Space - the final frontier. These are the voyages of the forgotten Starship Enterprise. Its mission: to explore strange old worlds, to seek out familiar life and civilisations, to boldly go where all the other series went before.
- An explanation as to why Enterprise may have been cancelled.
Star Trek: Enterprise is the fifth, and final, live-action series in the Star Trek franchise. Originally 'Star Trek' was removed from the title, making it just Enterprise, but apparently this confused some Trekkers1 who didn't know that it was a Star Trek series, and in the third season to show was renamed Star Trek: Enterprise.
The show is a prequel to Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS); set a century before the adventures of Captain Kirk and his crew. It's highly controversial in the Trekker community; some people even believe that the show should be removed from the Star Trek canon just as the short-lived animated series was. This seems unlikely, but there are many things in the show - in particular, numerous continuity errors - that annoy a particular type of fan greatly.
Enterprise does have a semblance of a plot, so if you are planning on watching the show and don't want any spoilers, then don't read the rest of this entry.
In a desperate search for ratings, Enterprise was forced to change its premise on two occasions.
Its original premise is similar to that of TOS or The Next Generation (TNG), in that it was about a ship exploring space. The major difference is that the year is 2151, and as such the Federation has yet to be created. Enterprise is Earth's first vessel capable of travelling at the (then) ultra-fast speed of Warp Five, so consequently it's the only Earth ship capable of doing any actual exploring as all the other ships are too slow and are assigned to protect Earth and other human-controlled worlds. Enterprise isn't all alone however, as the Vulcan fleet, being more advanced than the human one, is also out in deep space and they keep a watchful eye over the humans on Enterprise, making sure they don't stir up too much trouble (and failing miserably).
When Star Trek: Enterprise first launched, it was proclaimed by the writers that Enterprise was the first Star Trek series to have a pre-planned story-arc2 from the first episode3 and this arc was called the Temporal Cold War. The Temporal Cold War was about people from different times and factions in the future interfering with history for their own personal gain. The main 'bad-guys' of the war were the Suliban Cabal4, a sect from a previously unheard of species who were given instructions from an unknown shadow-man referred to by the fans as 'future guy'. Like most time-travel stories, this didn't make much sense, and it only popped up two or three times a season, so it didn't have much of an impact on the series.
By the end of the second season the show decided to shake itself up with a new premise in the eternal quest for ratings. Another previously unheard of alien race, called the Xindi, launch a prototype weapon at Earth that kills seven million people. This stupid act, combined with information from the Suliban, warns humanity that the Xindi are building a weapon to destroy Earth based on false information that humanity is going to destroy their world 600 years ago (try not to think about it). Enterprise must go to a previously unmentioned and dangerous region of space called the Delphic Expanse5, a place where there are dangerous anomalies and zombie-like Vulcans, in order to destroy the Xindi weapon before it destroys Earth. The search for, and destruction of, this weapon comprises the entire third season and is known as the Xindi arc. This third season is much darker than anything shown on Star Trek before and it has dark elements such as humans torturing prisoners for information on the Xindi, over 20% of the crew being killed in a vicious assault, and Vulcans getting high.
The Xindi arc failed in its aim to raise the ratings; in fact it lowered them quite a bit. It was decided that the best way to keep the show on the air was to focus more on TOS and the build-up to that series, and so the Temporal Cold War was ended with improbable temporal-babble. The fourth season wasn't so much about exploring space, but about Enterprise building-up alliances with the powers that would one day form the United Federation of Planets. This was done by doing a number of shorter story-arcs of around two or three episodes each, with several stand-alone episodes in between. Most fans liked this new direction for the show believing that this is what the show should have been from the beginning. But ratings are what matters, and as they didn't go up, the show was cancelled.
Whereas all the other Star Trek spin-offs tried to differentiate their casts from that of the original, Enterprise just did a copy/paste job with the original cast and made some changes. While the cast has seven characters, the show tends to focus on the 'big three' of Archer, T'Pol and Trip.
