Star Trek: Enterprise “In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II”

Previously on Star Trek: Enterprise: The Mirror Universe! Exposed midriffs! The invention of the agony booth! The return of the USS Defiant! And a Tholian web that was this close to actually being a useful, practical weapon.

Star Trek: Enterprise "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II"

Part two of “In a Mirror, Darkly” picks up right where part one left off: The Enterprise has been destroyed by a Tholian web, while Archer’s team is aboard the Defiant watching it happen.

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Archer wants to make off with the Defiant, but it’s being held in place by “docking clamps”, and firing ship’s thrusters doesn’t help. T’Pol looks through Spock’s viewmaster, or rather, the Defiant science officer’s viewmaster, and sees Tholian ships moving toward them. Meanwhile, Trip struggles to get weapons online. Archer then looks at the viewscreen and sees that the Tholians have rapidly formed another web to block their escape from the asteroid spacedock.

Star Trek: Enterprise "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II"

It’s been a long time… No, wait, it’s the same Mirror Universe credits as the previous episode, thankfully. When we return, Trip and T’Pol continue to try to get weapons working, while Archer stalks around the bridge pouting. At long last, weapons are online, impulse engines are functional, and they’re able to get the ship free of the clamps.

Naturally, the Defiant’s weapons are far more powerful than anything seen at this point in the Mirror Universe, so they make quick work of destroying the Tholian ships, along with the whole asteroid spacedock. They then detect the Enterprise escape pods and prepare to bring all evacuees onboard.

Star Trek: Enterprise "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II"

In a Defiant briefing room, Archer says they need to get warp drive operational, but the engines have been torn apart and Trip doesn’t understands the tech well enough to put them back together. T’Pol suggests asking the “alien workers”, AKA those “13 bio-signs” detected in part one.

Archer then informs the gathered crew that they’re going to “rendezvous with the assault fleet” to join the battle against the rebellion. T’Pol thinks it would be more logical to take the Defiant to Earth to let Starfleet study it, but Archer says there’s no time, as the Empire could be defeated within weeks.

Archer dismisses everyone but T’Pol. He shoves a phaser rifle under her chin and threatens her, but even despite helping Captain Forrest escape from the brig, and despite Vulcans being a major part of the rebellion, he still needs her as his first officer for some reason.

Cut to the Defiant captain’s quarters. Hoshi enters and laughs when she sees Archer wearing a green TOS-style wraparound tunic from the captain’s closet. “These people had some strange ideas about uniforms,” she says, while wearing a quasi-military uniform with an exposed midriff.

Archer has done some digging into the Defiant’s databanks. He’s discovered the Empire doesn’t exist in the other universe, and humans have instead formed a peaceful interspecies alliance called the “United Federation of Planets”, which Archer finds preposterous.

Star Trek: Enterprise "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II"

He then pulls up the personnel record of Hoshi Sato from the regular universe and begins reading off some of her accomplishments. But since it’s from 100 years in the future, it even lists how Hoshi dies. Mirror Hoshi doesn’t want to hear any of this, even though none of it is actually about her.

Star Trek: Enterprise "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II"

According to Mike Sussman, the writer of these episodes, the bio he wrote for Hoshi states that she eventually dies in the massacre of the Tarsus IV colony, better known as the background events behind “The Conscience of the King” (a young James T. Kirk was one of the survivors). A lot of fans have taken this as canon, but if you zoom in on the computer display (in the HD version; please don’t strain your eyes trying to read the screenshot above), you’ll see the part of her bio mentioning her death never actually appears onscreen.

Hoshi then pulls up the file on our Archer, and laughingly reads off his career highlights and commendations, which totally makes Mirror Archer crazy. She reads, “Historians called him the greatest explorer of the 22nd Century!” Were those historians drunk and/or stoned when they called him that?

Star Trek: Enterprise "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II"

Archer cuts her off, and Scott Bakula chews up the scenery, yelling that the other Archer couldn’t possibly be a great man, because he sold out humankind to an interspecies alliance. “Great men are not peacekeepers! Great men are conquerors!” But Hoshi assures him that once the “Emperor” sees the Defiant, Archer will also come to be known as a great hero.

And if you look closely at Archer’s file, it retcons the planet Archer IV mentioned briefly in TNG’s “Yesterday’s Enterprise” as being named after Archer, also suggesting it was the first M-class planet discovered by the Enterprise, as seen in a first season episode. Also, according to Sussman, he wrote some text that describes Archer living long enough to see the launch of the NCC-1701 Enterprise, and dying the next day. He would’ve been about as old as McCoy in “Encounter at Farpoint”, so it’s technically possible, but that bit didn’t make it onscreen either, so this is basically all just fanon conjecture at this point.

Also on the subject of fanwank trivia, the Defiant’s computer voice is heard for the first time in this scene, and it’s provided by Majel Barrett Roddenberry, making her the only actor to have a role on all six Star Trek shows (she also provided the voice of the computer in the 2009 reboot). And with only four episodes of Enterprise left, she got in just under the wire.

Cut to Trip, who’s changed into a TOS-style red shirt (the idea being that everyone from the Enterprise who beamed over in spacesuits have nothing else to change into). He’s talking to a random ensign in a Jeffries tube, who’s reporting that the “plasma regulators” are suddenly missing.

