It is ironic that Paramount decided to restore the Star Trek brand to the title of Enterprise for the show’s third season. Its omission was originally supposed to focus attention on the spirit of the eponymous starship. The first two seasons failed to embody that, however, and a change in direction was needed.
Yet, in reflecting the political preoccupations of 2003, the Xindi arc that dominates Season 3 deflects the series so far from its principles that the titular nod to its pedigree seems woefully inappropriate.
It’s hardly insightful to suggest that the third season of Enterprise echoes the post-9/11 mindset. The problem is that this is expressed as early 21st Century prejudices by characters who should symbolise humanities potential for favouring reason over reactionism.
There is a clear parallel between the most xenophobic of anti-Islamic sentiments expressed after 9/11 and Trip Tucker’s enraged desire to bump off Xindi indiscriminately. No-one considers that the actions of a government might not convey the will of its people or that the Xindi are acting in self-defence. Then again, they’re led by a captain who justifies torture by saying he’ll reject morality if it slows him down.
These missteps mean Enterprise‘s third season is a major missed opportunity. The Xindi threat provided the perfect opportunity to ask how far we can go in defence of our culture before we surrender the values that make it worth defending. The ‘desperate times require desperate measures’ meme that was rife in the political philosophy of George W Bush’s USA is handled so superficially, though, that it emphasises how progressive The Original Series was in episodes like ‘Balance Of Terror’.
Thankfully, impressive special effects and episodes such as ‘Extinction’, ‘Similitude’ and ‘Chosen Realm’ ensure this season doesn’t entirely do a disservice to the Star Trek name. It’s too bad that these highlights aren’t enough to make up for misjudged morality that only pushed the show closer to cancellation.