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Star Trek: Enterprise – Affliction (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.

The shift from episodic storytelling to a more serialised format poses all manner of challenges for the Star Trek production team.

By the time that Star Trek: Enterprise embraced long-form storytelling with The Expanse at the end of its second season, the franchise was dangerous behind the curve. During the nineties, genre shows like The X-Files, Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and Babylon 5 had demonstrated the potential of serialisation as a narrative tool. Even within this particular franchise, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had managed to strike a reasonable balance between standalone stories and the larger narrative framework.

Nothin' but Trip...

Nothin’ but Trip…

This is say nothing of the revolution taking place on a wider scale. HBO had allowed its production team to embrace the potential of long-form storytelling on late nineties shows like Oz or The Sopranos. Within a few years, the cable broadcaster had attracted considerable mainstream attention by embracing serialisation on shows like The Wire, Deadwood and Rome. In the meantime, Star Trek: Voyager had steadfastly refused to move beyond the episodic model. When Ronald D. Moore left the franchise, any experience with serialisation left with him.

As such, it is no surprise that the franchise struggled with some of the challenges posed by a serialised storytelling model. In particular, Enterprise struggled a little bit with integrating its entire ensemble into its new serialised storytelling model. Affliction and Divergence feel like an attempt to rectify this issue, with mixed results.

It's all coming together...

It’s all coming together…

To be fair, Enterprise was never a character-driven series. During the first and second seasons, the production staff could not get a consistent read on Jonathan Archer as a character. As such, it was no surprise that the other characters fell by the wayside. T’Pol received a great deal of attention, but episodes like Fusion and The Seventh (not to mention Stigma) suggested that the writing staff had no idea what to do with T’Pol beyond victimising and marginalising her. (Tellingly, Shadows of P’Jem is a T’Pol-centric episode that builds to a decision by Archer.)

The rest of the ensemble struggled to find their own voices. Rick Berman and Brannon Braga seemed very invested in Hoshi Sato as a character, making her a focal point of episodes like Broken Bow, Fight or Flight and Vanishing Point. They even wrote a scene into The Expanse designed to dovetail with her introduction in Broken Bow. However, it seemed that nobody else on the production staff shared the creators’ enthusiasm. Hoshi seemed doomed to repeat her basic character arc in scripts like Sleeping Dogs or Vox Sola.

"What we have here is a good ol' reliable storytelling engine..."

“What we have here is a good ol’ reliable storytelling engine…”

Characters like Trip and Phlox seemed to succeed in a large part due to strong performances from the actors involved. Connor Trineer played Trip with persona of a Southern “good ol’ boy”, evoking DeForrest Kelley; Trineer’s folkish charm helped to ease him through disasters like Unexpected or Acquisition. John Billingsley took the role of “obligatory quirky alien” and made it his own. Even then, Phlox and the Denobulans were fairly under-developed by the standards of featured Star Trek aliens.

It often seemed like Malcolm Reed had little personality beyond “eccentric and British”, although the production team’s constant strained assertions that Reed was a red-blooded heterosexual standing serving as one of his defining traits. Dominic Keating worked best when playing Reed with a wry sarcasm; his performances in episodes like Strange New World and Rogue Planet hinted at the idea that Reed really didn’t think too much of Captain Jonathan Archer, but was far too polite to actually say anything out loud.

"Reed him his rights..."

“Reed him his rights…”

Still, Reed often felt incredibly generic. There were recurring hints of family trouble and discord, the faint suggestion that Reed had dishonoured the family tradition by opting to serve in Starfleet rather than the twenty-second century equivalent of the Royal Navy. However, Archer had already cornered the show’s market on daddy issues, so Reed was left trying to make up lost ground. When Hoshi tried to pry into Malcolm’s past in Silent Enemy, she discovered that his deepest and darkest secret was that he like pineapple.

And then there was Ensign Travis Mayweather, who makes Harry Kim look like a well-rounded three-dimensional character. Mayweather’s role was pretty much to fly the ship, and it frequently seemed like Anthony Montgomery was doing little more than subbing in for all those interchangeable characters who would sit next to Data on the bridge of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It is a shame, because Mayweather actually had the strongest premise of any human character on the show; he was a second-generation space traveller.

Of two mind(meld)s about it...

