Thursday, December 12, 2013

Star Trek: Enterprise Season 1

I finished watching the first season of Star Trek: Enterprise, which at the time of broadcast was simply Enterprise. First broadcast on September 26, 2001 on the UPN network (United Paramount Network) it was an attempt to reinvigorate the franchise and bring in new fans. While the idea of going back to the beginnings of Star Fleet was good, the end product fell a little short. Well, maybe that is too critical. I am enjoying the series enough to keep watching, but there are hurdles to that enjoyment.
It feels like producers, with every episode, feel the need to remind the viewer that this is not the Star Trek that you can come to know and love with a theme song that is very unlike Trek. Now, you can argue, probably with every one of my issues, that the series takes place before the events and characters of the Trek canon we have come to know. But it still does not feel right. The theme song has a stock music, just dialed it in, kind of feel. The end musical sequence feels equally generic. I’m not musically talented or trained in any way and it is unfair of me to make any real kind of musical judgment, but the music feels like it has no soul and does nothing to move me. If anything it makes me want to hit the “Skip” buttin to get to the first scene.

T’Pol… I think you could say that one of these things is not like the other.

Okay, firstly I don’t want to criticize Jolene Blalock for the way T’Pol turned out. She is an actress and it was a job. The problem is, or was, she does not seem suited to the role or got bad direction on how to play the role. First of all, and the most obvious is her wardrobe. She is the only Vulcan I have ever seen wear a skin tight body suit. And you can’t blame it on the Vulcan fashion of the time because every other Vulcan in the series wears robes. It is an obvious attempt to sexualize a character, to make some eye candy in order to attract male viewers. The formula sort of worked with Seven of Nine on Voyager, but it felt even more forced here. But basically it makes no sense to make a pinup version of a character whose species suppresses emotion and mates only once every seven years. Maybe it would not have been so bad if not for the fact that T’Pol was featured more often than the other female characters in the series. So far, anyway. And speaking of characters, it feels like I have gotten to know some about T’Pol and Archer, and a few things about the other characters, but I don’t feel like I really know them as much as I’d like to. It is the first season though, so I’ll withhold further judgment on that.

There is also this Temporal Cold War plot that is getting on my nerves. Time travel and alternate universes have always been a part of Trek lore, but this has become a central theme. And introducing new species that have never been in any Trek series does not make any sense. I’d rather see more stories about the first meetings with other species that have been around. Particularly, the whole Andorian/Vulcan spy games seems to me like a way better sub plot to be in the background. With the Andorians there probably wouldn’t be as much time wasted with special effects and more time spent on character development and story. With the Sulayban, it like “what new genetic trait can we give them this week” kind of a thing. In general though, for a first season I think it was way to early to introduce such a huge subplot. Or at least not commit so many episodes to it.

The original Star Trek accomplished a lot with very little in the ways of special effects. It made its mark with storytelling and being socially forward. It had a racially diverse cast and even TV’s first interracial kiss. Which brings me to my next point, still no gay people? It’s not like it’s that big a deal to have at least one gay character in a television series these days. In this respect, Star Trek has fallen way behind when it used to be more progressive then anything on the air. What gives?

I guess I could list other details, but I think the bigger issue is that the series creators are trying to sell me on a product I was already sold on by adding extra frosting. More flash and less substance. Hopefully when the next Star Trek series makes it in the air, the story and characters will be first.

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