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“Broken Bow” is the pilot for the much undeservedly maligned Star Trek series, Enterprise. Premiering in 2001, Enterprise was a prequel series and boldly stated that “This [was] where the Star Trek saga [began].” In many ways, that statement was very right on point. The episode featured Earth’s first meeting with the Klingons (the most popular Star Trek bad guys) and the launch of Earth’s first deep-space starship (the titular Enterprise).
“Broken Bow” also was the center of some controversy as it displayed a couple of things about presumed Star Trek history differently than what the fans expected. This plagued Enterprise for a good portion of its run, but the complaints started here. Most of them are pretty stupid as, I had inferred earlier, most stemmed from what fandom decreed instead of anything actually said on any of the previous shows. But as the pilot itself, it is pretty good. At least, I enjoyed it, and really set-up Enterprise very well.
In 2151, a Klingon crash lands on Earth after being chased by the mysterious Suliban. In a coma, Earth decides to return the Klingon to his people and Captain Jonathon Archer (Scott Bakula) of the Starship Enterprise volunteers to launch his ship early to accomplish the task. Joining the crew of Enterprise is the Vulcan T’Pol (Jolene Blalock). Archer is resentful of this as he feels the Vulcans have been keeping humans back from exploring the stars and sees T’Pol as nothing more than wet-blanket.
During their trip, Enterprise is attacked by the Suliban who kidnap the Klingon who is revealed to be a biological courier (the message he is returning to his homeworld is embedded in his DNA). Knowing they are screwed unless they get the Klingon back, Enterprise tracks down the Suliban to their Helix Ship. During their daring rescues, Archer comes face-to-face with Silik (John Fletcher), his Suliban counterpart, and learns of a “Temporal Cold War” of which the 22nd century is a front. Archer, in the very first transporter escape, makes it back to Enterprise and they return the Klingon. Due to the success of their mission, Starfleet allows Enterprise to embark on their mission of exploration, and Archer, who has grown a budding respect for T’Pol, invites her to accompany them.
I think it is clear that “Broken Bow” was trying to do a lot of different things. First and foremost, it is a straight-up adventure. The story is extremely simple, but that allowed the writers to take some time to develop their characters. Honestly, by the end of this episode, I really had a good feel for nearly all the regulars. I really cannot say that for the other Star Trek spin-off pilots. Granted, not everyone was fully fleshed out (I am looking at you Travis Mayweather [Anthony Montgomery]), but enough was done to really “get” a feel for who these people are.
Along those lines, because a good portion of time was developed to characterization, the crew of Enterprise felt the most “real” to me out of all the Star Treks. I know that sounds strange, but there always seemed to be a slight disconnect from Trek characters and real people. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that this series is the closest one set to contemporary times. The perfect utopia-ness that was a staple of Star Trek was not yet present. These characters were rougher around the edges and made stupid mistakes that future folks would not.
I also loved how “Broken Bow” already played with Star Trek expectations. For example, humans and Vulcans, while they got along, are not exactly the best of friends (as earlier series characterized them to be). I found that to be a brilliant move where it would allow the writers to play with and develop a story arc, likely exemplified with Archer and T’Pol.
Now, even though we had some great characterization, make no mistake, the episode had plenty of action going on. I really feel that show creators Rick Berman and Brannon Braga were really trying to fuse what worked best between the then-modern Star Trek series when putting Enterprise together. You have the adventure of The Next Generation, the characterization and the ongoing story of Deep Space Nine, and the action of Voyager. I found it blends them pretty successfully (though, this point can be debated with looking at the rest of the first season). What they attempted to do was an incredibly smart move.
“Broken Bow” is a solid first episode. It does a lot of things right by setting the tone, introducing potential storylines, and, most importantly, establishing our characters. You are going to get some people complaining about how “that is not how it should have happened!”. Quite frankly, who cares? This episode (and series as a whole) is a prequel to a franchise with nearly 650 installments at that point and a show made in the 1960s. Nothing is going to fit 100%. If you check out this ride on its own merits, you’ll enjoy it considerably.
Well, this concludes my look back at the Star Trek pilots. Or does it? Check back next week to see what I mean!