Star Trek: Enterprise "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II"

Trip tells him to find the regulators, or else. After he’s gone, the ensign hears a noise and climbs up the tube to investigate. We get another silly monster movie moment where he’s shot from above in Predator-vision, followed immediately by him screaming and being pulled up into the ceiling.

Star Trek: Enterprise "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II"

Cut to Phlox on the bridge, explaining that he found “reptilian saliva” on the ensign’s corpse. T’Pol, now in a blue TOS-style miniskirt, notes that sensors are still offline, so they don’t know what attacked him. Trip says that without those plasma regulators, they’re stuck at impulse, and whoever took them knew exactly what to steal. Archer has one of the “slaves” AKA alien workers brought to the briefing room.

Star Trek: Enterprise "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II"

There, Mayweather beats a blue guy for info. At first, I thought this was a Bolian, but it’s actually an unidentified species that looks like the blue version of Lou Gossett in Enemy Mine.

Star Trek: Enterprise "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II"

Eventually, he admits that the plasma regulators were stolen by their “slave master”, named Slar, and he’s probably hiding somewhere warm because his kind likes it warm. He reveals Slar’s species is “Gorn”, which we know as a lizard-like race of humanoids first seen (and last seen) in the classic TOS episode “Arena”. Archer makes a face like this means something to him, so I guess Starfleet has already encountered the Gorn in this universe?

On the bridge, Reed has a diagram of the ship on the viewscreen, telling Archer that they’re having trouble finding the Gorn. Archer then turns and sees our Archer sitting on the captain’s chair, which is clearly a hallucination. Mirror Archer’s mental projection of our Archer says, “When my ship was in jeopardy, I didn’t let security handle the situation! I took care of it myself!” Yep, definitely a hallucination.

Star Trek: Enterprise "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II"

So Archer gets frustrated and makes plans to lead an assault team to find the Gorn. But first, they get contacted by the Gorn himself. And we get our first glimpse at this new, all-CGI Gorn, which is unfortunately just as dodgy as the CGI Tholian, as he demands a shuttlecraft in exchange for the plasma regulators. But Archer refuses to negotiate and it’s back to the assault team plan.

Star Trek: Enterprise "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II"

As Archer heads down in the turbolift, Hallucination Archer appears again, telling him to defeat the Gorn and get the “respect you finally deserve”. It’s a bit out of left field that Mirror Archer is suddenly prone to having these extremely vivid hallucinations. It really seems like something that should have been set up in the previous episode.

Soon, Archer and Reed and some MACOs split up to track the Gorn’s bio-sign. But Reed only finds a communicator rigged to give off a fake bio-sign, and turning it off causes a bomb to detonate, nearly killing Reed and the MACOs.

Archer finally hones in on the Gorn’s life signs. We see Archer and a MACO being watched in Predator-vision for a while, and finally, the Gorn attacks. Archer does some Shatner-esque grappling with the Gorn, which then goes after the MACO. Finally, the fight ends when Archer contacts the bridge to have them enhance “grav plating” underneath the Gorn, almost as if Archer knew ahead of time exactly where they’d end up fighting. The Gorn is pinned to the deck, Archer blasts him with a rifle, and that’s the end of that.

Star Trek: Enterprise "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II"

And I have to say, this was a pretty pointless plot detour, especially since the Gorn is entirely forgotten after this. It seems the only real purpose of the last five or six scenes was to bring back the Gorn. But there really wasn’t enough money in the budget to do it justice, so why bother? I think it goes without saying that when you turn the Gorn into a cheesy man-sized CGI dinosaur, you’ve missed what made the original so memorable. I mean, that’s like changing Godzilla from a guy in a rubber suit into a big CGI dinosaur, and that would just be ridiculous.

The ship now has warp drive and is on its way to rendezvous with the assault fleet. T’Pol and Phlox dine in the mess hall, even eating some of those bright, multicolored cubes often seen on TOS. T’Pol asks if Reed will survive and Phlox responds with a funny, “Eh, he could go either way!”

It’s also revealed that Phlox has been doing his own research into the Defiant’s data banks, particularly into “classic literature”. He’s found that all the famous novels and plays in the other universe are essentially the same, except the characters are far more “weak”. That is, except for Shakespeare, whose plays are apparently “equally grim in both universes!”

Star Trek: Enterprise "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II"

T’Pol tells him to research something called the “Federation”, saying it’s an organization where humans, Vulcans, and Denobulans are all equals. Phlox thinks this kind of information could be dangerous, and that the Captain should restrict access to it.

We next find ourselves with the “assault fleet”, and after all that talk about the fleet in this episode and the last, it turns out the “assault fleet” has been reduced to a single NX-class ship called the Avenger. The ship is under attack by rebel ships, the captain has been killed, and so Admiral Black (Gregory Itzin) has taken command. And the ship’s second in command happens to be the Mirror version of Soval, a recurring Vulcan ambassador character played by Gary Graham. And in another nod to “Mirror, Mirror”, this version of Soval has a goatee.

Star Trek: Enterprise "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II"

The Defiant suddenly appears and quickly defeats all the rebel ships. Archer shows no mercy, destroying a Vulcan ship over T’Pol’s protests. But he does let an Andorian ship go, so that someone will live to tell the tale of what happened here.

Star Trek: Enterprise "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II"

Admiral Black comes aboard the Defiant and is incredibly impressed by the ship. Archer soon asks for a “battlefield promotion” and command of the Defiant, but Black refuses. As he speaks, Hallucination Archer reappears, warning Mirror Archer that he’ll never get the ship, and Black will get all the credit for this victory.

