Enterprise is one of those many Hollywood projects that makes me sigh, “Ah, what could have been…” So much wonderful entertainment potential, squandered on writers and creators without courage, insight or a military mind—an essential quality for the Star Trek “enterprise” and, really, it’s never been there.
The best military interplay I’ve ever seen in a non-military movie was a SciFi classic—The Thing from Another World (1951) starring Margaret Sheridan, Kenneth Tobey and James Arness as The Thing.
Enterprise is, essentially, a prequel to the hugely successful sleeper Star Trek. A “sleeper” because most of Star Trek’s success came after it’s brief run of only 3 seasons from 1966 to 1969. Of course it didn’t help Star Trek that, as the seasons went on, creator Gene Roddenberry became more blunt and blatant with infusing his Leftist lunacy into the plots. Of course they all leaned to the Left but when it was subtle, it was palatable (especially when it was overshadowed by the fantastic chemistry amongst actors/actresses).
I have purposely avoided other incarnations of the Star Trek franchise based upon my experiences watching Star Trek: The Next Generation which was so thoroughly infused with the ridiculous radical Leftist Hollywood culture as to push the Annoyance Factor way over the Entertainment Value. Some character/actor combinations were a good choice, such as Patrick Stewart as Capt. Jean-Luc Picard (could do without the French reference, though). But many more were outrageously annoying like LeVar Burton as “Geordi” La Forge who took his dancing tights off to put a hair beret over his eyes. Stupid! Of course, if we really weren’t in thorough touch with our feelings we had Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) sitting right next to the captain to help us. If we did detect that we were about to throw up it was probably because of seeing too much of pretty-boy Wil Wheaton (as “Wesley Crusher”). He was about as much of an heroic adventurer as one of my other top 10 most annoying heroes; George Lucas’ 10 year-old Anakin Skywalker the future Nascar galaxy champion. Any thoughts about which ideological agenda was going to be plastered over The Next Generation were put to rest when yoga-like contortions were made to find a home for the eyebrowless Whoopi Goldberg.
Perhaps the biggest stretch of Leftist lunacy was taking Feminism to its ultimate conclusion: giving charge of “ship’s security” to some skinny, blonde white chick (Denise Crosby as “Tasha Yar”). I guess when you’ve been indoctrinating yourself for 40 years that there are no differences between the genders—and many more roles are done better by women than men—it all makes sense. Yoseph Goebbels would be proud.
Alas, the audience wasn’t quite indoctrinated enough yet (8 more years maybe) and “Tasha” was replaced by the Klingon “Worf” (Michael Dorn). A good switch. Now, if only it had been made to the whole show to reflect how “security” aboard naval vessels is the responsibility of Marines, I may have watched more. Having a section of the crew specializing in the use of force is even more logical (sorry) given the idea that your very mission is “space exploration” where the threats are infinite and limitless. But Hollywood is as conducive to the use of force as Michael Moore is to Weight Watchers.
After a mere eight years Star Trek gave radical feminism another go, this time skipping “ship’s security” and going right to the top; a woman ship’s captain in the Star Trek: Voyager series with Kate Mulgrew as Captain Kathryn Janeway. I’d like to say I could give a reasoned dissertation on some of those episodes but I never made it past the amount of time needed to hit the “channel up” button. Mulgrew’s finest moments were given in the cult classic Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, 1985 (with Fred Ward and Joel Gray).
In between the two was Star Trek: Deep Space Nine but I couldn’t do too much of that, either. I couldn’t sit very long watching Avery Brooks as “Captain Sisko.” He’s just a weird-looking/sounding guy. They took the dude from the great TV show Benson (Rene Auberjonois) and turned him into some plastic-looking guy that was just odd—appropriately named “Odo.” And, the coup-de-grace was the “Dax” chick (Terry Farrell) who, with some spots painted on, becomes—whall-la! An alien!! (More on that below). Her best moments were in Rodney Dangerfield’s Back to School (1986). Actually, not even. She was annoying there too, it was just her good luck to be associated with such a fun movie.
