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Star Trek: Enterprise – Demons (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.

In some ways, Star Trek: Enterprise ends where it should have began.

A lot of the final stretch of the final season seems dedicated to exploring the show’s original sin, the flaws that came baked into the premise as early as Broken Bow. After all, Bound had taken the cringe-inducing adolescent fixation on “sexiness” that informed ideas like the “decontamination gel” and pushed them to their sexist extremes. Similarly, In a Mirror, Darkly, Part I and In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II offered the revenge of the two members of the ensemble all but forgotten in subsequent years while pushing the show’s early reactionary tendencies to eleven.

Under the Earthlight. The serious Earthlight.

Under the Earthlight. The serious Earthlight.

Even These Are the Voyages… seemed to confirm fears that the show had been built as a sequel to Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: First Contact rather than a prequel to the original Star Trek, a fear shared by many fans frustrated by elements like the design of the ship or the appearance of the Nausicaans in Fortunate Son or the Ferengi in Acquisition. That final episode left open the (admittedly remote) possibility that the entire show was nested inside the holodeck of Picard’s ship.

Demons and Terra Prime touch on the same introspective ideas, by taking the show’s final two-parter (if not its de facto finale) and using it to tell a story that probably should have been told half-way through the first season. It seems like the production team have finally decided to grapple with the core themes of Enterprise. Just at the last possible minute.

"Dead or alive, you're coming with me."

“Dead or alive, you’re coming with me.”

There are lots of reasons to love Star Trek. In its fifty-year history, the franchise has done a lot of things. It has taken a lot of forms. There is no right or wrong way to enjoy the franchise, and no simple way to distill its appeal. However, one of the franchise’s defining attributes has been its optimism about the human condition. In a world where science-fiction seems increasingly fixated upon apocalypse and dystopia, the Star Trek franchise dares to imagine a future where mankind has done more than simply survive. Star Trek imagines a future where mankind thrives.

A product of the Cold War, broadcast at a time when students were still being taught to duck and cover while households were being given iodine tablets, Star Trek offered a vision of hope. The show genuinely believed that mankind’s best days lay ahead, and that the species had something profound and optimistic to offer the wider cosmos. Not only would mankind meet new alien species out there, but it would also become friends with a lot of them. For a lot of Star Trek fans, this is the central appeal of the franchise.

"Talk to the... whatever this thing is, because the face ain't listenin'."

“Talk to the… whatever this thing is, because the face ain’t listenin’.”

When The Man Trap was broadcast, that utopian future was taken for granted. This optimistic world arrived fully formed. Kirk and his crew existed in a universe where mankind had already conquered their demons and elevated themselves above the petty politics and concerns so familiar to twentieth-century viewers. Kirk and his friends could look upon metaphors for the twentieth-century as curiosities, safely insulated from the fascism of Patterns of Force, the corruption of A Piece of the Action, the decay of Bread and Circuses.

The further the franchise looked into the future, the more remote mankind seemed to become. If Kirk was bemused by twentieth-century concerns, Picard seemed utterly confused by them. In The Last Outpost, Picard and his crew seem unsure what to make of the capitalist Ferengi. In The Neutral Zone, it was revealed the Federation does not believe in locking the doors to sensitive areas like the bridge because they cannot fathom anybody being inconsiderate enough to try to access them without permission.

Pause for applause.

Pause for applause.

Following the end of Star Trek: Voyager, producers Rick Berman and Brannon Braga decided that it would be fun to move backwards rather than forwards along the timeline of the shared universe. The fifth Star Trek series would not be set further in the future. It would be set in the lacuna between the twentieth (or twenty-first) century and the original Star Trek show. It would be a prequel. That idea was perhaps informed by the success of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, but it was an interesting idea in its own right.

One of the undercurrents bubbling through the shared Star Trek continuity is the sense that this idealistic utopia was built on disaster. In the future, things got better for mankind, particularly compared to the anxieties of the Cold War or the threat of global warming or the suffering of regional famine. However, there was always a sense that things got much worse before they got better. Mankind did not magically become enlightened overnight. The species’ outlook did not change organically. This utopian future was built on horrors.

"I feel like I'm the mayor of crazy town. Or Sunnydale."

“I feel like I’m the mayor of crazy town. Or Sunnydale.”

As J.F. Sargent and Kier Harris argue, this beautiful world was built upon horror after horror:

Roughly 90 percent of the time anyone in Star Trek mentions how wonderful the Federation is, they make some offhand reference to one of three major incidents in Star Trek canonical history: the Eugenics Wars, the Third World War, and the Post-Atomic Horror. 

