correct me. I like both of those a lot, but I figured their success was due to the superior writing of Moore than Braga. Then again Moore and Braga did write the Generations dud.

        As for the rest of what you say, I have to say, fair enough, perhaps the assessment of the man is actually a lot more negative than it deserves to be.

      • Well, All Good Things… and First Contact are collaborations between Moore and Braga. I don’t know the distribution of labour on a given script, unless publicly stated, so I’d argue credit deserves to be split.

      • On the TNG freedom aspect, I guess I was wrong, but I got the impression from “Chaos On the Bridge” (makes me think of Final Fantasy V…) that a lot of meddling occurred in TNG, mostly for the worst. Might surprise you to know (or do you know this already?) TNG was once going to have a season long arc like the Xindi Arc, just involving the Borg. But it got torpedoed.

      • This is the arc that was going to be tied into the parasites from Conspiracy, if I recall correctly? Back when the Borg were going to be insectoids, with a literal “hive” mind?

        My impression of the turbulence during the first two years of TNG was that it was largely internal. Maurice Hurley and Tracey Torme arguing about everything. Melinda Snodgrass and Gene Roddenberry disagreeing over The Measure of a Man. Maurice Hurley (reportedly) sexually harassing Gates McFadden. Everyone except Patrick Stewart and Michael Dorn being mean to Diane Muldaur.

        I mean, DS9 also had high-level meddling as well. Things like introducing the Defiant and Worf (and the Klingons) were all driven by notes from the studio, who also wanted to do things like blow up Bajor or put engines on the space station or kill Bashir. But that was still more low-key than “put everybody in Starfleet uniforms and never talk about how half the crew are terrorists!” or to the point that the network would step in and preemptively strangle an arc in the crib as they did with Investigations. (Though it probably helps that Jeri Taylor was on their side against Piller on that case.)

  3. Ok, don’t kill me for spamming or anything, but maybe I was a bit wrong in my assessment. I’ve gathered from places like TrekBBS and the “Agony Booth” website that Berman and Braga are largely to blame for ENT’s (and VOY’s by extension) myriad of failings and flaws. Certainly their original concept for ENT shows they’re not complete hacks who have not a creative bone in their body, but does executive meddling account for the bad writing, bad characters, boring atmosphere that pervades the series? Yes the last two seasons are a massive improvement, and while the season 3 arc was Braga’s idea (or not? I’m actually just guessing here), aren’t all the strongest episodes not from him and Berman, and of course the fourth season, which is legit. good (at least if you’re into continuity porn and constant franchise shout-outs), has nothing to do with them. If I’m wrong, do correct me.

    • Don’t worry about the spam! I just don’t get to reply as often as I’d like, but I do try.

      I think there’s a knee-jerk culture of blaming Berman and Braga for killing the franchise. And when I was around towards the end of Enterprise, it just reached toxic levels. You’d think that they were operating a child kidnapping ring targeting internet bulletin board posters or something.

      I think Berman and Braga do deserve a great deal of criticism. I think Berman was too conservative with Roddenberry’s legacy, and that he wasn’t always open to new ideas in practice. I think Braga was not properly groomed to assume the position of executive producer, and lacked the management experience to operate a writers’ room during the later years of Voyager and the early years of Enterprise. More than that, there are behind the scenes stories that suggest Braga was… not a nice person during the later years of Voyager. Although everything I read about that show makes me think it was toxic from the ground up.

      However, I think that this tends to ignore the fact that Berman did curate the franchise for eighteen years and he did a lot of good as well. He backed Michael Piller and Ira Behr when they wanted to do new things with DS9, although the fan media tends to paint those relationships as more antagonistic than either party claims that they were. Berman was the perfect producer to bring the franchise from 1969 to 1990. The problem was that he wasn’t able to move past 1996. But that spectacular thirtieth anniversary would not have been possible without him.

