To boldly go into cancellation…

Really, I’m not at all surprised that Star Trek: Enterprise has been cancelled. It’s been a mildy interesting series, but with each step beyond the venerable ST:TNG, the franchise has gotten progressively weaker. ST: Voyager was often more embarrassing than entertaining, so it stood to reason that Enterprise was going to suffer from a lot of the same problems, and the obvious lack of vision the creators had for their ill-formed prequel hamstrung them even further.

I can remember back when Voyager first debuted. I was working with a guy who was a rabid Star Trek fan. Now, I’m a fan, but this guy owned costumes and props and lots of ST toys. I’ve only ever had a few toys. Call me nerd-lite to his uber-nerd. When they announced Voyager and the premise behind it my pal and I got excited. It sounded like there was potential for lots of drama and, frankly, a bit darker vision of Star Trek. One ship, stuck out in the middle of nowhere, decades from home at full speed – we had visions of running an ongoing Voyager body count, of episodes devoted to the Captain and her officers trying to recruit crew replacements from the ranks of new species they encountered in the faraway lands they visited. We imagined a ship that would gradually have to be retooled with technology acquired from alien races, so that by the time they did reach home, (which, of course they would, because Star Trek is nothing if not incredibly optimistic story-telling), the ship would be barely recognizable. We also hoped we’d see the Prime Directive pitched out the window about two weeks into the first season.

None of that came to pass. None of it. What we got was a show that resembled Lost In Space without the humor or convincing villains. The ship and crew managed to miraculously remain almost completely intact – funny how in TNG or the original Trek they were having to put into space dock for major repairs on a regular basis after particularly heated confrontations, but out in the Gamma Quadrant, bazillions of light years from home, your ships just heal themselves, without ever showing any signs of wear and tear. Oh, and all those crewmen we saw go kablooey, seems we never missed them much. The corridors of the ship were always full and every station stayed manned. Ultimately it just got boring to watch.

Enterprise has had, as predicted, the same problems. We were pitched a show about life before transporters, before high warp speeds, before the Federation, where everything was new. But the thing is, nothing really seems new. The Enterprise of this show seems to zip from planet to planet as rapidly as any ship in the franchise history ever has, they’ve used the transporter plenty and they seem to do very little exploring.

One thing I hit upon right away as a problem with Enterprise is that there are simply too many characters. And it doesn’t help that the actors playing their roles play them unconvincingly. Ensign Sato, the communications officer is just annoying, and Ensign Mayweather, the helmsman, comes across as, well, the token black actor. The angst-ridden Lt. Reed is a potentially interesting character, but he rarely does anything but complain. But you could ride those three out if the three principals weren’t so dull. T’Pol, Capt. Archer and Cmdr. Tucker just couldn’t carry a script if it had handles on it. The only really compelling character on Enterprise is Dr. Phlox – interesting note: the only really compelling character on Voyager was the holographic doctor. Maybe Rick Berman and Brannon Braga should do a hospital show. They seem to be able to write doctors well.

Ultimately, the creators of Enterprise just botched it, again. Star Trek fans know what we’d like to see in a prequel series to the original series. We want to see that rough and ready galaxy that led to the world we saw Kirk, Spock and McCoy inhabit. We can all imagine that if Capt. Kirk was more prone to risk taking, rule breaking and flying by the seat of his adventurous pants, his predecessors must have been even more swashbuckling. Enterprise should have been an adventure show, not a cerebral show. Capt. Archer should have spent more time fist-fighting aliens and wooing women than furrowing his brow.

Alternately they could have taken a page out of the TNG playbook and upended the format. Instead of a sympathetic captain, how about a hard-ass. Build your core stories around crewmen and not the captain for a change. But alas, they just blew it. And while you may think I’m expending a lot of thought and energy on this, trust me, this is nothing compared to what some folks are doing today in response to news that UPN has cancelled Enterprise.

Besides, I’ve already gotten hooked on the new Battlestar Gallactica.

Comments are closed.