During this stunning trifecta of apocalyptic shame, every major city on Earth was destroyed, millions were killed in a nuclear war, and millions more, infected by radiation, were executed to prevent their damaged genes being passed on to future generations.

Watching Star Trek, it seems clear that utopia came at a very steep price.

"It's a rocky road to utopia."

“It’s a rocky road to utopia.”

This is something of a foundational idea within the franchise itself. Star Trek introduced the first of these genocidal conflicts in Space Seed, before the end of the first season. Somewhat undercutting the show’s legendary optimism, the writing staff working in the late sixties established the “Eugenics Wars” as taking place during the nineties. This helps to give a sense of the uncertainty that underlies the franchise’s hopeful attitude towards the future; even allowing for the promise of a brighter tomorrow, mankind was still only three decades away from cataclysm.

The “Eugenics Wars” were not the only examples from the franchise’s rich history. During the third season, The Savage Curtain introduced the character of Colonel Green and the spectre of the Third World War. When Star Trek returned to prime time television after an absence of almost two decades, Encounter at Farpoint afforded the audience (and Captain Picard) a glimpse at the “Post-Atomic Horror.” Sisko and Bashir would encounter another dark chapter in humanity’s history in Past Tense, Part I and Past Tense, Part II.

Baby on board.

Baby on board.

Whereas all of these horrific elements were ancient history to characters like Kirk and Picard, the idea of doing a prequel series would allow the production team to get a bit closer the multiple extinction level events in the history of mankind. This is not to suggest that the story would have to be cynical or dystopian or apocalyptic. After all, it would be a story that ends with mankind assuming their place among the stars. One of the joys of doing a Star Trek prequel was knowing that the show should have a happy ending.

Just how did mankind pull themselves back from the edge of the abyss? It was clear from the outset that Rick Berman and Brannon Braga wanted to position Enterprise as a sequel to First Contact. This made sense. First Contact was easily the most successful film of the Berman era, the cinematic release featuring the Next Generation cast that had made the greatest impact on the popular consciousness. In purely practical terms, First Contact was a logical starting point for a Star Trek prequel.

When you drill down to it...

When you drill down to it…

First Contact essentially told that optimistic Star Trek story in miniature, explaining how Zephram Cochrane and Lily Sloane had cobbled together a rocket in the ruins of a post-apocalyptic world hoping that it might take mankind to the stars. If Enterprise could recreate that sense of optimism and hope arising from catastrophe, then it would be a worthy successor to the Star Trek name. This was a large part of the appeal of doing a prequel series, of charting the road from the modern world to a much better world.

This was particularly relevant in the context of Enterprise because the show debuted immediately following the 9/11 attacks. Civilisation was actually in production when those planes struck the towers and ushered in a horrifying new age of global politics. The nineties had been long and prosperous for most people, where the greatest threats seemed to be abstract and where the biggest crises were spiritual. During the era of The Next Generation and Voyager, it seemed like the optimistic utopia of Star Trek might actually be possible.



In contrast, Enterprise arrived in a very different world. By the time Broken Bow aired, it seemed like utopia was as distant as it had been during the darkest moments of the sixties. The War on Terror provided an ambiguous existential crisis, a perpetual and seemingly unending conflict to mirror the tone of the Cold War. The doomsday clock has been inching closer to midnight since the end of the nineties. In other words, Enterprise arrived at a point where the audience needed utopia more than they had since the sixties.

This made it all the more frustrating when the first season of Enterprise refused to engage with these ideas. Early in Broken Bow, Trip makes it clear that mankind has already accomplished a lot of the things that would make a Star Trek prequel worth watching. “How about war, disease, hunger? Pretty much wiped ’em out in less than two generations. I wouldn’t call that small potatoes.” There was a sense that Enterprise immediately squandered a lot of the more interesting elements of its own premise.

"Captain, sensors confirm that I do look much more badass if I cross my arms like this rather than standing with my arms by my side."

“Captain, sensors confirm that I do look much more badass if I cross my arms like this rather than standing with my arms by my side.”

To be fair to Enterprise, there were moments in the first season that did capture the sense of what it might have been like to venture out into space for the first time. The first season did experiment a little bit with slower storytelling and a more relaxed approach in episodes like Breaking the Ice or Cold Front, which really offered a glimpse of what a “day in the life” of the first warp five ship might look like. However, these episodes – along with the deep space survival story of Shuttlepod One – were very much the exception rather than the rule.

