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.

The prequel Star Trek TV series Enterprise got a lot of hate on its initial appearance, though fans have become more circumspect in the intervening years, and a few (including myself) have come out as outright fans of the show. The series certainly had flaws, though I think cases of absolute rejection of the show were due less to these, and more to pedantic continuity issues, and simple weariness with the multiple, ongoing iterations of the franchise.

CHARACTERS:
THE GOOD: Though others found him controversial (perhaps partly due to familiarity with the actor from another popular series), I liked Captain Archer. He’s the first captain since Kirk whose wrestling with moral issues is actually visible on his face. Sidekick characters Trip and Malcom Reed are generally much loved – no controversy there. I always enjoyed Dr. Phlox, though some are cold on him for some reason; I do think he never quite felt like an integrated member of the crew. The Vulcan character T’Pol was alright but never became as likable and interesting as her prominent position in the show would suggest; I think this proves my theory that Vulcans are better played by actors who resemble them somewhat in real life. Scholarly Nimoy has a more appropriate psychological background than perky girl-next-door Blalock. Lastly, the Andorian character Shran rightly became a much-loved recurring character, despite being ostensibly a hostile alien.

THE BAD: I feel like an arsehole for saying it, but the two non-White members of the crew were played by the two worst actors in the cast. Each series has had … inconsistencies, shall we say, in casting, but that doesn’t make the ones in Enterprise any easier to overlook. The actor playing Mayweather is badly miscast as the upbeat, innocent kid of the show; he mostly portrays this quality by just grinning like a goon. In season 4 the character finally got a bit gritty, which turned out to play a bit more to the actor’s abilities. Hoshi, as portrayed, was just bland and shallow, not actually jarring as in the case of Mayweather, just a disappointment whenever the script required more than tech-speak.  Archer started off as a bit of a jerk, aggressive and heedless of advice to an unrealistic extent; fortunately this trait diminished as the show went on.  Shran suffered the opposite problem: he started as a smart, bold character, but with every reappearance became more ineffectual and petulant. In the final episode, Shran’s degradation is complete and he is simply a loser.

THE WRITING:
After a very good pilot episode, Enterprise quickly got bogged down in some very unimaginative repetition of stories familiar from previous series, especially TNG and TOS. There were also the issues of story problems not having strong emotional connection to the main characters, and of script structures (A story, B story, C story, and runner) not feeling integrated. Things improved in the second half of season 2, concluding with an intriguing finale. It’s generally agreed that the 3rd series was a great improvement on the first two, though the lingering bad reputation meant some still weren’t willing to give it a chance.
Opinion is split on which is the best of seasons 3 and 4; I think those who hold up 4 as the best do so because it at last explored continuity links with the later series in greater depth than the “guest appearance” of episodes like “Acquisition” (Ferengi) and “Regeneration” (Borg). I found 4 very inconsistent. In particular, “Home”, though a fan favourite, seems to me like a lame soap opera; The Augments 3-episode arc is sabotaged by both the acting and costuming of the titular superhumans (they look like they are from some terrible 80s music video); The Vulcan arc has a mediocre episode between two great ones; Daedelus is predictable and dull. There is generally a feeling of good ideas receiving only adequate realisation.
Season 3 is unique in having a strong story arc throughout. It derives a unique emotional power and resonance from its obvious reflection of the paranoia, anxiety and moral conflict that followed the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. At the same time, advantage is taken of the opportunity represented by venturing into a dangerous territory not seen in the previous shows: the spatial anomalies, awesome spheres and the uniquely various nature of the Xindi race represent the science fiction aspect of Star Trek at its best.
The final episode of Enterprise is justly derided, and I won’t go into a detailed analysis here. Instead I’ll just say that the worst thing about it is the wasted opportunity it represents. I agree with fans that the Terra Prime or Mirror Darkly arcs make a much more satisfactory conclusion.

THE EPISODE RATINGS:
See below my personal ratings (out of 10) for the episodes of the series Star Trek Enterprise. I’ve tried to make each score an average of all the episode’s qualities, not determined by one good or bad element in particular. I find myself in accordance with common fan opinion, in this case, in regarding season two as the weakest (though it really picks up in the 2nd half starting from Cease Fire) and three as the strongest overall. All seasons have some good episodes. For me, some fans have overrated the fourth season due to its referencing of previous series and continuity.


