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May 10, 2005

Star Trek: Enterprise Series Finale

A bland "bon voyage" takes the weakest Star Trek series out with a whimper rather than a bang
Star Trek: Enterprise Series Finale
"These Are the Voyages ..."
Starring Scott Bakula, Jolene Blalock, Connor Trinneer, Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis
Written by Rick Berman and Brannon Braga
Directed by Alan Kroeker
Airs May 13 at 8 p.m. ET/PT
By Patrick Lee
It's six years on, and the Enterprise NX-01 is headed home to be decommissioned. Capt. Archer (Bakula) struggles with a speech he will deliver to the multitudes gathered for the signing of the Federation charter. The other crew members idly wonder where they'll end up.

"Computer, freeze program." All action ceases, and it becomes clear that this is a holographic re-enactment. We're actually on the holodeck of the U.S.S. Enterprise-D, in the company of Cmdr. William Riker (Frakes).

Riker, with the help of Counselor Troi (Sirtis), is researching the last days of the NX-01 to help him with a crucial dilemma: Should he tell Capt. Picard about an illegal cloaking device experiment aboard the ill-fated Pegasus, against the orders of Adm. Pressman?

Riker boots up the holographic program again. The NX-01 crew receives a surprising distress call from an old friend thought long dead: Shran (Jeffrey Combs), the Andorian warrior. Shran calls on Archer to help him. Sinister "associates" have kidnapped Shran's young daughter, and Shran needs the Enterprise crew to take a short detour to help him recover her.

Meanwhile, Riker decides to impersonate the NX-01's never-before-seen chef as a chance to talk with each of the crew members. One after the other, they pop into the galley to offer their insights. Riker takes a particular interest in T'Pol (Blalock) and her long-dormant romance with Cmdr. Tucker (Trinneer).

Meanwhile, Troi and Riker decide to tour the old NX-01 to get a feel for the way things used to be. It's all too sad, Troi comments, especially since one of the Enterprise crew doesn't realize how little time is left.

Those were the voyages ... sadly
"These Are the Voyages ..." is the series finale to UPN's ill-fated Star Trek prequel series, and it's a limp bon voyage indeed. Enterprise co-star Blalock has famously decried the finale, penned by executive producers Berman and Braga, as "appalling," and it's easy to see why. A good portion of the episode takes place aboard The Next Generation's Enterprise-D, whose sets have been lovingly re-created, and involves the moral dilemma of Cmdr. Riker, with the help of Counselor Troi (from the TNG season-seven episode "The Pegasus").

That framing story, which is a self-serving epitaph on the part of TNG producers Berman and Braga, doesn't do the Enterprise cast justice. It reduces them to the status of lab rats, and Riker's supercilious observation is condescending: At one point, he even plants a kiss on a frozen holographic T'Pol's cheek! (Berman has called the finale a "valentine" to Trek.)

Even without the intrusive presence of Riker and Troi, the episode doesn't live up to the season's best episodes, which include the excellent two-parter "In a Mirror, Darkly." The central plot, in which the Enterprise crew returns to Rigel X (the very first planet they visited in Enterprise's pilot episode, "Broken Bow"), centers on a rescue mission that is of little consequence to the series' prequel arc and is merely an excuse to set up the demise of a central character. Once that sacrifice is made, it seems to have little resonance for the remaining crew members (compare the touching wake for Tasha Yar in TNG's "Skin of Evil"). At the end, the audience is robbed even of Archer's triumphant moment before the newly formed Federation.

It's not surprising that the epilogue for the weakest Trek series ended up so anticlimactic. Enterprise found its space legs only in its third year, with a daring if intermittently successful season-long Xindi war arc. The show really hit its stride this season, in the hands of new executive producer Manny Coto, who plumbed the original Star Trek for characters, themes and story ideas that finally gave Enterprise the energy and drama it lacked for so long, while imbuing it with enough weight to shoulder the legacy of the most successful SF TV franchise in history.

Too little, too late. But, as "These Are the Voyages ..." suggests, maybe the end comes not a moment too soon. —Patrick