Star Trek: Enterprise: Broken Bow   Rewatch 
August 12, 2018 11:22 PM - Season 1, Episode 1 - Subscribe

[series premiere]Star Trek gets its first prequel spinoff, set before TOS.

Welcome to the next project in our ongoing Star Trek review! I am continuing the tradition of using Memory Alpha as the default source of information. I'll be linking transcripts off of Chrissie's Transcript Site for anybody who needs them. Posts will be late Sunday to early Monday, like this one. This is a rewatch, and I would like to stake out a policy of ‘spoilers are okay for everything but DISCO and further new Trek.’ (That is, TOS/TNG/DS9/VOY, and JJTrek through Beyond.) Finally, there will be some gratuitous observations about how ENT fits into the Star Trek MMO, which I have played on and off for an embarrassing number of years.

The MA page for Broken Bow is interesting, and not something I've personally read before. The main thing that caught my attention was the fact the episode had deleted scenes, which I didn't know before. From there:

There are several deleted scenes from the feature version of the episode. There were three presented in the extra features of the Enterprise season one DVD release. The numbers on the scene tag are the numbers of what the scenes would have been in the episode.

"Broken Bow" deleted scene 092
Markalian dockmaster, broken bow

Archer and Sato are meeting with an alien dockmaster in a landing port control tower, asking questions about Klaang, and querying what business he had on Rigel X. Although the dockmaster is preoccupied monitoring the traffic to the planet's trade complex, including a craft he calls Elkan Nine, he is curious to learn that the officers are Human and, with some persuasion from Archer, researches Klaang in Rigel X's records. He informs the officers that the Klingon visited the planet in a K'toch-class vessel seven days earlier, but does not elaborate on what Klaang did, or whom he met, stating that visitors to Rigel X "value their privacy". When Archer mentions the Suliban, the dockmaster claims he has never heard of the word, and suggests that the officers' translator must be malfunctioning. Sato, holding the translator, confirms that the device is not at error, however.

"Broken Bow" deleted scene 099

This scene features Reed and Mayweather, moments after having observed the butterfly dancers on Rigel X. The same alien who persuaded them to watch the dancers follows them through a crowded, narrow arcade and presents them with the opportunity to view an "inter-species performance". Seeing Reed consider this, Mayweather realizes that the alien knows nothing about Klaang and advises Reed that their "guide" is trying to take advantage of their interest in the new surroundings. Reed declines the offer and, as he and his companion walk away from the alien, Mayweather exclaims disbelief that they were almost fooled by the man. While the officers move past an entertainer demonstrating fire-breathing skills, Reed replies by reminding his companion that they are explorers.

This version of the scene slightly differs from the scene as it was written in the episode's script, which mentions a "topless fire-eater" of unspecified sex earlier than when the fire-breathing female, dressed in a bikini, appears in the filmed version of the sequence. Also, in the script, the alien reacts to Reed's dismissal of his offer by shaking his head in disappointment and disappearing into the crowd. The filmed version of the scene, however, shows none of this and the camera pans away from the alien while he is standing still in the position where the officers leave him.

"Broken Bow" deleted scene 154-155

T'Pol's original look

In this scene, Sato and Reed discuss the symptoms of frost bite (as Sato is convinced she has it) while Enterprise tracks the vessel they are following. When an alarm rings, and Mayweather alerts T'Pol (who we see, for a split second in her original look) to the fact they are losing sight of the ship, she orders an increase in speed. Mayweather reminds her that he cannot do so without authorization, which they subsequently receive from engineering.

Selected Quotes:
"Where'd he come from?"
"Oklahoma."
"Corn farmer named Moore shot him with a plasma rifle."
- Archer, asking about Klaang, a Klingon, with Williams and Forrest's response

"Don't screw this up."
- Forrest, after Archer declares he and the crew of Enterprise will return Klaang to Qo'noS

"It's a Klingot."
"A Klingon."
- Admiral Leonard and Tos, while observing Klaang

“I think the doctor's right, captain; unless ‘stinky boots’ has something to do with all this?"
- Hoshi Sato, after Phlox explains that Klaang has no idea what he is saying

"Do you know how to tell him to shut up?"
"Shut up!"
- Archer, asking Sato to translate his request into Klingon, and Sato, not even bothering to do so

Poster's Log:
So this will be my second full viewing of ENT. I only caught a couple episodes of the original airing, then did a binge on Netflix a few years back. I may be fuzzy on a lot of details, which is why I supported this choice so heavily.

A lot of stuff sticks out here. Point by point:
- Human/Vulcan tension is at the forefront.

The episode opens with a young Jonathan Archer hating Vulcans. To be fair, this isn't exactly new ground: McCoy and Spock fought like an old married couple on TOS, including a fair number of inventive racial slurs. Even at the tail end of VOY, over a century later, everybody gives Tuvok a pretty hard time. The main differences between this and earlier properties appears to be in the balance of power between the two species: in TOS, humans seem to run stuff, with Vulcans being sort of second-fiddle, a pattern that continues to all TNG-era properties where vessels are like 90% human, and you don't hear much about Vulcan exploratory or military efforts.

In ENT, the Vulcans are explicitly shielding humans from the outside world. As the quote notes, one of the military officers didn't even know what a Klingon was, even though the Vulcans already had diplomatic contact with them to smooth the incident over. All this despite it happening on Earth soil, making Earth look like some kind of Vulcan protectorate.

Archer also repeatedly brings up Vulcans withholding information from his father's warp drive research. They're also actively attempting to talk humans out of going anywhere for now, and Soval actually yells during an early scene. This is an interesting change in dynamics, and I'm not sure how I feel about it right now.

- Prequel baggage ahoy.

There are lots of obvious issues with prequels: you know roughly what happens later, constraining the narrative in all sorts of ways. Different franchises play with this in various ways, with differing levels of success. In Enterprise, some of the tension is lost simply because we know there'll be a Federation. We know the Vulcans will lighten up to the fullest extent they're able (so not much, really). We know how the coming centuries will go with regard to Klingon politics. We... well, we know stuff.

One way ENT tries to deal with this early on is with the whole idea of a 'temporal cold war.' Some guy from the future is enhancing Suliban and using them to interfere with past events. Leaving aside how this actually played out on ENT in the end, this is a gimmick I'm suspicious of generally because fandom doesn't usually like huge swaths of history being retconned out of existence. I'm not sure how much they really could've done with this, no matter how crazy the writers were feeling, without going full on alternate timeline the way JJTrek did.

The other thing that's changed here is that the universe itself feels smaller: instead of being bold explorers in a strange new world, humans are peeking in on a series of interconnected civilizations that are both right next door, and predate them by centuries. Rigel has a Mos Eisley style trading encampment a mere 15 LY from Earth, meaning it should be visible with telescopes. Qo'nos itself - heart of a Klingon interstellar empire dating back centuries - is literally only eighty hours away from Earth at Warp 5, meaning there's absolutely no reason humanity wasn't at least aware of them before now, and probably conquered back during Medieval times for slave labor mining dilithium. I really wish they hadn’t made these changes, as they’re going to annoy me no end.

- There was a lot of 'sex sells' here.

One thing that put me off of ENT during the original run was hearing about the infamous decon gel scene. Not only is it as exploitation-y as advertised, it wasn't everything unpleasant on that score during the episode. We also have:

> Sarin needing to shapeshift into a human woman (looks like Musetta Vander, but she’s uncredited), and kiss Captain Archer to determine his trustworthiness before giving him exposition about Klaang, which is some Game of Thrones level 'come on!'

> The exotic dancers Reed and Mayweather were watching felt pretty gratuitous. Also, I’m not sure I buy ‘can pluck a butterfly out of the air with her tongue’ as the best thing ever, no matter the implications.

- Interesting aesthetic choices.

So on the one hand, ENT looks pretty futuristic compared to TOS, and it pretty much had to. TOS had a budget of, like, $5 and half a cheese sandwich, while ENT has the full backing of an empire and decades of advancements in SFX.

Some of this is handwaved as ‘TOS had a particular retro style in fashion,’ (this specifically will come up during the Mirror Universe episode), which is fine. I mean, it happened in real life too.

Some of this is handled via wacky anachronisms, which… I actually found sort of charming? I laughed at the farmer with the plasma rifle, and I admit I was tickled by Phlox curing a phaser burn literally by applying a leech to it. Ultimately, I’m not sure how successful this will all be, but to me, it says the creators were at least aware this was a problem and wanted to do *something* interesting with it.

- Tech is disappointingly familiar, aesthetics aside.

Phase pistols are basically just crude phasers. Polarized hull plating is, if anything, a little better than TOS shielding because you can transport right through it. Also, they have a transporter, and them being nervous about it does nothing to prevent the Trek cliche rescue of Archer in the finale.