Over the course of the first season, it seemed like the crew could not throw a stone without hitting a Klingon; they appeared in episodes like Broken Bow, Unexpected or Sleeping Dogs. It also felt like the show was recycling familiar plot beats and elements; Fight or Flight, Fortunate Son and Silent Enemy all focused on mysterious antagonistic aliens attacking human ships. Civilisation was a stock “let’s play dress-up on a backlot” episode, while Vox Sola played as familiar “creepy space of the week” story. There was a tired familiarity to it.

Just a little light racism in the morning.

Just a little light racism in the morning.

What little novelty and excitement existed over the course of the first season was promptly smothered in the second, when Enterprise became something of a Star Trek cover band knocking out lame covers of familiar movies or classic episodes. Dawn was just Darmok with its more interesting aspects stripped out. Vanishing Point was Remember Me by way of Realm of FearPrecious Cargo was The Perfect Mate inexplicably played as unfunny comedy. The Breach was Jetrel, itself a riff on Duet. Marauders was not even the franchise’s best riff on The Magnificent Seven.

The majority of episodes from the first two seasons of Enterprise could easily have been told on The Next Generation or Voyager without missing a single story beat. Indeed, they might even have worked better. The Next Generation had a phenomenal cast that might just be the most likable ensemble in the history of the franchise, whereas the characters on Enterprise always felt underdeveloped and underexplored. The first two seasons of Enterprise were largely indistinguishable from the previous seven seasons of Voyager.

"Captain, I'm not sure sending the ship's only Vulcan to infiltrate a bunch of space racists is the best idea."

“Captain, I’m not sure sending the ship’s only Vulcan to infiltrate a bunch of space racists is the best idea.”

When Manny Coto assumed control of the writers’ room at the start of the fourth season, one of his objectives was to recapture some of the early promise by exploiting Enterprise‘s position as a prequel series:

My vision is to try to fulfill what I think is Enterprise’s promise, which is to create a truly prequel series. And that is beginning to tie Enterprise into the overall Star Trek canon and to really use the opportunity that we have to create stories that give us a glimpse into the formation of the Star Trek universe. That’s in a nutshell my vision for this season, in any event.

Coto articulated his vision quite clearly. The fourth season of Enterprise does feel like a completely different beast, albeit one that still sits comfortably between the third season and the JJ Abrams reboot.

Talk about running continuity into the ground...

Talk about running continuity into the ground…

Part of that attempt to integrate Enterprise into the larger Star Trek universe came through continuity references and worldbuilding, whether incorporating the Orions into Borderland and Bound or charting the development of the transporter in Daedalus. This approach reached its zenith with In a Mirror, Darkly, Part I and In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II, a two-parter so fixated upon the larger Star Trek continuity that it was both a sequel to The Tholian Web and a prequel to Mirror, Mirror that did not feature a single character from Enterprise itself.

However, this desire to dovetail Enterprise into the rest of the franchise also prompted a focus on the development of the Federation. The Federation had been a core part of the Star Trek mythos dating back to that first season, an interstellar coalition of planets cooperating for their mutual benefit. The fourth season of Enterprise found the show inching closer and closer to the foundation of the Federation, particularly in stories like The Forge, Awakening, Kir’Shara, Babel One, United and The Aenar.



With Demons and Terra Prime, the show essentially circles back to the central appeal of a Star Trek prequel. Two of the final three episodes of Enterprise focus on questions that should have been incorporated into the show from the outset. Is mankind ready for an optimistic utopia built upon mutual cooperation? Has humanity evolved to the point that it can trust and embrace alien cultures? History suggests that mankind tends to push itself to the brink of extinction, so how does humanity find a way to pull back from that?

These are questions that should have been baked into the premise of Broken Bow. These are the challenges that stand between mankind and any utopian future. As Storm Front, Part I and Storm Front, Part II (not to mention The City on the Edge of Forever) suggested, the entire Star Trek universe emerged from the end of the Second World War in both a literal and figurative sense. The franchise’s understanding of the universe largely derives from a conflict defined by catastrophic destruction and industrialised genocide.

Moon man.

Moon man.

Demons and Terra Prime consciously allude to this. In Demons, Paxton watches a speech given by Colonel Green that is very clearly informed by the rhetoric of Adolf Hitler. Phillip Pine, the actor who played Colonel Green in The Savage Curtain, even explicitly acknowledged Hitler as an influence in an interview with Starlog:

There were little or no changes required by  the director, Herschel Daugherty, or myself to highlight Green’s Machiavellian mind. Adolf Hitler was discussed at one point and I was certainly influenced by that man’s character in playing the role.

