Well, Star Trek: Enterprise does it again... by "it" I mean that which has already been done, not by other Star Trek series, but by just about anything but Star Trek. And by "again" I mean they won't stop repeating this same goofy mistake! The desire to make one's own continuity as one goes along is as present here as it is in any Gregory Benford project, and there's just enough of what we've seen before to make this whole thing seem more than a little derivative. On the other hand, I keep watching it, and I never miss an episode... why? I have no idea... possibly because I've gotten to know the characters and I care, possibly because T'Bod might get naked in this episode, and possibly because I really love to complain. I guess I'm a bit of a jerk as well as a Sci-Fi nerd, but what can I say? You're right. Regardless I can say if you set aside precedent and suspend your disbelief you end up with a pretty decent hour of television that is at it's worst a special effects gallery and a surprise filled capsule of TV.
When we last saw the Enterprise crew (Click here for my review of last season's Finale) they were traveling into The Expanse on the hunt for the Xindi, thus far the most irrational and stupid group ever to become a Star Trek Villain. In a nutshell they attack Earth as a preventative measure against getting attacked by Earth, thus ensuring that Earth will attack, and hopefully getting more than the usual 12 people to tune in every Wednesday. It's been a short, brief summer now the crew is back to make up for a lack of cliff-hangers. And so, on 9/10/03 the Season Opener (simply titled "The Xindi"... okay) debuted. The initial reaction I had in the first minute or so was that Rick Berman had just finished watching Star Wars Episode II Attack of the Clones on DVD before commissioning the season opener to be written. What we get is a meeting of a council of five different races all arguing about their main, human, enemy. It so resembled the Confederacy meeting from Episode II that I expected to see Ewan McGregor spying in the background. Interestingly enough half of these people speak perfect English. How do I know? Well because half of them had subtitles, and half were spoken. Now, assuming that all of these guys would speak their own languages why wouldn't all of them either be shown as English or all of them have subtitles? They all understand each other, so what's the point? Clearly nothing but a rather large lack of production cares for continuity.
After a revamped and more annoying version of the theme song, the Enterprise hits a mining colony to bribe and swindle their way into a chance for a Xindi interview. Well they get their wish and we learn that the Xindi are actually various different races all occupying one home world and all intelligent... like if Cromagnons, Neanderthals, Velociraptors, Porposes and Albatrosses all gained intelligence and shared (semi-peacefully) the Earth. It's an interesting idea, I'll give them that, and it does explain who these council members are. Anyway, Soon it's discovered that Berman and company must have watched Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country right after Attack of the Clones because a scene for scene remake of the escape from the Gulag Rura Pente follows. I mean, you have the Captain, his most trusted Southern counterpart and a deceitful and betraying Alien all escaping a prison onto an otherwise un-survivable surrounding terrain while the Vulcan first officer is in control of the Enterprise. The warden shows up and tries to kill the captain and the Southerner just before the Enterprise rescues them. If the Xindi was a supermodel with David Bowie's ring on it could scarcely been more of a repeat.
That said, it is a pretty well done little escape, but it's also one we've seen before. Hey, last episode the Klingons were after Archer to make him stand trial for his crimes against the Empire... if they had been in this episode what a bigger "tribute" it would be! Hully Gee! Moving on, Tucker is well on his way to being seduced by T'Bod (and who wouldn't be) as we see her shirtless and holding her boobies model-style. This might have more textual significance in the future, but the yummy-factor was satisfied well and this I have to point out. The production crew of Star Trek: Enterprise is the luckiest in the business! I was going to tell you that the final seven minutes are a waste of time, but in the final few seconds as the crew traces the coordinates of the Xindi Home World we find that it's actually been Alderaaned by forces unknown. This proves not only that Berman and company also watched Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope, not only that Star Trek: Enterprise is not yet too lame for a twist ending, but also that this show might not just be at the face value it appeared to be for the first 50 derivative minutes. This just might have legs... let's see what they do with it, kay? Who did it? If the home world isn't supposed to be destroyed for four-hundred years, how come it's a bunch of Fruity Pebbles already? Where is the Council, and where is this new super weapon if the home world has been crunched like a stale Teddy Graham? This season can be a really good one if they make good decisions in the answering of these questions. Then again, if Archer just wakes up one morning and we find out Season 3 was all a dream, I'm taking a hostage!
Notable additions this season include the Starfleet Troops which are essentially a cadre of Marines of sorts who can back up the Crew on the ground. They're pretty hard nosed and serious, and aside from their completely un-militaristic and silly-looking costumes they're a good idea. Daniel Dae Kim joins the cast as Corporal Chang, one of the Troopers, and is he ever welcome. Kim makes most of what he does watchable from his role in Angel to his guest appearances in 24 to his early work in the Babylon 5 sequel Crusade he's always excellent, and it's good to see him working (heck, he was even in The Hulk)! T'Pol (AKA T'Bod) is back in a less formal, but still hot uniform. Her eyebrows seem pointier, but aside from that she's about the same as before. Jolene Blaylock it should be said is a very good actress and is worth watching as always. It's a shame that she's constantly used for her looks and sexiness when her acting is just fine without it! Trip Tucker is just too damned likeable to be convincing in this new angry and resentful mode he's been in since the Xindi attack of last season! Actor Connor Trinneer shoots for the edgy and dangerous routine, but he still feels like my favorite College Drinking buddy without the acoustic guitar! Trinneer is good, and a likeable actor, but that actually detracts from the method he's shooting for.
In the good category I will say that the surprises are being handled pretty well. For the first time ever in this series I have been taken off guard. It feels as if they followed an admittedly derivative formula only to jump into the unexpected (though still derivative) in the last 120 seconds or so. I have to applaud their storytelling technique. The Council of Xindi and the poly-racial make-up has some real potential... They could have gone with a mysterious and faceless enemy, but they went a different way, and I feel like this might just be an added plot element for the better... at least I hope! In the "Bad" category there's all the borrowed story elements I mentioned, but also, there's the Expanse itself. For all the fear and loathing and trepidation about the fearful Expanse (it can turn people inside out!) we sure don't see any danger here at all! At one point the ship has to outrun angry, armed mining ships through an unknown stretch of the Expanse and there's not even a hint of danger. Call me picky, but if the Expanse is really that, well, expansive, isn't Archer's order of "Take us deeper into the Expanse!" when asked for a heading sorely lacking? Couldn't that be a vast number of directions? It just strikes me that a little more than a "Okay, hang a left when you see the McDonald's" is needed here.
Well, they have potential, and it's finally a viable "Trek" again (instead of a "just hang around"), but does it have legs? Only the rest of the Season will tell us that. So, Star Trek: Enterprise's Season Premier, "The Xindi" gets Three Stars out of five. It's definitely worth it's salt and has some interesting concepts and surprises, but it also has some interesting concepts and surprises that were interesting and surprising the first time we saw them in other Star Trek and Star Wars movies! I consistently say that Star Trek: Enterprise is one of the worst shows on television, and I'm not sure (aside from T'Bod and Hoshi) why I tune in every week, but this is the first time ever I have seen some real potential and possibilities. Let's just hope they don't bring Gregory Benford with them into the expanse. Well, that's the news, we'll see you tomorrow night on this UPN Station... Yeah, right!