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When it first aired, I joined millions of other Star Trek fans in saying, “What the hell are you thinking with that theme song?”
The “franchise exhaustion” –already evident in Voyager, in some kind of way— also made its appearance here. I actually tuned out by season 3 during its original run.
At the time, and even now, I sometimes wonder if it wouldn’t have been best to give the Star Trek universe a sort of breather after Voyager ended. Do a TV movie version/backdoor pilot of each of the ideas being floated about in fanspace and possible studio boardrooms. Do the Captain Sulu movie. Do the Starfleet Academy movie. Try a crime-centric TV movie set in the 24th century that bumps into the Orion Syndicate and Section 31. Of course, it’s easy for a fan to concoct such an unprecedented scheme without any consequence — far easier than it is for an executive to sign off on it when a studio doesn’t want to lose a revenue stream. And who does TV movies then or now anyways?
But when I went back to review the entire series, a strange thing happened: I found I really liked it. Now don’t get me wrong, all the sources of my discontent remained. For example: the stubborn refusal to remove that treacly theme song was nothing less than an insane tonal shift when the cold open involved something like, say, the Xindi discussing destroying the human race. But like all the Star Trek shows, it had aged remarkably well, and I could see the thought and care that had been put into it. The series started out as an attempt to make Starfleets’ explorers less distant and more relatable, to show a bridge between our early 21st century space exploration and what we could do one day. You saw that in all the production design, little fun nods to NASA like the emergency meals in “Shuttlepod One,” and yes, the opening montage. Take a look at it again (feel free to turn the sound down). It tells a great, human story. We’re ready to learn more about this next step in our journey of exploration by the end of the credits.
While I think the series as a whole suffers from some flawed execution, they frequently fulfilled that implicit mission (alas, not even a five-year mission). If they had been able to complete one or two more seasons, I think Enterprise would, at the very least, have many “deep cut” favorites among a lot of long-time Star Trek fans. Enterprise really began to embrace its prequel nature in setting up what became the United Federation of Planets.
Note: Everything below may contain spoilers and definitely contains some snark.
An early tagline for the show was “Meet Kirk’s Childhood Hero” and you see that throughout the series: he’s a philosophical leader who wants to do the right thing, but he’s not above fisticuffs. Not only that, he thinks his way out of situations –and tries to have his crew think– more often than not (the duel with Shran is one of the best examples). Overall, a great captain in the best Trek tradition.
As the first officer and science officer, she’s more than a little bit of Archer’s Spock, albeit in form-fitting clothing. Her journey from reluctant crew member to part of the Enterprise family is a good arc throughout the series.
Charles “Trip” Tucker III
Swapping McCoy’s country doctor with a country engineer and we have ourselves a familiar trio. I’ve heard people hot and cold on Trip and I suppose it depends on the episode. His relationship arc with T’Pol is surprisingly interesting, which makes the final episode of the series all the more of a letdown.
Making sure that Enterprise has her quotient of uptight officers, Malcolm is, well… Look, he can cover my back, just don’t ask me to sit down and have a pint with him.
Refreshingly honest about being overwhelmed yet an incredibly capable linguist and polyglot, Hoshi is the communications officer we didn’t know we were missing.
I mean, he’s fares better than Kes, but he sadly seems one of the most undeveloped characters of the ensemble. Admit it, you forgot his last name was “Mayweather,” didn’t you?
I’m pretty sure I’d be in capable hands with just about any of the doctors we see in the various Star Trek series, but Phlox is the one doctor outside of maybe Beverly Crusher who has a noticeably positive bedside manner. Heck, I’d love to visit sickbay just to learn about all his critters and what feeds on what. I’d trust him with my back, my health, and have a pint with him.
96) “These Are the Voyages…”
Season 4, Episode 22
The idea, of course, was to find some way to pay tribute to the decades of TV Trek. But instead of doing, say, a non-fiction special and having past and present cast and crew talk about Trek, they decided to hijack the last episode of Enterprise to re-hash an episode of Next Generation that didn’t need re-hashing. As the Klingons would say: dishonorable.