Season 1 Average score 5.12 ; Av score 5+ 5.65
Season 2 Average score 5.19 ; Av score 5+ 5.67
Season 3 Average score 5.79 ; Av score 5+ 5.96
Season 4 Average score 5.64 ; Av score 5+ 5.89
[2nd score is the ratings average omitting low scoring episodes]


Star Trek Enterprise Season 1 Episode Ratings Graph

10
9
8
7 *           *
6   *   *       *     *       *         *   .     *
5           *       *   * * .     * * *     *
4     *   *       *     .   *   *         *   * *
3
2
1
0
  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 2 2 2 2 2
                    0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5

  B F S U T A B C F C S D S S S F R A O D V F D T S
  r i t n e n r i o o i e l h h u o c a e o a e w h
  o g r e r d e v r l l a e a u s g q s t x l s o o
  k h a x r o a i t d e r e d t i u u i a   l e   c
  e t n p a r k l u   n   p o t o e i s i S e r d k
  n   g e   i i i n F t D i w l n   s   n o n t a w
    o e c N a n s a r   o n s e   P i   e l     y a
  B r   t o n g a t o E c g   p   l t   d a H C s v
  o   N e v     t e n n t   o o   a i       e r   e
  w F e d a I T i   t e o D f d   n o       r o a
    l w     n h o S   m r o       e n       o s n P
    i       c e n o   y   g P O   t           s d a
    g W     i     n       s ‘ n               i   r
    h o     d I             J e               n t t
    t r     e c             e                 g w
      l     n e             m                   o 1
      d     t
                                                n
                                                i
                                                g
                                                h
                                                t
                                                s
====================================================

Star Trek Enterprise Season 2 Episode Ratings Graph

10
9
8                             *
7                 *             *   *
6       *                             *       * *   *
5 *   *   *   * *       *   *     *   . * * *     *
4   *       * .           *                 . .
3                   *
2
1
0                     *
  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 2 2 2 2 2 2
                    0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6

  S C M D A M T T S V P T D S C F C T J H T C R F B T
  h a i e   a h h i a r h a t e u a h u o h o e i o h
  o r n a N r e e n n e e w i a t n e d r e g g r u e
  c b e d i a     g i c   n g s u a   g i   e e s n
  k o f   g u S C u s i C   m e r m C m z B n n t t E
  w n i S h d e o l h o a   a   e a r e o r i e   y x
  a   e t t e v m a i u t     F   r o n n e t r F   p
  v C l o   r e m r n s w     i T   s t   a o a l   a
  e r d p i s n u i g   a     r e   s     c r t i   n
    e     n   t n t   C l     e n   i     h   i g   s
  P e         h i y P a k       s   n         o h   e
  a k     S     c   o r         e   g         n t
  r       i     a   i g
  t       c     t   n o
          k     o   t
  2       b     r
          a
          y
======================================================

Star Trek Enterprise Season 3 Episode Ratings Graph

10
9
8               *
7                               * *   *     *
6   *     *       * *   *   * *         * *   * *
5 *     *   * *       *   *         *
4       .
3
2     *
1
0
  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 2 2 2 2
                    0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4

  T A E R I E T T N S C C P S H D H A D T E T C Z
  h n x a m x h w o i a h r t a o a z a h [ h o e
  e o t j p i e i r m r o o r r c t a m e 2 e u r
    m i i u l   l t i p s v a b t c t a   ]   n o
  X a n i l e S i h l e e i t i o h i g F   C t
  i l c n s   h g   i n n n a n r e   e o   o d H
  n y t   e   i h S t t   g g g ‘ r P   r   u o o
  d   i       p t t u e R   e e s y r   g   n w u
  i   o       m   a d r e G m r     i   o   c n r
      n       e   r e   a r     O   m   t   i
              n       S l o     r   e   t   l
              t       t m u     d       e
                      r   n     e       n
                      e   d     r
                      e         s
                      t
===================================================

Star Trek Enterprise Season 4 Episode Ratings Graph

10
9
8             *
7                           *  *
6 * *     * *     *   *   *   *   *  *
5       *       *   .   *       *       * *
4     *             *                       *
3
2
1
0
  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 2 2
                      0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2
     | |     |     |   |     |   | |   |   |
  S S H B C T T A K D O B U T A D B I I D T T
  t t o o o h h w i a b a n h f i o n n e e h
  o o m r l e e a r e s b i e f v u     m r e
  r r e d d     k ‘ d e e t   l e n a a o r s
  m m   e   A F e S e r l e A i r d     n a e
        r S u o n h l v   d e c g   M M s
  F F   l t g r i a u e O   n t e   i i   P A
  r r   a a m g n r s r n   a i n   r r   r r
  o o   n t e e g a     e   r o c   r r   i e
  n n   d i n         E       n e   o o   m
  t t     o t         f             r r   e t
          n s         f                     h
  P P                 e             D D     e
  a a     1           c             a a
  r r     2           t             r r     V
  t t                               k k     o
                                    l l     y
  1 2                               y y     a
                                            g
                                    P P     e
                                    a a     s
                                    r r
                                    t t

                                    1 2

EPISODE GUIDE

These very brief reviews were written a while after viewing the series, so in some cases I was unable to give any details. Hopefully one day I will find time to do a more thorough job.

SEASON 1

1-2. BROKEN BOW [pilot episode] – 7/10
An intriguing and exciting start. A shame the series didn’t live up to this (apparently the network nixed spending the first season building up to the launch of the Enterprise).

