Please note: This is a work in progress, to be updated at a later date.

“1966, 79 episodes, about 30 good ones.” – Philip J Fry describing Star Trek. Quote from Futurama episode “Where no fan has gone before”.

Enterprise has come in for a lot of criticism over the years, but while it is not perfect it is in fact my favourite Star Trek series. It has the best production values, a very well-designed spaceship, intriguing stories and some likable characters (also a couple of duds, but every show had those).

It can be difficult for a new viewer to know how to get the best out of this series, so this guide tells you which episodes to watch (high quality and/or core continuity) and which to skip. You can either stick to the “Episodes to watch” list, or, for a more prolonged viewing experience, just avoid the episodes on the “Episodes to skip” list.

Below the lists of episodes to watch and skip, you’ll find brief reviews of all the episodes.
I’ve appended a score out of ten for each episode; 5 is watchable, 6 is good, 7 is very good, 8 is excellent, etc.

EPISODES TO WATCH

SEASON 1:

1. BROKEN BOW (7/10) (core continuity)
2. FIGHT OR FLIGHT (6/10) (also recommended)
4. UNEXPECTED (6/10) (also recommended)
6. THE ANDORIAN INCIDENT (5/10) (core continuity)
7. BREAKING THE ICE (7/10) (outstanding)
10. COLD FRONT (4/10) (core continuity)
15. SHUTTLEPOD ONE (7/10) (outstanding)
20. DETAINED (6/10) (also recommended)
22. FALLEN HERO (6/10) (also recommended)

SEASON 2:

2. CARBON CREEK (5/10) (also recommended)
4. DEAD STOP (6/10) (also recommended)
15. CEASE FIRE (8/10) (outstanding)
16. FUTURE TENSE (7/10) (also recommended)
18. THE CROSSING (6/10) (also recommended)
23. REGENERATION (6/10) (also recommended)
24. FIRST FLIGHT (6/10) (also recommended)
26. THE EXPANSE (6/10) (core continuity)

SEASON 3:

1. THE XINDI (6/10) (core continuity)
2. ANOMALY (6/10) (core continuity)
5. IMPULSE (6/10) (also recommended)
7. THE SHIPMENT (5/10) (core continuity)
8. TWILIGHT (8/10) (outstanding)
9. NORTH STAR (6/10) (also recommended)
13. PROVING GROUND (5/10) (core continuity)
15. HARBINGER (6/10) (core continuity)
16. DOCTOR’S ORDERS (7/10) (also recommended)
17. HATCHERY (7/10) (also recommended)
18. AZATI PRIME (5/10) (core continuity)
19. DAMAGE (7/10) (outstanding)
20. THE FORGOTTEN (6/10) (also recommended)
21. E[2] (6/10) (also recommended)
22. THE COUNCIL (7/10) (outstanding)
23. COUNTDOWN (6/10) (core continuity)
24. ZERO HOUR (6/10) (core continuity)

SEASON 4:

1. STORM FRONT PART 1 (6/10) (core continuity)
2. STORM FRONT PART 2 (6/10) (core continuity)
7. THE FORGE (8/10) (outstanding) – First of the 3-episode Vulcan arc.
8. AWAKENING (5/10) (also recommended) – Part 2 of the 3-episode Vulcan arc.
9. KIR-SHARA (6/10) (also recommended) – Part 3 of the 3-episode Vulcan arc.
11. OBSERVER EFFECT (6/10) (outstanding)
12. BABEL ONE (5/10) (also recommended) – First of the 3-episode Andorian arc.
13. UNITED (6/10) (also recommended) – Part 2 of the 3-episode Andorian arc.
14. THE AENAR (7/10) (outstanding) – Part 3 of the 3-episode Andorian arc.
18. IN A MIRROR DARKLY PART 1 (7/10) (also recommended)
19. IN A MIRROR DARKLY PART 2 (6/10) (also recommended)

EPISODES TO SKIP

SEASON 1:

3. STRANGE NEW WORLD (3/10)
5. TERRA NOVA (4/10)
9. FORTUNATE SON (4/10)
12. DEAR DOCTOR (5/10)
16. FUSION (4/10)
18. ACQUISITION (4/10)
21. VOX SOLA (4/10)
24. TWO DAYS & TWO NIGHTS (4/10)

SEASON 2:

5. A NIGHT IN SICKBAY (5/10)
6. MARAUDERS (4/10)
7. THE SEVENTH (4/10)
9. SINGULARITY (5/10)
10. VANISHING POINT (3/10)
11. PRECIOUS CARGO (1/10)
13. DAWN (4/10)
14. STIGMA (4/10)
22. COGENITOR (5/10)

SEASON 3

3. EXTINCTION (2/10)
4. RAJIIN (4/10)
6. EXILE (5/10)
11. CARPENTER STREET (5/10)

SEASON 4

3. HOME (4/10)
10. DAEDELUS (4/10)
17. BOUND (6/10)
20. DEMONS (5/10)
21. TERRA PRIME (5/10)
22. THESE ARE THE VOYAGES (4/10)

EPISODES TO WATCH — REVIEWS

1. BROKEN BOW (7/10) (core continuity)
The pilot episode, which introduces the characters and sets up the situation of the drama. Does the job pretty well, though a couple of small points may niggle (Archer’s rudeness to the Vulcans; the Enterprise going all the way to Kronos on its first voyage). This episode also sees the first appearance of Vulcan ambassador Soval, who grew to become a fan favourite.

2. FIGHT OR FLIGHT (6/10) (also recommended)
The Enterprise crew find a ship adrift and are confronted by a moral dilemma and an enemy of superior power. This sets up nicely how the crew are inexperienced and vulnerable compared to series set in later periods.