95) “A Night In Sickbay”
Season 2, Episode 5
Listless angst combined with molasses pacing make this a pointless episode that’s easy to skip.
94) “Strange New World”
Season 1, Episode 4
A slow-moving and unsatisfying episode that really doesn’t do too much of anything except convince us to stay well away from the transporter.
93) “Terra Nova”
Season 1, Episode 6
There’s always great potential with a “mysterious colony” story and yet they seem to manage to not mine any of the possibilities fully, even if Erick Avari in any role is welcome.
92) “Doctor’s Orders”
Season 3, Episode 16
Didn’t Voyager give us the doctor having to guide the ship through a dangerous patch of space whilst the rest of the crew was dormant? Annoying. Also, it directly relies on the Xindi storyline for character motivations — though it escalates nicely as John Billlingsley puts in a fine performance. Plus, it features clips from “The Court Jester,” which makes anything better.
Season 1, Episode 5
The encounter with a heretofore unknown species is very interesting, but the payoff of the not-quite-pregnancy is just awkward all around.
Season 3, Episode 3
Look out, it’s SPACE WEREWOLVES! Okay, not really, but other than resolute Roger Cross as a guest star, this episode slogs through the mutagenic whatever-it-is. Yeah, I’m sure it was fun for the actors to use their movement training as not-really-werewolf cave people, but it’s not an interesting enough standalone episode nor a good continuation of the season-long arc.
Season 2, Episode 9
Some credit should be giving for doing this episode after we’ve already grown to know the characters, but frankly, you’ve got better things to do than watch the crew get progressively more OCD for the better part of an hour.
Season 4, Episode 10
An unsatisfying “bottle episode” that takes too long to get where it’s going. Even Bill Cobbs’ presence doesn’t help.
Season 3, Episode 6
I suppose someone pitched a Star Trek “Beauty & the Beast” scenario and Roxann Dawson does have some tricks up her directorial sleeve, but the titular Exile comes across as intensely manipulative and creepy. Plus, the fact that Hoshi may have some latent telepathic ability does not get explored further. Also, we learn that Archer & Tucker cannot properly park a shuttlepod. Seriously guys?
Season 3, Episode 10
A thoughtful enough look at the use of clones, but one that doesn’t seem to bring anything new to the Trek table.
Season 3, Episode 17
Didn’t we just have a main character suffering from a mood-altering incident? Well, yes we did, but considering it’s the captain, you get to have the fun of mutiny. Better than “Turnabout Intruder,” but no Crimson Tide.
84) “Breaking the Ice”
Season 1, Episode 8
On the one hand, I really enjoy the Enterprise crew finding out they’re in over their heads. On the other hand, this is another episode that seems to be taking way too long to say what it has to say (and not say it as well as it might).
83) “Fortunate Son”
Season 1, Episode 10
Tantalizing world-building of non-Starfleet Earthers, but it only goes so far.
Season 2, Episode 20
More world-building about non-Starfleet Earthers, this time directly related to Mayweather’s family. Sadly, not as engaging as we’d like.
Season 1, Episode 21
A waste of a perfectly good on-screen reunion of Dean Stockwell and Scott Bakula.
80) “Desert Crossing”
Season 1, Episode 24
Oddly-paced episode that takes a gosh darn long time to get to some intrigue. Definite demerits for trying to imbue some desert lacrosse variant with the drama of Aragorn dueling Uruk-hai. And I’m not saying Clancy Brown has to channel The Kurgan in every role he’s in, but his portrayal of Zobral is pretty much 100% The Kurgan-Free
79) “Shuttlepod One”
Season 1, Episode 16
Bonus points for the NASA shoutout about Chilean sea bass, but demerits for pretty much the rest of the episode, which mainly consists of Tucker and Reed getting on each others’ nerves.
78) “Precious Cargo”
Season 2, Episode 11
Better than some of the other comedic romantic misadventures of Trip, but at the end Padma Lakshmi has to pack her knives and go.
