This review of Enterprise (which only became Star Trek: Enterprise in season 3) is based on the first six episodes of the first season. This is my second viewing of these. I made it this far before, and one more episode, if I’m remembering correctly, before abandoning the series. I’m soldiering through this time.
The only thing that I despise about the show so far is the main title theme, a reworking of the song “Faith of the Heart” into this syrupy mess called “Where My Heart Will Take Me.” The song was written by Diane Warren and sung by Russell Wilson, and the original was covered by none other than Rod “the Mod” Stewart back in the day. I guess there’s nothing really wrong with the song, except that I don’t like it, and I especially don’t like it at the beginning of a Star Trek show. TNG, Voyager and DS9 all had these orchestral themes that seemed to make the shows seem somehow even grander than they actually were. This theme song, with lyrics, makes Enterprise somehow seem smaller. Maybe that was the intention, since this is a prequel show and everything seems more cramped and claustrophobic. But, that’s just speculation on my part. I hate the theme; I’m not alone in that opinion.
At first, I suspected this theme was chosen because Joss Whedon did something similar (and more successfully) with Firefly. But, a quick internet check revealed that Enterprise debuted before Whedon’s sci-fi masterwork, and was on long after its cancellation, which is a sore subject. Maybe Whedon copied Enterprise. Whatever the case, “The Ballad of Serenity” is a better song.
I like everything else about the series. It’s not great yet, and maybe it never will be, but it’s good. I like the premise, which is set 100 years before Kirk and Spock, with the Enterprise NX-01, the first starship of the name in Starfleet. An aside: I have a mnemonic device that allows me to recall the alphanumeric designation: NIX-One, or Nixon. Heh-heh.
Fortunately, I’m able to fast-forward through the theme song. The special effects are the best I’ve seen yet on any Trek series, even though the show creators have done an excellent job of making the technology seem older and clunkier. I’m watching the series on Netflix, and even though the show wasn’t broadcast in 1080i until midway through season 3, even the earlier shows have an aspect ratio that fills more of my computer monitor. It’s a good-looking show with high production values.
These first six episodes are, once again, good but not particularly world-changing. It seems that they serve mainly to introduce the viewer into this new, earlier timeline, and to introduce the main characters. This Enterprise has a crew comprised of 84 members, which include 82 humans, 1 Vulcan and 1 Denobulan. This number does not count the captain’s dog. It would appear that canines are still an oppressed species in the 22nd Century.
I’m not going to detail the plots of these episodes except to point out a couple of facts. The two-part pilot episode introduces some sort of time-spanning conflict that will probably have long-reaching effects. It also shows us a Klingon who has the forehead ridges we’re familiar with from all the series after TOS, but were conspicuously absent in TOS. Since this show predates Kirk and the gang, this seems anachronistic and briefly jolted me out of my willing suspension of disbelief. I’m not the first person to point this out, but I have come to terms with it. I’m willing to completely retcon Klingon forehead ridges in my head canon, because that’s the way I like my Klingons. Now that they’ve appeared in Enterprise, history has been rewritten. When I begin watching TOS episodes again, I’ll have to ignore the smooth foreheads.
There is also an episode where a male crewmember is impregnated by an alien female. And another about a lost colony ala Roanoake colony. Pretty standard science-fiction fare.
For me, as usual, it boils down to characters and whether or not I like or believe them. In this complement of 84, only 7 characters seem to matter so far.
Three of them are average white guys. Captain Jonathan Archer is easy to distinguish because he’s that guy from Quantum Leap. He’s sort of likeable, but in these early episodes he seems to be an unrepentant racist. Or speciesist, I guess. He doesn’t seem to be a fan of non-humans in general, except for beagles, and of Vulcans in particular. I assume that this will change over time and will represent his character growth. But, right now, it’s a little harsh. The other two white guys are named Trip and Reed. Okay, I admit I had trouble telling them apart at first, but I get the differences now. Trip—or Commander Charles Tucker III—is just a good ole boy from Florida who is now the chief engineer of Enterprise NX-01 and who happens to be an old friend of Captain Archer. We find out that Archer saved his life on a routine training mission four years before they were both on the Enterprise. Trip is also the guy who gets accidentally date-raped and impregnated by the female alien. Lt. Malcolm Reed is English, and is the armory officer. As a lieutenant, according to the excellent Memory Alpha website, his rank lies between ensign and commander. That makes Trip his superior officer, but that doesn’t really come across in the early episodes.
T’Pol (not to be confused with T-Pain) is the first Vulcan to be assigned to a human space vessel for an extended time. She is the proto-Spock. Her official rank in these early episodes is sub-commander, which I assume is between lieutenant and commander, but who knows or cares? She is the conscience/chaperone of the starship, a space-faring Jiminy Cricket who never cracks a smile and seems to always disapprove of her shipmates like a stern schoolmarm. But, she is hot in that form-fitting catsuit, and the series seems to try to get her into skimpier outfits than that as much as possible. To propel the story, of course.
Ensign Travis Mayweather is our black crewman. He is the helmsman, and what is known, in-series, as a “space boomer” or just plain “boomer,” which means someone who was born and raised on starships. I suspect he was named after Floyd Mayweather.
Hoshi Sato is our female Japanese linguist who is our communication officer on the ship. She seems destined to perfect the universal translator which is later used on all of the various series. But, in these early episodes, she seems to be mostly set dressing and proof of diversity concept.
Doctor Phlox is our chief medical officer and the other alien in the main cast. He is a Denobulan. He has a gentle bedside manner and weird alien folk medicine ways. His approach to doctoring reminds me of Neelix’s approach to cooking in Voyager. He seems to know his way around an examination room, though.
I like all of these characters and look forward to learning more about all of them as the series progresses. For what it’s worth, these first six episodes are stronger and easier to watch than the early shows of TNG, Voyager or DS9. Since I’m watching those concurrently, I’m in a unique position to point that out.
I like it so far, though. Except for that song, of course.