Thursday, May 6, 2010


In the beginning, Zefram Cochrine invented Warp Drive technology. The rest was (TV, movie, and merchandising) history!

Somehow, I’d never seen STAR TREK ENTERPRISE before. That had far more to do with my own life, circa 2001-2005, than anything concerning the show. That is, until an DVD sale proved irresistible, and I finally took the plunge.

I didn’t know what to expect. What I did know is that, while I loved both STAR TREK THE ORIGINAL SERIES (“TOS”) and STAR TREK THE NEXT GENERATION (“TNG”- Great shows for different reasons!), each succeeding TREK series left me less and less satisfied.

I liked DEEP SPACE NINE (“DS9”) less than TNG, and VOYAGER (“VOY”) less than DS9. As VOYAGER was winding down, ENTERPRISE (“ENT”) was starting up. Life’s ups and downs notwithstanding, I was also not too eager to sample yet another TREK show that would presumably continue the downward trend.

Elaborating on why I felt this way toward DS9 and VOY, I can only say that each moved further away from the “core” of what I thought STAR TREK should be.

Both series were not about a ship (Extra points if the ship is named “Enterprise”!) in active service to the Federation. Yes, Voyager was a ship too, but it was (um…) “lost in space”, full of weird characters, and wasn’t nearly as much fun as was the Jupiter II.

There were also too many strange aliens on these shows. In contrast, TOS and TNG were far more relatable to us humans. Vulcans, Klingons, and the occasional Betazoid are okay, but I really started drawing the line at regularly featured Ferengi (DS9 – I HATE Ferengi!) and the very annoying Neelix (VOY).

ENTERPRISE goes back to the beginning and, much as J.J. Abrams has done in his recent feature film, starts to tell the story from the ground (Earth’s “ground”) on up.

In the pilot, “Broken Bow” (the only episode I’ve seen as of this writing), it has been 90-100 years since Cochrine’s introduction of Warp Drive and travel to the distant stars is now a possibility.

The planet Vulcan has taken notice of these early experiments, and has sent emissaries to Earth… to “guide us” along the correct path. This is a SUPERB inversion of all those TOS and TNG episodes where the Federation declines or refuses to share its superior technologies to developing planetary cultures.

Resentment toward our Vulcan “friends” has grown, as they are suspect of holding back on technological developments and suppressing the development of Earth’s Warp Program efforts.

Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula), the son of Henry Archer – an associate of Cochrine’s – is selected to be captain of the just completed “Enterprise NX-01”, a forerunner of the more familiar later USS Enterprise NCC-1701.

Archer seems to be a nice “middle-ground” between rough-and-tumble James T. Kirk and the more reserved Jean-Luc Picard.

The Enterprise NX-01 is wonderfully designed to look as if it preceded ALL similar craft in the various TV and movie series. (That is, its interior “looks older and less developed”.) It can reach the unheard of speed of Warp Factor 5! Later ships could travel at Warp 9 and above.

The crew for the first mission is all human, except for a female Vulcan science officer (Mandated by “our Vulcan friends” to keep us on the straight and narrow. A familiar position for a Vulcan, eh?) and an alien doctor, who was part of a Vulcan-initiated “inter-species exchange program” to benefit the primitives of Earth.

Without spoiling too much for those who STILL haven’t seen it, we have such grand moments as:

The great lines about “boldly going, etc.” that Kirk, Picard, and Archer spout were actually from an historic speech by Zefram Cochrine. The speech is played on the occasion of the launch of the Enterprise NX-01.

The first human to go through a transporter. It was, originally, not thought of for human use.

The introduction of the “phase-pistol” (with two settings “Stun” and “Kill” – nothing in between).

Communicators are of the good old “flip variety”.

The initial mission involves a Klingon that was pursued to Earth by hostiles unknown, and the sensitive diplomatic mission to return him to the Klingon homeworld. Klingons were an unknown species at the time – the one was even referred to as a “Kling-got” by the admiral in charge.