Of two mind(meld)s about it…

Asked about whether he had any ideas for stories that he might have wanted to see told using Phlox, actor John Billingsley suggested the production team had little interest in his input to shape the character:

I put that in a box for myself because you have no control over that as an actor, unless you’re the lead and you’re one of the executive producers and have a hand in shaping the way storylines evolve. It’s fruitless to ask yourself those questions, especially if you’re a supporting character guy. You don’t help yourself too much by entertaining the fantasies. Bob Picardo, I think, did a wonderful job on Voyager of asking them for stories and suggesting plot ideas. I did a little of that in the first couple of years, but didn’t make any headway, so I let that go.

Jolene Blalock was even more blunt in her assessment, complaining at the start of the fourth season, “If you can’t find consistency in your character, then it’s a transparent character, and that’s very tough, because it turns out you are a different person from episode to episode.”

"New a-Rigels."

“New a-Rigels.”

Enterprise had difficulty developing its cast within an episodic storytelling model, when each member of the ensemble was all but guaranteed to be the focus of at least one story in a given season. Those stories might not have much with the characters in question, but at least they offered the potential of doing something interesting. Hoshi got to be the focus of episodes like Fight or Flight, Sleeping Dogs and Vanishing Point. Mayweather got to be near the centre of the frame in Fortunate Son or Horizon.

These were not necessarily good episodes that offered a keen insight into the characters in question, but allocating episodes in that fashion allowed the possibility of character development. This was arguably how Deep Space Nine eventually figured out how to write for trouble characters like Bashir and Dax, relying on a “brute force” approach that would eventually produce an episode like Our Man Bashir or Rejoined after years of episodes like Dax, The Passenger, Invasive Procedures, Melora, Meridian or Distant Voices.

Getting (fore)head of themselves.

Getting (fore)head of themselves.

In a way, that was a benefit of having a twenty-odd episode season. Filling the season order meant spreading the love around the ensemble. Popular characters like Data or Worf were never going to want for attention on The Next Generation, but having to produce over twenty individual stories in a season meant that the production team had to devote some attention to more difficult characters like Geordi or Troi. After all, Troi endured episodes like The Price, The Loss, Violations and Man of the People before the production team gave her Face of the Enemy.

Part of the decision to focus on arc-based narratives meant a shift away from the Michael Piller school of character-driven episodic storytelling. During the third season, character-centric episodes were largely put into the background. This makes a certain amount of sense. If the season is to be dedicated to a single story, then it means that the season’s attention is focused on the characters who had a clear arc mapped across that. Archer, T’Pol and Trip were a priority for the third season. Reed got a conflict with Hayes in The Xindi that paid off in Harbinger.

The MACO-ing of a man...

The MACO-ing of a man…

Other characters were not as lucky in the context of the third season. Hoshi was fortunate enough to land Exile during the early episodic stretch of the season, while Phlox sapped considerable momentum out of the final run of episodes with Doctor’s Orders. However, their contributions to the main arc were minimal; Hoshi was tortured in Countdown, which counted as her most significant contribution to the arc. Phlox and Mayweather offered little unique to the arc of the season.

Of course, it could reasonably be argued that good serialised storytelling finds an arc for all of its major characters. That is what makes shows like Mad Men, Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad such effective examples of the form. There is a utility to their storytelling and casting that reaches beyond the classic Star Trek template where Mayweather has to be in the opening credits because the show needs a “helm officer” and Hoshi could not possibly leave following her crisis of confidence in Fight or Flight because Linda Park has her name in the credits.

"Hey, at least I know martial arts now!"

“Hey, at least I know martial arts now!”

(It could even be argued that Deep Space Nine was much better that Enterprise at balancing its cast in its later years, as it moved towards serialisation. While the first two-thirds of the final season were largely episodic adventures against the backdrop of the Dominion War, the writing staff were careful to give every member of the cast an opportunity to shine before the curtain came down. While some of those choices – the O’Brien-Bashir buddy comedy of Extreme Measures or the Ferengi plot of Dogs of War – sapped momentum, it was still a valiant effort.)