3. FIGHT OR FLIGHT – 6/10
I don’t remember this one.

4. STRANGE NEW WORLD – 4/10
Standard planet-makes-crew-nuts episode, with awkward acting and no suspense.

5. UNEXPECTED – 6/10
Interesting to meet these new aliens, and see Trip’s reaction to them.

6. TERRA NOVA – 4/10
The idea of lost colonist children being antagonistic to Enterprise, and living underground, is interesting, but plotting and script are creaky.

7. THE ANDORIAN INCIDENT – 5/10
Interesting to visit Vulcan shrine and meet Andorians (Shran), but the drama isn’t moving.

8. BREAKING THE ICE – 7/10
Not much happens but it’s very well done. Nice to see the crew in action without standard “stakes”.

9. CIVILIZATION – 6/10
A nice “away” story, with intriguing premise and genuine suspense.

10. FORTUNATE SON – 4/10
I barely remember this one.

11. COLD FRONT – 5/10
I barely remember this one.

12. SILENT ENEMY – 6/10
I barely remember this one. The subplot of Hoshi trying to find out Reed’s favourite meal was redundant, and exposes Hoshi’s lack of charisma.

13. DEAR DOCTOR – 5/10
The moral question is unconvincing, but the alien society is interesting, and there are some nice character moments.

14. SLEEPING DOGS – 5/10
The unbelievable silliness of the Klingons, trying to kill everyone they meet, ruins this.

15. SHADOWS OF P’JEM – 4/10
I barely remember this one. It’s often highly rated, so I’ll have to give it another go.

16. SHUTTLEPOD ONE – 6/10
Nice small-scale character piece, with genuine suspense.

17. FUSION – 4/10
Is this the one with the stupid mind-rape? After a nice set-up, it got pretty creaky.

18. ROGUE PLANET – 5/10
Intriguing set-up devolves into dull silliness.

19. ACQUISITION – 5/10
The obligatory Ferengi appearance. Feels redundant.

20. OASIS – 5/10
Nice old-school set-up, with creaky execution.

21. DETAINED – 6/10
Captain and Mayweather find themselves in a prison for Suliban (enemy race). Nice setting and some interesting scenes, but plot resolution is mechanical.

22. VOX SOLA – 4/10
Standard “alien creature seems like a monster but just wants to go home” story. Dull mechanical plotting, and too much weak acting.

23. FALLEN HERO – 5/10
The disgraced Vulcan embassador is an interesting idea, but the actress is much too hearty, and therefore unconvincing. The plot also seems confused.

24. DESERT CROSSING – 4/10
After some awkward set-up, the dilemma of being caught between opposing forces has potential, but story detours into dull desert survival, then peters out.

25. TWO DAYS AND TWO NIGHTS – 4/10
The stuff with the dog is nice, but: the captain’s tentative romance is dull and unconvincing, Hoshi is dull and her love interest seems like a prick, and Reed and name forgotten’s “escapade” is rote, unfunny, unconvincing, and without payoff.

26. SHOCKWAVE, PART 1 – 6/10
Intriguing plot, with setup of thousands killed and Enterprise apparently responsible. Potential diplomatic disaster. Don’t remember what happens next.

SEASON 2

1. SHOCKWAVE, PART 2 – 5/10
Disappointing, fumbling plotting to resolve last season’s cliffhanger. But it is interesting to see the Suliban base.

2. CARBON CREEK – 4/10
Idea with potential, spoiled by dull acting from the Vulcans, and no real emotional interest to the story.

3. MINEFIELD – 5/10
The alien minefield is interesting and dramatic, and the faceless enemy aliens watching was a nice touch. However, the “ticking clock” of the mine on Reed’s leg got dull.

4. DEAD STOP – 6/10
Decent story with interesting set-up of intelligent repair station. The corridor sequence was weak.

5. A NIGHT IN SICKBAY – 5/10
Apparently much-hated. The problem lies in the set-up, in which our supposedly admirable captain took his dog down to the Planet of the Easily Offended, and was surprised that they were offended by its behaviour. The captain’s marvellously silly apology ritual at the end is an amusing payoff.

6. MARAUDERS – 4/10
By-the-numbers Magnificent Seven rip-off, with stupid colonists needing defending, and Klingons surprisingly bad at fighting and tactics.

7. THE SEVENTH – 5/10
Interesting story but silly plotting and weak acting.

8. THE COMMUNICATOR – 5/10
Concept with great potential, episode is sabotaged by too-small scale, dull directing and wooden acting especially from Mayweather.

9. SINGULARITY – 7/10
Everyone gets obsessive due to alien thingy – some nice character moments and interesting story. Two things bug me: Hoshi (as usual), and the mental effects of the radiation seeming more like an infection.

10. VANISHING POINT – 3/10
Joss Whedon would love this stupid “symbolic” story in which Hoshi, after worrying about being superfluous, begins to imagine she is literally vanishing.

11. PRECIOUS CARGO – 1/10
The predictable script is sunk primarily by a hugely obnoxious guest actress, but also by a “hilarious” fake trial with wooden acting from captain and T’Pol.

12. THE CATWALK – 5/10
The set-up had great potential as a “bottle” character study, but is undermined by superfluous alien threat taking over the story.