The Fourth Season TNG episode “First Contact” stated that a botched First Contact mission with the Klingon Empire resulted in decades of hostilities between the two cultures. We never learn the true disposition of the Klingons, after Archer’s mission (though their final comment was something best left untranslated), so perhaps this ties into that.

One good thing is that the Klingons, at this early point in their development, DID NOT SPEAK ANY ENGLISH – nor had they ever met an Earther before. They were of their “movie and later TV series ridge-faced appearance”, unlike their appearance on TOS, though I’m hoping the story of that is dealt with over the course of ENTERPRISE. Considering that “accelerated evolution” was a core idea of this first story, we might very well have the scoop before ENTERPRISE comes to a close.

Even the clothing had much evolving to do, as the Admirals wore basic (but somewhat futuristically designed) military dress uniforms – and Archer and his crew wore garb that was a cross between NASA gear and the crew jumpsuits from VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA.

The theme sequence (Remember when these shows actually HAD THEMES?) is an impressive montage of Man’s history of travel, from high-masted sailing ships to the starship.

And Archer has a DOG! …YES! (What, you expected him to have a pet “Bloop”?)

As for the DVD itself…

Why is it that ALL STAR TREK SERIES have the most annoying and most difficult to open and negotiate packaging?! The discs of STAR TREK ENTERPRISE are housed in a large “clamshell” pack that opens like an oversized stick of deodorant!

It has a cardboard piece that wraps AROUND THE TOP FRONT, BACK, AND BOTTOM FRONT of the package… and you cannot open the package without removing the cardboard. BUT, on this cardboard, is the ONLY PLACE that it is identified as being the FIRST SEASON! So, if you remove it, nothing else on the pack can distinguish it from subsequent seasons. WHY?

On the plus side, STAR TREK ENTERPRISE is the first TREK series to be filmed in wide-screen. As great as I’ve described TNG, when played on my HD and Blu-ray, this is BETTER!

Needless to say, I’m looking forward to more. Please, no spoilers in the comments section!


Kneon Transitt said...

Like you, I never watched the show much during its original ending. I had a chance to watch the series in its entirety on SyFy last year, and it's excellent!

No spoilers but... the last episode is a huge letdown. So much so that the writers have gone on record as saying that they consider the two-parter that precedes it to be the true series finale. You've been warned!

Joe Torcivia said...

Consider me warned, Kneon!

For now, I am enjoying the holy hell out of this series!

I’ve gone through the first 17 episodes of Season One, and have only disliked one. And, not because it was “bad”, but it seemed too harsh in the story it tried to tell.

That being episode 17 “Fusion” – and even there, the fabled Vulcan Mind Meld was retroactively introduced. My favorite, thus far, is episode 7 “The Andorian Incident”.

It’s great fun watching the things we all take for granted come into being for the first time. The Prime Directive, photon torpedoes, subspace communication, even “phase pistols” and transporter technology!

In fact, on this very day – mere minutes before publishing this post – I’ve just seen the TNG film “First Contact” for the first time (Best Buy is selling the Blu-ray version of this for 9.99, and I could NOT resist), and it is the perfect “prequel” to ENTERPRISE. No spoilers for those who have not seen one or the other.

As for the ending… I guess any show that is canceled unexpectedly or prematurely will exhibit such a problem.

A perfect example is another favorite of mine – HEROES, which had set up Season Five at the close of Season Four, and was just announced as canceled this week. But, even going back as far as LOST IN SPACE, unexpected cancellations make for unsatisfying endings. (Would YOU want to end on something called “Junkyard of Space”?!)

Let’s check back when I get through Season Four.


Kneon Transitt said...

The best is yet to come, Joe! Like TNG and DS9 before it, Enterprise really finds its feet in the third and fourth seasons. This was an excellent show that was canceled much too soon!