They do feature the tech being less reliable, but so far I feel like lampshading that below instead of taking it seriously.

- Genetic engineering enters the story.

Star Trek has always taken a dim view of ‘jumping forward.’ TOS featured many societies that were ruined by letting AI run everything and so on - there’s this notion that every species has a pace that it’s ‘supposed’ to move at, and that shortcutting that necessarily leads to villainy, including for humans. (See Khan, and all sorts of episodes of basically every franchise. To me, it’s no coincidence that the Dominion relied on it so heavily too as an antagonistic faction.)

ENT brings these themes to the forefront with the Suliban as primary antagonists, and explicitly lays some of this out during Archer’s confrontation with Silik in the temporal comms room.

- Culture clash.

One thing that’s coming up in both DS9 and VOY is humans centering everything on their own cultural preferences. On DS9, this is critiqued pretty hard, most notably in the ‘root beer’ scene between Quark and Garak. On VOY, this goes by without question.

On ENT, we’re back to ‘the writers are using this deliberately.’ The entire first mission here is driven by Captain Archer’s insistence that they bring Klaang back home alive, against the negotiations between the Vulcans and Klingons. Later, T’Pol has an argument with Trip when he yells at a woman weaning her son off of exotic breathing measures. (I am fairly certain she used ‘objectify’ wrong in that sentence, but the sentiment carried through.)

I’m not sure how I feel about this yet either, but I’d generally rather see stories where this is acknowledged and discussed versus it being taken for granted.

- Small details.

I like Phlox so far. His general enthusiasm is, in a word, infectious. I also laughed that he got the job basically because Archer didn’t have any idea who to ask on such short notice.

The zero-G bit with Mayweather was pretty neat, as is his background generally. Thus far, he’s the one I’d most like to hear more from.

- It’s That Guy!

In addition to Musetta Vander, we have long time Supernatural alum Jim Beaver mispronouncing ‘Klingon’ early in. He never shows up again, so I guess his character was fired for not reading the briefing materials.

Poster’s Log, Supplemental:
* Pointless STO Comparison: material for Broken Bow abounds. I suppose the most obvious one is simply that you can purchase and fly two different versions of ENT’s NX-01. One is easily obtained and pretty weak, just like in the show. The other is upgraded with badass 25th century tech, completely viable at endgame, and absurdly expensive.

This Week In:
* Vulcans Are Superior: T’Pol notes that Vulcan toys have better sensor capabilities than those of the Enterprise.
* Equipment Failures: Related to the above note, their sensors are unable to track plasma decay until T’Pol upgrades them.
* Aliens Incapacitate the Ship: 1. The Suliban, to grab Klaang.

Anyway, that’s probably way too much outta me. Looking forward to hearing from all of you!
posted by mordax (45 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
This show had so many problems. and so much promise too...
I remember being so excited to watch it after finishing voyager with my parents- and it was so adult too! (Now I cringe but I was a teenager at the time, and excited.)
I watched it through to the end and I’ll be following the rewatch- but it’s disappointing. I really remember liking the pilot- but I rewatched it a few years ago and... could see all the flaws mentioned and more. That’s in stark contrast to my periodic DS9 rewatch, which seems to get better every year.

I’ll never apologize for loving Phlox though- I think he’s the best part of the series!
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 11:44 PM on August 12, 2018 [3 favorites]


We can blame the "success" of Seven of Nine, I think, for the over the top exploitation. One look at T'Pol's wardrobe is all the convincing of that I needed.

The tension with the Vulcans I think is an attempt to set-up future drama and conflict on Vulcan itself, even.

The scene with Trip yelling at the mother always pisses me off. They want the audience to REALLY understand that humans are fresh off the boat, and turned Trip into a loud, obnoxious American tourist in the process. It really sours Trip's personality almost permanently.

Like Voyager and DS9, this series runs fast and loose with even simple continuity. I can't say I understand it. A lot of it is so simple that it shouldn't give headaches to the writers, at least in my opinion. What gives?

This was the first Trek series since TNG that I watched as it aired. I was a big Quantum Leap fan, so I had high hopes for it, but I stopped watching after the first season. Little things like Phlox' super fake "extra" smile always annoyed me, and BSG was a breath of fresh air, I guess. Recent rewatch has allowed me to take a new breath and enjoy it much more, and not get too stressed about the little things. I especially enjoy the much higher quality of unique special effects and frequency. VOY and DS9 using space effects that were unique to an episode were heavily rationed and painfully short, so ENT was very refreshing.
posted by Brocktoon at 1:37 AM on August 13, 2018 [4 favorites]


I've enjoyed reading and sometimes watching along with the VOY rewatch, and look forward to seeing folks' thoughts on Enterprise. I missed it when it was broadcast and have been gradually working my way through the first season over the last year, whenever I feel the need for some nice sedate 'dads in space' (my personal subtitle for ENT). Totally agree with the creepiness of the pilot, there's a whole lotta gratuitous male gaze there, and the camera seems to continue to leer at T'Pol. I've got to say though, where I'm at in the series so far I've been pleasantly surprised by the writing and relative evenness of tone, I expected a lot less. I'm of two minds about the time cop element, on one hand yes it threatens continuity (for whatever that's worth), but on the other hand it allows them to both do the prequel thing and expand the universe forward in time, which is (potentially) kinda clever. Like I said, I'm on my first slo-mo watch through, so I don't really know where it goes. Keep these posts coming, love your work!
posted by threecheesetrees at 4:31 AM on August 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


I've mentioned this before in a past Trek rewatch thread, but my favorite scene in "Broken Bow" is when the farmer shoots Klaang, setting in motion centuries of Klingon/Earth political strife. I side with Klaang here; he wasn't attacking the farmer and was really just trying to convey information when he was shot. He had no quarrel with humans up until then. Of course, take a shot at a Klingon warrior and doom your planet for centuries through blood vengeance regardless of the circumstances.
posted by Servo5678 at 6:27 AM on August 13, 2018 [4 favorites]


My track record with ENT is exactly the same as my track record with VOY:

1- Allow self to get unreasonably excited about the prospect of this new Trek series.
2- Grow concerned by warning signs in the promotional materials, but tune in dutifully for the pilot anyway.
3- Acknowledge the pilot's rough spots, but also the show's potential, and stay tuned.
4- Grow quickly dismayed when the next 3-5 episodes are solidly more in the "rough spots" camp than the "potential" camp (not to mention their been-there, done-that quality).
5- Stop watching the series altogether.
6- Do a full rewatch once streaming them becomes an option.
7- Vow to never do a full rewatch again.
8- Betray that vow when FanFare rewatches it :)

The other thing that's changed here is that the universe itself feels smaller: instead of being bold explorers in a strange new world, humans are peeking in on a series of interconnected civilizations that are both right next door, and predate them by centuries. Rigel has a Mos Eisley style trading encampment a mere 15 LY from Earth, meaning it should be visible with telescopes. Qo'nos itself - heart of a Klingon interstellar empire dating back centuries - is literally only eighty hours away from Earth at Warp 5, meaning there's absolutely no reason humanity wasn't at least aware of them before now, and probably conquered back during Medieval times for slave labor mining dilithium. I really wish they hadn’t made these changes, as they’re going to annoy me no end.

Agreed. I smell network interference here. "Vulcans aren't enough! You HAVE to have Klingons!" Well, that forces the script into certain unfortunate directions.

One thing that put me off of ENT during the original run was hearing about the infamous decon gel scene.

It was even worse on this, my …third?… viewing of it. I was deeply embarrassed for those actors.

Speaking of the actors, I have a dim memory of learning (possibly through a DVD special feature) that Jolene Blalock was pretty terrified during the first season. I thought I could perceive some signs of it here, but at the same time, she had a few moments of strong performance, here and in the next one ("Fight or Flight"). I remember being as uneasy about her casting as I was about Jeri Ryan's, and for the same reasons, but gradually coming around to both of their capabilities as actors.

Interesting aesthetic choices. [...] Some of this is handled via wacky anachronisms, which… I actually found sort of charming? I laughed at the farmer with the plasma rifle, and I admit I was tickled by Phlox curing a phaser burn literally by applying a leech to it. Ultimately, I’m not sure how successful this will all be, but to me, it says the creators were at least aware this was a problem and wanted to do *something* interesting with it.

Agreed. I feel like this show walked the line fairrrrrly well between "current because it's the 21st century for our viewers" and "still demonstrating enough of the lineage with TOS-style tech", in terms of visual design anyway. And it walked that line way better than DISCO IMO.

Polarized hull plating is, if anything, a little better than TOS shielding because you can transport right through it. Also, they have a transporter, and them being nervous about it does nothing to prevent the Trek cliche rescue of Archer in the finale. They do feature the tech being less reliable, but so far I feel like lampshading that below instead of taking it seriously.

