Friday, May 24, 2002

WHY STAR TREK: ENTERPRISE ROCKS: From a recent James Lileks screed:
I’ve only seen about 8 or 9 Enterprises, but I’ve enjoyed them all. Best first season of any post TOS series, good characters, great soundtrack (except for that hideous theme) and innumerable nods to the purists & geeks in the audience. Trek has been delivering, one way or the other, for almost 30 years, because it grows and changes and bends.
* WARNING! GEEKY EXPOSITION AHEAD! * The Enterprise theme is wretched (like Bryan Adams on a good day), and some of the "nods to the purists" are dorky (e.g. Captain Archer -- and I'm creatively paraphrasing -- "What we need is some kind of rule, a directive, to tell us what to do when we encounter pre-warp alien cultures. Maybe we could call it the 'Prime Rule.' No, that doesn't sound right. Maybe the 'Prime Directive.' Yeah, that's the ticket"), but it still rocks. What I love most about Enterprise is how overtly American it is. Sure, there are the aliens, Sub. Com. T'pol and Dr. Phlox, who like obnoxious European tag-alongs insist on supplying the cultural relativism that plagues all Star Trek franchises. But there's also the obviously midwestern Captain Archer and the southern Commander Tucker -- whose southern drawl is the first I've heard in a Star Trek series -- keep kicking against the pricks, insisting on the superiority of human -- read "American" -- virtues. Ensign Mayweather, who grew up on a space freighter, is like a kid from a blue-collar family who makes it big, because he was smart and had some moxy. Ensign Hoshi is an All-American Girl who also happens to be capable of learning an alien language in 48 hours. Even the Brit, Lt. Reed, exudes a love for high-powered weaponry that only an American can understand. Even the basic theme of Enterprise is American. In Enterprise's time frame, humanity is like the young upstart United States, round about 1800. We've barely gotten our act together, but we've got big ideas and big appetites for trade, knowledge, and influence, and we chafe at the restraint that older, wiser, and less vigorous civilizations counsel. Americans feel that way now, even though we're bigger, richer, and stronger than the Framers could have imagined. Lileks is right: Star Trek has succeeded "because it grows and changes and bends" to fit the mood of American society. The parallel isn't complete: our mood today is in part created by the fear of unknowns unleashed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the rise of Islamic totalitarianism. But we're still excited by the prospect of reshaping the world -- once again -- by projecting our influence into the darkest and remotest regions of the world, by exerting our power on very alien cultures. That's the chord Enterprise strikes in me, and why I'll keep watching.

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