Celebrating the five full decades of Star Trek should be a yearlong event, so I thought I would spread the love of all things Trek. Previously in this series I touched on why I loved the Original Series, the Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and most recently Voyager. Next on our list is the show that ended Trek on television (at least until Discovery comes along) by taking us back to the beginning of the Federation, Star Trek Enterprise.
It has been said that no series of Trek has been so polarizing. There was a great deal of resistance, and many found ample material to complain about. Some hated the theme song (it had lyrics for Spock’s sake!), others disliked the apparent continuity errors, while some criticized what was described as decisions made to try to up ratings at the expense of good character development and story-telling. This was the first trek series since the Original that was cancelled due to low ratings, and some have argued that the franchise has never recovered from Enterprise. The show did not even contain the words “Star Trek” in its title until the third season. Producer Rick Berman had said that he felt the studio rushed the production of Enterprise, claiming that the television market had become saturated with Star Trek by having three series going seven seasons each over 14 years and felt the franchise needed to catch its breath before moving on. Some fans agreed.
Still, Enterprise had a loyal, though smaller, following. Many enjoyed seeing the early growth of humanity as it became an interstellar power. We were entreated to the first encounter with the Klingons in the pilot episode. Some appreciated the new characters, new races, and what life in the 22nd century was like. Some were fascinated by the depiction of humans that were not quite at the utopian level that Roddenberry had envisioned. I enjoyed the series myself, though I had a few more dislikes about it than any other series, but since we are keeping it positive here, I give you my top 5 reasons for why I love Enterprise.
1. Shran – Played by the amazing Jeffery Combs, Shran was the first major Andorian character. I loved how they developed this character. He started out as an adversary and quickly grew into one of the most trusted allies of the Enterprise crew. He was tough, quick-tempered, and fierce. His lines were brilliantly written, to the point where when I get tired of a particular human of Caucasian descent, I think about calling him “pink-skin”. I think the saddest part of the cancellation of Enterprise was the revelation that had it lasted a fifth season, Shran would have become part of the crew and a Jeffery Combs a main cast member.
2. Dr. Phlox – Our favourite (and first) Denobulan. He was a wonderfully refreshing character. Funny, different, and showed that the Denobulans were more than just another alien with a different forehead. His physiology was just different enough to add a “cool” factor. From his extremely long tongue to his literal ear-to-ear grin, Dr. Phlox provided us some comic relief. There was more to him than that, however. He became a moral compass to the crew who, unlike the Vulcan T’Pol, could share an outsider’s perspective and an excitement of exploration that gave a great deal of balance to the crew.
3. Explaining the Klingons – For many decades there was one important question that was not answered for the fans. In the Original Series the Klingons looked like deeply tanned humans with cool mustaches. When the films began, their foreheads became ridged and prominent. No explanation given. The closest we came was in the DS9 episode “Trials and Tribblations” when Worf tells his crew mates that the reason they looked different was because it was a ‘private matter”. Well, Enterprise came up with the best possible explanation. It bridged the story line with the Augments and DNA
4. Nods to the future and the past – Some classic aliens and characters were either updated or foreshadowed. On the list of upgrades, we have the Orions, Tellarites, Gorn, and Tholians. Foreshadowing of the future we have Arik Soong (ancestor of Data’s creator, Noonien Song, all played wonderfully by Brent Spiner), the Organians, and, naturally, the United Federation of Planets. We found out what the early days of the Terran Empire was like as well as the fate of the first USS Defiant from the classic episode “The Tholian Web” when we were taken to the mirror universe. I can overlook the early introduction to the Ferengi and the Borg knowing that this series showed respect to the series that came before.
5. Scott Bakula – I have been a fan of Bakula since “Quantum Leap”. I liked what he brought to the role of Captain Johnathan Archer. He was tough, had a chip on his shoulder, and was determined to push humanity into the galaxy. Yes, he was flawed. He made big mistakes. This is what helps me identify with him. He also admitted those mistakes. He owned them. He worked to improve himself. All of this was brought with great strength in Bakula’s performance. Add to that the fact that Mr. Bakula is one of the most well-liked and respected actors in Hollywood. At a convention with Connor Trineer, he mentioned that after every day of shooting, Bakula would personally thank every member of the crew and cast. He treated everyone on set as if they were equally important. For this reason, I am proud that he was a part of Enterprise.
It’s been a long road, getting from there to here (sorry, I couldn’t resist), but these are the top reasons why I love Enterprise. There are others, of course, and I may have overlooked some of yours, so feel free to add them to the comment section. In what will likely be a far more controversial topic, the next article in this series will be why I love the Kelvin Timeline film series.