Saturday, May 14, 2005

Star Trek Enterprise Finale

Last night saw the season finale of Numb3rs and the series finale of Star Trek: Enterprise. The finale of Numb3rs was the sort of episode you'd expect from a series that was pretty much sure of coming back next season. (Network upfronts are coming in the next week or so, but some series look to be confident about returning.) About the most spectacular thing about it was the complete absence of Sabrina Lloyd. She's been seen less in the past few episodes so maybe they're just phasing her character out. Shame on them if they are.

I really want to write about the Star Trek: Enterprise finale though, but first let me just repeat my usual refrain about it being long past time for the team of Berman & Braga to leave the Star Trek Franchise forever and not let the door hit them on the ass on the way out. They should go out backwards and let it hit them in the .... well you get the idea. There, that felt good.

The series finale was a two one hour episodes. The first was the wind up of last weeks episode in which Trip Tucker and T'Pol discover that there's a Human-Vulcan hybrid child with their DNA, created by an anti-alien group "Terra Prime", headed by the often underappreciated Peter Weller. In the episode, the Enterprise crew managed to defeat Terra Prime's nefarious scheme to destroy Star Fleet Command, prevent the signing of a trade agreement between Earth and a number of alien races, and force all aliens off earth. There's the usual amount of daring-do and in a touching note the baby - named Elizabeth by T'Pol and Trip - dies as a result of genetic complications. Phlox however leave the door open for a certain future blessed event when he explains that the cloning process used by Terra Prime was flawed and Human and Vulcan DNA is in fact compatible enough to allow a child to be born and survive.

On the whole that episode would have been a pretty good opener to a fifth season - the end point of a cliffhanger - or even an end the series, but no, someone couldn't leave well enough alone. We had to be treated to a different final episode. We are catapulted six years into the future, when the Enterprise is heading back to Earth to be decommissioned and put into the mothball fleet (a term that originated with the US Navy for ships that have been retained for emergency service but aren't crewed and receive minimal maintenance). Suddenly there's an announcement calling all senior staff to the bridge and we discover that what we're seeing is a holodeck program being run by Commander Bubble Butt - sorry, Commander William T. Riker. Yes they decided that they needed an episode with Next Generation characters, so we got to see William Frakes who appears to have been eating his way out of his depression after Thunderbirds flopped, and Marina Sirtis who really should lay off the Baklava and hit the gym if she wants to wear that uniform again.

The storyline is a disappointment after so many good episodes in the past year. Riker is participating in the Holodeck reconstruction of the final days of the new original Enterprise (as opposed to the original original Enterprise which was Kirk's ship) because he's pondering a decision. In fact it's the decision that he made in the Next Generation episode "The Pegasus", to disobey orders and tell Picard about the illegal tests of a Federation cloaking device that occurred aboard the USS Pegasus. Apparently Troi told him that he could get greater insights about the decision he has to make by experiencing the last days of Archer's Enterprise. The plot there focusses on Shran, who is supposed to be dead but is really on the run. After leaving the Andorian Imperial Guard (and why would he do that?) he fell in with an unsavoury element, who now want him to return something he doesn't have and have kidnapped his daughter to get it. Early on Troi and Riker let us know that Trip doesn't survive, so during the time that the crew are trying to rescue Shran's daughter on Rigel 10 we're wondering if this is when Tucker's going to kick the bucket. In fact, it doesn't happen until after the rescue when the guys who have kidnapped the child (and supposedly only have a Warp 2 ship) suddenly show up on Enterprise and want the Shran and the kid. Tucker does the heroic thing, putting himself in a potentially life threatening situation to kill the bad guys and save Archer. Throughout the episode we are treated with meetings between the Enterprise Chef and several senior crewmembers. Chef of course isn't the "real" Chef but Riker. Troi has told him that since the ship didn't have a counsellor (or a bar tender) people tended to talk to Chef. Needless to say the insights Riker gains all centre on the Archer-Tucker relationship, which gives Riker the answer he needs to decide to trust his instincts and tell the man he trusts unconditionally (that would be Picard) about the secret of the Pegasus. This episode was such a terrible send-off for the show that it is difficult to believe that Manny Cotto did it of his own free will, given the episodes that have come before in this season. The idea had to have come from higher up in the Paramount food chain.

Next year, for the first time in 18 years there will not be new episodes of a Star Trek series. For the first time in its history there won't be a Star Trek series on UPN. Unlike a lot of people I don't think that the franchise is dead. If anything the last season of Star Trek: Enterprise points the way forward. I've said it before and I'll say it as long as anyone wants, the time has come for Berman & Braga to go. It may be true that there can't really be a single vision for the whole franchise. If there ever is a new series (and if UPN gets desperate enough there might be) it may need a new vision, and a different vision from any future movies. The basic concepts are sound - a utopian future (because so many movies and TV shows give us a dystopic vision) and a focus on exploration rather than conflict - so a new show could be led by someone who isn't currently involved. I don't know what comes next, but I hope it's something interesting.

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