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?