77) “Two Days and Two Nights”
Season 1, Episode 25
You get a smattering of plot with Archer, a gag with with Reed and Tucker, and Sato gets her groove on, linguistically and otherwise. Not objectionable, but you’re watching Star Trek for more than “not objectionable.”
Season 2, Episode 17
A reasonably involving plot with some twists keeps this prison ship tale not too much a chore to watch.
Season 1, Episode 19
How do we get the Ferengi on Enterprise and not breaking canon? Wait, I got it!
74) “First Flight”
Season 2, Episode 24
Not quite the right stuff (it’s a bit cliched) but then again, Archer is no pudknocker.
73) “Fallen Hero”
Season 1, Episode 23
A decent entry in the ongoing series question “When will the Vulcans stop being such a-holes?” The question is not answered here.
72) “Future Tense”
Season 2, Episode 16
It’s nice to have the Tholians and it’s nice to see something happening with the Temporal Cold War.
Season 3, Episode 15
Not a standout episode, but certainly engaging for those who are following the Xindi storyline as both the nature of the mysterious spheres and crew relationships are explored further. Plus, you get the most drawn-out grudge fight this side of “They Live” and a truly “ooh!” Reveal at the end.
Season 1, Episode 20
Not a holodeck encounter per se, but it feels like we’re covering a lot of familiar ground.
Season 2, Episode 25
It’s nice to see the Tellerites again. It’s not as nice to see Pon Farr again, but only because it seems to come up in most Star Trek series. Bonus points for continuing issues raised in “Judgment.”
68) “Rogue Planet”
Season 1, Episode 18
Neither as cerebral as Solaris nor as satisfying as Forbidden Planet. Still, you could do worse with stories about thoughts made manifest.
65) “The Crossing”
Season 2, Episode 18
Non-corporeal aliens are up to no good, but it takes a loooong time for any kind of action.
64) “The Catwalk”
Season 2, Episode 12
Heavy on the technobabble and, much to the chagrin of Right Said Fred, no one does a little dance on the catwalk. However, some excitement does eventually ensue both in dealing with radiation and unwelcome guests.
63) “Cold Front”
Season 1, Episode 11
The Temporal Cold War heats up, by which I mean they put it in the microwave for a few minutes. So it’s not as good as freshly made Temporal Cold War, but it’s okay.
62) “Sleeping Dogs”
Season 1, Episode 14
In which we learn that there probably aren’t any “Good Samaritan” laws among the Klingons.
Season 3, Episode 2
Fun enough, action-packed, with shades of Voyager‘s “The Void.” Sadly, the Xindi storyline proves to be a slow burn, so pace yourself.
60) “The Seventh”
Season 2, Episode 7
Bruce Davison is an effectively slippery villain and Tucker is not an overwhelmingly convincing starship captain, both as you’d expect.
Season 1, Episode 9
Enterprise finally seems to be hitting its stride with equal parts joy at exploration and classic foiling of bad guys exploiting innocents.
58) “The Communicator”
Season 2, Episode 8
Dr. McCoy would gladly go back in time to not have left his communicator with the Iotians. Here, we see the Enterprise crew try and remedy a similar situation, though it’s definitely not a comic episode.
57) “Dead Stop”
Season 2, Episode 4
There’s no such thing as a free lunch… even in space. All the characters have their moments here… and the director even gets to cameo as the evil space station’s voice.
56) “The Xindi”
Season 3, Episode 1
A decent if slow start to the season-long story arc where the Yamato -er- Enterprise needs to find and stop the mysterious Xindi and their weapon
Season 4, Episode 3
A thematic successor to TNG’s “Family,” this doesn’t have quite the same punch, but does set up some of the storylines of Enterprise‘s final season.
Season 1, Episode 17
A character-driven installment that does good culture-building for Vulcans and sets up some important events that come to play in later seasons.
Season 3, Episode 14
“Mind warp” episodes have been a Trek staple since Next Generation, but Enterprise gives it a worthwhile twist here by making “the good guys” behind the mind warping.
Season 3, Episode 19
A solid entry in the continuing Xindi storyline where Captain Archer finds how far he’s willing to go to succeed in his mission… and T’Pol admits self-medication may not be logical.
