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TV Series Review

Since 1966, Star Trek has shaped many of our space-age perceptions. So it’s nearly impossible to review Enterprise as a singular entity. There’s just too much history. Ever since Capt. James T. Kirk boldly went where no man had gone before, the Star Trek franchise has served as more than just a sci-fi standard bearer. It has become something of a cultural barometer.

Its appeal is easy to understand. Flying through space at the speed of light. Exploring vast new worlds populated by unpredictable aliens. Phaser battles. Tractor beams. Dylithium crystals. Set up as a prequel (the story takes place pre-Kirk), Enterprise once again boasts a talented ensemble cast, led this time by Capt. Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula of Quantum Leap fame). Archer and crew are the first earthlings to explore the universe at warp speed. Restrained drama and embedded social commentary are the norm for Enterprise as these wet-behind-the-ears astronauts chart nebulas, make friends with Vulcans, and dodge antisocial Klingons and Ferengis.

Then, out of the blue, the show’s creators will throw audiences for a moral loop. In January, it was a forceful endorsement of Darwinism ("Evolution is more than a theory," insists the ship’s doctor, "it is a fundamental scientific principle"). Enterprise is also a bit racier than its predecessors. Sexual tension has always beamed aboard, from Kirk’s alien flirtations to a sparking attraction between Cmdr. Riker and Counselor Troi on The Next Generation. But an early episode of Enterprise was downright bawdy, featuring Vulcan science officer T’Pol and Cmdr. Tucker sensuously rubbing a decontaminating gel on each other’s nearly-nude bodies.

TV Guide smirked that the scene "steamed up our corneas." Commenting on Enterprise’s overall facelift, Entertainment Weekly said, "It’s hot, it’s sexy, it’s kinda funny. Would you believe it’s Star Trek?"

Worthy lessons outlining the destructiveness of racism, prejudice, family discord, greed and lack of self-control are all delivered with conviction. But if there’s a hot-button issue to be explored—and a liberal slant to be taken on it—count on Enterprise to boldly go there, taking young Trekkies along for the ride.

Episodes Reviewed: Jan. 23, Feb. 27, Mar. 20, 27, April, 3, 24, 2002

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Steven Isaac

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