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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I’ve read this complaint in a few places; I’m not sure if it’s the opinion of several different people or just one nut who gets around a lot. Basically, some people get very self-righteous about novels, movies, etc. that disobey the vampire “rules”: vampires should not go out in daylight! Vampires should be allergic to garlic! Vampires should not sparkle!!!!!!!!!!ONE

The first argument against this attitude is that we are not talking about the laws of physics here, but about fictional, magical beings. It doesn’t make a vampire less believable to say they can walk in daylight than it does to say they live on human blood. All that is required is for the story to be internally consistent.

The second problem is the supposition that artists should subordinate their imagination to the rule of an external judge. That’s a sure way to kill creativity, especially if the imposed standards are essentially arbitrary.

The fact is that most conventions of vampire fiction were invented by writers over the last couple of centuries (as opposed to coming from folklore), and many are silly or at least outdated: Fear of crucifixes makes little sense in our irreligious age. And are you going to demand that vampires not be able to cross running water? In that case, that’ll pretty much put an end to the genre, thanks to modern plumbing and drainage. And then there is the lore that vampires have numeromania and if you throw a handful of wheat the vamp must stop to count the grains – a story that consistently enforced that rule would be a comedy, not a horror.

The best thing is to judge a work by its success or failure in dramatic terms, not by its adherence to formulaic rules. So I have no problem with any variation on the vampire myths. Sparkly vamps aren’t personally my thing, but whatever floats your boat is fine by me.

 

These are just some brief comments after having finished watching the fifth season of Supernatural on DVD.

After the fine season 4 (possibly due to good stories held back from season 3 due to the writers’ strike?), this was definitely a disappointment. Season 5 was supposed to be about the Apocalypse, but the season structure gave no great feeling of this taking place, with many episodes taking on trivial sidestories, and even allowing that these can be done well, the writing was frequently mediocre.

The producers also allowed budget constraints to trivialise their supposedly world-shaking plot, with apocalyptic figures like the Whore of Babylon and the Four Horsemen appearing sporadically to terrorise rural towns with populations of up to two dozen (!), and then be easily defeated. The quality noticably increases towards the end of the season, first with a humourous and dramatic episode about the pagan gods being miffed at the presumption of the Christian Apocalypse, and then with a defined quest to obtain the four magic rings of the Horsemen. But the pagan story was completed in one episode, and there were only a couple of episodes for the ring quest before the final episode.

In the grand finale, they again trivialised the events, with the confrontation between Archangel Michael and Lucifer amounting to nothing more than a scuffle in a field.

There was also the problem of the heroes following the advice and direction of the demon Crowley, when the previous season had emphatically made the point that allying with a demon is a no-win move. This precedent was mentioned once, in the second last episode, and I think they were just hoping no-one would notice the inconsistency.

Apart from the major structural problems, it was also disappointing to see some fine performers and interesting characters given only cursory screen time – in particular the Four Horsemen (perhaps excepting War). Max Headroom fans would have been gladdened to see Matt Frewer appear as a wonderfully disgusting Pestilence, but as I said, the character is treated as a plot device and quickly dismissed from the story.

What they should have done:

After the first few episodes resolving Sam and Dean’s relationship issues (for the most part), the finding and using of the Colt should have been done in a couple of episodes, rather than spread over half the season. At the same time, we should have been made aware that the Apocalypse was definitely happening – lots of stock footage of floods, famines, wars, other natural disasters. Our heroes should have observed that these events were widespread and definitely of supernatural origin. This should have been a constant element through the series.

The Four Horsemen and the Whore of Babylon should have been named sooner, and made active, if unseen, players in the Apocalypse. The heroes could have observed the Horsemen and the Whore’s activities forming a predictable pattern as they created disasters across the globe, this providing sense of scale without expenditure, and giving the heroes a better reason to encounter their enemies than sheer good luck. (It would also have helped to do this with the angel armies too, rather than have them “sit on their hands”.)

The quest for the rings should have started much sooner, at least from the beginning of the last third of the season, and getting the ring from each horseman should have been a mini-arc of 2 to 5 episodes. The above method of predicting the movements of the Horsemen would be used to justify the small scale of the encounters on the basis of minimum collateral damage.