13. DAWN – 4/10
Standard “marooned with the enemy” story. Sunk by Trip’s wooden acting. Instead of looking desperate, the most emotion he can muster is mild peevishness.

14. STIGMA – 5/10
“Alien AIDS”. Slow, rote plotting. Vulcans acting illogically. T’Pol saying she was mindraped when, according to “Fusion” episode, she wasn’t.

15. CEASE FIRE – 8/10
A great-looking episode, with movie-ish photography. Shran and Soval get lots of interesting things to do, and there’s real suspense and intrigue. Also, the weak secondary actors (Mayweather, Hoshi) have virtually no lines. The whole show should’ve been like this.

16. FUTURE TENSE – 7/10
Interesting elements with “Tardis” spaceship, time paradox, and interesting mysterious aliens. It all seems to come to nothing, unfortunately.

17. CANAMAR – 5/10
Unusual thriller episode with captain on the run, pretending to be a smuggler. This plot was supposedly to be the escape from the Klingon prison after Judgment (ep19), but Berman/Braga screwed it.

18. THE CROSSING – 7/10
Interesting conflict with transcended aliens. Nice enough.

19. JUDGMENT – 6/10
Captain on trial on Klingon world is an interesting premise, but lacks strangely in drama. Nice to see Klingons developed a bit more.

20. HORIZON – 5/10
Mayweather visits the ship he grew up on, and has “drama”. Apart from his weak acting, the plot lacks interest, odd considering the visit is because his dad died. Wasn’t there more dramatic potential in that?

21. THE BREACH – 5/10
A very dull story of retrieving some archaeologists from a cave is relieved by an interesting story of Phlox encountering a prejudiced member of an enemy race.

22. COGENITOR – 5/10
Lovely direction can’t quite redeem this dull story of Trip trying to teach an enemy slave to love freedom.

23. REGENERATION – 6/10
The obligatory Borg episode. Lacks dramatic interest.

24. FIRST FLIGHT – 6/10
Interesting back story for captain and Earth’s space program.

25. BOUNTY – 5/10
Captain kidnapped by bountyhunter (an oddly friendly Tellarite). Rote story but nice character moments and good acting.

26. THE EXPANSE – 6/10
Exciting, dramatic story with focus and momentum, and intriguing set-up for next season.

SEASON 3

1. THE XINDI – 5/10
Visiting an alien mine is interesting, but the action feels rote.

2. ANOMALY – 6/10
I barely remember this one.

3. EXTINCTION – 2/10
Average plot, ruined by ridiculous OTT acting by the regulars. They were supposed to be throwbacks to an intelligent civilisation, not gross neanderthals with silly voices.

4. RAJIIN – 5/10
The “sexy slave” set up is painfully contrived and the slave is not likable. Redeemed by interesting revelations about the Xindi.

5. IMPULSE – 6/10
Potentially interesting setup, but unconvincing execution. The zombie Vulcans seem silly.

6. EXILE – 5/10
Hoshi stays with a telepath, again revealing her acting limitations. More revelations about the Xindi.

7. THE SHIPMENT – 5/10
Interesting “away” story on an enemy planet, befriending an alien and telling him about their situation, in return learning more about the Xindi divisions. Good drama and suspense, nice use of various locations and sets.

8. TWILIGHT – 8/10
What at first seems like a throwaway “what if” story turns out to be an interesting time paradox story with science-fictional setup. Good drama and character moments.

9. NORTH STAR – 6/10
Old-fashioned “cowboy planet” setup, but with excellent production and acting (the aliens are the weakest part of this story). Good drama and character moments, especially modern-dress away team appearing on Old West street.

10. SIMILITUDE – 6/10
Interesting SF setup, nicely focused on character to tell the story. Didn’t impress me as much as first viewing; I think the story needed tightening.

11. CARPENTER STREET – 5/10
The “time travel to Earth’s past” episode. Nice photography and production (supposed to be present day but looks a bit 70s). The Xindi element feels a bit awkward. Nice captain and T’Pol moments.

12. CHOSEN REALM – 6/10
The “wacky alien cult” episode. The idea of a religious war based around the anomaly-causing spheres is interesting, as is the idea that our heroes innocently blasphemed. Sadly, we never delve into the minds of the self-martyring followers.

13. PROVING GROUND – 5/10
Nice action-drama episode, focused on getting info from the enemy’s weapon test. Good to see Shran again, but his betrayal is a bit unconvincing, and there was no need for the “we’re just explorers” ruse against the Xindi – that was just an excuse for a couple of jokes.

14. STRATAGEM – 6/10
Intriguing setup, with captain screwing with a captive’s memories and pretending to be his friend, in order to gain info. Good twisting plot and some character moments.

15. HARBINGER – 6/10
The discovery of the spheremaker probe is intriguing, but the plot feels a bit directionless.

16. DOCTOR’S ORDERS – 7/10
Interesting setup, let down by average script. But nice to spend time with Phlox.

17. HATCHERY – 7/10
The setup is a bit obvious, but the notion of forced imprinting is intriguing, and the insectoid cultural info is interesting. Also the tactical discussions and ticking deadline keep things feeling gritty.

