If the first season of Enterprise was a disappointment, the second suggests a fatal failure to recognise what went wrong. The fifth episode, ‘A Night In Sickbay’, exemplifies this mistake. Sure, it has moments of creditable humour, but it’s hard to imagine that Gene Roddenberry would have approved of a story that starts out with a dog pissing on a tree.
Later in this episode, Archer dreams of snogging a topless T’Pol covered in decontamination gel, as if the titillating intent of that prop isn’t laughably obvious enough. This is used to explain why he repeatedly targets bellicose indignation at the aliens he blames for making his pooch sick; never mind that his own idiocy caused the problem in the first place.
Thus, the leader of Starfleet’s great voyage of discovery comes off sounding more like a constipated Donald Rumsfeld than humanity’s most eligible explorer. At least it explains UPN’s decision to drop Star Trek from the show’s title.
Later in the season the Borg episode ‘Regeneration’ highlights another lesson not learned: after the appearance of the Ferengi in Season One, it reinforces the notion that the writers lacked fresh ideas. What’s more, the final scene will leave viewers wondering why Starfleet’s resistance at Wolf 359 will be so futile given that they’ve got 200 years to prepare.
What makes the season frustrating, though, isn’t so much these flaws as the intermittent hints at unfulfilled potential. Characters begin to establish those family bonds that are crucial to making viewers care.
Also, the visual effects are far superior to those in previous series and reason enough to welcome this HD reissue.
There are decent episodes, too, like ‘Singularity’, ’Cogenitor’ and ‘Carbon Creek’. Unusually for Enterprise the last of these elevates Vulcans above just being aloof by suggesting they can be sentimental and cheeky. Mostly, though, it’s worth seeing because it’s the only episode in the entire franchise in which you get to see one carrying a toilet plunger.