Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 24, 2006)
With Enterprise, for the first time since The Next Generation, a Star Trek series focused on the adventures of a ship with that name. For the first time since the Original Series, a Trek series failed to last seven seasons. Despite the best attempts of fans, Enterprise only made it through four years before it got the axe.
I never watched the series when it ran on TV, so I guess I’m partially to blame. But I never took in any of the others either, so when it came to Enterprise, I had a lot of company with many other non-viewers. Now that I’ve seen Enterprise, I wish it’d lasted longer, as the series turned out to be quite good.
Without any further ado, let’s plow through Season Four’s 22 programs. These shows will be discussed in the order broadcast, which is also the way in which they appear on the DVDs. The plot synopses come from http://www.tv.com – thanks to them for their great work.
Storm Front, Part I: “The Temporal Cold War takes a new twist as Captain Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula) and the Enterprise are thrown back in time to 1944, where they find a new temporal faction has changed the course of WWII in an attempt to change Earth's future.”
Since “Storm Front” is a two-part episode, I’ll hold my comments until after the second segment.
Storm Front, Part II: “Archer races again time to stop the temporal aliens from completing their plans to destroy all of time. Silik (John Fleck), who had sneaked aboard the Enterprise before its trip back to the past, becomes Archer's ally to stop the aliens.”
What with the Xindi plot of Season Three finished, Enterprise gives its crew no time to rest. “Storm Front” finds the series in a “wrapping things up” frame of mind, for these episodes apparently finish off the old Temporal Cold War thread. And I regard that as a good thing, since that area never made a whole lot of sense, and it simply became a confusing encumbrance along the way. “Storm Front” doesn’t compute either, but it shows Nazis in cooperation with nasty aliens, and that’s good enough for me!
Home: “With both the Xindi and the Temporal Cold War behind them, the crew of Enterprise finally return to Earth. The crew receives a heroic welcome complete with parades, news broadcasts, and schools renamed in their honor. But the troubled captain is having trouble putting the experiences of the past year behind him. When Archer blows up at Ambassador Soval (Gary Graham) during his mission debriefing, he is ordered by Admiral Forrest (Vaughn Armstrong) to take a vacation and get his act together. Meanwhile, Commander T'Pol (Jolene Blaylock) invites Commander Charles “Trip” Tucker (Connor Trinneer) to visit her mother T'Les (Joanna Cassidy) on Vulcan since he no longer has a home or a family. It's the first time T'Pol has been home in years, which gives T'Les a chance to see the changes her daughter has undergone during her time among humans. Also, Ensign Travis Mayweather (Anthony Montgomery), and Dr. Phlox (John Billingsley) learn firsthand the extent of the xenophobia that has plagued Earth since the Xindi attack.”
“Home” feels like a placeholder episode. It exists mainly to give everyone a breather. What with the end of a major plotline and plenty of adventure to come this year, I guess they figured we needed a rest. “Home” comes across like soap opera as it explores the characters. It’s a lackluster show.
Borderland: “Criminal Arik Soong (Brent Spiner) is brought aboard the Enterprise to assist in finding some genetically enhanced humans he created after stealing some altered DNA left over from the Eugenics Wars.”
Since “Borderland” is the first of a three-part story, I’ll hold my comments until it concludes.
Cold Station 12: “Soong, who has been freed by his Augment children, intends to reclaim the remaining Augment embryos being stored at Cold Station 12. Soong plans to incubate the embryos, and start an Augment army to take over the known worlds. They head to Cold Station 12 in the Bird of Prey that the Augments have stolen from the Klingons. Archer must stop Soong and the Augments, and try to prevent a looming war with the Klingons at the same time.”
Keep going – this is only part two of three!
The Augments: “After turning on their creator the Augments try to start a war between Humans and Klingons.”
This three-episode arc maintains a vague connection to Khan and Data, but mostly it stands on its own. In that way, it works pretty well. It’s definitely nice to see Spiner play a different role, and he plays the part nicely. We find a good mix of action and intrigue in this solid trio of shows.
The Forge: “When Earth's embassy on Vulcan is bombed evidence points to a religious faction known as ‘Syrrannites’, a group following a revolutionary interpretation of the teachings of Surak, the father of Vulcan logic. After T'Pol receives a clandestine lead, she and Archer embark upon a treacherous journey through the Vulcan desert looking for them.”
Since this episode acts as the first chapter of a three-part series, I’ll defer my comments until it concludes with “Kir’Shara”.
Awakening: “The Earth embassy on Vulcan has been bombed. The Vulcans blame Syrrannite terrorists. Archer and T'Pol must get to the bottom of the bombing and bring those responsible to justice. However, unbeknownst to Archer and T'Pol, more is going on than just a simple act of terrorism.”
Keep moving – nothing to see here!
Kir'Shara: “After finding the Syrrannites were not the ones who bombed the Earth embassy on Vulcan, Archer and T'Pol attempt to take a sacred, but controversial artifact back to the Vulcan High Council. The artifact holds the key to an internal religious struggle going on between the Vulcan people, which had provoked the bombing of the Earth embassy. However, powerful forces are out to prevent Archer, T'Pol, and T'Pau (Kara Zediker) from reaching the High Council with the artifact alive.”
This trilogy offers a good exploration of the Vulcans. It develops concepts like the Katra that we know from other places, and it sets up characters who were more prominent elsewhere. It also brings a nice sense of style to the table and provides a series of episodes that give us a fine look at the Vulcans and their mythology.