Yeah, here, they didn't nail it as well. Visual design is one thing, but how the tech actually functions contributes a lot to the show's feel. These first two episodes have mere moments of "pioneer spirit" when the show should've been thoroughly suffused with it.

(I am fairly certain she used ‘objectify’ wrong in that sentence, but the sentiment carried through.)

I KNOW RIGHT >:[

I like Phlox so far. His general enthusiasm is, in a word, infectious. I also laughed that he got the job basically because Archer didn’t have any idea who to ask on such short notice.

Yeah, that was pretty great. The character and the actor are a necessary counterbalance to the pretty stern and militaristic humans in this.

In addition to Musetta Vander

I thought that was her too, but it's not: it's Melinda Clarke, who was in a Seinfeld, which is probably why my vague memory confused me.

They want the audience to REALLY understand that humans are fresh off the boat, and turned Trip into a loud, obnoxious American tourist in the process. It really sours Trip's personality almost permanently.

100% agreed. The Dubya resemblance didn't help matters at all, for me, though that may just be a personal prejudice.

Little things like Phlox' super fake "extra" smile always annoyed me

Which you just know you're gonna see maybe one more time after the well-funded pilot (and its commercials, of course), if ever again. I actually can't remember it showing up more than that one time.

Recent rewatch has allowed me to take a new breath and enjoy it much more, and not get too stressed about the little things. I especially enjoy the much higher quality of unique special effects and frequency. VOY and DS9 using space effects that were unique to an episode were heavily rationed and painfully short, so ENT was very refreshing.

Yeah. VOY was always slick and pretty to look at, but also often bland and unadventurous in that way. I'm noticing ENT being more bold so far with that stuff, and I remember it being at least kind of consistent this way.

making Earth look like some kind of Vulcan protectorate.

The only thought I really wanted to add about ENT at this early point is that there's something about the relationship between Vulcans and Humans, and the whole "why aren't you telling us stuff" thing, that bugs me on a storytelling level. I'm not sure what it is, and I'm hoping to pin it down on this rewatch. I mean, it makes sense on a worldbuilding level, and it allows for some of the show's stronger episodes IMO (specifically, those concerning the Sarek stuff and various conflicts T'Pol gets into with other Vulcans), but… I dunno, there's just. Something.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 6:54 AM on August 13, 2018 [3 favorites]


P.S.-- Great post mordax! Nice tags :D
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 7:01 AM on August 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


I think the thing that worked best for me watching ENT was how much it paid off little things from TOS. But it took a long time to get there, and really really felt reactionary to its time. I'll probably holler when it happens.

It still feels like a show you could really just watch the highlights from and not miss much from the discarded episodes.
posted by Kyol at 7:09 AM on August 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


Er, other way around, that is. Time is tricksy. Still, watching TOS you'll catch things where you go "oh hey that's what that thing in ENT was about. Ha!" or vice versa if you're watching them in broadcast order and not timeline order. Like I said, stupid time.
posted by Kyol at 7:57 AM on August 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


Enterprise! Yay. I mean to say that I'm excited about the fanfare thread! The series, meh. I stopped watching somewhere in the second season, I think. Anyway, I'm excited to hear what you all have to think about the show.

I like Enterprise. Bad Trek is better than most other television. Well, that was true in 2001, anyway. I thought Broken Bow was a good way to start the series. I came from TNG/DS9 when I watched Enterprise. So the vulcan/human tension seemed new to me. I liked it at the time. I still like it. They did a good job of making the vulcan's annoyingly arrogant.

Jolene Blalock had a tough job. Leonard Nimoy and Tim Russ set a high bar for vulcan acting. Blalock's performances come off kind of flat to me. I'm interested to see how her character and performance evolve.

I found Trip pretty annoying. He does have that 'right off the farm' kind of vibe. I guess that's what they were going for? I dunno.

I wish we could have had a full 7 seasons with Archer. Scott Bakula was a good fit for Archer. He really nailed that eager captain with a bit of naiveté. He's channeling a future version of Andy Griffith. Lol!

I feel like this is an alternate reality where the internet was not invented. The crew is astounded by the weird dancers on Rigel. Trip is smirking when Mayweather talks about the aliens with three breasts. It's like this is a universe where there was no fan fiction or pornographic fan art of fictional characters.
posted by hot_monster at 8:18 AM on August 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


My general take on "Broken Bow" was that the things that I liked about ENT's premiere, and the show in general, I liked even more, and the things that I didn't like (fanservice, mostly) seemed even worse. But the good stuff first:

- I can completely buy the Vulcan-human friction, and the Vulcans consequently being really reluctant to fully uplift humans at this stage in their relationship. There's been a long tradition in fanon and beta canon (i.e. the books) of Vulcans being unabashedly in the Our Elves Are Better trope, often pretty open and smug about it. In Diane Duane's Spock's World, the framing story to a number of stories set at different points in Vulcan's history is that of Vulcan about to hold a referendum on leaving the Federation; a number of reasons are given. (Note to self: re-read Spock's World.) So, it sort of makes sense that, at this stage, their relationship to humans is that of the over-responsible parent figures in a comedy unwillingly pressganged into babysitting basically decent but unruly children; they just need to learn to loosen up, yo. (Although, as with the Klingons in the VOY episode "Prophecy", we're also back to "eww, you guys stink", only with the Vulcans having a problem with humans. 2funky4U! Or maybe it's just Porthos that she's reacting to.)

- Humans don't come off 100% great in this, either. Trip jumping to conclusions about the alien mother and kid; Archer getting pretty shirty about the Vulcans not just handing them cutting-edge warp tech on a silver platter (again, compare/contrast the Federation, especially in VOY); even Farmer Bubba shooting Klaag without stopping to ponder the wisdom of attacking an alien, knowing (as all humanity generally should know by now) that at least one alien species is around that could turn Earth into a cinder if they weren't so polite and non-aggro. The last is somewhat stereotypical (all the farmer needs to complete the cartoon is a frayed straw hat and multiply-patched overalls), but at least it's not the Roddenberrian "we're perfectly perfect now" assumed utopia, and even Archer's assertion that they've "wiped out" war, disease, and hunger is met with T'Pol's skepticism that it will stick.

- The general design and ambiance of the NX-01 works for me. In terms of the control interfaces, it seems to me to be less advanced than TOS', simply because there are so many hard controls. Let me explain: if you look at 20th-century spaceships, they had a ton of controls in the cockpit. (Here's the Apollo command module's main control panel; here's the space shuttle cockpit.) Every possible individual function has its own control. By contrast, here's the helm station for NCC-1701; lots fewer, and mostly unlabeled. My pet theory was that the design theory behind the original 1701's controls were that they could use a combination of voice commands and chording to get a lot more flexibility out of their control interfaces, and that they were left unlabeled to avoid having someone beam aboard and take over the ship. Eh, just a headcanon. The NX-01 helm is sort of a transition phase: fewer controls, although still mostly hard controls. (Yes, I've put some thought into this. I was the sort of kid who noticed that the G.I. Joe astronaut's reproduction Mercury capsule, although not completely faithful (it had a big sliding clear plastic window/door, instead of a proper hatch, so that you could see Joe inside of it), did have an accurate reproduction of the control panel.) I also like the general feel of some bugs still needing to be worked out, i.e. there being "sweet spots" where you can hang out in zero G if you want to, people still being nervous about the transporter (with a nod toward the teleportation accidents of The Fly), grappling hooks, etc.

- The crew, generally. Per the above, I think that I'm working toward an appreciation of the show being in large part about generally needing to work out a lot of the fine details about things, and that's reflected in part with the crew: Archer and Trip are a bit abrasive, Sato has to be talked into coming along, T'Pol is visibly uncomfortable, Phlox is generally agreeable but a bit unsettling personally; Mayweather seems the most at ease, which makes sense for someone who grew up on a starship and knows the importance of getting along. It's an interesting mix and knows the importance of getting along with people that you'll be in close quarters with for extended periods of time. (I'm deliberately leaving Malcolm Reed out of this list because he didn't make a big impression on me, but also because I'll be interested to see if an old fan theory--that Reed is gay, and that Berman and Braga's attempt to "straighten" him by having him make a point of showing his interest in women paradoxically had the opposite effect of his trying too hard to closet himself--holds up.)

- The Temporal Cold War. I like (or liked, since we'll see what they actually made of the idea) the concept that our foreknowledge of continuity may not hold, that they might actually retcon a few things away. It's a logical outgrowth of the idea that, at least by the 29th century if not sooner, time travel will be a regular thing, or at least a possibility.

- "Archer's Theme." We get to hear this repeatedly; eventually, it's used for the end credits. Supposedly, the original show theme, before you-know-what got used.

