Well, we've made it through the first season of Enterprise. I must say, I did like the season finale. Not a perfect episode, perhaps (if nothing else, the pacing felt a bit off), but nevertheless probably one of the best of the season. Good characterization, some refreshingly unexpected plot twists, and a cliffhanger ending that, while it hasn't exactly got me waiting on pins and needles, does at least have me interested in tuning in next season to find out where things are going to go next.
I've talked quite a bit about Enterprise on here already, I know, but this seems like a good place and a good time to take a look back at the series' first year. So.
1. Tone and Setting. I initially disliked the idea of a Star Trek prequel, but I must admit, whatever my other problems with the show, the early-days-of-Starfleet setting and the way its handled aren't among them. The show does a decent job of capturing some of the sense of wonder, some of the excitement and newness of space travel that seem to have largely disappeared in later Treks. And the fact that the technology isn't always reliable, that the Enterprise isn't the biggest baddest vessel in the galaxy, and that the universe patently does not revolve around humanity all make things not only more interesting (at least potentially), but much more realistic.
2. The Cast. They've got a good group of actors, who've proven themselves quite capable of giving solid performances, at least when they're given something to work with. Bakula's acting, as I've mentioned before, has seemed very "off" to me for most of the season, but in the last two episodes, he's suddenly seemed to become much more natural. Hopefully, he and his character have finally "clicked," and we can expect better things from him next season. And other than that, I've been very pleased with everybody's performances thus far.
3. Story Arc. I like story arcs. They can serve to give a sense of purpose and movement to a show and provide a great means of keeping the viewer interested from week to week, as well as being a good sign that the show in question isn't going to be hitting the damned reset button at the end of every ep. And Enterprise's story arc with the Temporal Cold War is an interesting one with some definite potential. Exactly how happy I'll be with it depends a lot on where they ultimately end up going with it, of course, but I do rather like the fact that it exists.
4. Continuity. At least somebody on the writing staff clearly knows their TOS, as nice little touches like the use of the planet Corridan (as mentioned in TOS's "Journey to Babel") attest. I was half afraid they were going to walk all over Trek continuity in hobnailed boots, but they've at least demonstrated some appreciation for it, and the little continuity touches please me.
1. Snooze-Inducing Storylines. I know I've said it before, but in my view this is Enterprise's single biggest problem. We've had far, far too many episodes that have been dull, derivative, predictable, or all three at once. Come on, guys, surely there must be some new and exciting stories to tell, even in the admittedly overtaxed Trek universe?
2. Sporadic Character Development. Enterprise does have good characters, but it seems to have trouble knowing what to do with them. It occured to me recently that a large part of the problem here is that the show seems to treat plot and character as either/or prospects. Either it's a character-based episode with only a minimal plot, or it's a plot-based episode in which the characters are virtually interchangeable and seldom do or say anything individualized or interesting. The thing is, you can do both at once. Really. The season finale, "Shockwave," actually manages it quite nicely, but it seems to be the exception rather than the rule.
3. The Theme Song. I just had to mention this. A pop-tune theme song for a Star Trek series is just wrong. And while, I must admit, the lyrics are more-or-less appropriate to the humaistic tone of Trek, that doesn't mean I find them any less insipid. (The visuals to the opening credits are very nice, though.)
4. Continuity. Yes, some of the small stuff has been rather nice, and the fact that the continuity problems aren't nearly as egregious as I feared they'd be is a bit of a relief, which is why I also counted this on the positive side. But larger-scale continuity problems have been far from nonexistent, and the temptation to use TNG-era races and technology that shouldn't exist at this point has, predictably, proved overwhelming on at least a couple of occasions. I also have some major problems with the Vulcans as portrayed on Enterprise; they really don't seem to mesh very well with the Vulcans as we know them later... And with as long-lived and traditionalist as Vulcans are, I wouldn't expect them to have changed that much.
So, on balance, it's been a real mixed bag. I can't say that I'm disappointed in the series, because my expectations for it were very, very low. If anything, the fact that I don't hate it is something of a pleasant surprise. The first season, overall, hasn't been terribly compelling, but it's not as if it's the first Star Trek series to start off with a weak first season, and the potential for it to develop into something good is very definitely there. I'm actually feeling rather optimistic about the show's future, but time, of course, will tell...
I may post some more discussion on the show here a bit later, with an analysis of the individual characters. Or not.