So last week we had a pretty interesting conversation about Star Trek. That was a nice change of pace, so I thought we’d expand that discussion and talk about Trek in more detail. Spoiler Warning is on hiatus this week due to the holiday, so we’ll have lots of space to give the topic its due, as opposed to shoving it in the margins of an episode of The Last of Us.
Note that I don’t pretend to be a hard-core fan. I’ve seen more than my share and TNG was a big part of my late teens / early twenties. I’ve seen all the movies. But there are a lot of episodes I’ve never seen and I don’t own any of the shows or movies. I like Trek, but as a friend.
So this week we’re going to talk about the Original Series, Voyager, Deep Space 9, Next Generation, the Movies, and Abrams Trek. I don’t have anything to say about The Animated Series. I have very little to say about Enterprise, which I will say now:
I like the idea behind Enterprise: Take away our magic space guns and our super-powerful Federation and show how humans made the hard climb to the top and formed the values that would later shape the show. Maybe depict the event that caused the formation of the Prime Directive. You could have a “giving the natives measles” kind of unintentional disaster. Show a world where we have to tread lightly because our guns are small and we don’t have the backing of a major fleet.
But I have no idea what this show was trying to do. I watched two episodes and I don’t remember the details of either. I’ve watched the SF Debris review of many, and I’m always left shaking my head. The creepy fan-service decontamination scenes. The annoying doctorWho looked at Neelix and thought, “THAT’S what fans really want. Let’s make another character like that, except this time he’s practicing herbal space-medicine!”. Archer being a constant butthead. Everyone else being so bland. Dragging the Borg into things.
I can’t suggest how the show could have been improved because I can’t even tell what they were going for. Were they trying to broaden Trek to new audiences? Was this aimed at core fans? During the run of the show it seems like they didn’t take any steps to address fan complaints. (Or at least, people seem to have the same complaints throughout the show.) What happened here? Who was this forThis is not a rhetorical question. I don’t know because I didn’t watch enough of the show to form my own opinion.?
I have no idea. The salt in the wound is that this is the only part of the continuity to survive the Abrams rebootNot a big deal to me. I sort of treat Abrams Trek and Old Trek like different universes. But we’ll get to that later in the week..
 Who looked at Neelix and thought, “THAT’S what fans really want. Let’s make another character like that, except this time he’s practicing herbal space-medicine!”
 This is not a rhetorical question. I don’t know because I didn’t watch enough of the show to form my own opinion.
 Not a big deal to me. I sort of treat Abrams Trek and Old Trek like different universes. But we’ll get to that later in the week.
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122 thoughts on “Trek Week: Introduction, Enterprise”
Hey,nice,I was thinking about asking you about your’s guys’s opinion’s about this new star trek movie trailer,but youve beaten me to the answer.Kudo’s.
I feel the need to finish KOTOR now… At the same time, I don’t want to build anticipation a year in advance so that in the event of mediocrity or outright failure, I hopefully won’t be too let down.
The aesthetic seems spot on, though- just like the original films except in higher resolution and with much better special effects.
As one of my favorite podcast hosts says, “Star Wars is the one with Spock, right?”. Allegedly, Babylon 5 (the one near the wormhole) and Battlestar Galactica (the one with the five battlestar stations) also have Spock.
I don’t think Enterprise is all that bad. I always wince when popular species who are very specifically not discovered until later in the timeline show up, but other than that I think the conflict between human curiousity and vulcan caution is a pretty decent theme to be running with (even if it does get under my skin that it’s called “vulcan logic” when logic is actually incapable of making most of these kinds of judgements, since it only derives conclusions from premises and does not check premises – but that’s a running irritation with all Trek shows). I’ve watched and enjoyed episodes of it. Seeing Captain Archer realize he can’t get bogged down in every war and struggle in the galaxy when he comes to the desert planet embroiled in civil war and realizes previous heroism has given him a reputation he can’t live up to was actually the strongest justification for the Prime Directive I’ve ever seen, in that it’s the only one that convinced me even a little bit that the Prime Directive could be a good idea.
It doesn’t live up to TNG or DS9, but as someone who was born long after TOS’ expiration date, I actually think Enterprise is better than TOS on average. TOS has moments of brilliance that Enterprise never matches, but if we’re comparing randomly selected episodes rather than favorites, Enterprise is going to pull ahead.
The decontamination scenes were definitely weird, though. Who looked at Star Trek and thought that what was really missing was fanservice? What fanservice the other series’ had (Troi and Seven of Nine’s weird suits, mostly) seemed really out of place and dumb in a show that revolved around scientific curiosity, the spirit of exploration, and commitment to idealistic principles. Nothing about Star Trek post-TOS is even remotely suited to fanservice. Which makes me suspect that perhaps Enterprise was supposed to be TNG blended with TOS, in which case those are two great tastes that most certainly do not taste great together.
I haven’t watched Enterprise myself, but from what I’ve seen at SF Debris I’m not convinced. If we put aside the differences in attitudes, then I think that the triumvirate in TOS of Kirk, Spock and McCoy work better than the clear attempt to replicate that sort of relationship triumvirate of Archer, T’Pol and Tucker do. Add in the fact that the supporting cast of TOS is also more interesting than that of Enterprise, and even bad episodes of TOS would be better just because of how those characters worked together. There’s a reason that TOS characters became cultural icons and Enterprise characters haven’t.
ok has someone who’s early trek experience was some random TNG episodes then keeping up with voyager pretty much from the beginning (after convincing my parents to move my bedtime, just to give you a clue how old I was). in my opinion TOS far outshines enterprise. enterprise doesn’t have TOS’s “goofiness” and yeah that goofiness is a problem for a lot of people (myself included). but TOS has some great redeeming aspects, and despite watching the first several seasons of enterprise as it aired I can’t really think of any
The Prime Directive would have been way better off as a Prime Guideline, but that would be a tad less dramatic.
Yes, the decontamination was an odd excuse for fanservice, but to be fair, TOS had its share of miniskirts, loincloths, and silver bikinis…
I’ve never watched Enterprise; I watched the first episode, couldn’t see how they could get from that series to TOS — which is what a prequel is about, after all — and stopped watching. I get tempted to at times, but like all Star Trek series it’s pretty expensive, and I’ve watched too much SF Debris videos to think that I’ll enjoy it. But I think that is has the same problem that the Star Trek movie and the Star Wars prequel movies have: prequels are a lot harder to write than people think.
Probably the best science fiction prequel I’ve seen is “In the Beginning” from Babylon 5, and that was written by someone who had planned almost all of that out before even starting his series. And it sticks pretty much to what a prequel should do: show what it was that led to the things mentioned in the series. The framing makes this clear: it’s essentially Londo telling a story to some kids. It is unabashed about how it’s just there to show the backstory and fill in the gaps, and so spends less time trying to build an action piece or a major storyline.
So, if you’re writing a prequel, that’s at least one of the main reasons you’d want to and one of the main benefits you’d have of it. But it’s hard to do that and make it exceptionally interesting to people who haven’t seen the original work. So there’s a temptation to try to create an overarching story and add lots of action scenes and the like to make that interesting to people who aren’t going to look at a scene and think “So THAT’S how that happened!”. “In the Beginning” was aimed precisely at those sorts of reactions, it seems to me, and so succeeded. Enterprise and the Star Wars prequels couldn’t be that, and so tried to combine giving that sort of feeling and building an interesting standalone story … and so failed at both. And this was compounded by those who were trying to do that not actually being good at either continuity — required to get the “So that’s how it happened!” reaction without adding in the “That makes no sense!” reaction — OR writing really interesting stories. For Star Wars, if you were just going to make a serial-style SF story like the OT was, you should have just written sequels where you wouldn’t have to worry about continuity or explaining what happened in the OT. For Enterprise, if they were just going to do TNG style stories like Voyager did (and people were sick of) then they should have just done a sequel and again avoided any issue of continuity and any desire from the fans to see how things happened.
Essentially, neither of them should have been done as prequels, because being prequels added a lot of extra requirements and issues that the powers-that-be were clearly not prepared to handle.
The Star Trek movie is an exception because its purpose was to blow up continuity and essentially reboot the series, so aside from some initial “So that’s how it happened!” moments everything changes anyway. However, bravely making Kirk a complete jerk introduced its own problems.
I had a recent lightbulb moment listening to Brianna Wu on the Incomparable podcast talking about Star Trek. She said her favourite series was Voyager. My first reaction was that she’s clearly a crazy person and needs to be restrained for the good of us all. Then she explained her reasons for liking Voyager and I was sitting there nodding – I would agree that everything that she listed were the best aspects of the show. It still wasn’t enough to convince me the show was good though.
