Hello and welcome to Truth OR Myth, in today’s episode we take a look at Star Trek Enterprise and ask ourselves, was it really that bad?
The last of the series created in the 1st golden age of Star Trek, Enterprise would be seen as a single cause for the downfall of the Star Trek Franchise…
When Star Trek: The Next Generation debuted in 1987, no one could have predicted the success that series would garner for the franchise as a whole. So by 2001 when a new series, simply Entitled Enterprise, began it’s run, it was received with mixed reviews from both fans and critics alike.
After the success of TNG, 2 others series, Deep Space 9 and Voyager would follow. Deep Space 9 attempted to break the standard “Hippy, love all, bright future,” that TNG had provided, while Voyager attempted to bring back the ERA of exploration that the Original Star Trek Series had always had. Both would succeed at some points and fail in others…
The problem with Deep Space 9 was it didn’t go far enough with what it was trying to accomplish. The Darkness surrounding it was often times overshadowed by a light that instead of being a natural one, felt forced and left fandom feeling uneasy.
Voyager, on the other hand, started with what was a sound premise, full of potential. 2 Crews forced to work together even though their philosophies were fundamentally different. But by the 5th episode, this premise was virtually forgotten in favour of the cookie cutter, all will be well after the hour episode, a form of storytelling.
With dwindling viewership numbers, the powers that be looked for a new hook to keep the Franchise viable, and decided to do a prequel, showing the adventures of the first-ever Starfleet Exploration Vessel the Enterprise NX-01. And therein lied the problem…
I have nothing against prequels, and the idea itself was sound, the problem with Enterprise was that it was based before a series that had been produced 35 years prior. A series that although out of date by today’s visual standards, had captured the love and imagination of fans worldwide.
The crisis facing the production team was how do we keep the series being created now faithful to a series created so long ago? And that’s one reason Enterprise failed.
The argument was unwinnable by any standard. After all, you couldn’t make a ship in a style Pre-TOS and still have it visually appealing to the audiences of the Millennium. So instead they opted for nods to the TOS era but updated the look of the ship to something which seemed more advanced in design the original constitution class of TOS.
By 2001, Star Trek had become a franchise that with a very devoted following, and this visual update began a systemic angry feeling by those fans that had kept the various series afloat over the years.
The second problem was in the storytelling itself. Enterprise as a series did NOT bring anything new to the table. It was done in the same format that had been seen since TNG and that format was getting old and tiring to the fans.
With reality TV has pushed the envelop of what people wanted to see on TV, Enterprise seemed fake, always having, at least until season 3, it’s problem resolved in short order. Very rarely did anyone have to deal with their consequences from previous episodes and that was just unrealistic.
Then to add insult to injury, Enterprise at times had forgotten where it came from storytelling-wise. Making glaring and obvious mistakes in Star Trek canon. Things such as Romulans having a cloaking a device a century before the TOS episode Balance of Terror, where everyone was in shock and aw about this new technology.
But the biggest canon error was a depiction of the Vulcans in this series. Enterprise had set out to show humanities struggle to the stars and after the movie First Contact, it was clear that it would be the Vulcans that would help them get there.
Fandom loves the Vulcans, of course, they do, after all, a very solid argument could be made that the character of Spock is what made the original series a lasting success. But in Enterprise the Vulcans were not just devoid of ALL emotions, without even a hint of them, but seem condescending and degrading.
Often times Archer could be seen a racist towards the Vulcans instead of allies trying to forge a bond. These cringe-worthy moments would alienate the fans further.
By season 3 of the series, a new plan was hatched to bring the fandom at large back to Star Trek, an entire season arc based on 1 story. And although this might sound like a good idea, it really wasn’t.
Because this concept wasn’t initiated in the 1st season, it was viewed as a thinly veiled attempt to do exactly what the showrunners were doing. Fans immediately took exception with this as well.
It should be noted, however, that season 3 and 4 has some of the best storytelling in Trek history, having embraced more of the millennium ways of storytelling. That’s not to say it out does TNG stories like the best of both world or the inner light, but merely that for its time, it was what it should have been from the start of the series. And if it had been, the series probably would have been a success.
Though numbers had increased slightly for season 3 it was obvious that the show needed a drastic change. And so the reigns of the show were given to Manny Coto and he began the enormous task of fixing the mistakes that had been made in the previous 3 seasons. He explained away the Vulcan issues, tied the original series in with show on a more fundamental level by doing a 3 part episode on the genetically enhanced humans that had produced Khan and a 2 part episode on the Mirror Universe itself, revisiting the sets of the TOS Constitution-class starship USS Defiant. He even began to show the dangers and development of various technologies such as the transporter and steered the show towards the Birth of the Federation.
Ultimately season 4 was a success in this way, feeling more Star Trek then previous 3 seasons had, but unfortunately it was too late, the damage was done and on May 13 2005, the last episode of Star Trek: Enterprise aired and the series was cancelled.
I’m a huge fan of ALL of the Trek Series, and I often get asked which series is my favourite, and it’s a question I can never answer. I look at each series on its own, liking and disliking aspects of each, and as such it’s difficult to rate them when you never compare them to each other. I’ve never felt comparing them is a fair way to say which is better. After all, a series created in the 60’s would have far less visually stunning effects and subject to the drama of the time and atmosphere of the 60s which it was created in. How then can I compare it to a series like Discovery created now, for a new generation of Trek fans?
But when I first penned this episode of Truth or Myth into my calendar it was to be the 4th episode, I quickly realized that I couldn’t give it a valid opinion anymore, having only watched a few episodes here and there since it’s demise. So I scheduled this episode to write after watching the entire series again, a to be announced in the Truth OR Myth video series.
Watching Enterprise again I was amazed by how much I actually enjoyed it. Sure there were problems with it, but anyone watching the 1st season of TNG, DS9 or Voyager would know that there are always problems in the first season of a new show.
But genuinely I came out of that experience with a profound sadness that it had ended when it did. And that a younger, less mature me of that time, failed to see the merit it actually had, having fallen in with the, “this is just another Trek cash grab series,” fan group.
Maybe that’s why nowadays I know better and give Star Trek Discovery bigger latitude when it comes to re-invigorating Star Trek. No one knows what the future of any series holds until it’s complete and until then I’m happy to support the new Star Trek Series, while simultaneously enjoying them for what they are and pointing out any mistakes made to canon.
Star Trek Discovery season 1 is definitely more exciting then Enterprise as a whole. However, it seems to me that Enterprise had a better grasp on the prequel idea, at least to this point. If I could go back in time and change Enterprise there is very little that I would change at all. I became enthralled in that world as I had the world of TNG when it first began to air in 1987.
It’s unfortunate that it didn’t have a chance to spread its wings and really fly. So I guess the moral of this story is never judge a book by its time period. Give things a chance.
And so was Enterprise really that bad? For the time, yes, but for now, No. it deserves much more praise then it gets and has rightfully earned its place in the history of Star Trek. Not as it’s failure, but as an engaging series it’s own right…
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Watch episode 36