4. UNEXPECTED (6/10) (also recommended)
If you are a sensitive flower, you may somehow be offended by this episode, but I find engineer Trip’s experience on an alien ship, followed by his awkward biological situation, to be interesting from the point of view of both science fiction and character. (Also interesting is the cultural nature of the aliens they meet – it’s never stated, but by their behaviour they appear to be parasitic, leeching off other spaceships for power, and implanting their young in handy passing aliens.)

6. THE ANDORIAN INCIDENT (5/10) (core continuity)
This episode introduces the recurring character of Shran (a fan favourite) and sets up the Andorian/Vulcan conflict that percolates under all four seasons of Enterprise. There is also a nice flavour of Vulcan culture, if you like that kind of thing (I do).
Criticisms: Captain Archer does some rather silly things in the episode (in TV Tropes terms [see tvtropes.org], he carries the Idiot Ball), and the Vulcan monastery, while convincing in atmosphere and detail, feels disappointingly small in scale. (This is partly to do with the cinematography throughout this series (narrow lenses, deep focus, mostly flat lighting), which makes the ship feel realistically cramped and utilitarian, but also has the same affect in some sets that were supposed to be rather more impressive. This is in fact an issue common to Berman-era Star Trek shows (TNG, DS9, VOY, ENT).)

7. BREAKING THE ICE (7/10) (outstanding)
This is Enterprise firing on all cylinders, and credit is particularly due to the writers, who keep the intertwining threads of the story engaging. This episode is also notable for its lack of physical conflict or action, keeping our attention with character-based drama and comedy, as well as finding new ways to make space exploration interesting.

10. COLD FRONT (4/10) (core continuity)
This episode introduces the time-travelling character Daniels, and is referenced in later episodes.
Although there are some interesting elements, it is overall a dull and confused episode, and was really a nail in the coffin of Enterprise’s Temporal Cold War (TCW) arc. The Suliban have been previously set up as villains, so, when one of them saves the Enterprise, we are supposed to see that the TCW is more complicated than we had thought. However, Archer never loses faith in new protagonist Daniels, which undermines this supposed ambiguity. Is this simple species-ism, with an ugly alien by definition morally inferior to someone like “us”? For me, the highlight of the ep is Captain Fraddock, an alien whose undisguised cynicism and disinclination to be helpful make for a refreshing change.

15. SHUTTLEPOD ONE (7/10) (outstanding)
Another standout episode, though I suppose that partly depends on how you feel about the characters of Malcolm and Trip. Most fans like them, hence this episode’s popularity. The writing and the performances are very effective in the story of these two characters stranded in deep space and facing their mortality.

20. DETAINED (6/10) (also recommended)
Archer and Travis find themselves in a detention camp along with a bunch of Suliban. This is an enjoyable prison-break story, and it also develops the Suliban in an interesting way. It’s a shame this species was basically dropped after the ‘Shockwave’ two-parter (except for appearances in Future Tense, The Expanse, and Storm Front Part 2).

22. FALLEN HERO (6/10) (also recommended)
The Enterprise crew are looking forward to shore leave, but they receive an urgent mission from the Vulcans, to retrieve one of their ambassadors. This ambassador turns out to be quite unusual for a Vulcan, and involved in something that will endanger the entire crew.
This is a “ship show”, i.e. a story made on standing sets to save money, and it’s pretty good. There is nice character stuff as the crew anticipate their shore leave, and the Archer/T’Pol relationship is developed (not in a romantic way). I also enjoyed the focus on the actual ship, especially when they are testing its limits while being chased by hostile aliens.

SEASON 2

2. CARBON CREEK (5/10) (also recommended)
This is a popular episode, though to be honest I find it a bit too low-key. It is at least refreshingly different, as T’Pol relates the unknown story of the REAL first contact between humans and Vulcans, when a Vulcan survey team was stranded on Earth in the 1950s.

4. DEAD STOP (6/10) (also recommended)
The Enterprise encounters an automated repair station in space. (This episode follows on from previous episode ‘Minefield’, but watching that one is not essential.) This is an agreeable mystery adventure story, and the repair station is nicely designed, with its white interior very reminiscent of 1970s sci-fi. The only real downside is a bit of wooden acting from Travis (a brief appearance of his muscular torso is not adequate compensation).

15. CEASE FIRE (8/10) (outstanding)
Archer is called in to prevent a military incident turning into all-out war between Andorians and Vulcans. As things progress, he finds himself caught in a rubble-strewn war zone while fleets of Vulcan and Andorian starships prepare for battle above the planet.
This is Enterprise firing on all cylinders. The production looks good, and the script is well structured. The story has tension and a feeling of importance, and there are no side-stories to distract. The weakest regular characters are kept to the side. Shran makes a reappearance; this is also the episode that saw Vulcan ambassador Soval promoted to fan favourite. This story also pays off continuity that’s been building for a season and a half – Archer’s relationships with Shran, Soval and T’Pol, and the ongoing tension between Andorians and Vulcans. The only possible weakness is I’m not sure the actor playing Shran’s 2nd-in-command was up to the job.

16. FUTURE TENSE (7/10) (also recommended)
Another strong episode. Enterprise discovers a damaged spaceship that contains some intriguing secrets. Soon Enterprise is fighting off several groups of aliens who want to get their hands on this technology. The Suliban are there, as are the mysterious Tholians, who we will meet again in the Mirror Universe episodes. The futuristic space/time technology is presented in clever ways to do with spatial relations and perceptions of time.

18. THE CROSSING (6/10) (also recommended)
The Enterprise encounters a ship of etherial beings who offer the crew the opportunity of transcending their physical bodies. Naturally, all is not as it seems…
This episode has a feeling of the original Star Trek series, with its one-off encounters with strange beings and phenomena. The story is well-structured, with building intrigue and tension, and all the cast have something to do.

