Star Trek 726: These Are the Voyages...

726. These Are the Voyages...

FORMULA: The Pegasus + Flashback + United

WHY WE LIKE IT: The final sequence. The postmodern spin.

WHY WE DON'T: Trying to pass off Riker and Troi as their TNG Season 7 selves. The postmodern spin (in other words, mileage may vary).

REVIEW: First things first. These Are the Voyages isn't Enterprise's series finale. If it were, it would be somewhat disappointing because it hands off too much of itself to TNG characters. No, it's a franchise finale, an epilogue, coda, love letter, or goodbye to modern Trek after some 18 years (and 25 seasons!) of continuous Trek on tv. When seen in that context, it becomes highly watchable. In fact, I'm entirely surprised at how effective it's able to be despite the postmodern remove at which we're forced to stand. The emotional moments are still strong even with Riker standing in the room like a ghost, observing. And the tension still builds despite the out of sequence/fast forward to the end/skip that part structure of the episode.

So it's 6 years later, leaving plenty of room for spin-off media to tell the intervening story... No wait, it's ±215 years later, during the TNG episode The Pegasus, and Riker is using a simulation of events on the eve of the alliance charter's signing to help him work through the issues from that story, on the advice of Troi. Though Frakes and Sirtis have gotten about 10 years older since The Pegasus, it's best not to dwell too much on that fact. It's only slightly distracting. The Pegasus is also far enough back that the discrepancies don't show. The immediate nostalgia is what's most striking about those sequences... Seeing those corridors and Ten-Forward again, and Data's fun cameo (in voice only). A great tribute to the series on whose success the rest of modern Trek has coasted.

As for Enterprise 10 Years Later, anything you don't like can be chalked up to inaccuracies in the simulation (a recent novel has done this; I haven't seen it, but it seems gauche to me). They're about to retire the NX series, which Archer is in no hurry to do (his annoyed look is priceless), and he has a great speech to give, when Shran shows up. Believed dead, he was in hiding with his family and needs Archer's help to get his daughter back from pirates holding her for ransom on Rigel X (same as in the pilot). Seems like he (fittingly) married Jhamel. It's a mission from which Trip is said never to return. From there, the character is doomed and rather than dispel the tension (you know what will happen), it builds it steadily. I think it's great that they gave us one last Shran story, but at what cost? Trip sacrifices his life to save the captain's, and it's shockingly quick and abrupt. You don't quite feel like it was his very last option, which is a problem, but the fast and nervous direction helps sell it. There's something doubly symbolic about killing off Trip at this point. In a sense, he's the last 21th century human in Trek. After this, as we head into TOS, humanity will always be represented as more "evolved" (by whatever the standards of the era are). He was also the audience identifier, and killing him off removes our own participation as Trek comes to an end.

It's important that Riker's research actually inform his real-time decision and that only becomes clear with difficulty. He must identify with Trip, a "first officer"-type who disobeys a superior officer to do the right thing, even if it means his life/career. Archer isn't represented by Picard, but by Pressman. And he's also inspired by Archer and Trip's deep friendship and trust, and that's what motivates Riker to do the right thing (even if, in The Pegasus, that's not quite true). Regardless, Riker's interaction with the crew are quite good. Amusingly, he takes on the role of the never-seen Chef (so if you want to imagine Enterprise as one huge simulation, go right ahead), which is perfect for Riker whose already a cook. This is actually where the historical recreation ends and the ghosts of the past begin. Characters are asked to improvise responses to his questions, allowing them to speak through the centuries, in a sense. Trip and T'Pol never did get together, we discover, along with a few nice character bits. They keep the best for last, however. Showing us Trip's interview AFTER he's died is a brilliant move, and a proper epitaph to both the character and his relationship to Archer.

