Judge Eric Profancik thinks Enterprise's fatal flaw was having a theme song that sounded too much like that Aerosmith song from Armageddon.
Our reviews of Star Trek: Enterprise, Season Two (published August 24th, 2005), Star Trek: Enterprise, Season Three (published October 19th, 2005), Star Trek: Enterprise, Season Four (published November 2nd, 2005), Star Trek: Enterprise, Season One (Blu-ray) (published March 26th, 2013), and Star Trek: Enterprise: Season Two (Blu-ray) (published September 2nd, 2013) are also available.
"Imagine it: thousands of inhabited planets at our fingertips, and we'll
be able to explore those strange new worlds and seek out new life and new
civilizations. This engine will let us go boldly where no man has gone
How do you go from 13 million viewers to fewer than 3 million viewers in the blink of an eye? How to you reduce a once-powerful franchise to a sputtering shadow of its former glory? You fail to boldly go where no man has gone before. Star Trek: Enterprise—or just Enterprise, as it was shamefully billed for its first two seasons—took the hope and anticipation of millions, squandered it with a healthy dose of "been there, done that," and ruined continuity to alienate a loyal group of fans. Billed as a show with innumerable opportunities to explore and expand the unknown history of Starfleet, Enterprise did nothing of the sort. Instead of enriching and detailing those early years of human space exploration, the series ignored its predecessors and mucked up its history. It also failed in realizing its core tenet: character-driven shows.
I am a loyal Trekkie, and I have been quite disappointed with this latest show in the franchise. But even though Enterprise frustrated me, bored me, and annoyed me, I am saddened to see it has been cancelled after only four seasons. I am among the legions who wholeheartedly agree and declare that Rick Berman and Brannon Braga (B&B) have destroyed the venerable Star Trek franchise. Two men who gleefully extolled that they have made no mistakes in writing episodes, B&B nonetheless have done so. And when one of them boastfully declared that he was proud to have never seen an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS), we all should have known that we were in for a very bumpy and sad ride. If you don't know where you've been, how can you helm where you're going? (Or is it the other way around?)
Though it had been only three years since I first watched this premier season of Enterprise, I had forgotten many of the details of the stories. As such, I did find enjoyment in watching these episodes, for some are quite strong. Sadly, many others are simply an abomination and an insult to Gene Roddenberry and his canon.
Facts of the Case
Ninety years after Zefram Cochrane tested his warp-capable starship and made first contact with the Vulcans, humanity still hasn't capitalized on its technology to explore outer space. The Vulcans have stayed on Earth and worked with humans to prepare them for the enormity of space exploration. But this has not gone over well with many people on Earth, and they feel that the Vulcans have been holding back humanity from taking its first steps into deep space.
But a starting event in Broken Bow, Oklahoma, thrusts Starfleet into the midst of space exploration. Captain Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula, Quantum Leap) takes the center chair of the first warp-five-capable ship in Starfleet, the NX-01 Enterprise. Soon Archer and his crew find themselves embroiled in more predicaments than they ever imagined. As they travel further and further away from Earth, Archer must carefully consider his actions, for they will not only make or break his mission, but they may create the foundation of all future directives for the growing Starfleet.
"Where no dog has gone before."
What happened? Where did Enterprise go wrong? How did this concept filled with "innumerable opportunities to explore and expand" the Trek universe fail and lead to its cancellation? Where did the fans go? Did they abandon the franchise or did the franchise abandon them? The unfortunate answer is that the franchise failed its fans, and Rick Berman and Brannon Braga are the only people to blame. There are simple reasons for this:
(1) Failure to Create Character-Driven Tales: According to Braga, Enterprise was going to take a different path in its storytelling. In all previous incarnations, Trek stories had a plot-driven core. There was some scenario to resolve, and the crew of the ship/space station was there to expedite the process from start to finish. What Braga wanted to do this time was have the core of Enterprise's shows be the characters. He wanted to tell more about the people onboard the ship, and he wanted the characters fleshed out. It was all about the people and their historic journey into the far reaches of space. Sounds like a great plan to me, except that this is not what happened. Every show needs time to flesh out its characters, and what's in the show's bible is a simple blueprint for them. It takes several seasons to give every character time to become more than a one-paragraph summation of who they are. In Enterprise, the ideal of character-driven shows was not realized—not at the end of the first season, and not by the end of the series in season four. Some characters did have a chance to evolve—albeit minimally—while others were completely ignored. Case in point: Who is Travis Mayweather? What do we know about him?
