[ENT] Jammer's Review: Fourth Season Recap
- Warning: This lengthy recap article contains plentiful spoilers for the
entire fourth season of "Star Trek: Enterprise."
In brief: Not bad, but nor would I call it particularly good. It sounded
better in theory than it worked out in practice.
Star Trek: Enterprise - Fourth Season Recap
Capsule Reviews & Season Analysis
For episodes airing from
10/8/2004 to 5/13/2005 (USA)
Series created by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga
Executive producers: Rick Berman & Brannon Braga and Manny Coto
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
Well, here it is at long last. My final review for "Star Trek: Enterprise,"
where my handy but brief capsule reviews look back at the individual
episodes, and a season analysis article seeks to put it all together to
figure out What It All Means. This also marks the end of an era. Not only
for Trek, but for me. While I have "Battlestar Galactica" to keep me busy
with full-length reviews and TNG forthcoming to keep me busy with brief
reviews, this article marks the end of a years-long Jammer Season Recap
tradition. So, to say it one last time before it likely gets retired: Feel
free to agree, disagree, or punch your computer screen. Then wipe a tear
from your eye over the sentimentality of it all. Yeah, right.
PART 1: CAPSULE REVIEWS
"Storm Front, Part I" -- Airdate: 10/8/2004. Written by Manny Coto. Directed
by Allan Kroeker.
Manny Coto's first task as head writer for Enterprise was to clean up the
temporal mess that had been in play since it was set into motion all the way
back in "Broken Bow" and most recently turned into a time-travel
free-for-all with the final 60 seconds of third season's "Zero Hour." Well,
he did what he could, I suppose, which was to bring more nonsense to a
nonsensical plot -- specifically, an alternate 1944 timeline in which the
Nazis occupied the United States thanks to the help of mysterious
temporal-manipulating alien named Vosk and his sci-fi weapons. Archer is
holed up with the American resistance while the Enterprise crew tries to
make sense of the madness ... which may be about as pointless as us doing
the same. As nonsense goes, it's watchable nonsense.
"Storm Front, Part II" -- Airdate: 10/15/2004. Written by Manny Coto.
Directed by David Straiton.
The entire Temporal Cold War plot line is mercifully euthanized with a
magical and completely arbitrary (not to mention predictable) device, in
which a warehouse in New York City with Vosk's time-travel equipment gets
Blowed Up Real Good, which results in the "resetting" of all the time lines
to their "proper" states. No, this doesn't make any sense. But it pretends
that it does, and does a decent enough job of pretending. Silik ends up
fighting on our side of the TCW for once, and ends up dying ... although one
wonders why he isn't "reset" back to "alive" mode (like Daniels is) since he
only died in an alternate timeline. "Storm Front" isn't so bad, and it's
good in that it ends the TCW once and for all, but it's hardly good, and
contains too many boring shootouts.
"Home" -- Airdate: 10/22/2004. Written by Mike Sussman. Directed by Allan
The coda for season three, in which the Enterprise characters return to
Earth as heroes and begin to deal with the aftermath of their grueling
mission. After so many plot points, it's nice to have something that's free
of all that and feels more like character-based storytelling. The episode
aptly revisits the issue of the still-under-construction Columbia and gives
us its commander, Captain Hernandez. The story also gives us a Captain
Archer who reflects on the darkness and violence of the past year and allows
him to question Starfleet's mission, a notion that at times comes across as
overstated. Still, it's good to see characters question themselves and their
actions and struggle with these sorts of issues in trying to assign some
self-responsibility. Earth's xenophobic streak is also an interesting idea,
although the run-in at the bar involving Phlox is lazy and forced. T'Pol's
marriage on Vulcan and the interaction with her mother reveals some
interesting culture clashes.
