Jan 10, 2013

[TV] Star Trek: Enterprise - Season 2

Last week marked the 20th anniversary of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, one of my favorite Star Trek shows of them all. And given I only recently completed watching every single episode across those seven seasons, I guess my timing wasn't so bad.

More recently I've finally gotten around to working my way through Star Trek: Enterprise, the only franchise that I had not actually found the time to watch when it was on the air locally for one reason or another. And thus far the series has felt a little slow-going for me with odd moments of annoying stories involving far too much time-travel for my comfort.

And while all Trek shows have dabbled in this on occasion  one has to admit that this particular show used it rather heavily despite how the initial marketing was for us to see the adventures of the very first Enterprise in a prequel setup. So our trip into the past to see the days before the formation of the Federation has been littered with a lot of time-traveling aliens and whatnot - a bit too much for my liking, in fact.

But I think I'm getting ahead of my own review here.

Synopsis: Star Trek: Enterprise is the fifth live-action Star Trek series to air and as of this time it is also the last. The show was created by Rick Berman and Brannon Braga for UPN.

The first season positioned the Suliban as sort of the big bad guys for our plucky little Enterprise crew. But beyond the opening of this second season and the one-off episode "Future Tense", we really don't hear much from them any more. And thus the bulk of this season felt like a lot of episodic one-off pieces - which was quite the digression from the highly serialized Deep Space Nine or even the tighter meta-plot storytelling of Voyager. Thus I felt a lot of the season felt rather unfocused and the crew's misadventures as the bungle one first contact experience after another just didn't make for much of a story on the whole.

And the show already felt the need to dig up a lot of the usual Star Treks while just in its second season. We had the classic "crew goes mad" story in the episode "Singularity" and even had an almost non-sensical encounter with the Borg in "Regeneration". We even had odd little efforts at fan nods like the episode "Judgment", which involved Archer getting imprisoned on the Klingon penal colony of Rura Penthe - the same planet where Kirk and McCoy were imprisoned in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. But despite all these, I felt the storytelling fell rather short.

There were also efforts of being more creative in what stories to explore - but perhaps these were episodes that should only have been considered once the show had a more stable fan-following. Odd examples of these are "A Night in Sickbay" where the episode pretty much centers around Captain Archer (Scott Bakula) and his dog Porthos and perhaps "Carbon Creek", which is near-time travel story positioned as an odd flashback of Vulcans being stranded on Earth.

This is not to say that the entire season was bad. I'll admit that I did rather like "The Communicator", which was a decent effort at telling a pre-Prime Directive story. And of course there's "The Catwalk", which subjected the crew to trying to survive within a nacelle just to get past deadly radiation.

And no, I didn't find the non-corporeal beings of "The Crossing" all that interesting.

For a show that was positioned as a prequel to everything else in the Star Trek Universe, it was sort of annoying to see that we weren't making all that much progress in terms of establishing latter-day facts. The one-off demonstration of a force field in the first season episode "Vox Sola" and see little of deflector shield development beyond then. Phase cannons and spatial torpedoes were the staple weapons for this season and everyone was far too afraid to use the transporters. The only technology that seemed to be making progress involved Ensign Sato (Linda Park) and her work on what would eventually become the universal translator.

And yes, I know there's more to Star Trek than its technology and we could talk about the lack of any serious efforts at organizing the Federation in this season, but that's too easy a give-away, I feel. And while the limited progress with the Andorians was sort of a nice sub-plot, there really isn't much else to talk about. Plus the Vulcans continue to be jerks in this season.

The season ends with a fairly dramatic moment in order to launch the storyline of the third season. And maybe this was a moment of brilliance or just "too little, too late" for a show that would be eventually cancelled, but it certainly appeared like an attention-grabbing effort. But at the very least, it wasn't enough to help salvage this season.

The second season of Star Trek: Enterprise lacked focus and didn't quite know what stories it wanted to tell. It showed some promise here and there but beyond that the crew just seemed to be bumbling along for no clear reason. Thus I can only rate the season as 2 continuing efforts to gain fans with random shirtless cast members out of a possible 5.

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