Advertisements
    Advertisements
  • Following Us

  • Categories

  • Check out the Archives









  • Awards & Nominations

  • Advertisements

Star Trek: Enterprise – The Expanse (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.

And, finally, everything changes.

It feels inevitable. Maybe not in this particular form, maybe not in this particular way, but Star Trek: Enterprise needed something. The show needed to stop feeling like a relic of the early nineties – a great song played on loop to the point where it became nothing more than generic white noise. The Expanse gives the show a clear sense of direction and a clear sense of purpose. It is not a direction that is unanimously loved, and it is not a purpose that is realised as well as it might be, but it finally feels like Enterprise is boldly going in its own direction.

A walk among the wreckage...

A walk among the ruins…

In many respects, the obvious point of comparison for The Expanse is an episode like The Jem’Hadar or A Call to Arms. It is an episode that is clearly written to reach an ending so that the show can start doing something new. These episodes tend to tease a brave new future, one utterly unlike anything that Star Trek has done before, but they play like extended forty-five minute trailers. Watching The Expanse, it feels like show runners Rick Berman and Brannon Braga are thinking more about the direction than the destination. That’s not a bad thing at this point.

Polarising as it might be, and occasionally awkward as it might be, The Expanse was utterly necessary. Enterprise is a Star Trek show that exists in the shadow of 9/11. That horrific terrorist attack has reverberated throughout the series. The War on Terror informs and distorts narratives like Shadows of P’Jem, ShockwaveThe SeventhCease FireThe CrossingJudgmentRegeneration and Cogenitor. However, there is a sense that Enterprise never accepted that heavy pull of gravity.

Homecoming...

Homecoming…

Sometimes it worked; Judgment, Regeneration and Cogenitor are all examples of the series trying to apply its own morality to a more complicated and confusing geopolitical climate. However, the War on Terror made it hard to reconcile Jonathan Archer as both an explorer and a paranoid reactionary. The unquestioning trust in authority in The Seventh, to the point where he did not question the Vulcan High Command’s mindwipe of T’Pol? The all-consuming dread upon meeting something different in The Crossing? These do not fit well within Star Trek.

So The Expanse pushes all that to the front. The opening teaser features a strange alien ship appearing and carving a large scar in the surface of the planet – a very visual representation of the damage done to the utopian optimism of Star Trek. Now that the scar had been literalised, it could be discussed and explored. The Expanse made sure that nobody was talking around the elephant in the room; everybody was now charging right at it.

The way ahead is cloudy...

The way ahead is cloudy…

Continue reading

Advertisements

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!”

Continue reading

Star Trek: Enterprise – Season 1 (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.

The first season of Star Trek: Enterprise is caught at a crossroads.

On the hand, it needs to be something new and exciting. The first Star Trek show of the new millennium, Enterprise has to find a way of updating the franchise and pushing forward. It has to find a way to challenge audience expectations and demonstrate that – after fourteen consecutive years and twenty-one overlapping seasons – Star Trek still has something fresh and exciting to offer fans. After all, the television landscape had changed significantly since the late eighties. It was time for Star Trek to change with it.

ent-brokenbow3

On the other hand, there’s a clear desire to seek familiar comforts. Star Trek has been on the air consistently for over a decade now. That wouldn’t be the case if the franchise didn’t have its own merits. There’s a sense that the first season of Enterprise is drawn to the idea that it can keep doing what worked before, offering generic Star Trek stories with a new cast and a new theme tune. This is still Star Trek, after all. There’s nothing gained by changing it to the point where it is unrecognisable.

Throughout the first season, these two impulses seem to be at odds with one another, leading to a surreal sense of whiplash. Episodes that feel as unique as Breaking the Ice, Dear Doctor or Shuttlepod One sit alongside generic shows like Civilisation, Sleeping Dogs or Rogue Planet. The show frequently pushes itself in interesting directions, only to pull relent as it approaches the point of committal. The result is a first season that is uneven, but intriguing, one that has great potential – if not necessarily the will to fulfill it.

ent-shockwavepart1m Continue reading

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…

Continue reading

Star Trek: Enterprise – Two Days and Two Nights (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.

To be fair to Two Days and Two Nights, the episode itself isn’t a bad idea.

The stronger episodes of the first season have been those willing to allow the cast a bit of room to define their characters, luxuriating in the human side of mankind’s first real adventure to the stars. Episodes like Breaking the IceCold Front and Shuttlepod One were all built around character moments and interactions, featuring relaxed plotting that left room for the cast to develop their roles.

"So I'm coolin' at a bar, and I'm lookin' for some action.  But like Mike Jagger said, I can't get no satisfaction."

“So I’m coolin’ at a bar, and I’m lookin’ for some action.
But like Mike Jagger said, I can’t get no satisfaction.”

In theory, Two Days and Two Nights does the same thing. Essentially a “holiday episode”, the show features the senior staff of the Enterprise taking two days of vacation time on the surface of Risa. A series of loosely-connected adventures ensue, following members of the main cast as they try to take a break from it all. No points for guessing that very few members of the crew actually get the relaxing vacation they had hoped for.

The problem is that the plot threads all feel a little tired and awkward, coalescing into a Star Trek comedy episode that simply isn’t funny.

It all falls down...

It all falls down…

Continue reading

Star Trek: Enterprise – Detained (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.

Detained is well-meaning, if a little clumsy and awkward.

It is a rather conscious effort to do a “message show” in the grand tradition of the Star Trek franchise, using the show’s science-fiction premise to offer a commentary on current events. Detained is very clearly structured as a response to the 9/11 attacks, even if Archer only explicitly references the internment of Japanese Americans at Manzanar. Detained is full of interesting ideas, and its heart is in the right place, but the execution feels decidedly rushed and haphazard. Detained works much better as a two-line moral than it does as a forty-five minute episode of television.

You can't call him Al...

You can’t call him Al…

Continue reading

Star Trek: Enterprise – Broken Bow (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.

Broken Bow is probably the strongest pilot in the Star Trek canon, with Emissary and The Cage vying for second place.

That’s not saying a lot. Broken Bow is still a troubled production with some rather sizeable issues marring what is otherwise an ambitious début for a new Star Trek show. Watching, Broken Bow – as with watching most of the first few years of Star Trek: Enterprise (or just Enterprise) – it feels like the show is at war with itself. It wants to be something new and fresh and exciting, but it also wants to be an important part of this larger tapestry. And the episode has difficulty reconciling that.

New (old) frontier...

New (old) frontier…

So we get new aliens like the Suliban, but a plot that revolves around the Klingons; we get an entirely new crew with a Vulcan science officer and Southern gentleman as the Captain’s best friend; we get a ship without most of the conveniences that we take for granted on Star Trek, but with substitutes and a resolution that relies on technological gimmickry; we get to explore an uncharted part of the Star Trek canon, but with the intrusion of the future to help make it feel a little more familiar.

From the first episode, Star Trek: Enterprise seems to exist as a show trapped between what it could have been and what it has to be. It’s a premise rich with potential, but which still feels a little too much like everything that came before.

Into the sunset...

Into the sunset…

Continue reading