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Star Trek: Enterprise – Cold Station 12 (Review)

This May, we’re taking a look at the fourth (and final) season of Star Trek: Enterprise. Check back daily for the latest review.

It seems like everybody loves Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. At the very least, Star Trek fans love the movie. Dearly.

The film has featured on several AFI ballots, even if it rarely placed. The film was included in The Guardian‘s 2011 “my favourite film” cycle. It placed second in a Rolling Stone readers’ poll of the best movies adapted from television series. A 2013 fan poll placed it as the best loved of all the Star Trek movies, the same poll that (ridiculously) ranked Into Darkness as the worst film in the franchise. In 2016, the film’s final conversation between Kirk and Spock topped a fandom poll of the duo’s best moments.

"The Wrath of Khan had a LOT of influence."

The Wrath of Khan had a LOT of influence.”

As such, The Wrath of Khan casts a long shadow. Four of the ten Star Trek films that followed borrow its structure and tone. Star Trek: First Contact swaps Khan for the Borg as the returning television antagonist. Star Trek: Nemesis casts Tom Hardy in the villainous role, complete with super weapon and nebula battle. Star Trek finds Eric Bana doing his best Ricardo Montalban impression. It is practically a relief (and a surprise to absolutely no one) when Benedict Cumberbatch finally announces, “My name is Khan.” At least he’s being candid.

Star Trek: Enterprise paved the way for all of this with its Borderland trilogy, which amounts to one gigantic nostalgic tribute to that second Star Trek film. Although the episodes bookending the trilogy are hardly subtle, the middle instalment of that trilogy is perhaps the most egregious example. There are points at which Cold Station 12 plays like a forty-minute deleted scene from The Wrath of Khan.

"I'm in command! And there's no Timothy Carhart to stop me now!"

“I’m in command! And there’s no Timothy Carhart to stop me now!”

It is worth pausing to acknowledge the historical importance of The Wrath of Khan. It is the film that saved the Star Trek franchise. Following the success of Star Wars, Paramount decided to give Gene Roddenberry the go-ahead to produce Star Trek: The Motion Picture. The film was very much intended to be a prestige piece. Roddenberry took his cues from 2001: A Space Odyssey, recruited veteran science-fiction writer Alan Dean Foster and renowned Hollywood director Robert Wise.

The result was a financial success for the studio, but one that did not satisfy either the fans or the critics. As a result, it was decided that the studio would greenlight a sequel, but with certain caveats. The budget would be dramatically lowered, and Roddenberry would not be allowed anywhere near the production. The fact that Roddenberry pitched a story where Spock would shoot JFK from the grassy knoll probably didn’t help his case much. Nicholas Meyer stepped in, and the rest is history.

Shadow history.

Shadow history.

It is important to properly contextualise The Wrath of Khan. There had been a gap of almost a decade between the broadcast of The Turnabout Intruder and The Motion Picture. While Star Trek had struggled on original broadcast, it had thrived in syndication. Many fans of the original show discovered it through repeats, filling up airtime on network television in the seventies. During that time it was off the air, Star Trek cultivated a larger fanbase who had not watched the episodes as they originally aired.

For those fans, the feature films would serve as the first piece of Star Trek that they could legitimately call their own. For many of the fans who went to see The Motion Picture, it was their first experience of an “original” Star Trek story. Although those fans had watched and loved the classic show, the feature films held a special place in their hearts. While The Motion Picture was something of a disappointment to those fans, The Wrath of Khan was a triumph. It was something on to which those fans could latch, something that could be fashioned to cornerstone of their fandom.

I love it when a plan comes together.

I love it when a plan comes together.

Enterprise executive producer Manny Coto was one of those fans. When the studio commissioned a new set of commentaries for the feature films, pairing those who worked on the films with those who worked on later series, Manny Coto got to provide an audio commentary for the director’s cut of The Wrath of Khan alongside director Nicholas Meyer. Coto framed his appreciation of the film with a personal introduction:

I’m sitting here – with great humility – in the presence of one of my favourite Star Trek movies, in fact one of my favourite science fiction movies. And to be here with the director of this is a dream come true. I remember this movie with great fondness because I was one of the myriad fans who lined up for the original Star Trek. First of all, I was a fan of the original series when it was on repeats and fell in love with the series as one of the people who helped the Star Trek phenomenon. I was one of the ones who saw it when it was in syndication. And waited with great anticipation for the first movie. And, when it came out, watched the first movie and convinced myself that it was actually quite great.

But there was always a gnawing feeling… it only set in about a year later, when I realised – and my friends realised – that it wasn’t really a Star Trek movie, Star Trek I. Not to take anything away from the great director Robert Wise and the job that he did, but it just fell flat for us. There was something missing. So when this movie came to theatres, we were a little skeptical and wondering what it was going to be. We were just blown away, from moment one, staring with the look, the feel, the way it swept us away. It was just a total immersive experience. And the characters that we’d loved and been so fond of when we were falling in love with the series seemed to have just come to life again for this movie. It was like they’d been resuscitated and brought back to life. And then it was just a glorious story.

Coto describes The Wrath of Khan in almost religious terms, and it certainly seems apt. It is perfectly fair to argue that the critical and commercial success of The Wrath of Khan resurrected with Star Trek franchise. Without that film, there would be no Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. And without that film, there would be no Star Trek: The Next Generation and so on.

"What? The Undiscovered Country IS my favourite Nicholas Meyer Star Trek film!"

“What? The Undiscovered Country IS my favourite Nicholas Meyer Star Trek film!”