"Borderland" -- Airdate: 10/29/2004. Written by Ken LaZebnik. Directed by
The first of the Augments arc, which turns out to be a reasonably diverting
but easily discarded prologue more than a necessary first part of a
compelling trilogy. Soong is a fairly interesting persona, no doubt because
he's played by the always reliable Brent Spiner. Less interesting are his
"children," the Augments, who are recycled characters who don't transcend
the cliches of their templates for stories like this -- vessels of arrogance
with unlimited ambition. The center of the plot involving the Orions and
their slave trade makes for reasonable fan-continuity enjoyment, but there's
not much substance here.
"Cold Station 12" -- Airdate: 11/5/2004. Written by Michael Bryant. Directed
by Mike Vejar.
It's the best of the Augments trilogy, which for me boils down to a single
scene -- where Malik puts some poor SOB in a sealed chamber and exposes him
to an unspeakable disease. Soong is complicit in this torture and yet at the
same time desperately wants to stop it, but ultimately the entire situation
runs off the rails. It's a truly effective scene that works on different
levels of behavior and motivation. It all telegraphs everything to come in
part three (i.e., Soong is unable to see what is obvious to all of us --
that he's incapable of controlling these "children"), but for this one
moment it packs a hefty dramatic punch. The rest of the episode is perfectly
acceptable plot/action fare, but this show is a good example of one scene
being worth the price of admission.
"The Augments" -- Airdate: 11/12/2004. Written by Mike Sussman. Directed by
The inevitable outcome of this trilogy comes to pass all too inevitably,
with Malik following (okay, okay; preceding) in Khan's footsteps by
exercising unlimited hubris in his plan to escape Starfleet. No superior
intellect ever thinks too small, but they sure don't think too logically.
His plan is either so brilliant it's stupid or so stupid it's brilliant.
Personally, I'm going with so stupid it's idiotic: Attack a Klingon colony,
who, says Malik, will believe Starfleet did it and launch a counterattack.
Sorry, that's just lazy writing. Malik is the perfect superior intellect who
is also obviously destined for brazen self-destruction. Persis, the Augment
with sense and compassion, ends up dying a predictable death due to her
inaction. Soong ends up learning a predictable lesson after repeatedly
ignoring the painfully obvious warning signs. In the end, we don't get much
thoughtfulness regarding genetic engineering as an idea; just a routine
three-character power struggle that fails to satisfy.
"The Forge" -- Airdate: 11/19/2004. Written by Judith & Garfield
Reeves-Stevens. Directed by Michael Grossman.
Easily Enterprise's best episode of the season. The Reeves-Stevens bring
tons of for-Trek-fans-only material to the table and make it compelling,
layered, and nuanced -- with the richness of a classic Bajoran culture
episode on DS9, and approached from the standpoint of the
novelists/archivists that the Reeves-Stevenses are. As delivery on the
promise of the season-four Manny Coto Mission Statement (more Trek-themed
continuity for fans), this is probably the pinnacle in terms of a mythology
story that gets the right amount of attention as well as being one that
*deserves* that level of attention. The episode is impressive in terms of
the sheer volume of material it gives us, but also because it's able to see
this material through its characters. Why not four stars, you ask? Because
even though it's very good, it doesn't jump off the screen and become a
thrilling experience. It often gets mired in its heavy exposition. But I'll
gladly take exposition when delivered with this much care.