The pagan gods’ opposition to the Christian Apocalypse could also have profitably been spread across the season, providing contrast and humour. Also, after Sam was possessed by Lucifer, there should have been at least 1 to 2 episodes in which Dean is uncertain how strong the possession is, and what effect Sam might have on Lucifer’s actions, as well as trying to figure out the site of the showdown.

Finale, the showdown: it should have been in a more spectacular location. Michael and Lucifer should have fought in some exciting manner (it wouldn’t cost that much to have them blast some energy beams at each other, toss a car or two, or even fly around a bit). They and Dean should at least have moved around a little. The conclusion of the fight, with Lucifer and Michael falling into the hole, should have been more spectacular, with exciting camera angles, flashing lights, crazy sound effects, and screaming. And Cas healing Dean afterwards should have been a bit less easy.
 

  Season 1 average episode rating = 3.61
  Season 2 average episode rating = 3.36
  Season 3 average episode rating = 3.25
  Season 4 average episode rating = 3.34
  Season 5 average episode rating = 3.09
  Season 6 average episode rating = 3.27
  Season 7 average episode rating = 3.326
  Season 8 average episode rating = 2.74
 
  Season 1 ratings graph (Av rating = 3.61)
 
 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
   W W D P B S H B H
   o e e h l k o u o A S F R N T S H S P D S D
   m n a a o i o g m s c a o i h h e o r e a e
   a d d n o n k s e y a i u g e a l m o a l v
   n i   t d         l r t t h   d l e v d v i
     g i o y   m     u e h e t B o   t e   a l
   i o n m     a     m c     m e w h h n m t '
   n       M   n       r   6 a n   o i a a i s
       t t a           o   6 r d   u n n n o
   w   h r r           w   6 e e   s g c ' n t
   h   e a y                   r   e   e s   r
   i     v                     s     w       a
   t   w e                           i   b   p
   e   a l                           c   l
       t l                           k   o
       e e                           e   o
       r r                           d   d
 =============================================
 
  Season 2 ratings graph (Av rating = 3.36)
 
 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
   I E B C S N T C C
   n v l h i o h r r H P N H B T R H H F W A A
     e o i m   e o o u l i o o a o e o o h l l
   m r o l o e   s a n a g u r l a a l l a l l
   y b d d n x u s t t y h s n l d r l s t
     o l r   i s r o e t t e     k t y o   h h
   t d u e s t u o a d h s s u t i   w m i e e
   i y s n a   a a n   i h   n a l   o   s l l
   m   t   i   l d     n i o d l l   o P   l l
   e l   s d           g f f e e     d r a
     o   h     s b     s t   r s       i n b b
   o v   o     u l       e t         B s d r r
   f e   u     s u       r h a       a o   e e
     s   l     p e         e         b n w a a
   d     d     e s           b       y   h k k
   y a   n     c           h a       l b a s s
   i     '     t           o d       o l t
   n c   t     s           l         n u   l l
   g l                     y s         e s o o
     o   p                   i         s h o o
     w   l                   g           o s s
     n   a                   n           u e e
         y                               l
                                         d - -
         w
         i                               n p p
         t                               e a a
         h                               v r r
                                         e t t
         d                               r
         e                                 1 2
         a                               b
         d                               e
 
         t
         h
         i
         n
         g
         s
 =============================================
 
  Season 3 ratings graph (Av rating = 3.25)
 
 5
       *               * *
 4                             * *
         *
 3 *         * *           *
     *     *     * * *       *
 2
 
 1
 
 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
                     0 1 2 3 4 5 6
   T T B S B R F A M
   h h a i e e r   a D M J G L T N
   e e d n d d e v l r y u h o i o
           t   s e l e s s o n m
   m k d c i s h r e a t   s g e r
   a i a i m k   y u m e i t -   e
   g d y t e y b   s   r n f d i s
   n s   y     l S   a y   a i s t
   i   a   s a o u m     b c s
   f a t   t t o p a l s e e t o f
   i r     o   d e l i p l r a n o
   c e B   r m   r e t o l s n   r
   e   l   i o   n f t t o ! c m
   n a a   e r   a i l       e y t
   t l c   s n   t c e           h
     r k     i   u a         c s e
   s i       n   r r d       a i
   e g R     g   a u r       l d w
   v h o         l m e       l e i
   e t c             a           c
   n   k         C   m           k
                 h               e
                 r   o           d
                 i   f
                 s
                 t   m
                 m   e
                 a
                 s
 =============================================
 