The legacy of The Wrath of Khan has elevated Nicholas Meyer to something approaching a franchise legend. When Star Trek V: The Final Frontier derailed the feature film franchise that he had previously course-corrected, Meyer was recruited to salvage the movie series and direct Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, affording some sense of closure to these characters and their world. Fandom were excited when Bryan Fuller was announced as showrunner for the new Star Trek show, they were overjoyed when Nicholas Meyer was brought in.

Given the love for The Wrath of Khan, it is no surprise that the film has had a significant impact upon the shape and tone of the franchise. Most obviously, it became increasingly common for the Star Trek films to pit their characters against a single antagonist. Star Trek III: The Search for Spock had Kruge. Star Trek: Generations had Soran. Star Trek: Insurrection had Ru’afo. The fourth Star Trek film was perhaps the exception that proved the rule, with its whale probe serving as the vaguest antagonist since V’ger.

I like Smike.

I like Smike.

When JJ Abrams took creative control of the franchise with the reboot in 2009, the producer and his staff found themselves heavily criticised for blatantly aping The Wrath of Khan in the plotting and structuring of Star Trek and Into Darkness. The first film featured a villain obsessed with revenge against a crew staffed mainly by cadets. However, it was the second film that attracted the most criticism, with fans rushing to lambaste the movie for emulating The Wrath of Khan as early as the release of the first trailer.

Despite the fact that the production team swore up and down that Khan would not be the villain of Into Darkness, Benedict Cumberbatch was eventually be revealed to be playing Khan. The film featured the genetically enhanced superman exacting a terrible vengeance upon those who had wronged him while trying to protect those left in his charge. The film borrowed a number of dramatic beats from The Wrath of Khan, down to Khan quoting Melville and killing off one of the leads in the final act, saving the ship. (However, Into Darkness did not wait for the sequel to revive them.)

Strange bedfellows.

Strange bedfellows.

This became a stock criticism of the film, with even the production team acknowledging that Khan caused a problem for the plotting of the film. Discussing Into Darkness in hindsight, Abrams conceded, “There were too many nods to The Wrath of Khan. I’ll cop to that.” However, it should be acknowledged that these issues reflected a broader trend in both the Star Trek franchise and wider popular culture. Into Darkness just took those issues to their logical conclusion. In a way, it was the franchise’s most honest homage to The Wrath of Khan.

The decision to have Khan in the movie met with a great deal of criticism, but the production team were also criticised for the decision to keep his presence a secret. Benedict Cumberbatch was cast as “John Harrison”, and revealed to be Khan more than halfway through the film in a scene that would mean absolutely nothing to anybody unfamiliar with the name. The inclusion of Khan in Into Darkness appeared to be a reference to franchise sacred text for the sake of a reference to franchise sacred text. The character’s arc could easily have been allocated to a new character.

Duct and covered...

Duct and covered…

It should be noted that Abrams’ film was not the only follow-up to a franchise reboot to make the same mistake. Sam Mendes’ second James Bond film, Spectre, replicated the plot point almost exactly with the character of Ernst Stavro Blofield. In both cases, the plot point was itself contrived, but that awkwardness was compounded by a desire to keep the reveal secret. Matt Singer pointed to the twist as an example of competing market trends:

Movies like Star Trek Into Darkness and Spectre represent a strange and troubling confluence of incompatible pop cultural trends: Fandom’s increasing obsession with anticipating blockbusters with years of hype and theorizing, and Hollywood’s continuing obsession with endlessly remaking the same handful of stories over and over again. Each new tentpole release is met with thousands of words of conjecture and hundreds of screengrabs and GIFs; literally every single poster and publicity still and teaser and television ad and piece of ancillary merchandise is subjected to a level of scrutiny that would awe Talmudic scholars. We’ve arguably reached a point in film culture where movie marketing is more carefully analyzed than the movies themselves.

Leaving aside the awkwardness of positioning these reveals as twists rather than organic plot developments, the inclusion of characters like Khan and Blofeld points to contemporary trends in nostalgia. Khan and Blofeld are included as markers harking back to the franchise’s idealised past, crispy nuggets of nostalgia baked into franchise and properties that already come seasoned with it.

"Trust me, this could go viral!"

“Trust me, this could go viral!”

Still, the brazenness with which Into Darkness mimics and homages The Wrath of Khan seems to be the source of this fan frustration, as if viewers are upset at how candid the film is about its influences. However, this candour is almost refreshing. While the influence of The Wrath of Khan can be felt upon the other movies in the film series, this influence blossomed into full-blown obsession in the mid-nineties. Once the franchise hit its thirtieth anniversary, it seemed like the shadow of The Wrath of Khan only loomed larger and larger.

This obsession began to be felt with First Contact, the second film to feature the cast of The Next Generation. As with The Wrath of Khan, this was a sequel that followed a lackluster original film; Generations had generated something of a muted response from the fanbase. As with The Wrath of Khan, the production team decided to bring back an antagonist from the series to focus as an antagonist. As with The Wrath of Khan, there was even a snazzy change in uniforms that ushered in this new and darker aesthetic.

Charting a familiar course.

Charting a familiar course.

However the similarities ran deeper than all that. As with The Wrath of Khan, the writers structured First Contact as an homage to Moby Dick (complete with characters explicitly acknowledging that through dialogue) by fashioning a tale of obsession and revenge. The film’s biggest reversal was that the protagonist was consumed by his obsession, rather than the antagonist. Picard was cast as Ahab rather than Khan. It was a nice twist, and enough time had passed that the references to The Wrath of Khan felt like an appropriate tribute for the franchise’s thirtieth anniversary.