Captain Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula)
Archer is Enterprise's captain and an inferior version of Captain Kirk; while Kirk was involved in numerous fistfights, Archer lost numerous fistfights and was captured 28 times. His father was Henry Archer, the man who designed the warp-five engine used on Enterprise. He loves the idea of exploring space, so he joins Starfleet, works hard, and is eventually given command of Enterprise (see, no nepotism is involved). He's initially a very peaceful and happy man, but after the Xindi attack on Earth he becomes angry-Archer, and he's determined to stop the Xindi no matter what the cost may be. Once the Xindi escapade ends, he becomes more sombre and thoughtful.
Commander T'Pol (Jolene Blalock)
T'Pol is a female Vulcan who is the ship's second in command and Science Officer, ie Spock with a sex change. Initially she's a Subcommander in the Vulcan High Command who's assigned to Enterprise to make sure that they don't get in to too much trouble (a task at which she fails). When Enterprise goes to destroy the Xindi weapon, she's ordered off the ship, but her refusal to leave Enterprise in their hour of greatest need gets her fired by the High Command, and she eventually becomes a Commander in Starfleet. She's much more emotional than your average Vulcan and finds it hard to repress her emotions. While in the Delphic Expanse she became addicted to a substance called Trellium-D that freed her emotions even further. She's not as famous for wearing her form fitting uniform as she is for taking off her form fitting uniform.
Commander Charles 'Trip' Tucker III (Connor Trinneer)
Trip6 is the emotional anti-Vulcan Chief Engineer and a close friend of Archer's (like Dr McCoy in TOS, but in a different ship department). He comes from Florida and has a thick southern accent. His sister dies in the Xindi attack on Earth, an event that causes him emotional trauma, and it gives him a deep hate for the Xindi that he must learn to get over. He has an on-again off-again relationship with T'Pol that doesn't go anywhere. He dies the most needless death in all of Star Trek in the show's final episode.
Lieutenant Malcolm Reed (Dominic Keating)
Malcolm is the ship's tactical/armoury officer. He's British, and has a love of things that blow up. His family wanted him to join the Royal Navy, like generations of Reeds before him, but his acute aquaphobia made him decide to join Starfleet instead, and this leads to a rift between him and his father. Before joining Enterprise, Reed was a member of the secretive Starfleet Intelligence agency called Section 31, a group determined to protect Earth's interests at all costs.
Doctor Phlox (John Billingsley)
Phlox is a doctor from the previously unmentioned Denobulan species. Denubulans are a humanoid species that have peculiar head-ridges that makes their foreheads look like backsides. Phlox was taking part in an interspecies medical exchange on Earth, but he eventually managed to find his way aboard Enterprise for her maiden voyage and now he serves as the ship's doctor. He fills the Sickbay with a wide variety of alien animals that help him in his medical treatments. He has three wives (each of those wives has two other husbands) and five children back on Denobula.
Ensign Hoshi Sato (Linda Park)
Hoshi is a Japanese communications officer on Enterprise. She's a gifted linguist and she has a talent for picking up languages very quickly. She helped to invent the Universal Translator, a device that makes it sound (and look) as if aliens are speaking English when they're actually speaking alien gobbledygook, but she has to translate on occasions when it doesn't work. She gets space-sick and suffers from claustrophobia, and she initially wants to leave the ship and go back to Earth, but eventually gets used to life on Enterprise.
Ensign Travis Mayweather (Anthony Montgomery)Travis is the black character of which each Star Trek series need at least one. He is a boomer, which is future-slang for a person who lives on an Earth cargo-ship. Unlike most boomers, Travis left his ship, the Horizon, so that he could join Starfleet and make something of himself. Since Enterprise was going to be travelling to areas of space where cargo-ships had been before, Travis was assigned as the ship's helmsman because he knew his way around. You'd think that this would make him an important cast member, and that he would have frequent meetings with Captain Archer in order to advise him about the various aliens they meet on their trek. Well that just doesn't happen. Travis is the most under-used main character in Star Trek, and he's lucky if he gets three lines per episode. This complete lack of presence has made him legendary among the fans. It's ironic that Morn, the bar-fly from DS9 who (purposely) never spoke a word, has better character development than Travis7.
