Log in

No account? Create an account
An author of no particular popularity

Jay Lake
Date: 2011-10-27 05:59
Subject: [culture] Now in Bakulavision, in which I try my hand at tv criticism
Security: Public
Tags:culture, process, television, videos
Yesterday in comments [info]ruralwriter asked me about my watching of Star Trek: Enterprise for the first time, given one of my passing remarks thereupon.

I'm watching Bakulavision for the first time, and I'm not finding it as flawed a show as you seemed to opine in a previous post. In part, I find my perspective is probably affected by the fact I tried to go back to watch TNG...and found it unwatchable. I'm curious what you might find problematic in Enterprise.

I'm not much of a television critic, as I haven't watched broadcast or cable tv since 1994, and have only caught a few series on DVD or Netflix over the years since. (Specifically, the Battlestar Galactica reboot, Firefly, Futurama, part of Red Dwarf and most of Heroes. And now, Star Trek: Enterprise.) But as longtime readers of this blog will note with an absolute lack of suprise, I do has me some opinions. Here's what I told in comments [info]ruralwriter, slightly edited for clarity.

Well, to be clear, I continue to be entertained by the show. I am still watching it, partway into Season 2 at this point.

However, the place where I really lost faith was the bit partway through Season 1 where Trip is on an alien ship repairing the hallucinogenic warp drive. (Episode 5,
Unexpected.) They're funny-forehead aliens, with a holodeck that recreates a homeworld scene of a boat on an ocean. Yet when the cute female engineer brings Trip some food, she hands him something that looks like a bowl of jello shots and says, "This is as close as we could come to water."

Really? Bipedal oxygen breathers with something very similar to a human metabolism from a world with horizon-spanning bodies of water and you don't a) drink/metabolize water yourselves and b) with starship level technology can't synthesize one of the simplest chemical compounds in the universe? That's a seventh-grade Introductory Physical Science howler, apparently for the sake of a little throwaway alien mystique.

That's when I decided the script writers were basically idiots, or at least were writing at an idiot level of comprehension.

Also, a number of the plots fail on the very simple point that they have a transporter aboard Enterprise. I realize the transporter is new and unproven and possibly unreliable, but it's been used a few times, and been discussed at other points when not used for some technical reason like the target area being underground (Season 1, episode 6,
Terra Nova). Yet the most recent episode I watched was the Season 2 ep where the captain and Reed go back for the lost communicator (Episode 8, The Communicator) and wind up being arrested and almost executed as spies. There's a huge fooraw about getting down there in the Suliban cell ship, and cultural contamination, and big old shootout in the prison yard, when in fact all they had to do was use the transporter to pluck the prisoners out of their cell. It would have been a twelve-minute short film if the writers had bothered to remember the logic of their own setting.

So, yeah, written at a level of comprehension of both science and plot logic that pretty much fails for me.

So, do I expect too much from television? Like I said, the show continues to entertain me, but I have to turn off my intelligence insulter to watch it. What do you think?

Post A Comment | 12 Comments | | Flag | Link

Twilight: Tried
User: twilight2000
Date: 2011-10-27 13:30 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
For most of us the writing changes almost overnight with the beginning of the 4th (and last) season - the stories become more intelligent, the science becomes (generally) better and the characters start making sense - it's the show we were promised and had to live through the first 3 seasons to get to. It's why it failed - as it was already dead before 4 launched (4 only launched so they'd have enough eps to go to dvd back when that sort of thing mattered...).

It's unfortunate - they had good actors (for the most part) and a great concept - they could have done so much with it... Le Sigh
Reply | Thread | Link

Danny Adams
User: madwriter
Date: 2011-10-27 22:19 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
This has been my quasi-complaint about a lot of shows that could have been good and only were at the end: When they knew they were ending they pulled out the stops, decided to take risks...and I thought all through that final season that if they'd done this from the start, then it wouldn't have been their final season.
Reply | Parent | Thread | Link

User: scott_lynch
Date: 2011-10-27 13:42 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I tried to give Enterprise a chance, but they lost me hard with the season 1 episode "Dear Doctor," which is so scientifically inaccurate, so ethically bankrupt, and so fucking cowardly I can still barely believe it was produced. It transcends mere fuzzy incompetence... it's disgusting. I'd say more, but I gotta catch a plane this morning.
Reply | Thread | Link

User: heron61
Date: 2011-10-27 20:26 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
That was the last episode of Enterprise that I watched. I'm willing to forgive bad science in ST, but the ethics of that episode were utterly vile. Between that and being pretty darn mediocre, I was done.
Reply | Parent | Thread | Link

User: mcjulie
Date: 2011-10-27 14:17 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I got through only a handful of Enterprise episodes because it committed the one truly unforgivable sin: it bored me.

It was as dull as lesser TNG episodes, without the engaging characters, and with a grim and self-consciously "dark" attitude that reminded me of why I didn't like Christopher Nolan's Batman films very much.

Also, the worldbuilding seemed very... lazy, I guess? The episodes I saw seemed to coast along on already well-honed Trekverse tropes, without letting the prequel setting affect anything much. They didn't even seem to use it as a setup to tell different kinds of stories. So it didn't feel like Star Trek only different, it felt like Star Trek with all the fun removed.
Reply | Thread | Link

scarlettina: To Boldly Go
User: scarlettina
Date: 2011-10-27 15:03 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:To Boldly Go
I've been a Trekker since I was 8 years old and Enterprise bored and insulted me from the first. I tried to care about these people, but they all seemed like ciphers to me. Once it was clear that the producers had no interest in maintaining any kind of in-universe continuity, I was done. It's the big difference for me between Enterprise and the Abrams Trek flick: Abrams showed some real affection for his source material while exploring it in new ways. (I'm not saying it's a model of consistency and scientific accuracy, but Abrams, at least, succeeded in entertaining his audience.) Enterprise just didn't give a damn.
Reply | Thread | Link

User: jeffreyab
Date: 2011-10-27 15:29 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I think part of the problem on Enterprise is that Brannon and Braga treated the series as a new reboot of STNG and so used transporters, Ferengi and other memes from that show whether they fit the setting and characters.