It is interesting to wonder about the timing of this renewed focus on The Wrath of Khan. Perhaps it was simply the fact that almost fifteen years had passed between the release of The Wrath of Khan and the release of First Contact, time enough to allow a generation of fans who had grown up with the second film to make their impact on the franchise. Perhaps it was the passing of Gene Roddenberry in the early nineties that made this revived fixation possible; after all, The Wrath of Khan established a blueprint for what post-Roddenberry Star Trek could look like.

"All's Melville that ends Melville."

“All’s Melville that ends Melville.”

It should be noted, of course, that The Wrath of Khan was far from the first Star Trek story to crib mercilessly from Moby Dick. Given that Moby Dick has been described as “the greatest American novel” or an “American bible”, it makes sense that it should be filtered through the lens of a show as anchored in American popular consciousness as Star Trek. The original show’s second season contains two memorable riffs on Herman Melville’s classic, The Doomsday Machine and Obsession. Still, The Wrath of Khan remains a towering influence on Star-Trek-as-Moby-Dick.

However, First Contact opened the flood gates; it seems like every Star Trek movie since (excluding Insurrection) has been an extended homage to The Wrath of Khan. Nemesis, the final feature film starring the cast of The Next Generation, even found Picard facing an opponent who blamed the hero for his life stranded on a cruel and desolate world before chasing the Enterprise into a nebula and attempting to mitigate his eventual defeat by detonating a super weapon as a suicide attack. The JJ Abrams films were just less veiled in their references.

"He insulted our fashion sense!"

“He insulted our fashion sense!”

This fixation on The Wrath of Khan was not confined to the feature film franchise. The entire Borderland trilogy is an extended love letter to the second Star Trek film. The three episodes are literally saturated with references and in-jokes. The costuming and make-up on the Augments in Borderland very consciously evokes the look and feel of The Wrath of Khan ahead of Khan’s first appearance in Space Seed, down to the fact that that these strapping young people all look like strippers from a Mad Max burlesque show. (Their torn clothes look like a dystopian fashion line.)

There are points at which these stylistic touches seem to reach self-parody. The Augments appear to have been stranded on a desolate planet without a single pair of scissors or an electric razor, but with immaculate hair care products and matching outfits that only tear in the same spotty pattern. When Persis and Malik are in bed during The Augments, for their sexy underwear fight, it turns out that Persis’ nightwear is torn in almost exactly the same pattern as her clothes. It is no surprise that Malik seems to speak of the Botany Bay as the Holy Grail in The Augments.

Not too far afield.

Not too far afield.

Malik suffers because the scripts paint him as nothing more than an inferior copy of Khan. He even cribs lines from the character, taunting Archer with the fact that he as “five times” the strength of a regular human. Hijacking an enemy ship and stealing weapons of mass destruction, Malik finds himself defeated at the end of the trilogy because he is unwilling to simply live out his life peacefully. The Augments even frames the destruction of the Bird of Prey with references to the destruction of the Reliant, particularly shots of Malik crawling through the debris.

That said, it is not as if the Borderland trilogy is shy on references to other iconic Star Trek stories. This is most obvious when Mike Sussman chooses to pad out The Augments with an extended sequence during which the crew are hassled by a Klingon patrol. Although he avoids having the crew root through Klingon dictionaries, the scene very conspicuously references a similar moment in The Undiscovered Country. Nevertheless, it is quite clear that The Wrath of Khan is the single biggest influence on these three episodes.

Infectious enthusiasm.

Infectious enthusiasm.

And, of all the episodes in the trilogy, it is Cold Station 12 that is most overt in its obsession with The Wrath of Khan. The entire episode plays like an extended deleted scene from The Wrath of Khan. Specifically, it plays like somebody watched The Wrath of Khan about twenty times, and thought that the flow might be improved by adding a scene set on board the station Regula One. It is a sequence left largely implied in the film, positioned between Khan’s hijacking of the Reliant and his first confrontation with Kirk.

Both the Borderland trilogy and The Wrath of Khan feature a bunch of renegade supermen who hijack an enemy ship and use it to attack a secret laboratory. In The Wrath of Khan, the eponymous antagonist attempts to get his hands upon the top secret research into the Genesis Device. In Cold Station 12, the Augments are looking to steal a collection of enhanced embryos. However, the net result is the same; the genetically enhanced supermen torture a bunch of researchers before absconding with a superweapon that threatens to escalate hostility with the Klingons.

Dead freight.

Dead freight.

In The Wrath of Khan, this torture happens off-screen. Following Khan’s first attack on the Enterprise, Kirk and his colleagues journey to Regula One to confront the aftermath of Khan’s visit to the secret laboratory. The consequences of Khan’s brutality are on full display, with member of the research team murdered and turned upside down as part of Khan’s efforts to leverage information about the Genesis Device. It is a haunting sequence, all the more effective for showing the consequences of violence rather than lingering in its application.

(To be fair, the sequence does appear in Vonda M. McIntyre’s novelisation of The Wrath of Khan, but told in a way that humanises the largely anonymous researchers who appeared in the film. More than that, McIntyre turns the violence inflicted on the staff of Regula One into a recurring plot thread in her novelisations of both The Search for Spock and The Voyage Home. In doing so, McIntyre offers her own meditation on the type of violence that movies frequently unleash upon anonymous or background characters.)

Cutting a narrative lacuna.

Carving out a narrative lacuna.

Cold Station 12 is essentially an extended forty-minute alternate version of that sequence, one that opts to depict the torture of the researchers in graphic detail and decides to have our heroes arrive while the supermen are engaged in their grisly enterprise. Nevertheless, the episode draws several other beats from The Wrath of Khan, most notably the suggestion that the enemy ship is simply hiding from view behind “one of the larger asteroids.” In many ways, Cold Station 12 is playing out a fannish alternate take on one of the franchise’s most beloved stories.