- The uniforms are a decent transition between the blue jumpsuits used by astronauts now and the eventual TOS uniforms. Pockets! I also thought that the admirals' uniforms, with the ties, were reasonable.

- Porthos.

Now, the cons:

- The fanservice, sweet Jesus. I will say that they made gestures toward equality in fanservice (albeit still pretty heteronormative) with Archer in his underwear and topless Trip, but still. The infamous "smear that decon gel on each other and take your time" scene was especially egregious; there was some important dialogue in that scene regarding what sort of authority T'Pol had as the XO, but I kept wondering why she was trying to smuggle gumdrops aboard the ship. If it were that cold in the chamber, Trip's nipples should have been sticking out, as well. ("Trip's nipples." Great band name.) And then there's the butterfly-eating thing; all I can think about is this.

- As mentioned, the bits where they simply transfer in tech that's either anachronistic or reskinned future tech. Polarized hull plating is the new shields, phase pistols are introduced over a century too early (they were still using laser pistols in "The Cage" and had a phaser rifle in "Where No Man Has Gone Before"), and so on. The showrunners apparently got to pick and choose which plot devices they got to keep.

- "Faith of the Heart"/"Where My Heart Will Take Me" (why did they change the title?): I totally get why they went with a different approach, even down to deleting "Star Trek" from the title (initially, anyway), putting in the history clips, going with a sung theme song, etc. But they could have, you know, actually commissioned an original song instead of simply dusting off one of Diane Warren's less interesting efforts. Barring that, "Archer's Theme" would have been sufficient.

So, overall, I think that I liked it more than I did initially... but it still shows signs of problems that will echo those seen on VOY, including the fanservice.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:52 AM on August 13, 2018 [3 favorites]


I see some new names/faces here who weren't with us through much of the Voyager rewatch, so I'll just warn that we're in for some bad, bad, bad episodes of this show during seasons 1 and 2 (with some good stuff mixed in, make no mistake, but the bad or just plain meh outweighs the good overall), but it shows improvement in season 3 and then by season 4 becomes fantastic. It never hits the heights of TNG or DS9, but there's some fun stories in here and eventually the series figures out how to best use continuity from "future" Trek stories to tell interesting stories "now". If you drop out of this rewatch early on, I hope you'll come back later. It really does get better!
posted by Servo5678 at 9:38 AM on August 13, 2018 [5 favorites]


At the start of the Voyager re-watch, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the pilot (having not enjoyed it overmuch when it first aired), and how strong of an opening to that show it was. I remember Enterprise as taking a while to find its footing -- I stopped watching somewhere in the third season despite it getting better -- and it seems my memory was (unlike with Voyager) accurate: I enjoyed this even less the second time around.

The weird shrinking of the galaxy, the whole decon shower scene (and adjacent issues), and a lot of what's not great has already been touched on, but one thing that bugged me then (and still bugs me now) is how unremittingly American the pilot is -- and how its American-ness is a very early 21st century American-ness at that.

If Star Trek has a nationality, it's undoubtedly American: it's an American show, produced by Americans, written (mostly?) by Americans, for an American audience, originally drawing on the American cowboy/television mythos of the western frontier ('a wagon train to the stars'), and whose forays into internationalism (ie, Chekhov) were foregrounded in a very mid-20th century American context ('we have evolved past the cold war,' where 'we' is an nominally American crew having a Russian member and not vice versa). Despite that, the shows -- from '60s trek onward -- has always stressed that humanity has proceeded beyond the kind of territorial and racial tensions that we face today.

I'm having trouble articulating exactly why, but everything about the first twenty or so minutes of the pilot screams 'America' to me, rather than 'humanity' or 'starfleet' -- maybe it's the all-male, predominantly white group of starfleet personnel -- admirals and captains, no civilians (?) or dipomats (?) making the call on what is clearly a diplomatic issue with the Vulcans; maybe it's the echoes-of-contemporary-politics framing of 'these haughty, smart, elite Vulcan's can't tell us REAL HUMANS what to do' that emulates real rhetoric deployed against academics in the same period; maybe it's the 'Vulcans are holding us back' rhetoric that is the same kind of language I was hearing, at the time, about environmentalists vis-a-vis industry. The 'American tourist' bit also doesn't help; the mocking of T'Pol's vegetarianism doesn't, either.

Maybe that's reading too much into it; but the message I got from the pilot at the time, and I'm still getting now, is that it's framing of what 'humanity' means in the future lines up closely with a particular strain of American-ness. And while it's a prequel to the more-inclusive, less-anti-Vulcan future, it paints a future that -- unique to all the Star Treks -- is uniquely unwelcoming and inherently exclusionary. The framing of that is, of course, 'here's how humanity reached a better place,' but -- it was a choice to make a prequel show, and it was a choice to put the prequel at the precise time it was, and so on, and it feels like the show expects you to sympathize with Archer/Tucker/Starfleet and not, say, with the Vulcans, who make some very good points.

That aside: putting some time-travel shenanigans in your prequel fiction is a decently elegant way to in-universe handwave any issues of canon. It doesn't help, unfortunately, with the weirdness of the Klingon Empire being effectively right next door to Earth, but it does offer an easy out to broader questions of, say, the Vulcan/Human relationship -- who's to say if this is exactly the same history that we had leading in to the '60s Trek?

Design-wise, it does feel like a plausible prequel to Star Trek: everything is so functional! I don't find it particularly interesting, because of that, but as I think we've seen with Discovery it's hard to make everyone happy -- if you lean into 'cool, novel designs' people will criticize you for not making it look like a prequel; if you make it look like a prequel, people will ask for more cool, novel designs. A lot of the smooth chrome & plastic has a very early-2000s feel that I appreciate more now than I did at release, and it's nice how much they leaned into having things look mechanical and not-quite-perfectly-refined.

Cast- and performance wise: you can tell that people are still easing into their roles, and that's true for the writers as well. I'd rather look at where they are mid-season than now, once the show has had a chance to live into itself a bit.

Overall, it's...definitely a pilot. Juggling the need to set up the political situation, the historical background, introduce every character and have them all talk to each other, touch on the themes for the show, sketch in the beginnings of an arc -- there's a lot here that feels like checking boxes now to get them out of the way for better episodes later. Which is fine, and necessary, but detracts a bit from the pacing in the moment. I'm curious how the next few episodes go, because there's a lot they did improve, I seem to recall, once they get the Enterprise really seriously out in space and capture some of the prior series sense of exploration and wonder.
posted by cjelli at 11:55 AM on August 13, 2018 [5 favorites]


Oh definitely, this is one of those shows like I mentioned in the VOY rewatch thread - at the time of original airing the overall aimless arc of the first few seasons was hard to watch before they decided to do a current era metaphor arc which was so ham handed that I had to bow out. There are still a bunch of clunkers out there, but a lot of the week-to-week annoyances are smoothed out and you can pay more attention to the stuff that does work than the stuff that doesn't if you can watch the whole series in 3-4 months instead of 4 years. Is it Best Trek? No. Is it unredeemable? Eh. I certainly wanted more shows with Captain Bakula by time it wound down.
posted by Kyol at 2:29 PM on August 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


cjelli, I think that it was awash with The Right Stuff-type nostalgia, and there's quite a lot of that cool white American male fighter jocksengineers wanting to go out and flyexplore some shit without having the government bureaucratsVulcans harsh their mellows. And if that seems like I'm leaning a little hard on the sexism issue, let's ask ourselves, how often have we seen a woman helming a ship larger than a runabout? How many regular cast members? Jadzia took the helm of the Defiant at least once, and there was Stadi in the first episode of Voyager, but she died in the same episode, and... yeah. It would have been pretty easy to have the helm officer be Tricia Mayweather, same background.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:31 PM on August 13, 2018 [3 favorites]


Also, WRT what the show could have been, it was pretty much on schedule for a TNG-era show to find its groove with Season 4.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:34 PM on August 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


I thought that was her too, but it's not: it's Melinda Clarke, who was in a Seinfeld, which is probably why my vague memory confused me.

Thank you! That was driving me just nuts.

And then there's the butterfly-eating thing; all I can think about is this.

Hahaha, yes!

I'm having trouble articulating exactly why, but everything about the first twenty or so minutes of the pilot screams 'America' to me, rather than 'humanity' or 'starfleet' -- maybe it's the all-male, predominantly white group of starfleet personnel -- admirals and captains, no civilians (?) or dipomats (?) making the call on what is clearly a diplomatic issue with the Vulcans; maybe it's the echoes-of-contemporary-politics framing of 'these haughty, smart, elite Vulcan's can't tell us REAL HUMANS what to do' that emulates real rhetoric deployed against academics in the same period; maybe it's the 'Vulcans are holding us back' rhetoric that is the same kind of language I was hearing, at the time, about environmentalists vis-a-vis industry. The 'American tourist' bit also doesn't help; the mocking of T'Pol's vegetarianism doesn't, either.

