Star Trek: Enterprise First Season
Original air dates: September 2001 – May 2002
Executive Producers: Rick Berman, Brannon Braga
Captain’s log. Ninety years after first contact with the Vulcans, Earth has united under a single government and is ready to explore space more thoroughly beyond a few colonies here and there. Under the strict (some think too strict) guidance of the Vulcans, they do so.
The Warp Five Project includes three NX-class ships, the first of which is Enterprise, commanded by Captain Jonathan Archer, the son of the late head of the W5 Project, Henry Archer. When a Klingon crash-lands in a cornfield, the Vulcans want to let him die, but the Starfleet admiralty insists that he be cared for and brought to his homeplanet. Enterprise goes to Kronos, but they’re hindered in their mission by the Cabal, a group of Suliban who’ve been genetically engineered by a mysterious figure from the future as soldiers in a Temporal Cold War. Archer and his crew, as well as a Vulcan observer T’Pol, who signs on as his first mate and science officer, get the Klingon back to his homeworld with information that staves off a Klingon civil war.
After that, Starfleet sends Archer out to explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and new civilizations, and boldly go where no one has gone before. They find the lost colony of Terra Nova. They make first contact with the Axanar, the Ferengi, and the Andorians, in the latter case finding themselves stuck in the middle of their conflict with the Vulcans. They find spiffy comets and rogue planets and fancy-shmancy phenomena, and also get caught up in more Temporal Cold War nonsense. Along the way, they save a lot of lives, and make a bunch of mistakes, sometimes at the same time.
At the end of the season, after a mediocre trip to Risa, the Cabal frames them for the destruction of a mining colony, killing 3600 people. When the Cabal’s enemies from the future try to fix the temporal screwups by taking Archer to the thirty-first century, it results in an apocalyptic future that Archer is now trapped in…
Highest-rated episode: A three-way tie among “The Andorian Incident,” “Shuttlepod One,” and “Vox Sola,” all of which scored an 8. This is only the second television season in all my Trek rewatches where the highest-ranked episode in a season was an 8—the previous instance was the first season of TNG.
Lowest-rated episode: Another tie, this between “Dear Doctor” and “Acquisition,” both of which scored well-deserved 1s.
Most comments (as of this writing): “Broken Bow” with 155. Honorable mention to “Terra Nova” and “The Andorian Incident,” which also hit three figures with, respectively, 101 and 109 comments.
Fewest comments (as of this writing): “Oasis” with only 16, the only episode to have fewer than a score of comments.
Favorite Can’t we just reverse the polarity? From “Shockwave“”: Archer throws out a ton of technobabble while telling Tucker how to build the beacons: dispersal curve, sub-assembly tolerances, emitter algorithms, stable flux between the positron conductors, renormalizing the tertiary wave functions, and a whole lot of other nonsense.
Also, when they mentioned quantum beacons, I couldn’t help but flash on the line Scott Lang has in Ant-Man & The Wasp: “Do you guys just put the word ‘quantum’ in front of everything?”
Favorite The gazelle speech: From “Civilization”: Archer gets to lead a landing party, kiss a pretty woman, and get into a firefight. It’s the Trek captain trifecta!
Favorite I’ve been trained to tolerate offensive situations: From “Rogue Planet”: T’Pol pointedly comments to Archer that he probably wouldn’t be so eager to look for the wraith alone if it was appearing as a scantily clad man. She isn’t wrong…
Favorite Florida Man: From “Unexpected”: Florida Man Knocked Up By Scaly Alien Seductress!
Favorite Optimism, Captain! From “Vox Sola”: Phlox gets Reed to slow his roll when it comes to testing his force field on the alien sample in sickbay, as he’s unwilling to torture what might be a sentient being. Reed tries to pull rank, but Phlox pulls it right back, as it’s his sickbay, and only the captain—who’s indisposed—can counter the doctor’s authority there.
Favorite Ambassador Pointy: From “Shadows of P’Jem”: Soval has many disparaging remarks to make about Archer on his way out the door.
Favorite Good boy, Porthos! From “Acquisition”: The Ferengi try to interrogate Porthos, assuming him to be intelligent because he has such large ears. They are initially confused by the fact that the translator can’t do anything with his barking. They then take Porthos as part of their spoils (but, of course, give him back in the end).
Favorite Rules of Acquisition: From “Acquisition”: Krem states that there are 173 Rules of Acquistion, which means that 112 more will be coined between the twenty-second and twenty-fourth centuries. We get a new one in #23: “Nothing is more important than your health—except your money.” In addition #6 is stated to be “Never allow family to stand in the way of profit,” where it was stated in DS9’s “The Nagus” as “..in the way of opportunity,” but the Rule could easily have evolved over two hundred years.