"Awakening" -- Airdate: 11/26/2004. Written by Andre Bormanis. Directed by
It's the weakest link in the Vulcan trilogy, but still pretty good. The plot
is a bit of a problem at times because of obvious logical gaffes, which I
suppose is ironic when considering the logical deliberation of Vulcan
society. Why would those in the Vulcan High Command engineer an elaborate
frame-up of the Syrrannites essentially just to squelch a passivist lobby
movement? (Seems to me the bombing of the embassy only draws *more* unwanted
attention to their Andorian war plans.) Still, the episode is rich with its
societal details and reveals a Vulcan society whose values have strayed from
its traditional mores -- something which we'd seen many hints of even before
"Kir'Shara" -- Airdate: 12/3/2004. Written by Mike Sussman. Directed by
The Vulcan arc is the best and most consistent of the multi-part arcs from
season four, in part because it delivers a closing chapter that holds up to
a level of scrutiny that many of the other arcs' final installments could
not. It's also effective because it remembers that the Enterprise is a part
of a much larger universe rather than the all-encompassing center of it. The
myriad of characters and governments in play allows for unique interplay
opportunities, such as a memorable interrogation sequence in which Soval
ends up in the hands of Shran and a very specific torture device. It's an
interrogation scene where we're really paying attention to the actors. The
complicated plot is revolved satisfactorily but, alas, far too hastily. The
way the episode brings the Romulans into the storyline at the last minute is
"Daedalus" -- Airdate: 1/14/2005. Written by Ken LaZebnik & Michael Bryant.
Directed by David Straiton.
A sci-fi anomaly causes a man's close family member to become trapped in
space and time for many years, leaving him obsessed with that day of painful
loss and a determination to perform an impossible sci-fi rescue from a fate
more complicated than death. That's right -- it's like "The Visitor" ...
only a whole lot lamer. Where "The Visitor" was vibrant with life and
poignant reflection, "Daedalus" can only come across as obvious,
predictable, and laborious. By inexplicably intentional design, nothing in
the story is ever in doubt, and that ultimately becomes a huge liability,
because the guest characters are not interesting or deep enough for us to
invest in their plights. There's a reason why the Sisko/Jake bond is so
fundamentally crucial in "The Visitor," and that sheds more light onto
what's wrong with "Daedalus" than any review I could write.
"Observer Effect" -- Airdate: 1/21/2005. Written by Judith & Garfield
Reeves-Stevens. Directed by Mike Vejar.
This isn't a great hour of Trek, but it's a respectable one, and one that
ties into the original series with a certain amount of understated
cleverness. The story has a great many Trek standbys in its employ, and
while the end result isn't original, the parts are assembled in such a way
that the story works as an example of purely traditional humanistic Trek.
What's more, the episode occasionally captures the feel of unpredictability
even though all things seem inevitable in retrospect. The episode's
willingness to put the cards on the table and show us events from the
aliens' perspective allows the story to break free from what could've been
obvious plot turns. The notion of Archer arguing against non-interference
has a calculated irony that I enjoyed; this is a prequel to TOS's "Errand of
Mercy," where Kirk makes the opposite argument.
"Babel One" -- Airdate: 1/28/2005. Written by Mike Sussman & Andre Bormanis.
Directed by David Straiton.
In a fairly sensible story, Archer and the Enterprise crew get a unique
chance to forge new relationships by brokering a peace agreement between the
Andorians and the Tellarites. They must bring a very amped-up Shran and a
Tellarite negotiator together and put them in a conference room without a
fight breaking out. No easy task, especially with a disguised Romulan
marauder running around the area stirring up trouble, pretending to be
Andorians and/or Tellarites and opening firing on everyone. Solving the
mystery of the disguised marauder is the other aspect of the plot. The way
the Romulans aim to sabotage the situation with their subversive tactics
carries a great deal of credibility, and the twist revealed in the last shot
(that the ship is being piloted by remote from Romulus) is a nice, sneaky
"United" -- Airdate: 2/4/2005. Teleplay by Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens.
Story by Manny Coto. Directed by David Livingston.
Archer must bring together the Andorians, Tellarites, Vulcans, and
Rigellians in a coordinated alliance-like effort to locate and destroy the
mysterious remote marauder causing havoc in the region. Before he can do
this, he must deal with Shran's right to a fight to the death for the
Tellarites having killed his girlfriend -- very TOS like. Even more TOS is
when Archer agrees to fight Shran as a tactic to ensure the alliance
survives even if he doesn't. The lamest aspect of this story is its utter
lack of an imaginative way for this fight to end with no one getting killed.
