Saturday, October 29, 2011

'Star Trek: Enterprise' Season One (2001)

Starring Scott Bakula, Jolene Blalock and Connor Trinneer
Created by Rick Berman and Brannon Braga
Based on 'Star Trek' created by Gene Roddenberry

Jonathan Archer facial expression 1 of 2
Oh, jeez. 

I'm not even sure where to start, here.  I've already reviewed seasons three and four of this series, because I own them on DVD.  Recently the show became available to stream via Netflix, in HD no less, which prompted me to go "well what the hell" and give it another go.  Since I've been steadily watching through the entire franchise this year, I felt it appropriate.

Set one hundred years before the events of the original "Star Trek," "Enterprise" chronicles the adventures of Captain Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula), captain of the first starship Enterprise before the founding of the Federation.  The show opens as a Klingon courier is wounded on Earth while running from alien assassins known as the Suliban.  Captain Archer, against the recommendation of Vulcan ambassador Soval (Gary Graham), decides to transport the Klingon back to his homeworld.  He gathers his crew, including Subcommander T'Pol (Jolene Blalock), chief engineer Charles Tucker (Connor Trinneer), linguist Hoshi Sato (Linda Park), pilot Travis Mayweather (Anthony Montgomery), Doctor Phlox (John Billingsley) and weapons officer Malcolm Reed (Dominic Keating). 

Their ship is the NX-01, the first starship constructed by Earth capable of traveling at warp five.  Archer sets out into the galaxy on Earth's first deep-space mission to make contact with the Klingons.  Along the way, however, the Klingon courier is kidnapped by the Suliban, and Archer vows to rescue him.  This introduces Archer to the Temporal Cold War, a conflict raging across not just space, but time.  The Suliban take their orders from a mysterious benefactor in the future that delivers them technology and information to best their foes. 

After making an enemy of the Suliban, Archer is ordered to explore the galaxy.  He vows to make contact with new worlds and new civilizations. But the galaxy is a more dangerous place than he thought, and Archer will find out just what kind of commander he is, and what his crew is capable of.

Y'know, just like a baby gazelle.   ...or something.


I'll just right out and say it: this season sucks. 

The cast is, almost without exception, awful.  Scott Bakula is wooden, at best.  Dominic Keating does his best acting when his character is drunk.  The less said about Anthony Montgomery, the better.

Worse than the cast are the episodes themselves.  While the pilot movie, 'Broken Bow,' is a worthy entry with some cool action sequences and special effects, the rest of the season is almost embarrassingly bad.  The show wastes no time throwing its characters into absurd, embarrassing situations.  In the show's fourth episode, engineer Tucker is impregnated. Continuity is thrown aside for no reason in episodes like "Fortunate Son," which presents a characterization of the Nausicaans completely different from previous appearances, and "Acquisition" which brings the Ferengi into the show two hundred years before their first appearance on "The Next Generation".  "Breaking the Ice" has the crew drilling into a comet ... with dreadfully boring results. "

It's impossible to describe just how bad a lot of these episodes are.  If they're not outright boring, then they're positively absurd.  The show systematically dismantles every concept it introduces of being a prequel, introducing simplistic analogues of every future technology from the other 'Star Trek' shows, and sometimes even surpassing them - try to find an instance in one of the other shows where a man is beamed up to the ship while running.  Tucker is given extensive knowledge of holographic systems hundreds of years before the characters would marvel at such things in "The Next Generation."  The Vulcans are constantly telling Archer that humanity must be more tolerant of other races, yet they themselves are almost entirely intolerant of humans, treating them with a level of barely hidden disgust. 

There are a couple of decent episodes littered throughout the season, but for the most part, this whole enterprise is an embarrassment.  The cast is awful, the scripts even worse.  The set designs are drab and monochromatic; the show lacks life and spark in every way possible.  Watching this season was a punishment.  Even knowing that the show would attain a modicum of entertainment value later on in its short lifespan, the first season of 'Enterprise' is a major low point for the entire "Star Trek" franchise.