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Star Trek: Enterprise – These Are The Voyages… (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.

1994 was peak Star Trek.

Of course, the particulars are open to debate. There are credible arguments that could be made for the following year, when Paramount considered broadcasting Caretaker to be just about the only statement that UPN needed to make on it opening night. There are even plausible arguments that could be made about the year after that, when the franchise officially celebrated its thirtieth anniversary with a beloved movie, two anniversary episodes and a whole host of affection press coverage.

"So, I've been Netflixing Enterprise, and the final two seasons are REALLY good."

“So, I’ve been Netflixing Enterprise, and the final two seasons are REALLY good.”

Nevertheless, it all seems to come down to 1994. That was the year that Star Trek: The Next Generation came to an end. It was the only season of Star Trek overseen by Rick Berman to by nominated for Outstanding Drama Series at the Prime-Time Emmy Awards. It was the point at which the original Star Trek cast were retired, with William Shatner officially passing the torch to Patrick Stewart before a bridge fell on him in Star Trek: Generations. At the same time, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was in its second season. Star Trek: Voyager was ready to launch.

More importantly, that season of television represented the turning point for the franchise’s ratings. While The Next Generation actually experienced its highest viewing figures during its fourth and fifth seasons, the end of The Next Generation with its seventh season signaled a gradual erosion of the franchise’s viewing base. There are lots of reasons for this that have nothing to do with quality and more to do with the realities of network television, but this simple fact helps to solidify the feeling that the final season of The Next Generation was something of a golden age.

An Enterprising couple.

An Enterprising couple.

It could legitimately be argued that the Berman era was haunted by the spectre of 1994 for the longest of times. Ironically enough for a show set on a space station, Deep Space Nine managed to chart its own course only to end up isolated from the franchise around it. While Deep Space Nine would end up an evolutionary dead-end for the franchise, the seven seasons of Voyager and the first two seasons of Star Trek: Enterprise would find the franchise trapped within a phantom version of 1994 that seemed to last forever.

Enterprise finally escaped the long cold shadow of The Next Generation with the broadcast of The Expanse at the end of its second season. The final two seasons of Enterprise would find the show experimenting and innovating with new narrative forms and new approaches to the franchise. The third season of Enterprise finally allowed Brannon Braga to follow through on his original pitch for Year of Hell, Part I and Year of Hell, Part II. The fourth season largely eschewed episodic plotting for multi-episode arcs excavating the canon.

"C'mon, you didn't think they'd let Enterprise finish without a holodeck episode, did you?"

“C’mon, you didn’t think they’d let Enterprise finish without a holodeck episode, did you?”

Perhaps that is why These Are the Voyages… is so shocking, beyond the myriad of minor complaints. These Are the Voyages… takes the franchise right back to 1994 as if the evolutionary leaps of the prior two seasons never took place. The episode invites the audience to wonder whether it might all be a dream, a fantasy playing out on the holodeck to help Riker pass the time. After all, the episode does not close in the twenty-second century with the decommissioning of Enterprise; the episode closes with Riker and Troi right back in 1994.

That is the true heartbreaking tragedy of These Are the Voyages… No matter how far the Berman era might come, it can never escape 1994.

Warp speed ahead...

Warp speed ahead…

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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…

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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!”

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Star Trek: Enterprise – Home (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.

If Storm Front, Part I and Storm Front, Part II represented a transition between Brannon Braga and Manny Coto, then Home marks the point at which Manny Coto assumes full control of Star Trek: Enterprise.

As befits a season so steeped in Star Trek nostalgia, Home fits a familiar template. Each of three live action spin-offs took a brief timeout after an epic fourth season opener to tell a smaller character-driven story about the response to life-altering trauma. Jean-Luc Picard processed the trauma of The Best of Both Worlds, Part I and The Best of Both Worlds, Part II through the quieter moments of Family. Jake Sisko confronted the loss of his father in The Visitor. Even Seven of Nine faced her disconnection from the Borg Collective in The Gift.

Marriage of inconvenience.

Marriage of inconvenience.

Home is clearly intended to allow the characters (and the show) to work through the issues generated by the epic third season arc, while also dutifully setting up plot threads that will play out across the rest of the season. Home might be a stand-alone episode in many ways, but it does serve to dovetail the third and fourth seasons of the show, working through character points that are hanging over from the show’s third year while also helping to establish elements that will become more important in the season ahead.

Home works rather well as a connecting structure, even if it lacks the raw emotional power of something like Family or The Visitor. It is well worth taking the time to focus upon (and flesh out) this cast. The biggest problem with Home is that so many of these characters feel underdeveloped, particularly compared to the casts of Star Trek: The Next Generation or Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It is hard for those characters to carry an entire episode when they haven’t been properly developed.

"Go climb a rock!"

“Go climb a rock!”

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Best of Both Worlds, Part II (Review)

This January and February, we’ll be finishing up our look at the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and moving on to the third year of the show, both recently and lovingly remastered for high definition. Check back daily for the latest review.

The Best of Both Worlds, Part II was always going to feel like a bit of an anti-climax. After all, the show had spent so much time building up the Borg as this implacable and undefeatable adversary. In Q Who?, it had taken the interference of a god-like entity to allow the Enterprise a chance to escape their unstoppable foe. In The Best of Both Worlds, Part I, the Enterprise had been able to run for a while – but the Borg eventually caught up with them and took what they wanted.

Since The Best of Both Worlds, Part II was never going to end with the Borg destroying Earth, and since Star Trek: The Next Generation was never going to be a show willing to exact a dramatic cost high enough to justify victory against such overwhelming odds, the resolution to the two-parter was never going to live up to the heightened drama and impossible stakes suggested by The Best of Both Worlds, Part I.

Still, the second part of the adventure is charming and exciting enough that it never completely falls apart. While the resolution to the crisis does seem a little trite and convenient, The Best of Both Worlds hangs together as the show’s best two-part adventure until at least Chain of Command in the sixth season.

A Number One fan?

A Number One fan?

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Best of Both Worlds, Part I (Review)

This January and February, we’ll be finishing up our look at the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and moving on to the third year of the show, both recently and lovingly remastered for high definition. Check back daily for the latest review.

So we’re here. It’s the end of the third season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the season where the show really kicked into gear. After a decidedly uneven first and second seasons, where moments of brilliance blended with hours of tedium, the show had really pulled its act together. Even the weakest hours of the season where still competently produced, the average quality increased significantly and the stronger episodes just hit it out of the park.

The Best of Both Worlds is really just the cherry on top. But it’s one hell of a cherry.

He's looking right at us...

He’s looking right at us…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Captain’s Holiday (Review)

This January and February, we’ll be finishing up our look at the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and moving on to the third year of the show, both recently and lovingly remastered for high definition. Check back daily for the latest review.

Captain’s Holiday is another one of those infamously troubled episodes from the third season that turned out fairly okay, considering all the meddling and tinkering unfolding in the background. That said, it’s more like Ensigns of Command than Yesterday’s Enterprise, but it’s still a watchable and entertaining episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and also probably the strongest comedy episode so far.

Then again, when the show’s other comedy “highlights” include The Outrageous Okona and Manhunt, you can see why this might seem like damning with faint praise.

A hidden gem?

A hidden gem?

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