When T’Pol attacks Paxton as a hypocrite for using Rigelian Gene Therapy in Terra Prime, Paxton responds with another thinly-veiled allusion to Adolf Hitler. “I’m not the first significant leader who failed to measure up to his own ideal,” he concedes. Aryan burn!

Up to his neck in hypocrisy.

Up to his neck in hypocrisy.

Demons and Terra Prime essentially position the entire Star Trek universe at something of a crossroads. There is a choice to be made, a future to be determined. Demons and Terra Prime unfold as a massive conference lays the groundwork for what will become the Federation, while the terrorist organisation Terra Prime strikes a bold and isolationist stance against the larger universe. Will mankind place hope in a brighter tomorrow through cooperation and collaboration, or will they react with fear and uncertainty?

Again, this is a reminder of how Enterprise is very much a War on Terror television show. It always has been. The third season provided an opportunity to process and work through that reality, which allows the fourth season the freedom to respond to it. Paxton’s sentiments reflect certain reactionary attitudes that emerged over the course of the War on Terror, resurgent nationalist movements that responded to the climate of theory to stoke fires of hatred and xenophobia.

"IDENT: John Frederick Paxton, TOTALLY NOT A RACIST."

“And for my last demand I want my news service ident to read: ‘John Frederick Paxton, TOTALLY NOT A RACIST’.”

This increasingly nationalist political discourse was itself intertwined with a massive spike in Islamophobia. It became increasingly acceptable to express xenophobic policies and ideas in public discourse. The years following the end of Enterprise would only see this trend increase. The Tea Party would constantly and consistently use racist imagery in its attacks on President Barack Obama. Donald Trump would essentially set the stage for his presidential run by insinuating President Barack Obama was secretly a foreigner who had lied his way to office.

Of course, this was not just an American occurence. In Europe underwent a process of “renationalisation” during the first decade of the twentieth century and faced its own issues around immigration and migration. The British Nationalist Party would experience a significant surge in popularity towards the end of that first decade, although their position would arguably be usurped by the slightly more respectable United Kingdom Independence Party in subsequent years.

"Hm. This really is a diverse crowd for a racist rally."

“Hm. This really is a diverse crowd for a racist rally.”

A lot of this was still in the future when Demons and Terra Prime were broadcast, but there were indications of a shifting cultural mood. There was a substantial leap in Islamophobic violence between 2001 and 2002. In April 2002, Jean-Marie Le Pen enjoyed surprising success in the French presidential election. Paxton might be a racist and a bigot, but his influence and power are the least fantastical elements of Demons and Terra Prime. In many ways, Demons and Terra Prime reflected the uncomfortable uncertainties of the twenty-first century.

The entire two-parter is dedicated to the idea that the optimistic and utopian future of Star Trek is not something that just happens. It is something that has to be actively chosen. This is an idea that echoes across the fourth season as a whole, resonating with the increased cynicism of the War on Terror. In Babel One, United and The Aenar, the idea of an alliance of different people working together was presented as something subversive and unprecedented. The Romulan Star Empire treated the concept as an existential threat to the natural order of things.

Ear, ear.

Ear, ear.

This idea was reinforced over the course of In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II, when mirror!T’Pol is emboldened by the discovery of the Federation in the databanks of the Defiant. Learning that peaceful coexistence and collaboration is possible, mirror!T’Pol attempts to force such a utopian future into being by trying to hijack the ship from mirror!Archer. Unfortunately, she discovers that a utopian concept like the Federation cannot simply be summoned into existence overnight. It is something that has to build through struggle and hard work.

Although the two characters only come into contact at the end of Terra Prime, the episode aligns John Paxton against Jonathan Archer as representatives of two possible futures. Archer stands for the idealistic associated with the franchise, while Paxton promises a more paranoid and cynical future. Archer stands for the future as imagine across the previous thirty-odd years of Star Trek, while Paxton embodies the “human-centric consciousness” the audience got to witness first-hand in In a Mirror, Darkly, Part I and In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II.

Tripped up.

Tripped up.

