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To Boldly Go…

Instead of boldly going where no man has gone before, Enterprise tepidly rehashed Star Trek cliches. Now I’m worried this could also happen with the upcoming feature film “Star Trek Into Darkness.”
| May 8, 2013 | No comments |

Well, now. Where have I been?

Sorry, folks. It turns out that digging myself out from under Lent and Easter took me longer than I expected. I don’t know why that is. Part of my problem also is that I haven’t had much to say lately. I’ve been reading; I’ve been writing; but I haven’t had any cogent thoughts worth sharing with anyone.

I’m still not sure if I do have something to share or not. We’ll just all have to strap and see, huh?

Actually, lately, I’ve been on something of a Star Trek binge. And no, it’s not because of the soon-to-be-released Into Darkness. Truth be told, I’m still a little upset that I was wrong about Alice Eve’s character. I was so sure that she was Dr. Elizabeth Dehner as opposed to Dr. Carol Marcus. But this post isn’t about the new movie.

No, about a year ago, I started an interesting journey. I discovered that Netflix had put all five Star Trek series on instant streaming. This was a huge deal: I had only seen about half of the original series episodes. I had only seen one of the animated series. I had missed an episode or two of Voyager. And I had given up on Enterprise after two seasons. I realized I could finally watch all of them.

And now, after who knows how many episodes, I’m almost there. I’m about to finish the first season of Enterprise. And it’s that show that I want to talk about for a little bit.

enterpriseI still remember my disappointment with this show when it came out. At the time, I couldn’t quite put my finger on why it frustrated me so much. I mean, it’s a great idea (or at least, it seemed like one). A Star Trek prequel, one that showed us humanity’s first steps into the wider Trek universe? Yes, please! At the time, I was looking forward to seeing how humanity earned its place in the galactic community. And yet, when these episodes first came out, I can remember getting more and more frustrated with them until finally, at the start of the show’s third season, I simply gave up on it and stopped watching. Apparently a lot of other people decided to do that as well, since it didn’t last much longer.

Now, though, over ten years later, I went in with a critical eye. I went in with a sort of post-mortem attitude, determined to figure out why I grew so frustrated and what killed this show.

And after one season, I think I know.

Instead of boldly going where no man has gone before, Enterprise tepidly rehashed Star Trek cliches.

That’s the one thing I’ve noticed in my Star Trek journey. The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager all had cliche episode content, stuff that they rehashed and recycled ad nauseum. In the later seasons of TNG, Captain Picard and company often encountered mind-bending missions, where they had to travel through someone’s subconscious either via telepathy or the holodeck or dreams or some combination therein. In DS9, it was the Ferengi episodes. In Voyager, it was time travel or quantum-temporal-what-have-you. If the writers on these shows were out of ideas, they seemed to fall back on these plots with alarming regularity.

I think what ultimately killed Enterprise (or at least bogged down its start) was the writers pulling out these same cliches, more specifically, the one that Voyager‘s writing team relied on so much.

Let’s take a look at the pilot episode. You can almost see the potential getting squandered. A Klingon crashes his ship in Broken Bow, Oklahoma, where he’s chased by three aliens we’ve never seen before. A human farmer shoots the Klingon, which creates a dilemma for the newly minted Starfleet. The Vulcans, who the humans don’t trust, want to take the Klingon off their hands. Captain Archer insists that humanity do it. Archer wins the argument and takes his unproven crew and untested ship into the great unknown, where they encounter hostile aliens and a life-or-death adventure.

Not too bad, right? The writers were able to take some Star Trek conventions and set them on their ears (pun intended). Instead of being the stoic, trustworthy folk we’ve seen in previous iterations, the Vulcans are devious and untrustworthy. Instead of being the glue that holds the galaxy together, humanity is the brash upstart who threatens to topple everything. Instead of a galaxy that knows peace and prosperity because of the Federation, we see a galaxy in desperate need of that, an interstellar Wild West.

This could have been an awesome show, detailing humanity’s first steps into the galaxy and how we managed to forge a lasting peace in spite of our mistakes.

temporal cold war

“What you’re looking at right now, Captain, is our Nielsen rating taking a nose dive.”

Instead, that potential is wasted with the introduction of a cliche, one that can be summed up in three words: temporal cold war.