Although the fourth season abandoned the idea of a season-long arc, the production team were still interested in stories that stretched across multiple episodes. This put storytelling real estate at a premium, particularly as far as the supporting cast were concerned. Instead of telling twenty-odd stories in its final season, Enterprise would only tell twelve stories. Two of those stories (In a Mirror, Darkly, Part I and In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II, along with These Are the Voyages…) arguably didn’t even feature the show’s primary characters.

Never mind.

Never mind.

This shift meant that it was harder to find the space for stories focusing on the supporting cast. The Next Generation had demonstrated that it was possible to construct character centric two-parters, with Worf anchoring Birthright, Part I and Birthright, Part II while Data was the focus of Descent, Part I and Descent, Part II. However, Enterprise did not have a single supporting character strong enough to hold an episode. Past examples had demonstrated that basing a stand alone episode around Hoshi or Mayweather was risky enough on its own terms.

On the surface, this meant that meant that the fourth season was even less character-focused than the third had been, at least using the old Michael Piller model of character-driven storytelling. There were no “Hoshi Sato stories” or “Travis Mayweather stories.” When the season’s big multi-episode arcs had a character focus, they tended to focus upon Archer and T’Pol. It is Archer who ends up merged with Surak in The Forge; it is T’Pol who reconciles with her mother in Awakening; it is Archer who fights Shran in United.

"This is what happens to actors who complain."

“This is what happens to actors who complain.”

To be fair to the fourth season, the show did take advantage of the extra space afforded by these multi-episode arcs to afford the rest of the cast smaller character moments. Reed and Mayweather do some forensics work in The Forge, discovering a bomb. Trip and Reed are trapped on a Romulan drone in Babel One. Hoshi and Mayweather pour over Andorian customs in United. Although it was not much, and characters like Shran or Soval received greater focus, it was arguably more attention than these characters received during the third season.

It also seems the production team was aware that not all of the ensemble had been treated fairly during the show’s run and were attempting to rectify that. For all its flaws, In a Mirror, Darkly, Part I and In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II does an excellent job of utilising the ensemble. Demons and Terra Prime makes a conscious effort to give Mayweather some emotional stakes in the drama that was unfolding. Even the abduction sequence at the start of Affliction makes a point to focus on Hoshi, even including the black belt she referenced in Observer Effect.

Really celling it.

Really celling it.

At the same time, the demands of these larger plots mean that there is never more than a scene or two allocated to character development of the ensemble, and that it is always in service of the larger plot. Babel One and United trap Trip and Reed on the Romulan drone in an obvious shoutout to Shuttlepod One, one of the rare character-focused episodes from the first season. However, the fact that it was part of a larger plot about Romulan false-flag attacks meant that that actual characterisation took a back seat. The pattern recurs across the season.

In many ways, Affliction and Divergence seem like an attempt to integrate the Michael Piller era’s character-centric storytelling with the Manny Coto era’s multi-episode arcs. Of the arcs spanning the season, Affliction and Divergence are easiest to classify by reference to members of the ensemble. The two-parter is at once “a Reed story” and “a Phlox story.” The Phlox story concerns his abduction from San Francisco and delivery to the Qu’Vat colony. The Reed story concerns the conflict between Reed’s allegiance to Section 31 and his obligation to Archer.

"You can still find some characterisation, if you look hard enough..."

“You can still find some characterisation, if you look hard enough…”

At the same time, these character stories are juxtaposed against an epic story how how the Klingons lost their ridges and attempts by Section 31 to meddle in the internal politics of the Klingon Empire. The results is a strange story that struggles with scope. Affliction and Divergence feel consciously smaller than the other episodes of the season, and not just because they form the first two-parter following on from three massive three-parters. Affliction and Divergence are as much a hybrid as the Klingons referenced in the title.

This focus on character perhaps explains why Affliction and Divergence feels like the smallest multi-episode story of the season, despite the fact that it exists to answer a long-held fan question and is the only story of the fourth season to truly focus on the Klingon Empire. Unlike the twisting and turning plots of the Borderland trilogy or the Kir’Shara trilogy or the United trilogy, Affliction and Divergence unfold in a relatively straight line between Earth and Qu’Vat colony. Following trips to Andoria, Vulcan and Romulus, this feels positively small scale.

"Oh, Trip's been browsing without his firewall again."

“Oh, Trip’s been browsing without his firewall again.”