  Season 4 ratings graph - episode average = 3.34
 
 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
   L A I M M Y I W I
   a r n e o e t i   H F C A S D O I T J T W L
   z e   t n l ' s k e a r f e e n t h u h h u
   a   t a s l s h n a m i t x a   ' e m e e c
   r y h m t o   f o v i s e   t t s   p   n i
   u o e o e w t u w e l s r a h h   m   r   f
   s u   r r   h l   n y     n   e a o t a t e
       B p   F e   w     A s d t     n h p h r
   r t e h M e   T h & R n c   a h t s e t e
   i h g o o v G h a   e g h v k e e t   u   r
   s e i s v e r i t H m e o i e a r e s r l i
   i r n i i r e n   e a l o o s d r r h e e s
   n e n s e   a k y l i   l l     i   a   v i
   g , i       t i o l n i   e a o b a r   e n
       n         n u   s s s n   f l t k   e g
     G g       P g         p c h   e
     o         u   d     a e e o a   t     b
     d         m   i       c   l   l h     r
     ?         p   d     d i   i p i e     e
               k         o a   d i f       a
     I         i   l     u l   a n e e     k
     t         n   a     c     y     n     s
     '         ,   s     h           d
     s             t     e
               S                     o
     m         a   s     b           f
     e         m   u     a
     ,             m     g           t
                   m                 h
 =============================================
 
  Season 5 ratings graph - episode average = 3.09
 
 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 G F T F I T C T
   y o r h a   h h h A S S T M D D 9 P H T T S
   m o e e l b e a e b a w h y e a 9 o a h w w
   p d e   l e   n   a m a e   a r   i m e o a
   a     E e l c g r n , p   b d k p n m     n
   t G t n n i u i e d     s l     r t e d m
   h o o d   e r n a o i m o o m s o   r e i s
   y d     i v i g l n n e n o e i b o   v n o
     , b   d e o       t a g d n d l f o i u n
   f   e   o   u c g a e t   y   e e   f l t g
   o y     l t s h h l r   r   d   m n     e
   r ' y   s h   a o l r   e v o o s o t y s
     a o     e c n s   u   m a n f     h o
   t l u       a n t h p   a l '     r e u t
   h l       c s e b o t   i e t t   e     o
   e ! a     h e l u p e   n n   h   t g k
       n     i   s s e d   s t w e   u o n m
   D   d     l o   t .       i e     r d o i
   e         d f   e .     t n a m   n s w d
   v   m     r     r .     h e r o         n
   i   e     e D   s       e     o         i
   l         n e               p n         g
               a           s   l           h
             a n           a   a           t
             r             m   i
             e W           e   d
               i
             o n
             u c
             r h
               e
             f s
             u t
             t e
             u r
             r
             e
 
 =============================================
 
  Season 6 ratings graph - episode average = 3.27
 
 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
   E T T W L Y F A C
   x w h e i o a l l C A L U M T A M F M T L T
   i o e e v u m l a a p i n a h n y r o h e h
   l     k e   i   p g p k f n e d   o m e t e
   e a t e   c l d   e o e o n     h n m
     n h n f a y o y d i   r e F t e t y m i m
   o d i d r n   g o   n a g q r h a i   a t a
   n   r   e ' m s u h t   i u e e r e d n   n
     a d a e t a   r e m v v i n n t r e   b
   M     t     t g   a e i e n c     l a w l w
   a h m   o h t o h t n r n   h t w a r h e h
   i a a B r a e   a   t g   3   h i n e o e o
   n l n o   n r t n     i   : m e l d s   d
     f   b t d s o d   i n     i r l   t w   k
   S     b w l     s   n     t s e       o   n
   t m   y i e   h           h t   g     u   e
   . e   ' h     e i   S     e a w o     l   w
     n   s a t   a f   a       k e       d
           r h   v     m     r e r o         t
           d e   e y   a     e   e n     b   o
                 n o   r     c           e   o
             t     u   r     k   n
             r         a     o   o       k   m
             u     b         n   n       i   u
             t     e         i   e       n   c
             h     l         n           g   h
                   i         g
                   e
                   v
                   e
 =============================================
 
