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Star Trek: Enterprise – Fallen Hero (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.

Fallen Hero works quite well. While it isn’t sturdy or tight enough to stand with the very best of this first season, it is an engaging diplomatic thriller elevated by a fantastic guest performance, a nice focus on T’Pol and a surprisingly warm approach to the Vulcans. Easily the strongest episode between Shuttlepod One and Shockwave, Fallen Hero is a solid adventure that offers a glimpse of a more promising future.

I'll drink to that...

I’ll drink to that…

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Star Trek: Enterprise – Vox Sola (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.

Vox Sola is a rather sedate late-season instalment of Star Trek: Enterprise. Largely designed as a bottle show, Vox Sola has a rake of interesting ideas, but doesn’t offer any particularly insightful exploration. The alien creature of the week is unique and distinctive, but the episode constructed around it feels rather lacklustre. There’s a sense of late-season fatigue at work here, with Vox Sola feeling rather like a more low-key variation on the strange-space-phenomena-of-the-week story template that Star Trek: Voyager would use routinely.

"It's alive!"

“It’s alive!”

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Star Trek: Enterprise – Fusion (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.

Fusion is a mess of an episode.

On the one hand, it feels like an attempt to develop that Vulcans as they’ve been portrayed on Star Trek: Enterprise. It’s a clear attempt to justify their behaviour and to suggest that there are reasons that Vulcans eschewed emotions. It also gives some focus and development to T’Pol, a character who has been given very little space to herself so far in this first season. It brings back the relaxed pacing of episodes like Breaking the Ice or Cold Front, soaking in the details rather than driving the plot.

Out, out brief candle...

Out, out brief candle…

On the other hand, there’s a disturbingly reactionary subtext to Fusion. It feels like an even more cynical and mean-spirited version of All the Children Shall Lead or The Way to Eden, a story about how people need to be wary of youthful and experimental subcultures. It’s disappointing that one of the first season’s big T’Pol episodes is basically a rape allegory. And the plot of the episode feels crammed into the last act to make up for the somewhat loose pacing.

Fusion is simply all over the place.

False idols...

False idols…

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Star Trek: Enterprise – Shadows of P’Jem (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.

Shadows of P’Jem is a wonderful episode. It is, in many respects, the first true post-9/11 episode of Star Trek: Enterprise, and it is a surprisingly thoughtful one at that.

In many respects, Enterprise has already established itself as Star Trek for the George W. Bush era. Archer is the franchise’s first white American male lead character since Kirk, and his contempt for politics and thirst for action mirrors the popular image of George W. Bush – a dynamic man with no time for questions or hesitation. Even little touches – like the fact that officers drink beer rather than champagne, or the anti-intellectual contempt that Archer and Trip feel towards Vulcans – suggest a Star Trek show that is very much in line with Bush’s America.

Shadows on Coridan...

Shadows on Coridan…

However, Shadows of P’Jem was among the first episodes written after the events of 9/11, and it’s an episode that seems quite thoughtful and introspective. The franchise has often used the Federation as a stand-in for American values and ideals. Shadows of P’Jem twists this idea on its head, offering the future Federation members as stand-ins for various facets of American foreign policy.

Shadows of P’Jem is a considerate and reflective look at what Walter Nugent termed “the habits of empire”, a look at the cost and consequences of imperialism in a post-colonial age, and how those issues tend to fester.

A night in sickbay...

A night in sickbay…

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Star Trek: Enterprise – The Andorian Incident (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 Andorian Incident is a strange little episode. On the surface, it’s a fairly standard and competently-executed hostage thriller. However, that only scratches the surface. The Andorian Incident is an episode that promises so much more, teasing the potential of Star Trek: Enterprise to evolve into perhaps the most “Star Trek-y of Star Trek shows”, exploring the foundation of the United Federation of Planets and how mankind really found its place in the wider cosmos, building a intergalactic confederation build on peace and tolerance.

The Andorian Incident seems more like a statement of intent from the show, which is a crucial part of any first season.

A bolt from the blue...

A bolt from the blue…

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Star Trek: Enterprise – Unexpected (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.

So, male pregnancy, eh?

Talk about a nipple slip...

Talk about a nipple slip…

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Star Trek: Enterprise – Strange New World (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.

Strange New World is the first episode of Star Trek: Enterprise to come from a writing team other than Brannon Braga and Rick Berman. Berman and Braga would dominate the writing credits for the first season. Even when the final teleplay was credited to another writer or writing team, there was often a “story by” credit given to Berman and Braga. Braga himself has conceded that he essentially re-wrote all of the episodes of the first season.

Still, Strange New World is credited to the writing team of Mike Sussman and Phyllis Strong. Both had worked on Star Trek: Voyager before migrated to Star Trek: Enterprise along with André Bormanis. Sussman had pitched the story for Meld and worked on a number of solo stories and scripts before teaming with Strong on the seventh and final season of the show. The two would remain a writing team for the first two seasons of Star Trek: Enterprise, hitting their stride with some of the strongest episodes of the troubled second season.

Picture perfect...

Picture perfect…

Strange New World is an interesting début for the pair. On the hand, it is a story that celebrates the unique place of Star Trek: Enterprise in the Star Trek pantheon. It’s a story about how great it must be to set foot on an alien planet, and how wondrous it must be to breath air from outside our atmosphere. With its emphasis on shuttlepods and primitive transporters, it does remain relatively true to the prequel premise of Enterprise.

On the other hand, Strange New World is a very familiar Star Trek template. Indeed, it’s a very familiar first season template. It’s the episode where the crew of the ship are exposed to some strange outside force that makes them all act out of character. It’s something of a Star Trek standard. The original Star Trek had The Naked Time and Star Trek: The Next Generation had The Naked Now, while Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had both Babel and Dramatis Personae. In many ways, Strange New World feels like a familiar old story.

Strange yellow daisy fields forever...

Strange yellow daisy fields forever…

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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…

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