The Mishandling of Star Trek: Enterprise

As we come down to the final few episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise I think it's appropriate to rant on the mishandling of this show. For Trek fans it's been an emotional ride ranging from excitement and joy at the prospect of a pre-Kirk era series that would give us a look at the foundation of Starfleet and the Federation... to resignation and disgust at how the show failed to deliver on that promise and went off on a Voyager-like quest, in the opposite direction of what the fans had been hoping for.

I suppose that in retrospect, we should have seen it coming when we were first given a glimpse of Captain Archer's ship and it looked completely wrong. Too "swoopy" and disturbingly similar in design to the USS Reliant from Star Trek: Wrath of Khan.

I don't really want to go off on a Rick Berman and Brannon Braga bash-fest here, but they seem to suffer from hubris: The desire to remake Star Trek into their personal version of what they think it should be. Heck, they didn't even want to associate the phrase "Star Trek" with this series, calling it simply "Enterprise". They ignored the fans consistently, treating us like little children who didn't recognize quality Trek when we saw it. And when the ratings started sliding, and kept on dropping as the fans left the show B&B blamed who for it? Yup, the fans. They never once (at least publicly) took a hard look at the situation and said "Ya know what? Just maybe, we screwed up."

Look at their reaction to the abysmal performance of Star Trek: Nemesis... Again, they blamed it on the audience instead of admitting they made a crappy film. It was a sad and pathetic way for the Next Generation crew to go out. Almost as sad as the empty way in which Captain Kirk was killed off in "Generations" (something that long-time fans, including this author, will never forgive).

If you make a great movie, the audience will show up in droves, guys. You can't create schlock and then get mad at your audience for not showing up.

Star Trek fans were universally stoked when we heard about the premise for Enterprise: A series that took place 100 years before Kirk's time, showing the birth of Starfleet and the Federation and how we went out into space with virtually untested Warp technology. It stared out fairly promising with the pilot episode, showing friction between humans and the (pleasantly surprising) more emotional Vulcans. The ship interiors had more of an "industrial" feel to them with bulky equipment, gauges, and controls.

But it was not long before we saw a ship that ran smoothly with nary a technical problem: Phase pistols with "stun" settings, common use of the transporter (which could beam someone up faster than the version from Kirk's time), communicators and tricorders smaller than those that would be used 100 years later, and "photonic torpedoes" which looked like they were taken directly from the set of "Next Generation".

So much for primitive Trek-tech.

And then there was the "temporal cold war" storyline... what a brilliant (not) idea that turned out to be. I can see what they might be trying to accomplish long-term: A connection to the series that we had already seen via a time-travel motif. The problem was that it didn't go anywhere. There were vague hints of catastrophe and a species that we'd never heard of before (the Suliban) brought in. This didn't exactly light a fire, so the producers decided to go even further in the wrong direction and send the Enterprise on a mission as far away as possible from Earth for an entire year.

In the meantime they transitioned Captain Archer from a wimpy captain to an angry, almost sociopathic captain, while except for Tripp, T'Pol and Phlox, everyone else was so forgettable that to this day I still have a hard time remembering their names.

By now ratings are in the proverbial toilet and getting worse almost every episode. So what happens? Finally B&B make a great (albeit last ditch) decision: bring in Manny Coto to run the show. Manny is a long-time die-hard Trek fan, especially of the original series, and vows to make Enterprise a "true prequel".

He brings in great, long-established writers of successful Star Trek novels, and starts to bring out stories that actually tie into established Trek history: The Eugenics Wars, Vulcan history and civil war, the first steps towards formation of the Federation, and even (finally!) an explanation for smooth vs. ridge-headed Klingons.

The ratings climb a bit, but alas it's too little too late: The fans that could have kept the show alive left long ago and many of them never come back. Also, the general audience doesn't care enough to give the show another chance. Cancellation is announced and the ratings bounce a bit from the publicity, but by now the studio has made it's decision and no letter-writing campaign can save the show (as it did in the 60's).

TrekUnited even manages to raise $3 million+ in an effort to keep the show alive, whether at UPN or on some other cable network, but even their efforts are doomed to fail, and here we are down to the last 4 or 5 episodes, after which there will not be any Star Trek on TV for the first time in almost 20 years.

Sure, I know there are more important things going on in the world, but I can't help but feel a sense of sadness about this. Finally someone was brought in to lead the production who really cared about Star Trek and actually "got" it. There are some great stories that are going to be left unproduced. I have read that Coto wanted to do a Gorn episode as well as show the creation of the first Starbase.

If only he had been there from the start of production. If the show had started season one the way season four has gone, I'm sure that I wouldn't be writing about the demise of Star Trek: Enterprise right now.

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