The fight is fun, and no one dies -- but the loophole is a total cheat. The
teamwork pays off for Archer in a successful multi-species mission that
hints at the future of the Federation. This particular trilogy defies
conventional structure by having the resolution of the central story in the
second of three parts.
"The Aenar" -- Airdate: 2/11/2005. Teleplay by Andre Bormanis. Story by
Manny Coto. Directed by Mike Vejar.
Unfortunately, by defying conventional structure, this trilogy ends up with
a third installment that's mostly a disposable epilogue (as opposed to the
disposable prologue that was "Borderland"). The result is another botched
trilogy ending (a la "The Augments"), this one centering on the Andorians'
elusive sister species, the Aenar, who seem more like a one-episode
invention than a plausible meta-society. The trip to Andoria feels like a
waste; all we see are barren subterranean ice tunnels. Meanwhile, the
Romulans' plan borders on absurd; they require an Aenar's telepathic skills
to pilot the remote-controlled ship, and yet have only abducted one Aenar
prisoner. Talk about shortsighted. The Enterprise's plan to hack into the
remote ship is too much meaningless tech, not enough involving drama.
"Affliction" -- Airdate: 2/18/2005. Teleplay by Mike Sussman. Story by Manny
Coto. Directed by Michael Grossman.
A solid and entertaining hour that benefits from its ensemble approach and
ability to do a little bit of everything. We've got the Enterprise going
back to Earth. We've got Trip reassigned to the Columbia for personal
reasons. We've got Reed being contacted by his old Section 31 contacts and
assigned to a mysterious mission that puts him in a tough spot. We've got a
crime scene investigation. We've got Klingons forcing Phlox to help them
find a cure for their genetic tampering (cleverly tied in with the Augments
arc). We've got Captain Hernandez showing a quiet, cerebral style to
approaching personalities. Basically, we've got a really nice little setup
episode that balances plot and character better than I would've expected.
"Divergence" -- Airdate: 2/25/2005. Written by Judith & Garfield
Reeves-Stevens. Directed by David Barrett.
But we've also got yet one more botched arc wrap-up, this time coming on a
two-parter rather than a three-parter. It begins with an arbitrary
tech-action opening stunt sequence that sci-fi geeks might find innovative
but will not do much for drama enthusiasts who want to see useful character
interaction; it's a service unto only itself. Captain Hernandez, one of this
season's most potentially interesting new supporting characters, is all but
wasted in a role that assigns her as an interchangeable placeholder, rather
than exploring her specific personality or command style. The Section 31
stuff is okay, but the way the Klingons thwart it doesn't bode well for an
intelligence agency that's supposedly going to be around for the next
200-plus years. The plot all converges upon a Klingon colony that the
Klingons are going to wipe out if Phlox can't create a cure to the outbreak.
The last act runs off the rails with pointless battle scenes, some trickery
that I for one don't think the Klingons would actually stop and listen to,
and a hopelessly silly scenario where Archer is injected with a disease and
convulses in a chair. Too much mechanical, fast-paced plotting, and not
enough character or depth.
"Bound" -- Airdate: 4/15/2005. Written by Manny Coto. Directed by Allan
Guilty pleasure? Please. Manny Coto's hopelessly misfired "homage" to the
sexist Trek cliches of yesteryear is a lame, boring, painfully tedious hour
about green girls gone wild, etc., and the hopeless men who cannot resist
their charms, etc. The plot is idiotic, as are all the characters. Anyone
hoping Star Trek had grown up in the past four decades will be woefully
disappointed. It's really hard to enjoy an hour of TV when you're groaning
at the juvenile stupidity of it all.
"In a Mirror, Darkly, Part I" -- Airdate: 4/22/2005. Written by Mike
Sussman. Directed by James L. Conway.