(2) The Same Old Stories: So if the central tenet of the show failed, then we must have reverted to the tried-and-true plot formula? Yes, we did, and in far too many ways. Enterprise was supposed to provide us with a chance to flesh out the gaps in Starfleet's history. We were meant to learn new things about how the organization formed and pursued its first tentative steps into space. We were to be exposed to the events that led to the triumphant mission of James T. Kirk and his NCC-1701 Enterprise. But that did not happen. On the whole, the stories in this series followed the same old pattern of the crew traveling through space, stumbling across a problem, getting the blame for the problem, and then solving the problem in the final minutes. And, at the heart of most of the stories, they all felt old. They had already been told in some form in one of the past four shows. Instead of learning about the creation of Starfleet and the birth of the Federation, we were left with another encounter with a bumpy-headed alien. "Thousands of inhabited worlds" and nothing left to tell.
(3) Abandonment of Franchise Continuity: But the unforgivable sin with Enterprise is definitely its blatant abuse of franchise continuity. Berman and Braga had no regard for the stories that had already been told. Instead of taking the time to fill in the gaps and ensure that things made sense, they wrote a story and let it conflict with the other series. Braga had never seen a story from Kirk's Trek, and he didn't care. But we care, because how can he create a history that must logically lead up to Kirk's time if he doesn't know what happened in Kirk's time? He can't! This is why episodes constantly contradicted themselves. Instead of having "innumerable opportunities" for new stories, we were given innumerable continuity errors. It was a horrid experience for Trekkies. The powers-that-be were tearing the show apart, and B&B's reaction was "so what?" Instead of showing concern for continuity, they lashed out at the "small but vocal" group of fans who focused on the chronology instead of the story. Sorry, Rick and Brannon, but you forget that Trekkies are intimately familiar with the show—as you should be as well. We cannot help but know that Klingons in Kirk's time didn't have bumpy heads but yours do. Just because you don't care doesn't mean we don't. Just because you say it's acceptable to rearrange history to suit your lazy writing technique doesn't mean we are mindless lemmings who are going to believe you. We have standards, and we expect you to respect the work from the multitude of writers who have crafted this magnificent universe over the past 35 years. Shame on you for rewriting the Vulcans and their pursuit of logic. Shame on you for having a Ferengi show. Shame on you for your laziness. You needed to be faithful to the continuity, and you weren't. Even now, at the bitter end, you still resist the undeniable truth. During a recent (April 25, 2005) teleconference regarding Enterprise's cancellation, Braga said the following:
"We did feel we were utilizing continuity from TOS; we were doing it in smaller doses. But we were definitely doing it beginning with the pilot with references to Captain Kirk's original log and Zephram Cochrane and many others. But it definitely was in smaller doses, and it wasn't until season four when we consciously decided to go deeper and stronger with that."
Berman then chimed in to say:
"A lot of fans have stressed the fact that Brannon and I have ignored the continuity of Star Trek and ignored the canon, and that could not be farther from the truth. We live and breathe this continuity, and we're dealing with every element to try and get this continuity going, but at the same time [we're] on a weekly basis trying to create an entertaining television series."
Let's review the hypocrisy in this statement:
• "…smaller doses…": To quote a familiar science-fiction figure, "Size matters not. Do or do not. There is no try." In other words, continuity is continuity. There is no size differentiation. Either you completely adhere to it or you don't. You chose the latter route.
• "…until season four when we…": In season four, there is no "we." B&B have played no role for most of the day-to-day writing and oversight of the show, for Manny Coto has been in charge. Only in season four have the stories gotten better (but not perfect) and has a strong effort been put forth to get the show back on a course of continuity. Of course, Coto first had to go back and create solutions for the innumerable continuity gaffes created by B&B—like using Augment DNA to explain why Klingons have bumpy foreheads now but not 100 years later for Kirk (which was an exceptionally clever solution).
• "We live and breathe this continuity…" Do you gentlemen even watch these shows? Do you pay any attention to the details? If you are so adamant that you follow continuity, then explain the irregularities of Vulcan logic. How can this race follow logic when they haven't completely embraced the teachings of Surak? You would think they have, though, as the temple at P'Jem is held in such high regard. Yet groups of Vulcans don't believe in Surak, and T'Pol (Jolene Blalock, model extraordinaire) is one of them. Still, that doesn't stop her from giving Archer a Complete Teachings of Surak book to read during his stay on Risa during season one. The behavior of the Vulcans is so discontinuous that during season four, Coto had to create a three-episode arc concerning a Vulcan civil war to iron out all the problems.
Rick Berman, Brannon Braga, you did not follow the continuity of the franchise. You did not care that you didn't adhere to the shows' history. You chased away loyal fans with your disregard for quality programming. You destroyed the series from day one, and you destroyed the franchise in that same instant.
