Entertainment Magazine

Top 10 Episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise

Posted on the 22 August 2013 by Weminoredinfilm.com @WeMinoredInFilm

To make most Star Trek fans squirm you need only plaintively sing, in your best impression of latter-era Rod Stewart at his worst, “It’s been a looong roaaad [pause] getting from there to here.”  That, of course, is the opening line of “Where My Heart Will Take Me,” the Dianne Warren-penned tune that served as the theme song for Star Trek: Enterprise.  When the show was still on the air, fans hated the song with so much passion that they even started multiple petitions to get it off the show, presumably to be replaced by a more traditional Jerry Goldsmith-like orchestral score.  Beyond that, fans had other reasons to turn on Enterprise.  The premise (i.e., a prequel to the Original Series) seemed iffy, the cast charisma-free, and it had the misfortune to premiere mere weeks after 9/11, a time when a Star Trek Utopian future seemed offensively naive.  As such, when Enterprise ended its 97 episode run after 4 seasons it was regarded as a failure – the show that killed Star Trek.

However, Enterprise receives far more disrespect than it deserves.  When viewed now, it’s apparent just how much its narrative experiments with serialized storytelling in its incredibly ambitious third and fourth seasons exceeds even that attempted by the more notoriously serialized Deep Space Nine. Plus, many of the characters and related actors grew into fascinating portraits of people in transition as the show progressed, with its central triumvirate of Captain Archer (Scott Bakula), T’Pol (Jolene Blalock), and Trip (Connor Trennier) becoming especially captivating.  Like most Star Trek shows, it certainly has its fair share of regrettable episodes, but it also has some truly standout hours of television.

Here 10 amazing episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise:

(SPOILERS AHEAD, FUN A-HOY)

10) “Damage” (Season 3, Episode 19)

enterprise damage

A.K.A.: The one where Enterprise is badly damaged, needs a new warp coil to get to secret rendez-vous coordinates to help turn the tide in the Xindi war, and along comes the innocent, genial Illyrians and their warp coil, which they foolishly refuse to give over since they need it to get home.

Through years of Gene Roddenberry idealism shining through his characters, there is a certain set of expectations as to how Star Trek characters will behave in most scenarios.  That’s why it’s so interesting when that doesn’t happen.  In a different context, the plot of “Damages” (our heroes need something, an alien ship needs something, let’s compromise) would be pretty standard Star Trek.  However, this happens smack-dab in the middle of war, and the fate of Earth hangs in the balance.  So, much as he hates himself for doing it Archer just straight up steals the warp coil from the Illyrians even though he knows it means they won’t be able to return home for 3 years.  By the time we reach the later episode, “Home,” we see just how heavily decisions such as this one weighed on Archer.

Check out a Trailer Below:

9) “Twilight” (Season 3, Episode 8)

Enterprise Twilight

A.K.A.: The one where Archer gets Memento-style memory loss, and we jump a decade into the future to see what would happen during the war with the Xindi if the bad guys won.

Ah, yes, the giant magic re-set button ending Star Trek episode where we get a fascinating character study via a time-jump to an alternate future which will be erased when the episode ends by returning everything to its default setting.  However, “Twilight” uses this trope rather effectively, examining T’Pol and Archer’s relationship in a plot in which she feels obligated to him since he suffered a debilitating brain injury while saving her life.  Plus, we get to see just how important it is that the heroes defeat the Xindi because in this alternate future humanity has been reduced to a mere 6,000 colonists.  Bakula plays his memory loss moments exceptionally well, such as a meeting where he informs Trip and T’Pol of an idea he had for a ship improvement only to learn he had told them before and the improvement had already been implemented.

Check out the Final Scene Below:

8) “Home” (Season 4, Episode 3)

Enterprise Home

A.K.A.: The one where our heroes saved the Earth the prior season, and all they got for their efforts was sneering, dickish Vulcans, xenophobic humans who don’t like Phlox being on Earth, and an newly emotionally traumatized Captain Archer.

This is in some ways an anti-Star Trek episode – mass ignorance and misguided cultural tradition are not solved in a neat speech in the last act because the world is still evolving into the Roddenberry version of it.  Phlox realizes he is no longer welcome on Earth due to massive post-Xindi xenophobia, and T’Pol’s non-traditional (Vulcan/human) romance with Trip is completely destroyed by her mother on the planet Vulcan who forces her to complete an arranged marriage to another Vulcan.  Elsewhere, we discover just how emotionally scarred and changed Archer is as a result of the escalating conflicts of the prior seasons.  He is a hero (dude saved everyone on Earth) who doesn’t feel like one.  He is no longer the dangerously naive go-getter with the gung-ho attitude from the first season (that’s a good thing).

