I am currently wrapping up the third seasons of four of the Star Trek series: TNG, DS9, Voyager, and Enterprise. In fact, I just finished watching Enterprise. I rate each episode on a scale of 1-to-5. I’m not going to bother to crunch the numbers, but, at a glance, I would say that Season 3 of Enterprise has been my favorite Star Trek season so far.
I’m ashamed that I never gave this series a chance when it first aired. I had at least seen a few episodes of DS9 and Voyager before beginning my Boldly Going mission to watch every episode of Trek produced. I never saw a single episode of this show until late 2016 or early 2017. I now have only one season left to watch, and that makes me a little sad.
Of course, finishing Enterprise means I’m going to begin a new viewing of the original series, and then the animated one, so that’s something to look forward to, I guess.
Glancing at my review of Enterprise: Season 2 again, I see that my assessment of the show is consistent. I must really like it. This season was improved by the focus of the season-long story arc, the Xindi. After the aliens from the Expanse killed 7 million people on Earth, including Trip Tucker’s sister in Florida, the Enterprise NX-01 was on a mission of revenge. This mission, and Trip’s personal connection to it, gave the season more of a sense of weight, of importance. And, even though our view of the Xindi shifted during the season, as characters became more (pardon the expression) humanized, the high stakes never left the viewers’ thoughts. The Enterprise—the first Starfleet Enterprise—was on a mission to save the Earth. The outcome? Now, what do you think?
While there were no 5-star episodes in my rating system this season (I’m a tough grader), there were three with 4-star scores, which I would equate with an A (while a 5-star rating would be an A+, or darned-near-perfect).
The first Season 3 episode I awarded four stars was episode 3.5 “Impulse,” which included a ship full of zombie Vulcans. It’s better than this description sounds. There is a substance called trellium that can be used to shield vessels from the spatial anomalies of the Expanse. However, trellium contains a neurotoxin harmful to Vulcans, causing permanent brain damage, which, in the extreme, leads to the zombie-like Vulcan horde. T’Pol loses control of her emotions in this episode, as well, even though she doesn’t become a full-on zombie. I liked seeing an emotional T’Pol. My enjoyment wasn’t prurient, though. I also enjoyed the TOS episodes where Spock also lost control.
Later in the season, T’Pol begins injecting herself with trellium as if it is a drug she’s addicted to. Among other things, this leads to T’Pol and Trip consummating their relationship. T’Pol felt real emotions and she liked it.
The next 4-star was just a few episodes later, episode 3.8 “Twilight,” which is a alternate timeline episode. Captain Archer is infected with brain parasites and wakes up 12 years after the current season timeline, only to find that the Xindi succeeded in destroying the Earth. Since the timeline is corrected and this episode becomes another of those “it was all a dream” plots (which I normally detest), this is the most episodic of the season’s shows, which are much more serialized. However, I excuse its almost throwaway nature because it does give us more perspective on the Xindi and the season’s stakes, as well as giving us more character development on both T’Pol and Archer. Until things heated up between T’Pol and Trip, I felt like things were building to an Archer-T’Pol romance. Even post-Tri’Pol (if you will allow me to give them a celebrity couple name), a special relationship still seems to exist between the Vulcan and Enterprise’s captain.
Besides all of that, this was just a very, very good episode.
The last 4-star episode of the season was episode 3.18 “Azati Prime.” This episode was a season game-changer. We find out that our true enemy are trans-dimensional beings who have been transforming the Expanse to make it more suitable for themselves, while manipulating the Xindi to help them carry out their designs. Archer is captured and tortured in this episode, but he ends up swaying the opinions of some who were enemies before.
Most of the other episodes of the season were 3.5-stars, and none were below 3-stars.
The characters who still receive most of our attention are Captain Archer, T’Pol and Commander Trip Tucker. Lt. Malcolm Reed seems to occupy a B-tier all by himself, an almost-but-not-quite A-tier character. That leaves Dr. Phlox, Hoshi and Mayweather as the junior varsity squad. They serve their purpose and play their roles as required to push the plot forward, but are seldom the main focus of any individual episode. Dr. Phlox maybe occasionally, but Hoshi and Mayweather didn’t really get the spotlight treatment this season as they did in the last. This is not a complaint. The actors are all individually terrific in their roles, and Hoshi no longer bothers me as she did in the first season, but I think everyone knew who the breakout stars of the series were by this point.
There are other characters introduced this season, the Macos (more Mass Effect tingles here), a space marine outfit who join the crew on their Expanse mission. But, they never seem to be much more than extras. Oh, I recognized Daniel Dae Kim, of Lost (and, incidentally, the voice of Johnny Gat in the Saints Row video game), as Corporal Chang. And, Major Hayes becomes a semi-main character, especially in his dick-waving contest with Lt. Reed. But, in the end, the Macos are not main cast members.
The final episode of the season, episode 3.24 “Zero Hour,” would have been another 4-star episode if the tacked-on cliffhanger ending hadn’t brought it down. The season arc concluded, the Enterprise NX-01 returns to Earth. Only, it’s not the Earth they left. This is a Nazi Earth. We are relieved to see that Captain Archer is not dead, as his crew thinks he is. At least we don’t have to wait until Season 4 to find that out. However, it feels like we’ve done the Nazi Earth storyline to death by this point. Is it just me? Seeing the swastika on-screen again marred an otherwise 4-star episode for me. It also makes me a little concerned for the direction of the show in the fourth, and last, season. There’s a reason it wasn’t renewed, and this may be the start of that.
But, taken as a whole, this series is consistent in quality and tone, the acting is very good, and the special effects were the best I’d seen in a Trek show until Star Trek: Discovery premiered. In many ways, I prefer these special effects over that of DSC, because they seem a little less busy somehow.
This will be the first Trek series I will finish watching in its entirety in this project. 22 episodes to go.