On the other hand, if you're going to do a Trek-for-fans homage, *this* is
the way to do it. With a sense of fun and exaggerated comic-book mania, we
take a trip over to the mirror universe to watch a bunch of savages at each
other's throats as they attempt to steal a starship from the TOS era (the
Defiant, from "The Tholian Web"). How much overacting and comic-book
posturing can you handle? That's the question. The actors -- in particular
Scott Bakula -- deserve praise for their willingness to go so fearlessly
over the top. Most of the characters have no redeeming value, but I guess
that's the point. The show contains the season's hands-down coolest scene
when the bridge of the Defiant comes to life, and it's like we've stepped
through a portal into 1966.
"In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II" -- Airdate: 4/29/2005. Teleplay by Mike
Sussman. Story by Manny Coto. Directed by Marvin V. Rush.
How much overacting and comic-book posturing can you handle? For me the
answer was that this episode provided maybe a little bit more than enough.
The adventure involving the Gorn is a nice nod to the original series, but a
rather pointless and drawn-out sequence that forgets that the charm of the
Gorn is that he was a guy in a lame rubber suit. The story plots Archer's
attempts to play out his delusions of grandeur by killing everyone and
taking over the Terran Empire, and Scott Bakula's overacting is even more
out of control here than in part one. This is all very silly, very extremely
exaggerated, sometimes fun, but ultimately a little tiring. I liked that the
episode's ruthlessness went so far as to kill all the sympathetic
characters, but by the end I couldn't shake the feeling that this was all
style, no substance, and something of a missed opportunity when you stop and
think that the regular characters are more deserving to be walking around on
the TOS sets as opposed to the mirrored ones.
"Demons" -- Airdate: 5/6/2005. Written by Manny Coto. Directed by LeVar
After several episodes of inconsequential fluff, "Demons" is the series'
final return to Trekkian substance and message delivery, and on those terms
it's successful up to a point. Its biggest strength is that it looks inward
at humanity's own ideological struggles as Earth becomes a larger part of an
interstellar community. Its biggest drawback is that it doesn't ever come
completely alive to feel like it's actually happening. The episode lacks
juice, like it's sleepwalking through its script -- even though the script
is pretty good. Paxton is an isolationist ideologue, albeit not a
particularly interesting one. The subplot involving Travis and his old
girlfriend is too stolid to be interesting beyond its obvious plot
manipulations. But the episode delivers on its bottom line with its
allegorical themes and a statement that Earth must solve its own conflicts
before becoming allies with others.
"Terra Prime" -- Airdate: 5/13/2005. Teleplay by Judith & Garfield
Reeves-Stevens & Manny Coto. Story by Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens &
Andre Bormanis. Directed by Marvin V. Rush.
Everything I said about "Demons" holds true for "Terra Prime" -- it's an
hour of good allegorical intentions and reasonable thoughtfulness about the
human condition (always a Trekkian TV mission), but it lacks the ability to
break free of its plot machinations and become something special. In
particular, the action at the end is clunky as hell, and I still don't
understand why Terra Prime felt inspired to create a human/Vulcan baby if
they hate the idea of such unions so much (the symbol doesn't prove their
point, so what good is it to them?). But this is a storyline sold on an idea
as opposed to its plot turns, and it works because of its idea and in spite
of its plot turns. Bottom line: When Archer makes a speech at the end that
looks toward the future of a possible Federation, I felt like I was watching
a relevant piece of Trek history.
"These Are the Voyages..." -- Airdate: 5/13/2005. Written by Rick Berman &
Brannon Braga. Directed by Allan Kroeker.
If the online fans are any indicator, this is the most reviled series finale
in the history of Trek (no, "Turnabout Intruder" does not count as a series
finale). Yes, they have a point -- even if I don't think it's quite as bad
as many do. This is an aimless and unsatisfying hour that doesn't begin to
deal with the Enterprise crew and instead spends too much time in the TNG
universe, inexplicably dealing with the NX-01 in flashbacks. Key "wrap-ups"
are painfully bungled; Trip dies in the silliest and most contrived of ways,
and Archer's big speech at the end is interrupted in such an obvious way you
get the feeling the writers simply didn't know what they wanted him to say.
