Enterprise Season 1 Review:
Enterprise’s Premise- The premise and setting of Enterprise (ENT) is THE main reason why I passed on ENT when it was first broadcasted on UPN. I remember explaining to my family and friends that the show would be “before Kirk”, and their reaction was “Captain Pike?” And I answered, “Uhmm…no…Captain Archer.” “Who?” Again, at least Captain Robert April was referenced in the Animated Series and novels as being the very first captain; they could have used that name or character as homage.
I liked the premises of TOS, Next Generation, and Deep Space 9. They were easy sells to me. DS9 gave us a chance to see the underbelly of the universe without Starfleet’s high and mighty imperialism, and was at the same time as Next Generation.
The Star Trek franchise had already lost steam after the cancellation of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and some poorly reviewed movies. Deep Space Nine and Voyager had already splintered the fanbase years before and Star Trek was losing relevancy in the new millennium, so when ENT was announced I had mixed feelings.
ENT attempts to “go back to the basics”, but tries to reinvent the wheel, and the weird continuity and new characters offended the remaining Trekkies. Ratings were so low that it should have been cancelled during Season 3 (any other channel, and it would have been; actually if it was FOX, it would have been cancelled after a few episodes in Season 1).
The Star Trek universe is just SO big with so many different eras, that for Rick Berman and Brannon Braga (B&B) to choose years leading up to the Birth of the Federation is baffling. If they HAD to go there, at least continue where FIRST CONTACT left off (the year 2063). ENT is 2151 (around 89 years after First Contact). IF B&B were obsessed in doing early stories in Star Trek history, how about the Eugenics Wars or World War III? How about the Romulan-Earth War that created the Neutral Zone? Captain Pike’s adventures would have been an easy pick for a prequel.
Perhaps the most obvious sell-able premise would have been a Starfleet Academy show (any year would suffice) with young cadets, or my idea of a “super crew” ensemble with existing cast members from the previous franchises. I am glad B&B did not try to recast the TOS crew because that would have killed the 2009 Star Trek Movie.
You would think that B&B would actually KEEP the premise once the show got rolling, but the continuity and technology did NOT fit what we already knew about the Star Trek Universe. And this is what made the loyalists rebel against them, and made Scott Bakula (Quantum Leap) a sci-fi icon to a mockery.
First impressions of the cast were not great- they seem awfully generic and politically correct (race and gender balanced, well kinda). But I had faith that Scott Bakula as the leading man would be cool.
But all of the above criticisms are not actually about the enjoyability of the show, and are pretty much based on premise and impressions, not from watching each episode. So let me assign PASS, FAIL, or EPIC ratings for ENT Season 1 and see how bad (or good) the season really was. Keep in mind the pacing of almost every show after the pilot is slow, which frankly prevents mainstream audiences from watching. A 45-minute episode (with no commercials) feels like an hour and 10 minutes. The costumes, theme song, and sets are very un-Star Trek like, although I do like the theme song. My PASS/FAIL/EPIC rating system assumes you are a at least a casual sci-fi fan.
PASS: An OK, good, or great episode.
FAIL: A bad episode, one that is very flawed, a stinker/bomb, or a boring/schlock one.
EPIC: Truly a memorable, deep, or super episode- a measuring stick.
Broken Bow (two-parts): Much better pilot than Star Trek: The Next Generation. Seemed action orientated, probably on par or better than Voyager’s pilot, but not as epic as TOS: The Cage or as deep as DS9′s awesome pilot. PASS.
Fight or Flight: Technically achieved the goal of the premise by showing how the NX-01 Enterprise is not advanced as the USS Enterprise NCC-1701, but the “realism” was boring. FAIL.
Strange New World: Good directing, but not an innovative episode. PASS.
Unexpected: Commander Tucker (male) gets pregnant due to touching a new alien species. PASS.
Terra Nova: Lost human colony out in deep space from 70 years ago? FAIL.
The Andorian Incident: Shows the war/stress between the Vulcans and Andorians (blue aliens with antennae from TOS). I like the main Andorian, Shran. One of my favorites. PASS.
Breaking the Ice: Remember when Vulcans were the coolest thing going? Well in this time period, they are the worst Enneagram Type 1‘s you could imagine, and the crew suspects T’Pol is a spy. FAIL.
Civilization: Hey, named after one of my favorite PC games of all time! Technically passable although the plot is a direct copy from TOS and TNG (accidentally leaving technology with a primitive alien culture). PASS.
Fortunate Son: An Earth freighter captain wants revenge against the Nausicaans. Very engrossing episode. PASS.
Cold Front: “Temporal Cold War” story. This story arc is NOT in every episode and is more like an occasional back-story, which is a shame because I was hooked. Sign me up for a time traveler from the 31st century. PASS.
Silent Enemy: This is a rare Malcolm Reed episode. He is the British weapons officer. PASS.
Dear Doctor: This is a philosophical and ethics episode about helping a pre-warp culture (there is no Prime Directive yet). In typical Star Trek [frustrating] form, Captain Archer does not give the alien planet his advanced technology or medicine. PASS.