Maybe that's reading too much into it


Nah, I think you're on the money. This was something I was planning to get into more in Fight or Flight for a lot of reasons, (not the least of which was how overstuffed this post was), but... yeah, this feels like an accurate read to me.

Upon preview:
It would have been pretty easy to have the helm officer be Tricia Mayweather, same background.

Right? It's weird to miss anything about VOY, but I was pretty nonplussed by how few women are doing anything here. It's worse because T'Pol is a mistrusted foreign outsider, (I mean, right up to 'you're totally a SPY!') and Hoshi's entire deal so far is 'I don't belong here, I am a schoolteacher.'
posted by mordax at 2:37 PM on August 13, 2018 [3 favorites]


I watched the premiere live and remember in detail only three things:
  1. the Klingon guest star saying “Suliban” (presumably an effort to make the show more relatable to demographics terrified of the new-to-the-zeitgeist Taliban)
  2. the new theme song by the Rod Stewart soundalike (I’m told it grows on you)
  3. the utter hamhandedness of the first decon gel scene (a transparent attempt to both sex up the show for the low-rise jeans generation and simultaneously start a Moonlighting-style will-they-won’t-they with two actors lacking the appeal of Cybil Shepherd and Bruce Willis)
Didn’t watch a whole lot of the show past that. I do remember later commercials suggesting viewers leer at a midriff-baring mostly-woman threesome undergoing decontamination in a sultry manner completely at odds with the chill of space’s vacuum.
posted by infinitewindow at 9:22 PM on August 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


The biggest negative of Enterprise, in my opinion, is that the characters simply aren't memorable. Archer is okay, Phlox is okay, and I want to like Trip, but there's nothing inherently unique and interesting that endears them to me. Is it the acting or the writing, or some combination of the two? I'm not sure. But none of them are standout characters that fans just fell in love with.
posted by 2ht at 5:16 AM on August 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


2ht, I'd say that it's almost always the writing. It's possible that someone had a great audition but didn't work out in the long run, but I've also seen actors who simply weren't given a lot to do, and did really well when they were given something meatier in their role. This happened more than once on VOY, and was also the case with Dr. Bashir on DS9--people hated the character in the early years, and it took until the fifth season's "Doctor Bashir, I Presume" for them to find a character hook (which was a bit of a retcon) that made him really interesting, but once they did, he had his best character development episodes.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:01 AM on August 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


Is it the acting or the writing, or some combination of the two?

Looking just at the pilot, here, I think it's the writing -- pilots are particularly hard on writers because they're generally writing for characters, rather than actors, because the script tends to be written before everyone is cast; because a pilot has to do a lot of heavy lifting that gets in the way of writing nice character-centric moments; and because you literally have less to work with than every episode that follows. They tend to be, of necessity, top-down affairs where actors get slotted into a plot, rather than bottom-up plots arising out of actors or characters past work -- indeed, here, Brandon & Braga (the pilot co-writers) have said
"We had to basically come up with a story that would give Enterprise a reason to go on its first mission, other than: 'let's just launch and go out and have our first adventure.' We wanted to give Archer a specific noble goal – a test; an incident that would test humanity's ability to prove themselves, and kinda piss off the Vulcans, too. I had an image of Klingons in small-town America. My first image was, 'What if we show Klingons attacking Iowa?' Then we pared it down to, 'What if a Klingon crash-landed in a cornfield?'"
And as memory-alpha notes (citing Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 2, Issue 9, p. 22) -- "This episode's script was entirely written without any of the show's regular cast having yet been selected."

That ceases to be an issue in future episodes, obviously, but I also don't remember how the acting coheres (or doesn't) in the rest of the season; but I do agree that this is -- looking at past Treks, particularly -- generally a writing issue and not a acting one. Ethan Phillips gave what I think is the best Neelix of all possible worlds, but I still hate (early seasons') Neelix.
posted by cjelli at 7:49 AM on August 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


It's the writing, because the humor is almost always meh. One-liners between the crew aren't really a great vehicle for character development. Plus the four male brige crew could swap dialogue and you wouldn't notice.
posted by Brocktoon at 9:56 AM on August 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


Probably redundant by this point, but I agree with it being the writing. I've seen some of these people on other stuff and liked them just fine. (Plus, casting is something even VOY generally knocked out of the park - I can't imagine it's hard to find talented actors who want to be in Star Trek.)
posted by mordax at 10:02 AM on August 14, 2018


2ht: "The biggest negative of Enterprise, in my opinion, is that the characters simply aren't memorable. Archer is okay, Phlox is okay, and I want to like Trip, but there's nothing inherently unique and interesting that endears them to me. Is it the acting or the writing, or some combination of the two? I'm not sure. But none of them are standout characters that fans just fell in love with."

That was my main problem with the show, other than Bakula's Archer, I couldn't tell you thing about any other character.
posted by octothorpe at 12:41 PM on August 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


I definitely didn't notice on the first or second watch through of this series, but you're right about the whiteness and American-ness of the Star Fleet bigwigs.

I have to disagree about the memorable-ness of the characters. I think Trip, Hoshi, Travis, T'Pol are all interesting and memorable characters. They just have the same problem that Voyager had in that they never seem to develop the characters the way DS9 and TNG do. Then again the show doesn't get as much time as those other Trek series to do said development. But that's getting ahead of where we are now.

I like the brief intros we get to each character. T'Pol is stubborn and defiant. Travis is a space baby who's more at home on a ship than on Earth. Phlox is eternally curious and just loves puttin' critters on people. Trip treats the engine like his baby and is best buds with the Captain. Hoshi love languages and is pretty nervous about being in space. Reed (Reid?) is already paranoid that he needs weapons for the ship. Archer is impatient and has a huge chip on his shoulder (also we see a hint at history's dumbest character detail, his love of water polo). I'm sure I forgot someone. Knowing what comes ahead, they do make some attempt to expand on these characters back stories and show how they change over the course of their mission to greater or lesser degrees of success.

The Suliban, much like the Ferengi from season one of TNG, are, in my opinion, crap villains. Unlike the Ferengi though, they seem to have no culture to speak of, not even the one-note cultures you get in Star Trek. Even when we meet non-modified Suliban later on, we learn really little about them as a people. Also, they look like they're covered in that crappy textured paint that was popular for a while.

I like the away mission jackets. I'm not sure we get to see them again.

The decon gel scene and the butterfly eaters are... something. It definitely won't be the last time we see gratuitous sexiness in this series. Then again gratuitous sexiness has been a thing in Star Trek since the original series. It just somehow seems more egregious here.

I honestly cannot remember how the whole temporal cold war thing plays out in the end. I think it has something to do with the Xindi later on but I've never really figured out the shape of that story.

I thought Hoshi calling out the need for seatbelts on the bridge was pretty funny.

Shoutout to Tiny 'Zeus' Lister, aka the President of Earth from the Fifth Element as Klaang in this episode.

I didn't have any issue with the relative closeness of Q'onos. Time and distance have always been sort of nebulous things in Trek. Although, I didn't really understand why Klaang ended up near Earth in the first place.

Looking ahead at the episode descriptions, it's interesting to me how much connective tissue there is between TOS, DS9, Disco, and the Abrams movies (and to a lesser extent TNG). Granted some of that connective tissue was created by the later entries in the canon, but it's nice to know that there's some love for this series in the larger Trek universe.
posted by runcibleshaw at 4:11 PM on August 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


I was burnt out on Trek when Enterprise came out, and then I heard that it wasn't very good so I never got around to watching it. But I just watched the pilot and it wasn't bad, so maybe I'll finally watch the series now.

The gel scene was every bit as absurd as people said. It reminded me of this old Mad Magazine cartoon.
posted by homunculus at 6:12 PM on August 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


As I said in the Voyager series finale thread, I don't intend to regularly check in with these threads because I barely recall vast swaths of Enterprise, but it occurs to me that I might have a situation here that would be exactly the opposite of how things went during the Voyager rewatch. There I felt like the lone booster for the show while everybody else was crabbing about what they saw as missed opportunities... and here a bunch of you might be fans of this show while I mostly remember the missed opportunities.

I was writing a long post about this show, and then I remembered a Voyager thread from a few months back where I already said it all:


I was pretty disappointed about Enterprise. It was all kind of bland and never quite felt like Trek to me. (The Orville actually feels more like a Trek show to me than Enterprise did!) I think by that point Berman and company were so, so burned out, and it showed. They didn't take risks, the way that the previous shows did. And I don't just mean that they went light on the politically allegorical, message-y stuff. All of the other shows excelled at weird, fun "gimmick" episodes, where you saw the promo and just had to find out what that shit was about. ("Wait, DS9 is doing a James Bond episode?" "Captain Proton? WTF?") Enterprise didn't really do crazy stuff like that until the last season, and even then it was mostly stuff that referenced the earlier series, like the Mirror Universe.

