I can’t literally watch television because I’m in school and all that, but I do have Netflix so I can watch various shows.
(Alas, no Castle on there at the moment.) So I decided to watch some Star Trek. There are lots of choices out there for me, but I picked Star Trek: Enterprise because the concept interested me and I liked Scott Bakula.
Now, my mother always taught me that if I didn’t have anything nice to say then I shouldn’t say anything at all. So … while I can’t say that the show was awesome and go wildly fan-spastic about it … I can say that it taught me a lot. And since anything that teaches me how to be a better writer is awesome in my book, this show falls into a strange category of “So Much Potential, So Little Follow Through.”
(That’s a new category I just made up for stories that fall short of greatness.)
So here’s what I learned from Star Trek: Enterprise …
1) You cannot make a hero look good by making all the supporting characters look bad.
Captain Archer was repeatedly put into positions where he had to save his senior staff from certain doom, thus weakening his senior staff until one had to wonder how these people got chosen for the first space exploration mission.
Point in case, an early episode where his tactical officer – Lieutenant Reed (who really wasn’t given enough screen time, by the way) – gets pinned by a mine on the outside of the hull. And because it makes TOTAL sense that the Captain would be the right man for the job, Archer goes out to have a heart-to-heart with Reed while he tries to disarm the mine.
It was a blatant appeal to the audience that Archer was supposed to be “the man” on this trip and the story could have been so much better if Reed had been given the opportunity to show what he was made of.
And that isn’t even the first time a supporting character had been undercut. I can’t count how many times poor Commander Tucker was made to look stupid. I get the “good ol’ boy” thing he had going for him, but “good ol’ boy’s” aren’t necessarily weak. In fact, I could have loved this show so much more if Tucker had been allowed to really be as brilliant as he could have been.
By the middle of the first season I actually waited to see which character was going to be sacrificed on the altar of Archer’s Awesomeness in every episode. And in fact, by season three we still don’t know anything more about Archer as a character than what was revealed in the first four episodes of the show; he has a beagle, he likes water-polo, and his dad built the engine.
Which brings me to point number two;
2) Pets do not a character make.
Yes, Porthos is cute. In fact, my son thought he was the best little puppy in the world. And yes, you can reveal a lot about a person by putting them in the room with an animal.
Do they pet the animal?
Do they talk to the animal?
Do they show compassion and get gushy?
Or do they run in fear?
However likable a pet might make a character, you cannot rely on the audience to make a connection with them based solely on this likability. A hero needs to have more oomph to them.
3) Flaws! Gimme some flaws, please!
As much as I love Scott Bakula, Archer needed some flaws. And I don’t mean his over-fraternization with his senior staff. That’s not a flaw. That’s a non-military man in command of something that has distinct military aspects (come on, Navy).
For as much as I hated the way Tucker was massacred in season one, he’s my favorite character in the show. Why? Because for every weak moment he had with the Captain, he had some tremendously wonderful moments on his own. I loved him because he had flaws that I could relate to, moments of indecision and moments of strength that made him who he was.
4) When working in a known and beloved Universe tread carefully.
I say this because of the weird way the show dealt with Vulcans. Any Trekkie worth their salt knows that Vulcans are the most repressed beings in the universe. Yet this show … I mean … it just …
Don’t mess with beloved tropes. If you use them at all, respect the audience you’re going to be using them on. You’d better have a very, very good reason for turning a culture on its head in a show like this. And make sure you make it right again when you’re done.
Because fans will murder you.
And that’s it. That’s what I gleaned from watching Star Trek: Enterprise. Honestly, I did enjoy Tucker’s character. I didn’t think I would because his accent drove me nuts the first couple of episodes, but after a while I fell in love with him. In fact, he and Reed made the show bearable for me. I wish it could have been Archer, but that just wasn’t in the cards for this one.