“We’re each his father’s child,” Paxton advises Archer at the climax of Terra Prime. Archer is the child of the man who developed the warp five engine, while Paxton is the son of the man who decided that the moon was far enough. The symbolism of Paxton’s moonbase is quite potent, demonstrating the limits set on mankind’s space exploration in the late sixties. Mankind landed on the moon just a month after the broadcast of The Turnabout Intruder. At that point, it seemed like the sky was really the limit, and it was to be the first step forward.

Of course, landing on the moon ultimately changed very little. NASA would launch five more moon missions following the successful landing of Apollo 11 in July 1969. However, the moon never became a launchpad to the stars. Quite the opposite; it seemed to set a limit on mankind’s ambitions. Apollo 17 would be the last manned mission to the moon, departing in December 1972. Mankind would be more or less done with the moon in the narrow window of time that existed between the broadcast of The Turnabout Intruder and The Pirates of Orion.

Going lunar sooner or later.

Going lunar sooner or later.

The moon has always held massive symbolic importance to mankind, even if the nature of that importance has evolved over time. In Our Times, A.N. Wilson reflects upon the shifting nature of humanity’s attitude towards the moon:

Only in the nineteenth century, when European mankind abandoned the idea of a personal God or a visitable heaven, did the moon change its status. In all previous generations of human history, the moon had been a symbol, sometimes a goddess. Selene, the Greek moon, was a divinity who drove a chariot, and her love of Endymion, sung by John Keats, was the sign and type of the awakening of human imagination. The moon goddess was sometimes identified with Artemis or Diana the huntress. She controlled the fortunes of her votaries. She was mysterious, changing and changeable, and in some mythologies the actual cause of mutability itself. The Greeks had begun each year after the first appearance of the new moon at the summer solstice. The Romans divided the year into lunar months. Only in the prosaic industrial age of the nineteenth-century capitalism did the moon cease to be a symbol of human dependency upon fate or the gods and become yet another territory to colonise, yet another problem for science to solve.

Indeed, Demons seems to push this idea to its logical conclusion. The moon is no longer tied to mankind’s dream or imagination; in fact, just the opposite. The moon is no longer even a frontier to be tamed, it is a resource to be cynically exploited. In his business suit and with his family mining business, Paxton is definitely a capitalist.

"You never know whether to scrub up for one of these racist rallies..."

“You never know whether to scrub up for one of these racist rallies…”

Demons goes even further in contrasting Paxton’s home on the moon to Archer’s command of Enterprise. Although various space agencies have continued to launch satellites and probes since the last manned lunar landing, it seemed like mankind had abandoned long-distance manned space exploration by the mid-seventies as a result of political and economic realities. Even the moon itself seemed to lose interest for mankind, but not before it was covered in 400,000 pounds of man-made material. The moon is now a barrier or a limit. It is the “safe” side of the frontier.

Demons and Terra Prime benefit from the casting of Peter Weller in the role of John Frederick Paxton. While cult film enthusiasts will recognise him from The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension!, most casual movie-goers will recognise Weller as the lead character from Robo-Cop. In pitting Peter Weller against the star of Quantum Leap, Demons and Terra Prime very cleverly frames its choice of futures in terms of classic eighties science-fiction.

"Don't worry, we'll add the Buckaroo Bonzai theme music in post."

“Don’t worry, we’ll add the Buckaroo Banzai theme music in post.”

Peter Weller was best known for playing a robotic cop in a dystopian Detroit. However, as Lincoln Geraghty points out in American Science Fiction Film and Television, Bakula was associated with much more optimistic piece of classic television science-fiction with a much more upbeat perspective:

Out on its own, Quantum Leap, the story of Doctor Sam Beckett’s whimsical time travelling tour of the twentieth century, was a rather more warm-hearted series that focused on the potentials of individuals to enact change that, however small, could improve other people’s lives forever. The series stands in marked contrast to the epic space operas just mentioned yet still garnered a devoted fan base that showed science fiction’s continuing capacity to attract a family audience in this period of change and pessimism. After the show’s cancellation, the genre would witness a bleak turn where such positivism would give way to deep-seated national paranoia.

In some ways, this conflict at the climax of Terra Prime between Sam Beckett and Robo-Cop feels like a commentary on contemporary science-fiction, recalling Brad Bird’s meditations about the tone of modern cinema in Tomorrowland. Has it become harder for audiences to embrace hopeful versions of the future?

"Still got that 'new station' smell."

“Still got that ‘new station’ smell.”

