Season 2 concluded with 6 million people on Earth dead following an attack by an unknown alien race and Enterprise as humanity’s last best hope for.. erm.. bloody and violent vengeance by the sounds of it. Enterprise sets off into The Expanse, some wibbly bit off space to stop the Xindi before they can finish the job of destroying Earth. It all sounds very noble, heroic and not a bit like a thinly veiled metaphor for anything at all, oh no.
So we start season 3 with the lingering threat of a long drawn out arc story and the hopes that it can return Star Trek to the quality of late DS9 rather than the doldrums of early Voyager that it seems to be languishing in. 24 episodes later and rather bizarrely I think it may have done both simultaneously.
First the good. The arc storyline was definitely a Good Thing ™. Moving Enterprise away from constant whining about Vulcans worked well, T’Pol splits from the high command and almost no more is said about the whole “you held us up for 200 years” fiasco. Seeing the ship utterly out of it’s depth without being able to go run to the parents made for some interesting situations, with traditional thinking going out of the window in favour of radical moves that are needed to get the job done. The gradual unveiling of the politics of the region and the apparent threat was nicely handled and interesting to follow. My only complaint about the arc is probably that I wish they’d moved it forward a little more quickly, although things were gradually found out throughout the season it wasn’t until about 6 episodes from the end that everything suddenly exploded and moved at a real pace. Maybe spreading the ending out a bit more may have helped, although that would have led to more of the bad…
Filler. Firstly the pure filler episodes with little or nothing to do with the arc were for the most part moderately well done. North Star, Twilight and Doctors Orders were Enterprise doing a western film, Memento and Sixth Sense respectively and they were all ok. More thoughtful episodes like Similitude and Chosen Realm lectured us none-too-subtly on cloning and religious fanaticism, but were ok. The real thing that I believe killed many episodes and possibly even the season overall are the filler scenes, particularly those between Tucker and T’Pol. By the time you have the 3rd or 4th episode starting with scantily clad “neuro-pressure” sessions it really does kill the episode for you. Although T’Pol’s random behaviour is eventually explained it’s all a bit late, they may well have done irreparable damage to her character.
Under use is another criminal waste. Hoshi and Travis are having a good day if they have more than 4 lines each and judging from Linda Park’s performance in the finale this is a criminal waste of talent. Phlox generally manages a scene an episode which he generally steals, but at least he gets to appear with a diverse range of characters. The MACOs are an interesting group of new blood, but after the first couple of episodes they mostly hide in the background being competent, with the exception of their leader who gets to deal with an increasingly grumpy Reed every now and then. Tucker’s purpose for the start of the season appears to be as the personal face to Earth’s disaster, someone to have ‘interesting interplay’ with T’Pol for the middle of the season and spend the last 1/4 of the season generally looking haggard. T’Pol seemed to at some point forget that she was a highly trained Secret Service agent and turn into the damsel in distress and have some kind of emotional breakdown. Once the explanations for this are made and she actually starts dealing with stuff she’s back to being interesting again for the end of the season.
That just leaves the Captain. He’s at least showing more competency than for the previous 2 seasons where I generally felt that T’Pol and Reed should mutiny and throw him and his bloody puppy in the brig. As his ship falls apart around him he does seem to decide that he’d rather not explain to Starfleet why it’s quite so banged up and hence finds a spectacular number of suicide missions to go on. (Incidentally – I loved the fact that the ship suffered and it wasn’t all fixed next episode, although I think they may have wanted to look at all those sparking things a little faster.) He really needs to learn to shoot and stop getting beaten up quite so often, but he’s getting better.
Looking back over the episode guides the synopses remind me of the core of the episodes and I remember the good bits. However I also remember that by mid-season I was hugely unimpressed with the whole thing. I think this stems from the fact that the core stories are good and well told, it’s the filler and diversity that let them down. Much like The Phantom Menace is an ok film if you remove any scene featuring Anakin and Amidala, I wonder if season 3 would be better removing any scene with just Trip and T’Pol. I’m glad that it’s got another series, but it’s got a hard battle to get back anyone that it’s already lost and I really don’t think it’s going to manage it.
As for the end of the season, it’s a very satisfying end to the arc, have no fear, it is worth the wait. What happens *after* that though is just one great big huge “what the…?” to keep the message boards buzzing over the summer.