So that is my opinion background leading up to Enterprise. The show was out and gone really before my curiosity could peak enough to give it a try. I was certainly interested in seeing a Star Trek prequel boosted by modern special effects. I never had any desire to watch Quantum Leap and, even though the main character looked quite dorky, I was willing to give Scott Bakula a try in this new role.
Unfortunately, the best word to describe the way Bakula’s character, Capt. Jonathan Archer, is written is, you guessed it—annoying.
Rather than a razor-sharp warrior/leader (just what you would need to be one of the first humans to explore the myriad dangers and phenomena of deep space), the Hollywood empty-heads wrote this guy to be an overgrown boyscout. Many an episode plot twist ends in a gag-fest of over-simplified, teenage moralizing by Jonathan Archer. One of the worst examples took place during the episode titled The Andorian Incident. War-like Andorians were ransacking a Vulcan “monastery” and beating up some kidnapped Enterprise crew who were caught visiting there in order to find a supposedly-hidden Vulcan spying facility. The Andorians come across as begging for an ass-whooping but it never comes. At a plot moment that just screams for a specialized hostage rescue team, we get the pasty-faced security officer Malcolm Reed played by Dominic Keating (I swear they put pink lipstick on that guy) and a couple expendable “red-shirts.” The rescue attempt is criminally unimaginative and punctuated by a firefight that looks like it was choreographed by the same guy that did Police Squad. Of course ZERO imagination or intuition went into the future weapons that are used when the firepower available to today’s military is nothing short of awe-inspiring. The silly beams that come out of anyone’s weapons do about the same amount of collateral damage to surroundings as a BB.
The climax of the episode comes when Bakula’s character discovers, hey, the Vulcans really were spying after all! The writers took what could’ve been an awesome plot moment, and destroyed it with ridiculous, unrealistic character behavior. In the middle of a firefight (even though there was enough shooting without visible damage to fill an A-Team episode, it was still supposed to be a firefight) Bakula stands up and waves to the Andorians to say, “Hey guys, look what I found! You were right and we were wrong.” I’ve used “annoying” so much let me just say instead, “GAY!!”
And here is why it was so disappointing. All of us original “Trekkies” fondly remember the episode Journey to Babel with its prominent, blue-skinned Andorians. As bad as the make-up was, the best alien of any Star Trek and one of the top 10 of all time was an Andorian. I’ve surfed extensively and I want to say the actor’s name was Reggie Nadler (playing “ambassador Shras”). His mannerisms and, especially, his weird accent made him an awesome alien.
The Andorian Incident didn’t have another Reggie Nadler but it did have some great FX going into the new Andorians. And the interplay with the Vulcans was also fun.
In fact, that was one of the great promising starts of Enterprise: the saintly Vulcans being “fleshed out” to sometimes have less-than-perfect intentions. Contact with Vulcan is what vaults Earth into space exploration technology. But the Vulcans are playing their cards very close to their collective chests and treating humanity like they can’t be trusted. It’s a fun, iconoclastic dynamic that floats Enterprise where it normally would fall flat. It’s a great twist to make the Trekkie audience aggravated with Vulcans.
Enterprise launches with a Vulcan keeper aboard…a female one. Sub-Commander T’Pol (played by Jolene Blalock) is actually quite palatable if she didn’t constantly wear skin-tight clothing around her curvy form. I guess it was time to see Vulcans as sex objects. With a little more class applied I might even say the character was worth keeping around. Of course the very definition of “class” is actress Nichelle Nichols (original cast member “Uhura”)—which is quite an admonition coming from a racist, sexist like myself. But Enterprise still manages to use Blalock’s figure to throw out the occasional, obnoxious sex-appeal references and situations. It would seem that, in the future, getting decontaminated from exploring space requires some kind of half-naked rub-down that was, in fact, obnoxiously gratuitous.
Scott Bakula’s “Jonathan Archer” we’ve already discussed: grow him up emotionally, make him think logically and give him a ruthless streak to accomplish his missions and protect his crew a mile wide and then you can keep him around.
At least Bakula’s age is acceptable. If there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s a young, pretty boy who has no depth of character. That’s what we get with “Ensign Travis Mayweather” (Anthony Montgomery). The writers thought they were giving this character depth by having him spend his entire life in space, born and raised by “merchants,” but he and it falls quite flat.