Eventually, Archer says, “You’re relieved, Admiral!” Mayweather takes out Black’s guard with a high kick and Archer uses his phaser to vaporize Admiral Black.

Star Trek: Enterprise "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II"

And now, Archer is over on the Avenger, addressing that ship’s crew. He gives a bizarre, hammy, overplayed speech that seems to be a crazy mix of Julius Caesar, Henry V, and George S. Patton, where he says their true enemy is not the rebels, but rather the corrupt officials who have allowed the Empire to be endangered. He says he won’t stand by and let them destroy an empire which “has endured for centuries!” This speech goes on and on, and in fact a chunk of it was cut.

Star Trek: Enterprise "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II"

The DVD contains an extended version where Bakula obliterates the scenery, popping blood vessels as he yells that “the die is now cast”, and the Avenger crew responds with a slow clap. Archer then takes his leave, whispering to Mayweather to shoot the first person who stops clapping. Yeah, so that was just a teeny tiny bit over the top. Reportedly, this scene was filmed on the day the cast and crew learned Enterprise had been cancelled, and Bakula definitely seems to be giving the performance of a man who no longer gives a shit.

T’Pol secretly meets up with Soval, even giving him the Vulcan salute, which Soval advises her against doing openly. She’s been inspired by reading up about the Federation, and wants to make something similar to it happen here, but Soval is skeptical. Then T’Pol, who I would assume is still Vulcan in the Mirror Universe, gets all angry and emotional as she tries to convince Soval that they need to stop Archer from overthrowing the Emperor.

Star Trek: Enterprise "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II"

Her plan is to give all the data about the Defiant to the rebels, and then destroy the Defiant, but she needs his help. Soval protests, saying he’s “too old to become a revolutionary”, but he comes around when she warns him that a potential Emperor Archer will make it his mission to destroy Vulcan.

In Archer’s quarters, he makes out with Hoshi in silhouette, and also talks about how his crew doesn’t trust him, mainly T’Pol. Hoshi thinks it’s time to get rid of T’Pol, and Archer hits on the idea of getting rid of all non-Terrans on the ship. Except for Phlox, because Phlox is cool. They continue to make out while Hoshi breathlessly gasps, “I’ve never been a consort of an emperor before!”

On the bridge, T’Pol downloads data about the Defiant onto one of those TOS-style cards. But then Archer shows up and has her escorted off the bridge, saying her services are no longer required.

After she’s gone, a crazy old man appears on the viewscreen yelling at Archer. Apparently, this is not your drunk grandpa, but rather Fleet Admiral Gardner. His regular universe counterpart has been mentioned a few times on the show before, but this is the first time we’re seeing him, or at least, his Mirror Universe version. It seems Archer sent a message to Starfleet demanding their “unconditional surrender”, and Gardner thinks Archer is out of his mind.

Star Trek: Enterprise "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II"

Archer replies that they’re on their way to Earth, and advises them to stand down all defense forces. Gardner tells him not to approach Earth and shuts off the transmission.

Phlox is soon asked to beam over to the Avenger for a “medical emergency”, which turns out to be a ruse by T’Pol (who I guess has been reassigned here) and Soval. They want to sabotage the Defiant, and Phlox, as the last non-Terran left on the ship, is the only one who can do it. Phlox says he’s loyal to the Empire, and thinks maybe Archer should be emperor, but he changes his mind after they spend roughly ten seconds talking him into it, and promising that if he saves the Emperor’s life, he’ll have “as many concubines as you like”.

Next, T’Pol is calmly strolling through the corridors of the Avenger. There’s no clue where she’s going, but she’s suddenly confronted by Hoshi and a MACO. They know she downloaded the Defiant’s “schematics” and they’re putting her under arrest. But T’Pol fights back, taking out the MACO. Hoshi whips out a dagger, leading to the completely expected catfight between the only two women on the show where they more or less call each other whores. I don’t know when Mirror Universe episodes became synonymous with “blatant fanservice”, but here you go. T’Pol knocks out Hoshi, but the MACO comes around and shoots her.

Star Trek: Enterprise "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II"

There’s a brief bit of Phlox on his sabotage mission on the Defiant. Originally, this scene was scripted to take place in Engineering, but then they found out there wasn’t enough money to build a TOS-style Engineering set. And so, Phlox is in some random corridor, pulling glowing tubes out of their sockets.

Star Trek: Enterprise "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II"

Elsewhere on the Defiant, Archer interrogates T’Pol, asking who she’s working for. But she denies working for anyone, telling him, “The Federation is our future!” And then in the only real callback (callforward?) to the Deep Space Nine Mirror Universe episodes, she warns, “It may take centuries, but humanity will pay for its arrogance!”, foreshadowing the downfall of the Terran Empire (and the rise of the Klingon-Cardassian Alliance) prior to “Crossover”.

On the bridge, Trip detects Phlox’s sabotage attempt and goes down to handle it. He arrives just as Phlox finishes the job, and the whole ship shudders and the lights flicker. Phlox is about to beam out, but Trip attacks and they get into a fight.