It seems like the years since the release of The Wrath of Khan have turned it into something of a fetish object for fans, an object to be emulated and imitated time and time again to ever diminishing returns. There is a sense that the franchise is aggressively chasing past successes instead of trying to break new ground, which is all the more frustrating given that The Voyage Home demonstrated that The Wrath of Khan was not the only valid way to make a successful (and enjoyable) Star Trek film.

Chewing it over.

Chewing it over.

There is something fundamentally unhealthy with this relationship to The Wrath of Khan, as Ryan Britt has noted:

We the fans are partially to blame here, too. Because we (correctly) love The Wrath of Khan, it’s slipped into the social consciousness that no Star Trek movie will ever be as good as The Wrath of Khan. Well, Star Trek VI was pretty good. Sure, maybe Christopher Plummer wasn’t as memorable as Khan, but he was pretty damn good. If you are a person that wants to see more Star Trek stuff, holding The Wrath as this untouchable standard seems like an unhealthy paradox. It’s like we’ve set up Khan as some perfect ex-girlfriend/boyfriend who dumped us a long time ago, and we compare everyone we date to Khan. We’ll never be happy if we do this!

The Wrath of Khan will never die as long as we remember it, but maybe it’s time to move on.

After all, this fixation upon The Wrath of Khan tends to dilute the impact of the original film.

Purple haze.

Purple haze.

There is an irony in all of this. For all that The Wrath of Khan has become an immortal and recurring Star Trek story, the original film was very much intended to be the last Star Trek story. In many respects, The Wrath of Khan is a story about ageing and dying; it is the film where Spock dies, where Kirk reflects on his advancing years, where Kirk is sent out with a ship full of cadets. The film even presented the audience with two young surrogates from Kirk and Spock; David Marcus and Saavik are quite literally the next generation.

In that respect, it shares a lot in common with The Undiscovered Country, the other Nicholas Meyer Star Trek film that reflects upon the idea that Kirk and his colleagues might be dinosaurs best laid to rest. Both The Wrath of Khan and The Undiscovered Country could be seen as Viking funerals for the original Star Trek crew. If anything, The Wrath of Khan is more powerful because it was released long before The Next Generation was a twinkle in anybody’s eye. There is a sense that this would not be the worst place to leave James Tiberius Kirk.

Even Augments have birthdays...

Even Augments have birthdays…

Given the disappointment with The Motion Picture and Leonard Nimoy’s desire to bury Spock, there was every possibility that The Wrath of Khan could be the final Star Trek story. Of course, the film became a massive success. It is striking how hard The Search for Spock seeks to reverse the more powerful insights and observations of The Wrath of Khan. Spock is resurrected, David Marcus is sacrificed. Far from Kirk leading an inexperienced crew into danger, the classic crew of the Enterprise get to save the galaxy in their soon-to-be-decommissioned ship.

However, a lot of power of The Wrath of Khan comes from the possibility hanging over it that this could really be the end of the franchise. In some respects, it fits within the broader context of eighties pop culture, similar to the changes that took place in mainstream comic books later in the decade. Pulpy science-fiction and superhero comic books have a common pedigree; in fact, the Silver Age renaissance at DC and Marvel owed a lot to fifties and sixties science-fiction. Both genres were also routinely dismissed and overlooked, despite the existence of large fanbases.

Holding on to the past.

Holding on to the past.

During the eighties, a number of changes took place in both superhero comic books and science-fiction cinema that changed the course of the genres. In both cases, there was a move towards more mature content, as if in response to criticisms of the genre as childish or shallow. The eighties saw directors like David Cronenberg and Paul Verhoeven produce pulpy schlocky science-fiction that was also politically engaged and thematically rich. Within comic books, creators like Alan Moore and Frank Miller were ascendant.

There were a lot of different strands to this cultural evolution: storytelling became more aggressive, political themes became more overt, irony was layered on more heavily. Films like Robocop or Total Recall or Videodrome would simply not have been possible in the context of the sixties or the early seventies. There was also a willingness to deconstruct and interrogate genre. Alan Moore proved particularly adept at this kind of storytelling, picking at the superhero genre in comics like Miracleman, Swamp Thing and V for Vendetta.

"If we go by the book, hours could seem like days."

“If we go by the book, hours could seem like days.”

It could be argued that comic books never quite recovered from this deconstructive phase of their existence; 1986 was perhaps the year the superhero genre reach its limits, and not just in the reboot of the shared DC universe with Crisis on Infinite Earths. That same year, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons published the comic book miniseries Watchmen while Frank Miller also released The Dark Knight Returns. Both comic book series changed the way that audiences looked at the genre and the medium forever.

In a way, both Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns suggested the end of the superhero genre. Watchmen unfolded in an apocalyptic world forever changed by the existence of superheroes, while The Dark Knight Returns was set in a world where Bruce Wayne had long since given up the mantle of the Batman. The parallels with The Wrath of Khan are obvious, in that The Wrath of Khan unfolds far removed from Kirk’s earlier adventures, in a world in which Kirk is a living legend. There are even those same hints of deconstruction to Kirk’s behaviour.

The world according to Arik.

The world according to Arik.

Alan Moore and Frank Miller have both talked about how they saw Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns as the end of the genre as it had existed to that point. “It really did feel to me like a handful of grown-up fans waving our childhood heroes a fond goodbye,” confesses Miller. Moore suggests some slight disappointment at the legacy of those two works:

At the time, when I was doing Watchmen, somewhere in my head I got this vainglorious notion that Watchmen would be the absolute deconstructionist last word on the superhero, and that somehow, mystically, after it had been published, all the superhero book publishers would, I don’t know, turn to westerns or something like that, but it would be impossible to do superhero comics afterward – which was completely stupid and a completely misplaced hope. What you really got afterwards was a kind of more pretentious superhero comics, often with a lot more nasty, gratuitous violence.