  Season 7 ratings graph - episode average = 3.326
 
 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
                     0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3
   M H T D S S T S H
   e e h e h l h e o D A T T P R O T P O T R T S
   e l e f u a e a w e d i h l e u h a f h e h u
   t l   e t s   s   a v m e u p t e r   e a e r
     o g n   h m o t t e e   c o     t g   d r v
   t , i d u   e n o h n   s k   w b y r g i e i
   h   r i p f n     ' t a l y m i o   a i n   v
   e c l n , i t 7 w s u f i   a t r o v r g w a
     r   g   c a , i   r t c P n h n n e l   i l
   n u n   D t l   n d e e e e     - ,     i l
   e e e y r i i t   o s r   n   t a   i w s l o
   w l x o . o s i f o     g n   h g G m i     f
       t u   n t m r r i t i y   e a a p t f b
   b w   r P     e i   n i r w     i r o h u e t
   o o d   h       e     m l h   o n t r   n   h
   s r o l i     f n   b e s i   l   h t t d b e
   s l o i l     o d   a     s   d i   a h a l
     d r f       r s   b a   t     d   n e m o f
         e             y f   l     e   c   e o i
                 a a   s t   e     n   e d n d t
                   n   i e   '     t     u t   t
                 w d   t r   s     i     n a   e
                 e     t           t     g l   s
                 d i   i t   m     y     e     t
                 d n   n i   a           o
                 i f   g m   g           n
                 n l     e   i           s
                 g u         c
                 ! e         a           a
                   n         l           n
                   c                     d
                   e         m
                             e           d
                   m         n           r
                   o         a           a
                   n         g           g
                   s         e           o
                   t         r           n
                   e         i           s
                   r         e
                   s                     t
                                         a
                                         t
                                         t
                                         o
                                         o
 =============================================
 
  Season 8 ratings graph - episode average = 2.74
 
 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
                     0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3
   w W H B B S A H C
   e h e i l o   u i T L A E T M R G F T P T C S
     a a t o u l n t o A s v r a e o r a a h l a
   n t r t o t i t i r R   e i n m o e x c e i c
   e ' t e d h t e z n P t r a ' e d a i -   p r
   e s a n   e t r e     i y l s m b k   m g   i
   d   c   b r l i n a a m b     b y s d a r s f
     u h   r n e     n n e o a b e e   r n e h i
   t p e   o     H F d d   d n e r   a i   a o c
   o ,     t c s e a     g y d s   s n v f t w e
           h o l r n f t o     t t t d e e
   t T     e m i o g r h e h e   h r   r v e
   a i     r f c i   a e s a r f e a g   e s
   l g       o e c   y     t r r   n e   r c
   k e       r   i   e r b e o i T g e     a
     r       t o     d e y s r e i e k     p
   a           f       a       n t r s     i
   b M                 l   H   d a         s
   o o         K           i     n         t
   u m         e       g   t   w s
   t m         v       i   l   i
     y         i       r   e   t
   K ?         n       l   r   h
   e
   v                           b
   i                           e
   n                           n
                               e
                               f
                               i
                               t
                               s
 =============================================
 
 

This is all episodes of Buffy rated out of 5, displayed in a graph form for each season. I don’t want to get into a detailed discussion of the episodes or my reasoning behind the ratings; just note that I have rated some of the fan favourites fairly low. By average rating, the best season was the second, followed by the fourth.

