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Star Trek: Enterprise – United (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 Romulans are a very curious species.

They have a long history within the Star Trek franchise. They were introduced less than half-way through the first season of the show, in Balance of Terror. The Klingons would not show up until Errand of Mercy, towards the end of that first year. The Romulans have appeared in just about every iteration of the franchise, their reappearance in the final episode of the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation serving to connect the show to its legacy. Appearing in both Star Trek: Nemesis and Star Trek, they appeared on both sides of the film franchise reboot.

This could be the start of a beautiful friendship...

This could be the start of a beautiful friendship…

Still, the Romulans have never truly been defined. Unlike the Klingons or the Cardassians, the Romulans have never been developed into a fully-formed culture. There are great episodes built around the Romulans, from Balance of Terror and The Enterprise Incident to Face of the Enemy and In the Pale Moonlight. However, there has never been recurring Romulan character afforded the depth of Worf, Martok, Quark, Dukat, Damar or Garak; if populating that list with Star Trek: Deep Space Nine characters feels like cheating, no Romulan measures up to Soval or Shran.

Although they only appear in four episodes of the season, exerting influence over another two, it feels like the fourth season of Star Trek: Enterprise affords more attention to the Romulans than they have received in a long time.

"All right, who arranged the bridge power display to form a smiley face?"

“All right, who arranged the bridge power display to form a smiley face?”

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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 – Borderland (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.

Borderland establishes the format that will come to define the fourth season of Star Trek: Enterprise; the mini-arc, a single story told over two or three episodes before moving along to the next adventure.

Technically speaking, Storm Front, Part I and Storm Front, Part II established the format for the season. However, the franchise had done multi-part season premieres before. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was particularly fond of the format, seguing from a status quo altering season finale into a multi-part season opener; The Homecoming, The Circle, The Siege, The Search, Part I, The Search, Part II, The Way of the Warrior, Image in the Sand, Shadows and Symbols. This is to say nothing of the massive six episode arc that opened the sixth season.

Put your hands together for Mister Brent Spiner.

Put your hands together for Mister Brent Spiner.

Borderland represents a departure because it signals that the fourth season of Enterprise will be comprised entirely of multi-episode stories. Historically, Star Trek shows had typically done one or two multi-part stories in a season, give or take a cliffhanger to bridge two years of the show. The fourth season of Enterprise would tell seven multi-part stories eating up seventeen episodes of the twenty-two episode season order. It was certainly a bold departure for the series and the franchise.

In fact, Borderland begins the franchise’s first three-part episode since the second season of Deep Space Nine. (Although determined fans could likely stretch logic a little to suggest that Tears of the Prophets or Zero Hour were season finales that formed a three-parter when tied into the two-part premieres that followed.) It is a curious departure, and one that immediately helps to establish the fourth season of Enterprise as something quite distinct.

A slave to continuity...

A slave to continuity…

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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: Enterprise – Doctor’s Orders (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.

If Harbinger was a surprisingly experimental piece of Star Trek, then Doctor’s Orders is something far more conventional. If Harbinger was an attempt to do something relatively novel within the framework of Star Trek: Enterprise, then Doctor’s Orders offers the viewer something they’ve seen before.

This applies in a very literal sense. There are quite a few similarities between the plot of Doctor’s Orders and One. Both are effectively one-hander bottle shows focusing on a popular member of the cast, working from the premise that an anomaly of the week requires the rest of the crew to go into stasis. From that starting point, both episodes become studies of isolation and loneliness. Both character find themselves confronting hallucinations while dealing with a perceived threat to the ship.

Yes. Doctor's Orders was a very strange choice for Sweeps.

Yes. Doctor’s Orders was a very strange choice for Sweeps.

To be fair, this is neither the first nor the last time that the Star Trek franchise will feature a plot largely recycled from existing elements. With over seven hundred episodes in the can, there will inevitably be some overlap and similarities. However, Doctor’s Orders feels familiar in another more primal sort of way. One of the big tensions of third season is a need to balance the demands of a larger story arc with a twenty-odd episode season. There is a very odd equilibrium to be struck between the long-form story and episodic standalone adventures.