Maybe the creators were just tired of the franchise from cranking out all those earlier episodes, but I suspect part of that malaise came from getting hammered by the network and the fans. Voyager was just bashed mercilessly, and people forget that DS9 was really picked on too. Insurrection was a movie about people desperately trying to rejuvenate themselves on a quiet, obscure planet where you can just sit and watch slow-motion hummingbirds, and that always struck me as really transparent and kind of sad wish-fulfillment for the people behind a high-profile franchise in decline. I think they'd spent years being told that they sucked at Star Trek no matter what they did, and by the time they got to Enterprise they had no fight left in them. From the theme song to the plots, there was very little oomph. I barely remember those characters, and that's not something I'd say about any of the earlier shows.

I did like Porthos, though, and NuTrek's tossed-off joke about bad things happening to that doggy is just one of the many, many reasons why I'd kind of like to airlock JJ Abrams. (I'm one of Lost's few defenders, but I cling to the idea that after he directed the pilot he kind of checked out of that series.)


I remember really looking forward to this series, and then being disappointed by how it simultaneously felt too much like the Trek that'd come before, and not enough. It was too familiar, in the sense that we were once again on an exploratory starship boldly going and the tech was basically Voyager without reliable transporters, but it felt too different in the sense that we were cut off from the characters and situations of the Kirk or Picard eras. They tried to zazz it up with some sex stuff but that always just felt awkward and forced.

I think this show would have been much better if it'd gone full retro. It needed bold TOS colors and tech that looked like TOS tech but flashier. It needed fistfights, torn shirts and miniskirts. If it was going to re-invigorate the franchise, it needed to take big risks. Instead we got a show that was... just OK, always. I don't remember it ever being terrible. I don't remember it ever being great. As I said, there's a lot of it I don't remember at all.

IIRC, the whole Suliban time war thing is never really resolved. I remember hoping the mysterious future figure working with the Suliban would be Picard or Spock or somebody shocking and fun like that, but nope. Missed opportunities!
posted by Ursula Hitler at 12:27 AM on August 15, 2018 [3 favorites]


So, about the opening credits.

First off, I have NEVER BEEN MORE GRATEFUL FOR THE NETFLIX "SKIP INTRO" BUTTON.

OTOH, if you mute it, and somehow push That Song out of your memory? The whole future-history-montage idea is actually a really strong one, and well executed too. (Though I'm always a little miffed when the franchise forgets about the XCV-330, as they do in this opening and on the wall of Archer's room.)

But, the song.

Look, here's the thing: I've got nothing against cheesy soft rock. It is entitled to its place in the cultural ecosystem. I'll admit to owning some Journey songs, and actively liking a few of them. I can understand, though I may not feel, the appeal of Generic White Guy Vocalists Who Are Raspy But Not TOO Raspy for Good Morning America. I can even … concede … through clenched teeth … that bands like Nickelback … well, I can't quite figure out how to end that sentence, but, you know.

And if this show were about the struggles of an Olympic hopeful, then this song would be a perfect theme.

You can see where the producers were going with the idea of a pop-style song with vocals, to be sure. But this franchise has never had a good track record when featuring songs without making you cringe (with the rare exception). Had they instead tried to "future-up" the song concept somehow, it could even have been MORE cringe-inducing, like the conceptual garbage fire that is "Jedi Rocks." Maybe it was a no-win scenario and they just shouldn't have tried.

There's been a long tradition in fanon and beta canon (i.e. the books) of Vulcans being unabashedly in the Our Elves Are Better trope, often pretty open and smug about it. In Diane Duane's Spock's World, the framing story to a number of stories set at different points in Vulcan's history is that of Vulcan about to hold a referendum on leaving the Federation; a number of reasons are given. (Note to self: re-read Spock's World.) So, it sort of makes sense that, at this stage, their relationship to humans is that of the over-responsible parent figures in a comedy unwillingly pressganged into babysitting basically decent but unruly children; they just need to learn to loosen up, yo.

Oh, no doubt, it fits with what came before, canonically and otherwise. I distinctly remember, when this pilot aired, remarking on how the Vulcan/Human thing struck me as quite canny worldbuilding. But I also remember wondering if "proving ourselves to the Space Elves" was too… antagonistic? a hook to hang the ship's entire purpose on.

Maybe that's the nebulous thing I alluded to earlier that bugs me about the setup: the fact that, by this point in the franchise's history, even casual Trek fans have been thoroughly conditioned to like Vulcans, and now, wham, they're almost villains. I mean, it's bold, you gotta give 'em that. But it also sets up a fairly predictable arc for T'Pol's character; we know right out of the gate that one of two things will happen: (A) she learns to loosen up, and as a result comes into conflict with her own people, or (B) Jolene Blalock leaves the show early, forcing her character arc somewhere unexpected.

It's a tough problem. And it's one of the many complications of prequelitis. I dunno, maybe my ambivalence about the Vulcan/Earth special relationship will shift on this rewatch.

gratuitous sexiness has been a thing in Star Trek since the original series. It just somehow seems more egregious here.

Probably because of the unprecedentedly pornographic camerawork, the unprecedentedly baffling incongruousness (in the gel scene anyway), and the fact that by September of 2001 we had higher expectations. One thing about DISCO: in the ~6-7 episodes I actually got through, I recall no Seven/T'Pol-style gratuitousness whatsoever.

I think they'd spent years being told that they sucked at Star Trek no matter what they did, and by the time they got to Enterprise they had no fight left in them. From the theme song to the plots, there was very little oomph. I barely remember those characters, and that's not something I'd say about any of the earlier shows.

I agree about all of this. It's not a good sign when the only thing I can say about Travis is "he was a Boomer" when I can provide a deeper and fuller character sketch of this guy who was in one TNG episode.

Instead we got a show that was... just OK, always. I don't remember it ever being terrible. I don't remember it ever being great.

I dimly remember that roughly five or six total ENT episodes genuinely impressed me, but I couldn't tell you which, why, or how.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 4:59 AM on August 15, 2018 [2 favorites]


It reminded me of this old Mad Magazine cartoon.

I'm not sure which is more bizarre: that Don Martin drew something that lurid (most of the cheesier cheesecake stuff in MAD was usually Dave Berg's turf), or that he's apparently confused the Vulcan salute with throwing the goat.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:00 AM on August 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


OTOH, if you mute it, and somehow push That Song out of your memory? The whole future-history-montage idea is actually a really strong one, and well executed too. (Though I'm always a little miffed when the franchise forgets about the XCV-330, as they do in this opening and on the wall of Archer's room.)

The overall arc of past-exploration to future-history is definitely nifty, and throwing some of First Contact in there is icing on the cake. But as to the history-history part of it, one thing I noticed on watching the intro during the next episode -- somewhat primed by thinking about how the show maps American-ness onto early starfleet -- is that every single historical airplane, spaceship, and astronaut (prior to the shot of the ISS) is American: Memory-Alpha has a shot-by-shot breakdown that confirms this; even the near-future spaceplane is named and modeled after NASA designs.

Not to knock the American space program, at all, but if one were to draft a history of human spaceflight it would be extremely weird to omit Sputnik and Gagarin and all of the valid and laudatory accomplishments of every non-American space program.

I'm curious at this point if that was an intentional design choice or an un-examined one, given how some other parts of the pilot play out.

Maybe that's the nebulous thing I alluded to earlier that bugs me about the setup: the fact that, by this point in the franchise's history, even casual Trek fans have been thoroughly conditioned to like Vulcans, and now, wham, they're almost villains.

This has been bugging me a bit too, and it's interesting looking back at the original Star Trek run -- in Balance of Terror, a substantial part of the crew is perfectly willing to believe that Spock might be not only a villain but a traitor; there are a bunch of early episodes that are rather dismissive of Vulcan (or Vulcanian) beliefs. So there's a real tension between the history of Vulcans in media -- where they've been, through Spock, people we're supposed to like for literally decades -- and the history of Vulcans in-universe, where things are considerably murkier.

That's definitely part of it; and you're right to note that it's a tension that exists despite us all knowing exactly how it will eventually play out, given the future of the franchise. That's partly Enterprise's fault for not being so bold as to, say, blow up Vulcan and play the 'timey-wimey, not-really-a-prequel, temporal-cold-war means it's not really quite canon' card, or similar. I don't know where exactly this is coming from -- the producers? the writers? the network? -- but, at least in the pilot, there does seem to be this urge to put All Of Star Trek in one episode and have it be both new and also change nothing.