      Similarly, Braga was a writer responsible for some of the franchise’s best hours. And he was responsible for the third season, which – for all its faults – is really the culmination of what Braga had always wanted to do with the franchise but was never allowed. There are indications that he wanted to do something novel and adventurous with the first season of Enterprise, but wasn’t able to do so due to the network. (Look at that writing staff – the Jacquemettons! Dekker! – and the plans to spend half a season on Earth. More than that, look at the pacing experiments of stuff like Breaking the Ice, Cold Front, Shuttlepod One.)

      Was Braga as good a showrunner as Fontana/Coon on TOS, Piller on TNG or Behr on DS9? No. But he was far better than Piller on VOY, Friedberger on TOS, Hurley on TNG. By the time of the third season of ENT, he was probably better than Taylor on VOY. But I think the decline and death of Star Trek has at least as much to do with UPN and CBS as it does with the franchise’s narrative stagnancy. (After all, it’s not as if CSI was particularly innovative or brilliant while enjoying its decade-and-a-half reign.)

      • I am starting to see your point. You make a good case when you say: “And he was responsible for the third season, which – for all its faults – is really the culmination of what Braga had always wanted to do with the franchise but was never allowed. There are indications that he wanted to do something novel and adventurous with the first season of Enterprise, but wasn’t able to do so due to the network. (Look at that writing staff – the Jacquemettons! Dekker! – and the plans to spend half a season on Earth. More than that, look at the pacing experiments of stuff like Breaking the Ice, Cold Front, Shuttlepod One.)” It’s fitting you end with the Shuttlepod One example, as that’s an episode on my recently rewatch I actually really enjoyed, surprisingly a few episodes (Judgement, Cogenitor, The Expanse for example) from these first two seasons I did actually like. His original ideas for ENT are def. interesting, and I can see that he didn’t just want to produce a hacked up VOY, and honestly ENT is a bit more interesting than VOY given all the experimentation, for better or worse.

        So I kind of have to bow to your wisdom here.

      • Glad to hear somebody else likes Judgment here! I feel like that episode gets undue hatred from fandom.

  4. The final stretch of season three is for the most part very good, a few hiccups aside. Zero Hour is a good conclusion to the season-long Xindi / Expanse arc. I actually think that it was to the season’s immense benefit that the episode count was trimmed down to 24 episodes from 26. It was pretty padded out even at that reduced length, and if the creators had had to produce two extra episodes I suspect there would have been a good chance that we would have ended up with a couple more misfires like Extinction and Hatchery.

    Binging this season , one of the things that stood out in my mind was that around two thirds of the way through the Enterprise gets turned into Swiss cheese by the Reptilian Xindi’s attack, and then spends the next several episodes on the verge of falling apart, with Archer at one point resorting to piracy to keep the ship running. I recalled all the episodes of Voyager that ended with the ship shot full of holes, only for the next one to open with everything all patched up. So it was genuinely surprising that this show then, at least for a stretch of seven or eight episodes, decided to embrace what Voyager was supposed to do, examine what happens when a Starfleet ship gets trapped at the opposite end of the galaxy, with no supplies or friends.

    As you observe, Archer’s metaphorical journey through the season, although inconsistently written, is nevertheless interesting, as he becomes morally compromised on several occasions, and has to struggle to find his way back. Even though the climax revolves around Archer and a genocidal lizard man slugging it out inside a gigantic flying death ray, it’s nevertheless clear that if Archer had not made peace with the rest of the Xindi then he would never have been able to save Earth. Likewise the trust he established with Shran leads to the Andorians playing a vital role in saving humanity.

    These closing episodes really demonstrate that Archer has realized that the Enterprise, and by extension Earth, cannot “go it alone.” In season four this later serves as a counterpoint to the xenophobia of Paxton and his Terra Prime organization, who are obsessed with the idea that Earth should stand on its own, with no influence or ties to other worlds. Archer, based on his own experiences in this season, is the perfect person to look Paxton in the eye and flat-out tell him that this is a dangerously naïve belief, that the galaxy is too complex & interconnected to allow for that sort of ignorant, insular thinking.

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