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Star Trek: Enterprise – Breaking the Ice (Review)

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

Breaking the Ice is the first episode of the first season of Star Trek: Enterprise not to reserve a “story by” credit for Rick Berman and Brannon Braga. (Although – in the To Boldly Go documentary – Braga has suggested that at least some of the episode came from his own ideas.)

It is instead credited solely to the writing team of Maria & Andre Jacquemetton. A husband-and-wife writing team, the duo have a long history of writing for television. Before they worked on Enterprise, their credits included Baywatch Nights. However, they are probably more notable for the work that they did after Enterprise, working as executive producers and writers on Mad Men. The duo have won WGA awards for their contributions to Mad Men and been nominated for Emmys.

Guess who's coming to dinner...

Guess who’s coming to dinner…

It is very easy to take the pedigree of the writers on Star Trek for granted. After all, Ronald D. Moore went from a Star Trek: The Next Generation fan with a spec script to the showrunner on the rebooted Battlestar Galactica. Bryan Fuller went from a workhorse on the Star Trek: Voyager staff to a television auteur with work on Dead Like Me, Pushing Up Daisies and Hannibal. Brannon Braga has been prolific since his departure from the franchise, while Ira Steven Behr and René Echevarria have worked consistently in genre television.

It is tempting to claim that Enterprise was something of a formative experience for the Jacquemettons, but that would be disingenuous. Despite writing the show’s first script without a credit to Berman and Braga, the duo were not around long enough to make an impression on the show. They departed at the end of the first season, along with most of the writing staff. Indeed, the most significant influence that Enterprise had on their career was probably the fact that they used to discuss the idea for Mad Men with creator Matt Weiner while they were working on this show.

They're cracking up out there...

They’re cracking up out there…

Still, while hardly a demonstration that Jacquemettons were a creative force to be reckoned with, Breaking the Ice is a solid little episode. It ranks as the strongest episode of Enterprise since the pilot. In many respects, it recalls the Prime Factors/State of Flux duology from the first season of Voyager. It is a flawed episode that has no shortage of ambition, offering a taste of what could make its show unique in the Star Trek pantheon.

It is an episode that celebrates everything that makes Enterprise unique as compared to the other Star Trek shows, taking a great deal of pleasure in things that the audience had come to take for granted in the franchise. It’s a quiet character piece, where what little plot exists is pushed very much to the background, and which offers a much more nuanced view of human/Vulcan relations than Strange New World or The Andorian Incident.

Those Vulcans are cold so-and-sos...

Those Vulcans are cold so-and-sos…

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The X-Files – Shapes (Review)

Shapes feels like something of a companion piece to Shadows. Both are very traditional horror monster stories, feeling a little dated and out of place among the more modern paranoia of The X-Files. Shapes might carefully avoid using the word “werewolf”, instead dressing up the classic movie monster in loose fitting Native American mythology, but it feels like an attempt to pay homage to one of the definitive Hollywood monsters. Unfortunately, like Shadows, it winds up feeling a little stale and tired, a little too familiar and cliché.

It’s a werewolf story that lacks bite.

Chew on this...

Chew on this…

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The Spirit Archives, Vol. 11 (Review/Retrospective)

I have to admit that I feel a bit guilty for glossing over the World War II era of The Spirit. The era tends to get ignored because Will Eisner effectively handed over control of the strip to a variety of writers and artists while serving in the Armed Forces. The talent involved professionals like Jack Cole and Lou Fine, so it’s hardly as if it was neglected. Still, without Eisner’s passion driving the strip, it seemed to lose its way slightly. The aesthetic shifted even further the longer Eisner was away. Fans skipping from the first collection of post-Eisner work (The Spirit Archives, Vol. 5) to the work included here will see a radical change in style. While there was still a strong influence from Eisner, the comic simply didn’t look right. However, the differences extended deeper as well. On some primal level, The Spirit of the World War II era didn’t really feel right either.

Hounded by the Spirit of Will Eisner…

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