Warp Factor Trek

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My wife Elaine and I have recently begun a project to watch the Star Trek series in continuity order, and were encouraged by friends to post our thoughts and observations as we go. We start with Enterprise and its two-hour premiere episode “Broken Bow”.

My last experience with Enterprise was during its original run, but I stopped watching it midway through its third season. Elaine has had almost no knowledge of the series, just that it features Scott Bakula, an actor she likes. At the time it originally aired, I had become burned out on Star Trek, but I’ve recently become more engaged with its re-launch on CBS All Access/Paramount+ and hope to come into this with a fresh perspective.

Starship Enterprise in drydock, portrayed with computer-generated imagery (Paramount)

The first thing I noticed about “Broken Bow” is that the effects rely more on CGI than previous Trek series did, and they have aged… poorly. I’ve always preferred practical effects to CGI, as they feel more “solid” and tend to age better than computer graphics, as the technology is progressing at a much faster rate. The twenty years since this episode has aired have not been kind to the look of this series, and at times they are groan-worthy bad. I much prefer the model effects of original Trek and TNG – even with the original unaltered effects of those shows, I find it easier not to think about the effects when watching them. Perhaps it’s because I’ve seen them so much that I’ve come to terms, a long time ago, with how they look.

I don’t dislike the show’s theme song as much as some people, but it is a bit corny and, like the CGI, dated. I prefer orchestral theme tunes, but I do like the montage showing advances in air and space travel and how the theme expresses the romance of exploration.

I have to admit I was excited at the prospect of exploring events from long before The Original Series. I still look forward to this aspect of Enterprise, even knowing that it wasn’t particularly successful amongst fandom. I like how “Broken Bow” follows on from the events of the film First Contact, including a brief appearance of James Cromwell’s Zefram Cochrane helping to launch Earth’s exploration of the galaxy. At least at this point, I feel they’ve done a good job of taking the technology back to an earlier period in a believable way.

Footage of Zefram Cochrane, displayed at Enterprise‘s launch (Paramount)

I do find the Vulcans act very differently than we’ve come to expect, coming off much more arrogant and rude than they have in previous series. T’Pol’s caution comes across as, at best, a concerted effort to protect humanity from the dangers she knows they’ll face and, at worst, outright cowardice. I’m not particularly pleased with how Vulcans are played so far.

However, I do enjoy the episode’s take on the Klingons. They’re more-or-less consistent with TNG and other recent series. I hope we’ll see more development in regards to how Earth and other future Federation members come into conflict with them.

A group of Klingons in this episode (Paramount)

I remember the series began setting up its ongoing plot of a “Temporal Cold War”, and at the time, I was excited about what this could mean. I don’t really remember how this plays out, but I do know it’s not reputed to be a particularly satisfying story arc. I’ll try to keep an open mind and give this story a chance to develop without prejudice based on its reputation.

The regular characters introduced here are definitely a mixed bag. The creators seem determined to establish a “big three” of Archer, T’Pol, and Trip along the same lines as Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. Determining their roles in relationship to Archer seems vital to how this show plans to proceed.

Trip, T’Pol, and Archer (Paramount)

Other characters are a bit one-dimensional. Reed is the paranoid weapons specialist. Hoshi’s discomfort with space travel feels overplayed and inconsistent with her role in Starfleet, but I do think her character is served well by showing her with outside interests such as with her linguistics class in Brazil. Meanwhile, Mayweather does little more than fly the ship and talk about being onboard private freighters. Doctor Phlox is very entertaining at least, doubling as an outside observer to his role as the ship’s Chief Medical Officer. With long seasons, there will be plenty of opportunity to flesh out these characters, and I hope they will be.

A little too confident (almost cocky) in their view of Trek, Brannon Braga and Rick Berman had no shame in throwing in a gratuitous “decontamination” shower scene that serves no purpose other than to titillate the audience. I guess they figured including Trip in the scene was being fair to both sexes. And what’s with the weird fixation on the ears?! The way the characters stroke each other’s ears is a bit disconcerting! I’ve always felt this era of Star Trek fell a bit short when it came to inclusivity, and this celebration of heteronormativity is pretty much on brand for the franchise that thought to add a sexy Borg in the middle of Voyager (though to be fair, Jeri Ryan made the best of that and portrayed her in an honest and impressive manner).

Rating: 3.5/5

To sum up, I’m seeing some of the issues I had with the show in the past, but there is much here to like. This series premiere is flawed but enjoyable, perhaps over-burdened by the formulae of previous Trek series yet full of potential.

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