Now that this review has become decidedly more negative than I had intended, let me explain to you why Enterprise is not the colossal failure it has been painted to be. As a Trekkie, it is quite difficult for me to take off my rose-colored glasses. I can find something redeemable in almost every episode because I simply enjoy the universe that we are visiting. As I watched this first season again, I reacquainted myself with the characters. Over these 26 hours of programming, moments of inspiration were woven into a mediocre season with a few clever ideas making their way into the stories. Standouts from this year include "Dear Doctor" and "Shuttlepod One." At times, some witty banter even reared its head—usually from the mouths of Chief Engineer Charles "Trip" Tucker III or Armory Officer Malcolm Reed. These moments are further and farther between than I would have hoped, yet they are there. Finally, having a chance to get to know Andorians, seeing the crew's trepidation over transporters, learning of their thrill at having the chance to explore space, and watching Archer create the mold for future captains stirs a Trekkie's heart.
But while I waxed vaguely over the merits of the show, I once again have to come back and say that they really did some idiotic things in some of the stories. Can someone please tell me who thought it was clever to make a male member of Enterprise pregnant? How about starting this idea of a temporal cold war and never resolving it? Or how about the big one: When was it decided that sex was more important than story? Honestly, Seven of Nine is one thing, but simply shoving blatant sex into Star Trek is unconscionable. Putting the Coors Light twins in latex and having them dance around in their naked glory? Having T'Pol and Trip slather "decon gel" all over each other in their nearly naked glory? It's titillating, but it isn't Trek.
Do I have time to go on about the horrid theme song? My lord, who thought this adult contemporary drivel was the perfect song? I'll admit that the lyrics are appropriate and mix nicely with the opening credits, but the music and singing itself are worse than elevator music. After they up-tempoed it in season three, coming back to this power ballad was shockingly dull.
But now it's time to move on and talk about the DVD set. The first thing you will notice is the new packaging. The outside box is a dull gray clamshell with the Enterprise name and logo on the front. It's very sturdy and visually appealing, though significantly larger than any previous Star Trek release. Once you open it, the discs are packaged similarly to the Deep Space Nine and Voyager sets—a plastic sleeve covers a fanfold that opens like a book. In typical Paramount fashion, you have to sit through a hundred minutes of disclaimers and warnings before the menu starts up. I think this is the best menu design thus far, nicely utilizing the Enterprise computer interface.
Enterprise is the first Trek show filmed and presented in widescreen, and these discs boast the show in anamorphic widescreen! The overall presentation is solid with accurate, rich colors, deep blacks, and excellent details. In the entire presentation, the only defect I spotted was some occasional shimmering during a beauty pass of Enterprise—but that's common in this franchise. You won't have any complaints about the video as you watch the episodes.
That will also hold true with the audio transfers. Included are a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix and a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix, and after five shows, the DD5.1 track is almost the mix I have been waiting for since The Next Generation came to DVD. As always, the dialogue is crisp and clean from the center, but this time we get much more action from our surround speakers so that we feel more immersed in the action. I still would have appreciated more power from the subwoofer, but I can never get everything I want.
When Enterprise was in production, a few rumors circulated that material was being crafted for the eventual DVD release. This gave me hope that we might finally have the bonus features we've been craving. This first-season set contains the features that we have been yelling for! We finally have an audio commentary, text commentaries, deleted scenes, and outtakes! It only took Paramount until the 25th release of a season on disc to get it right! Let's quickly look at everything that's included:
• Audio Commentary by Rick Berman and Brannon Braga on "Broken Bow": In typical fashion, B&B offer no apologies for the mistakes they made. They do attempt to explain their ideas and reasons for doing some of what they did. This almost helps relieve the pain, but not quite. It's not the best track out there, but it is still worth a listen.
• Text Commentaries: Mike and Denise Okuda have crafted text commentaries for the episodes "Broken Bow," "The Andorian Incident," and "Vox Sola." The first two weren't very interesting, but the one on "Vox Sola" had a lot of interesting tidbits. I wasn't expecting that since the episode itself is another "Enterprise blunder." How did they decide which episodes to comment on?
• Deleted Scenes: Finally! One to three deleted scenes are included with the following episodes: "Broken Bow," "Fight or Flight," "Sleeping Dogs," "Shuttlepod One," "Oasis," "Fallen Hero," "Two Days and Two Nights," and "Shockwave, Part I." They all appear to be in 1.78:1 anamorphic with a DD2.0 mix. A few scenes add a little color to the characters, but none make you wish they had made the final cut. What I found most interesting was how a cut scene in "Broken Bow" between Archer and Mayweather ended up as a final scene in "Desert Crossing" between Archer and Tucker.
