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.
I 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.
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?