18. AZATI PRIME – 5/10
Interesting scenes, but the plot feels unfocused. I enjoyed the first trip to the weapon planet, and the Captain’s bluster in interrogation.

19. DAMAGE – 7/10
Apart from the Captain’s rather unbelievable return to the Enterprise, it’s good to see the ship facing difficult straits realistically. This is also the episode where T’Pol breaks down, and Captain has to reluctantly commit piracy, so lots of character drama.

20. THE FORGOTTEN – 6/10
The meeting with the Xindi has intrigue. The Trip/T’Pol plot pays off with a tearjerking scene near the end.

21. E[2] – 6/10
Enterprise meets a time-paradox future Enterprise containing their descendents. Some idiot-ball plotting spoils things from about the midpoint, i.e. the silly behaviour of the future captain.

22. THE COUNCIL – 7/10
More Xindi cultural revelations, and meeting-room drama, followed by vicious betrayal (is it still backstabbing if it’s from the front?).

23. COUNTDOWN – 6/10
Good action-drama suspense.

24. ZERO HOUR – 6/10
More nice action-drama, with some weak staging, and stupid “twist” ending.

SEASON 4

1. STORM FRONT, PART 1 – 6/10
This improvises an explanation for last season’s cliffhanger, and pays nice tribute to old school time travel/Nazi planet stories. Hard to believe the Nazis would leave the African Americans unmolested, though.

2. STORM FRONT, PART 2 – 6/10
Reasonably exciting conclusion, also winding up the Temporal Cold War subplot which had never been employed to great effect.

3. HOME – 4/10
Phony character moments: Captain’s “romance”, Reed acting tough in a bar, Phlox being a helpless ninny. Trip’s relationship with T’Pol’s mother was interesting. Shame that wasn’t developed further.

4. BORDERLAND – 5/10
New plot SLOWLY starts up. Very annoying Augments, bad-acting rejects from a New Romantic video. The Orion slavers section is unconvincing.

5. COLD STATION 12 – 6/10
If you ignore the Augments, it’s quite good, with the plot hinging on the dangers held in a genome depository.

6. THE AUGMENTS – 6/10
I don’t remember why I rated this so high – presumably it has good action-drama and suspense, despite the annoying Augments.

7. THE FORGE – 8/10
Intriguing, twisty setup (though with plot-holes) leads to exploring new aspects of Vulcan culture and mysticism. Nice to see Soval get something to do.

8. AWAKENING – 5/10
Following on from previous episode, this continues with intrigue and cultural revelations. Unfortunately undermined by much emotional fraughtness from Vulcans, and superfluity of T’Pau (the “compound” setup is wasted).

9. KIR’SHARA – 6/10
Finale of Vulcan arc. More cultural interest. Don’t remember what else.

10. DAEDELUS – 4/10
Vaguely interesting concept, but dull script and weak performance from guest lead ruin it. The Trip/T’Pol scenes are interesting.

11. OBSERVER EFFECT – 6/10
Interesting concept about transcended aliens possessing crew bodies and observing the ship’s crisis dispassionately. The captain lecturing them about humanity’s superiority at the end was rather silly and let the whole thing down a bit.

12. BABEL ONE – 5/10
Intriguing diplomatic crisis with Enterprise stuck in the middle, though once again Shran is made the “butt monkey”, raging impotently as usual, and with an unconvincing dead lover we never knew. The mysterious enemy ship is a satisfyingly intriguing development.

13. UNITED – 6/10
Nice action-drama with Trip and Reed trying to survive and get off the enemy ship.

14. THE AENAR – 7/10
Interesting subspecies of Andorians introduced and related to the mysterious ships. The necessity to build a psychic remote control unit for the enemy ship is implausible, to say nothing of how fast they build this magical doohickey.

15. AFFLICTION – 6/10
The kidnapping of Phlox is silly and unconvincing, as is Reed’s sudden revelation as 007, but the subsequent rescue mission has nice sense of urgency and mystery.

16. DIVERGENCE – 5/10
Nicely explains the smooth-headed Klingons of the original series, and Phlox gets some nice moments with the Klingons. The Klingons’ desire to shoot everything they see is again unbelievably silly (“Don’t shoot, we have the cure for your plague!” “Die, human!”). The whole combat thing at the end feels unconvincing and unnecessary.

17. BOUND – 6/10
The “Orion slave girls” episode. The first half attempts to emulate the 60s sexy-sexism of the original series, but just seems nasty. Second half vindicates a bit with revelations of Orion control of males via pheromones. Sadly, the Orion girls remain skanky bad actors.

18. IN A MIRROR DARKLY, PART 1 – 7/10
The “evil alternate universe” episode. The character alterations are interesting, but there is too much of Hoshi’s weak acting, and silly, tedious to-and-froing in the plot.

19. IN A MIRROR DARKLY, PART 2 – 6/10
The recreations of the original series Enterprise and costumes are enjoyable, but the plot is very heavily padded. The culmination is a tour de force of sub-par acting from Hoshi. Empress of Earth: “Sorry, your credit card has expired.”