Sleeping Dogs: Hey it’s the 2rd appearance of the Klingons, although I don’t know how it fits in continuity. This is a standard scholck episode, pretty much Fight or Flight, Part II because you demanded it! [Not!] FAIL.
Shadows of P’Jem: This is pretty much The Andorian Incident, Part II. It was full of paranoia, backstabbing, and distrust. I never knew how bad the Vulcans were. Gene Roddenberry would not have approved of this, but he’s no longer here, rest his soul. Still had action, and I like the Andorians. PASS.
Shuttlepod One: Features Commander Tucker (Southern action hero) and Reed (stuffy Brit) stuck in a shuttlepod. Good characterization. PASS.
Fusion: We see some hippy Vulcans. The plot is a copy of the TNG episode where Troi gets mind raped. Vulcan continuity seems way off from TOS. Still watchable, since it’s a good T’Pol episode. PASS.
Rogue Planet: Shapeshifters lure the crew on the planet. FAIL.
Acquisition: I’m sorry but considering Captain Picard and Star Fleet records were quite clear that he made first contact with the Ferengi, their “real” first appearance is an instant FAIL.
Oasis: Commander Tucker gets tricked by a girl. FAIL.
Detained: A good Gitmo Camp analogy. PASS.
Vox Sola: Before the universal translator was perfected, culture miscommunications were more frequent. PASS.
Fallen Hero: Finally it seems relations between humans and Vulcans may improve. PASS.
Desert Crossing: Archer and Tucker caught in a civil war between two alien cultures. Standard schlock. FAIL.
Two Days and Two Nights: Fun silly vacation episode, seemingly necessary for every Star Trek series. FAIL.
Shockwave (part 1): Suliban (aliens involved in the Temporal Cold War) frame the Enterprise into accidentally killing a colony and the mission gets canceled (seemed realistic since rating were low). Archer and the Time Traveler (Crewman Daniels) jump around and try to fix the timeline (seems like Archer is behind the creation of the Federation). PASS.
25 episodes: No epic episodes, 16 passable episodes, and 9 fails.
That’s 0% excellent episodes, 64% acceptable ones, and 36% bombs.
Best Enterprise Episode (Season 1): Broken Bow
Worst Enterprise Episode (Season 1): Oasis
Please understand that these are my own ratings and do not necessarily represent those of the Star Trek community, and are not averages or totals from meta critic sites. For example, some fans FAIL every episode. As a point of reference, Berd Schneider from the iconic Ex Astris Scientia Star Trek website failed 11 Season 1 episodes with no epic ones. After checking three major Star Trek message board forums for their views on ENT Season 1, the majority hated it and never gave it a chance, but the loyalists liked at most a handful, with no epic episodes. Each fan obviously has his or her own favorite episodes.
Production and quality is good, the only weak points are the stories and continuity. Enterprise Season 1 showed promise when it focused on being character driven. The seven main characters are good in their own ways. I do understand the criticism that the cast could be seen as “flat”; you have to watched each episode to see the growth.
Helmsman Mayweather (“the black guy”) needs more speaking parts, since he seems like a nice guy. I am shocked that B&B would duplicate TOS’ Uhura by giving an African American such a small role and no depth on a modern show. Like Uhura, Mayweather is a background prop. T’Pol is a female Spock, and is very frustrating but also provides eye candy. Dr.Phlox is pretty much like the The Doctor from Voyager, and looks like Neelix from Voyager. For some reason I feel he is written to represent Trekkies (snarky outsider, but has a code of ethics). Hoshi Sato provides the shy female Asian fix. Tucker (“Trip”) is the everyman. Yes, he looks like a young version of George W. Bush, but he provides the reckless Southern fire that Captain Archer doesn’t have. Reed is not very sociable or cool; he’s my least favorite, but he’s at least loyal. Reed kinda reminded me of Dr. Bashir from DS9, my least favorite DS9 character. Captain Archer does a good job, considering there are no rules and he is a pioneer. Yes, sometimes I think that Sam Beckett from Quantum Leap jumped into his body, since they act the same way, but for the most part he’s fine. He’s not fine when he acts pig-headed, racist against Vulcans, and winds up regretting his ill-thought decisions.
Again, I have no problems with the crew- they are likable and grew on me with each episode. Many times they are limited by the script. People that rip the crew or Scott Bakula frustrate me. Ripping B&B is fine by me.
The season is still only watchable for Star Trek completists who have to watch EVERYTHING Star Trek related or for sci-fi junkies. I could not imagine sitting a civilian (non-sci-fi geek) down and watching it with them, since it has so much continuity baggage and marches to a slow pace. Babylon V also had a “weak” Season 1, but it skyrocketed in Season 2. [I personally found Season 1 as a refreshing take on how Star Trek should have been done.] I thought Stargate started off fun and exciting, in a tongue and cheek way. It took Next Generation and DS9 three years to get going. Did Voyager ever really get going? Season 1 of Star Trek The Original Series has SEVERAL EPIC EPISODES back in the 1960′s, yet ENT Season 1 had…oh…over 30 years to perfect the method and better it with experienced writing, but it wasn’t an improvement over TOS except for props & setting, special effects, and makeup.