May Bob have mercy for what I’m about to do…
As the ratings for Voyager began to wane at the end of its run, the decision was made to revitalise and modernise Trek for its next incarnation. Part of the reason to make this a prequel was to allow for less refined, more imperfect human characters. Early on in production they toyed with the idea of having the first series be about the construction of the first human starship, and its voyages from the second series on, but this was dropped quite quickly.
Early on in production, Rick Berman and Brannon Braga were collaborating heavily on the story, with nobody assigned to write the script at that point. Ultimately they decided to collaborate, with Braga recollecting that Berman made the offer, and Braga then agreed, saying that he didn’t want to write a feature-length episode on his own.
The script was written before any of the cast had been selected. Scott Bakula didn’t accept the role until Garry Hart, a Paramount executive had read the script and said that Bakula was the first person he thought of for Archer.
Similarly, Jolene Blalock didn’t go for her audition until after she’d read the script, which she described as “just brilliant”
Connor Trinneer didn’t realise until after he was cast that this wasn’t just a pilot but a full series commission.
A number of the background characters were named in honour of the TOS cast - Admirals Forrest, Leonard and Williams were named after DeForrest Kelly, Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner respectively. and the Vulcan diplomat Tos was named after the acronym itself.
Admiral Forrest was played by Vaughan Armstrong, an actor who to this day holds the record for playing the most different races in Star Trek.He’s played three different Klingons, two Cardassians, a Romulan, a Vidiian, a Hirogen and two one-off aliens, but Forrest was his first human role. He also played a Narn, Ta’Lon in Babylon 5. Tos was played by Thomas Kopache, another frequent Trek background player.
Klaang was played by Thomas “Tiny” Lister, the second WW
FE wrestler to appear in the franchise. The first being The Rock in Voyager, and the only other one to date being The Big Show
James Conway directed the episode, he was a veteran of many Trek episodes in the past, including Way of the Warrior. He was more than willing to do the episode, and was amazed at the level of effects the script called for. He was also highly involved in the casting process for the show, which took 5 weeks to complete.
The effects load was incredibly heavy for the episode, Foundation Imaging alone had to do 75 shots, with a total of around 300. However, the two most difficult effects to create were the echoing movements in the room the Suliban use to communicate with the contact in the future, and Archer beaming out while running at the end. Scott Bakula was quite amused to discover that last part.
Like Caretaker, there was a lot of location filming. The farm sequences were shot in Bakersfield, California, Hoshi’s classroom and the beach young Archer and his dad were filmed in Malibu, while some of the Rigel X scenes were shot at the Redondo power plant and Hyperion water treatment plant.
There was a party for foreign advertisers on the Paramount lot the night before one of the location days at the water treatment plant, with a free bar. After getting drunk, Connor Trinneer took 4 bottles from behind the bar without permission and went home. After the shoot the following day, Trinneer received a call at home from Rick Berman. He was feeling quite guilty about his actions the prior night and was expecting to be told he was fired, but instead Berman and called to say they were changing his character’s name from Spike to Trip. He was understandably relieved.
The episode first aired on September 26th, 2001. Scott Bakula recorded a special message asking people to donate blood to the American Red Cross in the aftermath of the World Trade Centre attacks. The soundtrack was actually recorded on the 10th and 11th of September, with the musicians agreeing to work on the second day despite the trauma of that morning’s events. In the liner notes for the soundtrack CD, Dennis Mccarthy said it was the hardest session of his career.
The cast and crew were very happy with the episode. Brannon Braga said that it was the most ambitious of all the pilots , and that the action sequences and production were highly impressive. He also compared his experience on Broken Bow to that on the pilot episode of Terra Nova, saying that the former felt like a much bigger production, despite the latter being touted as the biggest-budget pilot episode at the time of filming. It has the second-highest ratings of any Trek episode.
I don’t have a cute story about my first experience with Enterprise. I remember being interested in the show during production, the idea of setting the show in the setting’s early history, Scott Bakula being cast and a few other details at least piqued my curiosity.
But then a copy of the script leaked, and I wound up reading it, and it really felt like more of the same. So I never made an effort to watch Enterprise. I caught an episode or two here and there, but I never saw Broken Bow until Trek returned to Netflix here a while back. And I guess it’s OK?
Like, from a production standpoint, this is excellent. The CG is showing its age now, but for 2001 it’s great, and the sets and props are some of the best Trek’s ever had. While I think Crusade did the jumpsuit as a ship’s uniform look better, the motif of making Enterprise look sorta like a nuclear sub works. I like the baseball caps as well, though they’re a bit plain. Like a mission patch or a more stylised NX-01 would have been cool.
The problems begin when you get to the cast. Scott Bakula is like 50% great, 50% awful. His line reads for anything technical are terrible, and his passive aggressive shit with T’Pol is just horrible. Though he does much better with the more personal moments, the emotive and the action scequences. Jolene Blalock is probably the best actor on the show, she does a great Vulcan and clearly gets the whole thing that Vulcans use logic keep their strong passions under control. John Bilingsley is her main competition but he doesn’t get a whole lot to do. Phlox is easily the most rounded character in the episode, with an interesting mix of bemusement, detachment and excitement to him.
The rest of the human characters are flat as hell though. Like they have one trait each - Reed is taciturn, Trip is hot-headed, Travis is FROM SPAAACE (and I had to go look his name up just there, the characters are that forgettable), and Hoshi is anxious. And I still find it hard to tell Reed and Trip apart. And this isn’t to say that there’s no good moments with these actors - there’s an amusing bit early on where Reed does an impression of Trip, and Trip uses the exact same phrase and inflection to him a few minutes later. Or Archer telling Hoshi to tell Klaang to shut up, and she yells “SHUT UP”. But for the most part they’re just there, walking around like Rory Calhoun in a jumpsuit.
The other major flaw is that for an attempt to modernise Trek, they doubled down on a lot of the things that annoyed the hell out of me for the last year or two I watched the shows regularly. There’s a lack of technobabble here that’s refreshing, but the whole Temporal Cold War thing stands out like a sore thumb as a leftover Voyager episode they padded out to bcome a story arc. If Stephen Baxter or a hard SF author of his calibre proposed a story like that, I’d be intruiged, but the Trek writers? I had no faith in their ability to deliver, and apparently that wasn’t unfounded. And the Suliban suck as an enemy race! One of those good idea on paper things - and Phlox autopsying one to find all the altered organs was cool, but the whole green spotty bald man look was stupid.
I’m trying not to be negative here, because there’s some good in this episode. But if Voyager was great potential squandered, Enterprise feels like it went off the tracks too early to be fixed. Broken Bow is ultimtely mediocre, with the good elements drowned out by the stuff that’s not bad, just boring. And that’s the worst thing about this whole sorry afair.
No, wait. The worst thing about it is that young Archer is using paint right out of the pot, and he’s not even thinning it when he’s working on his model starship at the start of the episode. But the whole mediocrity thing is a close second.