The Facer Strikes Back

Having somewhat notoriously defaced the pilot script for ENTERPRISE, and incurring the wrath of fanboy geeks whose emotional insecurities are eclipsed only by their willingness to be led like veal into the meat grinder of hack television, perhaps an interest in my immediate reaction to the actual aired TV show is due. Then again, perhaps not, so those of you who care little may resume masturbating, ogling your older sister, or whatever else it is you do late at night beneath the covers with a flashlight and a tube of acne cream.

Not that it comes as any surprise, but I’ve gotten pretty much torn apart by the online fan press who so desperately wants ENTERPRISE to be a hit that they’ll resort to all forms of muzzling, deviance, and fanboy shenanigans that it’s a testament to the prescience of comic books like X-MEN: there are mutants among us; they may not have shiny claws or telekinesis, but they do have most uncanny ways to act like total assholes. Most common response to “Broken Bow Annotatedr” “Don’t trash it until you’ve seen it, jackass.” Second most common response: “if you want to criticize something, keep your mouth shut and make a better TV series yourself.” Yeah, that’s productive.

Well, sorry, my flatulent little contrarians, but in fact critics don’t need to succeed those they criticize to make the critique valid. If that were the case, Roger Ebert would have written the New Testament, not an old Russ Meyer film. As for the charge that I should have waited to see the show before trashing the script, well it was a script review, not a TV show review.

An aside: the script that was defaced was NOT altered in any way, and in fact HAD the Tucker/T-Pol kissing scene in it when I receive it. I didn’t add a word to the script itself, despite the bad press perpetrated on fans by the likes of … well, you know who. There are a couple possibilities as to how that scene was included: (1) it was an early draft (unlikely); (2) it was a tagged, leaked script by Paramount to keep track of its distribution (unlikely, too); (3) some fanboy altered the script before sending it around (more likely.) I’m pretty sure I got a copy direct from the casting director, who included that scene as a way to fuck actresses trying out the part… but I’m silly like that.

In any event, after mucking through the tortuous Broken Bow script (written by that duo of pugnacious pusdonkeys, Rick Berman and Brannon Braga), and having pointed out the innumerable cliches, stolen scenes, recycled plotlines, ridiculously placed T&A shots, and horrific character development, you might be in for a surprise. The script is most certainly the product of a screenplay written by producers, a trend now common and very much the root cause of the poor writing we see nowadays. In modern Hollywood, anyone with a few bucks, usually obtained by way of family connections, or by fucking the rectum of someone with family connections, can not only make themselves simultanously famous and powerful by producing a film or series, but also satisfy their need for creative recognition by writing the script, too, even if they previously hadn’t been able to conjugate a verb. I point you, ladies and gentlemen, to the poster boy of this phenomenon: Dean Devlin.

Having set the stage of my opinion of the script and the problems behind it, it may then come as quite a shock to those fanboys who had wished I was on the roof of the World Trade Center a few weeks ago, that the episode itself, “Broken Bow”, as aired was not all that bad. In fact, it’s just about a draw.

How the fuck did they pull out of the deep spiral descent that horrible script would have otherwise plunged the show intor Let’s look.

First of all, serious credit must be given to director James Conway. After the first hour I realized the action sequences did have a life in them that was noticeably absent in most of the episodes of VOYAGER or DS9. Editing, camera movement … in fact the cinematography as a whole was pretty damn good. For certain scenes, ENTERPRISE had an almost movie-like feel to it (helped enormously by the quasi-letterbox format, and excellent decision by B&B.) For many of the scenes that were stolen from previous Trek episodes (including phaser fights, bridge arguments, and hallway meanderings) were refreshed by interesting camera angles and non-jerky handheld camera work. In fact, UPN cut away to a commercial for “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and my immediate response was, “man, that looks dated now.”

What Conway could not achieve was enducing most of the actors to give good performances, but more on that in a second.

Set design was impressive, too: here B&B delivered, somewhat, on their promise to bring something fresh. But only in the areas of the Enterprise’s engineering section, hallways, and alien sets. The bridge is way the fuck too familiar (this is what we have to look forward tor Hundreds of years of a guy sitting in a chair surrounded by little railingsr) But the captain’s ready room and quarters, even the sickbay: not bad.

Visual effects are a mixed bag: CGI is as bad as VOYAGER’s have been, with some shots perhaps even worse, which bodes ill for the series since this was the big, expensive pilot. But the hardware-generated effects (weather, set explosions, make-up, etc.) are superior to what we are used to seeing. The Rigel scene may have been ripped off from Star Wars cantina sequence, but it was shot in a way that did not at all bring it to mind when watching it. Lighting was also excellent, but that usually changes dramatically once the pilot is over; I hope not, in this case.

These positives mean the show will not sink into the mire the writers had set up for it, if the quality level of the pilot can be maintained when the weekly episodes start hitting the screen.