23. REGENERATION (6/10) (also recommended)
If you like the Borg…
This episode is a neat little thriller that follows on from events depicted in the film First Contact. The first “act” of the show follows an unfamiliar group of characters as they discover strange cybernetic creatures preserved in the ice of Earth’s Arctic Circle. Some may compare this sequence with the film remake of The Thing, but for me it is most reminiscent of the opening scene of 1932’s The Mummy. Anyway, the human investigators next appear transformed into inhuman “Borg” (though not named as such in the episode), piloting a stolen shuttle back to their homeworld while attacking and incorporating any starship that strays into their path. The crew of the Enterprise’s attempt to rescue captives from the Borg soon becomes a struggle for survival. My advice: ignore any alleged breaches of canon, go with the flow and enjoy the ride.

24. FIRST FLIGHT (6/10) (also recommended)
The producers of Enterprise originally conceived something radically different, with the first season set largely on Earth before the NX-01 was even launched. This idea was quashed by network executives, who insisted on something that looked more like conventional “Star Trek”. This well-written episode is an echo of that original concept, being mostly a flashback to Archer’s earlier days in the NX program. The story is quite small and low key, and the better for that. We meet Archer’s rival for the captaincy of the Enterprise, and get to understand their different characters. We also witness Archer’s first meeting with Trip, and the formation of their friendship. This is bookended by a nice sequence of Archer and T’Pol exploring a nebula, which gives the opportunity to reflect on the events of the flashback, and also show the warm relationship that has developed between these two characters.

26. THE EXPANSE (6/10) (core continuity)
This episode sets up the arc of season 3, and does a good job of establishing the sense of danger and tension that will persist through the following season. The one quibble one might make is with the plot’s dependence on “fridge logic”: there is no good reason for the enemy to send their prototype weapon to Earth, except to get our heroes underway on their new mission. That aside, this is a good and enjoyable episode.

SEASON 3
This season has a continuous arc, so selective viewing means you miss things. Fortunately, relevant info is summarised at the start of most episodes.

1. THE XINDI (6/10) (core continuity)
This episode shows our heroes getting their first information about their attackers (the Xindi), and establishes the various plot elements we’ll see developed over the season. T’Pol helping Trip with Vulcan neuropressure looks like a return to the cheesy decon scenes from earlier in the series, but in this case it will feed into the development of the Trip/T’Pol relationship over the season. The special military team (M.A.C.O.) now on board the Enterprise are a good change from those eternal victims, the “redshirts”, and they have an impressive action scene rescuing the captain and his engineer from a slave mine. A good start to season 3.

2. ANOMALY (6/10) (core continuity)
This ep increases the feeling of tension and danger from the previous ep. The threat of spatial anomalies is more immediate, and the discovery of the sphere gives that classic sci-fi sense of wonder. The danger surrounding Enterprise and the extreme importance of their mission feed into an exploration of moral ambivalence, similar in theme to DS9’s classic “In the pale moonlight”, but this will be explored over half a season rather than forgotten by the next episode.

5. IMPULSE (6/10) (also recommended)
This is a fun little episode, being Star Trek’s version of a zombie movie. If the Borg are slow zombies, then these ones are fast…. The wrecked ship our heroes explore is convincing in scale and atmosphere. We also learn a little more about the mysterious substance Trellium-D.

7. THE SHIPMENT (5/10) (core continuity)
This is not the most exciting episode, but it does do a good job of further fleshing out the Xindi species, and shows our heroes getting closer to their goal.

8. TWILIGHT (8/10) (outstanding)
Although this episode does not end up affecting the season arc, it’s an Enterprise highlight. The post-disaster future portrayed becomes very convincing and atmospheric, and more importantly it has genuine emotional weight, particularly in the development of Archer and T’Pol’s relationship, but also in the ways other characters have been affected by future developments. The ultimate scientific solution to Archer’s problem is clever, and reflects on the themes of temporal and spatial anomalies that ENT made its speciality.

[This section to be completed]

9. NORTH STAR (6/10) (also recommended)

10. SIMILITUDE (6/10) (outstanding)
This is generally regarded as one of Enterprise’s best episodes.

15. HARBINGER (6/10) (core continuity)
There are three subplots in this episode: the best and most important involves the discovery of a mysterious probe, the contents of which give our heroes crucial insight into the sinister intentions of the mysterious sphere-builders. Second, Malcolm’s issues with the MACOs undermining his authority comes to a head in a slightly silly way. Finally, we see Trip and T’Pol’s relationship taken to “the next level”, which is honestly a bit cringe-inducing, but things with them will improve from here. So it’s a mixed episode, but worth watching.

16. DOCTOR’S ORDERS (7/10) (also recommended)
If you like Phlox…

17. HATCHERY (7/10) (also recommended)
The key to enjoying this episode is understanding that the story isn’t about the Captain, it’s about how his crew react to his behaviour.

18. AZATI PRIME (5/10) (core continuity)
Not great, but necessary to understand the following episode ‘Damage’.

Etc. …

EPISODES TO SKIP — REVIEWS

SEASON 1

3. STRANGE NEW WORLD (3/10)
The set-up is stupid, with the crew roaming the first planet they find without scanning it or taking precautions beforehand. The main plot, with a landing party suffering hallucinations and paranoia due to psychotropic pollen, gets a bit tiresome and requires us to know and care more about these characters than we do after only three episodes. Like most of these skippable episodes, there are still enjoyable parts (generally involving Phlox or Malcolm on the ship).