Admiral Forrest (Vaughn Armstrong): Admiral Forrest8 is a Starfleet admiral in charge of the Enterprise mission back on Earth. He dies in the fourth season due to a terrorist bombing on Vulcan.
Soval (Gary Graham): Soval is the Vulcan ambassador to Earth. He's initially distrustful of humans and opposes Enterprise's launch, but he eventually grows to trust humans, especially Admiral Forrest.
Commander Shran (Jeffrey Combs): Shran is a Commander in the Andorian Imperial Guard. He and Archer (although initially getting off on the wrong foot) form a friendship that helps humans, Andorians and Vulcans to get along9.
Daniels (Matt Winston): Daniels is a temporal operative from the 31st century. While little is known of him, or whom he works for, it's believed that he works for a future version of the Federation.
Silik (John Fleck): Silik is the leader of the Suliban Cabal. While he's the 'bad-guy' of the series, he occasionally helps out the Enterprise crew; it depends on his orders that week.
Future Guy (James Horan): Future Guy is a man from the 29th century who gives Silik all his orders. He's always shown as a shadowy figure, so nobody knows who he is, not even the writers10.
Degra (Randy Oglesby): Degra is a Xindi primate given the task of building the weapon to destroy Earth. At first he does what he's told, but when Archer gives him evidence that the Xindi are being manipulated into destroying Earth based on lies, he sides with Archer and tries to stop the weapon's launch.
Dolim (Scott MacDonald): Dolim is a Xindi reptilian who wants to destroy Earth at all costs. He believes that mammals are inferior to reptiles.
Major Hayes (Steven Culp): Major Hayes is the leader of the MACOs (Military Assault Command Operations), a united Earth military force that are assigned to Enterprise from the third season onwards. He and Reed clashed frequently over the ship's security policy, but they became friends just in time for Hayes to be killed by the Xindi.
Enterprise is the first NX class starship and has the registry number NX-01. NX ships are the fastest in Earth Starfleet and are fitted with the revolutionary warp-5 engine. Enterprise is smaller than all the ships from other Star Treks and it only has a crew of around 80, but this increases to somewhere around 100 once the MACOs join the crew. It's designed for deep space exploration.
The main part of the ship is a saucer section, at the top of which, once again, sits the Bridge, and the rest of the saucer section contains most of the ship's systems. Two struts connect it to the aft section onto which the two warp nacelles are built. The external design is controversial among fans for many reasons. The biggest of these being that it looks very similar to an upside-down Akira class starship, a popular ship class that is shown many times in DS9, Voyager and the TNG film, Star Trek: First Contact. This similarity has led to some fans calling Enterprise the Akiraprise. Another point of contention is the use of a saucer section and two warp nacelles for the ship, as many fan believe that this ship design is too advanced for its era. It's all very geeky.
Enterprise is fitted with that old Trek magic machine called the transporter, a device that allows people and things to be instantaneously 'beamed' from one area to another. Since it's a relatively new invention, the crew are wary of it and prefer to make manual dockings with other ships, and they take shuttle-pods to land on planets.
The ship's weapons are vastly inferior to those used in other Star Treks and it's fitted with phase cannons and spatial torpedoes11. Since Enterprise is launched early, the weapons aren't fully fitted, so the torpedoes need to be calibrated, and the phase cannons need to be built from scratch. When Enterprise heads into the Delphic Expanse in the third season, the ship is refitted with photonic torpedoes that look much more like traditional Star Trek torpedoes. The ship isn't fitted with defensive shields since humans haven't invented them yet, but instead they protect the ship by polarising the hull plating. This works in exactly the same way as shields in a dramatic context.
