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Star Trek: Enterprise – Carpenter Street (Review)

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

This is the point at which it becomes all but impossible to argue that the production team knew what they were doing this season.

The third season of Star Trek: Enterprise holds together reasonably well, if the viewer pulls back to a big enough distance. The broad arcs are discernible and logical – there is a clear start point and a reasonable trajectory, even if the first half of the season tends to get a bit lost. It really pulls itself together during the second half of the season, with one or two exceptions, building towards a finalé that satisfies both the demands of a year-long arc and the franchise surrounding it. It is not perfect, but it is not bad for a first attempt.

Hey kids! It's Leland Orser!

Hey kids! It’s Leland Orser!

Of course, it is also quite clear that the production team really had no idea what they were doing – or even what they were trying to do. The fact that it comes together in the second half of the season all but concedes that it doesn’t hold together in the first half. The first half of the third season is populated with standalone episodes that tend to either fit thematically (North Star, Similitude) or tonally (Impulse, Exile) with the general direction of the show, but a rather limited sense of progress or advancement.

Carpenter Street is the point at which any real sense of trust between the audience and the production team snaps like a twig. It is a story that features the characters time travelling to modern-day Earth in the middle of a gigantic story arc about how they are more isolated than they ever have been before. It throws away any sense of internal logic or consistency, never really exploring how an alien species that can travel back to Detroit in 2004 should have a problem with Earth in 2153. And, crucially, it is not fun enough to excuse those issues.

Hey kid! It's Jeffrey Dean Morgan! (Really!)

Hey kid! It’s Jeffrey Dean Morgan!
(Really!)

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Star Trek: Enterprise – Shockwave, Part II (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 April, we’re doing the second season. Check back daily for the latest review.

Shockwave, Part I was one of the stronger episodes of the first season of Star Trek: Enterprise.

Shockwave, Part II is not one of the stronger episodes of the second season of Star Trek: Enterprise.

"Tell me how many seasons we get!"

“Tell me how many seasons we get!”

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Star Trek: Enterprise – Shockwave, Part I (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.

Re-watching a television show with the benefit hindsight is a particularly intriguing experience. Knowing that certain plot lines or character threads will or won’t pay off can be a liberating experience. While a disappointing ending to a particular story can undermine a lot of what came before, foreknowledge of the inevitable anticlimax allows the viewer to manage their expectations and temper their enthusiasm. It stops the viewer from getting too involved with threads that lead to dead ends, and heightens appreciations for those that pay dividends.

The Temporal Cold War plot on Star Trek: Enterprise never went anywhere. This is rather obvious in hindsight, given that it has been a decade since the end of the show. However, it’s worth acknowledging that many viewers correctly predicted as much on the initial airing of Broken Bow in late 2001. None of the questions raised will be answered, none of the plot threads will be resolved. It will just sit there, nestled snugly in the heart of this Star Trek spin-off, possibly embodying the show’s unfulfilled potential.

Enterprise isn't quite going to make it to seventh (season) heaven...

Enterprise isn’t quite going to make it to seventh (season) heaven…

While the Temporal Cold War lacks a clear resolution, it does provide the impetus for some pretty good storytelling on its own terms. In many respects, the plot works best when it exists as a driving force in the background of an episode – rather than being pushed to the fore. This is probably why Cold Front and Shockwave, Part I work much better than episodes like Shockwave, Part II – episodes that use the Temporal Cold War as a jumping off point to character work and development, rather than an end of itself.

Shockwave, Part I is notable for ending the first season of Enterprise on a cliffhanger. This was the first time that the opening season of a Star Trek had show had closed on a cliffhanger. The other shows closed out their freshman season with open-ended stand-alone stories, with the last episodes in the first seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager emphasising how far their cast had come. In contrast, Shockwave, Part I closes the first year of Enterprise on an honest to goodness “to be continued.” And a good one at that.

Seeking a friend at the end of the world...

Seeking a friend at the end of the world…

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