ENT S01E21 Detained (3 out of 5 stars). Waking up in an alien prison is a fairly familiar opening, and I guess it makes sense for Travis to follow in the footsteps of O’Brien, Paris and no doubt others. Adding slightly more interest is the fact that their fellow prisoners are the time-travelling Acne Squad (and that Archer is with him). Once again, Travis is a perfect personality vacuum, and this might have been Montgomery’s last chance to stamp his authority on the role. In a pretty funny piece of stunt casting, it’s none other than Scott Bakula’s old buddy Dean Stockwell as the camp commandant. He doesn’t look like he’s in any way happy to be there, which is pretty disappointing. He underplays to the point of torpor. The episode does at least have some substance to it, but the message swamps the story after a while. Travis spells it out in case anyone was dozing at the back.

ENT S01E22 Vox Sola (4.5 out of 5 stars). More etiquette and translator shenanigans as a bunch of visiting aliens storm off, but while doing so, they allow some digital goo to pixel its way into the airlock – a 22nd century version of that TNG staple, the glowing cursor which roams the ship causing havoc. It quickly starts absorbing various humans into its revolting appendages. Adding to everyone’s problem, T’Pol is being a dick to Hoshi about her language skills – which turn out to be key to solving the problem. As ever, the answer in Star Trek is to understand and communicate, rather than triumph through superior firepower. As director, Roxann Dawson brings considerable Nostromo-esque atmospher to proceedings and Schuyler sister Renee Elise Goldsberry makes a huge impression as the Ensign who discovers her buddy has been enveloped by alien goo. I’d trade her for Malcolm or Travis in a heartbeat – maybe even Trip. The aliens who are shocked at public displays of eating is a brave stab at an unfamiliar culture, but other parts of the franchise has taught us that breaking bread as a form of social bonding is literally universal. Very likely, the Zagbars would know they were outliers. Travis is right – Wages of Fear is a masterpiece.

ENT S01E23 Fallen Hero (4 out of 5 stars). T’Pol wants to know whether the crew has been getting their end away (and she’s far more forthcoming about pon farr than either Spock or Tuvok, for whom this was an intensely personal aspect of their physiology, never to be discussed with anyone). She suggests a Club 18-30 holiday on Risa in order to prevent the crew from getting, as Archer unfortunately puts it, “sloppy”. Alas, Enterprise is required to ferry an erratic Vulcan ambassador off a nearby planet. Fionnula Flanagan is terrific as V’Lar, who confounds everyone’s expectations from T’Pol down, and this is a great episode for the science officer. “Vulcans don’t have heroes.” Yeah, right. Her secret ends up as a bit talky and dry, but it’s great to see a story rooted in character and emotion, even if it is a bit low stakes. That’s two strong episodes in a row. Maybe this new show is finding a groove.

ENT S01E24 Desert Crossing (3.5 out of 5 stars). Operation Get Some resumes, briefly, before once again the galaxy puts a terrorist between Enterprise and Risa. Seemingly friendly Zobral invites Archer and Tucker to join him for a sojourn in the desert. Zobral is played by Clancy Brown who generally only plays scumbags and villains. Surprise! Zobral turns out to be a scumbag and a villain – or at the very least a freedom fighter who wants Archer to do for his people what he did for the Suliban a few episodes ago. Pairing Archer and Tucker, two very similar characters who generally get on, and who agree on most things, doesn’t lead to much in the way of interest. This is a fundamental problem with the design of this show. The trek across the desert can’t ever be as strong as Odo and Quark’s flog up the mountain, and it’s not clear to me how nobody involved noticed this.

ENT S01E25 Two Days and Two Nights (2 out of 5 stars). Finally, Enterprise makes it to Risa, and Archer was in the half of the crew who won the lottery to be allowed shore leave – along with Hoshi, Trip, Travis and Malcolm. Amazing how being in the opening titles gets you all the breaks. One wonders what Phlox did wrong. And once again, it turns absolutely forever for anything resembling drama to show up. Almost the first half of the episode is like being slowly shown someone’s holiday snaps. When the drama does start, it’s all vacation misadventure cliches with no specificity of either incident or reaction (but with an unhelpful dose of homophobia). Travis’s story is too boring for us to witness it, so he has to come back to the ship and tell everyone about it instead. One whole star for John Billingsley’s hilariously hungover Dr Phlox.