A lot of this is likely down to the fact that the story is told from the perspective of the supporting cast. When Phlox is abducted, the two-parter devotes considerable attention to his relationship with Antaak. While the two-parter reveals that Section 31 is playing games with the Klingon Empire, the primary focus is on Reed’s relationship to the mysterious Harris. It is not difficult to imagine these character-drive stories split out as two stand-alone episodes of the first or second season. In fact, the plot with Phlox and Antaak consciously mirrors the themes of Judgment.

Watching the two-parter, it feels like Piller’s approach to character-driven stories is an awkward fit with Coto’s fixation on sprawling Star Trek epics. The focus on Phlox and Reed means that the political scheming and manipulation never seems as operatic as the drama in the Borderland trilogy or the United trilogy. At the same time, the demand for a larger-than-life story about the Klingons lost their ridges feels like it needs a broader perspective and wider canvas; while Roger Avery is a great guest star, General K’Vagh feels underdeveloped for the importance of his role.

Smooth (foreheaded) criminal Klingon.

Smooth (foreheaded) criminal Klingon.

While Affliction and Divergence mark a conscious return to the character-driven storytelling style of the Piller era for the supporting members of the ensemble, they also take a cue from the fourth season’s approach to character dynamics for the focal characters. In discussing the format of the fourth season, fans tend to focus on serialised storytelling as it applies to the individual arcs and continuity as it applies to the rest of the franchise. However, the fourth season also has a stronger sense of internal continuity than the first or second seasons.

This is clear in the way that the little references build across stories. For example, Affliction reveals that the Klingons were inspired to attempt this latest round of genetic engineering by the hijacking of the Bird of Prey in the teaser to Borderland and has Archer talk T’Pol through a mindmeld by referencing that occasion when Surak was trapped in his head during The Forge. Commander Collins references the racism Phlox faced in Home. These might be separate stories, but the production team are keen to stress that these stories do not happen in a vacuum.

The virus is in a state of Phlox...

The virus is in a state of Phlox…

This technique emphasises the idea of the Star Trek universe as a cohesive narrative world, one of the big recurring themes of the fourth season. The fourth season of Enterprise approaches the alien societies and histories of Star Trek as if they are characters in their own right, living and breathing worlds. It also recalls the approach taken by the writing staff on Deep Space Nine over a half a decade earlier, as the third and fourth seasons gently eased the series into serialised form.

With that in mind, it makes sense that the show should attempt to serialise character arcs for major characters across the season. In particular, the fourth season devotes considerable attention to the relationship between Trip and T’Pol, with Affliction and Divergent focusing on Trip’s transfer from Enterprise to Columbia because he cannot stand to be around her any longer. It is an arc that has consciously played out in the background of the fourth season, in response to the pair’s complicated relationship over the third season.

Oh... unnecessary shiny things!

Oh… unnecessary shiny things!

That character arc took focus in Home, with Trip accompanying T’Pol to Vulcan to meet her mother. However, it remained in the background of several subsequent stories; Trip wondered about her “honeymoon” in Borderland, Kos dissolved his marriage to T’Pol in Kir’Shara, T’Pol decided not to pursue a romantic relationship with Trip in Daedalus, Trip fretted over her safety in The Aenar. The thread kept coming back, with the season’s scripts consistently and repeatedly drawing attention to it.

Affliction and Divergent put an even greater emphasis on that dynamic. Following on from the closing scene of The Aenar, Trip has transferred off Enterprise in order to get away from T’Pol. This is an interesting idea on its own terms, following the reassignment of a series regular. It is something that Deep Space Nine teased on a couple of occasions, with Kira in The Circle and with Sisko in Behind the Lines or Image in the Sand. It adds a certain sense of flexibility to the show, suggesting that the status quo is not entirely fixed.

Takin' a long Trip.

Takin’ a long Trip.

In the documentary Before Her Time, Connor Trinneer suggests that he pushed the writing the writing staff push the relationship rather than simply letting it lie:

I finally said to Rick and Brannon, I said, “Look, you’ve created this read-blooded American male, who’s now in this relationship with someone who has sex once every seven years and is emotionally unavailable, and he keeps coming back… for what?” To me, this seems pretty imbalanced right now. It seems like you’re yanking Trip’s spine out. And he’s got nowhere to go. “Okay, go ahead, go and get married, that’s okay, I’ll go follow you around.” And I said, “You have to have him walk away from her. I think it’s important in the development of their relationship, if that’s what you’re doing.”