For his part, Weller was inspired to take the role in Demons and Terra Prime based on his collaboration with producer Manny Coto on the short-lived series Odyssey 5. According to Weller, he was not drawn to the role as a Star Trek or science-fiction fan:

Listen, I’ve got to tell you honestly, other than Leonard Nimoy being one of the first friends I ever had in the industry – my third gig ever was a play was a play Leonard and I did under Otto Preminger – I was never a sci-fi fan. I’d hardly ever watched Star Trek, though I admired the intelligence of it. I was more of a cop-thriller kind of a guy. The only reason I did Enterprise, actually, was because Manny Coto, who I’d worked with on Odyssey 5, bugged me and bugged me and bugged me to do that two-part show. He seduced me by saying, “It’s the last two-parter. Why don’t you do it as an homage to Leonard Nimoy.” I thought, “OK.” And J.J. Abrams hired me in a parking lot.

Weller does great work in the two-parter, helping to flesh out the character of John Frederick Paxton from a two-dimensional bigot into something a bit more thoughtful and complex. Much like his role as Admiral Marcus in in Star Trek Into Darkness, the extent to which the character works is largely down to Weller himself.

"I'd expected a bigger crowd, but we spent most of the budget on Peter Weller."

“I’d expected a bigger crowd, but we spent most of the budget on Peter Weller.”

Indeed, Weller was quite invested in the character. Although the Star Trek production staff were notoriously hostile to improvisation or ad libbing, Weller tinkered quite heavily with his dialogue and character. As Connor Trinneer recalls on the commentary to Demons:

I’d see him in the make up trailer, just working over his lines and rewriting stuff, and thinking, “God. This is going to be interesting.” Because you know how they don’t like to have anything changed in their scripts, but, y’know, since it was Peter Weller… he could kinda do whatever he wanted.

It is an interesting and somewhat novel approach to a fourth season antagonist. In some ways, Paxton is really just another fascist bad guy in the tradition of Vosk from Storm Front, Part I and Storm Front, Part II, or Administrator V’Las from The Forge, Awakening and Kir’Shara. However, Weller elevates him through his performance.

Mars attacks!

Mars attacks!

That said, Paxton is more than just a generic antagonist. In a very real way, Paxton stands as the culmination of the Manny Coto era of the show. Coto has acknowledged his own “fetish” for the character of Colonel Green, and one of his primary goals for the fourth season of Enterprise was to incorporated Colonel Green into an episode. Much like In a Mirror, Darkly, Part I and In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II gestated across the length and breadth of the season, there is a sense that Demons and Terra Prime are the culmination of a story Coto had wanted to tell from the outset.

In fact, the production team managed to incorporate Colonel Green into the two-parter. At one stage in Demons, Greaves walks in on Paxton playing back an old recording of on of Colonel Green’s speeches to the masses. Green is played by veteran Star Trek guest star Steve Rankin. However, the original plan had been for Peter Weller to actually play the role of Colonel Green in an episode much earlier in the season. That plan never came to fruition, although it never entirely faded away.

Looks like this just became the Green room.

Looks like this just became the Green room.

On the commentary for Demons, Garfield and Judith Reeve-Stevens suggest that Coto had originally hoped to cast Weller as Colonel Green in the episodes that developed into Borderland, Cold Station 12 and The Augments:

At the beginning of the year, Manny had been thinking about bringing in Peter as Colonel Green. And a Colonel Green story never really materialised because…

Its lunch was really eaten by the Soong stories. It was very hard to come up again with “engineered soldiers of the future”, so this was our way of working him in – as someone who inspired Paxton.

This makes a great deal of sense. Given what little The Savage Curtain established about Green, it would be a nice way to tie the Third World War back into the Eugenics War as part of the fabric of the shared universe.

"If I have my way, Mars will run red. Er, redder."

“If I have my way, Mars will run red. Er, redder.”

When Brent Spiner expressed an interest in appearing on Enterprise, Manny Coto heavily revised his plans for that opening arc. In a way, this was probably a good thing. Arik Soong is one of the more interesting guest characters of the fourth season, because he is rendered relatively sympathetic. He is not cast as a larger-than-life comic book villain in the style of Vosk or Paxton or V’Las. Soong is given a tragic arc that sets him apart from most of the major antagonists of the season. It seems unlikely that Peter Weller’s Colonel Green would be softened like that.

Even though the concept of Borderland was changed dramatically at the last minute, the production team didn’t forget about Colonel Green. Much like the inevitable mirror universe episode went through several iterations before solidifying into In a Mirror, Darkly, Part I and In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II, the idea of a Colonel Green story kept bouncing back to the writers again and again over the course of the season. As far as the fourth season of Enterprise was concerned, Colonel Green seemed inescapable and unavoidable.

