At war with season 3 of Star Trek Enterprise

Remember when I praised Enterprise for sticking to the old Star Trek formula? That was written before I saw season 3 of the show, which probably took a little bit too much inspiration from Deep Space Nine.

One big storyline

First of all, I like bigger storylines in TV shows, especially when they revolve around some mystery or the development of its characters. Enterprise did that to some extent in its first two seasons (when it comes to its characters), but the third season has one main goal: Stop an imminent threat. After a probe attacked earth and killed millions of people, Enterprise is sent to a unique part of space called the Delphic Expanse to prevent the next attack by a race called the Xindi. There they find not just weird space anomalies, but also some rather unsettling challenges.

A captain on the edge

Captain Archer was for most parts of the show not extremely noteworthy. He might’ve bent the prime directive, but luckily it wasn’t invented yet, and even then he starts to develop a strong conscience in those regards (e.g. s01e13 or s02e08). But still, in season 3 he suddenly starts to behave extremely erratic, torturing prisoners or threatening to kill them. Given the stakes of the mission (preventing an attack threatening humankind), it might make sense. But in the case of Archer, he jumped from being more of a Picard/Janeway type of Star Trek Captain to someone constantly on edge. Even Trip who lost his sister in the attack on earth behaves more calmly most of the time.

Harsh dead stops

The imminent threat also clashes with the episodic style of the TV show. Even though it is constantly shown that it takes time for the Xindi to build the weapon (and to agree on stuff), it is still weird to include a few rather oddly misplaced episodes in the first half of the season. Some of them only add very little to the main story, but sadly they are at the same time not entertaining enough on their own (with some exceptions of course). Also, having Vulkans behave like Zombies – even though with all that nice scientific explanations for it – felt a little bit too much like Event Horizon. It did match the rather darker tone of the season though.

Happy Endings?

The good news is, that Star Trek Enterprise manages to pull off a good ending. This was already foreshadowed in the way Archer handled the first encounter with the Xindi in s03e07 and it also felt like the writers knew from the beginning how to get where they wanted (and how to make the journey believable, something TV shows tend to forget). It was also refreshing (well, for Star Trek) to have a big storyline covering a whole season. Even though I would’ve preferred one with less war and conflict.

Furthermore, a specific moral dilemma near the end of the season felt overly constructed to me (s03e19, where they had to steal parts from another ship). It was also a little bit of a weird drag at the end, with some episodes just going from one meeting to another. I guess convincing a species from not attacking you is supposed to take time, but still. Overall, season 3 was entertaining, stuck to an interesting storyline, saw a lot of character development, and even sprinkled in a little bit of a mystery.

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