Archer gets to the bridge and learns all their systems are offline, and the Avenger begins firing on the Defiant and causing serious damage. But then Trip defeats Phlox, screws the fluorescent light bulbs back into their sockets, and everything is back to normal. Archer orders Mayweather to fire photon torpedoes, and Soval screams as the Avenger is blown apart.

Star Trek: Enterprise "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II"

And so ends the whole “sabotage the Defiant” plotline. And much like the Gorn subplot, it really came to nothing except filling up time (and providing more fanservice, of course).

Cut to Archer and Hoshi having some post-blowing-up-a-ship sex. He tells her that she should erase the Defiant’s historical database, which presumably happens at some point, explaining why no one has any knowledge of an alternate universe by the time of “Mirror, Mirror”. Though, it doesn’t quite explain how all the Mirror Universe starships are still at the same technological level as the Defiant a hundred years later.

The two have a champagne toast to the “reign of Emperor Jonathan Archer”, and Archer lies back in bed and pours champagne all over his face for some stupid reason. He finds himself getting groggy, and he falls to the floor.

Star Trek: Enterprise "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II"

Instead of helping him, Hoshi runs to the door and lets in Mayweather. And to seal the deal, Hoshi kisses him, revealing that they’ve been conspiring this whole time, and Hoshi has poisoned Archer. Which would seem to be a bit of a meta-joke, in that the two most inconsequential characters in the regular universe are now the ones taking over.

Star Trek: Enterprise "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II"

Archer collapses, and the Defiant finally arrives in Earth orbit. Hoshi opens a channel to Admiral Gardner, ordering his surrender, or they will “target your cities”. Drunk Grandpa demands to know who she is and where Archer is. Hoshi replies, “You’re speaking with Empress Sato! Prepare to receive instructions.”

And that’s the end of the episode, and the end of the Mirror Universe as seen on TV. According to Mike Sussman, there were plans to return to the Mirror Universe in future seasons of Enterprise, similar to Deep Space Nine’s annual visit, but obviously that never happened.

Unlike part one, which was entirely focused on finding the Defiant and taking us on a fast-paced ride to get there, part two sort of languishes, giving us a series of random unconnected subplots with no real payoff. Hoshi’s scheme to overthrow Archer would have unfolded exactly the same if we didn’t have the Gorn hunt, or T’Pol plotting against Archer. Instead of running around chasing the Gorn for 10 or 15 minutes, why not foreshadow Hoshi and Mayweather’s conspiracy, at least a little bit?

Star Trek: Enterprise "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II"

And after two episodes, the one-note, mustache-twirling performances from the entire cast have pretty much worn out their welcome. It would appear Mirror Universe episodes really need at least a couple of the regular universe characters to cross over, to counterbalance all the cartoonish evil on display. And after seeing Scott Bakula’s excruciating attempt at playing an over-the-top bad guy in these episodes, I’m almost nostalgic for the whiny, petulant man-baby Archer of seasons one and two.

But as I said in the previous recap, “In a Mirror, Darkly” captures the tone of the TOS Mirror Universe a lot better than Deep Space Nine, which mostly turned it into a bleak, depressing place to be. At the same time, these episodes feel a lot like glorified fan films (a feeling only compounded by how they used props from actual fan films to create the TOS-style bridge set), in that most of the events seem to happen just to set up fannish connections to other, more famous episodes.

When I started writing about these episodes, I said that “Mirror, Mirror” was an interesting Twilight Zone-esque “what if” scenario that probably didn’t need a follow-up. Hopefully, the eight recaps I’ve written since then have proven the point. The deeper we delve into the Mirror Universe, the less sense it makes. There’s the matter of every character’s Mirror counterpart somehow being in exactly the same place at the same time, of course, but also, if this is a Starfleet where it’s perfectly acceptable to move up in rank through assassination, why isn’t everyone constantly trying to kill everyone else all the time? “In a Mirror, Darkly” spends a lot of time coming up with various rationales for why Forrest doesn’t just kill Archer, Archer doesn’t just kill T’Pol, etc., and it really slows things down.

When it comes to the Mirror Universe episodes, the only ones that really make much of an impact are the first one, part one of “In a Mirror, Darkly”, and maybe “Crossover”. The rest are pretty much disposable. They’re diverting enough while you’re watching them, but they’re ultimately the kind of episodes you can skip over during a rewatch without missing much.

I won’t say I’m completely done with the Mirror Universe, since there are still some Mirror Universe appearances in other media I might want to look at someday, but that’s it for now. In the future, I may do another inter-series look at some specific subset of Star Trek episodes, but next time, I’ll make sure not to take three years to do it. And it definitely won’t be Ferengi episodes. Sorry, I just can’t.

…And that’s how I met your mother (and named a website).

TV Show: Enterprise
Tag: The Mirror Universe

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  • MichaelANovelli

    When you get right down to it, the Mirror Universe isn’t all that radically different from the Negaverse from Darkwing Duck.

    Though, that at least carried the philosophical implications that free will was a lie. This Star Trek one is just silly…

    • CaptainCalvinCat

      Although the really dangerous one is Darkwarrior Duck. Negaduck… well, he’s as crazy for cocoo-puffs as Darkwing, just evil. Dangerous is Darkwarrior, because here we see bad things, that can come from good intentions. ^^

  • sunrise089

    Thanks for the great (part II) recap!

  • Cameron Vale

    I remember the Gorn having a memorable line, something like “humansss… are not… trussstworthy.”