All that's left then is Archer's big speech, which we never hear (that's ok, we got what we needed from Terra Prime). Riker and Troi walk out of the holodeck, and the last new words written for Enterprise are "End program". Clever and perfect, even shockingly brutal (good thing there's a short coda). The episode has fun with dialogue, in fact, including a couple of fun references (I don't consider them groaners either), like Reed's line about "all good things" and Archer toast to "the next generation". The actual ending makes my heart swell even just thinking about it. As the Enterprise-D leaves the asteroid field, Picard intones that famous speech "Space, the final frontier..." and we cut to Kirk's Enterprise as he continues the speech, and then further back in time to the NX-01 as Archer finishes it. It's a beautiful montage that I wish could have lasted longer (either showing intervening Enterprises or getting Avery Brooks and Kate Mulgrew to supply some lines as DS9/Defiant and Voyager also made an appearance), but the speech just isn't long enough!

LESSON: Enterprise died before its time, but the Trek franchise didn't. Make sense of that paradox.

REWATCHABILITY - High: They didn't do it any favors when they aired it back to back with Terra Prime like it was some kind of two-part finale. Taken in its proper context, it's a wonderful "love letter" that works despite the odd juxtaposition of storytelling styles.

Wow, well, my "(almost) two-year mission" is over, and I'm not sure how to feel about it. I've been with this project a long time, and it's only now that I'm writing the final words for it that it's actually hitting me. Sure, the blog will continue to feature Trek as it appeared in other media - and of course, cover the movie when it comes out - but the days of a strict DVD schedule are over. I don't know whether to cry or celebrate. I'm a little stunned right now.

Well anyway... My thanks to everyone who came by to read or comment on these reviews over the past couple years, whether steadily or occasionally. And even greater thanks to any and all people who helped create these stories that can veritably be said to be one of the 20th century's greatest influences on modern life, not just in entertainment, but in other spheres of activity as well.

Tomorrow: Comics and novels take center stage, but from tv land, this is Siskoid signing off.


JdR said...

Congratulations and well done.

Anonymous said...

You forgot the best part of the episode: the unintentional humor of Riker being all creepy and kissing the T'Pol hologram. Ewww, just ... ewww!

Anonymous said...

Dude, i cried

De said...

Thanks for your perserverance and devotion to a project so ambitious in its scope. Your diligence is truly inspiring.

Madeley said...

Congratulations! A hell of an accomplishment, and incredibly entertaining, to boot. Very well done.

Matthew Turnage said...

I did not care for this episode on first viewing and haven't watched it in its entirety since. I'm just now wrapping up Voyager on DVD so when I get Enterprise in the new year I'll keep in mind viewing the episode as a Trek finale rather than an Enterprise finale and see if it helps.

There were some major problems in the episode that are hard for me to overlook. We're lead to believe that this is an exceptional crew (that's why they made a show about them right?) and yet nobody got a promotion in the years between "Terra Prime" and "These Are The Voyages"?

Trip's death seemed unnecessary as well; surely he had other options. It was much more Tasha Yar than Spock. Given that this was the last time we would be watching new Star Trek for the forseeable future, I think a little more care could have been taken to give Trip's death more meaning.

Also, there's just no way to convincingly fit the Riker and Troi scenes into "The Pegasus". "These Are The Voyages" undermines that episode as well, in my opinion.

Having said all that, there are good moments in the episode. It's hard to go wrong with Shran, and the ending montage was brilliant.

Congratulations on completing your 2 year mission, Siskoid. I'm looking forward to continuing to get a daily dose of Trek here at the Blog of Geekery.

Sea-of-Green said...

I'm so glad you did these -- it's nice to have comprehensive ratings of all these shows. :-)

googum said...

A milestone--your reviewing, that is. I wish there had been a stronger episode to go out on...killing off arguably the show's most likeable character in the last episode didn't really work for me. (I had the same problem with Anya's death in Buffy.) Maybe the next time I see it, it'll hold up. But again, congratulations and thanks!

Jayunderscorezero said...

Bravo! Congratulations on your achievement (and a most wonderfully geeky one at that)!

As for the episode itself, I agree that it works far better than some naysayers claimed, and is a fine love letter/coda, as you say, although I have to agree with Matthew: Trip's death was probably one of the weakest parts, IMHO.

