There are a lot of television sci-fi writers I’d love to give a crack at reinventing Lord of the Flies. Antoinette Stella is not on the list. The Enterprise crew are the first humans to visit what remains of the first interstellar human colony, Terra Nova (no, not this one; it’s worse than that), which disappeared 70 years ago. Turns out a convoluted radioactive asteroid strike wiped out all human life and cut off subspace radio, but somehow the kids survived by foraging in Paramount’s cheap, reusable cave sets. These same orphans, despite being resourceful enough to endure nuclear winter and slow radiation poisoning, nonetheless forget they’re human (and their own names). Of course, Archer rescues one of them from falling in a well — a feat none of these intrepid naturalists could have accomplished on their own, presumably because none of them was named Lassie — and 70 years of brain damage and mistrust are just as soon forgiven. Which is to say Enterprise relocates the near-starving refugees to the less-radioactive side of the planet (!) to preserve their now non-human culture. Terra-bull.
The oft-revisited pleasure planet of Risa finally gets the Enterprise treatment, and it includes everything but a plot! Archer gets inexplicably ambushed by a Suliban collaborator, who seduces, assaults, and then abandons him for no apparent reason. Our hero! Meanwhile, Trip and Reed get the typical hot-chicks-turn-out-to-be thieves tourist robbery adventure (featuring changeling transsexuals), Hoshi has a one-night stand, and Phlox has to treat Mayweather’s broken-leg-turned-anaphylactic-shock while drunk on half-finished hibernation. What do these inane vignettes have to do with one another, other than to make the crew appear either adolescent, incompetent, or both? Absolutely nothing! Not only does Enterprise predate the Federation and the Prime Directive, it also exists before writers felt the need for theme, story arcs, or basic coherence. You won’t sleep this one off anytime soon.
Spoiler alert: This is the episode where Archer falls in love with a psychic snail. Seriously. Enterprise finds a planet covered with A) volcanic vents B) exotic wildlife and C) alien sport-hunters. Archer and company, naturally, decide to investigate C while ignoring A and B, because science is hard so let’s go talk to the things that talk, even if they’re armed and possibly hostile. Not to worry because, about ten minutes after befriending the space-poachers, Archer starts hallucinating about a scantily clad blonde he feels compelled to track down for no reason. Again, at no point does science get involved here, but luckily the blonde explains she’s actually one of the animals the aliens are hunting, and her shapeshifting is part of the reason they make good sport. Archer gets ticked about the hunting of sentients, which he presumes humans would never do because he hasn’t seen Star Trek IV, so he decides to interfere by having Phlox mix up chemical cloaks for the aliens. Of course, when he hands it over the hottie reveals she’s actually a giant snail. Good thing Archer didn’t just sour relations with alien species because he was in lust with a pony-sized gastropod. Genius.
Give credit where it’s due: This episode sees the producers finally address the sheer idiocy of keeping a beagle aboard an interstellar first contact ship. Unfortunately, they do it by making Archer out to be the emotional equivalent of a 14-year old, complete with inappropriate feelings towards the hot girl in class. It all starts with Archer managing to cheese off an alien race when his dog Porthos whizzes on one of the aliens’ sacred trees. Not only does Archer refuse to apologize, but gets ticked off when Porthos contracts a life-threatening disease from the offended tree. Because he doesn’t trust Phlox, Archer spends a night in sickbay with Porthos, during which he has out-of-nowhere sexy dreams about T’Pol. After being browbeaten by Phlox into acting like an adult, Archer finally, grudging apologizes to the aliens, which somehow involves chainsawing a sacred tree (you can cut them down, just don’t pee on them) and then doing a shirtless dance of joy. Good thing, too, since said aliens have spare parts the Enterprise desperately needs. Luckily Archer, the military man, could see past his libido and his dog obsession long enough to finish the critical diplomacy needed to save his crew. More importantly, the dog lived. Facepalm.
1. “These Are The Voyages…” [Video of the full episode]
And you thought the finale to Voyager was bad. The last episode of Enterprise was so awful, not only is it the absolute worst entry in that series, it might also be the worst Next Generation episode ever. The storyline of “These Are The Voyages…” is set within a previously unrevealed subplot of the NextGen episode “Pegasus“, which means the episode (and possibly the entire series) is both non-canon and not about the cast of Enterprise. Riker is trying to decide whether to rat out his old mentor Admiral Pressman for treaty violations, and to clear his mind, he uses the holodeck to relive Team Archer’s last mission, which includes the pointless and ham-fisted death of Commander Tucker. Even worse, the last mission involves Archer and company rescuing the daughter of the Andorian captain Shran, so it’s not even a real Starfleet task. Worse still, the series that was supposed to depict the formation of the Federation ends literally seconds before we get to see the formation of the Federation. It’s unsatisfying on every level, and very clearly sends the message that Enterprise was put on the air simply because Paramount couldn’t make any more of The Next Generation, which is what everyone involved — the cast, crew, writers, and fans — really wanted. Boldly going nowhere, indeed.
Is there anyone to speak in defense of Enterprise, or at least nominate a more harrowing Team Archer trauma than the five listed above? The comments section awaits.
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