51) “The Forgotten”
Season 3, Episode 20
Some serious payoff in the Xindi storyline with Degra finally going all-in (albeit reluctantly) with the humans.
Season 2, Episode 6
The Seven Samurai, it’s not, but it does fit very well within the type of stories that Enterprise seeks to tell. Most all of the characters have some good moments here.
49) “Shockwave” (Parts I & II)
Season 1, & Season 2, Episodes 26 & 1
A narratively necessary, if somewhat unwieldy, two-parter where the Suliban make their best play to derail the humans and we end with the Vulcans still in dire need of more fiber in their diet, but willing to let Enterprise continue.
48) “Cease Fire”
Season 2, Episode 15
A nice continuation of the Vulcan-Andorian tensions with Archer showing his first signs of the Federation-builder he will become.
47) “The Expanse”
Season 2, Episode 26
The 9/11 allegory episode that sets up all of season three. If you’re planning to watch the whole Xindi storyline, it’s a must-watch.
46) “Carpenter Street”
Season 3, Episode 11
Leland Orser: Whaddya got for me?
Orser’s Agent: You want to play another creep on a Star Trek show?
Leland Orser: Sure, but do I need to be in a lot of alien makeup?
Orser’s Agent: No, you just need to look like you’re some sleazeball from the 70s. And there’s this scene at a fast-food drivethrough which is wacky fun.
Leland Orser: I’m in!
Season 2, Episode 13
Let’s all admit Tucker plays the “Enemy Mine” scenario pretty well.
Season 2, Episode 14
The events of “Fusion” are paid off in this allegorical episode which continues to illustrate the need for Vulcan culture to progress just as much as Terran culture.
43) “Fight or Flight”
Season 1, Episode 3
In its own quiet way, this episode is one of the most honest episodes of Enterprise, where the crew find their shiny new starship and noble ideals aren’t enough to make it in the deep, dark galaxy. Great character moments for Hoshi and bonus points for referencing the Axanar.
42) “Vanishing Point”
Season 2, Episode 10
It’s a transporter-goes-wrong episode, but it breaks new ground and has some satisfying twists.
41) “North Star”
Season 3, Episode 9
With a John Ford name-check, more than a little directorial panache from David Straiton, and the welcome return of Glenn Morshower to Star Trek, it’s hard not to enjoy this episode. Plus, we have an ingenious allegorical situation with alien and human that’s right at home in the Trekverse. But come on, you all just wanted to do a Western, didn’t you?
40) “The Breach”
Season 2, Episode 21
As good a look at prejudice and spelunking in the 22nd century as you could hope for.
Season 3, Episode 4
Kinda wrestles with how all-in to go with the femme fatale. However, the end assault on the Enterprise is exciting, as we actually see some earnest attempts at repelling a boarding action — and it does advance the Xindi storyline.
38) “Broken Bow”
Season 1, Episodes 1 & 2
As with basically all the other series premieres post-TNG, this proved to be a reasonably intriguing episode enough to make viewers hopeful for what lay in store ahead while not completely wowing us.
37) “Silent Enemy”
Season 1, Episode 12
A more action-packed, less character-driven version of “Fight or Flight” where the Enterprise crew once again realizes not everyone wants to get along.
36) “Storm Front” (Parts I & II)
Season 4, Episodes 1 & 2
An exciting way to kick off the season and it’s full of great effects and clever plot bits, but the motivations of Vosk, et al, are generic. Besides, aliens as Nazis AGAIN?!? Bonus points for ending the Temporal Cold War storyline.
Season 4, Episode 17
While they don’t completely escape the problems of gender stereotypes inherent in the phrase “Orion Slave Girls,” it is an inventive episode with some twists.
34) “Vox Sola”
Season 1, Episode 22
A solid episode of first contact entirely in the Trek tradition aided by advances in visual effects to portray a very alien alien. The subplot of cultural misunderstandings supports the theme — and the story has the courage to be realistic and not offer up solid answers on alien motivations. Bonus points for actually giving Crewman Rostov some character, but equal demerits for just having Crewman Kelly sleep through the proceedings.
