Oops, now that I’m through review season I’ve had more time for exercise, which means more time for watching videos as I work out, which means I’m all the way through season one of Enterprise. Without meaning to, I’ve queued up something like ten episodes I need to write about since last time. Brace yourselves for impact.
Fusion: The Enterprise meets a splinter faction of Vulcans who embrace their emotions and try to balance them with logic. It’s an interesting idea that reminds me a bit of the fractured Protestant denominations that dot the American midwest — different interpretations of a religious document (in this case the writings of Surak) that lead to rifts and offshoots — and also gives us the fun sight of a chubby Vulcan nerd. The charm is somewhat dampened by the fact that this is yet another in a lengthy series of episodes that inflicts sexuality on an unwitting/unwanting T’Pol (in this case, a transparent telepathic metaphor for rape, ugh).
Rogue Planet: Kind of a weird episode that has the crew stumble upon some friendly hunters on a ronin planet. They’re hunting hyper-intelligent shape-changing slugs, one of which pretends to be Archer’s dream girl in order to procure his help. The part at the end when the Lady in the Lake reveals her true form and slurps away on her stomach-foot but not before gazing back at Archer (longingly?) sends chills down the spines, and not in a good way.
Acquisition: I recall this episode making people angry. But the Federation didn’t encounter the Ferengi for another 200 years! How could theeeeey!! That’s about as annoying as the producers’ coy way of justifying it; the Ferengi that capture Enterprise never give their race’s name. Pfft. Putting aside the ridiculous logic that just because three bandits were humbled by Our Heroes the entire race would give the Federation a wide berth for two centuries, it’s one of the better shows I’ve seen that involve Ferengi, since it doesn’t expect us to like any of them.
Oasis: A very classic Trek kind of episode which sees the crew encounter a friendly set of aliens who house a dark secret and eventually uncover the truth by being aggressive busybodies. Featuring the guy who played Odo looking like a fairly normal humanoid, which must have been nice for Rene Auberjonois after seven seasons of wearing that plastic makeup Deep Space Nine.
Detained: One of the weirdly uncomfortable things about Enterprise is that it debuted very shortly — two weeks! — after Sept. 11, 2001, and its primary antagonists were a group of terrorists called the Suliban. It was impossible not to hear “Suliban” and not think “Taliban.” Of course, the Taliban had been at odds with U.S. interests way before 9/11, but in a less headline-grabbing way; obviously Paramount couldn’t have known how things would turn out that month. It’s just one of those things. But then you get to episodes like this, where non-terrorist, civilian Suliban are improperly detained in prison camps as enemies of war by an uncaring opposing government and it gets even worse because hindsight makes you wonder how the writers knew about what was happening at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Gharib before it became headline news… until Archer mentions the forced detention of Japanese-Americans during World War II and you sadly realize governments have always been horrible all through history.
Vox Sola: The alien equivalent of the Overfiend takes up residence in the Enterprise‘s hold and begins capturing people with tentacles, so naturally it falls to the Japanese lady to learn to communicate with it. I know a bunch of The Next Generation‘s staff was into anime, but this is ridiculous.
Fallen Hero: This was the point at which I realized T’Pol had evolved from her initial form as a grumpy Spock into a decent character in her own right. I also liked the off-brand Judy Dench who plays the fallen Vulcan ambassador-with-a-plot-twist.
Desert Crossing: This one started out pretty lame, with the captain and Trip stripping off their shirts and doing the sci-fi equivalent of the Top Gun volleyball sequence, but eventually turned into a harrowing (for Star Trek) tale of desperate survival in the desert marred mainly by the fact that you knew everyone was going to survive in the end. Still, it’s nice to see the writers balance out Scott Bakula’s blandness by giving Archer more opportunities to seem like an actual leader.
Two Days and Two Nights: After trying to get to Risa (the infamous sex planet) for the past three episodes, the crew finally arrives and everyone has a terrible time. Except Hoshi, who totally gets some. The most inessential episode of this bunch, it’s basically a breather before the finale.
Shockwave, Pt. I: I remember seeing the last two minutes of this episode when it first aired and thinking, “Uh, this seems stupid.” And while I’m still not sold on the whole “Temporal Cold War” plot arc, the whole thing works a lot better within the context of the overall season, which has been building toward this cliffhanger. It’s admittedly no “The Best of Both Worlds, Pt. 1,” but then, what is? After an entire season of talking about time travel shenanigans and building the Suliban Cabal as a credible threat, this episode makes good by putting everyone in a terrible situation as a result of all that. It’ll probably be resolved with a cheesy deus ex machina in five minutes at the beginning of season two, but it’s the thought that counts.
All in all, I’ve found Enterprise to be entirely less horrible than the Internet suggests. It’s almost as though people on the web deal in absolutes and find nuanced opinions and anything besides total praise or total condemnation impossible to comprehend! While Enterprise had a rough start and has suffered a few unnecessary episodes along the way, I can’t say I’ve seen more than one or two genuinely bad ones; and the writing, acting, and characterization grew far stronger over the course of the season. You let me down, Internet. I was expecting to barely make it out of this project alive.
I’ll be taking a Trek break for a few weeks, but I’m actually looking forward to season two. I sure didn’t see that one coming.