The internal sets are grey and silver, and in the fourth season some blue was thrown in. This was done to make the ship look as basic as possible, but its effect is to make the ship look as dull as possible. The show doesn't break with the Trek tradition when it comes to sets, and all your old favourites are here including the Bridge, Engineering, Sickbay and the Mess-hall (including the captain's private Mess). In the third season, the ship had a Command Centre to help them find the Xindi weapon.
Enterprise took a lot of flak for showing many aliens that weren't in the other series, especially since Enterprise was exploring space closer to Earth than any of the other series. It also used some aliens that appeared in later series when they shouldn't have. The writers just couldn't win.
The Andorians are a species that first appeared in TOS, but were never really used again, so Enterprise decided to build upon them. They come from the icy moon of Andor where they live in underground ice-caves. They have blue skin, white hair and antennae12. There is also a sub-species of Andorians, called the Aenar, that have white skin, but who are blind and telepathic. Andorians have a long history of conflict with the Vulcans, and they initially distrust humans due to their closeness with the Vulcans. All three species eventually start working together and the Andorians are founding members of the Federation. Andorians are militaristic and very emotional.
The Suliban are a humanoid species with green/yellow skin. Their home-world became uninhabitable some time in the 19th century, and by the time that Enterprise is launched they're a nomadic species thinly spread out across several galactic sectors. Physiologically they're quite similar to humans, but some Suliban use genetic enhancements to give them superior physical abilities. Future Guy uses this to his advantage, and he gives the Suliban futuristic genetic enhancements to those who will do his bidding. These Suliban are known as the Cabal and they have a notorious reputation with other species. Some races fear the Cabal so much that they lock up innocent Suliban, with no connections to the Cabal, in internment camps. The Suliban probably died, or ran away, as they're never seen in any of the other series.
The Xindi aren't a single species, but six separate intelligent species that all evolved on the planet Xindus. The six Xindi species are the Xindi-Aquatics, Xindi-Arboreals, Xindi-Avians, Xindi-Insectoids, Xindi-Primates and Xindi-Reptilians. The species were always warring with one another, and this led to the destruction of their planet and the extinction of the Avian species. At this point, a species from a trans-dimensional realm (don't ask) start to aid the Xindi and, using their knowledge of the future, they instructed the remaining Xindi to form a council that would rule all of the Xindi races. Due to their help in this troubling time, the Xindi revere the Guardians as gods. The Guardians are actually just using the Xindi to destroy the humans because they know that, in the future, humanity will form the Federation, and the Federation will destroy the Guardians' attempts to conquer the galaxy.
Star Trek: Voyager was entering its seventh and final season, and due to the unwritten rule that there can't be a year without Star Trek on TV, Star Trek's producers needed to come up with something new for the new TV season. Voyager's executive producers, Rick Berman and Brannon Braga took a step back from Voyager to try and create this new show. Since prequels were all the rage at the time, they decided to make the new series a prequel, and thus was the inception of Enterprise. Like Voyager before it, Enterprise was to be produced on the US network UPN, and it was to be the flagship show of that station.
Star Trek is a show about hope, and about how working together all peoples can create a bright future full of possibilities. In that regard, Enterprise couldn't have picked a worse time to premiere; just two weeks after the September 11th attacks left many Americans depressed and with a lust for vengeance. Enterprise changed to suit the times, and it's the least politically correct Star Trek, and it looked at darker themes that Star Trek tended to shy away from.
Even before it was made, Enterprise was sparking up more controversy than any of the other series. Some claimed that even the existence of the show broke the Star Trek canon. Thankfully, the producers ignored the few fans who were exhibiting an unhealthy lack of a grip on reality and Enterprise started off fairly well in terms of ratings. While some criticised its first season for many reasons, it is true to say that the first season of most Star Trek shows are considered to be the weakest. One big point of contention though was the theme song. All the other series had an original classical score, but to be different, Enterprise's theme was the pop song 'Faith of the Heart'. This is generally considered to have been a bad move.
