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The Value of Enterprise in the Star Trek Canon

Two weeks ago, while finishing up the third season of Star Trek: Enterprise, I wrote about my affections for Captain Jonathan Archer.  I've now completed the entire run, and thoroughly enjoyed it -- especially the fourth and final season.  So I'd like to address the criticisms leveled against the show.  Spoilers after the jump.



Some commenters disagreed my high assessment quite strongly. JoeyJoeJoe wrote (in part):
Sorry to sound so harsh, but Enterprise was a horrible, lazy and terribly-written entry into the world of Trek. Considering that all other modern ST series lasted for 7 seasons (even Voyager, for god's sake), there's a reason that Enterprise was CANCELLED after 4 seasons. Think about it - when you have a cash cow like Star Trek, with millions of built-in fans ready to watch every episode, you need to work pretty hard to screw that up. They succeeded in doing so.

And Gordon Daily wrote:
My misgivings about Enterprise was that it turned into a soap opera. Season 3 became one long seralized story. ST:TOS and ST:TNG episodes were all stand-alone stories (two-part stories episodes notwithstanding). Also, when Enterprise went into this never-ending story, they lost all sense of humor. The first two seasons were peppered with light-hearted stories, or at least stories where some comic relief was inserted.

I must respectfully disagree with my fellow Trekkies.  Now to be sure -- de gustibus non est disputandum.  People have different tastes reflecting their own aesthetic values.   Gordon disliked the third season of Enterprise for the exact same reason that I liked it.   It was a long, serialized drama akin to the Dominion War in DS9 or almost all of Babylon 5.  Each of us prefers a different balance between light and heavy, probably varying with one's mood and purely individual taste.

As for ENT, as JoeyJoeJoe points out, the show was canceled after only two seasons, in contrast to its long-lasting near-contemporaries, TNG, DS9, and VOY.  This is true.  But I don't understand how the show's lack of popularity defines its quality.  The most recent Trek movie, for example, was a stunning box office success.  Yet, as I wrote at my old site, it was a disgracefully poor movie.  It doesn't seem rational to equate quality and popularity.

Now there were times in which ENT's continuity was uneven and inconsistent.  But all Trek shows demonstrated this, and I don't see how ENT was disproportionately bad in this regard.

To the contrary, the fourth season -- the strongest, in my opinion -- was a masterpiece of continuity.   This is particularly noteworthy in "Affliction" and "Divergence", which actually repaired a long-standing problem in Star Trek continuity.  The very next episode, "Bound", returned to an entire species that had barely been mentioned since TOS (in fact, the entire series dealt with the long-ignored Andorians).  The next two-part episode, "In a Mirror, Darkly", was a brilliant performance that dovetailed into two TOS episodes in exhausting detail. And the concluding episode, "These Are the Voyages", fit neatly within a TNG episode using TNG actors and sets.

Now to address specific points of continuity that JoeyJoeJoe brought up:
In the TNG episode, A Matter of Time, it's clearly stated that there were no phasers in the 22nd century (Archer's time period). Sure enough, what did we see in Enterprise? Phasers.

Actually, ENT refers to them as "phase cannons" and "phase pistols". A small difference, but perhaps this would work as an analogy: the Kentucky long rifle and the Krag are both rifles and are called such, but very different pieces of technology.
The lineage of all starships named Enterprise has been very explicitly spelled out since the Star Trek movies. The Enterprise D and E had little models of all those ships (including the sailing vessel, the aricraft carrier and the Space Shuttle) in their observation lounges. The NX-01 never graces those walls. They invented this ship simply for the series and never bothered to explain where it came from.

True, but it strikes me as a very minor point that existed in the background of a set on a show that decided that warp drive was too dangerous to use in one episode -- and then ignored the proclamation for the rest of the franchise.
Picard once stated that "first contact with the Klingons was disastrous and led to decades of war." We saw that first contact on the ENT premiere, but where was the war?

First contact really didn't go very well with the Klingons, leading to real mistrust and even open combat between the different sides during ENT. It could easily spill into open warfare at the conclusion of ENT. In fact, the Klingons would have even greater reason to see the newborn Federation as a threat.
In the 22nd century, the Federation was also at war with the Romulan empire. Where was that?

Probably at the conclusion of ENT, with the birth of the Federation.  And I'd like to point out that a TOS episode stated that no one had seen a Romulan before.  ENT, in its five Romulan episodes, kept that continuity by ensuring that no one ever did and live to tell about it.
Also, take a look at the Daedalus class of starships - the class that was meant to follow that of the NX Enterprise. Does the Daedalus class look like it's a design improvement? I knew that it was going to be a production design challenge to make the tech in this series seem less advanced than the cheesy 1960's sets, but they missed the mark on this too.

Remember, we're in 2010 and we have computers now that are smaller and more powerful than those on TOS. We have touchscreen interfaces, but in the future, we're supposed to all go back to buttons and toggle switches.

Star Trek was born in the 1960s, so it's primitive even by today's standards. The spherical shape of the primary hull of a model kept in the back an office strikes me as nitpicking. Yes, that's what we Trekkies do. But what if all series were held to this standard, would any be worth watching?
The writers had a number of pre-set historical events to deal with and they ignored nearly all of them. If you're going to play in this universe, please respect the canon that has already been established.

Such as?  They covered the Eugenics Wars quite well, and those were supposed to take place in the 1990s.   Colonel Green was mentioned.  I mean, ENT managed to keep consistent despite conflicting with our reality. That's pretty good work.

Now I haven't been blogging for five years without learning that text is a limited way to communicate because it removes body language and vocal tone.  So just in case I've given the impression that I'm angry or emotional: I'm not.  I just disagree. We wouldn't be geeks if we didn't get into arguments about trivialities.

Enterprise was fun.  And if you haven't seen the final sixty seconds of the series, do so now.  It's a wonderful send-off to a story that has enriched so many lives.

Image: Paramount

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