It came down to value. I would agree that the Janeway/7 of 9 relationship is interesting and one of the best parts of the show but I don’t value that relationship enough to look past the existence of characters like Neelix and Chakotay, or the fact that the ship spends 7 years away from it’s home quadrant but returns home looking like they just finished breaking the bottle of space champagne on her bow.
My favourite series is DS9. But if someone places a lot of value in the original Roddenberry vision of an optimistic future then they are never going to get into that series.
You’ve summed up my feelings almost perfectly.
Voyager was a great idea but the bulk of the writing was absolute garbage, and the supporting cast was just awful. It was infuriating to watch it come so close to greatness in one moment, and then be so far from even mediocre in the next.
As a Star Trek fan, I have a high tolerance for “mediocre” :P
DS9 is my favorite for how it made the Trek universe feel genuine and lived-in in a way that none of the other shows managed to do. The writing was at least as consistent as TNG, and IMO it had the best casting of any Trek ever.
I don’t have the time or inclination to write an essay about it, but I could go on and on and on about how much I love DS9.
I understand how some Roddenberry-purists might take issue with DS9’s portrayal of the Federation. I do understand, but I still think those people are wrong.
I think a lot of people paint a rosy hue on Roddenberry’s vision of the future.
Yes, he thought the future was going to be great, but he never said it would be perfect, and characters are typically expected to make some hard personal sacrifices for the good of civilization, to get there.
I think the thing is that Roddenberry pictured a Federation where they were right to make those sacrifices because what they were fighting for was unquestionably good.
One of my favourite DS9 moments is a little throwaway scene where Odo and a Bajoran diplomat are discussing negotiations with the Federation and joking about how the Federation doesn’t want to be seen as dictatorial but is determined to always get everything done the way they want.
Roddenberry never envisioned a Trek where there was a terrorist breakaway faction of the Federation (the Maquis). He really didn’t envision that the terrorists would turn out to be right all along.
Roddenberry was dead set against any wars in Star Trek. He had to be relieved of TNG’s reins to even have the Romulans appear as vaguely hostile.
As for DS-9, the beginning had promise, the middle was the usual “let’s have anyone who wants to write an episode, what’s continuity” fare when it wasn’t ripping off Babylon-5, and the end was where they finally discovered the concept of ongoing plots, but it lacked a sense of urgency or achievement vis-a-vis the war.
I could nitpick all day, but I have a new Sith Lightsaber to make fun of.
I like to put it this way: DS9 is the best television series, but TNG is the best “Trek”.
By about series four or so they’d decided on a purpose – showing the founding of the Federation. Problem was there were three seasons of farting around before then.
…And Archer really is hilariously bad at his job. You could make it a drinking game – take a shot every time he loses a fight, gets outwitted, demands something unreasonable of his crew, ruins relationships with an alien race by being irrational or negligent or petulant, etc.
He’s the only captain who manages to wipe out multiple innocent alien races through sheer incompetence.
Yeah, the best of Enterprise was the fourth season, minus the finale.
Berman & Braga finally got the boot at the end of season 3, but it wasn’t enough to save the show. The cast just didn’t work for the most part, Bakula couldn’t be the proto-Kirk they seemed to want, and even though the writing became awesome in season 4, they let Berman & Braga do the finale, which pretty much wrecked what little goodwill had been built.
For those who care, the finale had the entire episode be a holodeck simulation run by Commander Riker during the TNG episode, The Pegasus. He was playing the NX-01’s cook to somehow observe the sage wisdom of Captain Archer while he agonized over his decision about whether or not to tell Picard about the starship Pegasus’ treaty-violating tech that killed its crew. Blargh.
It’s been a while since I’ve watched any Enterprise, but if I remember correctly, prior to commanding the ship, Archer was a test pilot. He may not have been the most diplomatic captain, but if you’ve known any test pilots, you’d know that his brash personality was spot on for the type of person that goes into that line of work.
Of course, I’ll never argue that a typical test pilot would make a good commanding officer.
I think Enterprise was pretty fixable as a concept, because there is a LOT of unwritten backstory to the Federation forming.
a) Archer being a butthead isn’t a problem if the show had a character arc for him that made him less so over time as he learned more about humanity’s position in the universe – perhaps have him adopt traits from races as he learns to understand them?
a1) lose the dog
b) mention decontamination, but never show it (or show it once but briefly – cut to be less fanservicey – show more arm than torso). if it ever comes up again that someone “needs” to be elsewhere on the ship but is in decon, just show their face, not their whole body. but keep this rare.
c) Phlox as doc using bio-engineering more than ultra-tech is okay, but make him less of a comic relief guy. maybe something with less makeup. and an attitude that is a little more serious.
d) move the s4 episodes showing how Vulcans go from dicks to the logic mongers we know from TOS into s1 – maybe make it a b-plot arc through the whole season
e) introduce the MAKOs earlier in the series – by putting their contingent on the ship from day one and making Malcolm their head officer. Then his constantly militarization makes more sense, and there’s room for conflict with the captain which he can back up by having control of people who don’t report to the captain (the trick, though, is not turning him into Worf-lite. that requires some precision writing)
f) the series was at its best when it was doing “the races that will one day be the Federation don’t get along so well” – the Andorian episodes were generally the top of the series. Do more of that with other races. If it’s going to be the story of how Archer helped form the Federation, make him uniquely qualified to do it by showing him learn both sides of many of the conflicts that need to be resolved to bring the Federation together. This works with suggestion ‘e’ as well because it contrasts the Federation that Archer helps form against the possibility of a Terran state dominated by defensive military like (my version of) Malcolm would prefer.
g) no. fucking. temporal. cold. war.
(Haven#t actually watched much of Enterprise, this is just visual/aural impressions from seeing clips)
I wish Enterprise didn’t have such a ‘space hicks’ vibe. I can understand the low-tech nuts and bolts idea, but there’s _more_ reason to have exceptional people on board, unprofessional maybe, but exceptional.
It’s not that everyone has to be a nerd either, a lot of the first astronauts were test-pilots right? And I can believe that there were some “I just fly the thing” people around them.
But it would be nice to feel like everyone was supremely talented, whether in bravery, smarts or reflexes, and trying to make the best of bad tools.
You could even keep Archer as incompetent, it just needs to be really clear that he’s there because of some political decision a higher-up made. And then you can give him his arc about learning to be less incompetent (And gaining the trust of the crew, who all know his job better than him)
God the fucking temporal cold war, man that was stupid.
Also the Xindi or however its spelt, that i did not like either.
Reading your list i cant help but agree on all of them, Archer is supposed to be some amazing figure in Trek Lore along the lines with Cochren. and while Scot Bacula adds alot to the character by being Scot Bacula.
ENT had a chance to do something, it had the chance to show the formation of the Utopia Roddenberry wanted and what would become in TOS and TNG.
Also as Shamus mentioned, no no no NO FUCKING BORG, the Borg were ideal in TNG and didn’t work in any other series really, VOY made them stupid and ineffectual, and that i think might be VOY’s main crime overall, making an enemy that was horrifically powerful, stupid and weak.
I think what voyager did to the Q is worse then what they did to the Borg, but it is a close match.
Oh god, i might have enjoyed the episodes ‘cus John DeLancie is Fantastic, but it did kind of fuck with Q and The Q as this mysterious all powerful force.
I will still forgive Voyager a lot, like how some people will forgive certain Doctors a lot because they are their Doctors, (FYI my Doctors are Eccleston and Tennant) because it was “my” Trek but objectively DS9 and TNG are better, even if certain arcs in DS9 where utter garbage.
The thing about the borg hat made them so great in TNG was that they were a NEW, MORE POWERFUL ENEMY.
The more time we spend with them, the less mysterious they become. The more often our heroes overcome the odds, the less powerful they become.
When you have liberated borg on the crew and you beat the borg on a regular basis they are ruined for being the borg.
Does anyone remember when the borg where a super-intelligent hive mind that never fell for the same trick twice? Now they are basically humans in cyberpunk/bondage cosplay with really good internet conections. So sad.
Worst Voyager Borg moment (in my opinion):
Janeway is able to threaten the Borg Queen with a phaser rifle.
I suppose the idea that the Borg Queen was just an interface or representation of the Collective kind of got misplaced, since someone blasting her to atoms should matter as much to the hive-mind as one of us losing a Mario in a video game.
Note to anyone who brings up First Contact: The Queen worked better there since the Collective in Earth’s past was only a handful of Borg. Still, even there, she was unnecessary if they’d played the Borg as established.
as much as it was well acted i don’t like the idea of a “Borg Queen” while originally as i understand it they where a hive and more organic like Killiks (Man sized flying ants) in Star Wars lore. they changes it to be more of a collective will idea, and no individual Borg is any greater then any other. aside from when they decided to defeat humanity they needed to think like humanity and turned Picard into Locutus of Borg, which they did a wonderful job of handling after with Picard having a crisis of character and visiting his brother, that little sub arc is IMO Trek at its best.
