There is a reason why fandom broke up with Enterprise. That theme song never ceased to be annoying; the show was constantly embarrassing us in public, and ultimately kept lying about being a Star Trek show. Defending the totality of the final live action Star Trek series is similar to trying to defend a bad relationship. But there were good times with Enterprise!
However, in reassessing the most hated Trek of them all, I discovered a startling truth: I am a T’Pol/Trip shipper. So, with that in mind, here are six great moments that signify the good times with Enterprise. Not all of these are T’Pol/Trip stories, but fair warning all the same: lots of human on vulcan action ahead.
Initially, Enterprise seemed like it was going to be a show in which things were grittier than on previous Trek shows. They don’t have shields yet, the transporter doesn’t really work right, and they’re constantly running out of fuel. In short, the show was supposed to be a link from how the world got from where we live now to the Star Trek world. Pretty quickly, the show dropped most of this grittiness in favor of “inventing” all the future stuff we’re all familiar with. This episode is an exception. Trip and Reed are trapped in a shuttlepod and actually have to deal with elements that would actually screw with people who are flying through space. Further, just like classic Trek this one seemed focused on putting real people in a space travel dilemma and letting us get to know them through that situation. This solid good, quiet character piece that probably kept a bunch of us watching at the start of the series.
While most of the better Enterprise stories come from its later seasons, this second season episode is really a standout, if only because it’s just so charming. Presented as a kind of an old family legend about T’Pol’s grandmother, the episode deals with the secret story of three vulcans crash-landing on Earth in 1957. After a few of the vulcans hustle some humans at pool, they decide to try and blend in with the culture until a rescue ship arrives. The conflicts between T’Mirr (T’Pol’s ancestor) and the other vulcans are particularly great because they demonstrate the mixed compassion aliens might have for our uncivilized little society. The final scene in which T’Pol goes to her room and pulls out the vintage 50’s purse does a nice job in confirming the truth of the anecdote and letting us know just how much T’Pol’s likes humans deep down.
Though this is one of two episodes of Enterprise in which advanced aliens inhabit the bodies of Starfleet crewmembers, it is far and away the best. Organians (those non-corporeal lifeforms from the classic TOS episode “Errand of Mercy") are jumping around in various bodies of the Enterprise crew in order to see how this group of lesser lifeforms responds to a super scary illness that starts infecting everyone. The Organians begin having conflicts between themselves about the ethics of subjecting lesser lifeforms to this scenario. The episode is made all the more interesting since it contains no actually guest stars, and the existing actors are all playing the Organians at various points in the action. If you’re into Star Trek to see debates about space ethics, then this episode is pretty great.
In this one, the ship returns to Earth after finally completing all that war fighting stuff with the Xindi. Archer rekindles a romance with a fellow Starfleet captain, while Trip goes to the planet Vulcan with T’Pol to meet her family. Of the two storylines, Trip going to Vulcan with T’Pol is easily more interesting. This is the sort of episode that either rewards someone who liked the characters on this show, or could potentially get you to like them if you didn’t really know what was going on. T’Pol is in a sort of a legal situation with her family, and is forced into marriage with a vulcan she doesn’t love. When she kisses Trip on the cheek after the ceremony concludes despite the fact she just married this other guy, it’s totally adorable. It’s too bad the romance with Trip and T’Pol wasn’t developed more. In my opinion, both the actors were at their best with this kind of stuff.
After Trip is injured, Dr. Phlox decides to grow a clone in order to get Trip much needed brain tissue. An accelerated version of Trip is created which the crew nicknames Sim. This clone has both the memories of the original Trip and his own memories of being raised on Enterprise. Things get really tricky when T’Pol and the fully-grown Sim decide to get it on! The dilemma grows further when Phlox realizes this clone won’t survive the transplant process. Obviously, they’re dealing with a complete sentient individual, separate and apart from Trip. This episode explores the ethical conundrums of cloning in an awesome way because the story primarily revolves around the naked honesty of Sim’s feelings about everything. If you ever wondered if this show was capable of stepping up with a story that had great character stuff, a wonderful science fiction premise and genuine speculation about the ethics of certain technology, then look no further. This episode is what Star Trek is all about.
Probably the finest moment of the entire series, this two-parter deals with a xenophobic organization called Terra Prime, which is determined to drive out every single non-human from Earth. To this end, the fanatical head of the organization has created a human/vulcan hybrid baby using stolen DNA samples from Trip and T’Pol. Only in science fiction can two characters have a baby that they genuinely both don’t know about. The fact that Trip and T’pol have had a romance prior to this episode makes it all the more poignant. The fact that Star Trek has always presented an enlightened version of humanity is great. But here, we get to see how hard it would be to get to that point, and just how easy it would be for some extremists to turn the planet against benevolent aliens. There’s a particularly good scene in which Trip questions one of the Terra Prime members as to why he hates the vulcans. The guys basically blames the vulcans for WWIII, because he claims they could have intervened and saved lives. This kind of hypocritical dichotomy is pretty representative against how actual extremists think, and as a result the social commentary in this episode is totally effective. And I dare anyone to not have a little pang in their heart for Trip and T’Pol’s poor baby Elizabeth. If you only saw one Enteprise episode and it was this one, you’d wonder why the show was canceled.
What about you? Any diamonds in the rough of Enterprise? (Any that don’t feature Trip and T’Pol?) In the meantime, enjoy this video in which that theme song is replaced with the one from Perfect Strangers. Oddly, it’s better.
Ryan Britt is as staff writer for Tor.com. He recommends watching the opening credits of Enterprise while tipsy. The song doesn’t seem so bad when you’ve had a few.