  • Thomas Stockel

    Apologies if I already suggested this, but Diane Duane’s novel Dark Mirror is one helluva ride. It is an outstanding interpretation of the MU TNG cast.

  • NameWithheldByRequest

    The fourth season of Enterprise really deserves to be better regarded then it generally has been. It succeeded despite its many, many serious problems, not least of which was Scott Bakula’s acting or the insipid elevator music soundtrack. To his credit, Manny Coto decided to actually attempt to do a prequel series, instead of whatever the hell it was Berman & Co. were trying to do. One of the things he got rid of, which was just about the worst thing on this show, was the Tucker/T’Pol relationship. Thank you, Manny! Anyway, the Mirror episodes epitomize fourth season Enterprise, which while stall flawed in many ways, gave the impression that at least the people who put this show together every week actually loved Star Trek, something that the first three seasons of Enterprise never seemed to be able to convey.

  • Piercenault

    This ep was especially weak and pitiful. Not for Enterprise as a whole, since I was already used to it being as boring and forgettable as all of the Trek-related spinoffs. But in its last season when they might as well cave into the “blatant fanservice” that up until then they acted like they were too good for, they had a perfect opportunity to play up all the press Jolene Blalock was supposedly attracting as the first “Hot” Vulcan (which never lived up to the hype because of the dull outfit and unappealing hairstyle alongside the character’s buzzkill) by showing her off in a REALLY sexy old-style Trek mini-skirted Uniform and Boots to go with her long real blond hair.

    And they fucking blew it by barely showing any of it onscreen before having her change BACK into the dull-ass “Mirror” uniform for the Big Girl-on-Girl Fight with what’s-her-name. Jesus Christ, they already knew they were being cancelled, and no “Moral Guardians” who get their panties in a twist over pretty women looking too “inappropriate” and “provocative” in short skirts and boots on TV to “corrupt the innocent children” watching were going to make any impact by this point. So what the Hell is wrong with today’s programming to be so Goddamned uptight? No wonder the original 60s show was always better. They took more chances, showed No Fear and gave the public exactly what they wanted. Not like the gutless, PC-infested, humorless wimps that produced such a lifeless, self-important turd like “Enterprise” while acting all high-and-mighty about how THEY’RE so “enlightened” and “forward-thinking” over the “sexism” of the Old series’ flaunting mini-skirted yeomens in leather boots. Yeah, well no-one’s gonna watch if there isn’t any Eye Candy to hold their interest. Those prissy intellectuals.

    • Muthsarah

      “Enterprise”‘s mediocrity was the result of years of calculation on the part of Paramount and the gradual diminishment of a once-forward-thinking franchise into something horribly dated even in its day.

      From the first season of TNG, Rick Berman was Paramount’s hatchetman. His directive was to make sure that Roddenberry and his idealistic nerds didn’t run amok with the almightly production company’s money and lose sight of the company’s “Prime Directive”. If they can make a buck, great. But…make sure that this genre show never got too “genre”. Never forgot what it was there to do: produce money. First, Gene lost control of TNG…by his own incompetence. Prolly for the best, that part. He comPLETEly squandered the first season, turning a pretty good budget, tons of time to work on scripts, and decades of good will and the momentum from three pretty damn good movies in a row into months and months of stagnation and confusion. Roddenberry no long knew how to produce anything. I love the guy for what he birthed, but the guy had completely lost himself in his own ego by this point. And the almost-immediate collapse of the new TNG showrunner regime led directly to Berman taking over. Motivated purely by Paramount’s profit line, Berman and a few new hands (Michael Piller, especially) were able to right the ship and produce a pretty good show, which finally took off by Season Three (STILL my favorite season of any Trek, even though I wasn’t watching it at the time).

      Gene was WAY outta his element by the 80s. He had almost nothing to do with Wrath of Khan-Search for Spock-The Voyage Home. His mismanagement led directly to the dreadful first season of TNG, and, indirectly (due to both confusion and chaos following the first season, plus a writer’s strike) to the very, very lackluster second season. Gene had become recalcitrant after TOS’s cancellation and the following cult success of the show, and his lawyer (who exercised power beyond his role) poisoned the atmosphere at TNG, driving many of Gene’s old friends and writing partners away. It was almost a miracle TNG was saved as it was. I don’t know how much to credit Berman there, but, I think it’s clear in retrospect, better the studio hatchetman than the out-of-touch visionary. There are always worse things. Almost always.

      But as TNG took off (mostly due to Piller and other young up-and-coming writers), Berman remained, always holding them back. Keeping things to the strict network demands for easy continuity (meaning a strict anthology – every episode should be watchable in any order for maximum syndication/rerun dollars). Which, admittedly, was in the spirit of TOS, an anthology show…in SPA-A-A-A-A-A-ACE. But whose premise was already wearing a little thin by the end of the show’s run. Most of TNG was well-written, well-produced, and well-acted, by the standards of the time. Sure, Gene’s crazily-idealistic philosophy for how awesome all humans would be by the 24th century meant that everyone (the principal characters, at least) were paragons of virtue and stoic judgment. Character conflict was minimal. Character development, barely any better. Everyone was already perfect, right? So who cares. The Federation was already ideal, so let’s keep spreading the gospel, the good word. We have it all figured out, so let’s convert the natives. Of the Zeta Triangular Ceti Alpha Nu Whatever system. Whoever they are, we’re already better than them, I’m certain.