Chief Engineer, Cmdr. Charles “Trip” Tucker III (Connor Trinneer), is almost just as bad. Definitely too young to be the top wrench-turner on one of the Earth’s first space vessels, “Trip” is friends with the captain…probably because he acts like him and says the same, annoying, childishly emotional things as he does.
Insightful plot and dialogue peeked out just a tiny bit in the episode called Fusion where the Enterprise runs into a boatload of emotional Vulcans (a la Spock’s emotional half-brother in Star Trek V, which was a fun movie). One of these dudes—Tolaris—goes after T’Pol in an effort to win her over to the dark side. For just a few minutes he throws out observations that are subtle and quick. It was wonderfully refreshing but annoyingly short-lived. I guess if I want to make my brain work I need to watch more British television (good thing the Limeys are all Right-wingers, right?).
Then there’s linguist “Hoshi Sato” (Linda Park)—a Japanese chick played by a Korean. Right. About as subtle as getting a fortune cookie after your sushi. The only reason I wouldn’t blast this chick into deep space, despite being another annoying character, is that she is written as not being the typical feminine Hollywood bad-ass. She acts like a regular person and an average woman, not an aggressive/assertive ass-kicker. Because, if there’s one character that Hollywood hasn’t overdone, it’s the supermodel sex object that can kick your ass! Right. Probably the most annoying thing about this character is her first name.
Finally there is the ship’s doctor. Given what DeForest Kelley has done with that role, it is bedrock to the series.
I must say that, a character that should have annoyed the hell out of me—Dr. Phlox (John Billingsley)—I quite like. Perhaps it’s because Billingsley has a bit of Reggie Naddler in him; without make-up, he’s a complete weirdo but, with it, he turns into a very convincing alien.
This is also in spite of something I do find annoying about the entire Star Trek franchise (really starting with The Next Generation)—the practice of slapping some small prosthetic on an actor’s face and calling them an “alien.” I mean, we’re talking about space here, where the variations on life are supposed to be infinite. Instead, we have some cheesy practice, sloppily written in to save the producers money. I remember having this conversation with a new Trekkie (I’m an old Trekkie) and they happily explained to me that all life in the universe has some common ancestry that groups them all as bipeds with 2 arms, 2 eyes, etc., etc. Yeah. Whatever. And my great, great grand-daddy was a tadpole in a pool of sludge.
If Star Trek could find more people as talented (or weird) as Billingsley, or as ethnic and frightening as Nadler, slapping a little painted latex on their face or sticking a couple of antenna out of a wig might work better.
But one of the things that attracted me to Enterprise originally was the way the ship looked. Boy what an improvement over that gay-looking thing used in The Next Generation. I hated that thing! Seeing that stupid-looking, bland Enterprise was as annoying as how many times the Bird of Prey scout ship appeared in the Star Trek movies. Holy CRAP I was sick to death of that damn ship. We didn’t see it enough when they took the crew out of the Enterprise and stuck them in one through III and VI! Aaaarrrrggghhh!! If there’s anything that’s fun about Science Fiction it’s creative imagination. There are supposed to be so many different starships out there, and yet not even big-budget movies let it all hang out.
But the Enterprise for Enterprise was a neat-looking craft (another criticism I read online by some convention geek was that it was stolen from a previous episode of something-or-other—get a life!). There were a few too many episodes where the Enterprise and her crew got their asses kicked because the ship wasn’t powerful enough. You guessed it—annoying. However, it is a small ship so I have to leave room for realism there. In Silent Enemy, the crew do an in-space upgrade of “phase cannons” to the Enterprise which, I guess, helped some. Even Hollywood metro-sexuals can get tired of having their asses kicked.
So there you have it: so much potential, squandered. I may rent some more episodes if I get bored but I doubt I’ll ever own them. I was a little sad to read of the controversy surrounding the poor showing (several criticisms like giving the show better coverage than just on UPN, or associating the title with the Star Trek franchise have been leveled online). I really thought Enterprise was at least better than the other incarnations and the closest to the original Star Trek in entertainment value.