33) “Chosen Realm”
Season 3, Episode 12
Some good world-building about the cultures of the Expanse as the Enterprise deals with a smug cult leader. Who doesn’t like dogmatic zealots meeting their comeuppance?
Season 2, Episode 19
Some nice pre-TOS background on Klingons and the rule of law, but the empire still won’t be friends of the Earthers until the 24th century.
31) “The Council”
Season 3, Episode 22
The Xindi storyline starts galloping to its conclusion with some major plot twists and satisfying moments. Bonus points for the Harryhausen-esque demise of Corporal Hawkins.
30) “Shadows of P’Jem”
Season 1, Episode 15
The Vulcan-Andorian conflicts boils over in this episode full of intrigue and, um, not-quite-funny slapstick. I’m not sure if Gregory Itzin ever plays a character we can trust, but he plays his characters so well, I don’t mind.
29) “Observer Effect”
Season 4, Episode 11
As I live and remain corporeal, it’s the Organians! Even if that lovely little Trek reference wasn’t delightful, this proves to be an unexpectedly fun episode exploring some new twists on the old “mind possession” stories.
28) “The Andorian Incident”
Season 1, Episode 7
Introducing us to the Vulcan-Andorian conflicts with style as well as the very welcome entrance of Shran, perhaps one of Star Trek veteran Jeffrey Combs’ best characters.
27) “The Shipment”
Season 3, Episode 7
What’s this? Something is happening in the season-long Xindi storyline? Okay, that’s not strictly fair. The search for the Xindi has inched along in fits and starts and they’ve absolutely built upon story points in previous episodes, but it was usually, MAIN PROCEDURAL STORY TOPIC with a little serial storyline seasoning. This gives you a taste of what the season long saga could be, where they finally have a lead on where part of the planet-killer weapon is being constructed and they begin to realize how the Xindi are no more monolithic and single-minded than humanity. Now we’re getting into DS9 territory. If only we got to see what tree scarabs looked like.
26) “Proving Ground”
Season 3, Episode 13
A pivotal episode in the Xindi storyline that moves along briskly with multiple deceptions from multiple sides. Remember: the Andorian Mining Consortium runs from no one.
Season 3, Episode 5
28 Days Later: Vulcan Edition. Seriously, the Vulcan rage zombies in this episode are wonderfully frightening. Bonus points for the transporter just generally sucking.
Season 2, Episode 3
How do we get the Romulans into Enterprise without breaking continuity? Nicely done.
Season 3, Episode 21
A time-travel tale that hearkens to DS9’s “Children of Time,” VOY’s “Deadlock,” or perhaps TNG’s “All Good Things.” The weight of all those previous Trek outings is felt, but Enterprise has a decent take on it, definitely aided by David Andrews as Lorian.
22) “Zero Hour”
Season 3, Episode 24
The conclusion of the season-long storyline is pretty satisfying all around, including the cliffhanger that leads into season 4’s “Storm Front.”
21) “Cold Station 12”
Season 4, Episode 5
An exciting installment of the Arik Soong/”Augments” storyline with most of the action taking place at Starfleet’s version of Fort Detrick.
20) “The Augments”
Season 4, Episode 6
A generally satisfying conclusion to the “Augments” storyline that connects to the wider world of Trek as Arik Soong goes from genetic engineering to cybernetics.
Season 4, Episode 8
A nice middle entry in the “Vulcan reformation” storyline that provides Vulcan court intrigue and nice character moments, but suffers from a little bit of Archer ex Machina in the problem-solving.
Season 4, Episode 15
How did the Klingons, who looked so bumpy in “Broken Bow” get to be smooth-foreheaded villains we met in the original series? Find out this week and next in Enterprise: the show that connects all the Trek dots in its fourth season!
Season 4, Episode 16
The conclusion to the in-universe explanation as to why Klingons didn’t need to spend as many hours in the makeup chair is quite satisfying.
Season 3, Episode 23
The penultimate entry in the Xindi storyline is chock full of action and exciting plot developments that reward you for watching the season.
