[FoRK] Requiem: Enterprise

Jeff Bone jbone at place.org
Fri May 13 22:04:21 PDT 2005


First --- the caveats, disclaimers, and disclosures.  NO SPOILERS!

I have never considered myself a Trekkie, nor would I think anyone  
else has or would have ever done so.  Growing up I probably saw the  
majority of the episodes in the original series, piecemeal, over the  
years, in syndication.  I don't know --- I never cared enough to  
figure out which episodes of that kitsch-comedy space opera I'd  
missed.  I did get a copy of the blueprints to the original series  
NC-1701 from Santa Claus on my 8th Christmas, December 1974.  I did  
see --- rather coincidentally --- the box office premier of Wrath of  
Khan, and made a point of seeing the next several movies on opening  
night...  but I was barely aware of ST: NG when it was on and have  
only seen a very few episodes of that, Voyager, or Deep Space Nine.

I did read a few Star Trek books.  In particular the Technical  
Manuals and so forth always were amusing and thought-provoking.

HOWEVER.

I tuned in for Enterprise.  I've been hooked.  I've seen every  
episode within hours of airtime.  Enterprise was quite possibly the  
best premise of any of the series to date:  take this fragmented, ad- 
hoc, yet very rich mythos and history that has been pieced together  
over 30+ years, and rationalize it.  Get back to the roots.  Humanize  
it.

What's the premise?  Imagine a human race on the brink of disaster,  
flirting with extinction.  Eugenics wars, massive social upheaval as  
a result of society that is progressing technologically beyond its  
capacity to absorb innovation or change.  Imagine a post-apocalyptic  
society --- and a small community of scientific "true believers"  
trying to keep the faith (irony) and keep hope --- and humanity  
itself --- alive.  Imagine a tragically-flawed genius struggling in  
such a context to make a phenomenal break-through --- FTL travel,  
without a military-industrial complex to back him.  Imagine the  
Manhattan Project to tackle the largest problem of all, led by an  
eccentric and slightly insane alcoholic, with no support infrastructure.

Imagine what happens --- if it works.  If he succeeds.

The hero of Enterprise has always been that (almost, within the  
series) unseen character looming over the whole backstory:  Zephraim  
Cochran.  The inventor of the warp drive and, consequently,  
accidental savior of humanity.  His first ad-hoc warp flight attracts  
the interest of the Vulcans, and said contact basically saves  
humanity from certain extinction.

  Enterprise was *dark* --- because the context in which it is set,  
historically, within the mythos, is itself dark.  Yet it's a time of  
hope, a time of recovery, a time of humanity regaining its composure  
and self-confidence after barely pulling back from the brink of  
disaster, and then only with somewhat ambivalent help.  It's about  
first steps.  It's about overcoming all odds.  At least, that's the  
context in which it is set and in which the series was conceived.

Everything about the original art direction confirmed this.  The sets  
were cramped.  The uniforms bland and militaristic.  The captain's  
stateroom in the first warp 5 ship --- Enterprise itself, Earth's  
first wholly-owned interstellar exploration craft --- has such a low  
ceiling that crew members have to duck below the structural members  
in order to move around.  The visuals confirm and reinforce the  
context of the story.

The original mix of the theme song for the show drew amazing  
criticism, particularly from Trekkies:  vocals?!?!?!  And a Rod  
Stewart song, no less.  I myself found it annoying and distasteful  
for the first several episodes until I "got" what it was saying.   
Listen to the lyrics:  it's a paean to the triumph of the human  
spirit over adversity, to the strength of will and dreams and heart.   
It's a story about the period of the fictional history in the Star  
Trek universe covered by the series in question.

It's perfect.

And that theme song was coupled with, perhaps, the most contextually  
brilliant opening credits of any TV show, ever, excepting perhaps  
some of the variations of opening credits for PBS's Nova.  Scenes of  
exploration, innovation, science and engineering wedded to feed and  
fulfill man's need to look over whatever the next horizon might be.   
Brilliant.

And the cast.  The chemistry.  Unparalleled among ensemble casts,  
period, much less among ST casts.  Yeah, I was worried about it at  
first.  I had no faith in Scott Bakkula --- I always thought he was  
really cheesy.  I never saw a complete episode of Quantum Leap, and  
viewed him as a total hack.  And yet, his characterization of Archer,  
captain of the first warp Enterprise, was more worthy of an Emmy than  
any ST characterization before.  Gruff, stern, solid, compassionate,  
flawed...  a man whose need to be captain, whose need and ability to  
command, is the dominant factor in his personality...  and yet that  
need, normally a fatal flaw, is met and fulfilled by his surprising  
ability.  Incrementally.  Imperfectly.  But met nonetheless.

Of all of the captains of Enterprises, or indeed UFP starships that  
have been portrayed in the mythos to date, Archer is the one I would  
most wish to serve.

Yet here we are, the series prematurely ending, fatally flawed by  
whipsawed story lines and lack of commitment by the producers ---  
despite all of the advantages they had going in, relative to other ST  
series.

Why?

Five words:  Rick Berman and Brannon Braga.

These people need to be removed from the Star Trek franchise swiftly,  
completely, and permanently.  They've fallen into TV hackitude, and  
they couldn't wipe their own asses with a case of toilet paper.  It's  
clear --- the entire next-to-last season of Enterprise is an  
existence proof --- that they have NO understanding and NO respect or  
appreciation for "the space" that is the context of ST.  Bottom line,  
end of story, they're tired, get them out of there.

Too bad.  They have now, finally, taken a massively important  
cultural icon --- and nearly utterly ruined it.  Hasn't ST inspired  
generations of engineers and been the seed of countless technological  
innovations?  Why do you think the first test shuttle was called  
Enterprise?  Don't you think tricorders had something to do with the  
motivation for the fist PDAs?  Communicators as inspiration for cell  
phones?  Life imitates art.  And the most imitated art in sci-fi is,  
doubtlessly, Star Trek.  Not to mention the socio-political impact of  
the show.

Anyway...  I am about to sit down and watch the last two episodes on  
TiVo.  I do so with a heavy heart.


Requiem, Enterprise.  You were insufficiently appreciated, but you  
will be missed by some of us.

jb



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