If you haven’t seen Enterprise, go ahead and watch a couple, but don’t buy any sets until you know you can take it.
UPDATE: Saturday, 7 February 2015; 07:33 PM, EST
OK, so I first wrote this, what, 8 years ago? Since then two throw-back Star Trek movies have come out and they’ve been damn good.
The cast is about as well-picked as can be expected for Helliwood and today’s talent. Chris Pine is a solid wonder-boy Kirk. Zachary Quinto’s “Spock” is written a little annoying but he’s also getting a lot of depth which is cool. You can see the character getting more mature and being able to do things old Leonard Nimoy never did (although he’s great, too).
Karl Urban is a great McCoy and he did solid work in several other movies such as Priest and Red.
I have to admit that it was really funny in the first movie how the computer couldn’t recognize the speech of Chekov. Then I come to find out that Anton Yelchin was born in St. Petersburg to Russian parents which is probably how he pulled it off—and that’s cool!
Another fun nod to the original series was McCoy blasting Kirk with so many metaphors in the second movie that Kirk ordered him to stop. Good stuff.
Peter Weller as Admiral Marcus in the second movie was awesome. He’s the real deal, part-time history professor and all. He always gets high praise from his students at Syracuse and that includes his command of subject matter.
Alice Eve as Kirk’s old baby-momma from the Wrath of Khan was a bit annoying. As a quick aside, all three productions having to do with Khan have been just great. I could spend hours alone just on genetic engineering but instead I’ll say how much I enjoyed Ricardo Montalbán in both the original episode and movie. My understanding is that he is the rare Helliwood Christian gentleman and that bares out another astounding fact; as far as I can tell he is still alive and an astounding 95 years young!
The scene where Eve shows off her bod’ is absolutely gratuitous and completely unnecessary. I was at least gratified to later read/hear (I can’t remember) that the idiot who pushed the scene—I want to say it was Director JJ Abrams—later regretted it. Yeah. I did, too. Let’s keep the softporn separate from good movies.
Ricardo Montalbán did at least resemble a Sikh warrior. Benedict Cumberbatch, on the otherhand is WHITE. I mean, I’m more of a “Khan Noonian Singh” than that guy!
Interestingly, I actually enjoyed him in the part. It was one of those choices that was so whacky it worked…like Joel Gray as the little Jewish Korean martial arts master in Remo Williams or Eli Wallach as the little Jewish Mexican bandito in The Magnificent Seven. Hey, it pays to be Jewish in Hollywood.
The only time I squirmed was when “Khan” worked up needless tears about how his crew was his “family”. OK dude, a ruthless genetically-engineered psychopath probably wouldn’t do that…unless he were gay or something.
Sure as shit, Cumberbatch is! What is it with frigging Helliwood???
And now I see why he was picked to play young Sherlock Holmes for the TV series Sherlock. Oh the Limey’s just love to cast flamers as the romantically-challenged super-sleuth. Jeremy Brett was another one for the Granada TV series. I did, however, really enjoy the series and Brett’s leanings only surfaced now and again in the way he carried himself or spoke. Limeys.
But what really caused me to revisit this review was, #1 I just re-uploaded it to a new host for my domain and #2 I couldn’t believe that with all of the fantastic improvements on the recent movie the criticism I had 8 years ago was still at the top of the list of deficiencies.
So the story is “Khan” is brought back to life by Admiral Marcus to create wonder-weapons now that time-traveling Romulans are around. Together they build this “Dreadnaught class” death ship that was “twice the size, ten times the firepower, and three times the speed”. And what does it look like? —A giant stealth Enterprise!
Every Trekkie on the planet knows that “Dreadnaughts” have three nacelles…three nacelles…THREE NACELLES. Morons!
And while I’m on it, the “new” Enterprise sucks. It looks all curvy and gay like something from a middle Star Wars George Pukas film—trying to be all throw-back and still advanced and stuff.
What needs to happen is this USS Vengeance thing needs to become the new Enterprise and, for the love of all that’s holy use your millions in special effects to start putting out some bad-ass and diverse craft…please.