Check out a Trailer Below:

7) “Impulse” (Season 3, Episode 5) 

Enterprise Impulse

A.K.A.: The one where the crew encounters a stranded Vulcan ship full of zombie-like, rage-fueled Vulcans who have succumb to a mysterious ailment which begins affecting T’Pol.

Zombie Vulcans.  Seriously.  Zombie…Vulcans.  I shouldn’t even have to say more than that.  However, here’s a definite problem Enterprise had: “Impulse” is a fantastic episode.  It’s also the same basic plot as the Deep Space Nine episode “Empok Nor”: away team boards a ship/station it believes to be unoccupied, discover they are wrong, and then the member of the away team who is the same race as their attackers becomes infected just as their attackers were and may or may not become a threat to our heroes.  After a while, all the best ideas have been done already.  If you ignore that, though, “Impulse” is an incredibly thrilling episode, with plenty of creepy -by Star Trek standards at least – imagery.  This is their horror movie episode, right down to a double fake-out ending, and admirers of the Zen-like Vulcan restraint will take no joy seeing them shown as such monsters here.  However, while they never cry, “It would be highly logical if you allowed me to eat your brains,” this is still an episode full of zombie Vulcans.  I rest my case.

Check out a Trailer Below:

6) “The Forge”/”Awakening”/”Kir’Shara” (Season 4, Episodes 7-9)

Enterprise Kir-Shara

A.K.A.: The one where the bombing of Earth’s embassy on Vulcan triggers an investigation by Archer and T’Pol who discover that, basically, Vulcans are some serious war-mongering a-holes.

Some will never forgive Enterprise for what it did to the Vulcans, i.e., depicting them as something less than paragons of virtue.  However, the whole entire idea of Enterprise was to show how the Star Trek universe got from First Contact to The Original Series.  In their telling of the story, even the noble Vulcans had to go through internal turmoil before they could co-found the Federation with the humans.  This element got its most extensive treatment in the season 4 three-parter which began with the episode “The Forge.”  In truth, the show’s fourth season dropped the heavily serialized strategy of the third season and constructed the fourth season around a series of multi-part episodes with very few standalone ones.  The majority of these mini-story arcs are excellent and worthy of a Top 10 List.  I just personally prefer this particular story arc in which Archer and T’Pol uncover a Vulcan Civil War.

Check Out a Trailer Below:

5) “The Expanse” (Season 2, Episode 26)

Enterprise The_Expanse

A.K.A.: The one where the show evokes 9/11 by having an unknown enemy attack Earth out of nowhere, killing many (including poor Trip’s sister) and sending the ship on a, “This means war!” mission into dangerous space.

In Star Trek films, Earth can be placed in peril (Star Trek IV and Star Trek: First Contact), but in the TV shows that’s generally a no-no.  That’s what made is so stunning when Enterprise‘s second season finale began with weaponized space probe entering Earth’s atmosphere and firing on North and South America before self-destructing.  This attack would be later explained and contextualized in the third season, but “The Expanse” is largely about getting to watch our characters react to what they would think of as an unimaginable tragedy.  It reveals fascinating new depths and demands upon loyalty (this is the episode where T’Pol resigns from the Vulcan High Command to join Enterprise full time).  Connor Trenier’s acting as Trip is particularly impressive here, focusing his grief over his deceased sister on a need for revenge.  On top of that, there are some incredibly well-executed space battle scenes between the Enterprise and pursuing Klingon ships.  

Check Out a Trailer Below:

4) “Carbon Creek” (Season 2, Episode 2)

Enterprise Carbon Creek

A.K.A.: The one where T’Pol tells the story about the time her great-grandmother spent some time with two other Vulcans in smalll-town Pennyslvania in 1957 after their ship crashed and they awaited rescue.  This qualifies as the true first contact between Vulcans and humans, but the humans didn’t know about it as the Vulcans concealed the pointy portion of their ears.

Enterprise didn’t have the benefit of Q or a holodeck in which it could just drop its characters into whatever crazy ass situation (baseball game? Sherlock Holmes novel? Sherwood Forest?) it wanted.  Such a thing didn’t exist at the time the show is set.  So, to switch things up they had to get clever.  ”Carbon Creek” takes a very direct route: T’Pol simply tells Trip and Archer a story about an ancestor of her’s, ala Janeway in the Voyager episode “11:59.”  What follows is a delightfully quiet character study of three Vulcans forced to integrate with humanity and struggling with their need to help their new friends or remain faithful to their people’s believe in non-intervention.  There’s also a surprisingly pleasant amount of humor, much of it owing to one of the Vulcan’s growing love for American television.

