Exploring Star Trek: Enterprise 20 Years Later

Twenty years ago, the final Rick Berman-era Star Trek show premiered on the former UPN network to a mixed reception, at best. Originally called Enterprise, the fifth Star Trek spinoff held a lot of promise with its premise—a prequel to the original Star Trek universe which detailed humankind’s initial exploration of space and the events, such as First Contact with famous Star Trek alien races, that led to the formation of the United Federation of Planets, and the acclaimed Star Trek universe.

When Enterprise was conceived, the Golden Age of Star Trek was already coming to a close. Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9), two highly revered shows, were no longer airing and Star Trek: Voyager (VOY) was ending its seven-year run. By the time the final episode of VOY aired, Enterprise and its premise was known to fans, as was the fact that popular genre actor, Scott Bakula, the star of the beloved sci-fi time travel show Quantum Leap, was cast to play the lead, Captain Jonathan Archer. However, around this time the Star Trek franchise under the helm of Rick Berman was running out of steam, creatively. Many episodes of Star Trek: Voyager were formulaic and many feared for good reason this malaise would carryover into Enterprise since Berman created it and was the main showrunner, along with Brannon Braga.

There were signs that the new show was going through the motions, starting with it premise, another starship crew exploring the unknown sectors of space; the characters seemed bland for the most part and echoed the makeup of the original cast with a few differences.

Still, many held out hope that Enterprise would deliver and rekindle the spark of imagination that the Star Trek franchise was noted for. Many were cautiously optimistic about the show, yet others were not enthused about the show and were ready to move on to other properties.

Enterprise premiered on September 26, 2001, which obviously was the first post-9/11 Star Trek show just a few days after the catastrophic event struck the United States.

The pilot episode “Broken Bow” introduced viewers to the crew of NX-01 Enterprise, Earth’s first starship that was capable of reaching warp 5. The more notable crew members consisted of Captain Jonathan Archer (Bakula), Chief Engineer Travis “Trip” Tucker (Connor Trinneer), and First Officer T’Pol (Jolene Blalock), a skeptical Vulcan who acted more as a guide to the humans when they ventured into unfamiliar space.

The ship and crew were pressed into service when an alien Klingon crash landed on Earth and the Enterprise crew undertook the mission to return the Klingon to his people. What they soon learned was that a shape-shifting alien race called the Suliban were after the Klingon. This put the humans into conflict with the Suliban, which Archer learned were being manipulated by a great power in the far future.

This was part of a confusing sub plot throughout most of the show’s run about a so-called temporal cold war. Apparently, the time period Enterprise took place in (the 2250s) was pivotal in history and certain unknown factions in the future wanted to change it. According to some reports, co-creators Rick Berman and Brannon Braga were forced to include this plot line by the network, and the duo even admitted the plot was never fully developed, and it showed. Berman and Braga also revealed that initially they wanted the series to take place on Earth for a large bulk of the first season as the Enterprise was prepared for its maiden voyage. But the network asked that the starship immediately launch into action during the pilot episode.

“Broken Bow” was entertaining but not as inspiring or memorable as previous Star Trek pilots. A bad sign for the show was the opening credits which featured a montage of humankind’s history of exploration. The montage was fine, but it was ruined by a rancid rendition of “Faith of the Heart” that was so treacly and annoying.

Many of the characters introduced felt too familiar or were not memorable. It felt like the showrunners were trying to recreate the famous Kirk/Spock/McCoy dynamic with Archer, T’Pol and Tucker. Just swap the sex of the token Vulcan and make the emotional member of the trio an engineer instead of a doctor. Some characters were interesting but never got the screen time they deserved, such as Dr. Phlox (John Billingsley), a quirky alien doctor who was the chief medical officer of the ship. Other characters were completely forgettable, such as Travis Mayweather (Anthony Montgomery), the ship’s helmsman. What was known about him was that he was one of the first generations of humans to be raised in deep space. Other than that he was relegated to being a glorified extra.

The early episodes themselves were not very exciting or captivating, though there were a handful of standouts, such as “The Andorian Incident”, which established first human contact with the Andorians and introduced Shran (Jeffrey Combs), a volatile Andorian officer who was one of the show’s best characters. But in other episodes basically not much happens and felt routine. The basic premise of the show was that it was supposed to chronicle the first steps humanity took when it began exploring deep space. The tech was supposed to be crude, shuttles and grappling hooks were used by the ship instead of transporters or tractor beams. With that in mind, the transporters were still brand-new technology that was not trusted, yet they soon used all the time instead of shuttles. It’s a shame since the early reliance of shuttles inspired one of the better first season episodes “Shuttlepod One”.

