This is not a review per se, but a look at how the fourth season of Star Trek: Enterprise is shaping up. If you haven't heard, Manny Coto has taken the reins of the production and is now pretty much running the show instead of Berman and Braga.
If you're a fan of classic Star Trek, and have watched the franchise spiral downward in a death spin of horror: You can thank God for Manny Coto, because in my opinion Star Trek is finally BACK!
First, a little history to justify my position. (If you just want to get to why Enterprise is finally worth watching, click here) I am one of those people who will watch almost anything related to Star Trek, but I do have my limits and I do watch with a critical eye. I didn't watch Star Trek: Deep Space Nine for the first few seasons because it was just too different from what I was used to. Eventually though, it grew on me and I enjoyed it towards the end of it's run (except for that forgettable series finale). And then of course there is Star Trek: Voyager: The worst episodic piece of Star Dreck hoisted upon the fans, ever. I hung on to this one for a couple of seasons, but it was the first Trek series that I gave up on for a number of reasons including:
- A starship that continued to look "showroom new" after several years on the other side of the galaxy after numerous battles.
- The Maquis plot line degenerating into absolutely nothing.
- No thought given to planning for the eventuality that the ship might actually take 60+ years to get back to Earth.
- A Vulcan with the longest running continuous scowl in TV history.
- And of course the general "Lost in Space" concept of a lost starship just trying to get home.
There's more, but those are the highlights.
Don't get me started on the movies, either. The last really excellent Star Trek film was "Undiscovered Country". "First Contact" is the best of the Next Generation films, but outside of that it's been downhill. Don't get me started on the death of Kirk in "Generations"...
So, when I heard about the concept for a pre-Kirk era show highlighting the "pioneer days" of the Federation I was cautiously optimistic. Hearing that Scott Bakula was cast as Captain raised my expectations as well. I eagerly tuned in during the first season, and my thoughts were "Well, it's the first season, even TNG took a couple of seasons to really get off the ground."
Unfortunately although I continued to watch Enterprise, after a while I started to wonder why I bothered. Bakula played it too warm and fuzzy, the other characters didn't stand out (except for T'Pol) and I didn't feel a sense of connection to what was to come in the Trek universe.
Along comes season 3 and the producers decide they need to try something completely different to bring interest back to the show: They create a massive threat of desctruction of the Earth, and send Enterprise to a far corner of space in order to disrupt the plans of the attackers.
I appreciate the risk of a season-long arc, but there were problems:
- The Temporal Cold War storyline was moving much too slowly, not really going anywhere.
- Sending Enterprise to an area that was out of communication range of Earth was too much like the concept of "Voyager".
- This also made the show more "stand-alone" instead of connecting it to the history of Trek and the formation of the Federation, which was really the selling point of the original concept.
So. From somewhere happy, Manny Coto comes to be associated with the show as a writer, creating a couple of the better episodes to air in Season 3. From a further happy place, for some reason Berman and Braga decide to entrust Manny with the production of the series.
For the first time ever, I can say: "Thank you, Berman and Braga."
Manny has stated that he is a huge fan of classic Star Trek, and has stated that his mission is to tie Star Trek: Enterprise into the history of the Trek universe. He wants to bring in characters and stories that fill in the gaps that fans have wondered about.
So far I'd say the man is doing a great job. So far this season we've seen:
- Orions, made famous by the one classic Trek episode highlighting the well-known dancing Orion slave girl.
- References to the Eugenics wars, and a connection between the Khan era, Enterprise, and the development of TNG character "Data" with the appearance of an ancestor of Dr. Soong from TNG played very well by Brent Spiner.
- Episodes taking place on Vulcan, highlighting more of the culture and showing the stirrings of civil war.
- Scott Bakula as Archer is finally finding a middle ground between thoughtful and angry as a basic personality.
Finally, but not of least importance, it seems that Coto has gotten rid of the dreaded A-story/B-story format that has plagued Star Trek since "Next Generation." I don't know how this concept came to be a requirement for every single episode, but it became so annoying that it wasn't even funny. For some reason there just had to be a sub-plot completely unrelated to the main story every single week. So far this season I haven't seen this ugly beast surface it's head in the previous format. Sub-plots are still present, but now they actually relate to the main story.
Another great thing is the creation of 3 episode story arcs, which gives enough time to really develop a story, but is not so long that it gets sidetracked.
If you've given up on Star Trek in general or Enterprise in particular, you owe it to yourself to give it another look.
And to Berman, Braga, and Manny Coto: THANK YOU! :)