Suddenly we’ve got time travelers trying to manipulate Captain Archer and his foes for their own nefarious reasons. And, from where I’m sitting, it sucked all the fun out of the show. I’m sure the writers thought that this would raise the stakes and make us second-guess everything we were seeing. Instead, it makes me want to cringe every time someone brings it up. My guess is that the writing team from Voyager got transplanted into the new series and they brought their baggage with them. And it ruined what could have been a really fun show.

It’s not just the temporal cold war either. In Enterprise, we also saw the return of the Ferengi (which makes absolutely no sense from a canon-perspective), the Borg (don’t get me started), and apparently the Mirror Universe (another DS9 trope). In short, what dragged down a promising series were the ghosts of the past.

Actually, now that I think about it, I’m actually worried that this is what could happen with Star Trek Into Darkness as well. Why? Because as of right now, imdb lists Benedict Cumberbatch’s character as Khan.

Am I the only one who thinks this is a bad idea? Khan Noonian Singh, while a memorable Star Trek villain, has been done and done definitively so far as I’m concerned. Why succumb to the “been there, done that” syndrome with him as well? Star Trek is supposed to be about “boldly going where no one has gone before.” It’s shame that the people in charge seem intent on meekly going where we’ve already been.

So what’s my point? I . . . uh . . . don’t have one. Sorry. Sometime my inner geek needs to vent and unfortunately, you all bore the brunt of it this time.

But I will leave you with a question: What was your favorite episode of a Star Trek series?

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Paul Lee
Member

I’ve also been trekking through Star Trek.  I’m halfway through Deep Space Nine now, and I definitely think DSN is my favorite show in the franchise, even though I haven’t seen Voyager or Enterprise or the animated series.
 
By far the best episodes in TNG are the Klingon ones.  The Klingon story arc in TNG might be my favorite individual plot thread, but my favorite episode in the franchise so far might be “Blood Oath,” episode 19 of season 2 in DSN.
 
I’ve been daydreaming about what a new show with the cast of the rebooted movies would be like.  I still don’t like the fact that they’re redoing the canon.  However, DSN showed me that the franchise can atone for things they’ve done badly in the past, such as the naive imperialism of the Federation in TNG.  In TNG, the secular humanist Federation is pretty much roaming the galaxy, Picard arrogantly thumbing his atheist nose at all the less “evolved” civilizations in the name of tolerance.  I think DSN deliberately takes steps to subvert this arrogance, showing that Starfleet and the Federation is failable, maybe implying that the Federation has even been wrong to try to get the whole galaxy to conform to its ideologies.
 
So, I think a new Star Trek show with the new movie crew and setting could be good, if it tried to subvert some of the original Star Trek tropes by casting the same themes in a different light.  I think any new show should borrow insight from Babylon 5 and the two separate Battlestar Galactica shows as well, as those shows are much better at showing a mysterious sense of transcendence in the cosmos.

Morgan Busse
Member

Trouble with Tribbles, hands down. And the episode when DS9 goes back and relives it. I have a thing for cute, furry, purry things 🙂

I totally agree with you, John. I gave up on Enterprise. There was nothing to root for. And Archer’s continual harp on how good humanity was went down, then back up and out, much like when one eats too much Halloween candy. Not pretty.

Galadriel
Guest

I haven’t actually seen any Star Trek episodes–still working my way through Classic Who, which has taken me about 2.5  years. Maybe I’ll take a look at it, though.

Paul Lee
Member

I’ve never seen a single episode of any Doctor Who, and I doubt I ever will, simply because there are so many of them, and the whole franchise seems so hopelessly confusing, that someone so clueless as I am could never hope to get caught up in a single lifetime. 😉

Galadriel
Guest

You could just start at The Eleventh Hour–all you really need to know is “madman in a box, all of time and space, changes his face.” You don’t even have to watch the Classic Series, though I highly recommend it. Seriously, if you want to try, just ask me.

bad_cook
Guest
bad_cook

DOOO EEEEEET. I don’t like the idea of jumping in at Doctor #11 in “The Eleventh Hour,” but that’s mostly because my favorite is Doctor #10, David Tennant. However, it would be simpler to follow Galadriel’s advice and just stick with the current Doctor. You’ll probably miss the in-jokes and the references to previous villains/characters/whatall, but it’s pretty cohesive and coherent on its own.

Galadriel
Guest

Oh, I totally recommend seeing 9-10 (and 1-8 for that matter), but the best places for starting with NuWho is either Rose (because so much of Ten’s personality comes from his time as Nine) or Eleventh Hour, because there’s a change of producer, Doctor, and companion at the same time so it’s a fairly clean break.