Perhaps the most appalling notion is the fact that the Enterprise crew, in
six whole years, had not seemed to live any semblance of life in that time.
I guess based on that notion we should be thankful the series was canceled
so we didn't sit through six years of *nothing happening*.
PART 2: SEASON ANALYSIS
There's a temptation -- and at a certain level, perhaps a justified one --
to blame Rick Berman and Brannon Braga for the shortcomings, and thus the
downfall, of Enterprise as a series. After all, they were the guys at the
top, so if Enterprise got canceled, they're the ones to blame, right?
They're the ones who made the mistakes and didn't allow the series to change
into something more successful, right?
Maybe. But I don't know. It seems to me that Enterprise, and Star Trek in
general, has become a victim of its own age as much as anything else. For 18
nonstop years, we've had one season of second-generation Trek after another.
With Enterprise being a prequel series, it also seems to me that there was
only so much they could do to shake up the franchise while at the same time
staying true to the series' roots and ideals. Perhaps -- and I'm not saying
this is definitely the case, but perhaps -- this franchise has limits built
into its ideology and history and its long, storied continuity. Trek is
Trek, and perhaps that's a double-edged sword. There's another sci-fi series
out there that I've been enjoying a lot lately. You might've heard of it;
it's called "Battlestar Galactica" -- and unlike Star Trek, it feels like it
actually belongs in the 21st century. Star Trek seems, still, like it
belongs in the 20th century. I don't mean that as an insult, but an
Has Star Trek outlived -- at least for the time being -- its usefulness?
It's possible. The 2000s are more cynical and less sentimental than, say,
the 1980s. Trek may be outmoded in an era of television that would rather
deal with grittier characters and drama. Maybe I'm just rambling and full of
crap. After all, there seems to be a place for all sorts of programs,
cataloging the entire spectrum of depth and shallowness, cynicism and
sweetness. Maybe it's just about what I like personally. And what you like
personally. And the fact that UPN is tired of Star Trek.
Whatever. Even if the end of Enterprise were to actually be the end of Star
Trek on television forever (which, by the way, I doubt), that wouldn't be a
tragedy. I've said it before: There's no need for Star Trek to keep on going
with new shows and films forever. It's already immortal. It's part of
pop-culture eternity, and nothing can undo that, short of the downfall of
our civilization as we know it.
OH, WE WERE TALKING ABOUT SEASON FOUR
So then. Season four. Yea or nay? Well, let's start with the obvious, which
is the fact that season four is regarded by pretty much everyone (who
follows such things) as the Year of Manny Coto: the man -- and
self-described Trek geek -- who took over the duties as head writer at the
beginning of the season. There are those out there who see Manny Coto as the
savior of Enterprise and think that season four was easily the series' best,
and perhaps even the best thing since sliced bread. Me -- I'm not so moved.
I don't think Coto is the Enterprise savior. I think he had a very good
theoretical idea of what the series as a prequel should be doing, but in
terms of the actual shows that ended up on the screen -- well, it wasn't
bad, but it wasn't great either. It was adequate ... and thus disappointing
given the heightened expectations.
To me, the big improvement in Enterprise came when season three turned
things around from the dismal second season to deliver a fairly compelling
story arc that spanned the whole year. Season three -- particularly the last
third of the season -- was solid entertainment, despite some obvious
missteps. The question I find myself asking now is: Was season four better
than season three?
My answer to that question is: No. I find season four to be overrated in
many camps, and would rank season three as more entertaining, more daring,
and with darker and more involving stories. To illustrate my point, none of
the trilogy arcs in season four were nearly as involving as "Azati Prime,"
"Damage," and "The Forgotten" from season three. Certainly, yes, season four
was a step in the right direction for Trek fans, and certainly it's better
than the first two seasons. But it does not outdo season three in terms of
actual drama, character development, or excitement -- and in the end, that's
what I think we're all here for.