Season 4, Episode 4
Enterprise gets into its new season proper (post-Temporal Cold War and Xindi wrap-up) and boy does it boldly go. Alec Newman does a great job as conniving would-be superman Malik and Brent Spiner is a welcome addition as Dr. Arik Soong, proving the Soongs have a long history of deciding to do whatever the hell they want, regardless of wider ramifications. The Orion world-building is fun too.
14) “Dear Doctor”
Season 1, Episode 13
A seminal episode of Enterprise (that in a sense, only fully comes to fruition in the fourth season), which explores the difficulty in doing the right thing — and gives some origin as to why the Prime Directive came to be.
Season 2, Episode 23
Is trying to find any way to involve the crowd-pleasing Borg into Enterprise a sign of desperation? Maybe, but it also proves to be an inventive and involving affair, including some great “Who Goes There?” moments and Dr. Phlox being the stand-up Denobulan he is.
12) “Azati Prime”
Season 3, Episode 18
Finally, the promise of “Strategem” is fulfilled and we’re at the fabled Xindi weapons facility. Pacing and plotting are good. Bonus points for the Enterprise-J.
11) “Carbon Creek”
Season 2, Episode 2
T’Pol’s not quite tall tale of Vulcans visiting pre-warp Earth is surprisingly charming and full of references to the original series. They even found a way to slyly honor the actual inventor of Velcro (i.e. “Mestral”).
10) “The Forge”
Season 4, Episode 7
This literally explosive beginning to the “Vulcan reformation” timeline connects so many Trek dots from the original series to the animated series (dig that sehlat!) and where Enterprise was trying to go before its cancellation.
Season 2, Episode 22
An absolute standout in terms of exploring cultural values, understanding the delicacy of cultural exchanges, and the unintended consequences of the best of intentions. This is Enterprise at its finest.
Season 3, Episode 8
Thankfully, there’s nary a sparkly vampire to be seen as Star Trek does Memento, albeit in the familiar alternate timeline format that all Treks go through. It’s a great what-if full of action and a solid episode all around. Two quibbles. One, Alternate Timeline Malcolm Reed has a Van Dyke and should therefore be evil. Two, this kills the momentum on the season-long timeline hoped for with “The Shipment.”
7) “Babel One”
Season 4, Episode 12
Kicking off the “Prelude to the Earth-Romulan War” storyline in fine style, we get allusions to classic TOS episodes like “Journey to Babel” and “Balance of Terror” along with some fun diplomatic tips for how to deal with Tellerites.
Season 4, Episode 9
A satisfying conclusion of the “Vulcan reformation” storyline that gives us a better understanding of the Vulcans we see in TOS and other series… and why we don’t see Vulcans like Robert Foxworth.
5) “The Aenar”
Season 4, Episode 14
Entertaining Andorian world-building combined with some tantalizing hints at the Earth-Romulan War to come.
Season 4, Episode 20
Peter Weller can play a great hero or villain, so it comes as no surprise that his John Paxton his a wonderfully played villain convinced of his own heroism. An excellent episode for Trek continuity. Bonus points for the James Bond Villain-grade base ship.
Season 4, Episode 13
A standout entry for the “Prelude to the Earth-Romulan War” storyline where we begin to see how Archer and his crew are instrumental in laying the groundwork for the United Federation of Planets. The duel with Shran and its clever resolution may be Archer’s finest hour (that we get to see anyway).
2) “In a Mirror, Darkly” (Parts I & II)
Season 4, Episodes 18 & 19
Fan service pumped up to eleven, this delightfully anti-heroic two-parter gives us Tholians, Gorns, and a whole lotta connecting of dots within the universe of Trek. Bonus points for finally being able to ditch the treacly theme song, if only for two episodes.
1) “Terra Prime”
Season 4, Episode 21
This ranks higher than “In a Mirror Darkly” as, while that masterfully done two-parter is delightful in its anti-heroics, it’s more of a bit of backstory for the mirror universe. “Terra Prime” gives you a glimpse of the backstory of the Federation and the Prime universe we know and love, to say nothing of where the series might have gone before its ignominious end.