[FoRK] Requiem: Enterprise
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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