06th Dec2010

Hey Star Trek! dijoo HOLD IT BACK!?

by jerad.formby

If you’re listening to Trekcast, which we hope you are, you know that there has been a very sweet series of interviews being contributed by Allen from the west coast. One of these interviews that really knocked our socks off was with the very great John Billingsley –who played Doctor Phlox on Enterprise. In case you missed, here it is.

Allen was right to praise the actor throughout the interview as the “break-out” character of the show. Hearing what he had to say to trekcast’s “favorite doctor” got us all nostalgic for that final incarnation of Trek.

CBS.com is streaming the entire series as of this post, so we’ve been over there a few times for seconds and sometimes thirds. The reaction to Enterprise by Star Trek’s fan base has been a keen interest of ours for a long while. Some hate it all day. Some love it all day.

We hate to love it all day and we love to hate it all day.

At word “go make us a new Star Trek series,” show creators Brannon Braga and Rick Berman knew they wanted to make the concept fresh not only for its fans, but for themselves… after all, they’d been writing Trek for most of the professional lives. To really get into the nuts and bolts of Enterprise, we must travel back to the beginnings of TNG.

From its inception, Enterprise met with mixed reactions from the fan base. Many didn’t see how “the past of Captain Kirk” could be presented at all. We were excited by the idea of going back to an era where the Federation wasn’t anywhere. The concept seemed just as bold and fresh as the show’s creators said it was.

Enterprise-hate kicked off right away with fans bemoaning that the show could never feel like it was canon. They argued that it was impossible to “pull off” in modern day television a show that looked like the technological pre-cursor to Captain Kirk.

That’s right, friends and neighbors, the thing most fans were fretting over was what the show would look like and if that new look would respect the 1960’s sets of the original series! The show would be a failure from the get-go if the set design didn’t make Kirk’s stuff seem futuristic.

Why would they make this sort of demand? Well, we blame everybody’s favorite Star Trek. We blame Star Trek the Next Generation for this bizarre and unfriendly demand on the show we love and hate so much.

Right from the get go, we remember the criticisms being slung around the nerd community. They were disappointed that the ship wasn’t going to respect Kirk’s show –even though they knew there was no way to retro-date the look of the show.

They were also upset because Star Trek should have been going forward and not backward. To the lay-person, all this means is that if the last Star Trek show took place in the 24th century, then the new show should take place right after.

We at the Hey Star Trek! offices didn’t see why that was so important back in those days. We still don’t. Going forward, to us, is simply a blank page. That page will be filled with a new story. By it’s definition, “new” means it will be something not yet explored and therefore going forward with a hitherto untold Star Trek story (no matter when it takes place)!

Going backward, to us, is retreading territory that’s done to death. Something called Star Trek: Holodeck would have garnered the same weary reaction from our younger selves.

With the fans crying foul, nitpicking was running rampant. How, a few hold-outs speculated, could there be a prequel show when Kirk, Picard, Sisko, and Janeway have never acknowledged it in any of their stories?

So Enterprise had all of these perceptions already pulling it down before it even premiered. Skeptics tuned in anyway. Lots of fans were really curious as to what the new offering would finally bring.

Many tuned in for Star Trek. Many tuned in for Scott Bakula.

He was a favorite amongst Sci-Fi fans because of his turn in Clive Barker’s Lord of Illusions. This very famous television series featured Bakula as a scientist (named for a famous Irish Playwright) who could “illusion” his way across time. He would then become “lord” of a new person’s body each week and improve their lives in significant and unforseen ways.

Two things that happened in that premiere probably shocked more than a few Star Trek fans. The first shocker might have been that the words “Star” and “Trek” weren’t on the title screen next to Enterprise. The other shocker was that there was no majestic let’s travel through space musical theme or march.

There was a rock ballad instead. The song made people’s jaws drop. They didn’t understand why this new thing that they were already planning to hate didn’t even want to call itself Star Trek. It didn’t even want to start off like a good, proper, normal Star Trek. So the fans who went in to alienate Enterprise from their precious Star Trek found themselves alienated by Star Trek’s latest entry.

Star Trek fans can froth at the mouth. We’ve seen it.

We liked Broken Bow. The intention of the show creators to give us an action-packed taste of Star Trek’s new thing was evident with the opening pilot. It was the story where humans first met Klingons (so there was a nerdy reach around) and it also gave us their new, bold approach in a nut shell.

Every series has begun in such a way and Enterprise maintained the tradition.

The story wasn’t particularly brilliant or mind blowing. There was just enough Trek lore to keep us engaged and some new stuff to ponder. The episode is all right –although not the greatest in Trek.

We have Archer driving a Klingon home. He loses the Klingon part way and must rescue him –against every other character’s belief. It happens for him because he’s forcing a triangle shape into a square hole. He gets it done and it’s good, action packed, sexy viewing.

As far as a Star Trek episode, it does not shake the pillars of hell. There’s nothing particularly mind blowing or awesome. But at the end of the day, we have a new captain, crew, and ship. And we have the stars ahead.

