While the story arc itself had its problems and the series as a whole did have its flaws (overuse of the Ferengi as comic relief, a very weak seventh season with a rushed finish, poor to non-existent exit strategy for the Dominion War story arc, etc), I think the Dominion War worked overall and helped define Deep Space Nine as a series, for better or worse.
By contrast, the Xindi storyline in Enterprise was a good idea that was not as well executed as the Dominion War… but that describes many of the ideas Berman & Braga have come up with over the years. To begin with, the concept itself was really a clone of the Dominion War done to drive up Enterprise’s lackluster Nielson ratings. Created as a prequel by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga (both of whom had lost their touch by then, in my not-so-humble opinion), Enterprise wasn’t doing very well as a series. This was largely due to poor stories that either lacked internal continuity (on an episode-by-episode basis) or pissed all over established continuity for either the series or the franchise (by either introducing certain concepts from TNG way too soon in the timeline or by introducing potentially major threats to Earth in one episode, then completely ignoring them and the story-telling opportunities they could have raised in later episodes by never mentioning them again and zooming off to some other would-be threat). Remembering the brief viewer increase caused by the Dominion War in DS9, Berman & Braga decided to bring their own war into Enterprise with the Xindi.
While that might have been a good idea, the concept suffered problems from the start. To begin with, the entire Xindi arc wasn’t its own story; rather, it was just one season-long subset of a larger conflict that was shown, but never explained in the series: namely, the Temporal Cold War. No real details were ever given as to what the nature of the Temporal Cold War really was (a cold war across time itself, we assume?) or who first started it. We know some of the factions, but not all, nor do we truly understand their motives, beyond the old “Saturday morning cartoon villain” m.o. of “destroy the Federation!” that gets so cliché. Like many concepts from Berman & Braga, it was a great concept poorly executed and given little true depth. We saw precious little of this concept in Enterprise (aside from the occasional Suliban episode or the odd appearance by either “Future Guy” or Daniels, none of whom give nearly enough exposition), and what we did see was rather lackluster. Originally, this concept was expressed through a rather poorly-conceived race called the Suliban (which, guessing by their name, I assume were supposed to be some sort of heavily veiled parody of the Taliban?), though that didn’t quite pan out the way Berman & Braga hoped. With more viewers slipping away, they rushed the Xindi storyline into production.
Again, it began with a great concept: some faction in the Temporal Cold War called the Sphere Builders (really, you couldn’t give them a better name than that?) attempted an invasion of the Federation in the 26th Century, but the Federation repelled them. Instead of retaliating in that era, the Sphere Builders attempted to prevent the founding of the Federation. (As time travel expert M.J. Young would attest to on his website about temporal anomalies, such a notion has its own problems, but Star Trek has always played rather fast and loose with the concept of time travel, anyway.) To do this, they provided the Xindi with trumped-up evidence that the Federation would one day cause the destruction of their homeworld. (So, they’re fighting a war over something that hasn’t happened yet based on evidence “from the future” that could easily be manufactured? We can manufacture war photos using Photoshop right now. What kind of photo/video/hologram-doctoring technology would they have in the 22nd Century? Surely the Xindi thought of that!) This managed to get the Xindi moving in high gear, and they initiated a conflict against humanity – the Federation’s major founding member – by attacking Earth in “The Expanse“, Enterprise’s Season 3 opener. Enterprise gets recalled from its mission of exploration (which, I’m sorry to say, really hadn’t been going very well, as the crew of Enterprise either nearly got their ship destroyed each episode or spent as much time as they could pissing off the Vulcans, who – for whatever reason – were written to be colossal uptight assholes during the series) and assigned to head for a massive area of space called the Delphic Expanse in search of the Xindi’s homeworld. Once there, they would either parlay with the Xindi’s leaders and try for peace, or kick their asses and come back home victorious.
This war lasted all of one season (when has an actual war ever lasted only one year? Hell, Voyager took seven damn years to cross the Delta Quadrant – a feat they only barely accomplished by cheating several times via numerous space/time “shortcuts” – and the NX-01 Enterprise, which is technologically inferior to even the [/i]shuttlecraft[/i] of Kirk’s day, was able to cross this vast expanse of space in one year and return home in less time than that??). Some of the Xindi sided with our heroes; the others said, “Fuck it!” and launched a superweapon at Earth, which our heroes then had to stop in the Season 3 finale “Zero Hour“. Since the producers weren’t quite certain if Enterprise would return for Season 4 or not, they tried to bring all the major plot threads they had woven into the series (what few plot threads they actually bothered with, like the switch from a potential Archer/T’Pol pairing to a much more intriguing T’Pol/Tucker match)… Then they completely threw a giant WTF into it by ending the episode on a shot of an alien in a Nazi uniform. (I kid you not! Click the damn link and see for yourselves already!)