20. DEMONS – 5/10
Interesting story about a terrorist Earthians First movement. Sadly, Shran wasn’t used in the interplanetary conference at the beginning, supposedly because he was appearing in the final episode. You are right, that makes no sense. Peter Weller is terrific as the terrorist leader. Trip/T’Pol are underwhelming. Mayweather is ineffectual in his “romance” subplot.

21. TERRA PRIME – 5/10
Following on from Demons. The terrorist plot doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, but the Mars setting is refreshing, the showdown is reasonably exciting, and of course guest actor Weller is great. The Trip/T’Pol end scene is a real downer.

22. THESE ARE THE VOYAGES – 4/10
This episode is famously hated, but it’s not as bad as (season 1) Cold Front, Silent Enemy, (season 2) Vanishing Point, Precious Cargo, or (season 3) Extinction. That said, the whole story is misguided, and untrue to the spirit and characters of the show. The death of Trip is unnecessary. Shran is wasted again, thought I suppose his butt monkey role is “par for the course” by now (whatever that means). The TNG element was unnecessary and irrelevant (and insufferably smug as always).

… being the blog entry in which I come out as a Star Trek fan. I denied it for many years, because I thought “There is so much that is crap about Star Trek -> I am too critical to be able to call myself a fan.” But then I found out that the Trekkies can be critical, and it’s common for people to love one iteration of the franchise while hating another. So here I am.

I have ranked the films in order of how much I like watching them. I worked out the list not by assessing their flaws and virtues of each film, synthesising them and weighing the synthesised films against each other, but by asking “Which film would I be happiest to bung in the DVD machine and waste a couple of hours with?” And here is the answer to that question. (28 Nov 2014: Each comment followed by a note of more recent thoughts.)

1. (previously 2). II: The Wrath of Khan
Lots of good things about this. I don’t think I need to mention them again. I don’t know if this film has quite the same humour and charm as other original cast iterations, and I’m not a fan of Koenig as Chekov. I also find the line about revenge being a dish best served cold to be an example of Nick Meyer favouring a cool line over a logical one: I don’t think hot-blooded Klingons would especially like their revenge coldy calculated, giving the alternative of immediately ripping off their enemy’s face.
[Later thoughts: Still good.]

2. (previously 1). V: The Final Frontier
A lot of Trekkies despise this film, but at the same time there is a substantial underground movement that loves it. I guess I’m in that movement. This film for me has all the fun, the character, and the pseudo-philosophising of the original series (TOS). All the major characters get real development and great moments. As for the criticisms:
1) The weak effects work: whatever. It’s better than TOS, which I liked fine. I like good effects, but they rarely make-or-break a film for me.
2) Discontinuity: protests from fans who have no idea how the entertainment industry works. The entire Trek franchise is full of characters and incidents either forgotten, misremembered, or pulled out of the writers’ arse. That’s what happens when that many people work on a wide-ranging franchise for that amount of time. They forgot that Kirk had a brother in one episode of TOS? I don’t care.
3) The emotional Vulcan: I bought it. He was supposed to be an aberration. I can accept him much more easily than the Vulcans in Deep Space Nine and later shows, who were mostly nasty, deceitful emotional screw-ups, and not the cool rationalists implied by Nimoy’s performance and the earlier parts of the franchise in general.
4) They go the the god planet OMG how fucking stupid lame: Yeah, that’s about the level of the criticism at this point. This part of the plot ties directly to the allegorical nature of so many TOS stories (and in fact a number of Next Generation (TNG) stories as well). What’s the matter, don’t you like Star Trek?
[Later thoughts: TFF has serious structural problems, with the journey to the God Planet being much too short and easy – it should really have been an entire act. The real problem with the movie is the constant jokeyness. Virtually every scene is filled with ironic remarks and double-takes (mostly Shatner, but Nimoy is also an offender). Look at Spock meeting Sybok on Nimbus III – it should be a dramatic moment, but is undercut by cutting to Shatner et al., all with comedy “WTF” expressions. Cutting out as many jokes as possible, except for the camping scenes, would be a great improvement. The film still has many charming moments.]

3. (previously 5). VII: Generations
There are some nice ideas and performances here, but the plot feels like a bunch of unrelated things awkwardly jammed into the same film. There is also too much of the self-congratulation and overly-arch “humour” of TNG, particularly in the Riker and Troi scenes, but also, sadly, in the Kirk and Picard scenes. Those two captains really belong in separate universes, one of macho bluster and the other of effete bureaucracy. They don’t mix well.
The ending, with Kirk’s death, has been much discussed. The general feeling is it doesn’t work, and I agree. The “climax” feels small in scale and shabby, and Kirk doesn’t get to go out in a real hero moment, which is what the character deserves. Also (and this relates back to my love of ST:V, so bear with me), in Final Frontier, Kirk tells his friends he knew he wasn’t going to die, because they were with him, and he’d always known he’d die alone. I always loved that line, and believed it, I guess, and I wish they’d been true to it. A better ending would’ve had Kirk alone on a starship bridge (probably not Enterprise), flying the doomsday bomb into the sun, or something. His line “It was fun” was good, though.
[Later thoughts: I like this more than I used to. Part of this is just letting go of preconceptions and fantasies about what the film should be like (although the writers have admitted the script was terribly flawed). The cinematography and music are excellent, and I don’t think Trek has ever been better than the first 40 minutes of this film.]