Like the pilots that preceded it, Enterprise announced its new voice and, like the pilots that preceded it, it was ripped into like a piñata by trekkies around the globe. One of the biggest problems people had we’d already predicted.

The problem fans were set to have with a “villainous race” for Enterprise were already anticipated by its creators. At their fingertips, they had an invented explanation for how a ferocious species could rival the Romulans or the Klingons and never be spoken of on the earlier (later) shows.

They invented the temporal cold war. Yes, brothers and sisters, the need for Star Trek fans to have their universe put together more succinctly than a snowflake forced the hands of the Enterprise showrunners to offer up the worst thing ever invented in all of Star Trek.

This “brilliant” idea was put together as a blanket to explain anything and everything the producers might have to do that could some how “offend canon.” What these things might be, we believe the producers didn’t even know, they just wanted this ultimate excuse to change anything they wanted anywhere (any-when?) they wanted.

Have a problem with how Enterprise seems more advanced then TOS? Temporal Cold War, sucka! No idea why you never heard of Suliban before? Temporal Cold War, bee-yatch! Think that’s a canon violation? Well the Temporal Cold War is going on for the whole length of the series and it will probably get around to explaining it to you!

What cracks us up is that the Temporal Cold War got dropped harder than Data’s emotion chip. When season 4 came around and Enterprise got a new showrunner named Manny Coto, this bit of hogwash was openly ignored in favor of what we should have been getting all along: real Star Trek.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Stupid Temporal Cold War.

So, worst. idea. ever. aside, what was it that initially excited us about Enterprise?

The “Chuck Yeager” approach to Star Trek was a great idea to us and we loved seeing it come into fruition. We found the first season of the show to deliver exactly what was promised and we are in the minority of fans who actually find that first season to be brave.

The show was bold enough to give its heroes the most advanced ship in their era and give them nowhere to go! Every other episode featured Archer wide-eyed and fancy free. He was going where-ever he wanted with a Vulcan star chart to steer-by!

This sense of wonder and seeing things in space for the first time became very contagious for us and we applauded Rick Berman and Brannon Braga for sticking to their guns and supposing what might really happen if you were the only human ship –you just might wander. Of course each story had Archer stumbling into some sort of Star Trek scenario –the happy coincidence of being a television show, after all.

But we’ll submit, gentle reader, that this thing we found so endearing is what turned Star Trek fans away from the show. They weren’t comfortable watching a show where the agenda was set by the Captain’s whim!

This approach was set up in “Broken Bow” when Archer insists he use his ship to deliver the Klingon. In his heart of hearts, he really wants to see these new species and these unknown reaches of space and once that job is done, he settles into what Enterprise was to be: let’s just see what that might be, let’s just look at things for the first time, let’s go out of our way and look at that nebula because nobody’s ever done it before!

Enterprise also had a controversial idea that we just reveled in. What if Vulcans, just might have something evil about them? What if they aren’t the “perfect beings” so many Trek fans believe that they are. The development of the Vulcan/Human relationship was fantastic and new.

If the plan for your “birth of the Federation series” is to have multiple worlds come together, then everybody has to have a starting place –even the Vulcans. To develop their culture in a straight line (from perfect to still perfect) would not be a Star Trek story. It would be boring.

If humans are expected to evolve and create the Federation with a few choice worlds, then every world in that agreement will have to evolve along with the humans. Each culture grows and learns from each other. Secrets are revealed and alliances are forged. This beautiful notion was anticipated by the show’s creators and they made sure to include it.

Fans that weren’t turned off by this unanticipated exploration of one of Star Trek’s most popular cultures probably felt rewarded when Vulcan episodes came on. Those same fans probably sighed in relief: Oh great, they’re finally doing something!

And it’s that fan attitude that makes us very sad, because that seed of resentment –that feeling that only the episodes that came with missions were the “good ones” began to crack the beauty of Enterprise and pervert it into something truly awful:

A series trying to anticipate fans’ needs.

More than any other series, the producers of Enterprise looked to fan remarks and critiques to draw inspiration for ways to get more viewers. They began doubting their concept to such a degree that, had it been Voyager, Janeway would have been on Earth in Season Two.

One thing that annoys us all day here at Hey Star Trek! is the idea that all series have a period where it must “find its legs.” This popular philosophy is every Trek fan’s excuse to ignore the first few episodes (or seasons) of any given series in favor of the more popular episodes that come later.

By hitting its “stride” each series is given the opportunity to stumble and screw-up, just to redeem itself later. This idea, nurtured by so many viewers, seems to be what’s pointed at as “reasons the new trek series sucked” until the instant they decided to watch.

We cry foul at this sentiment and offer loads of evidence that the problems most fans have with their favorite series are misguided and ultimately totally absurd. This statement is aimed at TNG fans, DS9 fans, VOY fans, and most acutely at ENT fans.