Trip’s decision to request a transfer at the end of The Aenar before returning to his post at the end of Bound suggests that old comic book axiom about “the illusion of change”, a false sense of momentum that never actually leads anywhere.

"Look, I know we're on the verge of cancellation and the budget's been cut, but this is ridiculous."

“Look, I know we’re on the verge of cancellation and the budget’s been cut, but this is ridiculous.”

Of course, the fact that Connor Trinneer is a series regular means that Trip cannot possibly leave the ship for long. Despite making significant steps in its third and fourth seasons, Enterprise has not embraced twenty-first century television production to the point that it is willing to write a series regular out for an extended period of time. This is not The Sopranos or The Wire. In fact, Divergent strains really hard to come up with an excuse to get Trip back on the Enterprise, while Bound casually decides that everything should go back to normal.

In a way, this serves to demonstrate the limits against which the fourth season must strain. The third and fourth seasons of Enterprise represented a significant evolution in the way that the Star Trek franchise told stories, particularly working from the template cemented by Voyager and acknowledging that Deep Space Nine had proven to be a narrative dead end. The mini-arc concerning Trip’s departure from (and subsequent return to) the Enterprise maps out the edges of the show’s experimental streak. This far, no further!

Cry me a Rivers.

Cry me a Rivers.

In hindsight, even allowing for Trinneer’s contractual obligations, this feels like a missed opportunity. Bound is immediately followed by a two-part mirror universe episode that doesn’t require that Trip return to the Enterprise to feature Connor Trinneer as mirror!Trip on the mirror!Enterprise. Allowing for that, Demons and Terra Prime could easily have featured the Columbia returning to Earth, allowing Trip to reconnect with his crew. With the show coming to an end, it’s arguable if the transfer back was even necessary at all.

This is very much soap opera plotting, heightened serialised melodrama that exists solely to keep characters apart and the audience in a state of suspense about the possibility of a relationship. In this case, there is a sense that the writers are attempting to draw out the romantic tension between Trip and T’Pol rather than confronting it head-on, turning a “ill they?”/“won’t they?” romance into a messier “they did”/“they’re pretending they didn’t”/“they can’t”/“they won’t”/“they just need some room” plot.

Talk about soap opera soft focus.

Talk about soap opera soft focus.

Although the franchise has never involved itself in a relationship this convoluted, this is not a storytelling style new to Star Trek. In many ways, it feels like a continuation of Jeri Taylor’s approach to Voyager, an escalation from the teasing of a relationship between Janeway and Chakotay in episodes like Resolutions or her hints of a blossoming relationship between Paris and Torres starting with The Swarm. There are also shades of it in the relationship dynamics of Deep Space Nine, although that particular spin-off did not devote the same energy to teasing.

There is a tendency to treat the term“soap opera” as pejorative in this context, perhaps rooted in the gender politics of science-fiction fandom in particular and television criticism in general. Pulitzer winner Emily Nussbaum has pointed out how the innovations in female-centric television shows like Buffy: The Vampire Slayer tends to get overlooked in favour of more stereotypically masculine stylings of The Sopranos, and that shows like Sex in the City are often dismissed in favour of more “worthy” shows like The Wire.

Or the hit syndicated Klingon show, The Secret of his Q'apla.

Or the hit syndicated Klingon show, The Secret of his Q’apla.

Indeed, it could be argued that this sort of plotting is quite firmly tied to serialisation; after all, soap operas embraced serialisation long before it came back into fashion at the turn of the millennium. It is no coincidence that shows like Empire or Scandal have reinvigourated the prime time soap opera as serialisation has become increasingly acceptable. Even Game of Thrones could be argued to embrace a certain soap opera sensibility:

Don’t let HBO’s reputation for Emmy bait and critical favorites fool you, Game of Thrones is nothing but a classic prime-time soap opera of the trashiest sort. It’s like JR Ewing with a crown instead of cowboy hat or Alexis Morell Carrington Colby Dexter Rowan in a period gown rather than shoulder pads and gem tones. Game of Thrones has heroes and villains, complicated and inextricably interwoven families, the fight for power over a kingdom, and lots and lots of sex. We were waiting for Amanda Woodward to show up, clear all the tanks of mead off the banquet hall table and straddle a warrior right there. This thing is soaptastic!

