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The five best Star Trek: Enterprise episodes of all time!

Say what you will about Enterprise, but these five episodes are worthy of the name "Star Trek."

Enterprise is the most sharply criticized Star Trek series ever produced, but despite its many disappointments the show still mustered some genuinely entertaining and intriguing moments of greatness. We highlight the five best Enterprise episodes below.

5. In a Mirror, Darkly [Video clip]

Every now and then, it's simply obvious that the cast and crew of a television show are having fun, and that enthusiasm makes for a better a product. Case in point: The Enterprise take on the Star Trek Mirror Universe, which is also a fan-service callback to the original series episode "The Tholian Web." This episode not only reveals the secret origin of the evil Terran Empire that dominates Mirror Universe continuity, but it allows Scott Bakula and friends to play the unrepentantly evil versions of their familiar characters and to have an obvious ball doing it. Moreover, detachment from the regular series continuity -- this two-parter never intersects or influences the main Enterprise storyline on any level -- allows the writers to rattle off not just a gleefully malicious and fatal series of unexpected double-crosses, but also work in some of the most satisfying and coherent mythology gags that Enterprise ever displayed. A guilty pleasure episode for all involved.

4. Carbon Creek [Video of full episode]

A charming character study episode that is a conscious -- and self-admitted -- throwback to classic The Twilight Zone stories from the 1950s and '60s. T'Pol recounts the story of her great grandmother's time on Earth a century before historical First Contact. She and her crewmates were stranded for months in a rural 1957 Pennsylvania mining town after their survey ship crashed. Unsure if rescue would ever come, the Vulcans were forced to violate their own analog of the Prime Directive to survive, disguising themselves as humans and becoming members of the small community. Jolene Blalock plays T'Pol's own ancestor who befriends a bright but poverty-stricken young boy, and the period piece is a quaint, self-contained story of compassion and friendship as experienced by supposedly emotionless aliens. As fine a standalone episode as you'll find in Enterprise.

3. Demons/Terra Prime [Video clip of "Demons" / Video clip of "Terra Prime"]

The two-parter that producer Manny Coto considers the "real" series finale of Enterprise sees guest star Peter Weller steal the show as a xenophobic terrorist intent on banishing all non-humans from Earth, even as potential founding member-species of the Federation are on-planet to discuss whether an alliance is worthwhile. Weller has two weapons in his arsenal: A space cannon capable of destroying any city or ship in the solar system, and the poorly cloned and slowly dying infant daughter of T'Pol and Trip designed to illustrate how non-viable interspecies relations really are. Weller and Archer square off as two men devoted to diametrically opposed visions of humanity's future, and the episode demonstrates the lengths to which each will go to realize their respective dreams. The world-spanning military conflict is deftly balanced with the private tragedy of the Vulcan-human hybrid child, bringing together a solid conclusion to Enterprise, no matter what embarrassing so-called "finale" may have followed.

2. Cogenitor [Video of full episode]

Star Trek is at its best when it uses sci-fi allegories to tackle real ethical quandaries, and this chapter of Enterprise is a proud contributor to that tradition. The crew makes diplomatic contact with the Vissians, an alien race with similar exploration ambitions as Starfleet, and Archer encourages his officers to spend time with their Vissian counterparts. Trip discovers that the Vissians are a tri-gendered species when he meets his fellow chief engineer, the engineer's wife, and the couple's indentured cogenitor -- the slave gender that makes Vissian reproduction possible. Trip is immediately troubled by the low-caste servitor status of the cogenitor who is so poorly thought of by the Vissians it doesn't even have a name. Trip's sympathy towards the cogenitor gives it hope for a better life, which the Vissians refuse to provide -- souring relations with the Enterprise crew. The ethical debate ends not with a tidy conclusion, but rather a thoughtful and tragic object lesson in the harsh necessity of the still-forming Prime Directive. Enterprise was often criticized for its unwillingness or inability to reach the high standards of Star Trek, but "Cogenitor" is one of the rare occasions where it clearly makes the grade.

1. Similitude [Video clip]

The central moral trap posed by the best Star Trek episodes is a simple, if insoluble, question: When is it right or fair to trade one life for another? "Similitude" grapples with that question by attacking a real and very current ethical issue: cloning sentient beings simply as fodder for spare body parts, often at the cost of the clone's life. In this case, in the wake of a life-threatening brain injury to Trip, Phlox creates a fast-aging clone of Trip in order to generate the neural tissue necessary to save the engineer. Unfortunately, the operation will kill the clone and -- worse yet -- the nature of the cloning process means the copy of Trip will have all of Trip's memories, attachments, skills, and desires. He's not a mere tissue bank; he's a person. This episode could easily have devolved into a pandering heartstring-tugger of the first order, but the plot is elevated by Sim's necessary replacement of Trip while the latter is out of commission. The Enterprise is adrift in a dangerous radiation field and Sim, using his inherited version of Trip's engineering talents, joins the crew in plotting their escape. As such, he becomes a crewmember in his own right, rather than a mere sickbay-hostage copy of Trip to be disposed of. As with all great moral-trap Trek stories, the resolution comes from the heroic sacrifice of a noble soul laying down for the greater good. Science fiction as meditation on ethics and the human condition, with just enough action to keep it fresh: You can't get any more Star Trek than that.

Disagree with the rankings, or just want to debate the finer points of Enterprise's four-year mission? Hailing frequencies are open in the comments section.

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About

Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger -- amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

11 comments
ffulton
ffulton

Unfortunately it never had really good scripts (Lizard Nazis). Loved the cast and hoped it could make good

ITOdeed
ITOdeed

I never watched too many episodes of Enterprise, because every time I tuned in somebody had taken over control of the ship. Tired plot.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

No, not the final NG episode; the final entry in the Trivia Geek 'Best of / Worst of Trek' series of articles. Thanks, Jay; good stuff all around.

pgit
pgit

I'll have to look up the title when I have time, but there was an episode where they encounter humans stuck in the 1880's level of technology that turn out to be descendants of people captured to be slaves, but the ship crashed on this obscure planet. The slave master alien race now becomes the outcast low-life race. I love this one because at points it's acted and produced as pure 'western,' one of the best examples of the genre I've ever seen. It reaches that height in a few fleeting points here and there, but like I said, forget it's supposed to be star trek for a moment and there's some mighty fine production going on there. I'd put it on the list for sure, though not sure which of your choices I'd bump. Maybe Carbon Creek.

learn4ever
learn4ever

I have to agree with the whole list!

mckinnej
mckinnej

This explains it! I wasn't a regular Enterprise viewer. I caught episodes now and then which I thought were pretty good. It made me wonder why people slammed the series so hard. It turns out the list above contains most of the episodes I saw. I didn't even realize there was an actual story line. Thanks for clearing that up for me.

mike.motes
mike.motes

Isn't "In a Mirror, Darkly", the prequel for "Mirror, Mirror" instead of "The Tholian Web"?

lehnerus2000
lehnerus2000

"In a Mirror, Darkly" and "Carbon Creek" were my 2 favourite stories of ST:E.

Jay Garmon
Jay Garmon

...I think I'm done with Trek reviews for a while.

billstelling
billstelling

That was the episode before Similtude called Northstar.(S3-9) I thought it was similar to the 37's episode that opened up season 2 of Voyager.

Jay Garmon
Jay Garmon

"in a Mirror, Darkly" sets up "Mirror, Mirror" but follows up on the events in "The Tholian Web." The USS Defiant is the ship the Tholians were trying to capture in the latter, and it's what evil Archer is trying to capture on Enterprise.

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