SEASON 1 – Average episode score = 3.25

5
|             *
4                       *
| * *             * *
3     * *   *         *
|         *
2               *
|
1
|
0
  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 1 1 1
                    0 1 2
  W T W T N T A I T
  e h i e e h n   h N O P
  l e t a v e g r e i u r
  c   c c e   e o   g t o
  o H h h r P l b P h   p
  m a   e   a   o u t o h
  e r   r k c   t p m f e
    v   ‘ i k   , p a   c
  t e   s l       e r m y
  o s     l     y t e i
    t   P       o   s n G
  t     e a     u S   d i
  h     t         h   , r
  e       b     J o     l
          o     a w   o
  H       y     n     u
  e             e     t
  l       o
  l       n           o
  m                   f
  o       t
  u       h           s
  t       e           i
  h                   g
          f           h
          i           t
          r
          s
          t

          d
          a
          t
          e
=============================================

SEASON 2 – Average episode score = 3.75

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
  W S S I R H L T W
  h o c n e a i h h W T B S I P B P K I G B B
  e m h c p l e e a h e a u n h e a i   o e e
  n e o a t l     t a d d r n a w s l o   c c
      o   i o t d ‘ t     p o s i s l n f o o
  s a l m l w o a s ‘   e r c e t i e l i m m
  h s   u e e   r   s   g i e s c o d y s i i
  e s H m   e m k m     g s n   h n     h n n
    e a m b n e   y m   s e c   e   b h   g g
  w m r y o     a   y       e   d   y a
  a b d   y     g l             ,     v   P P
  s l   g       e i l               d e   a a
    y   i         n i           b   e     r r
  b     r         e n           o   a e   t t
  a r   l         ? e           t   t y
  d e               ?           h   h e   1 2
    q             P             e     s
    u             a P           r
    i             r a           e     f
    r             t r           d     o
    e               t                 r
    d             1             &
                    2                 y
                                b     o
                                e     u
                                w
                                i
                                l
                                d
                                e
                                r
                                e
                                d
=============================================

SEASON 3 – Average episode score = 3.27

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
  A D F B H B R L T
  n e a e o a e o h A G H T B C D E E C T G G
  n a i a m n v v e m i e h a o o n a h h r r
  e d t u e d e e   e n l e d n p e r o e a a
      h t c   l r w n g p     s p m s i   d d
    m , y o c a ‘ i d e l Z g e e i h c P u u
    a     m a t s s s r e e i q l e o e r a a
    n h & i n i   h   b s p r u g s t s o t t
    ‘ o   n d o w     r s p l e a       m i i
    s p t g y n a     e   o s n n         o o
      e h     s l     a       c g         n n
    p   e       k     d       e
    a &                       s L         D D
    r   b                       a         a a
    t t e                       n         y y
    y r a                       d
      i s                                 P P
      c t                                 a a
      k s                                 r r
                                          t t

                                          1 2

=============================================

SEASON 4 – Average episode score = 3.48

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
  F L T F B W T P S
  r i h e e i h a o H D A T G T W S W N T P R
  e v e a e l e n m u o   h o h h u h e h r e
  s i   r r d   g e s o N e o i o p e w e i s
  h n h ,     I s t h m e   d s   e r     m t
  m g a   b a n   h   e w I b   a r e m Y e l
  a   r i a t i   i   d     y y r s   o o v e
  n c s t d   t   n     M i e e e t t o k a s
    o h s   h i   g     a n , a   a h n o l s
    n   e   e a         n     r y r e
    d l l   a t   B       t I ‘ o     r f
    i i f   r i   l       e o s u   w i a
    t g     t v   u       a w   ?   i s c
    i h       e   e       m a g     l i t
    o t                       i     d n o
    n                         r       g r
    s o                       l     t
      f                             h
                                    i
      d                             n
      a                             g
      y                             s

                                    a
                                    r
                                    e

=============================================

SEASON 5 – Average episode score = 3.34

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
  B R T O N F F S L
  u e h u o a o h i I T C B C I T F I T S T T
  f a e t   m o a s n r h l r   h o n o p h h
  f l     p i l d t t i e o u w e r t u i e e
  y   r o l l   o e o a c o s a   e e g r
    m e f a y f w n   n k d h s b v r h a w g
  v e p   c   o   i t g p       o e v   l e i
  s   l m e   r   n h l o t   m d r e l   i f
      a y         g e e i i   a y   n o   g t
  D   c   l   l         n e   d     t v   h
  r   e m i   o   t w   t s   e     i e   t
  a   m i k   v   o o               o
  c   e n e   e     o         t     n     o
  u   n d         f d         o           f
  l   t   h       e s
  a       o       a           l           t
          m       r           o           h
          e                   v           e
                              e
                                          w
                              y           o
                              o           r
                              u           l
                                          d