In the late eighties and early nineties, it seemed like Moore and Miller were right, they had pushed the genre to its very limits. However, instead of breaking it, or inspiring it to look beyond those limits, the genre became comfortable there. The decades following Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns were populated with stories and events that mimicked the adult content about those comics with none of the maturity.

Augmenting the drama.

Augmenting the drama.

In a way, it feels like something similar has happened with The Wrath of Khan. Harve Bennett and Nicholas Meyers pushed the Star Trek franchise to its very limits, constructed a story about Kirk’s catastrophic failures and wondering if it was time to let go of these characters. This gave the story depth and resonance. No Star Trek story to this point had wrestled with age or death in a similar manner. (Although The Deadly Years is really the only contender, so the less said, the better.) The film’s power did not derive from Khan or Genesis, but from its maturity and depth.

There is a perversity in all of this, that fans and creators should cling so rigourously to a story that is so powerful precisely because it advocates letting Kirk and his crew go. Much like all of those comics imitating The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen, there is a certain hollowness to these reproductions. Only First Contact comes close to replicating the emotional power of The Wrath of Khan, and a lot of that is down to the fact that Patrick Stewart is phenomenal and the incongruity of seeing Jean-Luc Picard go “full Ahab.”

"Ahab a minor problem with this..."

“Ahab a minor problem with this…”

Then again, perhaps it speaks to a wider yearning in popular culture, the deep-seated nostalgia that yearns to lovingly recreate past glories at the expense of new possibilities. To be fair, this flaw came baked into the premise of Enterprise as a prequel; on a fundamental level, a prequel cannot help but serve as an object of nostalgic fascination. Although the series arrived in the wake of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, it was still ahead of the curve. It seemed to foreshadow the contemporary fixation upon nostalgic objects.

That nostalgia trapped Enterprise, whether during the first two seasons when the production team desperately tried to emulate the style and flow of The Next Generation or in the fourth when the show’s future amounted to nothing more than dovetailing into the original show. That nostalgia doomed Enterprise, whether through the angry expectations of fans frustrated at the lack of references to the original Star Trek (and the abundance of references to The Next Generation) in the early years or through the indulgence of nostalgia in the later years.

The Cold Station 12 Christmas card always generated controversy.

The Cold Station 12 Christmas card always generated controversy.

There were times when Enterprise did seem to move past nostalgia, particularly when afforded an expanse into which it might boldly go during the third season. There were also times when that nostalgia seemed appropriate, with certain moments in the fourth season taking on the feeling of watching a franchise’s life flash before its eyes before the axe might fall. However, the show creaked and groaned under the weight of history it had invoked through both its setting and its title. Cold Station 12 just pushes that as far as it might go.

Appropriately enough for an episode with such a title, Cold Station 12 suggests a franchise caught in deep freeze long before JJ Abrams took hold of it. The most shocking aspect of Into Darkness is how honest it eventually was about its intentions; it only lied about not being a remake of The Wrath of Khan until about halfway through its runtime. There are times when it seemed like The Wrath of Khan marked the end of the Star Trek franchise, the limits of the final frontier.

Landing in trouble.

Landing in trouble.

Watching Cold Station 12, it occasionally feels like that just might be true.

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31 Responses

  1. I think this trilogy is alright, but not phenomenal (then again hardly anything on ENT can be called such), and I like it more than “Into Darkness” which is just a substandard action film made worse with bad attempts at cerebral discussion (for the record I don’t care they shoehorned in Khan, but I wonder why the film requires you to watch Space Seed or Wrath of Khan get who Khan is, what an odd writing decision).

    I find it odd that you seem to criticize the fourth season a great deal, and treat the third as the best season, if anyone likes anything on ENT, it’s the fourth season and episodes like this. I personally like the fourth season much more, its probably the only time ENT was consistently watchable.

    • “if anyone likes anything on ENT, it’s the fourth season”

      It’s an alternative viewpoint. Personally I was unimpressed with what I saw of the fourth season. I took down a “WHAM” list of episodes and marathoned through them all. In a Mirror Darkly. The augment uprising. T’Pols Miscarriage. Terra Prime. These are the Voyages.

      I mean, if you’re accustomed to a steady diet of Stargate: Atlantis or some other sci-fi action show, you’d find it an amusing way to kill a few hours. It’s not bad by any stretch, but it’s missing a certain… “joie de vivre” that the other shows had. The last season made a reasonable effort but it ultimately failed to find its own audience.

      If you’re a long time Star Trek fan, then chances are good that you’re going to defend the series to the death, regardless of the fact that it drove away the casuals. Enterprise also has a bit of a Marmite reputation (love it or hate it) which, on the surface, is a tad unjustified. Why can’t it just be an ‘alright” show? Why does it need to be treated as Firefly 2.0?

      Browse any comments section or message board re: Enterprise and you will find people who come up with the most odd rationalizations for why the show was good. It introduced sex into it? (Which is far from true.) The cast was flawed? (Not particularly, just underwritten.) The Captain is inexperienced? (This is a fan reading. Not once is Archer treated as anything but a venerated and seasoned officer.) It brought back a sense of exploration? (On a SoCal backlot.) I even ran into one guy defending Keating as the most original character Star Trek had yet seen, simply because he comes from a family of Naval officers.

      These are ‘optics’, the kind of image enhancement we’ve come to expect from politicians. And I think we’re right o be on our guard when someone is bending over backwards to find positives like that.