4. (previously 9). X: Nemesis
This film looks much more cinematic than its predecessor (Insurrection), but the director (his first film; he was an editor by profession) has little to no sense of interesting or dramatic shot composition, nor ability to get strong performances from his actors. Also, the story gets choppy and very silly by the end, which makes me think there was a decent script which got hacked about. In all, it’s a waste of an interesting idea, some good production values, and excellent lighting.
[Later thoughts: Better than I remembered. Actually, I had forgotten everything about NEM, so it was like watching a new movie. It’s by no means a great film, but over all is … okay. I think Trek-dom should revise its verdict of this film upwards. There are some nice bits, including a look into Romulan culture. And although I am not a TNG fan, I found the character stuff enjoyable. The weakest point is after the 80 minute mark, during the big battle showdown, when the pace really sags. I think the problem is it just goes too long; also, Riker’s fight with the deputy baddy should be cut and integrated better with the rest of the action. My other main bugbear is that, when Picard looks at a photo of his young self (played by a different actor), they should have retouched the photo to thin that actor’s lips.]

5. (previously 6). III: The Search for Spock
The problem with this film is Nimoy’s lacklustre direction. The whole thing feels very slow and stiff, and the best bits are the clips from Wrath of Khan. Some of the guest performances feel a bit too “TV”, as well. I think the effects-heavy nature of this story was a burden on Nimoy, as he did much better in more down-to-Earth stories. There are some nice world-building bits, especially when they finally get to Vulcan.
[Later thoughts: As with GEN above, to enjoy this you really need to ignore the weaker points, though the good points are not as good in compensation. There are some weird lighting choices: the Klingon ship interior is lit in pastels! Nimoy is not good at handling ensemble scenes, and the weakest actors of the ensemble get too much to do in the “stealing the Enterprise” section. The costumes of the Vulcans are awful Flash Gordon stuff, not at all appropriate. The Big Three deliver nice performances, though.]

6. (previously 3). VIII: First Contact
Some people think this is a weak film, which I think is weird. I am not a Next Gen fan, but I like this film. It has an exciting story with interesting elements and sequences, and it looks really nice too. It is also nice to see Trek pre-history filled out in various ways. The only thing I can really hold against it is that Next Gen blandness, which is still not entirely absent, but is really at its lowest level in their history.
[Later thoughts: I don’t like FC as much as I used to. It’s still quite enjoyable, but the two plot strands don’t add up to much together, and I don’t much care about Picard or Data’s angst about the Borg.]

7. (previously 4). IV: The Voyage Home
This film has a lot of nice character moments, but there’s something shabbily 80s about the whole look of the production, and the story rarely feels particularly consequential.
[Later thoughts: I still don’t like this as much as others do, and I wonder if young fans would have the same reaction, now the film looks older and a lot of the humour has dated. A lot of the business before they actually get to Earth seems like a waste of time. TVH also features Shatner at his absolute smarmiest when he is laying the charm on the female guest actor.]

8. (previously 8). I: The Motion Picture
Some nice effects, and the original cast is less wrinkly than in the later films, but MY GOD IT’S BORING. Most of it is relentlessly, depressingly po-faced, and the 70s “futuristic” uniforms and sets have dated much more badly than the 60s ones. Also, the new secondary characters are worthy, wooden and dull, in anticipation of the TNG ideal of beige-trek.
[Later thoughts: Robert Wise, in his “Director’s edition”, added some fragments which strengthened the Decker/Ilia relationship, added a lot of unnecessary CGI elements, and did not deal with the main issue, which is that the film is just too slow. The big Enterprise fly-by is 6 minutes long FFS, and the encounter with the wormhole is actually in slow motion! Thus the journey into V’Ger isn’t a grand ritardando, just more of the same. There are some nice things here, but a serious re-edit is needed before this can be called a good film.]

9. (previously 7). VI: The Undiscovered Country
This one is often called the best Trek film, or the second best (after Wrath). I remember being impressed the first time I saw it, but on subsequent viewings, its flaws were conspicuous.
The biggest problem is that the film has an engaging first act, but then gets progressively worse in terms of writing, acting and plot. Even the first act I have problems with, a couple of lines in particular:
1) (In Charlie Chan voice): “Old Vulcan saying: only Nixon can go to China. Ah so.” No, the Vulcans would in fact not have a saying about Nixon. In fact, it’s unbelievable that anyone this far in the future would remember Nixon off-hand. It’s a cheap joke, basically. Which leads us to:
2) Shakespeare is better in the original Klingon – Another of Meyer’s cheap cracks. A Cold War joke, about Russian defensive boastfulness, which was outdated even in the year the film came out.
[Later thoughts: Last time I watched this I found I disliked it, to be honest. The parts I really enjoyed were dinner with the Klingons, and the K/S “Are we obsolete?” scene. The rest does nothing for me, and my previous points stand, with the addition that Kirk’s line “You should have trusted me” makes no sense.]