Indeed, it could be argued that soap opera conventions are increasingly accepted in more serious prime-time television dramas. It makes sense, particularly in the context of the twenty-first century media landscape that has seen a greater and greater co-mingling of prestige drama and pure pulp. Breaking Bad is a fascinating study of modern masculinity and a supervillain origin story. True Detective takes its name from a literal pulp magazine.

"You'll be Sectioned."

“You’ll be Sectioned.”

The emphasis on soap opera storytelling with Trip and T’Pol fits quite comfortably with the increasingly pulpy aesthetic of Enterprise‘s final two seasons. This is very much the flip side of the coin to the reptile!Xindi or the evil!alien!space!Nazis or the bolder colour schemes or the camp excess of In a Mirror, Darkly, Part I and In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II. In fact, the same heightened emotional sensibility is applied to Malcolm’s conflicted loyalties, which are played so melodramatically that it’s wonder Reed needs to be fed steak in Divergence; he could just chew the scenery.

When Harris suggests that Reed cover up for the Klingon attack on the Rigellian Freighter, Reed responds, “You want me to lie again?” Both the script and the performance push the moment toward angsty melodrama. When Harris makes it clear that these are the parametres of the mission, Reed emotionally complains, “I’m being compromised, sir, and I don’t like it.” It is a heightened take on the classic “double agent” and “conflicted loyalties” trope, one that places a greater emphasis on the emotional stakes than the actual plot mechanics.

"Walking around San Francisco at this hour of the night dressed only in leather? People might get the wrong idea."

“Walking around San Francisco at this hour of the night dressed only in leather? People might get the wrong idea.”

The “cast member we’ve known for years with a dark secret that has never been hinted at before” plot element is very much a soap opera plot element, a way to spice up a character that isn’t working or feels hazily defined. That was very much the case with Julian Bashir in Doctor Bashir, I Presume, and is just as much the case with Malcolm Reed in Affliction. In practical terms, it seems likely that Reed’s history with Section 31 probably would have come up during Broken Bow or over the third season.

It should be noted that the production team had spent considerable time trying to work a dark secret into Reed’s past. In the undeveloped Colonel-Green-centric episode that would have filled the production slot eventually occupied by Observer Effect, the Reeve-Stevens had considered exposing Reed’s grandfather as a member of Colonel Green’s movement. It seems like it was only a matter of time before the production team exposed some sordid secret about the past of Malcolm Reed.

Locked down...

Locked down…

Again, this is very much in keeping with the fourth season’s approach to characterisation, where it feels like everything is heightened. Reed’s relationship to Harris is notably more emotive than Bashir’s relationship to Sloan. Trip and T’Pol’s courtship is more angst and temperamental than the relationship between Paris and Torres. In many ways, the delightful camp of the character dynamics of In a Mirror, Darkly, Part I and In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II feel like a logical conclusion of the fourth’s season aesthetic.

In its own way, this is another example of how the fourth season of Enterprise was ahead of the curve. If its multi-episode arcs proved the perfect fodder for binge-watching and if its obsession with continuity prefigured the increasingly mainstream obsession with continuity and the “canon”, then the soap opera aesthetic applied to character development and motivation also seemed to nod towards the future of genre television.

11 Responses

  1. The forehead, I get it. But why did the Klingons have to lose their nose ridges, too? Personally, I might re-consider any plot developments that make an iconic alien look like Jason Momoa, but that’s me.

    • Ha! It’s telling that the production team used (what was at the time likely to be) the last possible appearance of the Klingons in the Berman era to do this and the Abrams era just decided to completely ignore it. (For the record: I kinda like the “Blingons” from Into Darkness.)

  2. I wonder why the Klingons were never utilized as villains to any real extent in Enterprise. I’m aware that initally they were planned to be, but obviously in the end they weren’t. Even in the continuity porn fourth season they maintain their not friend/not enemy status. I’m guessing the TNG era depiction was so ingrained in the image of Klingons they never felt comfortable using them as straight up villains, even though DS9 had a whole season and a half where they were villains.

