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Broken Bow

01/11/2001. Contributed by Gary M. Torborg

Buy Star Trek Enterprise in the USA - or Buy Star Trek Enterprise in the UK

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The first episode of Star Trek Enterprise makes it's way onto the small screen and Gary M. Torborg takes a peep at the premiere.

In brief: an enjoyable premiere, but with some troublesome flaws.

"Broken Bow" had a lot of high expectations to live up to. It would have been a miracle if it would have lived up to all of them. That it fell short should then come as no surprise to anyone. It is the reason it fell short that will, for some fans and some readers, raise a few eyebrows.

As is customary on such a debut, I will explain my criteria for evaluation. In all my reviews, I try to maintain the highest level of objectivity, basing my reviews on concepts that are more or less universally recognized as to what does and does not constitute good writing, good acting, and good production.

My evaluation is based on a combination of the following five concepts:

  • Story execution: how well or poorly the story was told, regardless of the value of the story
  • Production values: special effects, lighting, directing/pacing
  • Acting: the performances, collectively and individually, of both the regular and guest casts
  • Character development: consistency of character actions in relation to past and also developments by the characters, especially regular cast.
  • Story concept: the value of the story itself

By far, the story concept and execution criteria get the most weight, but any of them can drag down or lift up an episode. Star Trek, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager are filled with examples of episodes in which the story concept was an excellent idea but was flawed in execution or vice versa.

Almost as if this was a tradition, that is the most obvious characteristic of "Broken Bow."

The story concept is quite sound for a premiere. There are certain pieces of business that must be taken care of first, and among them is the introduction of the characters. This was handled well - not too much time yet not too little. We meet Captain Jonathan Archer, first Captain of the Enterprise, the first multi-warp capable ship.

We meet Tucker, his first officer. Later, we meet Archer's hastily-assembled crew, which includes two aliens: a Vulcan science officer and a doctor whose race is not mentioned, though he is obviously non-human. Only one character rubs me totally the wrong way out of the bunch, that being language expert Sato, whose phobias are going to drive everyone bonkers by the end of the season if this keeps up.

As to the settings, we know from promos that this series takes place approximately 100 years before the Kirk/Spock era. There is, however, no indication of this fact in the show except that it takes place 30-some years after the discovery of the space warp by Zephram Cochran. This is consistent, though, with the chronology given as "history" by people of the Kirk/Spock time.

I am also very glad that they didn't do any name-dropping of people who would become the ancestors of Kirk or McCoy or any of the rest of them.

It is indicated, among other things, that the technology of this era is far behind that of the original series. For instance, transporters have just barely become "bio-approved," meaning a living person or animal can be transported. So new is this aspect of the technology that no one has actually tried it yet.

Captain Archer ends up becoming the first test of the bio-transporter while being rescued during the episode's climactic scene. There are also no tractor beams or warp-capable shuttle craft. In short, practically everything is much more primitive than we are used to seeing.

As for relations with alien races, we learn very quickly that Klingons are new to humanity. The Vulcans seem to know quite a bit about them, and are being their usual over-protective selves when Archer convinces Starfleet to 1) let the Enterprise launch early and 2) let him bring the Klingon, injured after first being pursued by another race (the Suliban) and then being shot by a human farmer outside Broken Bow,

Oklahoma (thus the title), back home to Kronos. It's interesting to see this relationship develop before the first human/Federation vs. Klingon war which takes place some 70 years later.

The jury is still out, of course, as to what is to come of the whole "ridges" problem with the Klingons. Here, Klaang was presented with forehead ridges, as was the entire gathering on Kronos. Yet throughout the entire original series, Klingons were depicted without this anatomical feature.

Another minor flaw in concept is that we are introduced to a race, the Suliban, who never appear in the original series or any thereafter. The problem with such an introduction in what amounts to a *pre*-quel is that now the Enterprise series will have to explain why the Suliban never appear in the Kirk/Spock era and beyond.

As to the acting, I am actually quite a Scott Bakula fan, so I'm a little biased in favor of his acting job as Captain Archer. Truth be told, though, it's hard to deny Bakula's greatest asset as an actor, and that's his versatility. He has an uncanny ability to step into any role and do it well. So far, he seems right at home playing the starship captain, and he brings a real personality to the character as well.

"Broken Bow"'s biggest flaws, though, were in the area of story execution. Two things disturbed me the most. One was the use of more crude language than I'm used to hearing on Star Trek, especially television. The increasing use on TV and radio of one particular crude term for a person's gluteus maximus appeared three times in just this episode alone, and twice by Captain Archer in what I considered totally inappropriate circumstances.

I realize that there is an increased acceptance everywhere of this term, but I tend to call it "desensitization" rather than acceptance. The "a" word wasn't the only offense either. I'm as guilty as anyone for swearing, and too much at that, but TV - especially what's supposed to be family fare - is just not the place for it.

The other big problem was the gratuitous sexual content. One scene on Rigel depicted prostitution as legitimate business. We were even given a glimpse of these "butterfly girls". The scene, however didn't serve any purpose in the story other than to titillate the viewer, and that's something I honestly never thought I'd see Star Trek stoop to.

But where that scene was simply silly and superfluous to include in this episode, another graphic scene was downright offensive. I am referring to the practically pornographic scene in which T'Pol and Tucker must decontaminate themselves by rubbing themselves and each other with a special gel.

The camera angles and lighting were far more suggestive than needed, and served only to heighten the already too-high sexuality of the scene. Again, the writers could have left this out and it would not have detracted from the episode in the least. In fact, it would have given me a better impression of Enterprise's first outing.

And just to get it off my chest early and completely, I'm going to make my public statement about what to me (and most others, I see) is Enterprise's greatest flaw: that theme music has got to go. Ugh!

What were they thinking? Bring back an orchestra and hire Jerry Goldsmith again. Even if it means rehashing Star Trek's best theme music (Voyager), it would be infinitely better than putting up with possibly years of a sung theme song that has nothing to do with the Enterprise and is sung off-key to boot. Ugh!

There is much more that could be said about the episode, both good and bad, but it ends up good in the balance. The high point of the episode is hard to gauge, as there were several. In the end, my pick for the top scene is where Tucker is giving Archer an exterior tour of the Enterprise in space dock, and actually bumps into the ship at one point with the shuttle.

It's a funny scene with just enough humor without going overboard to bring out the pure humanity of these two characters who could easily become the next Kirk/McCoy in relationship.

Did anyone besides me notice the similarity between this scene and the scene in Star Trek: The Motion Picture where Scotty is giving Kirk virtually the same tour?

In summary: Enterprise appears to be off to a reasonably good start.

Time will tell if the characters can be developed into truly interesting ones, especially the sometimes out-of-character Vulcans and the enigmatic Klingons. If Rick Berman and Brannon Braga, both of whom have been on the production team for the previous 3 series, can stay focused on the continuity of Trek history as depicted in the "later" shows, then we are in for quite a treat.

Gary's Ranked Reviews
written by Gary M. Torborg
Copyright ©2001 All Rights Reserved

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