It’s been a while, but did they say they needed Picard as a Borg specifically to think like humanity? I thought he was more of a database of Starfleet tactics (which made sense, I guess, if the goal was to defeat humanity while preserving enough beings to have a decent assimilation stock remaining) with the added bonus of psychological warfare.
Now that I think about it, it IS a little 50’s sci-fi-ish, like the aliens disintegrating the president or something, but still.
Actually, it was because the Borg realized that humanity responded better to a singular individual (Federation President, Starship Captain), so decided to use Picard for both tactical knowledge and a “face” for the Borg to facilitate humanity’s assimilation.
Supposedly when doing a screen test in the Locutus make-up, Patrick Stewart intoned something along the lines of: “I am Locutus… of Borg. Have you considered buying a Pontiac?”
“I can't suggest how the show could have been improved because I can't even tell what they were going for. Were they trying to broaden Trek to new audiences? Was this aimed at core fans? During the run of the show it seems like they didn't take any steps to address fan complaints. (Or at least, people seem to have the same complaints throughout the show.) What happened here? Who was this for?”
I’m pretty sure it was written for the writers. A lot of it makes more sense if you imagine it as particularly unimaginative self-insert fanfiction.
I’m not sure that’s the case. Before the show came out they made a lot of noise about how they’d cut back on the technobabble that was getting out of hand on voyager. Less tech, no ‘beam me up’s for Bloleck and grittier overall is what they promised…
But of course phase cannon acted just like phasers, ablative plates acted just like shields and the technobabble remained in place because all the writers they took on had apparently never learned anything else while writing the previous shows.
So the show was, I gather, intended for those who were lost/never enticed with the previous series due to their shortcomings but who liked the idea, but the execution was just more of the same with whatever script ideas were still left over. They failed to cut the bits they said they meant to cut, but instead offered little in the way of quality new ideas.
There was potential, but as with Voyager and its being stranded so far from known space, the potential was left lying to rot.
Speaking of SF Debris. The guy’s covered Knights of The Old Republic (KoTOR) an Dragon Age: Origins.
If anyone do not feel like playing through DA:O again (like me) or wish to skip it and just catch up on Dragon Age backstory, the SF Debris guy does a great recap/breakdown of the plot and characters.
His 3rd episode on Dragon Age: Origin (dubbed Stalking Dead) crackedd me up as he goes on a logic rant one the stupidity of one of the NPCs (un-presses the pause button and goes back to watching).
As far as I can recall I’ve only watched the Mirror Universe two-parter (which I liked) and SF Debris’s videos, and I agree with you that the execution rather than the premise is often the problem with Enterprise. For instance, there was an episode where one of the crew members was implanted with an alien baby. Played straight, this could have been an interesting story with the crew’s opinions ranging from “alien parasitoid” to “daughter of Trip’s alien lover”, but they didn’t take it seriously so that opportunity was lost.
Your first annotation has it spelled “Neelix”, which now that I think about it sounds like a great name for a supervillain.
“I am Neelix! Fear me!”
More like “Kneel before me!”
“Kneel before Neelix!”
Wait, Neelix is a thing. Thought you spelled Netflix wrong. Derp.
I envy you those moments where you forgot who Neelix was. You were better off than I.
According to Shortpacked, God Himself really likes Enterprise.
I actually only watched Star Trek for the first time this year (discounting some random episodes I saw on TV as a kid). So here is my take on the series (only the TV runs, no movies), as a sort of outsider to Trek culture.
I really disliked TOS, though I can sort of see how folks watching it back in the day would come to love it. TNG (especially after season 1) was pretty fun, definitely my favorite series. I decided to watch the episodes chronologically, so I started watching DS9 eps mixed with TNG eps once DS9 started airing, and am now watching the last season of DS9 and Voyager season 5.
My opinion of both so far is that I liked the early seasons but am not as fond of the later ones. Season 7 of DS9 has been very difficult to watch, especially since they
killed off Jadzeiaat the end of season 6. I think DS9 at its best is better than Voyager at IT’S best, but find Voyager more enjoyable overall. Not super fond of the obvious fanservice that is Seven of Nine’s outfit, but it bothers me less than the female outfits worn by the crew and basically every female alien in TOS.
I remember watching the series finale of Voyager a long time ago on TV, and thinking that the series must have gotten very weird at the end, so I am not sure how much I am looking forward to finishing Voyager. I have no intention of watching Enterprise or Abrams Trek when I am finished; Voyager will be it.
” I decided to watch the episodes chronologically, so I started watching DS9 eps mixed with TNG eps once DS9 started airing, and am now watching the last season of DS9 and Voyager season 5.”
I am going to have to try this. I loved TNG as a kid, and have seen a scatter-shot of everything else.
Here’s what gets me about Enterprise: it is established fact that the Federation was founded by an alliance of Earthlings, Vulcans, Andorians, Tellarites and Centauri. Three of those species are in the show, two are not (and Tellarites have appeared on screen before so the makeup isn’t an excuse), and one of them – the Centauris – are literally just humans from another planet (they’re descendents of pre-warp colonisation). Why they decided to throw away the drama inherent in getting these people working together* for the “temporal cold war” thing I will never understand.
Also, it just got a lot of little details wrong: introduced Klingons too early, introduced new alien species that had never appeared in earlier series, tried to “explain” the bad make-up effects of TOS, renamed the Andorian homeworld to “Andoria” (it’s Andor – and it’s not a moon). Just little details that showed they didn’t care. I’m surprised it lasted four seasons. I certainly didn’t make it past the first.
*And there’s a lot of conflict to be had. Andorians are warriors, Tellarites express affection by arguing, Vulcans are pacifists, Humans are highly individualistic and Centauri are inherently cooperative (largely unable to work alone). There’s so much to use there and they didn’t use any of it.
I’m like Shamus – I think I’ve watched a grand total of 3 or 4 episodes of Enterprise. How the hell do they (try to) do that? I always just accepted the reason as being “TV of the sixties had crappy SFX”.
Indeed.You either ignore such stuff,because times be a changing,or you use them for a quick inoffensive joke,like the ds9 time travel thingy.Any attempt to seriously explain such a thing is doomed to fail.
In Enterprise, the Klingons attempted gene therapy of the sort that created Khan and his ilk, and the result was a genetic “disease” that spread through the Klingons, removing their head crowns and making them resemble the Klingons of TOS.
There’s some stupidly complicated genetic engineering thingy to explain why Klingons have forhead ridges in every series (including Enterprise) except TOS, instead of going with Worf’s explanation:
“We do not discuss it with outsiders”
Instead they had to try to explain that too.
Apparently, losing your head ridges is super shameful for Klingons, and they had to do a lot of super illegal time-travel to get them back.
Someone once suggested to me an idea that could have easily been used to explain the difference in Klingon appearance: that the Klingons encountered in Kirk’s time had specifically been altered (either genetically or cosmetically) to allow for infiltration of human society. This idea would be backed up by instances such as the Klingon masquerading as a human in “The Trouble with Tribbles” episode.
It was a bit of a cold war; grooming a subset of the population as potential spies would make sense; at least more sense than any official explanation we’ve ever been given for something that really needed no explanation to begin with.
it would have been nice to see Humanity and Andorians bump head do to Andorian principle being combat focused and Humanity being very individualistic. The Vulcans doing nothing except be high and mighty pacifists the Centauri largely getting along with everyone especially the Tellarites and then someone probaly the Tellarites thinks it would be a great idea to band these people together to form a “Federation” to better secure themselves in a hostile world and form Roddenberrys Utopia, and its up to Archer and co to do it.
That’d be great. Everyone starts off the show thinking they’re the best, because they’re them, and over time they come to realize the value of each others’ philosophy, culture and mindset. Be cool if the writers managed to make humans themselves kind of alien by giving them a general Species Hat, which could be explained thanks to the recent catastrophes that splintered and wounded humans and the Earth, making them prone to factionalism and paranoia.
As someone who hasn’t watched Star Trek but loved Babylon 5, the idea of “Centauri largely getting along with everyone” just sounds so incredibly wrong.
I dunno, the Centauri got along pretty well with a lot of non-Narn species. They even managed to (briefly) convince humans that Earth was a lost Centauri colony. Despite what we later learned about Centauri reproductive methods.
Humans like to think of themselves as highly individualistic, but I’m not convinced the sociological data backs that up. I’d actually find it interesting to see SF with an alien race that was noticeably more individualistic than humans, but I’ve seen hardly any. One old Gordon R. Dickson story comes to mind, with this race of genius loners who were not very technologically advanced overall because they were too individualistic to actually build up continuity of knowledge. One of these guys decided he personally was going to stop the human colony, and built a thing involving a lever and some weird crystals and stuff which he was plucking to make vibrations which, amplified through the crystals and exploiting natural resonances and such, was going to cause a massive earthquake. Can’t remember what it was called.