=============================================

SEASON 6 – Average episode score = 3.43

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
  B B A F L A O T S
  a a f l i l n a m W G D D O A H N E S V T G
  r r t o f l c b a r o o e l s e o n e i w r
  g g e o e   e u s e n u a d   l r t e l o a
  a a r d   t   l h c e b d e Y l m r i l   v
  i i   e s h m a e k   l   r o ‘ a o n a t e
  n n l d e e o   d e   e T   u s l p g i o
  i i i   r   r R   d   m h a       y   n
  n n f   i w e a       e i n W B A   R s G
  g g e   a a   s       a n d e e g   e   o
          l y w a       t g   r l a   d
  P P         i           s F e l i
  a a         t         P   a   s n
  r r         h         a   r
  t t                   l
              f         a   A
  1 2         e         c   w
              e         e   a
              l             y
              i
              n
              g

=============================================

SEASON 7 – Average episode score = 3.14

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
  L B S H S H C S N
  e e a e e i o l e B S P T F G S L D E T E C
  s n m l l m n e v r h o h i e t i i m o n h
  s e e p f   v e e i o t e r t o e r p u d o
  o a     l   e p r n w e   s   r s t t c   s
  n t t   e   r e   g t n K t i y   y y h o e
  s h i   s   s r L   i t i   t t m     e f n
      m   s   a   e o m i l D   e y g p d
    Y e       t   a n e a l a D l   i l   D
    o ,       i   v     l e t o l p r a   a
    u         o   e t     r e n e a l c   y
      s       n     h         e r r s e   s
      a       s   M e     i       e   s
      m           e       n       n
      e       w     N             t
              i     i     M       s
      p       t     g     e
      l       h     h             t
      a             t             o
      c       d                   l
      e       e                   d
              a
              d                   m
                                  e
              p
              e
              o
              p
              l
              e
 

… 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.

The British magazine SFX has published a Joss Whedon special issue, consisting of two volumes, one of articles and interviews, and the other devoted to summarising and rating all the films and TV episodes he has produced. Having first encountered Firefly only a couple of months ago (apart from seeing and not being impressed by “The Train Job” many years ago), I felt compelled to “correct” the ratings for that series. Here are the ratings and my brief summaries of influencing factors.

Serenity: Parts One and Two (movie-length pilot episode) (1.01)
Writer: Joss Whedon
Director: Joss Whedon
Rating: 5 / 5
Succeeds on every level. SFX calls it “confusing”, but I found it a lot less disorienting than starting with The Train Job, which provided no set-up. In this pilot, once you understand that our main characters are on the losing side of a devastating war, you can follow subsequent developments easily. I do find River a bit hard to buy, but it was Glau’s first acting role, after all.
(SFX rating: 3.5 / 5)

The Train Job (1.02)
Writer: Joss Whedon & Tim Minear
Director: Joss Whedon
Rating: 4.5 / 5
This is what a “standard” Firefly episode should’ve been like. Sparky dialogue, our characters face some danger and get to show off their smarts, there’s some well-executed gung-ho action, and nice twist in the third act which forces our heroes to face a moral dilemma. The frontier planet environment provided some nice world-building too.
I did find this episode a turn-off when I first saw it, way back when, precisely because the set-up wasn’t explained, but also because I was uncomfortable with Whedon’s smart-aleck adolescent dialogue coming from supposedly mature adult characters. Also, I thought the spaceship looked less like a spaceship and more like a student share-house! But I got used to these elements. I still think the “two by two, hands of blue” rhyme is terrible.
(SFX rating: 4 / 5)