      • Oddly enough, despite not liking the fourth season as much as most, I kinda do find a joie de vivre running through it. There aren’t really any of those dreadful “Hoshi episodes” or “Mayweather episodes”, but the writing staff approach the crew as an ensemble and so you get a lot of those nice mid-TNG moments of various characters just hanging out being professional together. Reed and Mayweather hunting for bombs in The Forge, Hoshi and Mayweather pouring through Andorian law in United. There’s a lightness to those moments that I kinda like. Another season or two of that, and maybe the cast might have gelled in a manner similar to TNG. (I miss the poker game aesthetic, which the franchise tried to recreate several times but never succeeded.)

        Enterprise is flawed. It’s very deeply flawed. But I think that divide makes a certain amount of sense. At its weakest, it’s far weaker than Voyager. The second season effectively rendered my love of Star Trek comatose. At its best, it’s far stronger. The Xindi arc might have arrived far too late and suffered from the fact that nobody had the foresight to retain any DS9 writers after that show came to an end, but it has ambition to spare. The fourth season plays with format and is invested in what it’s doing, even if that level of introspective obsession may not be a good thing.

    • I’m not sure what you’re trying to get at, but if someone defends “Enterprise”, it’s almost always it’s final season. Even “The Agony Booth”, a website that was founded to make fun of bad Star Trek and calls the series “cringeworthy” refers to it as the “heralded fourth season” and an “brief uptick in quality”. The very website your’re commenting on even says as such, and states the final two seasons need “serious reappraisal” and uses them as “proof” the series isn’t total crap. Whether you agree or not is irrelevant to my comment.

      I’m also not sure why you’re trying to goad me into a debate on the series. I don’t like the series (for the most part) and I’m not interested in defending it, if you’re upset by my comment, I don’t know what to tell you.

      • I think we can all agree to have different opinions. I know I disagree with both of you on some very key points. (Notably Ed prefers DS9 S6 to DS9 S5 and VOY to ENT, while I’m the opposite on both counts. Between the two of us, I prefer ENT S3 to ENT S4, for example.)

        I have learned to be wary of trying to generalise about fan consciousness and opinion, if only because every time I do, something strange happens like Voyager winning a poll of best Star Trek series. But I think you both make valid points; you’re right that there is a fan consensus (with which I agree) that ENT improves DRAMATICALLY in its final two seasons, while Ed is right that fan consciousness (including my own) arguably mean very little in the cultural context. VOY was less loved by the general public than TNG, and ENT was less loved (and certainly less known) by the general public than ENT.

        (Sorry if I’m intruding; I just don’t think there’s any need for a heated argument to develop. Not that it has, but that it might.)

      • It’s a 10 year old tv show, of course we can disagree. I just find some of his responses a tad obnoxious. If he didn’t intend to be as such, I apologize for my obnoxious response to both of you.

      • Well in my experience, most people hate VOY and ENT and write off both as just piles of shit, something I disagree with on both counts, but I’m not going to pretend people largely don’t feel this way.

        Feel free to interrupt, it’s your blog, I like your input. I wouldn’t be posting here if I didn’t.

      • Truth is, I don’t hate any Star Trek. Well, maybe particular episodes like The Last Outpost or Angel One or The Omega Glory. But I certainly wouldn’t invest the hours of research and writing if there were going to be a chunk that I actively hated and which was going to be soul-destroying to analyse and dig through. I admittedly like Voyager less than the others, but there are still episodes I adore. (Meld, Counterpoint, Gravity. The big two parters, including Future’s End.) And I am still sympathetic towards it.

      • I guess we’re in the same boat because there’s enough in every series that I don’t flat out hate or write off any of them. We’re also in the same boat that we feel VOY is the weakest, something Ive must have said a million times by now here, so I apologize. Seems to be a debate about which is worse, ENT or VOY, both cases have strong evidence IMO. But do I hate VOY? No, in fact it has some of my favorite episode in the franchise. The Scorpion two parter is actually IMO may be better than The Best of Both Worlds, and if the entire series somehow managed to maintain that level of excitement and character dynamics, it would have been light years ahead of TNG (no pun intended). So by no means do I hate VOY. There’s other standout episodes.

        But getting through seven seasons of VOY I admit is somewhat a painful slog, it’s harder than ENT, being that ENT just manages to catch enough interest with its experimentation, something VOY totally scorned and rejected.

      • *may actually be better than The Best of Both Worlds

    • If you were responding to me under the assumption I was saying the general public likes ENT at all, I was not, I was saying if someone does like something about ENT, it’s almost always the final season. Even Wikipedia points this out. If you don’t like it, that’s fine, I was just commenting on this blog’s positive reception of the third season and (so far) bit more critical take on the final season.

      As for not being Firefly 2.0, I don’t even like Firefly 1.0, so that’s a plus IMO. Firefly was also a much bigger failure.

      • Interesting. I’m a big Firefly fan. Loved Serenity.

        And, to be clear, I like the fourth season a lot. I’m just wary of some of it.

      • Pearls before swine, I guess. You replied to more of my comments than I’ve yours.

        Between your “U MAD” attitude, frankly embarrassing Tumblr, and a suspicion that every one of your options was ripped off from some sophomoric review sites run by libertarians who are hostile to the very idea of Star Trek, this was a big waste of time.

      • You’ve responded to most of my comments actually, esp on new posts on this website, often in really off topic ways. So not really 😛

        As for Firefly, I wasn’t trying to obnoxiously rub my opinion in, I just don’t get why the show is considered a cult tv show. I wouldn’t hold any tv show or anything else to its standard, since it’s a very low standard indeed, it’d be like holding a show to the standard of ENT. It’s actually really bad IMO, but then again I don’t like Josh Whedon. The movie was slightly better but seems to have been the death knell of the series. Oh well.