The other part of it -- and I seem to remember that Enterprise gets more into the human/Vulcan relationship later (although I'm foggy on the details); this is maybe getting ahead of ourselves -- is that the pilot, at least, doesn't quite sketch in how exactly the Vulcans are holding humanity back, and the way they do talk about it is hard to square with how Starfleet actually acts.
JONATHAN: Well, Billy Cook said we'd be flying at warp five by now if the Vulcans hadn't kept things from us.
FATHER: Well they have their reasons. God knows what they are.
...

FORREST: We may need to defer to their judgement.
ARCHER: We've been deferring to their judgement for a hundred years!
FORREST: Jon.
ARCHER: How much longer?
T'POL: Until you've proven you're ready,
ARCHER: Ready to what?
T'POL: To look beyond your provincial attitudes and volatile nature.
...
FORREST: When Zefram Cochrane made his legendary warp flight ninety years ago, and drew the attention of our new friends, the Vulcans. We realised that we weren't alone in the galaxy. Today we're about to cross a new threshold. For nearly a century, we've waded ankle-deep in the ocean of space. Now it's finally time to swim. (applause) The warp five engine wouldn't be a reality without men like Doctor Cochrane and Henry Archer, who worked so hard to develop it. So it's only fitting that Henry's son, Jonathan Archer, will command the first starship powered by that engine. (applause as Archer and senior officers leave) Rather than quoting Doctor Cochrane, I think we should listen to his own words from the dedication ceremony for the Warp Five Complex thirty two years ago.
COCHRANE [on screen] On this site, a powerful engine will be built. An engine that will someday help us travel a hundred times faster than we can today. (as the officers take their bridge stations) Imagine it. Thousands of inhabited planets at our fingertips. And we'll be able to explore those strange new worlds and seek out new life and new civilizations. This engine will let us go boldly where no man has gone before.
The Enterprise takes about a week to reach Qo'noS -- call it seven days even. If, thirty years ago, Starfleet had ships that were a hundred times slower than the Enterprise, they could have reached Qo'noS in seven hundred days -- or, twenty-eight years ago. Presumably there are planets closer than Qo'noS (or the galactic geography really makes no sense). Given that, it really fundamentally makes no sense at all that hitting warp five would be all that much of a hurdle to exploration. So it follows that, if the Vulcans have been blocking exploration, there has to be a lot more going on -- and that gets us into conspiratorial territory, and it feels very different to me to have the show framing the Vulcans as secret conspirators blocking human progress than it does to have them framing the Vulcans as overtly arguing against taking flight so soon.

'But cjelli, Star Trek has always been kind of handwavey about speed and distance! You can't apply logic to this kind of thing!' -- is a completely valid critique and I don't think any Star Trek could really hold up to close analysis about stellar geography. I mostly wish that the pilot had avoided giving us such hard-and-fast times and distances -- that is, my issue is that the pilot isn't hand-wavey enough. They would have been better off just saying that it would be long road getting from here on Earth to Qo'nos, and left it at that.
posted by cjelli at 7:28 AM on August 15, 2018 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I don't think they actually explain how the Vulcans keep humans down. Part of it is that they don't share technology with humans. As we'll see later, other races have transporter technology, but the humans have to develop the transporter on their own. Vulcans also have faster warp capable ships, which they again don't share with the humans. Part of the problem seems to be that humans have, in some undefined way, ceded their authority over their own space program to the Vulcans. Star Fleet seems to take its marching orders from Vulcan High Command, so if VHC says they can't launch their warp 5 ship then Star Fleet can't do anything about it. But, like I said, it's not really covered in any detail.

Also, something taking a year or two to do does make a difference from something taking a few days. Certainly you could make a long term exploration program that takes two to four years to visit a star that's 80 light years away but presumably it takes a bigger allocation of resources to outfit a ship to spend years in space with no chance of docking or repairs. We'll see later this is explored a bit when we meet some "Boomers" and the lost colony of Terra Nova which was 20 light years away from Earth and took 9 years to reach.
posted by runcibleshaw at 8:56 AM on August 15, 2018 [2 favorites]


Yeah, if you ever start tooling around the Alpha Quadrant in Elite Dangerous, you start to notice just how ridiculously close a lot of the distances are. Which, I mean, it's fine, warp factor being what it is and all.
posted by Kyol at 9:13 AM on August 15, 2018 [2 favorites]


my issue is that the pilot isn't hand-wavey enough.

This has come up in previous Trek rewatches; take, for example, VOY's "The 37's", which doesn't limit its mistakes to that superfluous apostrophe. Someone, at some point, came up with new measuring units, i.e. "isotons" and "kiloquads", to avoid premature obsolescence of basic facts. (One of my favorite examples in all of SF would be in William Gibson's otherwise superlative Neuromancer, and no, I don't mean "the color of a TV tuned to a dead channel"; it's where Case makes a deal to sell "3 megabytes of hot RAM." That was a lot when the book was written (the Apple II had all of 64 KB at the time), but it hasn't aged well, and Gibson smartly sidestepped references to existing computer tech in most of the rest of the book.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:52 PM on August 15, 2018 [2 favorites]


I think this show would have been much better if it'd gone full retro.

That would've been a genuinely bold move. I certainly would've been impressed with it.

my issue is that the pilot isn't hand-wavey enough.

This has come up in previous Trek rewatches


Right? I was actually shocked when a number was correct. (Thirty Days featured a shockingly accurate volume of water for the crazy water planet, and I was flummoxed. I remember.)
posted by mordax at 1:17 PM on August 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


I remember hearing they were considering using Rocket Man for the theme, which would have been awesome and evocative but would've come with two major downsides. First, it's rather melancholy and plays against the gung-ho space exploration stuff. If the show had been more nuanced the song could have fit, but it wouldn't have clicked with this version of the show. Secondly, it might have been seen as making fun of one of Shatner's most infamously weird performances.

I wonder if they considered going with Magic Carpet Ride. I mean, yes, it's arguably kind of a goofy song, but it would have been a nice call-back to First Contact. Almost anything would have been better than what they used. A theme song shouldn't make the audience cringe every week.

I think this show was most sorely missing a good Alien Outsider character, the conflicted, compelling not-human who observes humanity and comments on it. TOS had Spock, TNG had Data, DS9 had Odo, Voyager had the Doctor and later Seven. I guess this show was sort of trying to make T'Pol that character, but she just didn't have the oomph. She was full-Vulcan and too calm to be interesting. Phlox was a little more compelling, but most of the time he was just this pleasant alien weirdo. In almost every respect, this show just didn't go far enough.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 2:37 PM on August 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


I still maintain the correct musical background for the opening sequence is the Perfect Strangers theme song.

It's scarily accurate
posted by thecaddy at 2:51 PM on August 15, 2018 [3 favorites]


OK after much thought, I have come to the conclusion that Trip was a major turd that seriously damaged this show. He's not even close to Riker or Chakotay likeable. Very much the opposite. This guy has no business in space communicating with other species. T'Pol should have been the first officer. Blalock isn't the greatest actress, but it would have been acres better.
posted by Brocktoon at 5:21 PM on August 15, 2018


cjelli: They would have been better off just saying that it would be long road getting from here on Earth to Qo'nos, and left it at that.

They did, though. It's right there in the theme song.
posted by hanov3r at 7:55 AM on August 16, 2018


T'Pol should have been the first officer.

T'Pol is the first officer, although Trip pushed back against her taking command mighty hard when Archer was missing or incapacitated. That does bring up an interesting question, though, about who really runs the ship (or the station) in Star Trek, and why, and what weight that gives them in the series.

TOS - the traditional triumvirate is usually Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, because of the dramatic structure that gives to Spock being Kirk's superego and McCoy the id, but in terms of the command structure, Scotty is third behind Kirk and Spock. He's usually the one who takes the conn if Kirk and Spock aren't available and he stays on board, and he's also one of the three command officers that give the command for the ship to self destruct, shown here and here. It makes sense, given the responsibility that the chief engineer has; as Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens note in one of their books, whoever controls Engineering controls the ship.

TNG - Picard, Riker, Troi. Deanna Troi seems to be given some of the authority granted the Chief Medical Officer in determining the fitness of personnel to be at their posts, although I don't know if she's ever relieved anyone of duty; she also took the conn more than once. Geordi La Forge (the chief engineer during most of TNG) seemed to do that less often, but eventually had his own command (in an alternate future in VOY's "Timeless").

DS9 - Sisko and Kira. The only other person we ever see in the Big Chair is Dukat, 'nuff said. The station's chief engineer is O'Brien, the only NCO in the main cast of any of the shows. We don't know who assumes the XO role during Sisko's absences.

VOY - Janeway, Chakotay, Tuvok. Tuvok has the highest role of any security chief; his closest equivalent would be Mirror-Sulu. To the best of my recollection, B'Elanna never even takes the conn.

As always, please feel free to correct me or offer your own opinion.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:15 AM on August 16, 2018 [3 favorites]


We don't know who assumes the XO role during Sisko's absences.