      That worked well enough, so long as the writers could come up with interesting hooks to add wrinkles to the characters (alien abduction, infiltration of alien civilizations, alien conquest of human brains, Q dream sequences, enlightened despotic takes on treaty negotiations) that showed the flaws in this utopian society, without EXPLICITLY saying that the Federation was less-than-flawless, or flying in the face of the network’s demands for no-continuity-whatsoever. Basically, if you wanted drama, borrow from The Twilight Zone – create an alternate reality-within-a-reality (in an alien society, a character’s dream sequence, the Holodeck) and don’t explicitly tie in to anything else. If you can manage that balancing act, you can actually find room for real drama. Somewhere.

      I can’t say what the public actually wanted (again, I wasn’t watching at this time), but it seemed to work pretty well, as TNG’s ratings remained high until the end. But by DS9, that show’s producers faced a real dilemma: break from TNG’s successful formula, and try to create something with a shred of identifiable realism, or with actual continuity, or else just keep to the old script, a virtual anthology, full of stand-alone episodes with no connection to anything else, and with an increasingly fraying set of values that made less and less sense every time some logical plot point came along and poked a hole in it. DS9 chose to break pattern and admit that Gene’s philosophy was too simplistic and naive to make sense in a real world with real people with real motives and real failings. Took them a little while, but they eventually carved out a nice niche for themselves. Cynical, a bit, but sensible. Relatable. Voyager went in the opposite direction: no continuity, every episode a self-contained adventure with a pre-ordained meaningless endpoint. An increasingly nonsensical moral center centered around an increasingly nonsensical lead character. Non-continuity was the new God. Not surprisingly, this was the series Berman had far more pull with, not least because it aired on Paramount’s own network, while DS9 remained syndicated, airing on FOX. DS9 was thrown to the winds once VOY was in production, something I think could only be to DS9s benefit. They had a strict budget, but they had more creative freedom. VOY sank under Berman’s strict mandate to keep everything nice and safe for first-time viewers, while DS9 became truly self-absorbed and harder to approach for those not already following the increasingly serialized stories.

      In the end, neither DS9 nor VOY were huge hits. But critics liked DS9. Fans still love DS9. Very few people stand up for VOY these days. To me, for good reason.

      So when Enterprise (NOT Star Trek: Enterprise, JUST “Enterprise”) debuted, with Berman still in overall control, it was a pure Paramount show. How can you leave “Star Trek” out of the title of an obviously Star Trek show? Because it wasn’t “supposed” to be Star Trek. It was supposed to be a new stand-alone show. Targeted at new viewers. If long-time Trek fans wanna join along, great; we ASSUME they’ll watch. But we’ll target the show at newbies. Either the general public could still tell the difference, or the marketing was so bad that even casuals avoided it, the show sank like a stone. Sure, a lot of people tuned it at the beginning, that’s typical for any heavily-hyped show. But by the end of Season One, over half the viewers had left, permanently. I was one of them. The show remained continuity-light. The show – initially – tried to distance itself from even previous continuity. Ignoring history set by TNG, while still relying on the memories of TNG viewers, when re-introducing the Ferengi. Making the Vulcans universally detestable, even though the (almost unarguably) most popular Trek character of all time was a Vulcan. Introducing new major plot twists that were, retroactively, contradicted (or at least bafflingly not-having-previously-been-mentioned) by earlier/later series, which mentioned nothing about these apparently major events. It was the most anti-Trek Trek series yet. The Animated Series took this stuff more seriously. Combine that with a very, very drab aesthetic, and “Enterprise” was dull as dishwater, boring, and just plain unpleasant from the start. All based on Paramount’s ethos – continuity is for nerds. Character development is confusing. Details aren’t important. Just put people on a ship in space, and occasionally make a reference to something a hundred years in the characters’ futures, and also almost twenty years old to the viewers. Whatever. It’s what sells, right?

      Until it doesn’t. “Enterprise” was all about the dollars from the start, which woulda been bad enough had it actually succeeded, but the series was, again, the logical result of following an increasingly narrow focus far beyond the logical extreme. You wanted no continuity? You got it. And a meaningless show where consequences mattered little. You wanted shallow appeals to non-fans? You got it, and a show that thumbed its nose at earlier shows, and their fans, to appeal to people that weren’t likely to show up next week anyway. You want cheap sex appeal? Well, you got it, I guess. But other shows on TV do it better. You’re not exactly HBO here. You’re UPN/CW. Accept your self-imposed limitations.

      By the end, even after Paramount, in the death throes of desperation, handed the series, the franchise, over to long-time fans to fix, the show couldn’t dig itself out of its hole – moral, inspirational, intellectual, canonical, or even basically dramatic, and the franchise died with it. The fourth season, despite a sizable uptick in quality, was barely watched by anyone. You spurn the fans, the fans spurn you. You spend 10+ years ignoring your own franchise’s many strengths, hamstringing your best writers and producers, all to appeal to fans outside the genre, to try to “grow the brand” beyond the logical bounds of your genre, all the while embracing every short-sighted opportunity to appeal to the lowest-common-denominator through guest stars, shallow sex appeal, and the incessant need to keep everything syndication-friendly to the point of having no meaningful stories whatsoever, yeah, you’re gonna just end up pleasing nobody.

      “Enterprise” in a nutshell.

