So much was made of the release of Star Trek: The Next Generation on Blu-ray that the muted fanfare around the high-definition debut of Enterprise only confirms it as the runt of the Star Trek litter.
Yet, a new documentary included among the special features in this box set makes it clear that Enterprise’s detractors aren’t the only ones who wish the show had turned out differently.
In a refreshingly candid interview, co-creator Brannon Braga largely takes the blame for ballsing up NX-01’s maiden voyages. He admits to hiring too many subpar writers and then rewriting scripts that became “terrible” episodes like ‘Terra Nova’, ‘Oasis’ and ‘Fortunate Son’. He also slags himself off for the much-maligned theme song which he calls “embarrassingly bad”, especially after hearing U2’s ‘Beautiful Day’ on the test reels.
The full impact of these flaws wasn’t evident, of course, when Enterprise debuted on UPN in 2001 to high ratings. Despite the fact that, by his own admission, Braga was knackered after working on Voyager, he and many of the old guard had acquiesced to the network’s wish to keep right on going with another series. After viewing figures came in for ‘Broken Bow’, it seemed likely that the challenges accompanying the creation of a pre-Kirk Enterprise with a Noughties aesthetic were met.
In hindsight, though, it is symbolic that Enterprise was the first Star Trek series filmed without using a physical model of its flagship: it becomes obvious early in Season One that the series has little substance of its own.
Despite being utterly pants, ‘Faith Of The Heart’ ironically sums up the feeling that after take-off Enterprise disappointingly veers back to the same long road that the previous series had followed for too long.
Notwithstanding his modesty, Braga can’t take all the blame for Enterprise’s failings.
Various new interviews included with this set suggest that the idea of a prequel devolved into a mishmash after he and Rick Berman pitched it to the network. That much is evident in the Temporal Cold War arc, which furnishes the season with an ambitious finale but otherwise dilutes the intent to capture the spirit of pioneers.
According to Braga, it was essentially shoehorned into the first season to appease executives who wanted a series set after the 24th Century. Combine such compromises with the insipid scripts, canon violations and characters short on distinctive qualities and it becomes all too obvious why Enterprise rapidly runs out of gas.
To dismiss Enterprise offhand is unfair, however, especially amid the hype around Star Trek Into Darkness, which threatens to reduce Roddenberry’s vision to an empty light show on a par with Avengers Assemble. This is particularly true of the show’s first season, which isn’t much lamer than The Next Generation’s. Season One of Enterprise has one of the franchise’s better series openers, a decent finale and includes some oft-forgotten highlights in the wider Star Trek canon, most notably ‘Dear Doctor’.
Enterprise won’t ever overcome its reputation as the series that ripped apart the fanbase but retrospective releases like this at least provide an opportunity to put its failings into context. If nothing else, the show was a milestone in the presentation of sci-fi on TV thanks to its use of CGI and the decision to go with HD in widescreen. Blu-ray properly showcases these and together with the special features makes this set a worthwhile investment for anyone who can appreciate what Enterprise was supposed to be.