ST from STNG on had a tendency to solve problems with hand wavium technology.

I did enjoy some of the characters and stories over the four year arc though, especially in season four.

The Andorian Incident
Carbon Creek
In a Mirror Darkly

Which are mostly alternate history or time travel stories.
Reply | Thread | Link

Jo Rhett
User: jorhett
Date: 2011-10-27 17:21 (UTC)
Subject: nail on the head
You hit the nail on the head. Scientific rigor ain't there. But it was more entertaining than most other things on TV at the time.

One of the funniest things about hearing people bash the show, was that every complaint about Enterprise I heard could be trivially found in the show which they preferred. (with the exception of people who don't like Trek at all, for which I have to admit Enterprise had fairly small appeal)

One of my absolute favorite things about Enterprise was watching how the writers created origin stories for many things we take for granted in the later (timeline) series. Some failed, but many were quite unique.

...although the Star Trek movie reboot completely ignored the Vulvan crisis that was explored fairly well in Enterprise.

mid-way through second season? Unfortunately it goes downhill from here. I adore Scott Bacula, but he's not a forceful character. Somewhere about where you are he gets (apparently) told to start shouting all his lines, and the story arcs become very hard-fast-plot and missing some of the enjoyable character development I enjoyed earlier in the series :(
Reply | Thread | Link

Andrew Trembley
User: bovil
Date: 2011-10-27 18:33 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
What shot it down for me was the pandering, from the blue jelly scene in the first episode to, well, everything else.

What killed it for me was when it turned into right field with "let's hunt down them ebil terrists" all the time. I just didn't believe it was part of the Star Trek universe anymore.

I did like the "Wow, the Vulcans really are hiding a giant base inside the monestary!" episode. But that was pretty much the only one.
Reply | Thread | Link

User: heron61
Date: 2011-10-27 20:33 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Other than Dear Doctor (which I comment on above), my problem with the show was it was dull and poorly acted. This was foregrounded for me, when on the advice of some reviews I watched the last 5 episodes (the 2 Mirror Universe eps, and the 3 part founding of the Federation eps). I got to see episodes with good writing, excellent sets, and in the last 3, some skilled guest stars, and the result looked like a high budget high school play - everything was excellent, except for the performances by the main cast, who were all just as mediocre as I remembered from first season. The comparison between the acting of Peter Weller and the various TNG actors and the main cast was particularly striking.

Scott Bakula did a fairly good job in much of Quantum Leap, so either he simply didn't fit the role or the lack of anyone remotely as skilled as Dean Stockwell kept him from being able to be anything other than boring, and the rest of the cast was even worse.
Reply | Thread | Link

oaksylph: green
User: oaksylph
Date: 2011-10-27 23:21 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I had already stopped watching Star Trek in any form but my favorite original and TNG episodes by the time Enterprise started, in part because I didn't have regular access to a tv anymore and in part because I experienced what might be called saturation: I was exhausted at the thought of trying to keep up with the culture of the show. The canon was growing faster than I could watch, the conventions turned mean (seriously, orthodoxer than thou at a sci-fi convention? whoda thunk it could happen?), and the fanon had begun to affect conversations about the series to the degree that I would have had to read some of the novels, online fanfics, etc. to understand what people were talking about when they talked about the show, so I gave up.

Analogous to the Beanie Baby Bailout, when everyone realized at about the same time that a) they couldn't afford a complete collection and b) even if they did, the things weren't holding their value.

But that didn't stop me from nodding at a lot of your points up there, because they are applicable to other shows as well. And I think part of the reason for that is because at the production and marketing end of the television-making machine, the investors don't want risk, so the shows are chopped down to Tropes That Worked, Scenes That Satisfy, and Popular Ending Types. It's killing movies, too. A glance at this week's listings in Marcus Theaters shows me that my choices are 1. Blair Witch 219: Home Movies of Paranoid Narcissists, 2. All the President's Men 475: Anonymous by Joe Klein Adapted for the 21st Century, 3. Footloose (Again), 4. The Day the Earth Stood Still 928477867: Hugh Jackman in a Wrestling Cage (Again), and 5. Men in Tights 27: French Guys Fight CGIly.

Why did I become a diehard Jay Lake fan? Because you don't show me your world from a little tour bus that drives faster past all the gritty bits and feed me an interpretation full of stereotypes and banal morals. You're like, This is the world. Duck. And I'm like, what was that?! and you're like, I'll tell you how it works and what the native word for it is, but beyond that, you are on your own. Oh, and if you're queasy about the usual boundaries, go home now. I'm not here to make you feel good about them. I break them. It's my job. And I'm like, finally. An author who assumes I brought my own damn pocketknife.

Whoa. That allegory brought to you by a large dose of naproxen-induced non senquentur. Sorry. Hope you got the gist.
Reply | Thread | Link

Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2011-10-28 00:14 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Thank you, btw.
Reply | Parent | Thread | Link

my journal
January 2014
2012 appearances