      • Lord ShinyPants

        An underperforming franchise (at least as considered by the show-runners), a new show taken in a new direction to try to attract new fans with the assumption that the old fans would follow along.

        With similar results for Enterprise and Stargate: Universe. A lot of attention early on, then tapering off. And a lot of people saying that the show improved just before it was killed off.

        Though arguably the whole soft reboot worked with the Abrams movies, at least for the mass audience.

      • Piercenault

        Gee, thanks for the history lesson. But I, uh…… really DON’T CARE.

        All I was pointing out was how so out-of-touch the spinoffs are that they can’t even meet the basic demands of Sex Appeal without overthinking the backlash by holier-than-thou critics and repressive “Moral Guardians” like some kind of Focus-Group of insular eggheads mulling over every little detail about the past and future directions of the franchise itself and blah blah blah. EXCEPT the most obvious thing every red-blooded Male viewer tunes into to really see. Kind of like what your entire reply was, unfortunately.

        And the “re-invention” of the Short-Skirts and Black Boots in the J.J. Abram movies is only a hypocritical washout because the new Uniforms’ patterns of SHORT-sleeves and FLAT-heeled boots with the dull RUBBER-like finish make them all look like Little Girls playing “Dress Up”. And not WOMEN filled with poise and confidence to stride about proudly in High-Heeled Black Leather Boots, sexy stockings, and Super-TIGHT Uniforms as if they KNOW they’re Hot, and PROUD of it. Now how fucking pathetic is it when the fanboys who supposedly revere the old series to pay “homage” to it can’t even get THAT part right?

        • Muthsarah

          No offense taken. I rant to rant. To focus my thoughts. Puking up words occasionally is therapeutic.

          Sex appeal is always a hard line to walk. TOS had it easy: all they had to do was appeal to 1960’s men’s sensibilities. Every woman was hot, every woman wore fashionable hair and make-up, every woman wore a (by today’s standards) crazily short skirt. Men could be old, men could be non-fit, men could be defined by their charactarizations. Not women. Non-eye candy need not apply. Not after NBC’s insanely-over-the-top rejection of Majel Barrett’s original Number One.

          For more recent series (possibly exempting early TNG, which was stuck in the past, more accurately, a distorted version of that past), it was clear they had to update somewhat. Give the female officers the same (or at least similar) style of uniform as the men, give them decent roles, whatever. TNG had Lwaxana, Ro Laren, Toreth from “Face of the Enemy”. Troi was still the “sensitive one”, Beverly Crusher was ancillary at best, Yar was overly-emotional, highly sexualized, and too-quickly dead. It wasn’t ideal. But it was still a big step up.

          Star Trek ALWAYS had a problem with sex as an issue. For TOS, showing off sex appeal (and not just female) wasn’t an issue, as long as they kept it superficial. Short skirts, shirtless Kirk, s’all good. But to watch episodes like “The Apple” or “The Gamesters of Triskellion” is to enter another world; the former featured the crew trying to have “the birds and the bees” talk with innocent natives, and being too bashful to go into any details whatsoever, the latter had an off-screen “rape” scene that wasn’t a rape scene purely by virtue of the fact that television could not even imply such a thing back then, even though the lead-up to it left no doubt whatsoever that that was the only logical explanation for the buildup.

          But by the more moralistic 1980s, sex became almost entirely taboo. In a highly-publicized convention interview circa 1987, Gene Roddenberry himself promised that TNG would feature gay characters. It never did. Part of that, certainly, was Rick Berman toeing the conservative network line of not rocking the boat. But Roddenberry in general was the sort that was big on talk and, lamentably, short on action, at least in his later years. David Gerrold, the guy who wrote “The Trouble With Tribbles”, and who was one of the main writers for TNG Season One (heavily re-written, the whole season), and was set to be a show-runner along with fellow TOS veteran D.C. Fontana, wrote an episode dealing TANGENTIALLY with the AIDS epidemic. In the mid/late 1980s. The episode, “Blood and Fire” featured two gay characters, whose homosexuality was detailed only in two short lines; the episode dealt with a viral epidemic striking a ship the Enterprise was set to rescue, and decisions had to be made whether or not it was worth risking the Enterprise’s crew to try to save those stricken with the disease. In the end, one of the two (established) gay characters died.

          Sure, homosexuality and sexuality in general aren’t inextricably linked, but in TNG they were equally taboo. The showrunners (Gene first, Berman once Gene was pushed aside) were too afraid of depicting ANYTHING potentially offensive, of the “how will I explain this to my children” variety. TNG, DS9, VOY, and ENT were typically written to avoid “overt” sexuality as a subject (models in catsuits were A-OK, though, because ratings). You’d get episodes with build-ups to sex scenes, but they’d play it pretty coy and conservative for the most part. VOY’s 7-of-9 and ENT’s T’Pol, at least, have overt “sex appeal” as primary character traits, but it’s cheap and obvious. The outfit is supposed to sell the characters’ sexuality, while both were written as emotionless robots (minus one Pon-Farr episode, with a horny T’Pol). But no serious discussion. Just cheap ratings grabs, they all were. If that’s what a “red-blooded Male viewer” wanted, well, they at least thought they were satisfying it. Your mileage will vary, I guess.

