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Star Trek Enterprise episode review – These Are The Voyages

Synopsis: Riker looks to the NX-01 Enterprise crew to help him make a decision as ENTERPRISE and STAR TREK itself comes to a close.

star trek enterprise these are the voyagesReview: It’s been a long road getting from there to here. STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION was the second ST series revived when it seemed impossible. It was widely popular and highly-rated. ENTERPRISE is the last ST series; it is not remotely popular or highly-rated. The gap between them seems difficult to imagine and “These Are The Voyages…”, no matter how well-meaning, finalizes the process by turning ENT into a footnote in a minor ST:TNG episode.

It is hard not to feel a sudden sense of joy and homecoming when the holodeck’s yellow lines light up and Riker walks out of Enterprise and into the Enterprise-D corridor, and we feel as if we’ve never left. There is something homey and comforting about TNG, there always was. The spacious ship, the genial crew, the comfortably carpeted rooms. It’s the place to come home to and at the end it’s where ENT’s producers came home to.

Blalock and others are right to feel cheated. “Voyages” is not an ENT episode, not in any meaningful sense. It might have been intriguing at any other point in the show’s history, but as a finale it is a dismissal of ENT. The touching final seconds of the three ships, and what is undoubtedly the best and most moving part of the episode, suggest an equality that was never there. The original series and TNG were successes, whether for creative or commercial reasons, ENT is a failure. When Riker and Troi leave and the audience with them, before Archer begins his speech, it is meant to be a touching note that speaks of an unfinished series; but it carries a note of dismissal too. We go off with the TNG characters and leave ENT’s behind. Indeed “Voyages” reduces ENT and its crew to nothing more than characters in a holodeck simulation whom Riker and Troi can switch on and off at will.

ENT deserved to end with a grand episode like “Twilight.” It at the very least deserved a decent send-off and though “Voyages” attempts to suggest that this is about Enterprise’s legacy, it is actually nothing of the kind. “Voyages” does a poor job of wrapping up anything about the Enterprise crew. Trip is killed by a clash with a gang of idiot robbers who board the ship. It’s hard to imagine a sillier way to kill off a character. T’Pol does some of her best work in the episode unlocking her emotions, but even Archer and most of the rest of the crew have little to do and less to look forward to.

STAR TREK VI closed an era with peace with the Klingons, ST:TNG ended with the salvation of the universe and the reconceptualization of time, ST:DS9 ended with victory over the Dominion and Sisko’s ascension, VOYAGER ended with a catastrophic battle with the Borg. But what does “Voyages” end with? A speech we never see? A Federation we are not even given the chance to see come into being? The culmination of Enterprise’s journey is not a story about the building of the Federation; it is a story about fighting space bandits. Riker marching through a holographic recreation to get answers about duty and orders seems more like something VOY’s Naomi Wildman might have done, accompanied by Tuvok.

Furthermore, the plot makes little to no sense. Archer complains about the cost of exploration that took Trip’s life but it wasn’t exploration that killed him; it was Archer using the Enterprise to intervene in a private criminal dispute. Riker goes to learn and decide whether his higher duty is to his Captain or to the Admiral and learns the value of personal loyalty from Trip’s example but really did Riker need to wander through a holodeck simulation of the NX-01 to figure out personal loyalty to Captain Picard after all these years? More importantly is that Enterprise’s legacy, not in its accomplishments, but in the personal loyalty of the crew to Archer? Was there any other ST series that this could not be said of?

All of ST’s finales have been sad but they were leavened by crisis and confrontation and some transcendence. Captain Kirk sailing the Enterprise to the second star on the right after confronting his demons and ideals and emerging rejuvenated from them. Picard entering the room to play poker in order to solidify that bond with his crew for the future. Kira confronting her new role in running DS9. Voyager finally returning home to be greeted by a waiting fleet after Janeway has torn apart the future and the Borg for her crew. All of those had a clear message: this was worthwhile and this isn’t over yet. “Voyages” struggles but fails to offer any such message. The crew can muster little but a sad apathy at the future. It is over and they know it and the writers know it and we know it too. Archer gives his speech and we live because it would be too hard to bear this final goodbye.

In “All Good Things…”, which “Voyages” not so cleverly references, the future destroyed the past in a paradox that defied cause and effect. ENT too is a paradox, a show set in ST’s past produced in the future. It has also completed the final task of destroying ST. Not because it was a thoroughly awful show — ENT had brilliant and memorable episodes. But never enough. And so it goes out not with hope for the future but a sad resignation; not with a bang but a whimper.

STAR TREK, though, lives on. All things that live must die but ST has left behind a great legacy that continues to blossom today. When we look up at the stars and see Klingons, Vulcans, Romulans and Tholians among them, ST continues to dream on inside us. When we find our fingers drawing apart in a Vulcan greeting by force of habit, that too is the product of hundreds of hours of a TV show we watched, memorized and loved.