Bushwacked (1.03)
Writer: Tim Minear
Director: Tim Minear
Rating: 4.5 / 5
Exciting, unpredictable. Reavers rule.
This builds nicely on the Reaver threat, showing a little more clearly why everyone is terrified of these perverted psychopaths. A shame they were dropped after this, until the feature film. This episode was a bit like that film Event Horizon, but not cheesy and lame. It was also nice to see a bit more of the Alliance, and satisfying the way they have to admit in the end that the Firefly’s crew are blameless (this time).
(SFX rating: 3 / 5)

Shindig (1.04)
Writer: Jane Espenson
Director: Vern Gillum
Rating: 3 / 5
Slack pacing, and too much Inara.
Yeah, I’m not an Inara fan, and here’s why: there’s an interesting idea behind the character, that these Companions are revered as a kind of wise, cultured elite, despite them being essentially high-class call girls. The problem is that the writing rarely gets to grips with this, and the acting never does. Inara has nice things, and conducted a tea ceremony, but doesn’t otherwise demonstrate great cultural knowledge or especially refined behaviour. Also, both Mal and the guest villain in this episode insult Inara by calling her a whore, which contradicts and undermines the idea that Companions are respected. Finally, the actress playing Inara isn’t up to the job. Someone with a bit more class, or at least a bit more individuality, could’ve got across the idea that Companions are an aristocratic breed. Sadly, Joss went for the pretty face and sad mouth, and not for the talent.
Regarding the pacing, there is too much dawdling before we figure out what the plot of the episode is, and then there’s too much dull conversation at the ball. To tell the truth, I found even the duel scene a bit dull – it never felt like anything was really at stake, the villain was made of cardboard, and the jokes weren’t strong enough to compensate.
(SFX rating: 4 / 5)

Safe (1.05)
Writer: Drew Z. Greenberg
Director: Michael Grossman
Rating: 3.5 / 5
Competently generic.
SFX said Bushwacked was too much like a Star Trek episode, but I’d say this is Firefly’s Trek show. The crew land on a Planet of Hats, and two are kidnapped. The outcome is never really in doubt.
(SFX rating: 3.5 / 5)

Our Mrs Reynolds (1.06)
Writer: Joss Whedon
Director: Vondie Curtis-Hall
Rating: 1 / 5
A sitcom plot; inconsistent characterisation; annoying guest actor.
For some reason, SFX writers consider this a wonderful episode, but I don’t get it. The set-up (“Whoops, did we get married last night?”) is a cliche. The characters’ reactions to the captain are bizarre, with Zoe and Book accusing Mal of some sort of terrible, immoral behaviour bordering on rape. Book: “If you take sexual advantage of her, you’re going to burn in a very special level of hell. A level they reserve for child molesters and people who talk at the theatre.” Okay, the theatre joke is nice, but WTF? If Mal has sex with the woman who tricked him into marriage, stowed away on his ship to be with him, and wants very, very much (apparently) to get freaky with him, he’s the bad guy? This is bad writing.
Finally, I find the guest actress unlikable. I had the same problem with an episode of Enterprise (Rajiin), which had basically the same lame plot, and again they chose a woman with starkly angular features, mean eyes and a humourless mouth to play the seductress whom no-one can resist.
(SFX rating: 5 / 5)

Jaynestown (1.07)
Writer: Ben Edlund
Director: Marita Grabiak
Rating: 2.5 / 5
Doesn’t have the wit, tunes or story to match its concept.
The set-up is great. At this point, we already have great affection for the dimwitted galoot, and the idea of a village of people who regard this lug as a folk hero promises great things. Unfortunately, the execution is weak.
The scene of the crew getting drunk plays all the cliches with nothing really fresh added. The song in praise of Jayne, set up to be the centrepiece of the episode, once again shows Whedon’s failings as a songwriter, both melodically and structurally, and the lyrics aren’t actually funny beyond being about how great Jayne is. The resolution of the plot, such as it is, feels anticlimactic.
(SFX rating: 4 / 5)

Out of Gas (1.08)
Writer: Tim Minear
Director: David Solomon
Rating: 5 / 5
Brilliant multi-layered plot, high comedy and drama, great character moments.
I gave up on Firefly for a couple of weeks, after two bad episodes in a row. Fortunately, when I finally started watching again, this was the episode I saw. The story across three time periods could have been confusing, but in execution quickly becomes quite clear. The central plot of the ship being in danger feels important and dangerous. There are a bunch of great character moments, as we meet them “for the first time” in the flashbacks. And I like the third act twist, wherein the rescuers don’t exactly have our heroes’ interests at heart. That feels very “Firefly” to me.
(SFX rating: 4 / 5)