Well, in the case of Star Trek, it’s easily explained that all the individualistic humans stayed on Earth, while the collectivist ones went to Alpha Centauri.
All I have to say is that nu-Star Trek was OK (though I would have left Nimoy out of it) and Into Darkness was a preposterous mess, it didn’t just suck as Star Trek, it was awful as a movie. Curse you Lindelof, Orci and Kurtzman! Curse you!
I’ve watched it all in a ill-conceived plan to watch everything star trek in continuity order a couple years ago.
Enterprise actually wound up being my favorite. You really want to know how they could have fixed the show? Mute the fricking rock ballad intro music. Once you get past that The show itself holds up pretty well as an exercise in watching humans try stuff they’ve never done before in a largely hostile galaxy.
(As a side note I also kept score of who got more romantic action throughout the entirety of Trek to attempt to settle the Kirk vs. Riker debate, the answer, Chekov actually)
That makes some sense. Chekov was added to the show to increase its youth appeal – the Monkees were one of the hot TV shows at the time. That’s why Chekov has that haircut.
And dig heavily at Cold War mentalities. That was Gene sticking his thumb in the right eye of Network Establishment, with Nichelle being his thumb in the left eye.
The USSR also mentioned (through what agency I don’t know) that this “united” starship from Earth didn’t have a single Russian on board. Therefore, Chekhov.
I believe it was Pravda, their state-run news service.
That’s one of those Star Trek myths that’s probably not quite true.
I too, sat down a few years ago and just gorged myself on Star Trek.
TOS? Some brilliant episodes, but mostly just an enormous mess. The only thing that saves TOS most episodes are Shatner and Nimoy and lots and lots of weirdly colored semi-nekkid ladies.
TNG wins points for making old teenager me cry and also old fogey me cry, for the very same episodes: When it was rocking, there was no better Trek. But it had a lot of boneheaded nonsense too. Wil Wheaton may be a cool dude now, but teenage Wil still rankles and he’s not even as bad some of the other members of the cast.
DS9 never really gripped me. I could see what they were trying to do, but it all mostly felt kind of terribly written and half the shows seemed like they’d have done better to dispensed with story arcs and just allowed themselves a 2:30 movie’s worth of full contact to get whatever they were trying to say out. But they’d need actual writers to translate whatever the terrible writers they had into something decent first.
Voyager was surprisingly good sometimes and almost willfully terrible others. Robert Picardo was amazing in that series, and I probably could have dispensed with nearly every other storyline if they’d just made the whole series this weird thing about the junior officers. Seriously, the whole thing reverted to the viewpoint of Paris or Kim’s characters would have been ten times more amazing.
Enterprise, without the Temporal Cold War or Xindi bits? I think it is the best show in the series. Pushing the show as more politics without knowing the players was a good decision, the Andoran and Vulcan arcs are head and tails above nearly every other Trek’s longer arcs. And some of the stuff I think they should have played more with, like anti-alien resentment on Earth, seemed pretty good. Archer’s Enterprise isn’t Shatner’s “space hippie utopia”, it’s like the astronauts crapping in plastic bags version of that, the hard work that comes before Kirk gets to run around bedding the galaxy.
I’d probably love the Star Trek reboots more if only they didn’t have Chris Pine heading them. I don’t know that he’s actually got a lazy eye, but something about his face makes me think he’s got a lazy eye and it just distracts the hell out of me. I could deal with everything else, just not Chris Pine.
I might also be the only person who didn’t hate the Enterprise opening theme as well. I thought it was a nice change, though I do think that slowly pulling it back to a contemporary version of the normal theme over time would have been a good idea, like the proposed “refit” of the ship they never got to for the season after last where they’d add the expected cylindrical hull to the bottom of the ship.
I grew up on the classic “What If?” speculative science fiction. Yes, there was a lot of adventure in there, but usually the core of the thing was some idea of how the future could be different.
Watching SF movies and TV, that speculative core is usually missing. So it’s like reading a mystery novel where no crime is committed, and we just want to follow the quirky detective on his chase (after nothing.)
I could never take Star Trek seriously as SF, and by that same standard, Star Wars is a hopeless mess. Not to say they aren’t entertaining now and then, but there’s almost nothing I want to go back and watch again.
So I’m kind of surprised so many nerds take Star Trek seriously. Didn’t you guys ever read any of the good SF novels? Doesn’t the techno-babble drive you nuts? Doesn’t it bother you that they have artificial intelligence and transporters/replicators that beat any dream of nanotechnology, but still are so limited in other ways? And that the society presented there makes 1950s America look complex in comparison?
I suppose if you must watch SF instead of reading it, this is the best you can do, but it’s still pathetic.
I think Star Trek’s speculation is “what if people stopped being such jerks?” It’s optimistic (at least the earlier series were) in a way most other Sci-Fi is not.
The biggest problem I have with ‘Trek is that it wants to have this amazing continuity and world-building without paying attention to its continuity and world-building.
I find it falls into two problematic categories:
1. No head writer. This is especially apparent in Voyager, since Janeway’s personality whipsaws from one extreme to the other in most episodes, even to the point where Kate Mulgrew often found it baffling. Watched as a whole, Janeway seems to have some form of multiple personality disorder with the only unifying trait being a love of coffee.
2. Technology, both discarded and standardized. Even vanilla Star Trek tech should make humanity (and the other races) gods. If there were even a logical iota of realistic human behavior, transporters would be used as rejuvination machines, the Borg would be humanity suffering from too much DRM, and people would have cybernetic/genetic enhancements out the wazoo. Then there’s all the nifty tech that they encounter every show that they apparently forget about more often than not, even when it’s something done to their own ship (did they just undo whatever Barclay did when he increased shield strength by 300%? If so, they’re idiots). The recent JJ Abrams films have made this problem even worse with things like galactic transporters, which either have to get disabled (like most every other bit of technology) or there’s no drama.
#2 is probably my biggest gripe with the Abrams reboots. He had the chance to not only pick the best of ‘Trek for his movies, he could’ve fixed (or just left out) the things that make ‘Trek kind of silly, if not unreasonable when it comes to plot holes.
Well, the lack of genetic manipulation is explained by Khan; Khan’s what you get when you play with genes, and we all decided to have none of that.
A lot of the tech stuff can be written off the same way as super-science – it’s unreplicable, and thus unusable outside the circumstances where it arose.
#1 is definitely a problem.
Except Bashir and his ilk are the counter-argument. It’s also a genie that can’t really be put back in the bottle. If it can be done (as we saw with Bashir) then it will be done. This is more of a human nature thing, a desire to get ahead oneself or to enhance your children if you’re rich and powerful. If Bashir’s parents could do it, and a service to do so existed, you know it was widespread enough to be in use by a lot more than worried parents who wanted their kid to have an edge. According to Memory Alpha, the only penalty for being enhanced in the 24th century is that you can’t serve in Starfleet or practice medicine. The latter really doesn’t make much sense since they’d have a hard time stopping an enhanced person from learning, setting up a lab, etc.
This also flies in the face of Section 31, who should be enhancing its agents as fast as they can, based on their ethos. In fact, it would’ve made for an interesting story if a parallel version of Starfleet was being developed by enhanced humans, except given the writing quality, they’d have them fail after they all went nuts and killed each other, which is a handy cop-out.
“Except Bashir and his ilk are the counter-argument.”
They really arent.Of the four we saw,only bashir is normal(to a degree).Plus,there is that episode when they decide to run the shit because they see doom otherwise,and mutiny,which is verbatim why khan was imprisoned.
As opposed to all the normal people throughout Star Trek who mutinied, went nuts, had to be locked up, etc. for being certain they were right? What’s the over-under on that?*
And as for making them unstable, that was, as I said, an incredible cop-out. It’s like saying they can’t use the computer to run the ship’s weapons systems (which it should; battles in ‘Trek are SLOOOOOWWWW when people are in charge) because reasons. They’ll shoot themselves. They’ll fire the torpedoes backwards. Whatever.
Not to mention it might have redeemed the writing if they’d said these were the ones they knew about because of the obvious tells rather than being a 200+ year-old technology that was still churning out insane dictators.
* There could be a list a mile long of things on Star Trek that are potentially and provably more dangerous than genetically enhanced people which are still in common use, starting with holodecks.
Is this going to start a debate about what is and isn’t science fiction?
How about this: Star Trek and Star Wars are science fiction as much as Gone Home and Dear Esther are games. Have fun.
I think of Star Wars as more Fantasy than Science Fiction, personally. I realize that’s a very blurry line, but (for the first three movies at least) the central focus of Star Wars is a spiritual struggle with magic as a factor more powerful than technology in a sci-fi setting.
