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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: The Next Generation – Unnatural Selection (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.

It’s really strange that this is our first Pulaski-centred episode. It’s even stranger that it’s the shows only Pulaski-centred episode, given she’s a new character being inserted into an established ensemble. It’s even stranger-er that the episode doesn’t really seem to have much to say about Pulaski apart from the fact that she is the show’s new doctor – and she’s a bit of an idiot. Which is not necessarily what you want when you’re trying to endear a new character to the audience.

Then again, Unnatural Selection is a pretty good indicator of where Star Trek: The Next Generation is right now. The show hasn’t quite figured out that it’s a good idea to anchor character-centric stories in the character upon which that intended to centre. It’s one of the most successful aspects of Michael Piller’s approach, and part of what really revitalised the writing in the show’s third season. As it stands, Unnatural Selection seems to be a story about medical stuff, so it gets to focus on Pulaski. Who is really just sort of there.

I can see this getting old fast...

I can see this getting old fast…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Skin of Evil (Review)

To celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and also next year’s release of Star Trek: Into Darkness, I’m taking a look at the recent blu ray release of the first season, episode-by-episode. Check back daily for the latest review.

Skin of Evil is a mess of an episode. It’s a whole bunch of concepts thrown together, and executed in the most ridiculous and banal manner possible. There’s a lot of the disparate elements of Skin of Evil that could easily work if handled properly. Most notably, the idea of a character dying in the line of duty rather than as a hero is a fascinating one, and the eponymous monster could be an interesting twist on the “god-like beings” we seem to stumble across once every couple of weeks in the Star Trek universe. However, Skin of Evil winds up feeling the one thing it should be impossible for an episode like this to be. Despite all the different stuff happening involving all the different characters: it’s boring.

A slick operator...

A slick operator…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Angel One (Review)

To celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and also next year’s release of Star Trek: Into Darkness, I’m taking a look at the recent blu ray release of the first season, episode-by-episode. Check back daily for the latest review.

Any time I worry that I might have been too kind on Datalore, watching Angel One tends to set me straight relatively quickly. Watching Angel One feels like somebody in the writers’ room said, “I really liked the racism in Code of Honour! Can we do that again, but with sexism?” It’s very difficult to imagine to imagine how the script got into production without somebody raising red flags about it. While a lot of the racism of Code of Honour arose from the decision to cast the Ligonian characters as black, sexism in hardwired into the DNA of Angel One, making it one of the most unfortunate scripts in a long line of unfortunate scripts.

I believe in Angel One... something crappy in every season of TNG...

I believe in Angel One… something crappy in every season of TNG…

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