I have a terrible Star Trek secret. I’m a TNG guy, or at least that’s what I spent much of my childhood on. I can admit it. I was like the kid in Galaxy Quest who found excitement in reading the blueprints of a fake starship that was as real to me as the bike I rode on to get to the place to read it. The cast had a genius lead, beautiful and complex relationships and people, and was timely and a fascinating look into the future. I watched all the seasons on TV, DVD, then again on streaming, and I can still watch Inner Light and cry at the script written by a king. I owned and wore out the first 20 books, and Imzadi by Peter David was worn out so much you could barely recognize the spine. I loved what this show was, and it permeated my life.
But I have a dirty secret: most often the only thing I watch anymore is Enterprise.
The Star Trek Secret
Often our greatest strengths are our greatest weaknesses. For those in the know, the most debatable and highly controversial part of the entire Star Trek universe was the Xindi arc of Star Trek: Enterprise. It was extremely violent for Star Trek, even more so than the Cardassian war and malaise of DS9. It was an almost Reaver-like atmosphere of tortured Vulcans, or of characters suffering from rage, anger, and disillusionment, and forged with a bitterness and hate that was beyond the pale for casts used to Roddenberry’s progressive altruism and optimistic (and sexist) world. For others, it was simply badly done television that was boring to them.
However, let us give credit where credit is due, and explain why Jolene Blalock is right to even today be aggressively shunning the studios and executive team for how they closed the series.
This represented the biggest thematic gamble by the Star Trek production team they have ever undertaken.
At least 25 straight hours of directive Star Trek represented the largest single story-line investment of a team of people, which would hold its own and still lead to some of the best written and ethically complex Star Trek ever later in Season 4.
- Complex rules on survival and the psychology of man bubbled forth not in the constant verbal preaching as a professor lecturing their students oh so commonly done in this franchise, but as a daring television format in an age fresh off of 9/11 that still believed in hope, but didn’t know where to draw their lines.
- It highlighted not just an inter-species kiss or on-and-off again love so common in previous iterations of relationships, but the growth and development of an intimate relationship under such existential stress that it would bring the death of an innocent child less then a season later. Jolene Blalock and Connor Trinneer sold it just as much if not better then Frakes and Sirtis, I’m sorry.
- Constantly recurring characters required the writers to keep track of far more variables then ever in what was likely a queue on a massive storyboard.
- The ethical challenges of Captain Archer are simply the hardest choices any leader had to make in the Star Trek universe. You sensed true moral conflict, with a real chance that he might go off the rails unlike all the other Captains (especially the insufferable do-gooder Janeway), and Scott Bakula was brilliant at it.
- Season 4 of Enterprise was the best year of Star Trek since Season 4 of TNG. Stunning work both with Brent Spiner, and their version of relaxation (“Home”) much like after the Borg conflict in TNG (“Family”).
The list goes on, and the actors of Enterprise, and the fans, were robbed of their rightful due. How they went out is almost as heartbreaking as Firefly’s cancellation. Much likely Firefly, do yourself a favor and read some books. The Good That Men Do is where you should begin. Trust me, you’ll sleep better.
Star Trek: Enterprise has an amazing legacy for those of us that found after TNG that DS:9 was a boring progressive continuation and failed attempt at becoming an action franchise, that Voyager refused to allow their characters any depth over 7 years, and even the new movies which we won’t even start with.
I can’t argue that season 1 of ENT was any better then season 1 of TNG, DS9, or Voyager. Of course, season 1 of the original will always be nostalgic, but the fact remains that all the series still had to find their footing, as well as the cast bonding, in seasons numbered one.
However, if you can get through the preconceptions, and the understand why the intro music was more relevant to the story then the large orchestral tracks of prior years, then you can really start to engage with these characters and stories.
After over 25+ episodes dealing with Xindi, the greatest sci-fi thematically unified soap opera story ever attempted in Star Trek came to a close. You have to respect the attempt, the effort to build something like this.
I still go try to back to watch this show once a year for some reason. I really don’t know why, but there is something more daring in it, and that is a dirty Star Trek secret, too.
And that’s the secret CBS probably won’t understand.