It was 16 years ago this week that the second season of Star Trek: Enterprise ended with an attack on Earth and an entirely new direction for the series.
By the time the second season of Star Trek: Enterprise was drawing to a close, the show was is serious trouble.
Rating were down, Star Trek fandom wasn’t interested in the show, the opening theme song was still mocked at conventions across the country and it seemed cancellation was just around the corner.
If we’re being honest, it wasn’t that shocking that Enterprise was struggling. The first two seasons, while occasionally very good, were incredibly formulaic. The Temporal Cold War subplot, which had been running since the pilot “Broken Bow” was proving unpopular with the fans and seemed to be going nowhere fast.
Obviously, changes needed to be made and those changes started with “The Expanse,” the second season finale.
“The Expanse” marked the beginning of the Xindi storyline which would make up the entirety of the third season and the beginning of the fourth. It would see Enterprise move away from the classic Trek episodic format and instead go with a heavily serialized style similar to the final seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
In “The Expanse” an alien race called the Xindi send a weapon to Earth that cuts a swath of destruction running from Florida to Venezuela, killing over seven million people, including Tucker’s sister Elizabeth. The reasons for the attack are tied to the Temporal Cold War and Starfleet gives Captain Archer and the Enterprise the mission of finding the Xindi and stopping them from launching any more attacks.
The storyline continues in Season 3 which, over the years has become somewhat polarizing among Trek Nation. While some loved the new serialized approach and the fact the show seemed to finally have some direction, other lamented the fact Star Trek was again getting away from the original vision of creator Gene Roddenberry.
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When you look back at the series, it’s obvious the producers and writers really had no choice but to try something new and different. If they had continued on with the episodic, Next Generation-light style they were using, the show never would have made it past a third season. And the fourth and final season of Enterprise, with its peek at the origins of the United Federation of Planets, was possibly the most entertaining and well written of the four.
Except for “These Are the Voyages…” That was total crap.
To this day fans of the show still talk about the Xindi storyline and “The Expanse” very fondly. And with good reason. The episode was one of the best of the first two seasons and really gave the cast a chance to stretch their acting muscles a bit, Scott Bakula in particular. In addition, with “The Expanse” coming just a few years after the events of September 11, 2001, it really resonated in a way Star Trek hadn’t for a number of years.
So while “The Expanse” wasn’t for everyone, it did what it was supposed to do, namely set Enterprise in a new and different direction. To boldly go where Star Trek hadn’t gone before. And you can’t ask for much more than that.