Odds are, you’ve neither ever heard of or watched Star Trek Enterprise. What was it?
Well, really, it’s sort of like the Stargate SG-1 of the Star Trek universe. Just as the previous spinoffs were set one century after the original show, this is set one century before, in the 2100s, with humanity having come into contact with the Vulcans a century ago and now using a single warp drive-equipped ship, the Enterprise NX-01, to explore the universe.
Running from 2001 to 2005 on UPN, this show was intended to revitalize the Trek franchise after Voyager declined in ratings towards the end. The feature-length pilot, “Broken Bow,” premiered very well, but the series kept nosediving in the Nielsens until it was cancelled after season 4. Ratings weren’t its only problem; the show also polarized Trekkies, with many upset at how it contradicted their own theories about the beginnings of Starfleet and how it didn’t feel like the other shows.
I decided to figure out just why this show is so divisive, so I watched “Broken Bow” today on Netflix and what I found was not a great show but still a good one.
First off, I must admit, this show’s theme song is horrible. Just awful. Unlike every other Trek show, which had an orchestral theme, this one has a cheesy pop song called “Faith of the Heart” written by Diane Warren, the woman singlehandedly responsible for half the songs on any radio station that dubs itself “light rock.” I’m not even embedding it here; seek it out for yourself to experience its bad. I will admit, the images in the opening are really cool, showing all of these ships throughout history, real and imagined, named Enterprise. There’s even a cool little snippet of the actual NASA craft named Enterprise after a campaign by TOS fans in the ’60s/ Pretty neat, but awful awful music.
After all that, plus a brief flashback to the childhood of our main character, Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula), we open with a shot of a cornfield in Oklahoma, where an alien spaceship has crashed. We see a Klingon in full armor running for his life. He is pursued by two scaly-looking humanoid aliens, who track him to a grain solo, which he escapes from and blows up with them inside. He is promptly then shot by a farmer in the chest with a plasma rifle (literally, a shotgun that fires lasers).
We then cut to an adult Archer and Cmdr. Charles Tucker (Conner Trineer), who are orbiting the Enterprise NX-01 as it’s being prepped for launch in a drydock orbiting Earth. They receive a message calling Archer back to Starfleet Medical in San Francisco. He arrives and meets up with a group of Starfleet and Vulcan higher-ups as Dr. Phrox (John Billingsley) monitors the gravely injured Klingon, Klaang (Tommy Lister Jr). The Vulcans say that it is a bad idea for humanity to return Klaang to Qq’nos, the Klingon homeworld–much like the recent movie, they pronounce it Kronos, which is kind of dumb–because his current condition would be shameful as a Klingon and humanity isn’t ready to deal with such a hostile species. Archer and the others protest that the Vulcans have held them back for way too long and have been deliberately withholding information from them. It’s decided that the Enterprise will take Klaang back to Qq’nos.
On board the ship, we meet Lt. Malcolm Reed (Dominic Keating) and Ensign Travis Mayweather (Anthony Montgomery), who discuss the brand new transporter and Mayweather’s childhood growing up on space cargo ships. We then cut back to Brazil, where Archer recruits polyglot linguist Hoshi Sato (Linda Park) to his crew. Phrox is also there, serving as Chief Medical Officer as well as to supervise Klaang. The Vulcan T’Pol (Jolene Blalock) is also there, serving as science officer and executive officer by order of the Vulcans in exchange for the Vulcan star charts showing the location of Qq’nos.
However, once the voyage gets underway, those scaly guys from before show up, disable the ship’s power, and abduct Klaang. Who are these guys and what do they want with a Klingon? And what will this new crew do about it?
Enterprise is very much a show thinking for the long haul; this is a show that has serialization on its mind, hence why it gives us so much character introduction upfront. I’ll say this: this is probably the best-looking Star Trek television I’ve ever seen.
I mean, really, it’s pretty accomplished: polished CGI, good explosions and well-done cinematography. Technically, this show is very accomplished; the Internet tells me this was the first Trek to be filmed digitally and broadcast in HD, each of those things at different points in its run.
The look of Starfleet is an interesting one; at this point, Starfleet is to be considered very much as a branch of the military, and it shows in the uniforms, which look more like flight jumpsuits than anything else. It’s also worth noting that, while it’s a large ship, this Enterprise isn’t very big crew-wise, which explains the small cast of characters we get.
Story-wise, this show is good–it’s more effective at explaining and world-building than I thought the pilot for Game of Thrones did–but I can see where issues were raised. For one thing, the humans are very quick to lash out, which can be justified because they’ve feel chafed under the Vulcans for so long, but after Picard’s tranquility and Kirk’s measured rashness, watching Archer lash out and be kind of a jerk is a bit off-putting. Likewise, the bigger picture that’s set up in this two-parter is an interesting story, but we’re cheated of a big reveal that we really should get.
Cast-wise, everyone does quite well. Bakula–best known as Sam from Quantum Leap–has always been a likable actor and here, he shows why; Archer can be a jerk, sure, but he’s also a dedicated captain committed to the mission. Blalock is, for me, the heavy lifter; playing a Vulcan, she’s inevitably drawing Leonard Nimoy comparisons, but she does an admirable job, in my opinion. The rest of the cast is fine, with Billingsley being a high point whenever he’s on screen due to his charming demeanor and well-conveyed presence.
So, is this bad? Not really. I mean, yeah, I’m probably not going to keep watching this, but I was entertained, and got to see some very good-looking visuals about a little-explored era of Starfleet. So, I recommend it.
All pics come from Memory Alpha. See you tomorrow for Star Trek Saturday!