Paxton's original plan was to draw a smiley face with the laser, but it was just too hardcore.

Paxton’s original plan was to draw a smiley face with the laser, but it was just too hardcore.

On their commentary for Observer Effect, Garfield and Judith Reeve-Steven explained that their original pitch for that slot on the production schedule had been another Colonel Green episode that was subsequently vetoed:

This was interesting. This particular episode came about because we had gone to Manny with a story about Colonel Green. That was one of the people who he really wanted to get into the season.

And we worked it all out in our office, on cards. And we went in there… and I wish we’d had video of us doing this incredible presentation where we were smacking those cards on one after another and Manny was so excited. He said, “I can’t wait to do this episode.”

So Manny said, “I love this story. Write the outline.” We wrote an entire beat outline, and we took it to Manny. He said, “Yes, this is great.” And Brannon took a look at it and said, “It’s too dark.” So we have honour of having written the story. Oh, it’s all about the opening of Starbase One and the Columbia was in there. And the secret of Malcolm Reed, that his grandfather had been one of Colonel Green’s men.

It should be noted that Braga had no recollection of killing the script when the subject came up in In Conversation, protesting, “That doesn’t sound like me.”

"Well, there's this reviewer. He keeps making pineapple jokes."

“I miss the days when my character’s big secret was that I liked pineapple.”

Nevertheless, demonstrating the laws of storytelling gravity that govern a television writing room, certain elements of that second aborted Colonel Green pitch would manifest themselves across the second half of the fourth season. Affliction and Divergence would delve into “the secret of Malcolm Reed”, although they tied him to Section 31 rather than to a genocidal mad man. The foundation of Starbase One was a background detail in Manny Coto’s script for Bound, although it tended to get drowned out by all the retro sexism.

It is interesting to wonder why the fourth season of Enterprise was so fixated upon the character of Colonel Green. The character had only appeared once in the entire history of the franchise, as a guy in a red jumpsuit in The Savage Curtain. He was not even a particularly memorable part of that episode, which also happened to feature a sentient rock monster and an appearance from space!Lincoln while establishing the character of Kahless the Unforgettable. So where exactly did Manny Coto’s “fetish” come from?

Turns out it was Colonel green in the Post-Atomic Horror with the monkey wrench.

Turns out it was Colonel green in the Post-Atomic Horror with the spanner.

All of this seems to tie back to Coto’s fascination with the idea of Enterprise as a prequel to the original Star Trek, as a way to essentially craft an origin story for the franchise. In Before Her Time, Coto suggests that what makes Colonel Green so interesting is that he embodies a corrupted foundation stone:

I’ve always found him a fascinating character, because it’s this dark… It was like a Hitler. You know, in the original series, when they mention Colonel Green, it was like, ooh, the Federation had a Hitler in it. That’s fascinating.

This all ties back to Demons and Terra Prime, a two-parter which actively engages with the question of whether mankind is actually ready to move forwards into a brighter future. Colonel Green is the monster nestled snugly in the human heart, represented here by John Federick Paxton.

"It's bigger on the inside."

“It’s bigger on the inside.”

This is one of the more interesting aspects of Demons and Terra Prime. Paxton is defeated at the climax of Demons, but he is not killed. As Archer reflects in his final log entry of Terra Prime, Paxton is in custody, but the consequences of his actions continue to affect us all.” Paxton, and everything that represents, cannot be easily vanquished. Concepts like fear and hatred of the unknown will not simply vanish overnight; they cannot be exorcised in a big action sequence on the surface of Mars. Instead, those elements linger with us.

In going back to the beginning, Demons and Terra Prime can acknowledge some of the more uncomfortable undercurrents that bubble through the franchise. For all that Star Trek is built around a utopian future, there have been occasions where the franchise has engaged a little too eagerly and readily with the frontier myth. Star Trek has been described as “Wagon Train to the Stars”, and it is couched in the imagery of the western genre. However, that frontier myth belies uncomfortable realities about colonialism and indigenous populations.

Worlds apart.

Worlds apart.

Paxton is not an outsider. He is not a hostile alien. He is human. He is also very much a part of the Star Trek franchise, albeit an embodiment of franchise’s darker impulses in the same way that In a Mirror, Darkly, Part I and In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II embodied the show’s darker impulses. Paxton’s rhetoric about human importance and superiority reverberates across the length and breadth of the Star Trek franchise, embracing the darker parts of the frontier iconography so beloved by the franchise.