10.(previously 10). IX: Insurrection
The general criticism of this film is that it is like an average episode of TNG, rather than a movie, with the visual and dramatic scale expected from the big screen. I agree with this, with the addition that I’d say this film is as bad as the average TNG episode. Which is pretty bad. After an intriguing opening, we get shabby acting from the guests, cheesy alien colony sets, too much hokey “comedy”, too much Troi and Crusher, and the whole thing has a dull washed-out look, almost as though it was actually filmed on the TNG TV stages back in the late 80s. And F. Murray Abraham is absolutely wasted as the villain, when he had the potential to be awesome, perhaps even on the level of Khan.
[Later thoughts: When I tried to watch this recently, I had to turn it off with disgust after 10 minutes. Some fans say “It would have made a good TV episode”, but I disagree – INS encapsulates most of what I hated about the TNG TV show. The visuals are overlit and beige, beige, beige. The tone is extremely arch, smug, sanctimonious, and self-regarding. The story revolves around a utopian rural settlement, a setting which consistently brings out the worst of Star Trek. The natives are all simple and wise, somehow “above” technology, dressed in awful beige smocks, and with Hollywood soap opera-standard hair and makeup. The village is incredibly clean, ordered and new-looking (no peasant village in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe or the Americas looks like this). Our heroes get stuck in the village, help with the planting/harvest, and have a coy romance with a local pretty. That’s what happens in all those episodes, and that’s what happens here. The subtext is that these noble primitives are really leading the perfect life (albeit tainted by some plot device our heroes have to fix), what with their platitudes and wholesome values, and if only our heroes didn’t have to carry the White Man’s Burden, they could be perfectly happy too!]

So there you go.

… so he must be up to something.

My own suspicion is that he’s a secret Trekkie.

As reported in the February issue of Ansible:

Kim Manners (1951-2009), US tv producer/director of many episodes of The X-Files and Supernatural, died on 25 January; he was 58. He also worked on Automan and ST:TNG.

His episodes for Supernatural were certainly of the highest quality. A damn shame he won’t be making any more. Interesting to find him associated with Automan, of which I have vague but fond memories. (Shame about the ST:TNG connection!)

Ricardo Montalban (1920-2009), Mexican-born actor best known to sf fans as Khan in Star Trek and the film The Wrath of Khan (1982), died on 14 January aged 88. Another famous part was Mr Roarke in tv’s Fantasy Island (1978-1984).

Apart from his striking good looks and great personal charm, he must be noted for his employment of these qualities to great service in his many roles, sf and otherwise. (As an aside, I can’t help but pre-emptively grieve that, someday, we must mourn the passing of the much underrated and underused Bill Shatner.)

Angela Morley (1924-2009), UK-born transsexual composer whose genre work included E.T. and the first two Star Wars films, and who as Wally Stott was musical director and band conductor of The Goon Show, died on 14 January; she was 84.

I certainly hope no-one is claiming that Morley wrote the music for Star Wars! Interesting to add another name to the curious list of men who, later in life, decided to become women. Other notables include travel writer James, later Jan, Morris, and composer Walter, later Wendy, Carlos. (I’ll just add here as an aside that I find the whole sex change business extremely silly.)

John Mortimer (1923-2009), UK author, playwright, barrister and much-loved public figure perhaps best known for creating Rumpole of the Bailey, died on 16 January aged 85. Genre link: his script work on The Innocents (1961), a film adaptation of The Turn of the Screw.

I hope Mortimer wasn’t responsible for the only episode I’ve ever seen of Rumpole, in which a person was tried for some murky business involving a Post Office box, and only in a “twist” at the last minute was it revealed that the PO box belonged to somebody else. Well, even if he was responsible, his involvement with that creepy film The Innocents goes some way to rubbing out his guilt.

How geek am I?

26 August, 2008

According to this test, I am only about 17% geek 😦

I’ve suggested to the Geekmaster that for the “other geek qualities” question at the end, people be able to log their specifics. E.g. I am hugely into classical music (1 point), though I can barely read music (-1 point), and I have a T-shirt of one of my favourite composers* (1 point), which I wear in the hope that someone will recognise him (1 point). (This hasn’t happened yet.)

I also noticed that science fiction/fantasy related questions were quite specific, i.e. Star Wars/LOTR/Star Trek/Buffy, plus a mention of 42. But no questions on number of books owned, for instance. There wasn’t even a (specific) cosplay question! Also no mention of manga. Or model-building. But then, it’s possible to be a geek in practically any area, so I guess the test writer had to draw the line somewhere.

Good clean fun. Recommended.

*Extra credit if you guess the composer on the shirt.