Where did ENTERPRISE go wrongr A few places, and they present some pretty big challenges for the show to navigate. First of all, the title sequence has to be the most confusing, amazingly stupid move ever made in television; one half expects to see Cousin Oliver make a cameo in it. The song is dreadful, has no connection whatsoever to the show’s theme or backstory, the montage is cheap, the fonts are too damn small, and nothing — nothing at all! — invokes Star Trek. But then, B&B accomplished their mission, didn’t theyr I expect an overwhelming fan movement to demand a new title sequence sans lyrics, with more French horns. If this thing makes it to season two, expect a total overhaul of this baffling, mind-wrenching faux pas.

Incidental music isn’t much better, and without a core theme to come back to now and then, it just sounds like someone has afternoon NPR playing in the background for most of the show.

As expected, the cast is pretty damn bad. Scott Bakula is clearly one of the worst actors we’ve been forced to see sit in a squeaky little captain’s chair probably (and here is where the jizz-palmed fanboys will go frothing) EVER. His lines are delivered with such deliberation he might as well have a neon sign on his forehead that says “Hey. Mom, look at me, I’m acting!!” His ubiquitous smirk and so-on-the-nose dropping of g’s makes his performance look like George W. Bush is captain of the Enterprise. In fact, between him and Trip Tucker, more g’s are dropped at the end of verbs than when the ship comes out of warp. I can’t wait to hear one of them say, “Ah’m fixin’ t’go to Andoria an’ git me sumathat good ol’ homeworld cookin’!”

Despite the wishes of the slobbering, slovenly fucktooths out there, Jolene Blalock is positively annoying as the sexpot Vulcan. She breaks free of the constraints of her Seven of Nine dialogue… well, NEVER. No, she can’t act. But she’s better than Nana Visitor, I suppose… which is like saying smallpox is better than botulism. She, like Seven of Nine, seems to proudly bear the responsibility of single-handedly ruining the show for anyone whose sensibilities have evolved beyond “damn, lookit at dem titties!” But with a character that irritating, who gives a crap what she looks like anywayr

The Travis Mayweather character is stunningly bad, and clearly the actor would benefit from a few years at Temple University to regain the blackness he has apparently so eagerly abandoned; I mean, it’s sad when the Black guy is the whitest character on the set. (Deja vu: I think I once said that when Colin Powell walked into a press conference.) Hoshi Sato is peaking on the cute meter, but her lines are delivered with such ineptitude she makes Quasimodo look like Martha Graham. And what’s with the little red wife-beater toprrr

There are two actors that get passing grades, and one that surpasses them all. The actors behind Dr. Phlox and Trip Tucker are not all that bad. Phlox is surprisingly NOT annoying, despite B&B’s intention to reincarnate the oh-so-killable Neelix from VOYAGER. His delivery of lines is light-hearted and more genuine than the obligatory comic relief that the script called for. He might get annoying fast, but let’s hope the actor can keep his guard up. Tucker’s character is the strongest here, even though this supposed “southerner” can’t muster up the accent; he’s clearly the strongest of the lead trio, and the most likeable. The actor here shows good range, from humor to anger, and really gets all the good lines.

The best of them allr Porthos, of course. He wags his tail far better than Seven of Nine ever did, and looks a helluva lot better doing it. No doubt the poor dog spent lots of time on Brannon Braga’s casting couch getting THAT role.

Other weak areas: costume design is pretty horrible. The crew costumes are bulky, wrinkly, ill-fitting things with zippers everywhere in an apparent overcompensation for the fact that the costumes from the last four series lacked pockets and zippers altogether. As for the ship, well it invokes ZERO “ooh factor,” and only if you look real hard might you see it a few times. Considering the show is named after the damn thing, you think they would have spent some time trying to get us to admire it; but no, T’Pol’s nipples get more screen time than the ship. Finally, the little continuity touches added to background (TOS sounds for flip communicators, muted swish noise for doors, etc.) only scream “look, continuity!”

Speaking of continuity, basically Trek purists are fucked. It’s overly apparent the show has no intention whatsoever of following continuity. You’ll have to just get over it the same way you did when you saw Tim Burton rape the shit out of “Planet of the Apes.”

That lack of continuity, the removal of “Star Trek” from the title (to keep Majel Roddenberry from getting royalty checks) and the absolutely inexplicable title sequence make the entire show seem like a non-Trek show, with just enough Trek elements to meet minimum requirement level for fans. But I mean, it’s BARE minimum.

In any event, the show was certainly more watchable than the script would have led one to believe. B&B would do well to leave the screenwriting to others, but there are two factors that doom this prospect as well: first of all, they are unbelievable egotists, and secondly the support writing staff is a slew of failed writers from shows that were mostly cancelled after one season. Yikes.

All in all, there is enough momentum coming off the pilot to give this thing some legs, and my original assertion that the show would die after six episodes is now clearly off the mark.

God help us, Berman and Braga have extended their hold on Trek for a few more years… but just barely. Now let’s see how they fare when “West Wing” debuts.