      • Thanks for randomly insulting my tumblr page btw, which is just reposts of other people’s articles and post at the moment, not sure why you did that, kek. Were you trying to get under my skin or something? 😛

        “libertarians who are hostile to the very idea of Star Trek, this was a big waste of time.”

        You certainly have excellent deductive reasoning. Of course a casual look at my “frankly embarrassing Tumblr” or Twitter account would show that openly announce I’m a far left socialist, which leads me to think you’re just giving me random insults because you’re butthurt about my responses. End this now, I’m not interesting in sparring with you on someone else’s blog. Calm down.

    • I don’t think I’m unduly harsh on the fourth season as a whole. I’m perhaps more critical than most, but only because I think certain sections of fandom treat it as the second coming. I enjoy it a great deal. The Vulcan trilogy ranks as one of the best things Enterprise ever did. Most of the multi-episode arcs are fun. I just find the third season (as a whole) a lot stronger.

      I think I’m pretty even-handed in my coverage of the season. If you want to get a sense of what it’s like when I criticise Star Trek, check out my reviews of the second season of Voyager or the second season of Enterprise. 🙂

      • Fair enough, I actually like a lot of aspects of season 3 more as well, I was just commenting on typical fan consensus. Though if I had to pick favorite episodes from ENT, it’d be the United three parter and Terra Prime two parter.

    • Now I feel embarrassed that I even got into a fight over something so pointless, I apologize to the Ed Azad and Darren for that, I wish I could delete the comments and start over.

  2. >“What? The Undiscovered Country IS my favourite Nicholas Meyer Star Trek film!”

    I would have gone with: “Just remember, if you hang in there long enough, good things can happen in this world. I mean, look at me.”

    >Sam Mendes’ second James Bond film, Spectre, replicated the plot point almost exactly with the character of Ernst Stavro Blofield. In both cases, the plot point was itself contrived, but that awkwardness was compounded by a desire to keep the reveal secret.

    I didn’t pay attention to the promotion because I was already in the tank for Spectre. I certainly cringed in the big revelation scene as it was beat-for-beat like the Khan scene of Into Darkness – a dollop of information which has emotional meaning for the audience but results in a thousand-yard stare from the protagonist, who shrugs it off.

    With regards to Nemesis, I seem to recall they openly discussed Wrath of Khan in it’s promotion, that they intended to create a villain who could be as memorable as Khan. In retrospect, they cast a good actor. That’s all I can say.

    >During the eighties, a number of changes took place in both superhero comic books and science-fiction cinema that changed the course of the genres.

    In addition to your comments on Watchmen/DKR, I’d also point to an interesting parallel in the way DC Comics permitted many of their Silver Age heroes to retire or perish while their legacy heroes took up the slack for a supposed new generation of readers, but – once again in 2004! – Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern: Rebirth dialed back the changes to the Lantern mythos and soon the other books followed suit – not unlike the Trek franchise bringing Kirk back to reenergize a fading audience.

    • “In retrospect, they cast a good actor.”

      Split screen, baby. Captain Picard versus the Kray Twins. Now there’s a pitch I can get behind.

    • You’re right actually. I’d forgotten Rebirth was taking place at around this point. Popular culture really underwent a seismic regressive shift in the mid-naughties, didn’t it?

  3. “Roddenberry pitched a story where Spock would shoot JFK from the grassy knoll…”

    It’s like poetry, it rhymes.

    (The implication being that JFK had to die for the good of the human race, otherwise the Soviets would’ve put a jackboot in our ass. Yes, even without having seen the actual screenplay, I already know every twist and takeaway he had planned for it, because Roddenberry was nothing if not reliable.

    Would you be surprised if it turned out Gene was a subscriber to the John Birch newsletter back then? Would you really?)

    • Maybe, I mean look at stuff like “The Omega Sector” or whatever the episode is called 😛

      However, I think tbf in this case Gene was just trying to be morally ambiguous and shock audiences. That or rip off Harlan Ellison…

      • He already ripped off Harlan Ellison. I mean, just watch the version of The City on the Edge of Forever that made it to screen.

        [cued canned laughter]

    • Yep. I am never living down that Lucas-ism.

  4. I think the backlash against Into Darkness is justified, so many promises and hopes were just dashed in favor of more of the same. Star Trek Nemesis was a rip off of Wrath of Khan, but with a villain who never met the main cast, and yet wants revenge on them for things they didn’t do. Star Trek 09 was a rip off of Nemesis, which was a rip off of Wrath of Khan, but with a villain who never met the main cast, and yet wants revenge on them for things they didn’t do.

    Star Trek Into Darkness is a rip off of Wrath of Khan introducing a villain who never met the main cast, yet whom wants revenge on…other people, but that revenge was misplaced because what Khan thought happened didn’t happen, and the main cast doesn’t entirely have cause to go against Khan because he has somewhat legit reasons to free his people, but he pointlessly murdered a bunch of Star Fleet personal because he just assumed Star Fleet were a bunch of genocidal thugs, so that gets the main cast involved…but then they work together midway through the film? Then Khan threatens the main cast when he’s got the monster ship, but he really has no reason to since he just met these people, and the thing he was angry about (the genocide of his people) didn’t happens so he’s not out for revenge, so I guess he’s just a dick?

