Yesterday was the tenth anniversary of the premiere of Star Trek: Enterprise. I'd originally intended to post a list of what I thought were the ten best episodes of the series. As I sat down to put it together though, I found it difficult. After about five episodes, I found myself running out of episodes that were really distinctive. Even looking through an episode guide for the series didn't help. Most of the candidates were twists on stories that had been done in one (or more) of the previous Trek tv series.
It seems to me that TNG and DS9 could get away with the occasional storytelling cliché because their characters were developed into multi-faceted individuals. Enterprise's crew, even after four seasons, was made up of stereotypes and ciphers. IMHO, that's the biggest reason Enterprise was unable to find an audience to sustain the same seven-year runs its predecessors had. I'm not saying Enterprise was devoid of creativity or talent; it certainly had it's moments, but it could've been so much more than it was.
Below are my picks for the five best episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise. What are yours?
05. In a Mirror, Darkly
In a Star Trek first, this episode is set entirely in the Mirror Universe, with the only crossover being the starship Defiant from the Original Series episode "The Tholian Web." The crew does a great job playing up evil versions of themselves, and the writers throw in under-used Trek villains (the Tholians and Gorn).
04. The Andorian Incident
A visit to a Vulcan monastery is interrupted by a group of Andorian commandoes. One of Enterprise's best moves was fleshing out the Andorian race, which was only seen briefly in a few Original Series episodes. They made a great foil for Enterprise's arrogant Vulcans, especially when led by the pugnacious Shran (Jeffrey Combs).
03. Dear Doctor
Archer and Phlox disagree over whether or not to supply a cure to an alien race. Enterprise was at its best when it showed the genesis of the things we take for granted in the later Treks. All of the philosophical debates over Starfleet's Prime Directive began here. Superb performances by John Billingsley and Scott Bakula make this one of Enterprise's few great moments.
02. The Forge
Archer's investigation of the bombing of Earth's embassy on Vulcan turns up evidence of a deadly consipracy. Not since TOS' "Amok Time" has an episode of Star Trek delved so deeply into Vulcan culture. Add in Manny Coto's reconciliation of Enterprise's arrogant Vulcans to the calm, serene ones in later shows, and "The Forge" becomes one of Enterprise's best episodes.
When Archer loses his long-term memory, T'Pol must confront him each day with the news that their mission to stop the Xindi failed and Earth was destroyed. Enterprise takes the well-used alternate timeline idea and turns it into a touching story of unrequited love. This is Enterprise's finest moment, not because of the outstanding special effects, but because it allows its characters to be human.