Considered One of the Weaker Entries in the Trek Universe but still Star Trek
Mar 14, 2013
I should start this review by disclaiming a remarkable fact: I purchased the complete series of Star Trek Enterprise a few years back without ever having watched a single episode of the show during its broadcast run. I say this not because I seek your respect, admiration or pity (though were you to insist on either of the first two, I suppose I wouldn't complain) but rather to illustrate a simple point: When it comes to sci-fi entertainment, the Trek legacy has some pretty big shoes to fill as far as I'm concerned.
So the big question you're probably asking yourself is whether or not I feel it was money well spent and I'll be glad to divulge such information but before doing so, let's take a moment to break down the hard facts of the show and its DVD release so as to further determine whether or not this is the set for you, shall we?
Set in the nearby regions of the Milky Way galaxy, during roughly the 2150s (ten years before the United Federation of Planets would be formed), the show follows the adventures of humanity's very first warp 5 capable starship: Enterprise.
According to the mythos, at warp 2, only a handful of inhabited planets were within a year's travel from Earth. But at warp 5, that number increased to ten thousand planets and thus it is the appointed task of Captain Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula) & crew to visit as many of these worlds as possible.
The show debuted September 26 2001 on UPN and ran for 98-episodes spanning a total of 4-seasons (ending on May 13, 2005). Low ratings are credited for its demise and unfortunately the dubious distinction of being the first Star Trek series since the original to have been cancelled by its network rather than finished by producers. It's also the bookend of an amazing run of Trek TV: The last series in an 18-year run of back-to-back new Star Trek shows beginning with Star Trek: The Next Generation in 1987.
That said, I can truly state that I went into the program with absolutely no expectations or predeterminations save for those established during previous Trek incarnations (most notably Next Generation and Deep Space 9). Initially I was a bit let down with the Enterprise formula. The first season, at least in my opinion, struggled to find itself. The cast didn't seem overly believable, the sets were deficient in imagination and perhaps most of all, the prose simply lacked that slightly mind-bending flow of believability that has always been a staple of the Star Trek experience to me.
Granted, I realize that this particular point in the mythos' timeline is supposed to be laced with claustrophobia and marvel considering it represents humanity's first foray into the galactic fold; the episodes themselves were a bit meandering to me with emphasis on action and quick resolve over the technologically brilliant conclusions to seemingly unsolvable dilemmas I'd come to cherish in past Trek efforts.
I made it through the fairly lackluster first season and the initial half of the second, starting to assume this would be the formula for the entire series only to be pleasantly surprised somewhere around the halfway point of the second season. Suddenly it was as if the cast had fallen into rhythm with both the characters they portrayed and interaction with one another. Perhaps even more importantly, however, was the writing seemed to have taken a huge step forward as well.
Episodes became far less reliant upon the gimmick of making the viewer privy to events of historical importance (even those that came off feeling like cheap reenactments) and instead simply dropped the cast of characters into some interesting scenarios where their sharp wits and collaboration became crucial for survival. It didn't hurt that technological explanations and believable science became cornerstones of the formula as well.
By the time the second season concluded, I was quite excited about starting out the third in the hopes of it continuing on with its newfound rhythm. The third season, however, made another radical departure to the recipe, this time becoming a single episode that happens to take an entire season to develop. While this was surely a risky move as far as syndication opportunities are concerned, viewers of the DVDs do get to follow along on a very solid dilemma with high stakes (earth being the target) and a whole bunch of exotic locales, species, alliances and betrayals to keep things interesting.
Once again however I fear the tendency of the show's habit of going one step forward for two steps back rears its head. The third season thread is resolved, well that's not technically correct, ends on a cliffhanger that carries into the fourth (and final) season.
Here we kick things off with an alternate universe scenario that, aside from learning an entire episode was merely a dream, ranks up there as one of my lesser-appreciated cop outs in fiction. This rather odd thread involving World War II era earth carries through for a couple of episodes, returns so stand-alone episode format then returns with but another alternate universe crescendo multi-parter. This time the crew of Enterprise in an alternate dimension, one where violence and ruthlessness reign supreme, happen upon Kirk's Enterprise from the original series (complete with wonky sound effects and 60s-style uniforms) and intend to use the vastly superior tech to overthrow their totalitarian empire. Many of the moments of this particular thread come off as forcefully comedic and, I suspect, not nearly as polished a finished product as it must have seemed on paper.
Then, just when things are at their proverbial darkest hour, the 4th season concludes with an interesting thread centered on human-supremacy groups resorting to terrorist actions to preserve the human-way of life on earth during impending alien cohabitation. I won't give away any spoilers, but let me just say that the final episode of the show takes a clever, fairly brilliant, approach to sending off the crew of Enterprise as only a cast & crew aware that the show has reached its conclusion can.
I suppose if my ramblings and summaries thus far need have amounted to anything, I would hope they resemble a reflection to the fact that the show is a bit inconsistent at best. There are moments sprinkled about its 4-season run that truly hark back to the finer moments of Star Trek's fabled history but unlike say Next Generation, consistent brilliance is simply not a given. However, when Enterprise does hit its marks, and rest assured- it does, it's right up there with the quality and depth of storytelling Trekkers have come to expect from the franchise.
In closing, to those who have endured my rather lengthy critique wondering whether this box set is worth their time and money, I have to say that I did find myself watching the entire program successively in about a year's time including all of the commentary and bonus materials. In even its darkest moments, Star Trek is still superior to just about 99% of all science fiction out there and this show does continue on in that tradition. Though my words may have come off as harsh at times, please do keep in mind that many of the flaws and shortcomings mentioned manifest when compared to the impeccable past Trek incarnations first and foremost. When judged on their own accord (especially against what passes for science fiction television of late), nearly everything I mentioned can be overlooked!
I am glad to have the most recent Trek incarnation taking its rightful place on the entertainment center shelf next to Voyager before it and am hoping, for better or worse, that the powers-that-be get to work on its successor. There is something inherently missing in a world that does not have a current Star Trek series on the air.
Trek needed a change in the 21st century. Deep Space Nine ended with a satisfying wrap up and Voyager after 7 mostly tepid years finished off with a finale that while nice was littered with a plot hole that would question a lot of logic but now was the time to take an interesting premise that if in the right hands would make for some interesting television. Alas the hands were Rick Berman's and with apathy for Trek in these years an interesting premise really went to waste. … more
The fifth weekly TV series in the indefatigable Star Trek franchise, Enterprise took the viewer "back to where it all began" (or so read the promotional copy). Set 100 years in the future -- yet still 150 years before the "original" Star Trek series -- the new show charted the origins of the starship Enterprise, beginning with the first close encounter between humans and Klingons. Brought to Starfleet Medical after crash-landing in a rural area, the injured Klingon Klaang is treated with hostility by the attending Vulcan physicians, something that the earthling staffer cannot understand. Pioneering Starfleet pilot Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula), skipper of the recently constructed Enterprise starship, volunteers to take Klaang back to his home planet of Kronos. The continuity proper begins when Klaang is kidnapped en route by the genetically enhanced Sulibans, prompting Archer and his crew to embark upon the first of many bold forays into "where no man has gone before." Much of the series' entertainment value was engendered by displays of "primitive" pre-Federation equipment and paraphernalia, with new technology being introduced with each passing week -- new, that is, to those three or four people who have never seen any of the various Star Trek incarnations. Featured in the cast were Jolene Blalock as Archer's somewhat condescending Vulcanian first officer, T'Pol; John Billingsley as brilliant Vulcan medical doctor Phlox; ...