Don't Fight the Unitard

Boldly wearing pointy ears where others have worn pointy ears before: 'Enterprise'
Paramount Pictures

I'd be lying if I claimed to be a dewy intergalactic virgin taking her first tentative steps into the Star Trek universe. Hell, I got married on a replica of the U.S.S. Enterprise while a costumed Ferengi rifled through my purse and pocketed all the change his foam-rubber mitts would allow.

However, I'm a classic-Trek girl through and through; the spinoff series intimidate me. The plots of these shows grow ever stickier as the fictional universe expands, and the actors seem less iconically suited to their roles. Besides, there's no William Shatner to provide helpful exposition, his beefy arms pinwheeling in the perfect physical expression of outer-space angst.

But I've heard a lot of positive fan buzz about Enterprise, especially since executive producer/writer Manny Coto has taken over the fleet in its fourth season. This is stellar news for anyone who's ever applied Clearasil to her backne while watching the Voyager gag reel.

Enterprise junkies revere Odyssey 5 vet Coto as a near-messiah, a man capable of buoying a potential Titanic like Enterprise and bringing disgruntled Trekkies back to the fold. Indeed, Enterprise has suffered from anemic ratings in past seasons, a surprise considering that the general Trek fan base remains quite robust. Armies of these people tuned in to watch Levar Burton emote behind a DEVO visor, so why won't they give Enterprise a chance? It's got a big-breasted Vulcan who's constantly nipping out in her nylon unitard! It's got a captain with humor, integrity, and just enough fire to evoke James T. Kirk at his most ardent! What exactly is the hurdle here?

I blame Diane Warren. Yeah, the same bleedin' Diane Warren responsible for writing loads of atrocious Oscar-bait ballads and American Idol-inspired hit singles. Warren's song "Faith of the Heart" (originally written for everybody's favorite clownsploitation movie, Patch Adams) serves as the theme song for Enterprise, and as such, turns off most viewers within the first 30 seconds. The song is total ass. You might think a good or bad theme song can't substantially submarine ratings, but I disagree. (On a related note, I spotted the dude from the Rembrandts at a bar last year, and he looked luminously content, as if he had drunk from the magical fountain where Rachel Green once frolicked in her ribbed mock turtleneck.)

In keeping with recent praise, Enterprise does seem invigorated this season. Captain Archer (played by Scott "Quantum Leap" Bakula) is a not-unsexy fearless leader who combines the enthusiasm of Kirk with the nobility of Picard. He continues to forge a tentative relationship with Commander T'Pol (Jolene Blalock)--a.k.a. "T'Boob"--who looks like a cross between Hilary Swank and Legolas in her prosthetic ears. The romantic friction between these two is nearly as searing as the Kirk-Spock chemistry that launched a million slash fics.

Joining this couple on the flight deck are Commander Charles "Trip" Tucker (Connor Trinneer), an adventurous Southern boy who also dreams of buttering T'Pol's muffin; Dr. Phlox (John Billingsley), a kindly eccentric with a creepy "Black Hole Sun" smile courtesy of CGI; and the lowly ensigns Hoshi Sato (Linda Park) and Travis Mayweather (Anthony Montgomery). The cast is likable and competent, especially real-life Trekkie Blalock, the tastiest onboard vixen since Lieutenant Uhura.

The most recent story arc finds Captain Archer on Vulcan, grappling with the aftereffects of an extreme mind meld. Meanwhile, T'Pol sheds an uncharacteristic tear over the death of her mother, and the airborne Enterprise crew endures an attack by Vulcan ships. Events like this are unmistakably evocative of classic series moments (and the much-beloved Star Trek films) and reveal a deep understanding of Trek's appeal.

But even if Klingons aren't your thing, don't be intimidated by the miles of sacrosanct mythology that precede Enterprise. At this point on the broadcast continuum, the Star Trek universe is as American as a cheeseburger and as safe as a soybean-oil breast implant.

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