To be honest, Enterprise as a series bored me to tears (except for the occasionally interesting or even good episode, like “Regeneration“), and the Xindi storyline – while offering a few intriguing tidbits here and there (like “E²“) – was something I was rather blasé about altogether. To start with, I had grown weary of the emotional highs and lows of the Dominion War, so another war in an entirely different Trek series – especially when that war wasn’t the Earth-Romulan War we had been promised so many times – just didn’t hold as much appeal to me. I had just come to terms with the ending of Voyager (good or bad), and I wasn’t quite ready to commit to Enterprise the same way I had for TNG, DS9 and Voyager. Moreover, I had just started watching a different Roddenberry-based series – Andromeda – and had grown quite fond of it. The episodes I had seen of the Xindi war were very reminiscent of both the good and bad aspects of the Dominion War with a few interesting (and many not so interesting) twists. The writing, unfortunately, was still done by Berman & Braga (way past their prime, if you ask me) and the characters were still as… well, dull as they had been since series launch.
In Season 4, they left it to new Enterprise scribe Manny Coto – Brannon’s & Braga’s replacement, as they were refraining from writing duties (yay!) – to finish out the faux cliffhanger they created with the silly Season 3 finale “space Nazi” end scene. This he did in the two-part “Storm Front“, which explained how aliens had gone back in time and aided Nazi Germany, changing the timeline and enslaving America, and how our heroes had wound up back in the 1940s and blah blah blah… Normally, I enjoy alternate histories, but these two episodes stretched the concept beyond credibility.
After this horrid start, Manny Coto gave us a kick-ass final season of Enterprise, as (unlike Berman & Braga) he actually had a little something called talent. By then, however, the damage to the series had been done by Berman & Braga, and not even the Xindi conflict or the talented Manny Coto’s intriguing fan-wank scripts loaded with awesome original series references could save it. Enterprise was cancelled. The Earth-Romulan War plot they kept promising us and building up to? Never happened. As interesting as portions of the Xindi conflict were, maybe they could have focused on the Earth-Romulan War instead? *sigh*
To sum: Dominion War good, Xindi War so-so.
Anyway, that’s my two cents on the issue. Apologies for both the length of the post and the time which I posted it. (I hadn’t gotten to see my sister on her birthday, so I was taking her around town last night to make up for it.) What’s your take on the whole mess?
|4.06 / Original air date October 30, 1995|
|Written by: Ronald D. Moore and René Echevarria|
|Directed by: Avery Brooks|
I’m well aware that by the end of this review I am going to sound like a total geek, but I feel that it’s important to write to fans as well as to people who are new to any particular program or TV Universe, as the case may be. The fact is, you can’t look at any Star Trek series in isolation from the others, as much as the writers and producers of Trek would like to think. The DS9 continuity people must have had weekly fits as they received scripts for new episodes, and if they didn’t, they should have.
An obsessive fan base has been both the greatest asset and the greatest curse for the writers of all four Star Trek spin-off series. We (yeah, I’m going to include myself as an obsessed fan) demand that the writers pay as much attention to continuity in the Star Trek Universe as we do. After all, they get paid to do just that. I know a lot of fans who happily do it for free.
The race known as the Trill has been one of the screwups of the Trek franchise. The problem is, they’re also one of the most interesting races ever invented on Trek. Initially introduced in Star Trek: The Next Generation, the Trill are a race of humanoid-looking creatures that have the ability to join with a long-lived, wormlike symbiotic species to enable their consciousness to continue from host to host over a huge span of time. (Initially they also had lumpy heads, but the spots concept was added for DS9 when producers decided that if you were going to hire gorgeous, ex-model Terry Farrell to play a character, you didn’t then give her a lumpy head.)
The idea of the symbiotic relationship is that each host contributes to the life and experiences of the symbiont, while the symbiont brings to the host a wealth of experience and knowledge that would otherwise have died with their previous hosts. Once joined, the host and symbiont blend into a single entity. Twenty four hours after joining, if the symbiont is removed for more than a few hours, the host will die. It is normal for a symbiont to live inside both male and female hosts over the course of its lifetime.
In ST:TNG, joined Trill could not use transporters (it caused trauma to the symbiont), the symbiont could be temporarily placed inside a human host (as it was with Riker), and there were no rules mentioned about the romantic life of the symbiont and who it could or couldn’t be with, especially since the original Trill we met, Odan, chased Beverly Crusher through the span of three different hosts. (Interestingly, Dr Crusher finally rejects Odan when he becomes a woman.) As we know, Jadzia Dax had no problems with transporters. Ezri Dax had to receive the Dax symbiont when Jadzia died because she was the only Trill onboard the ship carrying the symbiont to the Trill homeworld when the symbiont went into distress. Finally, with “Rejoined” we are given the concept of reassociation, which forbids joined Trill from resuming romances that their symbionts had in previous hosts.