I think the term your searching for is Space Opera.
It’s so much more descriptive than Science Fantasy, wihc just doesn’t feel right without space wizards.
While Star Wars is no 2001: A Space Odyssey, all it’s magic elements are psionic powers, which are in plenty of other works that are otherwise considered sci-fi. Even Star Trek mentions telepathy. It’s not like Star Wars is Spelljammer or Wizardry 6 through 8.
I even remember an article that speculated the phrase “science fantasy” was invented by hard sci-fi snobs for Star Wars so that it wouldn’t pollute the “science fiction” category.
In fact, has there been any proper science fantasy/space fantasy outside of games, comic books, and various works by Edgar Burroughs Rice?
Oh yes, there are many examples of space fantasy. Packed away in storage I have a book by (IIRC) John Brunner that was a conscious attempt to create a coherent swords-n-spaceships world, literal science fantasy. There are plenty of space operas set in far future where none of the science has any explanation, and it’s all fantasy by the true hard-SF standards. From the other direction, take Pern, which looks like standard dragon fantasy until you get to backstory where
the planet was settled from Earth long ago.
That said, it’s a very wide spectrum and there are books at virtually every point on it. And you’re absolutely correct that “science fantasy” was a perjorative attempt by hard-SF snobs to split themselves away from Those People and their dragons and suchlike. Harumph.
Of course, in the long run, that turned out to be the really popular part…
Well there are actual good reasons to not call star wars sci fi,reasons that dont involve pettiness or “purity of the genre”.What if someone wants to find more stories like star wars,but cannot simply because its labeled as sci fi action,which covers plethora of stuff that really have nothing to do with each other.Labeling everything that has spaceships as sci fi is the equivalent of labeling everything that has a car as action.Technically not wrong,but incredibly useless.
I think one’s willingness to label something as “sci-fi” has to do with one’s tolerance for technology that could be replaced by actual magic and how well it sticks to its established black boxes, along with how well those black boxes mesh with what we know about science thus far.
For a better breakdown, here’s (warning: TV Tropes link) The TV Tropes Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness.
What do you mean “without space wizards”? Star Wars is essentially one long writer-insertion wet dream about how cool it is to be a Space Wizard and how lame everyone else is. In between the bits of bad philosophy about emotion making you weak, anyways.
I mean I love the thing and all, but you wouldn’t want to take it seriously.
Star Wars is just as much Science Fiction as is the Arthurian legend… which is to say, not at all. Strip away the special effects, the spaceships, the laser swords and ray guns, and you’re left with a very similar story. I would never go so far as to attach the word “science” to Star Wars in any way, simply because science has zero impact on the story being told. Space Fantasy is the best categorization I can give Star Wars; “space” denoting the setting, and “fantasy” the style of the story.
True Science Fiction uses science (whether real, theoretical, or imaginary) to create a situation which makes the audience think, ponder, and consider aspects of the human condition. It highlights facts of our existence with a perspective that lets us view those facts in a new way, and potentially draw new conclusions about ourselves and the world around us. There were times when Star Trek achieved this beautifully, and times when it failed miserably, but at its heart, I think that Star Trek always strived towards this level of cerebral content.
That is of course, until Abrams came along and mucked it all up. That man wouldn’t know the meaning of Science Fiction if he had weekly dinners with Asimov!
I think Trek is at its best when it poses novel scenarios andtheir implications as made possible through technology. One of the TNG episodes I remember best is when the crew debates whether the Prime Directive allows them to save a civilization threatened by geologic forces on its own planet. The specifics or accuracy of the technology and physics aren’t as interesting as the questions posed. It is for similar reasons that I enjoy the writing of Greg Egan, classics like R.U.R., or even the more sci-fi aspects of H.P. Lovecraft’s work.
“Didn't you guys ever read any of the good SF novels?”
Yes I did.
“Doesn't the techno-babble drive you nuts?”
No it doesnt.Because its not about that.Good trek is about characters and various moral dilemmas.Techno-babble is good only in small doses to set up stuff.In bad trek its used over abundantly however,and is the focus,which it shouldnt be.
“I suppose if you must watch SF instead of reading it, this is the best you can do, but it's still pathetic.”
And here you went to the deep end.First,books are no magical superior medium.Theres soft sci fi books aplenty(for example the time machine).Theres hard sci fi shows and movies as well(for example gattaca).
Furthermore,soft sci fi is not bad by default,and hard sci fi is not good by default.Its how skilled the creator is in using those elements,not what the elements are.
Sorry I missed this whole debate. I’m not sure anyone is still checking back. That’s the problem with Shamus’s blog — too popular now to keep up with!
But I will start by saying that of course written SF is superior — there’s a lot more of it. You have hundreds of good novels and writers to choose from, instead of (at most) dozens of SF movies and TV. And the big budgets of TV/Movies make them much more cautious. So the best of written SF is far better than the best that’s been done on TV.
As for the “purity” arguments, I’ll repeat my analogy — if there were a mystery show on TV where there’s no actual mystery, you’d be disappointed. When there’s something calling itself SF and there’s no speculation about technology or the future, I’m disappointed.
You can just redefine this and call TV SF “science fantasy”, but it’s just action adventure with different props. I can enjoy Star Trek for what it is, and there are some more thoughtful episodes, but I can’t take it seriously as SF.
But my basic point was that I just don’t understand the appeal the series has for so many nerds. I suppose there’s a bit of “techie as hero” when some problem is solved with a bit of engineering techno-babble, but that’s about it. I suppose a lot of techies like Dr. Who for the same image — smart guy solving problems as the center of the show.
And yes, we’re used to the characters. Still, a lot of this discussion is about how annoying they all are.
I loved written SF growing up, and still read novels once in awhile. I’d like to see something intelligent put on screen. Instead, movie SF is Transformers, Aliens, etc. Just action/horror pictures with different props. The best TV SF is probably Star Trek (there are some good SF episodes) or some of the old Twilight Zone, which were made from SF short stories.
I hope as more fan-made movies become available, we’ll see a broader range. If I never see another superhero movie, I’ll be fine.
“But I will start by saying that of course written SF is superior “” there's a lot more of it.”
Since when does quantity equal quality?By that logic twilight is superior to any stand alone book simply because theres more of it.
That aside,books and tv cannot be compared since they are different mediums.Each has its strengths and weaknesses and declaring that one is objectively superior is both smug and stupid.
“You can just redefine this and call TV SF “science fantasy”, but it's just action adventure with different props.”
And thats the trouble of calling sf a genre instead of setting,which Ive harped on since forever.I mean calling gattaca,jurrasic park and alien sci fi does nothing to distinguish those from a beautiful mind,jaws and halloween,nor does it link them in any meaningful way.But labeling any sci fi as fantasy does not solve the problem,it only transfers it because fantasy comes in dozens of flavors as well:highlander,neverending story,lord of the rings and buffy are all fantasy,yet neither of them is similar to the others.
That little rant aside,going into sf because you like speculation about technology of the future is fine.Searching for sf that does that is fine.But asking that only that type of sf be called sf is just arrogant.Thats like saying “I like medieval stories that talk only about court intrigue,and everything else set in that time period is just drivel”.
“But my basic point was that I just don't understand the appeal the series has for so many nerds.”
Its ok to not understand something.Its ok to ask what the appeal is.But to call it pathetic just because you dont understand?Yeah,I stand behind my words above.
Anyway,theres not just a single answer to why someone likes trek(or for that matter doctor who).For me,its the characters and acting.Yes it gets hammy at times,but the good outweighs the bad for me.
Though granted,that holds true for tng and ds9.Voyager is a mixed bag,and Ive watched only the episodes that were considered good by the fans simply because of this,tos I simply couldnt get into,and enterprise…well,Shamuse covered that already.
“I'd like to see something intelligent put on screen. Instead, movie SF is Transformers, Aliens, etc. Just action/horror pictures with different props.”
Insulting action and horror just because you dont like it?Seriously,tone down the smug,it does you disservice.
I wont even bother pointing out how wrong that statement is,Ill just point you to gattaca as speculative sf that you might enjoy.Or maybe colossus:the forbin project of the older ones.
“The best TV SF is probably Star Trek (there are some good SF episodes) or some of the old Twilight Zone, which were made from SF short stories.”
Personally I prefer firefly over the two.As for the more modern shows,orphan black has amazing lead actress and is a good show so far.
Sorry I come across as arrogant or smug — that’s not my intention.
If all we are arguing about is labeling (what is SF), then I couldn’t care less. But I do think there’s a key ingredient in classic SF that’s missing in movie/TV SF, for completely straightforward reasons. (Some) classic SF was thoughtful and wanted the reader to consider a future possibility. Usually something that was actually possible like space travel. So the heart of the story is that concept.