Ariel (1.09)
Writer: Jose Molina
Director: Allan Kroeker
Rating: 4 / 5
A nifty heist episode, like “Train Job”, though with slacker pacing and too much Inara. Also, we get some nice development of the wider world of the series, and learn more about Simon and River.
(SFX rating: 3 / 5)

War Stories (1.10)
Writer: Cheryl Cain
Director: James A Contner
Rating: 3.5 / 5
A decent “standard” episode. To be honest, I don’t remember much about it, except that Mal and Wash take to being tortured surprisingly well (funny), and River shows she’s a crack killer, and spouts a terrible line: “No power in the ‘verse can stop me.” Probably even worse than “I can kill you with my brain.”
(SFX rating: 4.5 / 5)

Trash (1.11)
Writer: Ben Edlund & Jose Molina
Director: Vern Gillum
Rating: 2.5 / 5
The annoying guest actor from Our Mrs Reynolds returns, to kick off a generic heist plot. There’s a “sting” at the end which I didn’t see coming, which I guess makes me an idiot. Also, naked Mal, for those who are interested.
(SFX rating: 4 / 5)

The Message (1.12)
Writer: Joss Whedon & Tim Minear
Director: Tim Minear
Rating: 3.5 / 5
A convoluted, hole-filled plot with no great emotional appeal, redeemed by some character moments. The main guest character wasn’t very interesting or likable, and his death felt like a plot contrivance, so the funeral at the end was a hollow, overblown moment. Jayne’s hat is the highlight of the episode, admittedly a great highlight.
(SFX rating: 4 / 5)

Heart of Gold (1.13)
Writer: Brett Matthews
Director: Thomas J Wright
Rating: 3.5 / 5
Whedon’s “prostitutes are cool” schtick gets more overt and annoying, and there’s too much Inara. I think Whedon’s interest in hookers during this show might’ve been due to personal experience…. The episode is redeemed by a good seige story. The brothel being an old homestead covered in “futuristic” tinfoil was an interesting look.
(SFX rating: 3.5 / 5)

Objects in Space (1.14)
Writer: Joss Whedon
Director: Joss Whedon
Rating: 4.5 / 5
This final episode aims high, but doesn’t hit quite as solidly as “Out of Gas”. The bounty hunter Early is interesting and likable, and the way he overcomes the crew and terrorises Kaley is gripping. Also, River gets a little more character development, which is nice. But there are some points where the plot seems directionless.
(SFX rating: 5 / 5)
 
 
Serenity (feature film)
Writer: Joss Whedon
Director: Joss Whedon
Rating: 4 / 5
It’s good, but the ending is a bit by-the-numbers and TV scale. The Reavers look quite crap close up, just blokes with shaggy wigs. The wrong characters die.
Watching this movie on TV was what convinced me to try Firefly again. It’s plotting is slick and exciting, and it’s great to see more world development. The Reaver ships are cool, and the Alliance Operative is an intriguing “villain”.
I hated it when Wash died, and Book’s death seemed superfluous too. It’s obvious these deaths were used to “up the stakes”, but the fact that I could tell this undermines their worth. The fact that no-one seems especially upset, even Zoe, also works against the film. I think better candidates for offing would’ve been Simon (Space Xander!) (Glau would’ve given a great grief scene) and the always superfluous Inara.
Mal’s climactic action scene is a bit disappointing, as he’s fighting to connect an antenna, not save the world or even just his ship. His laconic front never falters, which is also a let down in terms of dramatic pay-off.
The Reavers in the final shoot-out are just guys in regular clothes with shaggy wigs. Based on the design of their ships, and the self-mutilation we saw in Bushwacked, I expected to see more exposed skin, wild body paint, and crazy body piercings, scars and deformities. That would’ve been much more exciting and true to what we’d previously learned. Someone really dropped the ball there.
(SFX rating: 4.5 / 5)