Sound complicated? It is, and overly so, but the Trek writers were most likely looking for a way to spice up Jadzia’s love life and to further explore the Trill, so they came up with the wacky concept for “Rejoined”, and we got an episode that tiptoes Jadzia’s sexuality along the borders between gay and straight. Personally, I think Jadzia counts firmly as bisexual. Maybe even omnisexual, as it was often revealed throughout the series that she wasn’t averse to trying (or sleeping with) anything once.
All this is to say that yes, the episode had holes, big enough to fly the Enterprise through. However, for all the lesbian fans of Jadzia Dax (and I’m sure I’m not the only devotee out there) this episode was also like manna from heaven, because it also contains what I like to refer to as “the kiss”.
The basic plot is this. A Trill science team arrives on DS9 to use the Defiant in their project to attempt to open the first artificially-created wormhole. (Even reviewing Star Trek technobabble is a laborious task.) The team is led by Dr Lenara Khan, a joined Trill. As it happens, when both the Dax and the Khan symbionts were joined to previous hosts (Torias Dax and Nelani Khan) they were husband and wife. Torias died in a shuttle accident leaving Nelani a widow, and this is the first meeting of the two symbionts since the accident. Dax was a man then, but when the two symbionts meet again in the bodies of their new hosts, sparks fly immediately, regardless of what gender the two are now.
Funnily enough, this gender-switch is never really mentioned. It’s like a big, old white elephant sitting in the corner. Instead of dealing with the “gay” issue, the writers turn the whole thing into a social taboo against this concept of reassociation, or getting together with a lover from a past life. The storyline is a metaphor for tolerance and acceptance of alternative sexualities, and not even a subtle one at that. The odd thing is, they could have just played the story straight, I mean gay, and it might have made more sense. Perhaps they thought the concept would play better to conservative Trek audiences wrapped in cotton wool, and considering the backlash that occurred when the episode aired, perhaps they were right.
On the creative side, many of the elements Rick Berman and Michael Piller brought to Deep Space Nine had been established in The Next Generation — the use of Ferengi, Cardassians, Bajorans and wormholes provided powerful strands of connection to the familiar universe first established by Gene Roddenberry and since enjoyed by millions of viewers. But this new series demanded many unfamiliar things, ranging from an alien space station filled with ill lit corridors, commerce, even a casino, to exotic new species and religious subtexts. It was a strange new world indeed that Star Trek explored boldly as ever.
On the technical side, Berman and Piller were able to provide the same important connections in the look and feel of the latest series by drawing their key production people from the pool of talented individuals who had worked on Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Production designer Herman Zimmerman returned to design the dark and alien sets of the Cardassian space station. Michael Okuda led the art department’s effort to come up with an entirely new system of Cardassian control surfaces and data displays. Director of photography Marvin Rush brought a rich lushness to the new sets. Costume designer Robert Blackman refined Starfleet uniforms once again and ably met the challenge of a never ending stream of new alien races. Michael Westmore faced the same challenges in devising more and stranger alien races for Blackman to clothe. Visual effects that The Next Generation viewers had come to expect would be maintained and surpassed on the new series.
The task of designing the space station Deep Space Nine— which had to be a new, iconic and alien looking image that could be quickly recognized when seen on a small television screen — was a long, involved process that took several different directions before evolving into the final design we now take for granted. It was production designer Herman Zimmerman who was assigned to come up with this fresh and unique look that would be the centerpiece of the new Star Trek.
Early discussions about the look of the station led to a concept that eventually did not work. “It took us a couple of months of going in the wrong direction to find the right direction,” Zimmerman told Star Trek: The Magazine in 1999, “partly because the producers weren’t sure exactly how they wanted to direct us with the visual elements.”
We started out charged with getting a ‘Tower of Babel’ concept of a space station built over a couple thousand years of separate, disparate cultures, so the technology from one part of the station to another would be of various ages and various cultures, not necessarily interfacing one with the other, and there was this sense of confusion because of that.
“The initial take on it was that it was a very old, ancient type of station — maybe not symmetrical in shape,” Rick Sternbach, co-creator of the Deep Space Nine station, explained.
As Berman and Piller continued to refine the concept of Deep Space Nine, we [Sternbach, Zimmerman and Michael Okuda] continued to evolve some of the exterior station drawings. We started with a very large number of sketches and very quick CGI shapes that we could build in our computers.
We could create a lot of shapes, make multiple copies of shapes and kind of put little pieces together and rotate them around and see how they would work. Also we could see if they would provide enough of a strange alien look that would be approved as Deep Space Nine.