Daedalus: “The inventor of the current transporter system claims he has found a way to transport people over great distances, possibly even making star ships obsolete. The Dr. and the Enterprise set out to verify the claim in a remote part of the star system. But the Dr. has other plans for Enterprise's transporter system.”
For me, the best parts of this episode give us insights into the creation of the transporter. I’d like more of those, but instead, the show prefers to focus on Dr. Erickson’s (Bill Embry) attempts to manipulate the system. These lead to some satisfying emotional moments at the end, but the journey to get there is only moderately engaging.
Observer Effect: “Non-corporeal aliens who study other species by occupying their bodies study the Enterprise crew and their human reactions to different stimuli. Their best results come from putting the other species in life or death situations, but mostly death situations. Can the Enterprise crew survive the aliens study?”
Though Trek featured many omnipotent aliens over the years, “Effect” turns into one of the better episodes of that sort. I like the ethical dilemma engaged in by the observers and think the premise offers a clever look at an alternate thought about First Contact. This is a stimulating and entertaining episode.
Babel One: “Someone is out to start a war between the Andorians and the Tellarites, and Archer lands in the middle of the pending conflict, as he takes a Tellarite Ambassador to the Andorian home world. Archer must find out who would would benefit from such a war, and why. He is assist in this by his past adversary, the Andorian Shran (Jeffrey Combs), who is rescued after his ship is crippled by a ship he says was Tellarite.”
The start of another three-part run, I’ll offer comments when it concludes two shows from now.
United: “Archer is able to work a fragile alliance between the Andorians, Tellarites, and Vulcans to try and capture the marauding ship that is attacking each of the group's ships. The task is made more difficult due to the marauders ability to mask its appearance as several other types of ships. Their chance comes after the marauder is temporarily knocked out of action, but then things go horribly wrong.”
The Aenar: “Archer and Shran attempt to enlist the help of a secretive xenophobic people on Andoria, who have telepathic powers, known as the Aenar. Having captured a marauding space ship that had been wrecking havoc in the quadrant, the alliance realizes the ships are piloted by telepaths. The problem is, the telepathic Andorians are pacifist who won't even fight to defend their own planet. Archer must find the telepaths, convince them to pilot the captured marauder, and hope they can defeat the remaining threat before the unsteady alliance between the Andorians, Tellarites, and Vulcans collapses into internecine war.”
In this case, I think the backdrop surpasses the actual story. I really like the Tellarites – a society based on arguing and insults sounds like it’d suit me – and I’d like to see more of the issues related to the various species. Unfortunately, the episodes stretch the main plot too thin. The shows work okay, but they never become memorable.
Affliction: “The Enterprise returns to Earth to take part in the maiden launch of the newest NX class ship, the Columbia. Shortly after taking shore leave with the others, Phlox is kidnapped and taken to a secret Klingon research facility. They need Phlox' help to stop a disease that is the greatest threat the Klingon race has ever faced. Archer sets out to find Phlox with few clues to go on.”
Move ahead to see my thoughts about this two-parter.
Divergence: “As the Enterprise and Columbia get closer to finding Phlox's location, Klingon Augments board and sabotage the Archer's ship. As the crew race to prevent the impending destruction of the Enterprise, Phlox fights a losing battle against time to come up with a cure for the Klingon Augment virus. Even if Phlox finds a cure, will that stop the approaching Klingon War Bird from destroying them as they have been ordered to do?”
If nothing else, at least these shows explain why the Original Series Klingons look different than the ones seen elsewhere. I like that the programs feature Phlox in the lead, and they also develop Reed well. The shows become a little too “soap opera” at times, but they come across as mostly positive.
Bound: “As a gift for negotiating with the Orion Syndicate, Captain Archer receives three Orion Slave Girls.”
Gotta dig the eye candy on display here! Tied to the earliest episodes of the Original Series, this one takes some nice twists and turns – and I don’t just mean those of the slave girls’ sexy figures. Those help make this an above-average show.
In a Mirror, Darkly: “In the mirror universe, Commander Archer mutinies against Captain Forrest in order to capture a future Earth ship found in Tholian space.”
For my thoughts on this show, head to Part II.
In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II: “In the mirror universe, Archer commandeers the 23rd-century Defiant from the Tholians and uses it in a nefarious power grab.”
We’ve seen plenty of alternate worlds in Trek, but “Mirror” manages to stand on its own. I really like the opening shot, and the altered credits are awfully cool. I like the intersection of the Enterprise and TOS worlds, and we get lots of fun and excitement. Add to that unusually sexy looks at Hoshi and T’Pol and these are good programs.
Demons: “A xenophobic faction of humanity threatens to undermine talks to form a new coalition of planets.”
Head to the next summary!
Terra Prime: “A human isolationist leader (Peter Weller) threatens to destroy Starfleet Command unless all aliens leave Earth immediately.”
Some earlier shows hinted at xenophobia, but these more fully embrace the issues. This becomes somewhat heavy-handed, but I like the way these programs take on the topic and depict the problems related to growth in Starfleet. The plot gets spread too thin for two episodes, but it otherwise succeeds.
These Are the Voyages ...: “Six years in the future, an emotional Captain Archer and the crew return to Earth to face the decommission of Enterprise and signing of the Federation charter.”
“Demons”/”Prime” probably should have stood as the series’ final episode. “Voyages” ends things awkwardly and without a satisfying resolution. It offers too much definition for what happens to the characters, and it uses a silly format as it integrates some Next Generation characters. Fans should probably view “Demons”/”Prime” as the end of the series and skip this disappointment.