Nate Winchester
Guest

SF Debris (who I also recommend for the star trek reviews) has a Dr Who 101 primer here.
Highly recommended.
I certainly don’t regret watching Dr Who but… I dunno, some things on it just get tiring after a bit (the homosexual pandering just the most obvious).

Brenda Anderson
Guest

I’m sure I’ve seen every episode of Star Trek, except for Enterprise. We gave up on it too. Good take on why it didn’t last. I hadn’t considered that angle. Our family gave up watching it for an entirely different reason: to us it played like a galactic soap opera. It wasn’t a show I would allow our small (at that time) children to watch. Enterprise succumbed not only to repeating what had been previously done on other ST episodes, but it reminded me of every other evening drama on TV. It lacked the unique, intelligent quality the other series offered.
(If Khan is the antagonist in the movie, our entire family will be upset–talk about unoriginal. Still, we plan to be at the midnight showing next Tuesday. )
As for favorite episode, I’d have to say TNG’s “Family”. It’s the episode immediately following the Borg “Best of Both Worlds.” I loved how it dealt with the psychological damage done to Picard after being assimilated.

R. L. Copple
Member

I had a brief conversation with one person hired to help write the Enterprise series, to come in and help it. He indicated they had no real series arc. He tried to establish one, but the powers that be didn’t follow it. It ended up being a wandering variety of episodes. I think the success of the last three series had made the writing team feel too confident they knew what they were doing.
 
If they picked up the same writing team as Voyager, that was their problem. They needed new thinking and plots in there to make a unique series.
 
For me, to put it viserally, Enterprise didn’t jive with me. It was bland.
 
I too have been catching up. I watched through 2.5 seasons of Voyager back in the day before life distracted me. I’m only now catching up on it via Amazon Prime. I’m currently into season four.
 
I’d have a hard time picking a favorite. Mostly I liked the more humorous ones.
 

merechristian
Member
merechristian

Bainespal, you’ve gotta watch Doctor Who. You don’t know what you’re missing. Start with the new series in 2005, and go from there. Or ask folks for recommendations on episodes.
 
I have to say that my favorite series was DS9, because it was the most “real”, if you will. I’ve never cared for the shiny, false, utopian vision of the future that Roddenberry was so fond of. DS9 and the other shows showed real war and conflict, but the other shows tended to gloss over any consequences and after-effects, or show the “good guys” as never doing anything questionable at all. DS9 didn’t do this, and I appreciated it.
 
Two of my favorite episodes are the following two DS9 clips. In the first one, Sisko is horrified to come to the realization that, though the bad deeds to win the war with the Dominion bother him, he can live with it. War is not easy or morally wonderful. The good guys must do “bad things” as well, to win. The greater good sometimes calls for it. Here is the clip.
 

 
Then there is the scene where Nog comes to terms with the fact that he is NOT fine, but suffers emotional trauma from the war. The actor who played him has said that after that episode aired, he got letters from real-life veterans suffering from PTSD due to his portrayal, and how they related to Nog’s predicament. This scene really touched me. I don’t have the physical scars, but I do have the emotional ones, and I can relate. Here is the clip.

I love the Tribbles episode too. Especially Scotty’s statement that he fought with someone for insulting the Enterprise. 😀

Paul Lee
Member

Timothy, if you haven’t seen it, you might like the newer Battlestar Galactica.  It depicts the horrors of war frankly, showing the military to be deeply human, suffering realistically from what they face.  One episode in particular makes the point that although the whole society depicted in the show has suffered loss and sorrow, in addition to what everyone is facing, the military are asked to sacrifice their own lives every day.  In another scene one of the main military characters explains that they are taught to consider themselves dead already when they go into battle, so that they will remain cool and collected in the heat of battle.
 
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of sex in the show, especially early in the first season and in the mini-series that serves as the pilot.

Paul Lee
Member

….but I should add that Battlestar Galactica does have a “dark, edgy, gritty” feel to it.

Alassiel
Guest
Alassiel

I don’t have a favorite episode, but Voyager is my favorite series.
I only watched a few episodes of Enterprise, but just couldn’t get into it. I think it was the characters that were a problem for me. There was no one I really liked right off the bat. Archer’s independent attitude was fun, but it quickly revealed itself as arrogance and started to annoy me.

Galadriel
Guest

And can I just say that I love how about half these comments are attempts to lure someone into the Doctor Who fandom?