Favorite The Vulcan Science Directorate has determined… From “Cold Front”: T’Pol declares that the Vulcan Science Directorate has studied the notion of time travel extensively and come to the conclusion that it doesn’t exist. Given that this comes after (at this point) thirty-five years of Star Trek stories, many of which involve extensive time travel, this is particularly absurd.
Favorite Qapla’! From “Sleeping Dogs”: The Somraw appears to be Klingon military, but they’re also raiding sovereign outposts, so they may also be pirates. Or both. Also we see that they keep targs on board in a cargo hold to be killed for food when it’s suppertime…
Favorite Blue meanies: From “Shadows of P’Jem”: The Andorians were kind enough to give the monks (and spies) on P’Jem fair warning before blowing it up, so everyone survived. (Interestingly, T’Pol is the only one who asks if the relics were saved, and Archer doesn’t know—and we never do find out…)
Favorite No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: From “Broken Bow”: When they return from Rigel X, Tucker and T’Pol have a protocystian spore on them and they have to go through decon. This requires them to take as many of their clothes off as Broadcast Standards and Practices will allow and apply gel to skin with their bare hands, which is quite possibly the most inefficient method possible of decontaminating someone, though it does allow the camera to linger on Connor Trinneer and Jolene Blalock’s scantily clad, greased-up bodies.
Also Sarin is disguised as a human and kisses Archer, only then reverting to her Suliban form. Because the captain can only kiss an alien babe if she’s hot.
Favorite More on this later… From “Dear Doctor”: Archer speaks clumsily about how maybe some day there’ll be a directive that will tell them what to do when dealing with less advanced civilizations. Maybe it’ll even be a prime one!
Also, the Valakians mention the Ferengi, whom neither T’Pol nor Archer have ever heard of.
Favorite Welcome aboard: We start with Vaughn Armstrong, who—after appearing multiple times on TNG, DS9, and Voyager in one- and two-shot roles—has his first recurring role as Admiral Forrest. For good measure, he also plays a Klingon (“Sleeping Dogs”) and a Kreetassian (“Vox Sola”).
Other recurring regulars who debut in this inaugural season include John Fleck as Silik, Jim Fitzpatrick as Williams, Gary Graham as Soval, James Horan as “future guy,” the late Kellie Waymire as Cutler, Joseph Will as Rostov, and Matt Winston as Daniels. Plus James Cromwell puts in an uncredited cameo as Zefram Cochrane in “Broken Bow.”
Some excellent one-off guests, among them Jim Beaver (“Broken Bow”), Michelle C. Bonilla (“Sleeping Dogs”), the great Clancy Brown (“Desert Crossing”), Jane Carr (“Silent Enemy”), Mary Carver (“Terra Nova”), Melinda Clarke (“Broken Bow”), Diane DiLascio (“Civilization”), Renee E. Golsberry (“Vox Sola”), Tiny Lister Jr. (“Broken Bow”), Enrique Murciano (“Fusion”), Michael O’Hagan (“Cold Front”), Guy Siner (“Silent Enemy”), and the late great Dean Stockwell (“Detained”).
We have a mess of Trek veterans. Two are former opening-credits regulars, DS9’s Rene Auberjonois (“Oasis”) and Voyager’s Ethan Phillips (“Acquisition”). In addition, we’ve got past and future Trek guests in Erick Avari (“Terra Nova”), Julianne Christie (“Unexpected”), Dennis Christopher (“Detained”), Christopher Darga (“Unexpected”), Charles Dennis (“Desert Crossing”), Steven Dennis (“The Andorian Incident”), the great Fionnula Flanagan (“Fallen Hero”), Michael Flynn (“Fallen Hero”), Bruce French (“The Andorian Incident”), Danny Goldring (“Fortunate Son”), Clint Howard (“Acquisition”), Gregory Itzin (“Shadows of P’Jem”), Jeff Kober (“Shadows of P’Jem”), Thomas Kopache (“Broken Bow”), Charles Lucia (“Fortunate Son”), Robert Mammana (“Silent Enemy”), Rudolf Martin (“Two Days and Two Nights”), Jamie McShane (“The Andorian Incident”), Lawrence Monoson (“Fortunate Son”), Mark Moses (“Broken Bow”), Kieran Mulroney (“Fortunate Son”), Stephanie Niznik (“Rogue Planet”), Conor O’Farrell (“Rogue Planet”), Randy Oglesby (“Unexpected”), Eric Pierpoint (“Rogue Planet”), Robert Pine (“Fusion”), John Rosenfeld (“Silent Enemy”), John Rubinstein (“Fallen Hero”), Joseph Ruskin (“Broken Bow”), Christopher Shea (“Detained”), Keith Szarabajka (“Rogue Planet”), Barbara J. Tarbuck (“Shadows of P’Jem”), Karl Wiendergott (“Dear Doctor”), Wade Andrew Williams (“Civilization”), and Dey Young (“Two Days and Two Nights”).