Movie/TV SF is mass market. It has to be, because it’s so expensive to make. So the hard SF “what if” story with a lot of thought out scenarios is going to lose out. It’s harder to film, and most of the audience couldn’t care less. Just give them an action/horror picture with robots and space ships.
So to spot the “real SF” in my book, ask what the concept was, and if removing it would have made any difference. I haven’t seen Gattaca, but it probably qualifies, since the whole thing is about genetics. “Primer” is all about time travel and what could happen. It qualifies. “Dark City” is fantasy, but based around a concept. I would even call “Groundhog Day” an excellent SF movie in style, since it’s all about the concept.
I don’t see how you can call Star Wars anything but an action picture with different props. Star Trek has a few episodes based around a concept or problem. Most are just adventure stories. On top of that, the background is a sloppy mess. I’m always asking “why couldn’t you use [gadget from previous episode] to solve this problem?”
And books are superior because there are more of them. In a thousands of attempts (books), the best is going to be better than it will be in hundreds of attempts (TV/Movies). And novels are written by a single person who can take chances, not made by a studio that is afraid to kill a franchise. And novels are longer and can get into more detail, and have more time for speculation.
Firefly is a cute action series with space ships. It would hardly be different if done as a Western.
“It has to be, because it's so expensive to make. ”
Sure,thats a downside,but there is also an upside.Seeing the dinosaur on a big screen is way better than any way you could describe it on paper.Coupled with the sound which can give you a level of immersion in just a few frames that paper can never achieve in dozens of pages.
Then there is the thing about actors.Ive heard plenty of people say that while tyrion lannister was an ok character in the books,Peter Dinklage is by far the superior version.No matter how skillful the writer is,he will still have to present you with a bunch of other characters,and the setting itself,while a good actor can completely immerse themselves in a role giving you something spectacular.
Its all about the trade offs:If you want more internal stuff,you are better with written word,if you want more external you are better with visual medium.Gattaca could be well made in either format(given equal skill of those involved),but jurassic park is much better as a movie,while lord of the rings i better as a book(mostly because frodo in the movie is a whiner while he is an actual hero in the books).
“So to spot the “real SF” in my book, ask what the concept was, and if removing it would have made any difference. ”
By that definition star wars is as much of an sf as primer.Sure,you could replace the force with some other type of magic and get the same result,but you could just as well replace the time travel in primer with the dimension thingy from sliders and tell the same story.
Thats why I view sf elements as backdrops to the actual story.They add to it,but they dont define it.Can you make firefly as a western in the 1800s?Yes.But setting it on a spaceship in a planetary system far far away does add stuff to it that you wouldnt get from 1800s western usa.The sense of isolation is much more emphasized when there is literal vacuum around you,for example.
“And books are superior because there are more of them. ”
So the best sf can be found in the pulpy magazines because those are by far the most abundant?Enterprise is superior to wrath of khan simply because it has a far longer running time?And all the tweeny books about monsters
stalkingfalling in love with high school girls trump any of the previous depictions because of the incredible abundance of fanfics?
Quantity is never the measure of quality.
“And novels are written by a single person who can take chances, not made by a studio that is afraid to kill a franchise.”
That is not so.Yes,writers are singular,but once they get established they rarely tend to piss off their fan base,especially today.
That aside,having a single person think of everything is a double edged sword.You get a single mind in charge of everything,which can be a good thing,but you also get a single mind thinking all the ideas through and a single mind trying to portray all the characters,which can be a bad thing(again,Peter Dinklage).
” And novels are longer and can get into more detail, and have more time for speculation.”
More detail is not the same as better detail.Plus,the amount of detail you can pack into a single frame of a movie is pretty significant.Just take a look at works of directors known for putting a bunch of foreshadowing stuff and tiny details into their shots.It ultimately comes down to skill and invested time(a book written in a week will end up being as rushed as a movie filmed in a week).
Gattaca isn’t ultimately about genetics, mostly. It’s about totalitarianism and the problematic nature of ideas about human perfectability and “ubermensch”. It’s more about eugenics, which predates the discovery of DNA after all, than about genetics as such. Genetics is the technological hat the questions wear in the movie. It’s well worth seeing.
Actually, when I was first introduced to Firefly, I was told it was a “space western.” I really had no idea what that was supposed to mean until I watched it; then I could only agree that “space western” was the best description the show could be given. Consider that the original idea for the show came from a thought along the lines of “what would life have been like for Confederate soldiers after the American Civil War,” and the theme and description make even more sense.
Star Wars is fantasy. Mythology. Once I made my peace with this fact I found it much easier to take. This is actually one of the (many) shortcomings of the prequel movies, is that they make occasional vain abortive attempts to project a bit of SF-ness onto the whole thing and it does not work.
Star Trek . . . is a kind of soft SF, sometimes. The technology is ludicrous and wildly inconsistent and the science is largely nonexistent. But it does sometimes use SF as a lens to get at social questions. Ursula K. Le Guin’s “The Dispossessed” has basically no references to science or very specific future technologies at all, but it remains classic SF. Star Trek kind of does the same thing by using future technologies and “science” so ludicrous that they might as well not exist, and so in the better episodes you can instead pay attention to other things about civilization, human nature and whatnot.
Take aliens in Star Trek. True, they generally aren’t at all plausible and they typically don’t have ways of thinking or societies that are all that interesting in themselves; not good in terms of a question like “What if there were aliens that thought like THIS?” Instead aliens in Star Trek are there to act as counterpoints, foils to humanity; more like “What does it say about the human condition that we would consider THIS to be something different?”
Random addendum: I think it’s telling that Enterprise is the only “Trek” series that doesn’t have the words “Star Trek” in the name; even Berman knew what he was doing wasn’t worthy of the franchise.
They went back on that, though (I think in season 3).
It’s been a long time since I read this, but I’m fairly certain the reason they dropped “Star Trek” (although I think they added it back in Season 4 when Manny Coto took over as showrunner) was in a hope to make it more inviting to new viewers.
I went straight into Enterprise after Voyager ended, and lasted maybe half a season. I’ve gone back since and got to season 2 before giving up.
The opening was awful (rock does not go in a star trek show opening, it’s a rule damn it!), and the only good thing about the fanboy service was that it inspired this song…Vulcan Rubdown.
Thinking back on it, I remember Archer (idiot), the linguistics woman, Vulcan fanservice, doc who was voted most likely to be locked in decontamination by the crew, and the dog, and I only liked one of ’em (though I tolerated linguistics woman).
To me, it’s a meh series. It’s a shame because the premise is awesome, but it’s a meh. (A meh is a show that is neither good enough or bad enough, so your reaction is indifference)
I find it interesting how many of these opinions of Enterprise are based on watching SF Debris instead of the show itself. I’ve seen every episode of TNG, DS9, Voyager, and Enterprise, so watching SF Debris is a different experience for me, but one that I still very much enjoy.
Some things to keep in mind:
1. SF Debris tends to cover the worst episodes of a series first, because those are the most requested. This is because the scathing reviews tend to be more entertaining for someone who has already seen all the content. (And SF Debris does an awesome job breaking down all the stupid things that happen in an episode.)
2. SF Debris will tend to harp on the negative aspects of a particular episode, even if that episode is otherwise good, for the same reason – it is more entertaining.
3. SF Debris will at times present a cardboard cutout version of a character for the sake of humor, such as the “evil Janeway” used in the Voyager reviews. While this is fantastically funny for those who’ve seen the original content, this is a major disservice to anyone watching SF Debris as a way to determine if the original content is worth seeing.
To be clear: I really enjoy SF Debris, and I don’t want it changed one bit. However, it does present a viewpoint that skews the original content through a particular lens; so if you’re watching SF Debris in order to be able to speak to the original content, you should be aware of that. It’s a bit like using Cliff’s Notes to give an opinion of a particular book; only if Cliff’s Notes was snarky and mildly exaggerative.
As for Enterprise, the show had potential, but never lived up to it. The first season was rocky, as Trek series almost always are. People love to bag on the decontamination chamber, which, to be fair, sucks. It strikes me as something the writers regretted; in later episodes the chamber is downplayed dramatically, in fact as I recall in later seasons it often doesn’t appear on screen at all and is merely given lip service with a throwaway line of dialog or two. The attempt at a long narrative arc with the “temporal cold war” was a complete disaster. It bogged down almost every single episode that it was in, and strained credulity at every turn. By season three, the show actually did as Trek series typically do: it got much better because the actors had settled into their characters and the writers had figured out how to write the characters the actors were playing. The key to Trek, at least in these later series (I haven’t watched enough TOS), has always been the interaction of the characters and not Big Idea plots; traditional Sci-Fi handles those better anyway. Thus the doctor went from being someone I wanted to see accidentally ejected out of an airlock to perhaps my favorite character on the show; the weird stuff in his lab got less attention and the genuine empathy of that character for the rest of the crew made most of the time he was on screen enjoyable to watch by the end.