ENT S01E26 Shockwave, Part I (2.5 out of 5 stars). Lest we forget, the first episode of Enterprise aired barely two weeks after the terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center. It was a weird time to be launching an American television series which focused on optimism, openness and the importance of treating strangers as friends we haven’t made yet. Given the all-American, largely white, back-to-basics cast, the gravitational pull of US foreign policy on the writers room would have been mighty. And lo, the series finale opens with a disaster which costs the lives of over 3000 people and threatens to start a war. It’s a slightly nauseating start to the episode. Take the colossal loss of life seriously, and the fact that Enterprise is being mothballed seems trivial. Take it lightly and nothing really matters, does it? Sounds like a job for the rest button. And lo, Archer finds himself sent back in time to before his mission began for a do-over. Now armed with secret information from the past/future/whenever, Archer can ride the good ship Wish Fulfilment Fantasy to reveal the badguys and blow them all to bits. Hurrah. But it’s the end of the season, so things aren’t quite that straightforward. In fact, nothing about this muddled episode is straightforward, which is a shame as I think they’re going for good old-fashioned cops-and-robbers adventure stuff, but the mystery surrounding the Suliban, the Temporal Cold War and the accident, starts to become confusion, which is fatal for engagement, no matter how many Acne Lads are dropping from the ceiling. Trip boggles at the thought of a matriarchal society. Sigh.

ENT S02E01 Shockwave, Part II (3.5 out of 5 stars). To be fair to Shockwave, it’s a pretty nifty cliffhanger. Daniels brings Archer forward in time to discover that by so doing, he’s prevented himself from bringing them back. It’s a bit conceptual, but I do like a seemingly insoluable problem. The one useful thing they have at hand is a library full of paper books, which is a lovely symbol of knowledge and advancement and enlightenment. Daniels mourns the loss of a memorial to the Federation, a topic which can’t help but pique Archer’s curiosity. Watching the team come together on Enterprise to try and outwit the Suliban has some interest (although it’s hilarious that Trip only thinks to try and contact those members of the crew who are in the opening titles – why didn’t the production team just have a smaller ship with a crew of seven for crissake…) but I’m disappointed to see that “space legs” Hoshi has regressed to grumbling about having to do anything which doesn’t involve translation. And we could definitely do without her losing her top on the way through the crawlspace. John Fleck is a strong villain, and having him beat up Malcolm is good way of making us hate him. But the grafted-on Temporal Cold War makes less sense every time it comes up and I grow fearful that the Enterprise crew are going to be bystanders and not participants. It’s not at clear how Trip was able to fake a reactor breach in a way which would be convincing enough the fool the Suliban, and yet which could be fixed in a matter of only seconds.

Season 1 wrap-up

  • Deep Space Nine was a potentially poor idea (it’s like Star Trek, but they don’t go anywhere) which was often brilliantly executed. Voyager was a muddle of both good and bad ideas none of which anybody really wanted to commit to. Enterprise is a decent idea, hobbled by some weak casting choices, but spending time at the birth of the Federation is often fascinating.
  • This is a smaller regular cast than we’re used to. TNG eventually thinned down to seven, but we had a sizeable supporting cast by that time – Chief O’Brien, Nurse Ogawa, Reg Barclay, Admiral Necheyev, Ro Laren, Guinan. DS9 started with nine and had an enormous supporting cast. Voyager maintained nine regulars, just swapping Kes for Seven, and often gave the impression that this ship was run by those nine and another hundred-odd people who just walked around the corridors holding PADDs all day. Here we have only seven, and they do seem to do absolutely everything. It’s understandable, given how episodic television works, but it does seem slightly absurd at times.
  • That would be less of a problem if the characters were stronger. Scott Bakula’s led a TV show before, and at least looks comfortable, which is more than can be said for Dominic Keating who permanently looks as if he might be about to throw up, and Anthony Montgomery who has been given even less to do than Garrett Wang. Jolene Blalock as T’Pol is the undeniable MVP of the show, but if the plan was to recreate the TOS holy trinity, then one leg of the stool is missing, as Conner Trinneer’s Trip Tucker is far too similar to Archer, and the few ways in which he’s different only make me dislike him.
  • Two able performers in John Billingsley and Linda Park round out the cast. Billingsley is never less than watchable, and he manages that delicate trick of turning a page of backstory into an actual character. Hoshi Sato is defined mainly by her lack of suitability and enthusiasm for space exploration, which is a thoroughly retrograde step, and I don’t trust this show to nurture her character and give us the moment of triumph we’re being conditioned to look forward to.
  • There’s also an uncertainty as to what the story engine for this series is. Are we filling in the gaps in pre-Federation history, are we more interested in the Temporal Cold War, or is this just TOS with less good phasers and an unreliable transporter? That said, some individual stories have been very good, with personal favourites including the excellent The Andorian Incident, and its follow-up The Shadows of P’Jem and the very creepy Vox Sola.
  • Enterprise’s average score for Season 1 is 2.88 which is about the same as the early seasons of the other Berman shows, but nosing ahead of each of them, with the exception of Deep Space Nine Season 2. So, there is promise here, but we need to get the adventure back, and get the pace of the storytelling back up.
Trekaday #110: Dear Doctor, Sleeping Dogs, Shadows of P'Jem, Shuttlepod One, Fusion, Rogue Planet, Acquisition, Oasis
Trekaday #112: Carbon Creek, Minefield, Dead Stop, A Night In Sickbay, Marauders