Structurally, the choice to make the season into a series of "mini-arcs" was
both a strength and a weakness. It was a strength in that Trek hadn't
consciously taken a stab at a series of relatively self-contained
trilogy-sized storylines before in quite this manner, and the format was
initially a refreshing proposition. Season three, and previous years of Deep
Space Nine, had done longer arcs spanning entire seasons, but many of the
individual stories were still often self-contained (which I think is
ultimately a better approach because it permits the possibility of doing
episodic and serialized elements at the same time). By doing a number of
trilogies and two-parters, this season opened itself up to tell more
involved, complex stories -- or at least in theory.
The weakness to an approach like this is that you'd damn well better deliver
on the episodes that count. (With all the arcs along with standalones, we
essentially had only 12 different storylines this season.) To put it simply:
If you're doing three-parters, it's pretty important to have effective third
acts, or else you run the risk of sabotaging the entire trilogy. Nothing
ruins a good story like a lousy ending. Unfortunately, that's exactly what
happened in several -- too many -- cases.
Look at the Augments trilogy, which was virtually shut down by a weak last
chapter that employed obvious character archetypes instead of specifically
interesting behavior. Or look at the Romulan/Andorian trilogy, which had an
inexplicably mechanical third act that accomplished nothing dramatically. Or
the Klingon two-parter that ended with tedious action when it had been set
up with reasonable characterization and multiple intriguing story threads.
It's too bad, really, because all of the trilogies/two-parters had good
things about them and showed promise. "Babel One" and "United" revealed the
sorts of alliance issues that would've arisen had a fifth season been
possible. "Cold Station 12" was a good show with an uncommon scene featuring
complex character dynamics. Even the "Storm Front" two-parter was a
watchable show, albeit a hopelessly ludicrous one that defies logical
The best of the season came with the Vulcan arc, which had its flaws but
mostly worked from start to finish. As one who always likes to trot out the
DS9 comparisons, this trilogy worked because, like DS9, (1) it studied its
cultures seriously and (2) it allowed the Star Trek universe to breathe,
seeming bigger than Earth and the Enterprise, where important characters
could act from motives that went beyond a Level One Plot (i.e., what's in
the best interest of the ship). Here was a storyline where ways of life and
ideologies were at stake. Similarly, the Terra Prime storyline was solid,
true-to-the-ideal Star Trek, examining human culture and behavior right
alongside its jeopardy plot line of a super-weapon aimed from Mars, pointing
at San Francisco.
The show was at its best when demonstrating that, yes, this is in fact a
Star Trek prequel about the lead-up to the founding of the Federation and
the issues that arise. I suppose a similar parallel can be drawn about the
show at its worst, with the lamentably hokey "Bound," which tried to channel
the charm of TOS hokum but succeeded only in channeling the stupidity. Or
with "Daedalus," which I suppose tried to deal with the history of the
transporter and ended up channeling DS9's "The Visitor," except badly.
Then there was "In a Mirror, Darkly." Honestly, I feel like I should commend
the creators for the sheer willingness to make these two episodes, because
it was a valiant try and had some truly good moments (the Defiant bridge
lighting up is one of the high points of the entire series, as far as I'm
concerned). It should've been better, and it was far too enamored with its
own madcap excess to be successful. Ultimately, the inmates took over the
asylum. But it was an inspired idea nevertheless, and I appreciate the
So that brings us to the perennial theme for Enterprise...
THE ACHILLES HEEL: THE CHARACTERS
Who the hell are these people, really? Okay, maybe that's a *little* bit
harsh, but let's face it: Enterprise this year was not exactly strong on the
character development front. My litmus test here will again be whether
season four was better than season three. Answer: No. Season three, for
starters, had Degra -- a major supporting character who was given a bona
fide arc based on the character's willingness to listen and understand. Even
if the arc killed him in the end, it was well worth our time as viewers.