Things started to go wrong in the second season. Mediocre episodes with conflicting continuity and poor character development doesn't make for ratings success, as the writers soon found out. The biggest outcry came with the season two episode 'Regeneration' (an episode where Enterprise encounters the deadly robotic aliens the Borg), which saw thousands of fans claiming that it broke continuity in so many ways that it hurt their heads. Declining ratings meant that drastic action had to be taken, and so the Xindi arc was dreamt up.
Now there is much debate in fan circles about whether the Xindi arc was a good thing, or a big mistake. Some feel that the sudden serialisation was a bad idea and it drove away casual viewers, while others feel that the darker tone really suited the show. Some felt that the serialisation was a good thing, but the Xindi arc was poorly written and conflicted with known continuity. Either way, it drove down ratings so much that the show was put in limbo and UPN, which itself was going through upheaval, wasn't going to renew Enterprise for a fourth season. Like the Star Trek fans of old, Enterprise fans launched a letter writing campaign demanding the show be returned for another year. At the last minute, UPN renewed the show, but with a drastically reduced budget.
For the fourth season, long-time producers Rick Berman and Brannon Braga chose to take a back seat, with the bulk of the programme's new direction and storylines coming from the newly-promoted Manny Coto. His decision to make the show a true prequel to TOS by explaining the back-story of some TOS episodes, and the introduction of the mini-story-arcs, was well received by Star Trek fans.
Unfortunately for the show, it was moved from Wednesday night to Friday night, and this meant that the show's ratings stayed low as most people preferred to watch the repeat on Sunday (which isn't considered by the ratings). As a result, Enterprise was cancelled on 2 February, 2005. Fan campaigns started up again trying to save the show; one campaign, called Trek United, was offering to pay for the new series by fan donations, but UPN refused to back down. The final episode of the show, 'These Are the Voyages...' was shown on 13 May, and has since been proclaimed as the worst finale out of all of the many Star Trek series.
End of the Franchise?
There's no doubt that at the time of writing this article (late 2005), Star Trek is in a time of serious crisis. Enterprise's cancellation comes only a few years after the final TNG film (Star Trek: Nemesis) became the first Star Trek film to actually lose money at the box-office. Star Trek, once seen as the biggest entertainment franchise in Hollywood, seems to be dying.
But don't forget, Star Trek was cancelled once before, and managed to make a comeback a decade later. Just because Enterprise has been cancelled doesn't mean that Star Trek is finished forevermore, it just means that it's taking a break. How long will that break be? Nobody knows for sure. Paramount, the company that owns the rights to Star Trek, has said that Star Trek will return in a few years. In fact, most fans agree that a rest would do the franchise some good.
Rick Berman, who took control of the franchise after Gene Roddenberry's death, has put Star Trek's sagging popularity down to 'franchise fatigue', and he does have a point; it has been running continuously for 18 years, and for seven of those years, two shows were running simultaneously. Star Trek not being on air for a while might build up a thirst among the fan-base for a new series. Fans disagree on how long this hiatus should be; some believe that it should be 10-15 years, others that it should be three-five, some want it back right away, and there are those who believe that Star Trek has served its purpose and should never return.
Star Trek may not be returning to television in the foreseeable future, but it may be returning to cinemas sooner than you think. Writing has already begun on an 11th Star Trek film, which is rumoured to be a prequel set some years after the events of Enterprise, but using none of the Enterprise characters. Erik Jendresen, the chief writer of the TV version of Band of Brothers, has been hired to write the script, and he claims that it's unlike anything that Star Trek has done before. The project still hasn't been given the green-light by Paramount, but if it's approved, then it may be appearing in cinemas before the decade's out.And even if Star Trek doesn't return, then it has left behind an enormous legacy. There are 704 episodes of the assorted incarnations of the show, and that doesn't count the animated series or the movies. If you watched them back-to-back without stopping for sleep or food, it would take you three weeks to watch it all13.
Responding to Enterprise's cancellation, veteran Trek writer, Ron Moore said the following:
You don't need another series to enjoy Star Trek. You need only your own imagination and the desire to boldly go where no man has gone before.
Pretentious nonsense? Possibly. But it's also a nice note to end on.