In many ways Star Trek: Enterprise has become Star Trek’s Phantom Menace in that it is a prequel that has become almost cliché to poke fun of. I am not going to stand here and argue that Enterprise was the best series of Star Trek because it wasn’t. What I am going to say in this article is that it wasn’t as bad as many make out and while much of the first two seasons were mostly recycled plots from previous Star Trek shows there were some hidden gems and a sign of the promise the show had.
PLEASE NOTE; This is just my opinion but I would be interested in hearing what you have to think.
Like many fans, when I saw the Enterprise NX-01 for the first time my response was “That looks like the Akira-class from Star Trek: First Contact! I thought it was supposed to be set before Kirk?” The most important thing about first impressions of a new Star Trek is the ship and the creators seemed to get it wrong. However…While it took a long time for people to warm to the Akiraprise, as some call it, one thing I have to say I really liked about it was that it was inferior to most of the enemies it faced. For the 30 years leading up to Star Trek: Enterprise we saw our heroes flying around the universe in the most advanced ship of its day. Now we had a ship that really felt like it was the cutting edge of human technology but since humans were new to spaceflight they weren’t the best on the block. In fact the ship didn’t even have shields and in an early episode we saw one of the really awful early torpedoes get shot out of the sky. Over time the NX-01 became more advanced and we started to see some of the more familiar technologies enter service like Photonic torpedoes but even in the last season the Enterprise was still largely the underdog. I really liked this.
OK they weren’t evil exactly but certainly there was an antagonist element about how they were portrayed in Star Trek: Enterprise. This was another of those decisions that seemed to anger militant Trekkies because since the very early days the Vulcans were seen as both peace loving and close friends with humanity. What those Trekkies seem to forget however is that we are seeing an earlier Vulcan people here who aren’t the intellectual element of an alliance of planets but rather they are their own people who have enemies and are cautious about their dealings with humanity who after all hadn’t long come out of a Third World War and were now joining the space faring nations of the galaxy. There is even a brilliant line where Suval actually tells Admiral Forest that humans achieved far more than Vulcan did in the same timeframe and that many Vulcans are fearful of what humans will achieve in the future. Translated, this means that some Vulcans in the 22nd century are afraid of being displaced by humanity in terms of galactic importance which in a roundabout way is exactly what happens. From the Vulcan point of view therefore it is understandable that they are distrustful of humans. One final note; we need to remember that there have been ‘bad guy’ Vulcans before including one who wanted to play Baseball with Sisko to prove Vulcans are better than humans – that’s racist isn’t it?
Overnight humans became wonderful and peace loving? CRAP! Perhaps the biggest thing Star Trek: Enterprise contributed to the Star Trek universe more than anything was showing the transitionary period for humanity and how that by the 22nd century there were still those who were fearful of aliens because they were different. Even better and perhaps more relevant for the 21st century audience was the fact that this racism was largely caused by an alien attack which lends weight behind why these racist elements are still thriving. This mirrors the post-9/11 world where many Muslims feel that the West has the view that all followers of the Islamic faith are terrorists which of course is absolute nonsense. I would have liked to see more of this but sadly the show finished before it could be explored further.
Trip and T’Pol
Romances between central characters has been met with mixed responses from fans in the past. Some really worked well (Worf and Jadzia Dax in DS9) and some really didn’t work well at all (Chakotay and Seven in Voyager). Trip and T’Pol did work for me. Not only did it work but it actually interested me. In a pseudo kind of way we saw a little something of what Spock’s parents went through with all the dilemma of a love across species although in this case the genders are reversed. Connor Trinneer and Jolene Blalock had wonderful on-screen chemistry and many of their scenes were emotional in the later seasons. Their relationship showed how their characters had evolved over the course of the show; they were perhaps the only characters who really did.
The Augment Saga
In the show’s final season multi-part storylines became the order of the day. Without a doubt the most exciting was the three-part Augment story arc which saw Brent Spiner make a guest appearance as Arik Soong, a predecessor of Data’s creator Dr Noonien Soong. When first advertised, this fact was seen simply as a gimmick to try and pull back some of the old school fans who had given up on the show but this episode was much more than that. What we got was a thrilling trilogy that explores more of why genetic engineering is banned in the future and makes us question more about what it means to be human; something Star Trek has repeatedly done with mixed success. It was also brilliant to see the Augments demonstrate their agility and strength far more than we have seen before and it would be something we would see again in Khan himself in Star Trek Into Darkness. Spiner’s performance was flawless and it was great watching him play a character who has not only an abundance of emotion but is actually manipulative and antagonistic. Perhaps Data’s evil brother Lore has more in common with Arik Soong than Dr Noonien Soong would like to admit? This was Star Trek: Enterprise at its best.
There is no escaping it; Star Trek Enterprise was heavily flawed but does it really deserve the disdain it has received? No. Not in my opinion. I am not being a blind Trekkie here as I have already highlighted some of the show’s problems but there was some gold mixed in with the bronze.