This Week in Trek: Prequels & Jeffrey Combs

Let’s start with a conversation prompt, based on the deep dive below but totally answerable without reading all of it:

Enterpise was a prequel series.  Discovery is also a prequel series.

If you had to make a series that took place before TOS, what would it be?  What would it look like?  What time period would it focus on?  Who would it be about?  What aspects of the prequel game did ENT and DISC get right, and which would you be sure to avoid in your show?

Or alternatively, forget the prequel thing and just make your own show.  With blackjack.  And green space hookers.

Seriously, Star Trek should have more gambling.

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Deep Dive: ENTERPRISE

I’m going to admit it.  I’ve been avoiding talking about ENTERPRISE.  I know, it’s a part of the family.  More than that, because it takes place so early in the timeline, it’s a pretty important part of the universe.  Both Discovery and the Abrams movies mention it, since the timeline split occurs after the voyages of good old NX-01.  From a geeky continuity perspective, it can’t be overlooked.

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And yet . . . well, I try not to make pronouncements up here that are gonna turn people off.  I want to facilitate discussion about trek, not preach a sermon.  But Enterprise just doesn’t seem very good to me.  More than, it’s quite dull to me.  In fact, it is nauseatingly dull to me.  There are episodes of Enterprise I’ve only seen once (!), which if you know me is shocking.  Every other series, I’ve seen every episode at least three times (not that impressive, I’m really old and when I was started really young).  But Enterprise is just so blah.  Very few episodes even attempt to say anything interesting, and still fewer succeed.  There’s a dreary grimness that permeates the series, sapping all the fun out of the human adventure.

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It’s not all bad.  Dr. Phlox is a great character.  He’s truly alien, not just a human character in make-up.  His morals and philosophies are compatible with working with humans but are not the same as the rest of the crew.  He makes for a wry observer of human behavior.

Trip is a delight when they let him be goofy. T’Pol deserved to be on a better show.  And neither of them deserved to be forced into gross entirely non-organic ‘ship that made no sense and was just at the random whim of the writers.

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Fifteen years ago this week, Enterprise started it’s third season with the episode “The Xindi.”  The episode, and the entire season, follows a season finale that tried so hard to be post 9/11 relevant that it swung back around and lost all poignancy.  The Xindi are out to destroy earth, but taking a cue from a James Bond villain decide its only fair to let earth know their dastardly plan a year ahead of time.  A weapon shows up and destroys Florida (yes, really).  This, it turns out, is just a test run for a bigger weapon to appear later.  You know, the way murderers shoot you in the arm in order to get prepared for shooting you in the head several months later.  Or the way Darth Vader built a tiny Death Star first so that the big one wouldn’t be such a shock to anyone later on.  Very thoughtful.

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The season was hailed as the first time Trek had delved into serialized storytelling, which I’m sure must have made everyone on DS9 feel invisible (this was also around the time that Wayne Brady asked Scott Bakula why Star Trek had no black captains, so maybe DS9 WAS cloaked).

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To be fair, as the series progressed, it did slowly get better.  To a large extent, this was because it became more comfortable existing within the larger Trek universe, while at the beginning it was so intent on “this is not your father’s trek!” that it didn’t feel like anyone’s Trek.  One of the most popular episodes of the series is the third season episode “Twilight,” which is still lumbering and grim but at least feels like a Trek episode.  A mix between DS9’s “The Visitor” and Memento, “Twilight” has Archer suffer a very sciencey explosion that leaves him incapable of forming new memories.  He wakes every day  remembering nothing after the accident, and several years go by.  The Xindi win, earth is destroyed, and the remaining humans are hiding out on Ceti Alpha Five (pre-Kahn).  More sciencey shit happens and Archer sacrifices himself in another even more sciencey explosion that snaps him back in time to the moment of the original sciencey explosion and so it turns out nothing in the entire episode actually happened.  See, I told you it was like “The Visitor.”

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This is considered a fan favorite because

1) even though it is reset at that end, things actually HAPPEN in this episode, which is rare and

2) even though it also gets reset, there is actual character development in this episode.

Despite Enterprise being very talky, getting to know any of the characters in a way deeper than their trademark pouts was sadly uncommon.  It also is prime “T’Pol is amazing and no one notices,” which is an ongoing trope in the show.  She risks her life and career for Archer over and over in the series, and that dumb angsty daddy-issue lunk never once notices.  He just kind of takes it for granted that of course people are going to give up years of their life for him while he sits around and frowns.  And that’s this episode in a nutshell.

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Well gee, I guess I didn’t do a very good job giving a balanced view of the show.  I do know it has its fans, and I’d like to hear from you.  So please, consider this one side of the argument.  Use the comments to make responses and rebuttals.  Tell people why this member of the Trek family should not be forgotten.

 

 

Finally, this week was also the birthday of the irreplaceable Jeffrey Combs.  He is best known for Weyoun, but also played Brunt, Shran, Tiron, Penk, Krem, and perhaps more!  Of all of Combs characters, which is your favorite?  Ok, now which one that isn’t Weyoun is your favorite?

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And how would you like to see Combs return to Trek?  Should Shran show up on Discovery?  Should Brunt get his own show?  Should Weyoun become Admiral Picard’s attaché? Or maybe someone has a good idea instead!

 

Let me know!