Check out a Trailer Below:

3) “Similitude” (Season 3, Episode 10) 

Enterprise Similitude

A.K.A.: The one where after an accident threatens Trip’s life Doctor Phlox basically says, “I know – we’ll grow a fast-aging clone, and use his organs once he’s reached the real Trip’s current age.”  However, the clone has all of Trip’s memories, and even briefly becomes a member of the crew when Trip’s engineering expertise is require.  Plus, T’Pol realizes she’d very much so prefer that Trip not die.

Brutal.  Just brutal.  That’s the best way to describe “Similitude.”  It is so beautifully sci-fi, featuring a premise by which the show explores the unanticipated ethical dilemmas delivered unto us by advances in medical science.  When Phlox devises of his way of saving Trip’s life, he never stops to ponder how much it would feel like murder when it came time to harvest the clone’s organs.  The way the rest of the crew also comes to this realization is beautifully done, aided in large party by Connor Trenier’s fantastic performance as Sim, the Trip clone, who wins everyone over.  However, it refuses to give into any soapbox speechifying while instead focusing on the noble sacrifice made by a selfless hero when faced with an impossible moral dilemma.  With only one glancing reference to the season 3 Xindi story line, it is mostly standalone, among the easiest of Enterprise episodes to simply watch without having seen any prior episodes (same goes for “Carbon Creek”).

Check out a Trailer Below:

2) “The Andorian Incident” (Season 1, Episode 7)

enterprise andorian incident

A.K.A.: The one where the crew visits a Vulcan monastery only to discover it is in the process of being taken over by the Andorians, who surprisingly are 100% correct in their suspicion that the a-hole Vulcans have violated a treaty by using the monastery as a secret military outpost.

For some, there was a definite period of adjustment to how the Vulcans were depicted on Enterprise. To be blunt, other than T’Pol the Vulcans were right bastards.  Yet when the Original Series aliens the Andorians made their Enterprise debut in “The Andorian Incident” they seemed a more traditional threat.  Come on, they had freakin’ antennae.  It was hard to take them seriously, though Jeffrey Combs fantastic performance as Commander Shran, their leader, made that easier.  So, the fantastic part of “The Andorian Incident” is the way it defies expectations, giving us villains for an entire episode who end up actually being the heroes, setting up a feud (Andorians vs. Vulcans) that would loom large over the entire course of the show.  Plus, it gave us Shran, who constantly seemed to either owe Captain Archer one or be owed by Archer, and was always an incredibly welcome presence in any episode of Enterprise.  

Check out a Trailer Below:

1) “Zero Hour” (Season 3, Episode 24)

enterprise zerohour_019a

A.K.A.: The one where the long and convoluted season-long story arch surrounding the war with the Xindi reaches an epic conclusion, and the viewer is completely blown away … until the horrible, horrible, horrible last second cliffhanger.

This is my Return of the King for Best Picture pick – the award given to the last in a line of installments that on its own individually is not the best but taken as a whole is deserving of immense applause.  So, no, “Zero Hour” is not really the best Star Trek: Enterprise episode nor is it my favorite.  However, it is the third season finale thus concluding the season-long conflict with the Xindi, and while they arguably never became as interesting a villain as the Borg or Dominion they were still the tool by which the writers put the heroes backs up against the wall.  So, “Zero Hour” is our heroes finally landing the knock-out punch, with some thrilling action and plenty of fist pump in the air moments.  It is the culmination of an entire season of story and character work and benefits by association, even if on its own merits it might actually be a bit weaker than some prior episodes.  However, that’s Enterprise for you – good, but always with an asterisk behind it.

Check out a Trailer Below:

Honorable Mentions (The Ones Just Outside the Top 10):

  • “Cease Fire” (Season 2, Episode 15) – Where a T’Pol and Archer are caught in the middle when arranging a meeting between the Andorians and Vulcans.
  • “Stratagem” (Season 3, Episode 14) – Where Archer attempts to fool a member of the Xindi council into helping him through a rather elaborately staged con.
Those Are Mine, Here Are Some Others:
Check Out Our Prior Top 10 Lists for Other Stark Trek TV Shows:

So, what do you think, guys? Are you a fan of our picks, or are there other episodes you think should have made the cut? Let us know in the comments!


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