Star Trek Enterprise: Season 4

Enterprise Season 4It was with some reluctance that I began watching Enterprise a year ago.  I had heard some good things about the show that attempted to carry on the great tradition of Star Trek, but some troubling anecdotes about strange plots, thinly-veiled social criticisms, and a feeling of incoherence overall.  But I figured it was worth a shot, and after finishing the series, I can say for sure that I am glad to have seen it all.  But the show, while ranging from not-too-shabby to downright lame, never hit the high water mark of syndicated science fiction set by its forbears, and in the end I was actually a little relieved that it was over.  Like a guest who has overstayed his welcome, it was time for the show to end.  But unlike such a guest, the show wasn’t about to go without a fight.  And fight it certainly did.

Between season 2 and 3, the writers threw caution to the wind and set about exploring an entirely new storyline that had its sights set on standing shoulder to shoulder with the best of Star Trek Epics.  Sadly, the Xindi conflict of Season 3 wore on ad infinitum, which was reflected in dismal TV ratings, and by the end I would say it’s a safe bet that everyone involved in the production of the show knew they had cashed in pretty much all their chips.  In short, the writing was on the wall:  Archer and his crew would get one more season before their warp drive would power down for good.

Whether that scenario is what went on prior to the creation of Season 4 or not, it’s safe to say that the show certainly went out with a bang–probably because there was nothing left to lose.  Season 4 was the best of the lot, and had some wonderfully high-concept episodes as well as several that at least attempted to delve into the real meat of Star Trek:  an exploration of the human condition.

Arik Soong

Dr. Arik Soong, the central character in one of Enterprise's most interesting and well-executed storylines.

Shackled with none of the overarching “Stop the evil Xindi, I guess” modus operandi of Season 3, the crew of the Enterprise find themselves embroiled in conflicts large and small, laying some very interesting “prequel” groundwork for several episodes of the original Star Trek, and even giving a definitive answer to that age-old question of why Klingons don’t have wrinkles on their foreheads during the time of Captain Kirk.

Season 3 ended with a strange cliffhanger involving alien Nazis in an alternate-reality World War II on earth, the conclusion of which not only involved just a bit too much deus ex machina for my taste, but also put an end to the temporal cold war once and for all.  I actually thought the concept of interstellar conflicts that twisted the fabric of time was one of Enterprise’s more compelling subplots, but wrapping it up so early in the season meant it was no longer a crutch on which the writers could lean, and thus resulted in some far more interesting plots instead.

In fact, some of the best episodes of the short-lived series were in Season 4.  “Borderland,” “Station 12,” and “The Augments” focused on some very compelling issues regarding human genetic modification, and had a good mix of action, characterization, and moral philosophizing.  They also explored some of the history of Commander Data’s “father,” Dr. Noonian Singh, which I found to be not only interesting but very creative as well.  “Affliction” and “Divergence” brought back the Klingons, who had been in the first few episodes of the series but conspicuously absent for much of the subsequent episodes.  In fact, while these two episodes were both exciting and tense, they also showed a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor as they cleverly explained the lack of forehead ridges on Klingons during the time of Captain Kirk.

Throughout the season there was an increased emphasis on characters and relationships within the context of intergalactic conflicts, rather than the other way around, and while this not only lent an added emotional weight to the season overall, it also helped draw in viewers on an emotional level and connect with the Enterprise crew.  The relationship between T’Pol and Tucker took some interesting turns, though the T’Pol’s wedding to Koss in the early episode “Home” was a cheap attempt to add in some contrived relationship conflict, and I was glad to see this subplot wrapped up midway through the season.  We also get a bit of backstory on some others like Mayweather and Reed, but Hoshi, whose fairly useless character should have been written out years ago, remained sadly on the periphery for the entire season once again.

Enterprise Mirror Universe

Despite their lofty ambitions, the "Mirror Universe" episodes didn't quite live up to their potential.

Much has been said about the lauded two-part “Mirror” episodes by other Trek commentators, but I found them to be distracting and rather pointless, mostly due to an entire lack of resolution.  While I understand that these two were never supposed to connect with the regular universe, and existed simply to give us a glimpse into the mirror universe for a little while, the rise of Empress Hoshi at the end of part 2 was a cheap way to end them.  It’s as if the writers had no intention of providing any sort of resolution for the myriad conflicts they had developed, and rather than even attempt any sort of resolution or denouement, just threw up their hands and called it quits so they could get on with the ship’s adventures in the regular universe.  Not cool, Mr. Sussman.

The final episode of the series did a fairly decent job of bringing things to a close, but it was more of a love letter to The Next Generation than a good conclusion to Enterprise.  But for a series that had consistently met average expectations for four years, I suppose it was about all I could have asked for.  In the end I would have liked to see the series and characters in the hands of a more capable writing crew, but at least it went out on a fairly good note overall.  Season 4 was the best of the bunch, even though the show still felt like the kid brother to its TOS, TNG, and DS9 brethren.  But even so, it was a decent run while it lasted.

And who knows?  With the popularity of the new Star Trek movie, we might not have seen the last of Star Trek on television…


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