Saturday, November 26, 2011

'Star Trek: Enterprise' Season Two (2002)

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

At the end of Season One, Captain Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula) was transported to the 29th century by temporal agent Daniels (Matt Winston), but discovered that his absence from history has led to the destruction of the future.  Earth lies in ruins, and Daniels no longer has access to the proper technology to send Archer back to his own time and repair history.  Meanwhile, the Sulban Cabal led by Silik (John Fleck) have captured the Enterprise and torture Sub-Commander T'Pol (Jolene Blalock) to learn Archer's location, not believing that he'd been whisked away to the future.

The rest of the Enterprise crew, Chief Engineer Tucker (Connor Trinneer), Lt. Reed (Dominic Keating), Ensign Mayweather (Anthony Montgomery), Ensign Sato (Linda Park) and Doctor Phlox (John Billingsley) concoct a plan to retake the Enterprise from the Suliban.  In the future, Archer and Daniels come up with an equally desperate plan to figure out how to send Archer back through time.

Throughout the rest of the season, the Enterprise crew will get back to their original mission, exploring strange new worlds and meeting new life forms.  They'll make a few new friends, but they'll also encounter new enemies including the mysterious Romulans, and run afoul once more of the violent Klingon Empire.

At the end of the season, Earth suffers a terrible tragedy: an alien probe appears in orbit and fires an incredible weapon that cuts a swath of destruction from Florida to South America, killing some seven million humans.  Archer and the Enterprise crew receive word that a race of beings known as the Xindi are behind the attack, and the Enterprise is ordered to go into a dangerous region of space known as the Expanse in order to find the Xindi and stop them from destroying Earth.  But before he can save Earth, Archer has to deal with the price on his head from the Klingon Empire, and a Klingon captain called Duras who will stop at nothing to regain his honor.

Yeah, that all sounds pretty cool right?  Too bad it sucks.  Season One was pretty terrible, but Season Two is, in my opinion, by far the worst year of 'Star Trek' ever produced.  The stories defy logic, don't even bother to attempt to adhere to continuity of previous shows, and the acting is beyond bad.  Even a couple of half-decent episodes sprinkled here or there can't shake the fact that some of these episodes are downright terrible, and many of them occur one after another.

The season opener, "Shockwave, Part Two" starts things off pretty terribly.  Archer manages to construct a device capable of communicating through time with a spoon.  A spoon.  Later, in "Minefield," the show tosses out a cloaked Romulan ship... 100 years too early.

In what must be one of the must frustratingly terrible hours of television I've ever watched, "A Night in Sickbay" presents Archer in a fashion that is just flat-out embarrassing.  In this episode, the Enterprise has been crippled by a Romulan mine.  It limps to a nearby world in hopes of trading for the parts needed to repair the engines.  Archer, having previously encountered these aliens, who are extremely sensitive and easily offended, brings his dog down to the planet's surface and lets it piss on a sacred tree.  The aliens, of course, announce that Archer will never get the parts he needs unless he apologizes for his dog's behavior.  Unfortunately, the dog has gotten sick from something on the surface.  Archer blames the aliens for not tell him that their planet could make his dog sick and refuses to apologize.

That's bullshit.  Look, I know dog owners love their dogs, maybe even a little irrationally.  But my god, this is the most petty, immature, idiotic behavior I can imagine for a Starfleet captain to engage in.  It's an embarrassment, plain and simple.  As bad as "Spock's Brain" or "Threshold" or even the 'Enterprise' series finale "These Are the Voyages" may be, none of them are so flat-out embarrassing for a fan like me to sit through.  There are some episodes you can show to non-fans to say, "Hey, listen, check this out and you might end up liking this show."  And there are some episodes you wish you could lock in a vault and then set the vault on fire so that even those of us who love 'Star Trek' don't ever have to see them again.  "A Night in Sickbay" is at the top of the list of episodes I would set on fire.

Other terrible episodes include "Minefield," in which Reed tries to commit suicide again to try and save the ship from a Romulan mine stuck to the hull.  "Precious Cargo" is a pretty crappy hour in which Trip rescues a bitchy alien princess (Padma Lakshmi) and ends up falling for her.  Ugh.  In "Stigma," T'Pol learns that she's contracted Space-AIDS through a mind-meld in an earlier (equally terrible) episode.  In "Canamar," Trip and Archer are arrested and end up on a prison ship in the midst of a prisoner revolt.  And so on and so forth.

There are a couple of bright spots in this season, including "Dead Stop," an episode directed by 'Star Trek: Voyager' castmember Roxann Dawson, in which the crew finds an automated repair station that charges a price that's too good to be true to fix their damage.  The episode is well-directed, with great effects, and a tightly-written story.  Another highlight is "Judgment," which has Archer put on trial for attacking a Klingon ship.  This episode is also well-written, featuring a number of callbacks to previous episodes and movies that really help it feel like a part of the 'Star Trek' universe.  JG Hertzler, who had a recurring role as General Martok on 'Deep Space Nine' appears as Archer's Klingon lawyer, the trial takes place on Narendra III, a world first mentioned in 'The Next Generation,' and even has a couple scenes set on the penal colony of Rura Penthe, from "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country."

Two storylines run through several episodes this season.  The first concerns the Romulan minefield, which starts in "Minefield" then continues through "Dead Stop" and "A Night in Sickbay."  Then, the problems with the Klingons begin in "Judgment" and then return in "Bounty" and "The Expanse."  These little bits of continuity are nice, but can't overcome the fact that the majority of this season is pretty terrible.  Occasionally, some of those crappy episodes have bright spots.  A cool action sequence here, some nice visual effects there... "Canamar" has an excellent musical score from Brian Tyler, who would later go on to score big-budget action pictures like "The Expendables" and "Fast Five."  It makes what is an otherwise dull episode sound bigger and more epic than it really is.

Season Three is where 'Star Trek: Enterprise' really starts to show its potential.  But Season Two is easily the low-point for the entire series, and "A Night in Sickbay" is a low-point for the franchise.  The cast is, as always, terrible.  They stumble around crappy scripts time after time, only coming alive when the show actually gives them something to work with, and even then they usually blow it.

'Star Trek: Enterprise' is the worst of the 'Star Trek' series, and Season Two is the worst season.  A couple of bright spots don't save what is an almost entirely worthless year of television.

See Also
Season One
Season Three
Season Four