Season three also had issues of Archer's ethics beings stripped away, and
T'Pol descending into drug addiction. These are some dark and interesting
ideas (even if they didn't always pan out).
Season four felt more like business as usual, in the Trek tradition of
characters doing their jobs. For Captain Archer, this can still be
plentifully worthwhile, because at least in episodes like "Home" we can see
him struggling with some of the tough decisions he made throughout the third
season. The downside was the fact that after "Home" we didn't see much else
about this. Also in "Home" we were introduced to Captain Hernandez, whose
personality and style (and Ada Maris' performance) seemed to bode well for
the possibility of a developed character. Unfortunately, we simply didn't
see enough of Hernandez afterward; as I've already mentioned, her final
appearance in "Divergence" was a major missed opportunity.
T'Pol got married for the sole purpose, it seems, to later get divorced.
Some of the material with her mother worked fairly well, but the Trip/T'Pol
relationship storyline -- carried forward from season three -- sort of
played out as background noise. It never seemed like a legitimate storyline,
because the writers just sort of danced around it aimlessly and
halfheartedly all season, only to give us a non-resolution in the end. The
most intriguing aspect of all this was Trip briefly being transferred to the
Columbia (showing how a screwed-up relationship can interfere with work),
but the writers only halfheartedly dealt with that as well -- no doubt for
the simple logistical reasons that Trip is still in the cast and the show is
not "Star Trek: Columbia."
Meanwhile, the supporting characters are virtual non-factors. Hoshi? Well,
apparently she knows martial arts. Stunning. Travis? Apparently he had a
girlfriend once upon a time. That's not just television, that's
compellevision. Phlox? Well, he's a doctor -- and he can make a basket from
half-court. Whoa. The idea of making Reed a former Section 31 agent was
intriguing and generated some much-needed conflict, and is the sort of thing
the writers should've been doing more of. Overall, there just wasn't enough
screen time to make these people three-dimensional or explore them in a
meaningful way, and that's sort of a shame.
Perhaps one problem this season is that the show was so mired in expansive
plots and cross-series continuity games that the characters and their
personalities tended to get lost, even, to some degree, in standouts like
"The Forge." A show like that, with all its politicking and plotting,
probably just doesn't have a lot of time to understand its supporting
players. But even granting that as an excuse, when you compare Enterprise
characters to the much better, strongly defined characters in a show like
"Battlestar Galactica," where people are allowed to -- gasp -- disagree and
dislike each other, and operate from opposing motives, you begin to see why
Trek feels a little bit stagnant. On BSG, even characters with limited
screen time feel like people, because the universe feels more organic. With
Enterprise, the characters are somewhat boxed in by the fact that they are
players in a master plot instead of individuals who can make their own
decisions. I'm thinking that this is where trying to support the colossal
weight and history of Star Trek becomes something of a liability after 18
And it really, *really* doesn't help to have a final episode that takes
place "six years later" only to inform us, that, gee, not a damned thing of
significant interest has happened in six years to *any* of these people. I
mean, I just can't stress how much that kills any hope of the characters
coming across as human beings instead of plot vehicles. Once again, nothing
hurts a reasonable story like a bad ending.
A fifth season of Enterprise, which likely would've involved the actual
creation of the Federation, could've been the best season yet. Certainly it
would've had that potential. But that was also the hope for season four, and
I for one don't think the show got there. Who knows what would or would not
have been possible in a hypothetical season five. It was simply not to be.
As I sign off, I'm not sad to see Star Trek go. It's had a long and fruitful
life. For me personally, it's been a long and interesting ride, with a
decade of review writing (and nearly a decade before that of just being a
viewer). You already know that I've jumped on the "Battlestar" bandwagon,
which will likely keep me busy with reviews (yes, that and also TNG, coming
really soon) for the foreseeable future.
Thanks for reading. I hope to see you in the parallel Jammer Review
universes. If not, then take care. It's been fun.
Copyright 2005, Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved.
Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.
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Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...