5. TERRA NOVA (4/10)
Enterprise has been accused of unoriginality, and this is a prime candidate. The Enterprise crew find a planet where the human colonists suffered a disaster and are now primitives, distrustful of Earth people. As you might expect, they are all friends by the end. The thing that really sinks it for me is the odd dialect the primitives use; it’s realistic that such a thing would evolve, but the combination of odd word choices and careful, modern enunciation makes it seem silly. This issue of silly dialect sinking an episode also occurs in Season 3’s Extinction, which had the same director as this one.

9. FORTUNATE SON (4/10)
Not terrible. The concept is interesting (the problem of space pirates preying on long-range haulers), but the delivery of the moral lesson is heavy-handed, and the actor who plays Travis shows himself to be stiff and unconvincing (you can see why the character was downplayed in later seasons).

12. DEAR DOCTOR (5/10)
This episode has an interesting set-up, but the resolution is justly controversial. As with many Star Trek stories exploring the Prime Directive of non-interference, it falls on its face by insisting on a simplistic solution to a complex problem. In this case, the issue is compounded by inferring that the laws of evolution actually have a moral dimension and should not be interfered with. Captain Archer rightly points out that we interfere with the “laws” of evolution all the time, but the heavy hand of the writer makes sure the intended story conclusion is reached: we must let one species and their society die out, because another, co-existing species MIGHT in time evolve to take their place. It’s a shame this foolishness ruins an otherwise decent episode.
(Apparently the original plan was that the decision was Doctor Phlox’s alone, which might have made more dramatic sense as well as giving some insight into Denobulan culture; However, the powers-that-be said that Phlox couldn’t keep such info from his captain, hence the unsatisfactory conclusion we are left with.)

16. FUSION (4/10)
This mostly downbeat episode is centred on T’Pol and a rather heavy-handed rape metaphor. (Its sequel is Season 2 ep ‘Stigma’.)

18. ACQUISITION (4/10)
I don’t mind that the Ferenghi are depicted “too soon”, as some fans do. The problem is that this episode is pitched as a comedy, but just isn’t funny (except for Trip running around in his underwear).

21. VOX SOLA (4/10)
The set-up of this episode is good, featuring an encounter with the Easily Offended Aliens (who will reappear in Season 2’s ‘A Night in Sickbay’), and some nice character moments. Once the main plot starts, however, things proceed mechanically, and the character stuff is mostly reduced to bickering. It doesn’t help that there is a jarring disparity between the CGI rendering of the alien-of-the-week, and what was created for the actors to physically interact with.

24. TWO DAYS & TWO NIGHTS (4/10)
The crew descend to Risa (AKA the Planet of Whores) for shore leave, and this show descends to the beige-ness that marks the worst of Berman-era Trek.
The most interesting of the four subplots is set aboard ship, as Doctor Phlox enters hibernation, only to be revived to treat an emergency patient. Malcom and Trip get the ‘funny’ plot, as they look sleazily upon alien females in a bar, only to end up robbed and unconscious. There is admittedly a funny pay-off line (delivered by Trip), plus the chance to see the boys in their underwear again (their ‘Starfleet blues’). Archer hangs around his hotel room but still somehow meets an alien female, who turns out to be using him to get info on the Suliban. This is interesting in theory but plodding in practice, and there’s no real pay-off. Finally, Hoshi practices speaking alien languages and simpering, and ends up “hooking up” with another tourist, the whole interaction devoid of interest and passion.
Overall, this episode feels both dull and pointless, though as mentioned there are a few enjoyable moments.

SEASON 2

5. A NIGHT IN SICKBAY (5/10)
Although I personally don’t have any great problem with this episode, a number of people are vocal in finding it objectionable. In particular, the objectionable features seem to be: Captain Archer becoming obsessed with his sick dog to the neglect of his diplomatic duties, the fact that Porthos the dog peeing on a sacred tree is an important plot point, and the sleep-deprived captain apparently becoming sexually obsessed with T’Pol.
My own feeling is that this is a lightly comic episode, not to be taken seriously. And I think there is a subtext most viewers miss: after more than a year of this dangerous and historic mission, the constant sense of crushing responsibility has finally gotten to Archer, and he is actually having a nervous breakdown.
Either way, I think the best part of this episode is the insight we get into what Doctor Phlox gets up to in his sickbay when the rest of the crew is busy. Let’s call this an episode for the aficionados…

6. MARAUDERS (4/10)
It’s the Magnificent Seven in space – again. The plot proceeds in a routine way, directed very prosaicly, and the “solution” our heroes arrive at to the problem of Klingons preying on miners is feeble and implausible.

7. THE SEVENTH (4/10)
The good – there is some nice drama and intrigue in the climactic scenes, and Trip is cute as he finds that being acting captain is less fun than he expected. The rest – T’Pol spends the episode over-emoting, and the big reveal of her backstory feels underwhelming. Overall, it all feels a bit pointless.

9. SINGULARITY (5/10)
I have mixed feelings about this one. This is a good idea for an episode undermined by its structure. The crew are mentally affected by a strange radiation which causes them to become obsessive before suffering brain-death, but this revelation comes too late: the first half of the episode seems to be just about the crew being irritating, and when T’Pol finally works out what’s going on, she seems ineffectual. A better approach might have been to have the crew change one-by-one rather than all at once, and the crew should not have turned into bad-tempered, unlikable a-holes, but just been obsessive in a humorous way (as it happens, Malcolm and Phlox are the two bright spots in the ep – Malcolm obsessing over his “Reed alert”, and Phlox examining Travis to within an inch of his life). T’Pol should have been more active in looking for a solution rather than just wandering around hoping someone will help her. The last part, when T’Pol “sobers up” Archer and they fly the ship to safety, is good, but I’m not sure it completely makes up for the preceding problems.