    • It’s worth noting that the Klingon appearances in the first season were all disasters, barring Broken Bow. I can see why the production team would back away from the Klingons after an uninspiring combo of Unexpected and Sleeping Dogs. I also suspect that a firm move away from serialisation might have been a factor, given that the plan was I believe to use the Klingons as an external threat to motivate the launch of the ship. Lose that plot, and you don’t need that external threat.

      • Well, the first season is a disaster, period, to be fair.

        Regardless, Klingons are (or at least can be) good villains that fit the setting, so I just find it a humorous observation.

      • From what Ive read, the proto first season was to end with some Klingon attack, that forces the NX-01 to launch and find the Klingons. Sounds like what they did with the Xindi

  3. I don’t know what it is, but even though they were often underdeveloped I am actually quite fond of all of the Enterprise characters. There have been some really mediocre episodes of the series that I nevertheless found watchable because I liked Archer, T’Pol, Trip, reed, Hoshi, Mayweather and Phlox. Perhaps it was due to the fact that all of them were played by reasonable competent actors who looked like they were trying the best they could with the material, but even when the scripts were terrible I still liked the characters.

    In contrast, I never developed any sort of appreciation for any of the characters on Voyager. Even on the episodes that actually had good writing I found myself gritting my teeth because I absolutely could not stand the ship’s crew.

    Okay, there was one exception. I loved the Doctor. Robert Picardo is a great actor, and he did an amazing job on Voyager. I really wish that he had been cast on a much better installment of the franchise.

    • I think Voyager has perhaps the closest relationship to TOS in terms of character dynamics, in that it often feels like “the leading trio and a bunch of familiar faces who read exposition each week.” Enterprise really didn’t do much with Mayweather, but it’s telling that the first two seasons invest a lot of time and energy in Hoshi as a character. Even if Hoshi gets brushed aside in the final two years, she still has a stronger sense of character than Kim/Chakotay/Tuvok. It helps that (with one glaring exception) the cast on Enterprise are relatively good. And even that one glaring exception is oddly charming in a way that recalls Terry Farrell’s time on Deep Space Nine, where a little bit of charisma makes up for a steep creative learning curve.

  4. Hey Darren, I’m curious: do you agree with Connor that the writers “yanked Trip’s spine away”? A big chunk of the fandom does and they call him doormat or spineless. You wrote about the sexism of Twilight and other than the Florence Nightingale syndrome, that gets very little criticism in forums. I love Trip but I’m disturbed that more people (including more women than you would think) are outraged at T’Pol “emasculating” Trip than a man undermining a woman’s authority.

    The Warp 5 podcast said that the subplot with Trip leaving for Columbia felt abrupt. And I agree. Maybe if Connor went to the writers sooner, Trip would have spent more time in Columbia. That’s the only logical explanation for him coming back so soon.

    • Interestingly, I much prefer the Trip of later seasons to the version introduced at the start of the first season. I think there’s a definite softening of the character, but I think that plays to Trinneer’s strengths as an actor; Trinneer has a natural and easy charm, and I think the character plays best when he is vulnerable. (More than most Star Trek leads, I get an emotional response to watching Trip deal with problems like this because he really seems like a guy who feels, if that makes sense.)

      With regard to Columbia, I always assumed that Trip had to take such an abrupt roundtrip because he was a series lead in a non-prestige show. The production team could never write him out of the series for an extended arc. So the options would always have been to split the action between the Columbia and the Enterprise for a long stretch or do it over one story and then bring Trinneer back. I’m not sure that the show was at a point where it could drag the Columbia in once an episode without it feeling like a distraction or contractual necessity.

      So I tend to treat the abridged nature of Trip’s departure as a production reality intruding on the narrative. I’m glad it’s there, though. I do like getting a glimpse we get of life outside of Enterprise, and I like the idea of a character transferring to another ship for a little while.

      • Yeah, I know what you mean by a guy who feels. Trip was one of the few openly emotional male characters at the time and I love that. And the show did the right thing by treating it as normal. No one talked about it unless it was related to his humanity. But it blinded me to a lot of the sexism written into his character. Most of us think of bro and sensitive as binary, which really limits the way we see men.

        I feel torn about the abridged nature of Trip’s departure. On one hand, I felt that he was at the breaking point so of course he needed to leave. But it cheapens their reunion in Bound. Why put the characters through all this angst only to give them a quick fix?

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