Still, what a neat way to end not only Trek, but your own run on it. Here's to the next generation of SBoG!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for completing this project Siskoid; for a Trekkie who doesn't get to watch often these days it was a daily slice of home. You've given a group of fans a lot of dedication (I also enjoyed your ccg rolodex back in the day). Oh, and not to force you back to the grind too soon, but will we see a 727 next year?

abc said...

Great reviews, fun reads. Congrats!

Austin Gorton said...

Congrats, and thank you. I enjoyed all your reviews immensely, and plan to reread them as I return to the episodes, from time to time, through the years.

Looking forward to whatever comes next!

hiikeeba said...

Nice job. Wish I'd found it sooner. Fortunately, the archives are there.

FoldedSoup said...

Bravo, and thank you for all your work. It's truly an inspiring job - and ever so impressive from the reader's standpoint!

billjac said...

Thank you for all your effort on this project. I really enjoyed going through the Trek series one more time from this new perspective.

Dan said...

Thanks for two years of great reads, Siskoid. This has been a lot of fun, and I'm looking forward to whatever comes next.

Anonymous said...

Good job, my friend! You have covered every piece of Star Trek on TV and celluloid. Simply incredible.

What next? how about Firefly/Serenity? Not a biggie for you, it'll only take you about 2 weeks. LOL

Anonymous said...

I was disappointed with Trip's death also. It now strikes me as a bit more as Wash's death in Serenity rather than Wesley's death in Angel, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

Wesley's death was the culmination of his character's journey from annoying Brit to actual hero. By the end of Angel, he was my favorite character of the entire Buffyverse (much like Trip was many people's favorite character in Enterprise), and his death had and still does have a major emotional impact on me.

Wash's death, though, still having emotional impact, moreover signified the realism that should be present in such genre shows in that characters should actually drop like flies in the face of what they run into instead of coming up with a heroic save in the last minute. If only Trip's death had occurred at the hands of a better enemy than some space pirate. If he died preventing Romulans from killing Archer and therefore preserving the Federation against it's greatest threat, fewer would probably object to his death.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, I loved your insightful and well thoughtout analysis. Thank you.


Jayunderscorezero said...

Hey, I only just noticed, you've been thinking about following up Enterprise with the comics and novels for quite some time.

Bill D. said...

Well done, sir. I'm not even a big Trek fan (I like it well enough, but I like stuff like Doctor Who and Star Wars better), but I've enjoyed reading all of these write-ups. And you've definitely inspired me to give both DS9 and Enterprise another shot one of these days.

Siskoid said...

Thanks again, all!

Dave said...

Ach, apologies for the delayed congrats, but congrats on finishing THE PROJECT. 2 years man, that's impressive by anyones book. I realise i've missed the boat on voting for what you'll do next, but for me the comics aren't working (and I love comics btw, just not the tie-in's). Is there any chance you can start on Doctor Who? I know you might lose half your audience, but the reviews sing to me when it's a TV prog, not a TV Comic.
Do what you will sir, but that's a fine body of work you have behind you.

Siskoid said...

Doctor Who has three basic problems for me:
1) Not all of them are available.
2) My own Trek reviews were inspired by someone's Who reviews on Outpost Gallifrey.
3) I feel like my mind has been biased by reading the About Time series. As in, what's left to say after that?

If you mean New Who specifically, well, look around the blog. I've done a lot of episode-specific articles. And indeed, I'm about to start up a sort of annotated Series 4.

Sorry the comics don't work for you. I'm not entirely sure they work for me at all times either. I'll reevaluate at some point.

Toby Clark said...

I really get the feeling with this one that the writers didn't pay much attention to The Pegasus.

You said that the speech wasn't long enough for Janeway and Sisko. What?

Kirk: Space, the final frontier.
Picard: These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise
Janeway: Its continuing mission, to explore strange new worlds
Sisko: To seek out new life and new civilisations.
Archer: To boldly go where no man has gone before.

Still isn't perfect, though, given that the speech doesn't apply to DS9 or Voyager.


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