To dismiss unilaterally the first TNG season is to ignore “The Big Goodbye.” Saying that the Dominion War is what made DS9 good is to let “The Wire” fall from grace. To say that Voyager wasn’t good until Seven of Nine is to dismiss “Prime Factors” –one of the best episodes of Star Trek.

And let’s not forget the “really good seasons” had stuff in them that make the first seasons seem really, really good!

We can only speculate that it’s popular in Trek fandom to “explain away” the ab-moralities that arise when characters are unfamiliar and cite “welcome experimentation” on the part of the writers when what’s written does not gel with what they know from other, more established series.

We do not endorse this theory of series “getting better with time” and Enterprise is most definitely the exception to that strange philosophy. Our reason for this is simple. Upon the launch of Enterprise with “Broken Bow” we were treated to a new approach to Star Trek –and it hit the ground running. It didn’t know that the fans were waiting to trip it, call it names, and force it to run a different race.

Archer’s mission of not having a mission was simply too bold for Star Trek.

“Like” Hey Star Trek! on Facebook. It’s not the end of the world. Or is it!?

  • Miles McLouglin

    I managed to watch Enterprise from beginning to end. I liked it for the most part and could embrace a different Star Trek. I accepted that the ship looked more advanced than the TOS Enterprise, because the TOS Enterprise was conceived back in the 60s, they had limited budget and resources and well. . . TOS took place in the 60s. I was able to go with it.
    My problem with Enterprise was I thought they should have been more retro if not in their appearance, than at least in their capabilities. Enterprise takes place 100 years before TOS. How about instead of Warp 5, how about just warp 3. Also, why have a transporter. If their going to be bold enough to be retro, than really go retro. Our technology has caught where they can use the shuttles and keep it cost effective. I also thought their Directed Energy Weapons were too advanced. I liked that the new BSG didn’t use any lasers or anything like it. They stuck to conventional weapons. I wish Enterprise would have done that.
    I do give points for them not having a Tractor Beam, but a cable grappler. I also liked that their Universal Translator didn’t always work. The decon chamber was nice touch also.
    A story thread I didn’t care for was what they did with the Vulcans early on. In TOS Star Trek and after mind melds was common thing for Vulcans. However, in Enterprise, mind melds are taboo for Vulcans and only a rare ostracized group practices them. I know they dealt with this in Season 4 which was in my opinion the best season of Enterprise, but Season 4 in my opinion had to do damage control and repair that seasons 1,2,3 had created to the cannon. Yes, I’m a nerd and I like my Star Trek to follow cannon.

  • Miles McLouglin

    There were things that Enterprise did right. I did like that there was tension between Vulcans & Andorians. It made for interesting story telling. Peace takes time. I like they dealt with the Klingon forehead issue. It was an interesting story about Klingons playing with human augment DNA and it backfiring on them. The coalition with planets was an interesting beginning to the Federation and that it was created as a response to the Romulan threat.
    I didn’t care for the series finale. The episode had problems. Are they trying to tell us after ten years, everybody is still serving on the ship and not getting transferred. also the lack of promotions. Sato and Meryweather are still Ensigns after ten years? Also, nothing against Riker and Troi, but I thought they deserved their own finale.
    I thought Enterprise had potential, but, in some ways if failed to live up to it’s premise. With Berman and Braga leading the show, it seemed too familiar.
    What Star Trek needed was new blood. Abrams, Kurtz and Oric was what was needed to give new life to the franchise. Well that’s just my thoughts.

  • Mutt

    I looked forward to Enterprise in the day. The theme song sucked and I hated it more with every viewing. It pitched low to a teen audience. Instead of low level sexuality, we have Vulcan chick (Officer and primary character who we will see frequently) in underwear in episode 1. Promises more sexy shower scenes in the future! Anmesia in story arcs ( a good story arc is not just a stretched out story – it remembers where it has been in earlier episodes – see Babylon 5). Incredibly dumb plot devices. Future fantasy devoid of science fiction. Enterprise season 1 more often than not made me feel insulted and talked down to, or that it catered to pollsters. Andromeda season 1 won out ( and went down hill in season 2+).
    Many years later I came back to specifically watch the Andorian episodes of Enterprise via CBS streaming, and they are pretty good. Watched Season 3 Xindi arc – The good, the bad and the stupid. Some season 4. The weakest episodes are poor rehashes of traditional stories (Beauty and the Beast) or episodes from other ST series (Become a mysterious alien and remember their culture, be confused). They are full of angst and outrage, but no moral compass. Morailty tales without the morality. Drama and action but no deeper and almost no character development. (Same complaints about Voyager (and even some TOS)- but without overcoming god-like super powered aliens every week). It made up for lacks of character development with culture development – Vulcan, Andorian, Klingon and Federation seeds growing. Canon doesn’t bother me so much. Tech / effect differences are artifacts of the times when the shows were made – and not important. Enterprise is small, cramped and dark (why is it dark? They can’t afford lights?) to show that it is more primitive than later Federation ships. I want my Trek to be smart and fun – which DS9 and TOS did, and even TNG often. Enterprise was too dumb too often and that put me off it.