I read a little about the history of Star Trek and wonder every time about the strange relation between cult status and commercial success. TOS was not a commercial hit back when it was aired. However, after decades, it reached that cult-status that led Hollywood to produce the movie series first, and TNG later. It would be nice to see a pattern, a cycle (or anti-cycle if you wish), in such Trek developments (not to forget about Voyager and DS9 of course) and maybe there is one: at the apex of amount of series, commercial flop once again seemed to have hit Trek universe. Oddly, I still encounter numerous fans of TNG and VOY today (less DS9 ones, but I always thought that one was not so bad at all).
I was not that much Trek fan at all to understand that a new, prequel series was on its way back in 2000/2001. My first "contact" with Archer and the crew of NX-01 was somewhere in 2003 or 2004, when a friend of mine was watching an episode on his laptop during some lab exercise at university. I saw Scott Bakula and my prejudice was there, pronto: "What? Quantum Leap is the captain of an Enterprise? Forget!". Now I don't have the slightest antipathy to Mr Bakula: I think he was great in Quantum Leap and I always tried to catch the show on TV. But to see him being captain on that ship, where I already had seen Kirk and Picard (I learned to appreciate Picard only a few years ago), two men of so different, but so shaped character, made my opinion be clear: no way this was going to work. And then: a prequel! Please, no more, after I saw what Lucas did to his fantastic space opera! Why was Hollywood always trying to follow tendencies... even if they were proved to be flops from a content point of view? I decided to skip this Trek travel and turned my interest elsewhere. After some more years I learned that ENT was dead just after four seasons, because of commercial flop. I took notice and I thought I was right from the beginning.
Last New Year's Eve, the Italian channel LA7 aired a "special Trek night", showing an episode from TOS, the movie "Generations" and finally the pilot (episode one and two) from ENT. I knew the first two that good, that I skipped them from time to time (helping with dinner preparations), but I watched the pilot in full. It was not enough to make me crazy about, but I was getting curious. I recalled from 2003/2004, that I found the blue outfit ridiculous in a way. And I couldn't understand why they had used a song theme instead of the classic, instrumental Trek theme, of course adapted in some way. So I got the DVDs and started watching...
I am almost at the end of ENT's season one and I wish I to put in words precisely what determined my change of mind. Let's start right from the beginning: the title score. Simply magnificent. I particularly like the scene where Alan Shepard is smiling ironically at the camera (I would like to know when that one was taken) and it stands, for me, as a symbol for all that sacrifices made by countless women and men since generations in air- and spacecraft: very often paying with their own lives. Then, Robert Goddad, as he is writing some formula on a blackboard. Chuck Yaeger and Amelia Earhart. The complete short title sequence perfectly grasps the endeavors made by mankind to unfold the unknown. As to the series: I found the pilot's plot not particularly overwhelming, but the subsequent episodes are intriguing. Besides the episode character of the series, I now like the prequel character and can't get enough to learn how they dealt with first beam transportation, phasers and the necessity of having some sort of "protocol" when leaving the ship, encountering new races etc. This is real dedication to details from the writers/producers! The ship is also more fragile than any other Enterprise we saw, it does not have the defense mechanisms we have on TNG. And then we have the not so easy relationship with the Vulcans and I must admit Mr Bakula does a masterpiece of interpretation when he plays the bullheaded captain, who slowly but constantly transforms into a responsible and open minded captain. Jolene Blalock is the most stunning female Vulcan I have ever seen. Her presence adds a certain eroticism and mystery to the show I have never experienced before in any other Trek show. Sure, there may be some continuity errors, some more evident than others. But we're all human after all, and I am not measuring ENT against TNG and TOS: I just want new stories from the Enterprise and her crew!
As you probably already have understood, today I ask myself why this show has been canceled after just four seasons (if I recall well, TOS was also canceled after four seasons or so). Again, commercial success is the measure of everything. But now, if take myself as unit of measurement and ask myself why did I contribute to let this fail, I feel that there are many, complex reasons. But, evidently, I needed time to appreciate. Time to pull my prejudices down. Time, to remember the "Trek that was" (I watched the movies again and the entire TNG seasons in the meantime) and that is gone for good. Today, if there was a petition to bring ENT back, I would sign it immediately.
Since time is my so recurrent reason for ENT being "my" flop, when it was aired, I wonder if Hollywood should not apply more flexible time spans when it measures commercial success. To the cast and crew of ENT, I wish you to come back either as series or as movie.