          And you’ll never see me defending the re-launch. They skinned the beast, and draped its hide around the exact same crappy story structures they use for seemingly every other big-budget movie. The new movies have no soul, no brains, no heart, no point other than spectacle and action. But they DO have “sex appeal”. If all you want is skimpy outfits, they’ll do ya. If you want them on anyone who looks older than 20, well, yeah, you’ll probably hafta shut your eyes and picture Nichelle Nichols. Sounds to me you’re not upset at the skimpy outfits or the superficial take on female sexuality (as in, women in Nu-Trek have to lead with it if they’re to get any screentime), but at the lack of fuller-figured women old enough to legally rent cars.

          And, please, don’t ever conflate JJ Abrams and others who actually make the Nu-Trek series with old-school fans. The only person involved in the films who A) knew ANYTHING about Trek and B) was in any position to affect how the movies turned out was Robert Orci. And he’s insane. The rest were only trying to make a Star Wars Demo Reel.

          • Piercenault

            Yeah, whatever man. I just know what I like and what I DON’T like. Which I’ve pretty much covered re. the Classic Series’ crewwomen’s uniforms. Though even the women themselves were occasionally UN-attractive enough to be a total buzzkill regardless of the skirt & boots combo (The dopey blue-skirt casualty from “The Deadly Years” even before she was infected and plastered with Old-Age makeup; both yellow-skirts who subbed for Chekov & Sulu in “Gamesters of Triskelion” and “That Which Survives”, respectively; that dippy substitute for Uhura in the awful Series’ Finale “Turnabout Intruder”), while some pleasantly surprised me with how VA-VOOM they turned out to be in their youth (Diana Muldaur as the Red-skirted Lt. Commander/Dr. Anne Mulhall in “Return To Tomorrow”; HOLY FUCK who knew that Dr. Pulaski could ever have been so Smoking HOT?).

            Plus some honorable mentions for Yeoman Martha Landon kicking some native ass in “The Apple” (or rather, her stuntwoman, but at least it wasn’t a dude in drag – ugh) to offset her falling for Chekov’s bad flirting, that hot Kelvan blonde Kelinda in the tight sky-blue pants and grey boots from “By Any Other Name” (that can’t lose with the part being played by Barbara Bouchet), and Scotty’s hot girlfriend Lt. Mira Romaine whose many “money shots” just about made the deadly dull “Lights of Zetar” bearable.

            And, please, DON’T lay the usual backpedaling apologist guilt-trip on me for dissing JJ Abrams by blaming his underlings for “blindsiding” him while he was too distracted by pursuing his goal to Direct the Next Star Wars. It was HIS name on the NewTrek movies, his role as supervising/executive-producer, and therefore HIS responsibility for the finished product.

            Ergo, why putting undeniably beautiful women like Zoe Saldana and Alice Eve in their half-hearted “homage” uniforms still totally bombed because they – repeat – looked like LITTLE GIRLS PLAYING DRESS-UP instead of the Supremely Confident Professional Women of Yesteryear. And that’s NOT hot, it’s CREEPY. And no, Eve’s stripping down did not work. At All. It was just desperate and pathetic (which I will at least give the producers some credit for acknowledging after the fact, but that’s about all they deserve). QED.

  • Gallen_Dugall

    How did I miss this? Enjoyable read.

    Never managed to watch much of Enterprise because the writing was just pointless and dull. I finally got around to watching Voyager this past month or so and guess what? There’s a sorta kinda mirror universe episode! It looked stupid, and that series only ever doubled down on dumb, so I decided to skip it pretty quickly. Anyway “Living Witness” Season 4 Episode 23 is about an evil version of the Voyager crew as propagandized about in the future by some aliens for some reason I didn’t bother to find out about.

    Then there’s the mirror universe episode of MST3K… you should do that one too! “Last of the Wild Horses”

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLowMDe85To

    • Muthsarah

      “Living Witness” is one of the few truly good episodes of VOY. I hope you watched the whole thing. After the semi-camp of seeing the Voyager crew acting all sociopathic (as opposed to their typical mercurial and hypocritical), you get a nice warning about trusting those who write the history books, couched in an additional warning of “sometimes, there are even worse things than that”. It’s creepy. It’s genuinely thought-provoking. And it’s Voyager, fer Pete’s Christ.

      If you did skip past the episode, do give it a watch. I know you’re a TOS fan, and very much not into TNG or afterwards, but if you watch any VOY episode (again, a show I do not like), that’s one of the few that are actually worthy of your full 44 minutes of attention. At the very least, you can say that you gave it a chance. There are episodes like “Scorpion”, that play to the masses, throw a bunch of action at the screen, and try to dazzle the viewers with visuals and (incredibly shallow) messages. There are episodes like “Year of Hell”, that are solid stories that have nice premises but are clearly not delivered upon and do not resolve themselves satisfactorily. And there is “Living Witness”, the series’ finest hour, IMHO. You have to have a basic understanding of the show to appreciate the “satire” of seeing the principal players portrayed as basically-Nazis, when they are typically portrayed as oblivious wannabe-heroes, but if you can’t appreciate “Living Witness” after having seen the whole thing, you can have my blessing for just giving up on Voyager forever. As, I technically did long ago, but I watched a bunch of stuff first. Whatever. Whatever point there was, there is no more. But still. If you feel open-minded, just give it a chance. It WON’T sell you on the show. But MAYBE it can at least show you that at SOME point, it had more than two brain cells to rub together.

      • Gallen_Dugall

        recommendation taken
        probably tonight