Some of the storylines had interesting premises but the execution was mundane and the end result was by the numbers. Other episodes were outright copies of previous Star Trek episodes. For instance “Vanishing Point” had the same premise as “The Next Phase” from TNG, which did it better. The same went for “Precious Cargo”, an outright rip-off of TNG’s “The Perfect Mate”. It was obvious that Berman, Braga and other crewmembers were burnt out and going through the motions. Many of them, including Berman, had been involved with Star Trek since the mid-1980s. It was time to bring in new blood but the people in charge refused to see this and this is why the show suffered.

By the time the second season of Enterprise came to a close it was clear something had to be done. Ratings were declining, as was interest in the Star Trek franchise. Many fans abandoned it for fresher properties that were making their mark at the time such as Stargate: SG1, Firefly and Farscape.

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A Look Back At Spider-Man (2002)

Spider-Man film mania is reaching new levels of excitement with the upcoming Spider-Man: No Way Home and Venom: Let There Be Carnage, and the revelation that the latest Spider-Man film will introduce the previous cinematic universes of older Marvel films into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). This was seen with appearances of the Spider-Man villains from the original Spidey films, which heralds many highly anticipated crossover events for future MCU films. With all this hoopla it is time to take a look at the original Spider-Man film trilogy that was directed by Sam Raimi from 2002 to 2007.

The very first film based on Marvel Comics’ most popular superhero, Spider-Man, helped usher in a new age of superhero films at the turn of the century that eventually changed the cinematic landscape.

For the longest time it seemed as if there never would be a live-action film about Spider-Man. Marvel Comics, then later Marvel Entertainment, had the hardest time properly adapting their properties into respectable films or TV shows. The best they achieved was The Incredible Hulk TV show from the ’70s. Then things turned around with the releases of Blade (1998) and X-Men (2000). With those film successes it was only natural for Marvel to turn to its flagship superhero.

Before Marvel was acquired by Disney, the film rights to their characters were sold to major and minor studios. This created a legal mess when it came to Spider-Man as it prevented a film from being produced. The best known effort was a film to be directed by James Cameron. Rumors had it that Leonardo DeCaprio was slated to play Peter Parker/Spider-Man, and the film would have deviated wildly from the famous comic book source. One of those changes was that instead of crafting web shooters, Spider-Man had the ability to shoot his own organic webbing. This turned out to be one change that survived in the eventual Spider-Man, released on May 3, 2002 and directed by Sam Raimi, known by fans for his Evil Dead and Darkman films.

Spider-Man is a largely faithful adaptation of the Marvel Comics story about Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), a lonely and nerdy teenager in Queens, New York, who is bitten by a genetically altered spider during a class field trip at a laboratory. This updated the origin in that the spider was not radioactive as in the comics. During the ’60s radiation exposure was the cause du jour for how characters gained super powers. Of course, most people know better today that such exposure would have been fatal to living organisms such as humans!

Naturally, Peter developed spider-based powers because the venom from the spider’s bite changed his DNA. While he is elated with his new powers and physique he is pining for his next-door neighbor, Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst). She comes from a troubled home but hides her pain by exhibiting an outgoing and friendly demeanor. While the two seem attracted to each other she has a boyfriend with his own car. Being that he doesn’t have a lot of money, Peter decided to enter a wrestling exhibition to win money to buy a car.

He’s dropped off near the exhibition by his Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson), who tried to counsel Peter about his growing pains, but the teenager disregarded him. For the wrestling match, Peter adopted a flashy costumed identity that covered most of his face and called himself the Human Spider. The announcer (Bruce Campbell in the first of many humorous cameos in these films) renamed him Spider-Man and watched in disbelief, along with the audience, as Peter took out his far larger opponent.

Looking for his reward, Peter is instead ripped off by the wrestling promoter, who refused to pay him over a technicality. After Peter left his office, the promoter is immediately robbed at gunpoint, and the robber was able to escape because Peter refused to stop him. This decision would later haunt him as the same robber killed Uncle Ben in a carjacking. Afterwards, Peter bitterly recalled his uncle’s message about “with great power comes great responsibility” and decided to use his powers for good as Spider-Man.

During Peter’s emotional journey, Spider-Man examined the story of Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe), a billionaire industrialist and head of his company Oscorp. Facing competition and deadlines as a military contractor, Osborn subjected himself to an experimental chemical that enhanced his strength, durability and reflexes, but was driven insane. Peter and Osborn’s paths are intertwined as Peter’s friendship with Osborn’s son, Harry (James Franco), develops. Harry is also dating Mary Jane, but is aware of the mutual attraction Peter and Mary Jane have for each other. Meanwhile, Osborn adopted the armored identity of the criminal Green Goblin, and soon came into conflict with Spider-Man.

