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Star Trek: Enterprise – The Shipment (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.

An episode like The Shipment has been inevitable since The Expanse was first broadcast.

Nobody watching The Expanse could have truly believed that Star Trek would ever truly lose itself in the midst of an epic War on Terror analogy. Trip’s character arc over the course of the third season is not hard to predict. His raw anger and hatred in The Expanse are not a new status quo for the character, they are very clearly the starting point for a character arc that will circle back around to the core values associated with Star Trek. Trip might be raw and vengeful, but he will come to forgive and heal.

Woah, woah, woah... he's on fire...

Woah, woah, woah… he’s on fire…

That is largely the arc of the third season, albeit with a coda where Archer punches out an evil lizard man atop a flying bomb, because evil lizard men and flying bombs are pretty damn fun. Indeed, the third season works through the bulk of its big moral arc in The Council, so that the final two episodes of the season can be devoted to “stuff blowin’ up real good” without any of those awkward analogies getting in the way. The effort to resolve the big moral arc of the season two episodes before the finalé would seem to suggest that this resolution is a foregone conclusion.

As such, The Shipment feels a little redundant – particularly this early in the season. It is an episode designed to reassure viewers that Jonathan Archer has not suddenly transformed himself into Jack Bauer. However, at this point in the season, the audience has been given little reason to fear that Archer has been so transformed. The Shipment seems like an overly preemptive reassurance that arrives a little bit too early for its own good.

#NotAllXindi

#NotAllXindi

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Star Trek: Enterprise – The Xindi (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.

Delivering on change is always more difficult than promising change.

The first block of episodes in the third season of Star Trek: Enterprise struggle with the weight of expectation and the sense that the production team have no real idea of how to manage this sort of storytelling. Rick Berman and Brannon Braga had consulted with Ira Steven Behr towards the end of the second season, suggesting that they wanted to model the storytelling loosely on the blend of episodic and serialised scripting that Behr oversaw on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It makes sense, as Deep Space Nine was the only Star Trek series to really engage with that sort of storytelling.

A primate example of the Xindi...

A primate example of the Xindi…

In hindsight, it seems a shame that the writing room on Deep Space Nine was allowed to disintegrate so thoroughly. Ira Steven Behr, Hans Beimler and Rene Echevarria departed immediately following What You Leave Behind. Ronald D. Moore migrated briefly over to Star Trek: Voyager, but quit quite promptly following creative disagreements with former collaborator Brannon Braga. The veteran writers on Enterprise came from Voyager. Brannon Braga, Mike Sussman, Phyllis Strong and André Bormanis were all writers who had come into their own working on Voyager.

Star Trek: Voyager a show that was incredibly episodic and seemed to actively resist serialisation even more than Star Trek: The Next Generation. This is not a reflection on the production team. Braga had lobbied to expand Year of Hell into a year-long story arc during the fourth season, but his proposal had been rejected. Discussing the Xindi arc, Braga has talked about how he wanted to tell a year-long Star Trek story, and it is telling that one of his post-Star Trek writing assignments was on 24.

The ascent...

The ascent…

Nevertheless, it meant that the writers working on Enterprise faced a sharp learning curve when it came to structuring the third season. The experience accumulated during the arc-building on Deep Space Nine was largely lost to the franchise, and a lot of the early part of the third season sees Enterprise making a number of teething mistakes. The early stretch of the third season struggles to pace itself, and it struggles to integrate stand-alone stories with its larger serialised arc.

The Xindi is a prime example of this, an episode that has a wealth of interesting ideas and great concepts, but one that stumbles in the execution.

Pointing the finger...

Pointing the finger…

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