Star Trek: Enterprise is probably the worst live-action show in the franchise. Despite boasting Scott Bakula as Captain Archer and the great core concept of showing the first forays of mankind into the wider galaxy, it never found its feet (and it had an absolutely terrible opening song). The series attempted to switch things up in the third and fourth seasons by focusing more on action, but it failed to convince audiences and was unceremoniously cancelled in 2005.
The legacy of Enterprise was explored in a virtual panel at last week’s Galaxy Con Live, in which Enterprise stars John Billingsley, Connor Trinneer and Dominic Keating discussed what did and didn’t work. Billingsley, in particular, didn’t mince words when it came to casting blame, saying the show’s flaws were the fault of the producers and network.
“We came on after so many years of Star Trek, and in a number of those years, double-dipping. Deep Space Nine actually overlapped with Voyager, for instance. I think by the time we aired there was fatigue, understandable fatigue. The show did really at least need a year off. I always felt badly for [co-creators/executive producers] Rick [Berman] and Brannon [Braga] that they weren’t given that time…The bible for the show just needed a little more work. I think the notions were strong and I think with the character development they had some clarity.
But in terms of an arc for the first season, I think the Suliban wasn’t quite as thought through as it maybe needed to be. I think there was a little bit more work needed on what the tonal balance was between the darkness of we are the first fucking ship and we don’t know what the fuck we are doing and the nature of what Star Trek is supposed to be, the optimistic spirit… It is a hard tone to strike for what they were trying to do.”
He went on to specifically criticize Paramount (and UPN) for not wanting to take risks and diluting the show’s best ideas, explaining:
“The studio itself also needed to kind of grapple with what they wanted to achieve. I remember there was an early episode where a crew member is transported and they come back. And in the first draft… it was pretty cool because this guy comes back and his head is where his ass is supposed to be and [flails around] ‘what the fuck!’ and we are afraid of the transporter. By the time it emerges and we are shooting it, the guy comes back from the transporter accident and he has got a little twig sticking out of his forehead. And that to me early on crystalized where I think the timidity of the network actually fucked us. To me there was another level of scariness that the show wanted to move towards, and I felt that the powers that be said, “But, but, but.”
He lays further blame at the door of Brannon Braga and Rick Berman as well, who he says by that point had been writing Star Trek for so long that they’d lost some of the excitement of working in this universe. However, he says that when Manny Coto joined the show in the third and fourth seasons, some of that energy returned. Still, Billingsley went on to note that the Mirror Universe episodes from the fourth season were “a little too meta.”
While I don’t think Star Trek: Enterprise is a huge disaster, it’s still far from what I want when I’m looking for Trek. Even Voyager, with all its flaws, wasn’t afraid to get seriously weird on occasion (yes, I like “Threshold”). For me, Enterprise commits the worst sin a science fiction show can commit: it’s kinda boring. And it seems that now we know that we have Paramount to blame for that rather than those working on the project.