Paxton wants to exile all aliens, but he does not want to halt travel to the stars. Paxton has his own vision of what Star Trek should be. “That is how we should go to the stars,” Paxton preaches in Terra Prime. “Taking the worlds we need and taming them, with human hands, and human minds, and human souls.” It is imperialist rhetoric, recalling the justifications used by the European settlers during the displacement and destruction of Native American culture as part of the so-called “Manifest Destiny.”

Nothing to report.

Nothing to report.

Mayweather alludes to this subtext when quoting Gannet’s observation that “space exploration” is “the last vestige of colonial impulse.” Coming after two episodes set in the Terran Empire, it all feels rather pointed. However, as with the way that In a Mirror, Darkly, Part I and In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II reflected the worst impulses as a whole, John Frederick Paxton serves as a cautionary tale. Like Colonel Green, Paxton is very much a ghost that continues to haunt Star Trek.

Paxton and Green lurk just beyond the edge of frame in episodes like A Private Little War and The Omega Glory, when human characters decide that their own interests and cultural values are to be supported on alien worlds and when the writers frame the stories to justify these decisions. Paxton and Green drift in and out of focus in episodes like The Last Outpost or Lonely Among Us, when superior human crews smuggly cast judgment on cultures they deem inferior. The even journey across the galaxy to inform stories like Tattoo and Alliances.

"We really need to press Gannet for answers!"

“We really need to press Gannet for answers!”

There is perhaps a monster at the end of this story, but the suggestion in Demons and Terra Prime is that the monster has been there since the very beginning. The key is to never let that monster win. Utopia, it seems, is possible. It just was to be earned. That is not a bad note for Enterprise to end upon.

5 Responses

  1. “If Kirk was bemused by twentieth-century concerns, Picard seemed utterly confused by them.”

    Archer and T’Pol nearly killed a 20th century human! I’m not sure what, if anything, this says about the chronology.

  2. Paxton is a fascinating character, especially coming from a big Trump supporter like Manny Coto.

  3. You know,while the original idea for The Enterprise would almost certainly be a lot better than the dreck of the actual first season, I think in a way Terra Prime work much better as villains to be introduced later.

    There has always been a certain arrogance in Rodenberry’s vision. While I think most people think Star Trek is just saying that humanity is inherently good and could achieve a better future. But often times, it goes much further than, saying that humanity isn’t just good, it’s inherently BETTER than any other space-faring civilization out there. That we are superior to all and it is its duty to teach all those unevolved civilizations how to reach enlightenment.

    Now, obviously, with franchise this gigantic with so many people working on it, this isn’t true for all, perhaps not even most of it and there are a lot of complexities to this and I don’t really have the time or intelligence to go really go into it, but this contradiction, that the main two themes are 1. Different cultures and people can come together as equals and create a wonderful future for themselves. 2. Humans are the greatest thing ever and moral paragons of the universe, is IMO, one of the greatest problems of the franchise.

    (And I GET it’s because those aliens aren’t real and are just there to represent us, but doesn’t mean it’s not thematically harmful and I would argue this “we are all friends and equals, except we are so much better than you and things would be a lot better if you just listened to us” attitude has relevancy to real life.)

    They could have very easily continued with this exact thing with the origins of the Federation. Indeed, in United, Archer tells Shran and the Tellarite ambassador about how humans don’t yell at each other like them and they should try to be more like them. I don’t the United trilogy is really guilty of it, since Archer was just saving negotiations they were already having anyway and they are the main characters, so you need them to do shit but still, this and and the Vulcan trilogy put humanity in position of those, who have already solved their problems (“we eliminated bigotry centuries ago”) and the other races need to get on their level.

    Here tho, we are shown that humanity has just as much to learn as Andorians or Vulcans. In fact, we are the last to give up on our prejudices and to truly commit to creating a better future. To me, that is much more powerful story than “humanity needs to stick to those stupid green meanies who underestimate us”.

    It is my opinion, the last ever Star Trek story should either have no real villain, but if it has to have one, it should be a human. One of the things Star Trek is about is bettering ourselves and overcoming the lesser parts off our nature. And we don’t need a guy with a rubber forehead for that.

    • That’s all very fair. And I think that DS9 and the later seasons of ENT actually do a decent job of deconstructing that arrogance baked into Roddenberry’s unique brand of humanism. (“People are not only wonderful, they’re the BEST!” No, Gene, some of them are. But not all.)

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