• "Creating Enterprise" (11 minutes): An interesting overview of pre-production on the show. It shows the abundance of raw idealism for the new show.
• "O Captain! My Captain! A Profile of Scott Bakula" (9 minutes): A little light on the Bakula, but heavy on the praise for him.
• "Cast Impression: Season One" (12 minutes): The best featurette of the bunch; each cast member gets a few minutes to share their thoughts on the season.
• "Inside 'Shuttlepod One'" (7.5 minutes): This is a quick analysis of the show and not the set piece itself. This episode is used as proof that Enterprise is a character-driven show. But, as I say, one episode does not make a show.
• "Star Trek Time Travel: Temporal Cold Wars and Beyond" (8 minutes): The worst featurette of the bunch, it talks for three minutes about the temporal-cold-war arc of the season. It doesn't go into any details, but it then gives us five minutes of recap of other Trek time-travel stories.
• "Enterprise Secrets" (1.5 minutes): A very cool segment that is way too short. We get a behind-the-scenes peek at the sets and how two things "really" work. This feature should be radically lengthened in future sets.
• "Admiral Forrest Takes Center Stage" (5 minutes): After singing a quick song, Vaughn Armstrong, the actor who portrays Admiral Forrest, talks about his historic place in Trek history for the numerous parts he has played.
• Enterprise Outtakes (8.5 minutes): Hallelujah! Though not as much fun as the bootleg TOS tape that has made the rounds for decades, this is a cute segment of flubs and goofs. However, I know there's more because John Billingsley (Dr. Phlox) talks about a few pranks he played in another segment. Where are those?
Rounding out the special features are that old Borg Invasion Trailer and three Easter Eggs, now called the NX-01 Files. I'm happy to report this is the best assortment of bonus features on any series release. It's not quite perfect, but I think Paramount has finally listened to our complaints. And, if you're a bit overwhelmed, luckily a booklet is included in the set that details the bonus features and where you can find them on the discs.
Lastly, here are the 25 episodes included in this season:
The Rebuttal Witnesses
"You forgot gorgeous females."
I stumbled across a website that brilliantly explains the innumerable problems within Enterprise. It satirically—yet seriously—tears apart each episode and boldly exclaims where it went wrong. While I don't agree with all of the points it makes—though I was surprised at how much I did agree with—it's an excellent examination of how Berman and Braga ruined the series from the start. I thus encourage you to visit the "First TV" link provided on the right. Until I went through the episode reviews, I didn't fully understand or realize the deep flaws in the writing. It must be those rose-colored glasses.
I am the only Trekkie at my place of employment, making it impossible for me to discuss one of my rabid pastimes. What makes me even more unnerved is how "oblivious" most of them are to anything related to Star Trek. I presume everyone should have some basic idea of the shows since they've been around for nearly forty years, yet my coworkers barely know who Captain Kirk is, let alone mirror universes and transporters. How can people have successfully ignored five shows for forty years? Is this partly why Enterprise has been cancelled?
And here I am, a rabid fan who has attended some conventions. I have seen Dominic Keating, who portrays Malcolm Reed, at a con, and he is nothing like his character. In real life, Keating is energetic, exuberant, open, and darn funny. Lt. Reed, he's not. But the problem is that in the audio commentary, either Berman or Braga (I don't remember which) stated how much he believes Keating is like Reed. That simply isn't the case, at least from what he shows the fans. Is this partly why Enterprise has been cancelled, because the producers don't understand the actors?
Enterprise is a seriously flawed show. It promised so much yet has delivered so little, and it has paid the ultimate price. In this first season, some quality moments are mixed in with the mountains of frustration. Yet, despite it all, I love my Star Trek: Enterprise. I can still find moments of joy and satisfaction in any episode, and I realize that makes me in the extreme minority. Knowing all of this, how do I go about making a recommendation for this set? The only avenue I can come up with is to ignore the stories and focus on the set itself: The video and audio transfers are well done with no significant flaws. Bonus materials are abundant and include items fans have been clamoring for for years. If you are like me and can find some measure of happiness in these stories, if you can ignore the discontinuity and the errors, then you can buy this set without a guilty conscience.
Rick Berman and Brannon Braga are hereby found guilty of reckless endangerment of the Star Trek franchise. Their blatant disregard for Gene Roddenberry's vision demands they be immediately abandoned on the nearest uninhabited planet—and it need not be Minshara class.
Star Trek: Enterprise is hereby found guilty of weak storytelling. Due to mitigating circumstances, the series is released with time served.
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