But the winner is the great Jeffrey Combs, who adds two more roles to his extensive Trek resumé, the recurring role of Shran in “The Andorian Incident” and “Shadows of P’Jem” and Krem in “Acquisition.”
Favorite I’ve got faith… From “Terra Nova”:
“I’m not familiar with the early years of human space exploration.”
“Really? Every school kid on Earth had to learn about the famous Vulcan expeditions.”
[after a very very long pause] “History was never my best subject.”
–T’Pol and Tucker making fun of each other, and T’Pol winning.
Favorite Trivial matter: Probably the one for “Broken Bow,” as it established the show’s place in Trek history, and also had lots of references and things and stuff.
It’s been a long road… “Get me Admiral Forrest—this is not gonna be fun.” When going through my rankings for this season, I was not entirely surprised to see that fourteen of the twenty-six episodes had a 4, 5, or 6—either average, or just barely above or below average.
Which fits, because the first season of Trek’s fourth spinoff is incredibly “meh.”
There’s a good premise here, one that is rife for exploration. The opportunity to see humanity’s early explorations into space, seeing them make mistakes and meet certain species for the first time is a great one in theory.
In practice, precisely one interesting thing is done with it the entire season: the insertion of humanity into the middle of the Vulcan-Andorian conflict. This is especially fun precisely because we know the end result: all three species being part of the founding of the Federation. And indeed, watching the three nations get from their contentious state to one of peaceful alliance will be one of the show’s better through-lines.
Would that one could say that for the rest of their attempts. But everything is so perfunctory and uninteresting and unexciting and mundane. The show apparently made a conscious decision to not end act breaks on any kind of cliffhanger. While this may have felt like some kind of “edgy” and “different” approach, it mostly gave viewers no good reason to come back after the commercial. Watching the show now on a streaming service or a DVD mitigates this issue, but it still gives the stories an inconsequential feel more often than not—particularly the teasers that don’t actually tease anything, but just sort of end weakly before cutting to Trek’s Worst Opening Credits Theme Music (over, ironically, Trek’s Most Visually Exciting Opening Credits To Date, having been surpassed only by Discovery, Prodigy, and Strange New Worlds since).
Half-hearted attempts are made to show humans stumbling toward a Federation, but there’s little coherency, many inexplicable decisions, and a consistent portrayal of humans as racist, impatient, and stupid even as the scripts insist they’re being bold and daring. And the Vulcans, whom the scripts insists are a bunch of big meanies, are actually acting like grownups.
The show feels like it’s embarrassed by the previous spinoffs and wants to get “back to basics,” which is to regress to what was considered progressive in 1966: white folks in charge, with other folks in noticeable but minor roles. But while just having Uhura and Sulu be there was huge in the 1960s, it was woefully inadequate to do likewise with Sato and Mayweather thirty-five years later, plus the vast majority of the side characters and guest stars who are human are more Caucasians. All the authority figures in Starfleet are white dudes, most of the Enterprise crew we see are white folks.
And in Archer, T’Pol, and Tucker they’re trying desperately to re-create the dynamic of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, and it fails utterly, mostly because it feels so constructed. It doesn’t help that Enterprise presents us with the worst acting of Scott Bakula’s career. If I wasn’t already familiar with his work on Quantum Leap and Murphy Brown before this and NCIS: New Orleans and Men of a Certain Age after it, I’d think he was a mediocre actor overall. In Archer he gives us the Trek lead with the least charisma, the least excitement, the least interest. The impression we get in “Broken Bow” is that he got the job because his Daddy was famous, not because of any actual merit, and he does very little in the following twenty-five episodes to change that impression.
It’s telling that in this show about humans’ first tentative steps into the greater galactic community, the three most interesting characters are the Denobulan (John Billingsley’s Doctor Phlox is an absolute delight), the Vulcan (Jolene Blalock overcomes the aggressive male-gazing of her character’s costuming to give us a magnificently mature and complicated character), and the pooch (Porthos is THE BESTEST PUPPY!).
Warp factor rating for the season: 4
Rewatcher’s note: The Enterprise Rewatch will be taking Memorial Day off. Look for the rewatch of “Shockwave, Part II” to kick off season two on the 6th of June.
Keith R.A. DeCandido will be a guest at Fanboy Expo Columbus this coming weekend at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. He’ll be appearing at the Bard’s Tower booth on the exhibit floor, along with fellow word-slingers Brian Anderson, Rick Heinz, Gama Martinez, and Dan Wells, and Trek actor/voiceover artist Carlos Ferro.