Didn't Jadzia command the station at one point? When Sisko and Kira were presumably occupied? I could very easily be misremembering.

VOY - Janeway, Chakotay, Tuvok. [...] To the best of my recollection, B'Elanna never even takes the conn.

Definitely not, at least not of Voyager. IIRC she commanded an away team or two.

But let's not forget Harry running Voyager (for whom one of my favorite moments was when the flight officer asked if they should respond to all the hails from 1990s Earth, and the way Harry said, "Absolutely not!"). Interestingly, perpetual ensign Harry has the same position as Lt. Cmdr. Data: operations officer, which has always seemed to me to be a natural choice to take command in lieu of a captain and first officer (or AS a first officer, on a smallish ship). More natural than chief engineer, really; I always inferred that the reason Geordi wasn't in the big chair more often had to do with him being needed downstairs. (That also came up in our rewatch of TOS: Mrs. CoB was all, "How come Scotty's spending so little time in Engineering?")
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 12:13 PM on August 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


TNG - Picard, Riker, Troi. Deanna Troi seems to be given some of the authority granted the Chief Medical Officer in determining the fitness of personnel to be at their posts, although I don't know if she's ever relieved anyone of duty; she also took the conn more than once.

I think the chain of command was Picard >> Riker >> Data >> Worf/Yar for most of the show's run; Troi (in Disaster and maybe elsewhere), Crusher (in Descent, Part II and maybe elsewhere), and Geordi (I think in an early-season episode?) do all end up heading the ship at one point.

That's a bit separate -- as you note -- from how the show balances the moral authority of the cast (as in the TOS trifecta). Broken Bow positions that, I think, as being Archer, T'Pol, and Trip, less as three equidistant points of a triangle and more as three points along a line: with T'Pol and Trip as two extremes of 'how should humanity behave,' and Archer in flux as a balance between them. It will be interesting to see if that bears up for the rest of Enterprise or whether it's just a facet of the pilot.
posted by cjelli at 1:04 PM on August 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


Ah yes, Trip was I guess the "second" officer. He sure likes to order T'Pol around a lot, though, and the sexual tension between them is icky and forced. We hates him.
posted by Brocktoon at 5:32 PM on August 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


It's been a long time, but I remember Trip having more personality than most of the crew. Maybe it doesn't play well to modern eyes, I dunno, but if you took out the tension between Trip and T'Pol the show would probably be even more bland.

I don't mean to keep dumping on this show. It truly wasn't bad and I did have the feeling that everybody involved was really trying. But it always felt like the people making it were going back to the well one too many times and they were desperate to come up with something audiences would go for after getting hammered by all the griping about Voyager and DS9. "Here's a white male captain played by Scott Bakula, everybody likes him! Here's a sexy lady Vulcan! The show's even called Enterprise! Will you please watch, now?"

I think the bland characters are what really sank it for me. The only thing I remember about Mayweather was his thing about how there was a weird gravity zone on every ship. Like, that's it. Reed was... stand-offish? Was that his thing? (Mostly I remember the rumors he was going to be the first openly gay Trek character, and then that didn't happen.) Hoshi was a worrier, and she had a pet slug or something. I remember her being kind of endearing but that's about it. T'Pol just kind of came across as a generic Vulcan, and even Archer didn't make the strongest impression on me. He loved his dog, so that was nice. Phlox was kind of mysterious and he seemed to have a streak of jolly, scientific callousness that made him kind of an interesting departure from other Trek docs. I contrast these characters with the crews of every other Trek ship, and it's kinda pitiful. We actually know very little about the characters of TOS, we never even learned if Uhura had a first name, but they all had so much personality they became iconic.

If they'd given this show to Ronald Moore, they probably would've saved the franchise. It needed a BSG-like jolt, something to make audiences have to watch. Or they could have given it to somebody new and talented who was really jazzed to make an old-fashioned Trek show. What it absolutely didn't need was a bunch of exhausted Trek vets trying to figure out how to make fans happy. All they managed to do was ride out a few seasons without embarrassing themselves.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 6:19 PM on August 16, 2018 [5 favorites]


(That also came up in our rewatch of TOS: Mrs. CoB was all, "How come Scotty's spending so little time in Engineering?")

To be fair, the Engineer on most naval vessels is one of the most senior officers on board and spends considerably more time standing watch on the bridge than standing any kind of watches in Engineering. Unlike Star Trek the Engineer would never be getting their hands dirty with repairs or maintenance, their role is mainly to monitor the engineering department and provide guidance on how to conduct engineering operations. Scotty much more closely resembles a division chief, who is much more likely to get hands-on with repairs (thought not as much as the NCO petty officers) and also spends time standing watches on the bridge (such as Chief of the Watch or Dive Officer on a submarine).

There's a lot more delegating in the navy versus Star Trek, in the navy the CO and XO rarely take direct control of the ship, they're much more often monitoring the situation on the bridge and giving orders to the Officer of the Deck if they want the ship to take a specific action. The XO may take over as Officer of the Deck during battlestations, though that's up to the Captain's discretion. Next Generation was probably the most realistic in this regard, since they always had the main characters kicking extras out of their watch stations whenever something interesting was happening, not to mention how much time Picard spends in his ready room, which makes sense since as Captain he has way more important things to do than sit in a chair and watch stars go by.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 6:47 PM on August 16, 2018 [6 favorites]


What it absolutely didn't need was a bunch of exhausted Trek vets trying to figure out how to make fans happy. All they managed to do was ride out a few seasons without embarrassing themselves.

Arguably, Berman and Braga didn't even really manage the latter--they brought in Manny Coto for the third and fourth seasons (the box-office failure of Star Trek: Nemesis was also a factor in that), and, although the last two seasons weren't without their own problems (which we'll get to eventually), he seemed to have a better idea not only of what the show should be about but also where television was starting to go with shows such as The Sopranos. I think that you're absolutely right that B&B were probably burnt out on Trek by now and simply unwilling or unable to admit it.

WRT Mayweather, I think that there could have been a lot more done with his background on a commercial freighter, but again, I'll reserve judgment for the time being. (There's a Mayweather-centric episode coming up this season that I'd forgotten about.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:41 AM on August 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


how unremittingly American the pilot is -- and how its American-ness is a very early 21st century American-ness at that

This always screams at me whenever I watch the pilot. The Top Gun atmosphere as it were. Fortunately it settles down (or maybe I get used to it) as the season progresses though the Michael Dorn directed episode brings back another prominent 80's atmosphere.

Star Trek occupies the space between mainstream television and independent television which, depending on the overall balance, permits me at least to continue watching or not. Voyager remains the top series for me in this regard as it leans heavily to the mainstream where the intelligence of the audience is held in very low regard. I'd say Enterprise isn't to far behind but for some reason as I watched it during it's original run, Deep Space 9 remained the best series and still does by the proverbial kilometre, but Trip is my favourite Trek Engineer, T'Pol by far my favourite Vulcan, and Phlox a close second to Bashir.

Watching this again it struck my how both Connor Trinneer and Linda Park pretty much have their characters straight away (Stewart had this with Picard as well) and how the sequence of shooting versus the narrative sequence shows Blalock in particular, but the others as well, a bit inconsistent with their characters.

The plot is an "adventure" plot that has the usual level of Star Trek (non)sense and exposition to keep it going. I laughed out loud when T'Pol tells Archer that "Space is very big Captain." If I'm generous it's a poorly executed Spock tribute (the scene where T'Pol finds Trip and Klang using the old style scanner to see his ignited plasma was a far better Spock tribute and to the episode where Spock does the same in desperation) but I think it was to make sure the audience was reminded that space is big. Most, I assume, like Douglas Adam's space is big lines much better.

The decon scene was in terribly bad taste then as it is now. The woman in a catsuit thing glaringly obvious even though it has, of course, been done before. What was done before was apparently exactly what the big brass wanted, insisting that the stories are on a starship right away rather than having the entire first season (or the majority of it anyway) set on Earth. This will affect the quality of the show greatly from time to time, just as similar meddling did with Voyager.

Archer. Wow. By far the crankiest, short tempered Captain. It blows me away every time and crescendos later in the series. He and Trip share this feature to varying degrees throughout the series but for Archer it's every episode. It's his style. I couldn't get past the first 10 minutes of Quantum Leap and I've never seen Bakula in anything else so I have no idea if this is a typical Bakula characteristic in his performances. I don't mind it from afar as it were. It's amusing. But in real life I'd be applying for a transfer ASAP.

The majority of the effects still hold up. Great that it was shot in HD and I like the design and look of the show.

As for the opening song and closing song. Again. Someone really liked the 80's when this show started. I find the guitar in closing sequence more jarring then the sappy theme song.
posted by juiceCake at 11:08 PM on August 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


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