Star Trek Enterprise – What it should have been (Part 1)

Hey there! Editor and guest post writer A9 here, known from the Digimon posts ( 1 2 3 4 ) and a long ramble about Mass Effect. I promised to write Aaltomies something while he was moving, but I couldn’t quite deliver on time. Plus it got split up into parts because I’m not a very clever dude. Now, I sure hope you like Star Trek, otherwise these posts might be a little out there. Regardless, enjoy.

Star Trek: Enterprise is a bit of a corny spin-off show, with too much emphasis on sex and action. Now, that’s not a great introduction to a science fiction series, but hear me out. Or a few times, if you like what you’re reading. This is the first post in a three or four-part series about the last season of Enterprise, which did many things right, but too late. It’s a look back on the last season that could. This post will mainly focus on the departure from the third season and a (re)introduction to the series. Future posts will go more into the production (troubles), characters and ‘what-ifs’ would the series continue.

Prequel

Enterprise was the first prequel series for Star Trek, with its setting being 100 years before The Original Series with Kirk, Spock and Bones. It was meant to be a series full of ‘firsts’; how is humanity doing in the years before the mighty United Federation of Planets?

This isn’t an insane idea. Humanity is doing amazing for itself, especially during TNG, but how did they get there? How was war ended? Poverty? Hunger? How did the Federation form? All very interesting questions.

But one of the most prominent aspects of the show was the more low-tech look and feel of Earth ships. As it’s supposed to be more primitive than The Original Series that creates quite a challenge. The response to this was to design a starship that almost looks like a submarine: tight corridors, very spartan looks, and tons and tons of buttons. But more important than anything else: an inexperienced and unfamiliar crew. Humanity has basically only met the Vulcans at this point and they’re being absolute cunts, constantly holding back any progress or slowing it down. But after a crisis opportunity presented itself, humanity went out there and didn’t return to ask for the go-ahead.

Lessons from Season 3

Season 3 ended like an 80s action movie: after Archer jumped away from the exploding Xindi superweapon, he wakes up in the Second World War in the Nazi-controlled USA! He saved the world, but not he’s being held hostage by an SS-trooper. What a twist!

Now, I’ll be honest, I’m an absolute sucker for alternative history stories and through that lens, I think this episode is enjoyable, but unfitting for modern Star Trek. It’s a cheap way to instill drama and to raise the stakes as quickly as possible. When in doubt, bring in the Nazi’s!

So Archer gets captured by Nazi soldiers and sees a mysterious grey-skinned, red-eyed alien before he luckily gets rescued by the American resistance forces. He gets nursed back to health whilst being mistaken for a sailor from the Enterprise of that time period, the aircraft carrier Enterprise. After claiming he’s on a top-secret mission he gets involved with the resistance to figure out why the Nazi’s are occupying a part of the USA and why there are aliens involved.

Meanwhile, the Enterprise gets yoinked into WW2 era earth as well and get visited by a mutated, dying Daniels, the Temporal Agent from the future warning them and slipping into a coma. In the meantime, Archer manages to find one of the aliens to find out they’re trapped here and are working on a portal to make it back home, no matter what happens to the Earth. Besides from that he also steals an alien communicator, so he can finally get reunited with his crew. Daniels also finally speaks about why everyone is here, the Temporal Cold War isn’t cold anymore. How that works, nobody knows but it’s up to the Enterprise crew to stop them.

Now if you love, hate or tolerate this episode, it ends the Temporal Cold War arc that has plagued Enterprise since it’s first episode. You might even ask: Hey, guest spot writer, what even is the Temporal Cold War? And to that, I barely have an answer. It’s a conflict, in the future, where all the parties possess some form of time travel. If your faction has some time travel tech, be it projecting yourself in the past to relay information or just having time machines, you’re in! Nobody likes the changes the other factions are making in the past, so everyone is fucking everyone else over

For me personally, the whole concept never worked but one specific element did: the Suliban. The idea of a species that relies on genetic enhancements (or a portion of the species, in this case, the Cabal) is an interesting one that can be shrouded in mystery. Sadly the Suliban were very underutilised and only appeared in 9 episodes, which is a very sad count for the initial primary villains.

At the end of the episode, Archer meets Daniel for the last time while they’re standing in the time stream and ‘history is correcting itself’ because the Enterprise destroyed the evil Nazi aliens. At this point, I’m just glad it’s over with no matter how rushed this was ended. Sure, we may never know who Future Guy is, but I can live with it. Finally, Enterprise is back home. That would make for a great episode name..

The episode Home is both a reflection of the new showrunners taking a look at the series up till now, along with the crew of the Enterprise as they face repercussions from their journeys in unexplored space. Captain Archer is almost disillusioned with the idea of peaceful space exploration, Tucker visits Vulcan with T’Pol and the crew is shown the rise of xenophobia on Earth. Sure, they’re heroes – but if they hadn’t gone out there, none of this would’ve happened, or so the argument goes.

For Archer, this episode is mainly about his naivete when first starting out. He has to explain all of his actions while being in the Delphic Expanse and is being grilled on each and every explanation. After a (forced) recess is announced, he’s gone out hiking with the captain of the second NX-class vessel Columbia, captain Hernandez, and they have a talk about Archers’ hero status and the many things that happened on Earth while he was away. He appears less enthusiastic about space exploration and wanting to be way more prepared than when they first started out. Combine this with some slight PTSD-like dreams and it seems like Archer is really done with it all – he doesn’t feel like an explorer anymore.

So one more time, why did you blow up that one ship of ours at the beginning of season 3? Also, we’re always gonna be a cunt about it no matter the answer.

On Earth, lieutenant Reed and helmsman Mayweather are enjoying their hero status by sitting in a bar with the doctor, Phlox, whilst being showered in attention. This is all well and good until one chap starts implying that all aliens should be distrusted because of the attack of one alien civilisation. Xenophobia is on the rise. Finally, T’Pol gets married on Vulcan and makes Trip watch. How cruel, but this will be discussed more in a future post.

It was crucial to re-center the show after a season-long arc in a different part of space, completely cut off from the rest of humanity. It had to re-establish its own universe and the problems that inhabit it. It’s also the setup for the rest of the season since things will be closer to home this season to really see what humanity is doing to build the Coalition of Planets, the precursor to the United Federation of Planets. In other words, what the show should’ve been about from the get-go: the journey of humankind, not the one captain going out there and becoming an action movie star. Instead, we got humanity stumbling through every broken door to let everyone know they’ve arrived at last.

Now, this was quite a lengthy setup, now I can finally start telling you about the things season 4 did right. In the next post, that is. Sorry! I really should’ve thought about the length of this damn thing.

 

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