10. VANISHING POINT (3/10)
This episode concentrates on Hoshi, who goes through the transporter and begins to worry she is disappearing. The plot has a juvenile quality, being a simplistic fable about feeling “over-looked”. Hoshi is an insipid character at the best of times, and her whining self-involvement is painful to watch, not helped by the dreary music that washes over the whole thing.

11. PRECIOUS CARGO (1/10)
The plot is unexceptionable, but the real problem is the casting, specifically the role of the princess (played by a fashion model married to Salman Rushdi). She is not only amateurish, but irritating and simply unlikable, and since the episode depends on her appealing to the viewer, or at least convincingly appealing to Trip, the whole thing fails. There is also a ‘humorous’ scene of Archer play-acting to convincing a prisoner that T’Pol is a hanging judge preparing to deliver a harsh sentence; not funny.

13. DAWN (4/10)
Trip is stranded on a moon along with the alien who shot his shuttlepod down, and they must somehow work together to survive. Slow, predictable and with little dramatic interest.

14. STIGMA (4/10)
In this sequel to Season 1’s ‘Fusion’, which was a dreary ep with a heavy-handed rape metaphor, T’Pol now has space-AIDS and has to deal with Vulcan prejudice. As ‘relief’ from this plodding morality tale, Phlox’s wife turns up and tries to hit on Trip. The whole thing is depressing, discomfiting and tedious.

22. COGENITOR (5/10)
Some viewers cite this as one of Enterprise’s best episodes, but for me it’s painful to watch. The end result of Trip’s discovery of and attempt to help an oppressed alien is obvious and inevitable from the start, and the enactment is like watching a car crash in slow motion. The best part for me is the exploration of Archer’s difficult position as Earth ambassador, having to suppress his moral instincts in order to establish good relations with newly encountered species, but Trip’s story takes up most of the episode.

SEASON 3 – due to the continuous season arc, even most poor episodes are relevant. Fortunately, relevant info is summarised at the start of most episodes.

3. EXTINCTION (2/10)
Some of the crew discover a virus that transforms them into a different species. The idea itself is alright though not very interesting; the execution is woeful, specifically the choice to have the transformed characters acting like loons. It doesn’t help that these bizarre caveman-like things are supposed to represent members of an advanced civilisation. The result is painful to watch. Thankfully this episode can be skipped without missing anything essential to the season arc.

4. RAJIIN (4/10)
This is a weak episode, but it does include events relevant to later episodes, so I’m unsure how to categorise it. The episode is important to the season arc, but does not tell a satisfying story in itself (a hazard of story arcs); the main guest character is emblematic of the “sexy sexism” which was prevalent in TOS and TNG, but which now feels rather dated; the guest actress is not great, whereas a better performance might have made the episode better. It is interesting to see the unusual Xindi weapons, and we now know they are developing an anti-human bioweapon. Since the bioweapon story comes to a head in the ep “Carpenter Street”, which is also on my skip list, I think this ep can probably be overlooked.

6. EXILE (5/10)
This is an episode of two distinct parts. The discovery of new information about the moon-sized “spheres” and their possible purpose is interesting, but the story of Hoshi being the unwilling guest of a lonely telepath is dull and annoying. If this was a TNG episode, it would still feel hackneyed, but at least Marina Sirtis as Troi was an interesting screen presence compared to the actor playing Hoshi. The info gained at the end of this episode leads into the next one, but fortunately it is also summarised at the start of that ep.

[This section to be completed]

11. CARPENTER STREET (5/10)
A weak episode, in which the anti-human weapon mentioned in “Rajiin” is defeated. This is mentioned in later episodes, but it’s really not essential viewing. For me the best thing about this episode is the way it briefly touches on a 70s cop show vibe.

SEASON 4 – A mix of stand-alone episodes and 2 or 3-episode arcs.

3. HOME (4/10)
The Archer stuff drags it down.

10. DAEDELUS (4/10)

17. BOUND (6/10)
Once you realise what has been going on for most of the episode, it all makes sense, but for the first half you might think this is the sleaziest Star Trek episode ever.

20. DEMONS (5/10)
|
21. TERRA PRIME (5/10)

22. THESE ARE THE VOYAGES (4/10)
Actually, there are worse episodes of
Enterprise, but as a finale this is bizarrely beside the point, as though the writers were only vaguely familiar with the show.

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Trying to get my thoughts in order…

Over the weekend I watched four Star Trek films: 5 (The Final Frontier), 6 (The Undiscovered Country), 7 (Generations), and 8 (First Contact). I hadn’t seen any of them for at least a couple of years, and I found my reactions to some had changed, and some had stayed the same.

TFF I still like, though of course it has serious flaws of structure (too jokey in the middle, and the journey to the God planet too short and easy). But I like the character stuff, and the way they are tearing down idols in the manner of TOS.
TUC I find I like less than I did in younger years: apart from dinner with the Klingons and the “are we obsolete” scene, I find it hard to like. There are a lot of things about it that niggle at me, but then we could say that of almost any Trek film. I haven’t been able to figure out why this one rubs me the wrong way, but there it is.
GEN was a lot better than I previously thought; much has been made of the plot problems of the Nexus and Kirk’s death, but if we can accept these then there is a lot to like. The first 40 minutes are great; after this the level remains, on average, very good. We could wish for Kirk to end another way, but the intentions of the writers and actors were sincere, and I find that counts for something.
FC doesn’t impress me as much as it used to, now that I’ve become familiar with its plot; the various strands of the plot don’t add up to a lot, and I find I don’t much care about Picard or Data’s encounters with the Borg. (And once again the “we don’t use money in the future” speech seems unbelievable to me)

Now, what elements are there in common among the films I like, and the films I don’t? I think a large part of it may be to do with grandeur of scale, both physical and thematic.

