Friday, January 23, 2009

Star Trek Enterprise: an appreciation

written by djtitoflow, revised by el Cala

For decades Star Trek fans have watched the multiple voyages of the starship enterprise as it explored strange new worlds and new civilizations. The 23rd and 24th century were the time periods we Trekkies got used to seeing our beloved adventures take place in, so it was no surprise that many fans reacted negatively to the news of a new Trek series taking place only 150 years in the future.

As the Trek mythology states Zefram Cochrane makes first contact with the Vulcans in the year 2063 and as a result humans begin to pick themselves up after years of wars and struggles, taking their firsts steps towards achieving their full potential as a species.
Vulcans begin to help humans along, but in a way they also hold them back, that is until the year 2151 when Captain Jonathan Archer begins his mission aboard the first starship Enterprise with an attempt to return a stranded Klingon to his homeworld of Kronos.

Most Trek fans shrugged off this series because it was too different from what they were used to seeing. If they hadn’t given up on the show so quickly they might have noticed just how much fun this series truly was, and it might have lasted longer. One of the many complaints is that the first two seasons were full of planet or alien of the week episodes. That is true, but first we need to remember that the entire original series follows an alien or planet of the week type structure. And most of The Next Generation follows that same style. Only Star Trek Deep Space Nine had long story arcs and themes during its entire run, and many fans criticized it for doing that, so I don’t know why most trek fans talk so much crap about Enterprise. There are many great episodes in season one and two that explore the 21st century as well as many classic races from the original series.

The Andorians have never been better than in Enterprise, and who doesn’t enjoy seeing Jeffrey Combs playing Commander Shran, or his use of the phrase “pink skin”. The show even made connections with the fan favorite film First Contact and showed us Starfleet’s first encounter with the borg. That was hardcore Star Trek fan service right there!

Space travel is relatively new to humans in this series so seeing a simple comet up close makes the crew stand up in awe, and so did I when I saw these scenes. Other Trek shows took space travel for granted. In the Next Generation era humans are so technologically advanced that very few things can be considered a threat. In Enterprise the ship has no shields, and can only travel at warp 5. This gives the series a much higher sense of danger and keeps us at the edge of our seats during the epic space battles.

Season three was a season long arc that had the enterprise lost in one of the most dangerous regions of space. The ship was purposely stuck in a volatile area known only as the Delphic Expanse. A race known as the Xindi are being manipulated by creatures from another realm who want to modify our space and make it habitable for their species. After receiving false evidence from these creatures the Xindi become convinced that Earth will attack them in the future, and so they send a probe that kills seven million people on earth. These deaths and the horrors of the expanse practically change every character in the show. It’s mind blowing to see Captain Jonathan Archer deal with his inner demons. He’s pushed to the edge by forces that no human could have ever imagined.
Archer is forced to make some tough moral decisions and as a result becomes a more conflicted character. Commander Trip also suffers a family loss during the Xindi attack, which sends him closer to T’pol and unfortunately into one of the most awkward and useless romances in Trek history (remember Worf and Troi, anyone?). Crappy romance aside season 3 had some of the darkest and most intense episodes you’ll ever see from a Star Trek series. Many of these stories rank high up there with the Dominion War episodes from DS9. The season kept us at the edge of our seats as the mystery behind the Xindi weapons builders was slowly revealed.

But the real treat of this series was its fourth and sadly last season. Enterprise finally realized its true purpose, to be a prequel story to every other series. The fan service we got in season four still surprises me as I look back. The mirror universe in the 21st century, classic creatures such as Gorns and Tholians, the beginnings of Section 31 from DS9, Colonel Green from TOS, even Orion slave girls!!!

My personal favorite moments included Brent Spiner playing Arik Soong (ancestor to Noonien Soong -- the scientist who created the android Data from Star Trek The Next Generation), and seeing a rogue group of augments try to bring about a new eugenics war. If the reference to Khan and the botany bay ship from the original series episode “Space Seed” didn’t make you scream then you sir are no Trekkie -- you listening to me readers!!!! And hey they finally explained why the Klingons from the original series had no ridges (aside from budgetary limitation I mean). Enterprise ended up becoming an amazing show that showed us the first steps toward the Star Trek Universe we’ve come to love. Every time I see Archer’s speech in “Terra Prime” I get up and applaud along with the humans, Vulcans, Andorians, Tellarites, and all the other species that were present that day...the day when the quadrant took its first steps towards the creation of the United Federation of Planets.

The show was entertaining, full of great actors and compelling characters. Viva Bakula!!! It also boasted the best Trek TV special effects. It still saddens me that we only got four seasons. I still remember 8 years ago when i saw the first episode "BrokenBow" with my brother. I saw this series when it aired on UPN, on DVD, on scifi channel, and now on HDNet. 8 yrs of constant watching. I like and watch dozens of shows, but this is one show I truly love and cherish. The show deserved so much more respect from Paramount, and from Trek fans everywhere. Hopefully true fans can now enjoy it on the Sci-Fi Channel, HDNet, and on DVD. This is a Trek show that cannot be ignored any longer. I just hope one day audiences can come to appreciate this show for what it truly is... a great science fiction series and a strong enough Trek show that can stand right next to TNG and DS9 with pride.

Top "trekkie" moments in season 4: by El Cala [AKA the NostlagicG]:

With the arrival of new Executive Producer and show-runner Manny Cotto during the show’s fourth season Enterprise began to really give fans of the franchise what they had been expecting all along. A long time Trek fan himself, Cotto set out to deliver. Here are the coolest things he did for fans everywhere.

- New life and New Civilizations - One of the things we love about Trek are the alien species. During Enterprise’s fourth season we got to see a lot more of the classic species first seen in the original series. Some highlights included The Gorn and Tholian ("In A Mirror Darkly”), Tellarites (“Babel One”), Orions (“The Augments”, “Bound”) Romulans (“United”), and Organians (“Observer Effect”).

Beam me up Emory – In the fourth season episode “Daedalus” we get to meet the man responsible for the creation of one of Star Trek’s most interesting pieces of hardware, the transporter.

- Epic storytelling – The show began doing multiple episode arcs during year four featuring epic storylines like the Vulcan inspired trilogy of episodes (“The Forge”, “Awakening”, “Kir’Shara”) that introduced us to the Syrrannites, a zealous Vulcan sect that believes in — among other Vulcan taboos at the time— the practice of mind-melding. Syrrannites follow a corrupted form of the teachings of Surak, the father of Vulcan logic who is considered the most important Vulcan who ever lived.
- What’s that on your forehead? – One of the coolest sequences ever in the history of Trek has to be the alteration of Klingon foreheads in the episode “Affliction” as a result of their attempts at creating genetically enhanced warriors by utilizing human Augments DNA.

- Eugenics Wars redux - The historic 3 part event that connected Enterprise with not one but two major elements from Trek mythology featured the return of those genetically engineered bullies from the eugenics wars as well as the introduction of Doctor Arik Soong -- great grandfather to Data's creator. The moment when Soong admits the pitfalls that come with genetic manipulation and realizes that cybernetics may be the next great scientific frontier to focus on is truly priceless as fans get their chance at seeing the spark that leads to the initial steps in the creation of our beloved android.

- Brave new world – The events that lead to the creation of The United Federation of Planets are presented in multiple episodes throughout the show’s final season. We are also treated to a very emotional sequence in the episode “Terra Prime” when Archer gets to address representatives from all the species that will soon form this historic alliance. A true love letter to everything Star Trek is about.