Saturday, May 07, 2005

Star Trek: Enterprise Kicks In

Tonight's third-from-the-last Enterprise was just great. It echoed, in all the good ways, classic Star Trek. As Earth starts exploring farther and farther into space, we keep encountering more and more aliens, who come to Earth for science, business and diplomacy. A lot of Terrans become xenophobic in reaction (We learn a bit more about Col. Green, from the original show. Of course, there's still the lingering resentment of Vulcan paternalism that was present in Enterprise's first season.) and a "Terra Prime" reactionary movement starts causing problems. The episode deals with racism and apartheid in an SF context, which allowed some great moments.

Possibly the best was when Trip and T'Pol infiltrate a Lunar mining colony to find out more about the Terra Prime leaders. The under-praised Peter Weller (Robocop, Buckaroo Bonzai, Naked Lunch, etc.) plays the leader perfectly: driven, cold, ruthless and a true-believer. (It was a perfect casting choice.) Of course, they are caught and Weller meets them, then gives the requisite Evil Overlord speech about his motives. It builds to him staring at T'Pol saying he wants to prevent "human and vulcan...." Here he pauses with a snarl on his lips. I was leaning forward, wishing, "Say it. Say it! 'Miscegenation!'" But they wimped out and went with the less loaded "relationships." Oh, so close.

They cast a pair of African-American actors in roles as top lieutenants to Weller's character, both a predictable and bold choice. But rather than point up -- either explicitly or ironically -- the absurdity contemporary Americans feel when watching these black men advocating the same treatment to others that they experience or their ancestors experienced, it's just left there. It seems a point could have been made and it would have really knocked audiences on the head.

I just hope next week's Part Two can uphold the groundwork laid out in Part One. And it's a shame that just as Enterprise finally finds its voice, and a really good voice it's turning out to be, that the show is being killed. On the other hand, I think it's a good thing to put the series out to pasture for while. It's tired and needs a rest.

That said, another film is likely to hit theaters next Summer or Fall. A script is being written for a show set between Enterprise and the original Trek. It will be cast younger than previous shows. It's supposed to have a "Big Premise." I'm not holding my breath for this one, as it still has the cold, dead hand of Berman and Braga all over it.

They need to let everyone -- everyone! -- go and start over in a few years with all new people, all new concepts and assumptions, all new attitudes and outlooks and design philosphies.

On the gripping hand, I have to say that seeing the USS Defiant bridge light up and come to life at the end of Part One of "In A Mirror, Darkly" brought a surge of delight to me. Seeing how beautiful the brightly lit and primary colored, cheery, set looked, compared to the dark and techy, dour, Enterprise set, only makes me long for contemporary television production to get over its obsession with darkness, greyness and color-leaching. Done with modern construction and production gloss and lighting, it was a welcome change to see the actors pop out from the colorful background. More please!