TUC and FC feel relatively small in scale:
Despite the distances supposedly travelled in TUC, it seems like all the locations are in ready reach of each other (Earth, Kronos, Rura Penthe, Khitomer), and travel between them is easy and brief. The Kronos court room, the mines, and the conference hall all feel too small in scale (though for some reason the Klingon ship interior is HUGE). The interior of the Enterprise is widely explored, but only in the bathetic search for boots (and mashed potatoes).
FC is set on Earth, admittedly Earth of the past, but as usual with time travel stories the mechanism is basically ‘press X for past, press Y for future’. The lack of effort in the travel means I don’t feel impressed by the change in time-location. Also, the new Enterprise feels very cramped and small in scale for some reason.

Both these stories are very grounded in politics and military operations. Cochrane’s flight should be an exception to this, but unfortunately it is commandeered by Riker, who barks orders at Cochrane and gives off the attitude that space flight is mundane.

TFF and GEN by contrast deal with larger things:
In TFF, Nimbus III feels like a neglected outpost very remote from civilization. Just the look and attitude of things there suggest it’s a long difficult journey to reach it. The subsequent journey to galactic centre is sadly much too easy, but there is still a sense of moving from one kind of space to a very different one, and then stepping onto an alien world.
GEN has its roaming anomaly, which regularly traverses the entire galaxy every few years. The initial encounter has an impressively vast appearance, and the later stellar cartography scene gives a sense of the interstellar distances and forces that are involved in this story. The crash of the saucer-section is not as impressive as the film-makers hoped, and neither is the part of the story set in the Nexus, but the mountain peak Soran has chosen as his launch site is convincingly arid, rugged and remote.
There is also an unusual sense of temporal scale, with long-lived (immortal?) characters connecting the two periods of the story, and Kirk meeting Picard not by travelling through time, but by a kind of shortcut through “God’s waiting room”.

In contrast to the previous mentioned films, TFF and GEN are concerned with metaphysical themes:
TFF is essentially about a religious pilgrimage, along the way raising questions about the nature of God and faith, and the necessity of suffering, and it also touches on Vulcan philosophy.
GEN too is essentially a religious investigation: what is Nexus if not a physically observable Heaven? The harmonious wish fulfilment of heavenly life is compared unfavourably with the potential moral advancement of reality, in which suffering is balanced by the possibility of “making a difference”. Confining the minds of those caught in the Nexus, Heaven is smaller than the universe, rather than being infinite.

I guess we can deduce from my speculations the sorts of stories that interest me. Although I’m not much interested in morality tales of the ‘tolerance=good!’ sort, I like stories that reflect on the nature of life and humanity. OTOH I imagine that these same contemplative aspects might be, for other Trek fans, irrelevant or even a source of distaste.

Amanda Lewis has written a hagiography of the novelist Haruki Murakami, and apparently believes he deserves the Nobel prize. Let’s overlook that the prize is historically a badge of ephemerality, of middle-brow worthiness, of mediocrity.

Lewis believes Haruki Murakami became a more important writer when he got a message to convey. She helpfully summarises his message: individuals are more important than groups, individual perception is more important than historical truth or fact, violence is caused by depersonalisation of individuals. Well, that’s handy. Now we have the message, we don’t need to read the books.

One point of Haruki Murakami’s that Lewis emphasises near the end of her essay is that fact is near-worthless next to hearsay. It is somehow more “true”. Well, of course we are familiar with the idea that a poetic truth has more value, or is more profound than a mundane fact of reality. But it’s not necessarily true. Things that we call profound SEEM important; their actual importance is another thing.

For example, in Murakami’s “After the quake” he says (says Lewis) that the only person emotionally affected by news of a distant earthquake is a four-year-old girl, who has “hysterical fits” after watching news reports, because she has not yet learned the apathy of adults. Wow, what a deep truth about the innocence of childhood and moral degradation of adulthood. Except that a girl who had such fits would be extremely unusual, as four-year-olds feel very little empathy except for people who are close to them. The author’s great “truth” is a cheap poetic device conceived by someone who doesn’t know much about how people’s minds really work. The fact that he is “socially conscious” does not vindicate him. His “truth” is vacuous and inane.

At the end of the essay, Lewis relates some anecdotes about encountering the “Japanese mind”, but is unable to relate this to Haruki Murakami’s thesis in the obvious way: he has developed concern for the value of overlooked individual experience, contrasted with his previous self-professed contempt for the “masses”. But Lewis’s anecdotes show that most people don’t want to be individuals as much as they want to be like everyone else.

Instead of delivering a message, Murakami should be asking questions: What is the value of the individuality of a person who despises this quality in themselves? Of what value is that person, compared with a person who does not think their opinions and beliefs have universal qualities? And is “individuals have value” enough of a take-home message to entitle the novelist to a prize?
 

If you go looking for song lyrics on the internet, you’ll usually find the same version copy-pasted to every lyrics site, and if that version of the lyrics is incorrect, you’re usually just out of luck, and will probably never find out what the lyrics really are.