Steve C.
Guest

“Amok Time” is great! You remember, when Spock gets a serious case of the hormones, and has to battle Kirk on Vulcan for his wife-to-be. Man… that’s good.
 
I also love “The Squire Of Gothos” with the mysterious character Trelain. (Who later turns out to be a member of the Q Continuum as developed in a much later novel.)
 
Man… there are so many. I LOVE Star Trek! 

Leanna
Guest
Leanna

Equinox parts I & II from Star Trek Voyager (it bridges season 5 and season 6)
Simply because of the scene with the Doctor and Seven singing “Oh My Darling Clementine” and the other character’s reaction to it.
Also pretty much any episode from TNG or Voyager that has either Q or the Borg.
(Other than a couple episodes from the original, I’ve never watched the other series though – just didn’t look interesting at all to me)
 
I’ve seen the last half of 3 Doctor Who episodes from different seasons and it has utterly failed to grab me. I love the Tardis to pieces and enjoy listening to other people discuss the series but the show itself… meh. I loathed the Doctor in the first episode I ever saw so that probably doesn’t help.
 

Galadriel
Guest

Well, starting halfway through the episode wouldn’t have helped matters….which Doctor was it, anyway? Leather jacket, suit and Converse, or bow-tie? (9, 10, 11)

Leanna
Guest
Leanna

It was 10 in that particular episode. 

Galadriel
Guest

He’s…it really depends on where he is.  He’s a bit emo in season three, but reasonable happy in two and nice enough in four.

Leanna
Guest
Leanna

My brother says the episode is called Midnight and he thinks it is dreadful. Too bad it was my first impression. 😛

D. M. Dutcher
Member

Probably this one:
 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Savage_Curtain
 
 
I’m not a big Trekkie, but I think the best episodes are where the writers realized that the premise was a bit silly and just threw reason to the wind. Most of the good television SF was in anthology shows, because with a persistent series, you have to keep the cast around all the time and have a lot of dead episodes where there’s no real change. TV Tropes calls it “Status Quo is God,” and Voyager in particular suffered because they couldn’t let the ship go home, or be seriously damaged or disabled in any way.

Paul Lee
Member

Most of the good television SF was in anthology shows, because with a persistent series, you have to keep the cast around all the time and have a lot of dead episodes where there’s no real change.

I agree that preserving the status quo was one of Star Trek‘s biggest mistakes.  The status quo is probably the thing that makes TNG feel so tedious at times.  But I don’t think an anthology approach is much different.  I haven’t seen whatever SF shows you’re thinking of as “anthology shows” (unless you mean the Twilight Zone), but the original series of Star Trek pretty much is an anthology.  There is almost no plot development, even less than TNG.  I think the solution is to do what Babylon 5 did — have a pre-determined plot for the whole series that nearly every episode develops.  But I agree with Timothy’s comment below; DS9 does break the status quo in important ways, probably at least once every season.

(By the way, I liked that TOS episode, too, for its novelty, even though the plot was silly.)

D. M. Dutcher
Member

Yeah, I mean shows like the Twilight Zone, the Outer Limits, Tales from the Darkside (for horror,) and the like.  It’s a problem of television. You can’t kill characters without hiring new ones, or radically change sets and locations due to cost. You can’t get Gilligan off the island, in other words. 
DS 9 was really good. It’s probably on of the best trek series out there.

merechristian
Member
merechristian

The above would be why I liked DS9 so much. It managed to not quite go into “darker and edgier” territory (I hate “dark and edgy” in general), but still evade “status quo is God” stuff.

Adam Collings
Member

Some interesting thoughts about Enterprise. I don’t disagree with you, it had it’s problems, and the temporal col war (which in itself could have been interesting) often brought the show into cliche. I do think that Broken Bow was one of the best pilots I’ve seen. Honestly I loved the episode. Unfortunately, you gave up on the show just when it got awesome. Seasons 3 and 4 were very good in my opinion, and I was very disappointed when it didn’t get renewed for season 5.
As for Into Darkness, I saw the film two days ago (it has already opened in Australia). I’m a bit shocked and disapointed at IMDB. That revelation was an important moment in the story, one I have been careful not to spoil online. I will say that the film takes a fascinatingly fresh approach to the character, and Cumberbatch is truley awesome in the role. Having read this article, there is one scene in the movie that I am pretty sure you won’t like, but I hope you see past that to what it is brilliant movie.