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Star Trek Turns 55

Yes, the classic sci-fi TV show that started the unbelievable Star Trek phenomenon turned double nickels this year. At 55, Star Trek continues to captivate untold numbers of fans. As any Trekker knows, the show has spun off into nearly a dozen TV shows (which includes Short Treks and the original animated TV show from the ’70s) and thirteen films.

There are many reasons for the enduring appeal and success of the Star Trek franchise. They include the captivating story lines and characters that serve as allegories for our current situation or are at least imaginative. The stories also offer a beacon of hope for humankind, that we will overcome our strife and spread out into the stars. Whatever the reason, Star Trek, despite its ups and downs, will continue to entrance fans and be a part of our culture for a long time.

To help celebrate the 55th anniversary of Star Trek, the streaming app Paramount+ presented a live celebration of the show and its spinoffs on September 8. This day is now known as Star Trek Day because the original TV show debuted on September 8, 1966. The Star Trek Day celebration featured many cast members and showrunners from previous, current and upcoming productions dedicated to Star Trek. The panel presentations featured actors from previous Star Trek shows who reminded the audience of the significance contributions their shows made to the franchise. These were followed up by beautifully performed live scores of each Star Trek show by Jeff Russo and his orchestra.

Probably the most anticipated highlight of the Star Trek Day event were the presentations of upcoming Star Trek TV shows such as Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Prodigy, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (which revealed its full crew lineup that includes Nyota Uhura, Christine Chapel and new characters), Star Trek: Lower Decks and Star Trek: Picard. The trailer for Star Trek: Picard unveiled that the second season will be time travel romp that partially takes place in modern times and was a delightful callback to Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home as the characters struggled to blend in with our times, Good luck with that, many of us are also struggling! It was announced that Star Trek: Picard has been renewed for a third season and premiere dates were given for a few of the shows.

But the most insightful panel was a celebration of the 100th birthday of Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation. The panel, hosted by Wil Wheaton, featured Rod Roddenberry, George Takei, LeVar Burton and Gates McFadden. They all shared their personal stories of meeting Gene Roddenberry and how they worked with him. It was an excellent and heartfelt commemoration of Gene Roddenberry and his impact on Star Trek and our culture.

Even though the current Star Trek shows have their issues, their best aspects were highlighted and it was clear that the people involved with the shows were passionate about their work. It was heartening to see during the Star Trek Day event that the show that started 55 years ago continues to shine which is remarkable considering that most TV shows from that long-gone era have been forgotten. This includes TV shows that garnered more ratings than the original Star Trek.

The celebration was a welcome reminder that Star Trek will continue to live long and prosper.

José Soto

The Impactful Success Of Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, the latest film from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), defied expectations and debuted to a stunning $71 million take at the box office this weekend and has a combined total of $90 million over the four-day Labor Day weekend. This shattered box office records not just for the year but for the Labor Day weeken in general. Usually by this time of the year the box office becomes a dumping ground for films as the summer season winds down. But Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings upended that,

Given the pandemic the success is stunning and portends to the eventual recovery of theaters. It also supports the idea that the current hybrid model of releasing a film at the same time as it is available for home streaming has a negative impact on a film’s box office take. Just look at the failure of The Suicide Squad and to a lesser extent the disappointing earnings for Black Widow. If a film is exclusively available in theaters and it is a high-profile film, it will do well. Not as well as it could have pre-pandemic but it still successful. Another good example is Free Guy, which performed much better than expected because it was a well-made film and you only could see it in theaters.

The key factor in the success of Free Guy and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is that they were well received and had good buzz, especially with the MCU film which earned rave reviews. Not only that but the public is eager for new MCU content and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings offered something new for fans. Namely, that the film focused on persons of color, and explored a new side of the MCU. Given that this film and Black Panther performed well, expect future MCU to feature other persons of color such as Latinos. America Chavez will appear in the next Doctor Strange film and could be spun off into her own film. Maybe the Puerto Rican hero White Tiger could be the next hot property for the MCU. What is important for these films to succeed is quality, both Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Black Panther demonstrated that people will go see a film if it is well made and exciting.

Aside from its merits, the success of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings has already had a positive impact with future films. Whereas Sony Pictures delayed the release of Venom: Let There Be Carnage to mid-October, the film studio has now moved up the film to October 1. There were rumors that Eternals might be delayed as well as Spider-Man: No Way Home until society recoverd more from the pandemic. We have seen the release dates for the upcoming Tom Cruise films Top Gun: Maverick and Mission: impossible 7 delayed to 2022 because of the pandemic. Those rumors for the MCU films, however, are unlikely to come to pass as more and more people are getting vaccinated and the case numbers should start to fall later this year. To date, the release dates for those films have not changed.

Of course, it will take a lot more time for theaters to achieve the earnings they enjoyed pre-pandemic, but recent releases like Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings have shown that there is a bright future ahead for theaters and fans.