    Point I was trying to make is that the last 3 Star Trek films have been redoing the Wrath of Khan, which is lazy and uninspired, and they do it worse each time. You can kinda understand why Shinzon would lash out at people he never met, because he was probably f-ed up in that mine and being the clone of someone who lives a much better life then you can have a profound psychological effect. I have no idea why Nero takes so much pleasure in trying to strangle James T Kirk, a person he’s never met, nor was he affected by Kirk in the slightest. And his revenge against Spock was pathetic, lashing out against a public figure from another time and nation. I mean, the Romulan ships are all powered by Black Holes, they sure as heck didn’t need Spock to come all the way from Vulcan with his black hole machine, why didn’t Shinzon get off his lazy ass and save them all? His ship probably black-hole powered too. As I mentioned in the above paragraph, I’m not even sure what Khan is after, I can’t call it revenge because the reason he went renegade was for something that didn’t happen, and he knows that.

    I’ve noticed a trend lately that this whole lazy “more-of-the-same” attitude is reaching critical mass with audiences. The masses are just sick and tired of studios using all that AAA money and do absolutely nothing innovative with it. Like we’ve seen with the recent “Infinity War” trailer (now the most disliked video on youtube) with the Call of Duty franchise once again doing nothing risky (with the most interesting thing in the trailer is the remaster of the 2007 game.) And then you have the Ghostbusters trailer, also highly unpopular because it’s the same scene for scene do over of a classic. This is why I think Into Darkness is so reviled, the franchise was rebooted so there could be a fresh start, instead they do the same crap, again and again (even scene for scene in Into Darkness), completely defeating the purpose of a reboot. I mean, they had to jettison 90% of the Star Trek canon for THIS? They redid Wrath of Khan, but with writing so inept that they couldn’t even get the “revenge” motivation to be coherent.

    The reason First Contact worked as a partial Wrath of Khan remake, is that they use the ACTUCAL nemesis of the captain from the show. That and the fact that the obsession for revenge is transferred to Picard, makes the story far more compelling, while adding dimension to Picard. His character once proclaimed that humanity was “like onto angels” to Q, now we see Picard for the human he really is, “evolved indeed”. It also helps that Khan and the Borg are almost totally different in concept. The Borg aren’t out for revenge, the Borg aren’t a singular identity, which helped differentiate First Contact from the Wrath of Khan and allowed the movie to stand on its own.

    • You took the words out of my mouth. At least this three part ENT homage has Brent Spiner and some decent action, Into Darkness IMO is totally useless, just watch Wrath of Khan.

    • I can see what you’re saying, even if I don’t entirely agree.

      That said, I think it’s hard to argue that they are doing it worse each time when the first film in that cycle was Nemesis. Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness may have logical plot holes and a few missing character beats, but they move quite smoothly and least have a pulse. Nemesis is just a disaster from beginning to end.

      It is worth noting that while opinion is subjective, audience and critical and commercial response to Nemesis was markedly weaker than to either Star Trek or Star Trek Into Darkness. It doesn’t necessarily prove anything about the objective quality of the film, but it does suggest that the response in certain segments of fandom is disproportionate. I’d have a hard time convincing family or friends to sit down and watch Nemesis over Star Trek or Into Darkness, which is a highly subjective indicator, but which does include some self-selecting Star Trek fans.

      And I say this thinking the franchise’s obsession with Wrath of Khan is excessive and ultimately quite damaging. It is the biggest issue with Into Darkness, I’ll readily concede.

      • In the trilogy of Wrath of Khan rip-offs, I wasn’t really commenting on the quality of the film, but with how well utilized elements of Wrath of Khan. I agree, Nemesis was a disaster, with that BS ship Scimitar, and whenever you have to introduce a villain looking for revenge on a main character, and neither one has met before, or did anything to each other, your “revenge plot” is going to be extremely weak (and they do it in all 3 movies). Whats weird is that in this WoK rip-off trilogy is that the excuses for revenge get worse from Nemesis. At least Shinzon had blood ties to Picard and (like Khan) he lived a miserable existence. If you’re willing to suspend your disbelief (I’m not), you can sorta buy the revenge motive.

        In Star Trek 09, Nero gets angry over a natural disaster in the heart of Romanian Empire, and decides to get revenge on the Federation of the past? It’s sorta be like if Washington DC was destroyed in a storm, so the US decides to nuke Europe in revenge because they promised to help, and were a little late. The “revenge motive” is so disconnected, and makes the villain pathetic, drowning in denial. And the fact that Nero has a crew that doesn’t question his motives to engage in a genocidal war with people not responsible for the natural disaster is yet another failure to tie in with Wrath of Khan, where’s Nero’s Joachim to challenge him for the ocean of blood on his hands?

        And Into Darkness’s use of Wrath of Khan’s elements are the worst. Khan is actually in it, and out for revenge for the death of his followers (which didn’t happen), so then he works with Kirk and company (cause they just met), and gets revenge on Admiral Marcus for different reasons (imprisoning his people). Then, instead of being diplomatic to Spock, whom has his followers strapped to super weapons (thus Spock has Khan at his mercy), Khan decides to threaten Spock because Khan is a moron, which kick starts the revenge plot again, so that twice in the same movie, Khan will be mistaken in his assumption that his followers are all dead. The movie should really be called Star Trek: Khan’s Mistake. At the very least Nero and his crew lost family, Khan lost NOTHING, he just keeps jumping to conclusions and commits mass murder. I suppose one could argue that Into Darkness wasn’t supposed to be a remake of Wrath of Khan, but since it has Khan and a literal scene for scene rip from that movie, it’s physically impossible to avoid comparisons. They probably could have pulled off a better WoK knock off if Kodos the Executioner was the villain, at least somebody would have a legit reason for revenge.

      • It’s all a matter of opinion in the end, but Into Darkness did worse than Star Trek 09 both critically and financially, and even the positive reviews of Into Darkness on Rotten Tomatoes are hardly stellar. The response I’ve seen to the latest films trailer tells me its going to do even worse (and be even worse).

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