Thursday, September 1, 2011

Television Review: Star Trek Enterprise

For those who've been living under a rock for the last ten years and don't know what Enterprise is, it might help if I start a few years before the show came out. In 1999, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace hit the big screen to more or less mixed reviews. Despite complaints, the movie was a massive financial success, earning nearly a billion dollars worldwide. Prequels became the next big thing. By the time the craze finally ended it gave us a large number of -mostly awful- prequels, including the 2001 show Enterprise. Set a century before the events of the original series, Enterprise claims to tell the story of Captain John Archer, captain of the USS Enterprise NX-01, in the early years of space exploration.

Other reviewers have already said a lot about the lack of character development, or the way the show blatantly rips off stories and scenes from previous Trek series, or the silly and sometimes cartoonish plot points. Those are all valid criticisms, but personally I'm not going to be talking about them. I'm going to talk about something else, both for the sake of providing some actual fresh insight, and also because as bad as those things are I don't believe they're even cose to the worst aspects of this show.

No, the most irritating thing about the show in my opinion, and the reason I feel it would have been awful even if it was well written, is the extreme political bias. Now, don't get me wrong. There's nothing necessarily wrong with being either liberal or conservative as long as you don't drift into fanaticism. Unfortunately, the writers for Enterprise seem to have left "fanatic" in the dust a long time ago as they sprinted straight for "retarded" at top speed.

Nowhere does this show more than in their portrayal of the military, specifically Starfleet. Yes, Enterprise is a military vessel, however peaceful their mission may be, yet the show's portrayal of military personnel is about as accurate as the average Appalachian redneck's idea of an african american.

This is a problem that could be easily remedied with research. Stargate SG-1 is a great example of TV getting the military right. Sure, it wasn't always perfectly accurate but they did a pretty good job specifically because they did research. Enterprise could have done the same, but that might have required talking to actual military personnel, and as near as I can tell from watching this show, the writers' idea of military personnel is a grunting neanderthal trying to think up excuses to kill brown people.

Faced with the problem of trying to make the target of their hatred the protagonists, they set out to design a "better," "smarter," and "more moral" version of the military for their show. What they ended up with was a league of incompetent poofs who ignore procedure, make stupid decisions that get innocents killed, and try to solve every problem with slapstick and passive-aggressive posturing.


As much as I try to keep the blog non-political, in this case it can't be helped. Despite what many internet denizens believe, ignorance is not the sole province of conservatives. The writers of Enterprise are about as ignorant as they come, and the show suffers a lot because of it. Their misguided attempt at writing a "better" military obliterated any shred of believability in the plot or likability in the characters. Yes, the show got better as it went, but it didn't matter. Even if the show had been well written from the beginning, the writers' political stupidity would have killed it anyway.

At multiple points while watching the show I tried to figure out how other Trek captains would have handled the situations Archer finds himself in, yet every time I tried I realized that no other Trek captain would have been in those situations to begin with. Picard would never have sent his crew to an uncharted planet without even so much as running a single scan to find out if it was safe. Archer did exactly that in season 1 episode 3: A Strange New World. Kirk would never have brought his pet to an alien planet knowing it would almost certainly offend the locals. Archer did that in season 2 episode 5: A Night In Sickbay.

In the real world the military would never take orders from a foreign power the way Starfleet kowtows to the Vulcans, they are not in the habit of sending either personnel or vehicles into combat zones unarmed, and believe it or not the military's policy toward stupid captains who get their subordinates killed is not "forgive and forget." Any captain like John Archer would be court-martialled less than a month into his command. It's as simple as that.

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