With that said, here are the correct lyrics for the Slowdive song Celia’s Dream:

Celia’s Dream

She flies –
She’s gone to ride an angel’s breath
Gone to taste a dream
And every time I call her
A shadow calls in vain
But she takes –
She loves it all and leaves
And everything feels free

She gives –
She told me that she loved me
Love just for a day
And all the time I feel her
I feel her fade away
But she takes –
She gives it all and fades
And everything feels good
The clouds like shadows pass
She’s passing like the day

She takes –
She gives it all and leaves
And everything feels good
The clouds like shadows pass
She’s passing like the day

I just watched Shadow Prime Minister Tony Abbott at a press conference reiterating at length his simple anti-refugee policy (in case you hadn’t heard, it’s “Stop the boats”. I’m not sure if there should be an exclamation point there). It’s interesting to note that whereas the Liberal Party’s policy used to be a straight appeal to xenophobia (the fear and hatred of foreigners), Abbott now wants to have it both ways: the policy still prevents Australia being invaded by foreigners (AKA potential new Australians), but it is also a humanitarian policy to prevent the “terrible, tragic” deaths of these evil invading foreigners. There’s little doubt that this new angle is simply a ploy to entice humanitarian-minded voters who don’t analyse things beyond their immediate emotions.

Without a doubt, the Labor Party’s revision of previous refugee policy led to increased problems in various areas. While they had good intentions, they didn’t take into account just how complicated the situation is, and how one policy change can have a domino effect of unintended consequences. Once they realised this, they did their best to revert to previous methods, but since this time their early policy has been used as a stick to beat them by both refugee advocates and the Liberal Party. But still it’s hard to believe that towing refugee boats back into international waters is a workable solution; certainly, it hardly lines up with the Liberals’ recent humanitarian pose, to refuse permission to dock to dangerously unstable, leaking boats loaded with women and children.

How much of a danger do unstopped boats represent? For a population of over 20 million, a few thousand extra immigrants does not realistically present a serious problem. Indeed, what is being treated in Australia as an exceptional problem is for countries with land borders (i.e. most countries) just part of the cost of doing business. They expect illegal immigration flow, and have internal services to trace and control such people. How do Australia’s operations in this area compare with other countries? Have we all this time been relying on the sea to do all the work for us?

The issue of conditions in refugee detention camps is similarly an area of confusion and hypocrisy. The same institutions are accused by the Liberal Party of mollycoddling lawbreakers, and by refugee advocates of abuses of human rights. The issue of young people in these places is controversial, but critics seem unwilling to understand the problem in detail.

First, there is the notion that keeping people in detention is inhumane, especially if they are young. This doesn’t bear examination: teenagers generally spend most of their time confined either in school or at home, and this is regarded as normal, nonabusive, non-trauma-inducing. There is no reason that a refugee teenager should be regarded as especially psychologically vulnerable in this situation – indeed, considering these people are supposedly escaping war and deadly persecution, you’d expect they’d just be glad of a bit of peace.

Second, there is the matter of self-harm. Given the above argument that detention should not in itself be considered a cause of gross psychological trauma, what credence should be given to regular reports of self harm? All else being equal, I think we must assume that a lot of people have been advised, either by fellow-refugees or by refugee advocates, that these dramatic gestures are a good way of “gaming” the system – getting special treatment and privileges, even release into the community.

But all else may NOT be equal. One matter that gets little attention is the consequence of keeping a lot of teenage boys and young men confined together (supposedly for the safety of women and young children – does this mean that when infant boys reach a certain age they are removed from their mothers and put into the men’s section?). Those who are aware of how things work in prisons, schools and deprived neighbourhoods, know that unless these situations are strongly regulated a culture of violence and bullying can dominate. And considering these people come from societies with much more old-fashioned entrenched notions of masculine dominance, this is an imminent problem.

In this case, what is needed to prevent psychological problems in vulnerable people is MORE regulation of their lives – closer monitoring and stricter discipline against bullying and gang activities. This might make the more violent inmates feel psychologically repressed and unhappy, but, you know, fuck ’em.
Anyway, I am surprised that this aspect of life in detention has not been reported on.

While reading an article called The Science of Loneliness, I found this interesting passage:

Functional magnetic resonance imaging scans showed that the experience of being snubbed lit up a part of the subjects’ brains (the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex) that also lights up when the body feels physical pain.

I asked Eisenberger why, if the same part of our brain processes social insult and bodily injury, we don’t confuse the two. She explained that physical harm simultaneously lights up another neural region as well, one whose job is to locate the ache—on an arm or leg, inside the body, and so on. What the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex registers is the emotional fact that pain is distressing, be it social or physical. She calls this the “affective component” of pain. In operations performed to relieve chronic pain, doctors have lesioned, or disabled, the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex. After the surgery, the patients report that they can still sense where the trouble comes from, but, they add, it just doesn’t bother them anymore.

What this means is that emotional pain isn’t a metaphorical, “all in your head” thing. It is literal pain, the difference from physical pain being that it is not located at a specific site in the body. From this we can see why people use alcohol and opiates to cope with emotional distress – they function as literal and functional anaesthetics. Which puts the matter of “substance abuse” in a different perspective. You don’t tell someone with a broken leg that their need for painkillers is a character flaw, do you?

(I must advise those tempted to self-medicate for anxiety that taking large amounts of paracetamol will cause liver damage.)

This linked article collects short pieces on the reconciliation of religion and atheism:
After God: What can atheists learn from believers?

The title is a bit of misdirection, as it’s not suggested that atheists can learn anything useful from what believers in religion may tell them. Rather, the main subject is ways in which the lives of the godless can be improved by elements of religion.

The backlash against the blinkered aspects of the “New Atheists” has in fact been quite blinkered in itself – yes, the NAs may not know every nook and cranny of the theology they are arguing against, and the history of the USSR shows that a (supposedly) godless nation may perpetrate all the horrors of the religious state and then some, but underlying the backlash argument is the thought that, because the NAs deny the existence of God and the spiritual, they are obviously wrong, and any specific citings of St. Augustine are more for the sake of form than necessity of argument.