Doctor’s Orders is very much an old-school episodic Star Trek adventure that could exist quite apart from the demands of the third season as a whole. It is an example of the sorts of internal tensions at work on the show.

The sleep of the just...

The sleep of the just…

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Star Trek: Enterprise – Regeneration (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.

It seems like a bit of an understatement to describe Regeneration as highly controversial.

The blu ray release of the second season of Star Trek: Enterprise includes two commentaries for the episode, a sure sign that there is a lot to talk about. On a track recorded in 2005, writers Mike Sussman and Phyllis Strong describe the episode as “infamous.” On a track recorded in 2013, John Billingsley describes how certain segments of fandom considered it a “jumping the shark” moment for the show. That last statement illustrates one of the perverse qualities of Star Trek fandom; one would assume that the viewers turned off by Regeneration would have already tuned out with Acquisition.

We are Borg.

We are Borg.

After all, the decision to bring back the Ferengi in Acquisition is hard to explain. Nobody was clamouring for more Ferengi episodes after Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had gone off the air. Outside of Deep Space Nine, the most enduring impression of the Ferengi was that they had begun their life as “villains that didn’t quite work” and bad quickly been transformed into “comic relief that didn’t quite work.” As such, it is hard to account for the decision to bend continuity in order to introduce the Ferengi into the first season of a prequel show designed to escape the baggage of the larger Star Trek franchise.

On the other hand, it made a great deal of sense to bring back the Borg. After all, the Borg were one of the few Star Trek aliens created after 1969 to make a genuine impression on popular culture. The Borg will never be as iconic as Klingons or Vulcans, but they will always be more iconic than Cardassians or Bajorans. They were also stars of the best-loved Star Trek movie starring the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The Borg are a big deal; there is a reason that Star Trek: Voyager ran them into the ground.

"Assimilate this!"

“Assimilate this!”

It is no wonder that the Borg are frequently cited in discussions around the future of JJ Abrams’ Star Trek reboot. Asked if the creative team would consider bringing the Borg to the rebooted twenty-third century, Roberto Orci answered, “I think we would think about it.” Damon Lindelof was even blunter in his assessment, “You can’t talk about Trek and not talk about the Borg.” While they have undoubtedly been over-exposed and over-used since they first appeared in Q Who?, the Borg are the most distinctive and most successful addition to the Star Trek mythos outside the classic show.

While common sense and experience seemed to weigh against bringing back the Ferengi in Acquisition, it seems that continuity is the only thing holding the Borg back from making an appearance on Enterprise. That said, Sussman and Strong find a clever way around that issue, by remembering the suggestion in Broken Bow that Enterprise is as much a sequel to Star Trek: First Contact as a prequel to the rest of the Star Trek universe.

"Oh no, Cap'n, they've discovered the mood lightin' settin'."

“Oh no, Cap’n, they’ve discovered the mood lightin’ settin’.”

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Star Trek: Enterprise – A Night in Sickbay (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.

A Night in Sickbay may be the most divisive episode of Star Trek: Enterprise ever broadcast.

On the one had, it seems like fans hated the episode with an incredibly passion. The Agony Booth described A Night in Sickbay as “the worst episode of one of the most cringe-worthy shows of the last ten years.” The episode is frequently included in those very popular “worst episodes ever!” polls that the internet loves so much. The only episode that seems more certain to provoke fan vitriol is These Are the Voyages…, the series finalé which has little to say about the actual series.

"I am THIS sorry..."

“I am THIS sorry…”

However, the hatred for A Night in Sickbay is not universal. It was one of two Enterprise episodes to make the shortlist for the 2003 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation in the “short form” category. More than that, A Night in Sickbay actually polled ahead of the other nominated episode of Enterprise, Carbon Creek. Even in commercial terms, A Night in Sickbay was a success, earning the highest ratings (and share) of the show’s second season.

It seems that A Night in Sickbay exists in a rather strange grey area. It enjoys the support and appreciation of members of the cast and even those outside Star Trek fandom, while it provokes nothing but hatred from hardcore fans. This immediately makes A Night in Sickbay a fascinating watch; any show that can provoke such a polarising response must have some interesting aspects.

Smile!

Smile!

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