Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Star Trek Enterprise (Season 1c)

Season 1b -- Season 1d

Enterprise remains uneven. However, it does still try to present moral and cultural observations and not mere stories. What emerges, though, is a lot less certainty regarding the Humanistic ideals that Roddenberry never allowed to be undermined. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

Episode 13: “Dear Doctor”

In this story we see the beginnings of the “Prime Directive.” Phlox is faced with a whole species of sentient beings that have reached the end of their evolutionary experiment. According to his “all-knowing” scientific mind, Phlox declares that solving the disease that is killing off the entire species would go against what evolution wants.

The Prime Directive has always felt like a convenient rule to follow. It takes moral quandaries out of the picture. There is no need to try to do the right thing, because the right thing is to never interfere. If feels like the guiding principle of nature documentarians and journalists who tell themselves that they are meant to observe and never interfere. Even if intervening means saving a life, it is seen as the wrong thing to do.

The truth is that morality is not easy. The Prime Directive is the way intellectuals make themselves feel better when they should make an effort for good. It is sitting by and allowing genocide to occur when to stand against it might be dangerous or costly.

All of that is why Kirk almost always flew in the face of the Prime Directive. Even the rest of the captains broke it multiple times.

Episode 14: “Sleeping Dogs”

This story, penned by (some would say great) Fred Dekker, is a basic action story, slightly reminiscent of the TOS episode “Balance of Terror” in the way space travel feels like submarine travel.

Episode 15: “Shadows of P’Jem”

One of the fascinating aspects of this look back at the beginnings of star fleet is the way we see the Vulcans in a new light. In old Trek, Vulcans are always seen as the enlightened beings that we ought to emulate. In this post-911 version of Trek there is nothing sacred left. Turns out the Vulcans are very human in their desire to control the institutions of culture. Roddenberry would hate this development. Oh, and the middle-schoolers on the writing staff for this episode thought it would be a good idea to have Archer and T’Pol have to rub all over each other trying to get out of their shackles. Real mature. On a more positive note, we get the great Andorian make-up and effects again.

Episode 16: “Shuttlepod One”

This episode features a clever-but-convenient set-up that allows us to observe Reed and Tucker facing certain death. That should be an interesting experience, but it mostly just ends up being dull.

Episode 17: “Fusion”

One of the most beloved ethical principles of Trek (as seen in the questionable Prime Directive) is the idea that everything different is merely different. Or, seen from another angle, there is almost never anything evil or wrong, just different. Well, this principle has the difficulty of being simply wrong, and it is something that Trek always struggled to promote due to it being wrong. In the new, post-Roddenberry, Trek it is sometimes abandoned altogether. Such is the case in this story, where some Vulcans dare to reject the “stereotype” that all Vulcans must embrace logic and deny their emotions. Could it be that some cultural qualities are more than just the prejudice of observers? (Then there is the “revelation” that mind-melding was not always a mainstream Vulcan activity as we might have thought the way Spock threw it around. What’s even more uncomfortable is the way this story makes it akin to sex in the “rape” scene.)

Episode 18: “Rogue Planet”

This is another case where Enterprise gives us an interesting setting, (“Sleeping Dogs” gas giant and this episodes rogue planet.) but fail to tell a story that rises to the occasion. We are never much in doubt as to where things are going with this story. It certainly doesn’t challenge in status quo.

Episode 19: “Acquisition”

All these years we just thought the first encounter with Ferengi was made in TNG. Turns out, they had already made a humorous attempt to steal from Huu-mans before.

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