It is really too bad that Enterprise ended when it did; it may have had a few very good seasons ahead of it. Instead, season 2 soured most of the fanbase on it, and the audience never returned even though the show itself got considerably better.
“the genuine empathy of that character for the rest of the crew”
Was that before or after he sentenced an entire species to death?
I did say “for the rest of the crew” rather than empathy full stop. I think perhaps Flox is one of those characters that people sour on early so much that, even when many of the flaws are addressed, is still hated anyway.
“it does present a viewpoint that skews the original content through a particular lens;”
But he says practically the same thing youve said there.He too praises the fourth season as the best of the show,and the few episodes he covered from there were given positive reviews.And while he does harp on the negative aspects of the show,he also doesnt shy from showing the positive,even going so far as to present the ways to expand the positive over the negative.
Also,the fanfic captains he uses arent that far away from the originals.
It’s also worth noting that his scores for each episode are ranked according to the best and worst of the series. Therefore even for Voyager and Enterprise, there will be episodes scoring 10 out of ten, though those episodes are still largely flawed. In other words, you’re in “best feature of UPlay” territory, pretty much. :)
I remember when the show came out -I was still in high school. I’d really liked Babylon 5, but I’d soured on Voyager after a couple seasons. I recall saying that what Voyager needed was to get back to Earth and then start a war with the Romulans. So I was excited about Enterprise -it was more Babylon 5-ish looking, with arcs and intrigue, and I knew there was a war with the Romulans to look forward to.
The Temporal Cold War never made much sense to me, but I was willing to go with it (I also kind of vaguely recall that the showrunners decided to run with a more direct allegory after 9/11 -the Suliban became more like the Taliban and the Temporal Cold War took on more aspects of the War on Terror). Archer got some slack from me because I liked Scott Bakula -but I remember Hoshi and Malcolm being my favorite characters. The episode where they can’t get the universal translator working so Hoshi has to do the translations on the fly was a high point for me. And while SFDebris might not have been a fan, I liked the episode where the Vulcan’s have a listening post under one of their temples.
But I eventually lost interest in the show. I remember finding the fan servicy sections a bit weird (I had a similar gripe with Voyager -Jeri Ryan looks better in a uniform, anyway). There’s an episode where the crew gets captured and Hoshi has to play John McClane -and when she falls through a vent loses her top. That struck me as dumb.
I don’t remember much else except that I stopped caring at some point and just never went back to the show.
Y’know, they almost made Daniels an interesting character. I liked how Archer sealed his quarters, since who knows what kind of technology could be in there. But more intriguing to me was how Daniels looked different. His hair and skin made him almost look like a Data-type android. I know ‘Trek isn’t well-regarded as thinking ahead, but I’d love to know if some writer somewhere had a reveal in mind for why he was made to appear the way he did.
Oh hey, Star Trek!
I recently started watching that stuff on Netflix, TNG to be more exact, and it’s reminded me what I loved about that core premise: That once humanity pulls itself together, wonders are possible. I was never bothered by the utopianisms, since that gave more focus to the problems at hand that week, and people forget all too often that throughout the series’ run flaws and problems are repeatedly shown with any utopia that needs to have people in it. But those problems are solvable, people CAN be better, DO better than they are, if given the chance, and that’s a lovely message. Even hokey stuff like Commander Data “trying to be more human” felt genuine and touching next to that.
The later shows’ need to make things gritty and try to show what the ‘Federation would REALLY look like in the REAL world of REAL people’ are kidding themselves. What they come up with might be more superficially believable, but it’s no more real than what it’s sniping at. The point of the show wasn’t examining the socio-political structure that supported its premise any more than Star Wars is about the complex metaphysics of its Force. Teasing out flaws from that and presenting them as proof that [X] is actually EVIL is just being a poor sport.
Also Section 31 will never not be the goofiest thing in all Trek. I just can’t take those jokers seriously. It’s like if Cerberus was the NSA.
As for Enterprise, the best way to improve it, I feel, is to make things less familiar. Lots more aliens on the crew, less obvious techstyles, more situations that can’t be solved by shooting them, trying to provoke a sense of a strange, unfriendly universe that people from Earth are really not ready for but have to be because they’re wearing their space-pants now. The Klingons as simultaneous representations of this and the ‘old galactic order’ that the Federation eventually replaces, where strength and guile is valued more than compassion and curiosity. Also less aliens that look “like” humans, and times where the human leads can’t communicate verbally with the weirdos around them. That’d put the other shows in incredibly stark perspective.
In regards to the 3rd footnote, I’m not sure it’s correct to say you regard it as separate universes. Unless I’m remembering incorrectly, old Spock actually came from the original universe. Which of course means both universes currently exist canonically wouldn’t it?
Shamus isn’t stating a canon based fact, he’s stating how he, personally, treats them regardless of official canon.
Nope,the old universe is overwritten.No more.Nadda.Non existent.Obliterated from existence.Gone forever.Eliminated from et cetera.
The actual idea was that there was a split; old-Spock proves that the old universe isn’t gone, because if it was gone, so would be old-Spock. Since old-Spock is around, so is the old universe the old fans know and loved. It was supposed to be an attempt to say “TOS isn’t gone, it’s still there and waiting when you get back, but for now, how about you give this new Trek a try?”
The only real problem is that the new Trek has DS9’s heart, rather than TNG’s.
There definitely was a split,long before the new trek was even conceived.
Alt-U’s are a common ‘Trek trope. The only real difference in Abrams’ handling of it was a significant event (in this case, a planet) remained unchanged when they were done.
There’s the infamous “Dark Universe” that seems the most common vacation spot for displaced Starfleet personnel. Then there are the “almost-us” universes where you see major characters die, but then you find out that’s just the parallel universe next door and either the main character actually lived or did die and was replaced by a nearly-exact duplicate.
Actually, no – the intention was for the Abrams movies to be an alternate universe from the original shows and movies. Abrams and others said as much in the run up to the first film several times. Admittedly this was a PR move to try to calm irate trekkies, but it is nevertheless official canon. For the purposes of this instance of time travel, at least, they’re adopting the quantum mechanics many-worlds view of it – you cannot alter the past of your own timeline. Any attempt to do so actually creates an alternate reality instead. For old-Spock and Nero’s crew, the difference is academic, because there’s no easy way back to their own reality, but the original timeline continues to exist without them, all the same.
This has always been the only interpretation of time travel that makes any sense to me. It prevents any real causality issues. Of course it also means that you can’t actually use time travel to fix your own history.
Roddenberry’s ghost could appear before me and make this claim, and I still wouldn’t accept it as “official canon.”
Well, “official canon” is merely meant to indicate it’s what the people currently in legal control of the franchise have decided is true in the setting. It doesn’t mean Roddenberry would approve of it, or that it even makes internal sense within the previously established rules of the setting.
I regard every season and every movie as a separate universe when it comes to Star Trek. Its the only way to stay sane. :)
I grew up with TNG and with Babylon 5, so you’d think I’d adore DS9, but it never quite captivated me though I’ve enjoyed what I’ve seen. I tried to return to full-time watching with Voyager, but dear god Janeway was so horrible. I’d have preferred Neelix as Captain, and that is realizing just how annoying he was. Really if it weren’t for the Doctor, B’Elanna, Kim, and Paris, I’d never have stuck with it at all. They really lost me with the intro of the fanservice-borg.
Its quite insufferable that the show with the female captain is the one with the weakest, most-unlikeable female characters in it.
Say what you will about Uhura, Dr. Crusher, Deanna, Kira, Jadzia, and Keiko, at least they aren’t one-dimensional fanservice. They are allowed to have character and to evolve (as much as their male counterparts at least). Then again, maybe that was a problem for all the characters on Voyager, Janeway hogged so much of the character development (not a good thing) that most seemed flat by comparison. (Don’t get me started on Neelix’s girlfriend Kes, Queen of the Mary Sue.)
I’d like to not rant about women in Trek, but Voyager felt like the biggest back-step since Kirk was picking up multi-hued chicks by the truckload (shipload?) and the latest movies only improved on that by *not* having Kirk end up with Uhura. And then the 2nd movie has chick-in-underware-for-no-reason. Sigh.
On another note. I only ever caught a couple episodes of Enterprise at the start and just couldn’t stick with it. Then I caught a later episode which I remember liking, then watching it all the way thru, and then realizing it was ending on a “it was all a dream”. Then I was sad. Because the amnesia that the Captain was afflicted with humanized him and the grim future-outlook was more interesting than what it came back around to when the episode ended.
( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twilight_%28Star_Trek:_Enterprise%29 )
Whether you prefer your Trek with or without a wrap-up at the end where everything is restored to “normal”, its probably safe to say the worst thing to happen to Trek in every iteration is lazy writing.
I was 10 when TNG started airing, and it quickly became my favourite series. But I probably ended up watching more TOS around that time, if only because there were always reruns on. But around when I started university, I just didn’t watch as much TV in general. So there are still a couple Season 7 TNG episodes I haven’t seen. I saw most of DS9 but don’t remember individual episodes very well (was watching Babylon 5 and managed to see all of that because a local TV channel kept showing daily reruns over and over for a few months), saw only a bit of Voyager and practically nothing of Enterprise, so my view of the latter two is largely shaped by SFDebris, FWIW.
I have a lot to say on Trek in general, but I’ll try to keep it to a few observations:
1) I find a lot of similarities between Roddenberry and George Lucas. Both men dreamed up the basic concepts of a huge, sprawling science fiction franchise with mass appeal. And those franchises seemed at their best when those men acted as visionaries, but were surrounded by strong-willed creative types who were able to rein in some of their loopier ideas. The problems in both Trek and Star Wars seem to arise when Roddenberry and Lucas believe in their own legends too much, and don’t have the restrictions they did when they were younger.
2) TOS, much as I love it, is from a completely different era of television and science fiction. It doesn’t have a continuous narrative and its characters don’t really change. The fact that so much of its continuity holds up and doesn’t massively contradict itself is frankly amazing compared to its contemporaries. And really, it wasn’t trying to be a story. A lot of science fiction of the era that considered itself more intellectual than pulp (e.g. The Twilight Zone) was really more metaphorical than narrative: using SF tropes and aesthetics to point at real-world social issues.
That’s why the Prime Directive is okay in TOS, where it’s a wishy-washy ideal only noted in the breach, because it’s just being used to point at real-world issues with imperialism and post-colonialism and approaches to foreign policy that would have resonated with a TV viewer in the 1960s. But when it has to become a defined legal instrument of a narrative series with actual ongoing stories and characters, and one that seems to have less and less connection with political progressivism–i.e. the TNG/DS9/Voyager era of Trek–it becomes problematic because the writers in the 80s and 90s interpret the intentions of the original 60s writers differently. So you have episodes that disagree whether the PD would demand starship captains let less-advanced societies die.
3) In its earlier days, even when Trek was bad, like TOS’ third season, or TNG’s first two seasons, it was still much better than just about any other SF series on television at the time. There are good reasons Trek is so fondly remembered among early postwar SF series, while shows like Lost in Space and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea are not. And (with a handful of exceptions) the first two seasons of TNG definitely don’t hold up, but if you wanted to watch SF on TV in the late 80s, your other options weren’t stellar.
Going out on a limb here, because I’m not as familiar with Voyager and Enterprise, but unlike earlier Trek series, they had real competition. The 90s were full of direct-to-syndication and cable network SF and fantasy series, like Babylon 5, Farscape, Hercules/Xena, Buffy/Angel, the Stargate franchise, Lexx, Forever Knight, Highlander–and X-Files showed you could make a good SF series on network. They weren’t all good, but they had fans, and some of them were playing with interesting ideas. It was not a time for Trek to rest on its laurels, coasting on its legend and a reputation for progressiveness and utopian ideals it no longer deserved. I think SFDebris made a good point in an Enterprise review: at a time when most SF series were lucky to get a whole season, Enterprise spent three years farting around, coasting on the goodwill of Trek fans.
Well, I guess it was for me then, because I liked it… :-) And my wife liked it, so we could watch it together. I find it a little surprising that this of all Star Trek shows is the one getting scolded. To me it seemed to have the production quality than most of the other shows lacked.
I really liked Enterprise (i.e. the prequel series) up until the finaled which felt like they just had to quickly wrap up some stuff, do something dramatic for an ending because the show was cancelled (IIRC it was, but I am not sure).
There were many things which I believe the show would have done better without. The temporal cold war, because I prefer my time travel deep, meaningful and thought-through, or light-hearted and funny (with Back To The Future occupying the very narrow sweet spot in between both). The superweapon plot, which did work as a long-reaching plot that shapes the crew, but could have have been much, much better if it had not been yet another “save the world” story.
But contrary to Shamus’s post, for example, I liked Doctor Flox very much, yes he should have been less obsessed with his various creatures, but on the other hand I think that obsession served very well to protrait him as an eccentric person (either genuinely eccentric, or merely from the point of view of a human).
Enterprise had a lot of problems, but it started with the intro. Who thought adding words and poppy music was a good idea?
Hey, I liked that theme song. I still do. I still hold a grudge for them later changing it to an altered version that doesn’t sound nearly as good, though.
I had the same reaction when I first saw the show; the song just seemed out of place and wrong.
But as I watched more episodes, it kind of grew on me; the theme and its sentiments actually made sense for the show and the crew’s mission.
My wife and I actually exited our wedding reception to the Enterprise theme; it seemed fitting somehow (see my comment below for a little more insight on this). The series soundtrack is still on my shelf, and gets pulled out every now and then.
I liked the concept of the doctor, and thought it fit well with the concept of the show. This was before the UFP had magical wands you could wave over a patient to diagnose them, and no disease or injury was serious or life threatening unless it was a plot device. I liked the idea that they would look to the medical expertise of an alien race, even expertise as odd as that displayed on Enterprise, and try to adopt or learn from it. It had a nice ‘formative years of the Federation’ vibe.
I never watched Voyager, so I didn’t have the Neelix problem, though I do agree Enterprises execution of the doctor didn’t live up to the concept. But I really liked the concept.
I mourn Enterprise as a squandered opportunity. It was a show that had such potential which was then thoroughly wasted. I love Scott Bakula as an actor, and I thought the rest of the cast was great. The setting presented ample opportunities for exploration and discovery, things that were at the heart of Star Trek. And there was so much that could have been done with the development of the Federation. Instead, we got jerks for Vulcans and a “temporal cold war”. I blame the writers; I don’t think they had any idea where they were going with it, or knew how to be consistent about anything (except being awful).
It’s such a shame – Enterprise could have really been great if it had been handled properly. At least one good thing came of it – my wife and I first started dating while getting together with friends for weekly viewings of the first season.
I feel like someone should do a shout-out here: Enterprise 2nd half (seasons 3 and 4) got substantially better and even verged on excellent. Granted two seasons of bland is a long slog to get through (or skip!) but I think the last two seasons, largely ignored, are hidden gems. Just sayin.
I found Enterprise to be the most entertaining of the lot. I was a child at the time so Picard often made me bored (great guy, love his work.) and Jainway in Voyager was some bigot I had to sit through as my mother just loved it… and we both loved not watching it when it was less Voyager and more “Borg, Borg, Borg”. Deep Space 9 is my second favorite but saw so little of it. I hated the original series… Kirk looked perpetually stoned and sounded like he was part Borg.
Enterprise was a breath of fresh air that felt just as episodic (and thus disjointed) as all the rest. Then season 3 and 4 showed up and it just tanked…
I’m about an 8 out of 10 on the scale of Trek-geekery, so I feel like I can weigh in reasonably well. The reason why Enterprise utterly fails as a series is mostly due to the influence of Rick Berman, a typically corporate “studio guy” with a lifelong relationship of near-veneration toward Gene Roddenberry. (And while Gene got the ball rolling on the entire Trek thing, he also did a lot to hold it back from maturing over time, and Berman had all of those conservative tendencies without much, if any, of the visionary brilliance.) There were a lot of elements in the two-hour pilot episode of Enterprise, which I recently rewatched, which on paper could have worked – the Suliban were these genetically engineered “infiltrator” aliens who were very clearly a thinly disguised allegory for post-9/11 terrorism, and the Temporal Cold War could have been awesome if a truly brilliant writer had meticulously crafted every aspect of a constantly-shifting timeline which adhered to strict rules about how the different technologies worked. But instead, it was just a vehicle for the same kind of lazy writing that had long dogged the other 90s series (particularly Voyager, which Berman was extremely heavily involved with for most of its run), and with the deliberately low-scale premise limiting its potential interest value, the show was just unbearably boring for its first two years, with a single-digit number of episodes most viewers would agree are worth watching – personally I’m aware of perhaps three. In the third season, the show’s incredibly bad ratings forced them to take a big creative risk, which is still the show’s high point – a year-long experiment in Babylon 5-esque continuity and planning. There are still poor episodes within it, but overall this season was pretty good. Season 4 made the strange decision to have a bunch of 2- and 3-episode arcs, which I found difficult to get into, so I haven’t rewatched much of that, but the penultimate episode, where Peter Weller plays a xenophobe holding Earth hostage to prevent the Federation from being formed, is about as good as the show ever gets (which is still not very). Overall, it’s just not a great show, and you haven’t missed much.
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