ST has had a great and noble legacy. The first space shuttle was named Enterprise. The shuttle fleet is being retired now to make way for a crew exploratory vehicle that will take us to the Moon and Mars and beyond. It will be Earth’s first true spaceship. It seems somewhat appropriate that STAR TREK’s death, the passing of a wonderful fictional series about space exploration, comes in the dawn of the birth of a new era of real space exploration here on earth.

If ST was a dream that fired men’s souls to see the stars, to walk among strange new worlds; then perhaps we have woken from the dream and are moving closer to the reality. And when man does step foot for the first time on a foreign star, the engineers and scientists, the astronauts and visionaries whom ST inspired will have helped to make it happen. That is its true legacy and ours.

Next week: the Future…

Star Trek Enterprise episode review – Demons

Synopsis: Trip and T’Pol have a love child and do 21 Jump Street. Peter Weller comes on board to play Dr. Evil and Anthony Montgomery acts more robotic than Robocop.

Review: “Demons” is many things. It’s first of all a waste of ENTERPRISE’s last few episodes. It is a waste of the Federation story. It is a waste of the time and energies of the actors involved and of just about everything else that went into the production of the show.

star trek enterprise demons

He wears a suit... he must be evil

If the writers and viewers didn’t think the bar fight in “Home” was tedious enough, ENT feels the need to repeat the exercise with a two-part episode dedicated to not particularly futuristic neo-nazis in suits and ties who really hate aliens.

Gene Roddenberry on the original STAR TREK stayed well away from Earth because he knew the complexities of any kind of future social and economic system and culture were beyond his ability to properly portray. ENT has not only chosen to set itself in a period of Earth moving from individuality to the Federation but also flubbed it time and time again.

We do not see a world that has recovered from a catastrophic world war and bears the accompanying scars and characteristics of such a legacy (consider how much we are shaped today by WWII and WWIII was supposed to be a good deal more catastrophic, would the aftermath really look like 20th century Earth with a little tinkering?), but what we see is the 20th century and “Demons” only reaffirms that.

What were the real ideologies behind WW3? What kind of a world would be left in the wake of superhuman beings running portions of the planet and killing masses of the human population? The Eugenics War would have been a credible motivation for Terra Prime, the fear of being ruled by superhuman beings again; yet “Demons” does not pick up on that instead giving us a brief message about Colonel Green promoting euthanasia of people with radiation poisoning. Where ENT this season at least dealt with the Eugenics Wars, “Demons” just gives us modern day bigots without even really bothering with a futuristic setting.

This might have been bearable but the episode is further weighed down by utterly awful writing. A major chunk of the episode is dedicated to Ensign Mayweather, an idea right up there with teaching ducks to do computer repairs. Anthony Montgomery has never been able to act. When faced with a camera, he recites lines in a monotone looking for all the world like a 13-year-old on stage for a production of his high school play. His performance lacks emotion or even any understanding that he’s playing a character. His ‘romance’ is as compelling TV viewing as a wax museum production of Othello.

Add on to that Peter Weller, reuniting with Manny Cotto and delivering an utterly ponderous performance. Early on there’s some potential that he might be more than a stock villain but have actual depth and shading but then he falls into Dr. Evil mode to such an absurd extent that he and the episode become outright laughable. Of course like every evil supervillain he has two of his own henchmen killed to show just how evil he is, even as he lets T’Pol and Tucker stand around on his bridge without doing anything to them; in true supervillain style. To top it off he has his own flying fortress and when his mining facility flies off into space, the shark for the episode has been well and truly jumped. When he airs a broadcast threatening to blow things up with his supergun unless his demands are met. You almost expect him to put his little finger in his mouth and demand ONE MILLION DOLLARS.

Harry Groener who on Buffy could be wonderfully menacing and creepy in the oddest ways is utterly wasted here as are Peter Weller in Robonazi mode and the rest of the cast in an episode that would make a passable Jump Street episode and little else. Contemplate the idiocy in having Trip and T’Pol go undercover into an enemy mining facility. Both are members of the Enterprise crew and heroes of Earth. The plan to go undercover on Earth seems like a really bad idea. Especially since T’Pol does not even bother to cover up her ears and female Vulcans are not likely to be laborers at a poor and grungy mining outpost. And to really maintain his cover Trip should not have been wandering around the outpost with a Vulcan to begin with.

Then again police detectives aren’t likely to just blend into a high school which puts “Demons” plausibility on the same level as 21 Jump Street. This is only reinforced by a scene in which Mayweather’s girlfriend demands counsel since apparently suddenly Starfleet grants the right to refuse to speak to Archer without a lawyer. A lot of the aliens whom Archer beat and tortured would have been happy to know that. Then again there’s grounds for refusing to watch this episode without a lawyer present.

And so now we end on a cliffhanger note in which Dr. Evil threatens to blow up things with his new cannon unless all the aliens leave. If the supergun doesn’t work, I’m sure he’ll always have some piranhas handy.

Next Week: Peter Weller’s Mini-Me may show up.

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