Space Ramblings

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…

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