[culture] Now in Bakulavision, in which I try my hand at tv criticism

Yesterday in comments [info]ruralwriter asked me about my watching of Star Trek: Enterprise for the first time, given one of my passing remarks thereupon.

I’m watching Bakulavision for the first time, and I’m not finding it as flawed a show as you seemed to opine in a previous post. In part, I find my perspective is probably affected by the fact I tried to go back to watch TNG…and found it unwatchable. I’m curious what you might find problematic in Enterprise.

I’m not much of a television critic, as I haven’t watched broadcast or cable tv since 1994, and have only caught a few series on DVD or Netflix over the years since. (Specifically, the Battlestar Galactica reboot, Firefly, Futurama, part of Red Dwarf and most of Heroes. And now, Star Trek: Enterprise.) But as longtime readers of this blog will note with an absolute lack of suprise, I do has me some opinions. Here’s what I told in comments [info]ruralwriter, slightly edited for clarity.

Well, to be clear, I continue to be entertained by the show. I am still watching it, partway into Season 2 at this point.

However, the place where I really lost faith was the bit partway through Season 1 where Trip is on an alien ship repairing the hallucinogenic warp drive. (Episode 5, Unexpected.) They’re funny-forehead aliens, with a holodeck that recreates a homeworld scene of a boat on an ocean. Yet when the cute female engineer brings Tripp some food, she hands him something that looks like a bowl of jello shots and says, “This is as close as we could come to water.”

Really? Bipedal oxygen breathers with something very similar to a human metabolism from a world with horizon-spanning bodies of water and you don’t a) drink/metabolize water yourselves and b) with starship level technology can’t synthesize one of the simplest chemical compounds in the universe? That’s a seventh-grade Introductory Physical Science howler, apparently for the sake of a little throwaway alien mystique.

That’s when I decided the script writers were basically idiots, or at least were writing at an idiot level of comprehension.

Also, a number of the plots fail on the very simple point that they have a transporter aboard Enterprise. I realize the transporter is new and unproven and possibly unreliable, but it’s been used a few times, and been discussed at other points when not used for some technical reason like the target area being underground (Season 1, episode 6, Terra Nova). Yet the most recent episode I watched was the Season 2 ep where the captain and Reed go back for the lost communicator (Episode 8, The Communicator) and wind up being arrested and almost executed as spies. There’s a huge fooraw about getting down there in the Suliban cell ship, and cultural contamination, and big old shootout in the prison yard, when in fact all they had to do was use the transporter to pluck the prisoners out of their cell. It would have been a twelve-minute short film if the writers had bothered to remember the logic of their own setting.

So, yeah, written at a level of comprehension of both science and plot logic that pretty much fails for me.

So, do I expect too much from television? Like I said, the show continues to entertain me, but I have to turn off my intelligence insulter to watch it. What do you think?

2 thoughts on “[culture] Now in Bakulavision, in which I try my hand at tv criticism

  1. Cora says:

    I was entertained by season 1 and 2 of Enterprise and hung on through season 3, which was god-awful, because I’d been promised that season 4 would be better. Once the space Nazis from the mirror universe showed up in episode 1 of season 4, I quit watching for good, space Nazis being a dealbreaker for me.

    In the meantime, I have found that I have gone completely off the Star Trek franchise. The only thing I can still watch is the original series as background noise. TNG and Voyager have become unwatchable and I hated DS9 from the beginning.

    And to be honest, when I read that you were watching Enterprise, my first thought was, “For goodness sake, why? There’s so much better stuff out there.” Though given your current situation, Enterprise might be just the right sort of brain candy for you.

    Here are some unsolicited suggestions for speculative TV shows I’ve enjoyed in recent years, that are entertaining and a lot better than Enterprise. All of them are British, because I haven’t enjoyed US speculative offerings in several years now:

    Doctor Who (2005 version): If you want comfort viewing SF, this is probably the best pick. I haven’t been happy with the past couple of seasons, but the first three or four were very good indeed. The child would probably enjoy this as well. Scientific accuracy is laughable, but then no one watches Doctor Who for the science anyway. I’d be careful about the adult spin-off Torchwood though, which is very uneven. I personally enjoyed season 1 and flat-out hated season 2 and beyond, others hate the first seasons and love the third (everybody seems to hate season 4). The other spin-off The Sarah Jane Adventures is aimed at younger viewers and isn’t really of interest, unless you love the Sarah Jane character.

    Misfits: Juvenile delinquents from a British council estate get superpowers. Hijinks and heartbreak ensue. If you liked Heroes, you’ll love this one, because it’s so much better and the young actors are stunning. There’s strong language and sexual content, so you’ll want to watch for yourself before showing this to the child. Though Misfits nails the mindset of troubled teens absolutely perfectly (speaking as a teacher).

    Life on Mars/Ashes to Ashes: A police officer has an accident in the present day and wakes up in 1973 (Life on Mars) or 1981 (Ashes to Ashes) respectively, though there are also signs that he (or she) is in a coma and the 1973/1981 scenes are just a dream. Great mix of retro style cop show and speculative drama. Make sure to watch the UK version, since the short-lived US version is pretty bad.

    Being Human: A vampire, a ghost and a werewolf share a house in Bristol and have to deal with all sorts of supernatural problems, though they only want to live normal human lives. Seasons 1 and 2 are very good, but in season 3 the characters change beyond recognition. Again, make sure to watch the UK version.

    The Fades: Brand-new British series featuring ghosts and the people who see them, zombies and the possible end of the world. The plot is nicely twisty and turny, but the real appeal is the protagonist, a geeky teenager named Paul who discovers that he has superpowers. Plenty of geeky references (Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman are namechecked among others) and another realistic look at contemporary teenagers. The child would probably enjoy this one as well, though again I’d check it first, because there’s some sexual content.

  2. Albatross says:

    I was gonna go off on a big-long rant about the dreadful state of TV writing (precis: employing cheap, desperate recent college graduates because the studios have no respect for their product or their viewers leads to stories akin to Freshman English 101), but the I was going to say “TV should employ professional, experienced writers like Jay Lake.” And as I had that thought, I came up with this picture of Picard and Data stepping out of a 19th Century London storefront and Data replying to a question from Picard, “It appears this Earth orbits the sun on a cogwheel track, Captain.”

    And then my brain shorted out on awesomeness.

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