In terms of cognitive development, both groups are stuck at certain points analogous to those which children pass through. The religious are at the stage of believing that morality comes from authority (i.e. murder is wrong because God forbids it/it’s against the law), of wishful thinking (willpower and prayer can affect the world), and magical thinking (events occur due to will of supernatural entities, morally-determined providence or karma; non-sentient things have moral qualities).

The atheists are at a later step, where they understand the distinction between the world and the self: the world is distinct from the individual’s mind and body and so cannot be moved by will alone; events in the world are not necessarily directed at them personally by benevolent or malevolent powers; the moral status of a thing or event derives from the judgement of the observer, not the thing itself. From this stage naturally arises disbelief in divine will, souls, magic, ghosts, and moral absolutism (not the same as rejecting morality, but rather understanding that other views may exist).

When it comes to intellectual and moral development, we always imagine that we have reached the final stage. The atheists are a step beyond the believers, but there is another step to take: There is no use in knowing the world if you do not know yourself.

It is a fallacy to attribute religion to religious institutions. Obviously the belief came first. Also, I think that if atheists are honest they will admit to the weaknesses of which they accuse the believers. I’ve observed in myself, precisely due to my desire to be a strict atheist, all sorts of thoughts which are supposed to derive externally from religion or superstition. Have you ever willed a car to start or a computer to work faster? Have you ever prayed to get to a destination on time? Do you believe deep down that certain moral standards are indivisible? Have you ever felt that a dead person was somehow still present?

We all think like this, even Richard Dawkins. From this, I think we must conclude that our minds are mystically inclined, even if the world in which we live is not. This is something that Carl Jung recognised and explored (though I think deep understanding of the situation will have to wait for radical advances in neuroscience). Jung suggested in The Undiscovered Self that being denied overt religious experience would cause mental collapse, but I think the mind is more adaptable: if the idea of God is consciously rejected, something else will inevitably fill that mental slot, be it Communism, nation, family, sports, or even the idea of “nothing” itself (to paraphrase The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, some people go to church, some keep birds, and some join the Communist Party). In a similar way, monotheistic religions inevitably develop a crypto-pantheon of prophets, saints or similar venerated figures, because this fulfills an inherent psychological need.

Several secular religious forms have already been observed: performances of Beethoven’s 9th symphony have long been regarded, not always consciously, as a kind of eucharist, if not a downright ecstatic mass ritual. English literary culture rests on both the King James Bible and the plays of Shakespeare (I recently watched a documentary in which an actor talked about audiences speaking Hamlet’s soliloquy along with him, which certainly has something of the church about it, and elsewhere the extended analysis of the play texts was nothing less than hermeneutics). In the U.S.A., the national Constitution is revered on a par with the Ten Commandments. In Russia, the great novelists are regarded as something like national prophets. Experiences like childbirth and mountain-climbing have been called “spiritual” by people who’ve never given thought to the condition of their souls. None of these have been accorded the overt recognition given to the institutions of religion.

(Should these be called secular religions or secular cults? Technically, because they are smaller, more personal and less externally dogmatic, they are cults, whereas totalitarian creeds like Communism and Fascism were religions.)

Can we consciously establish broad-based secular religions, as Daniel Dennett and Alain de Botton have suggested? There are some tricky obstacles to overcome, the trickiest of which is: How can you believe in something which you simultaneously don’t believe? But then, there are plenty of paradoxes in the orthodox religions. They are called “Mysteries“.

First, we must acknowledge what is in our minds, perhaps by a catechism – “I have no soul, and yet my soul is everything. The world has no meaning, and yet is utterly beautiful and profound. Ritual is mere action, and yet it connects me to people, places, and myself. There is no “Good” nor “Evil”, and yet kindness is the greatest virtue, and cruelty the foulest sin. Death is the end, but I feel everything somehow eternally remains. I am an animal – and yet I love, and my mind encompasses the universe.” That’s just an improvised suggestion.

Texts of faith: there is something unsatisfying about religious texts created to be such by an individual. Apart from the problem of personal idiosyncracy being transformed by authority into unanswerable dogma, the work of one person rarely has the richness and sheer size that make older religious canons seem so profound. Whatever the new Bible might turn out to be, it must be complex, and the work of many authors (or an author who contains multitudes).

As for secular ritual, there are plenty of things which serve as ecstatic experiences, but few that offer regular solemn observance, and none that offer forgiveness, acceptance and transformation of pain into transcendence. Perhaps such a thing could not exist until a secular faith is consciously created.

Here is an article in the New Yorker, on belief, atheism, and the populous realms between: http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/atlarge/2014/02/17/140217crat_atlarge_gopnik?currentPage=all

Particularly of interest to me is the discovery of Auguste Comte, a French Humanist who indeed founded a Humanist “religion”, the Religion of Humanity. His development of strict and complex doctrines for priests and rituals seems rather oppressive, and therefore a mistake, but I like the idea of Humanist chapels.

Perhaps if I was rich I would build a Hall of Humanity in the centre of the city. It would be a beautiful space, like a cathedral or a great museum, but warm and welcoming, surrounded by a simple garden and with chapel niches containing statues or busts of great people, each with a plaque describing their achievement. Statesmen and public figures would strive for remarkable feats of altruism and expansion of knowledge, in the hope that one day they too would have a place in the hallowed Hall (all appointments would be posthumous, of course). On the other hand, they would be fearful of ending up in the basement of the Hall, where mass murderers and those who have suppressed knowledge, health and opportunity for the sake of doctrine would be placed (I’m thinking now of Tony Abbott and his war on science (and his Health Ministry staffed by alcohol and fast-food lobbyists)). The lighting here would be dark and fearful, and the smell of the sewer would waft up through vents in the floor. Every religion needs its devils.