Television

These Are the Voyages…Or Are They?

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Voyager was over and Paramount didn’t make us wait very long at all for the next series. Enterprise promised to be a bit different right from the start. We were stepping away from The Next Generation era, and going back in time, back before TOS, back before there was a Federation. We knew about the Klingons, more or less, and that it was a big scary universe out there with strange species, some friendly and some not, and a whole galaxy of worlds to explore. Humans just hadn’t done much of that exploring yet.

The teaser for that first episode showed us a Klingon being pursued by strange shape shifting aliens, aliens that weren’t so much changing their appearance as their actual physical structure, flattening themselves out to fit through cracks between doors and walls, sort of change. Special effects were getting better all the time, and the Suliban were pretty neat, or at least had the potential to be.

And then came the theme song, and I feel like several million eyebrows arched all at once. Stepping away from the traditional classical instrumental and adding some words back in, just not of the “Space, the final frontier” variety. We were given a soft rock power ballad. Yes, it was overlaid on the visuals of a variety of ships, all bearing the name Enterprise, including, ultimately, this newest one, the first Warp Five capable ship. It was weird and didn’t feel right. I think that for those of us who are lifelong Star Trek fans, it still doesn’t. But get past the theme song and see the characters and actors, see the potential in the show, see the Star Trek.

There was a lot of potential, some, as is usual for any show, wasted completely. Some not just realized but taken in a completely different direction and that keeps people interested and excited.

And by taking us back to somewhere before the Federation began, to a more primitive level of technology, we got to see some different things. Some of them good and some of them bad.

I can’t speak for everyone, but the phrase “temporal cold war” made me cringe every time I heard it. And I will be honest, I nearly dropped the show because of it. There were a number of other writing stupidities as well, but I’m not going to dwell on those too much. Because although it took a season or two, a lot of them eventually went away. And we got to see new things.

The Andorians in particular, always promised a good episode. Until now, they’d never been more than a little bit of blue-skinned background here and there, or a minor character in a novel. Enterprise let them be explored and developed a bit as a culture. Plus, we got to see that they weren’t exactly friendly with the Vulcans in the beginning. And the Vulcans weren’t just the aloof logic bombs that we’d gotten used to, but a species with its own political goals, internal conflicts, diverse interests, and a strange wish to manipulate everything and everyone around them to align with their view of how the universe should work.

But, it wasn’t 1995, or 1991, or 1987 anymore. Enterprise didn’t get the same chance to grow. It had to get better faster. And I think it did try. It just didn’t succeed quickly enough.

I missed chunks of the second and third seasons, coming back for the fourth. By then, the writing had gotten really good, but Enterprise had lost too much audience as far as the network was concerned, and it didn’t get renewed for a fifth season. And while that still made it longer lived than TOS, the series that started all, it was cut short.

And I wasn’t particularly keen on the series wrap up. Spoiler alert: a major character dies in the last episode. Yes, this is a tactic that can help heighten tension for the story moving forward, and TNG played that card fairly well with Tasha Yar, killing her late in the first season in a useless, stupid manner, a demonstration of power by an angry alien. No one was safe. Except, it was Star Trek, and the rest of them were. Killing Trip, well, that was different. “Oh, it’s the last episode. We need to pull some heart strings here. How can we make the characters suffer and go out on an emotional note?” Seems like kind of a cheat to me. But no one asked me at the time.

I have, at this point, seen most of the episodes of Enterprise. I don’t think there are more than a dozen left for me, and they’re probably mostly in the second season. Of course, most of the ones I have seen, I’ve only seen once. I don’t own any of Enterprise on DVD or Blu-ray. (I don’t own DS9 or Voyager, either. Something to think about, maybe.) But then, there are several streaming services with all the series at this point, and I can have them on demand.

In the meantime, if any of the principal characters happen to drop by a convention of attending, well, I’m certain I could find my way to see them speak. They are a part of Star Trek, after all, and one that tried to work better and get back to the roots of things.

Live long and prosper.

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