Something weird happened to me a few years ago. I was at my parents’ house, surfing through the channels they get more or less to justify my position on television: I pay nothing and get about twenty channels, of which only one or two rarely have something worth watching, so why should I pay $50 to $100 for cable or a satellite dish only to get dozens or even hundreds of channels, of which still only one or two rarely have something worth watching?
I came across Star Trek: Enterprise on the SciFi channel. This is when it was still called SciFi, because their lawyers or accountants or whoever hadn’t yet realized that you can’t trademark that, so they later changed their name to SyFy, which can be trademarked, a move which only emphasized how this was a channel for geeks, and made them look like real dorks to the geeks who watched them. I mean, really, who can’t spell “sci-fi?”
Anyway, I started watching the latest incarnation of the Star Trek franchise and really enjoyed it. And because I really enjoyed it, I figured that I was watching the second or even the third season, because my experience in the past has always been that the first season or two of any Star Trek series, including the first, has been less than satisfactory. I am too young to remember the first series, which has been re-christened by fans as Star Trek: The Original Series (mercifully abbreviated as ST:TOS or even just TOS), but watching it in repeats, the first season is definitely lacking a certain something. The relationships aren’t as developed, the conventions of the show are in flux (such as how characters interact with the technology around them), and the costume design leaves much to be desired, especially in the early episodes. Of course, the first season is also lacking in Pavel Chekhov, who, in terms of ability to annoy far outpaced Wesley Crusher.
The same thing is true of ST:TNG, which ordinary people call Star Trek: The Next Generation. I didn’t manage to see the first two seasons until well after I had seen most of this series, but the results are the same: the first two seasons just aren’t as good as the rest of them. The same is true of DS9 (Star Trek: Deep Space 9), which only really became interesting after the war with the Dominion started. When Voyager started (and I admit, I have no idea how Trekkies or Trekkers or whatever the hell these people are called nowadays—other than “socially challenged”) I was actually happy that these people were stuck in the Delta quadrant because they were just plain annoying. I wouldn’t want to be around these selfish, petty people any more than I would want to live next door to Gilbert Gottfried.
This was not true of Star Trek: Enterprise. I wasn’t sure what season I was watching when I first came across the series, but because I enjoyed them, because the characters were fairly well developed and the plots were challenging and complex, I assumed that I was watching the second or even the third season. After I finally got high-speed internet last October and started watching the show online, I found out that I had in fact been watching the first season.
This was a pleasant surprise, to say the least, and at least proved that after four previous attempts, it was entirely possible to create a Star Trek show that was good from the start. I loved that the creators resurrected the Andorians (I especially enjoyed how their antennae moved to reflect their moods), and enjoyed every scene with Shran (played by the talented Jeffrey Combs, who had previously played Weyoun in DS9), especially when he was paired with Captain Jonathan Archer (played by Scott Bakula). I did think that they over-anticipated some things, like encounters with the Klingons and Ferengi, but thought that their encounter with the Borg who had landed in Antartica in the film Star Trek: First Contact was unexpected, imaginative, and well executed.
Ultimately, the powers-that-be ruined this series, first by cancelling it after only four seasons, and second, by making its last episode little more than a holodeck program from the TNG episode “The Pegasus,” in which Commander Riker has to decide to do the right thing after finding out that a former commanding officer had violated a treaty with the Romulans. If this was meant to bookend Enterprise, which is surely the last Star Trek series we will see for a very long time (hopefully), then it was a miserable failure, because all it did was remind us that Enterprise did not have the long life which TNG did, and which it certainly deserved.
Besides, there was a something a little sad about watching Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis reprise roles that had expired long before. It’s not just that they were greyer and more wrinkled, but rather that they were thinner and more stretched out, as if they had both spent entirely too much time “behind the scenes” at various Star Trek conventions.
It saddens me that the one Star Trek series that was the strongest out of the gate (besides the Original Series, simply because it was unique) was also the second-shortest lived, and that it died an ignoble death. The franchise, to say nothing of the fans, deserved far better.