This is based on an idea from DarklyInclined
, who was wondering how I might rate the rather protracted Dominion War
featured in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
versus the one-season Xindi conflict (a subset of the much larger Temporal Cold War
) as shown in Star Trek: Enterprise
. I thought I'd also open the topic up to other
wars in Trek
, since those two weren't quite the only wars shown in all of the series.
This will be a lengthy post. I've been working on it for a while now. I tend to write essays
instead of simple replies; apologies in advance. Non-Trekkies who don't really give a shit might want to head for another thread. For those Trekkies not well-versed in the subject matter, I will include links to pertinent data where applicable. Those who do choose read this, please bear with me.
You could make it more fun by taking a shot of your favorite alcoholic beverage anytime I bash Rick Berman & Brannon Braga (two of Trek
's longtime writers/producers, both of whom were blamed for Star Trek
's demise and the early cancellation of Enterprise
, if not the near-total downfall of UPN itself) or anytime I mention Ronald D. Moore and Ira Steven Behr (two longtime Trek
scribes who later moved on to Battlestar Galactica
on SyFy) in a postive light. You'll be happily plastered by post's end.
Which did you
think was done best: the Dominion War from DS9
or the Xindi conflict from Enterprise
(or a different conflict featured in one of the other series, like the Klingon/Federation Cold War from TOS
or the brief war against the Klingons in DS9
that served as a prelude to the Dominion War)?
Or, for a much more broad, open-ended question (if it suits you): do you think Star Trek
handles a mature subject such as war
well or poorly?
If you really don't care about my lengthy diatribe on the Dominion War vs. the Xindi conflict (maybe because you didn't live your entire life in your parents' basement and you actually did
have a social life), just skip past this and post your response already. Otherwise, feel free to keep reading.
I'll open the discussion with my response...
I think Deep Space Nine
handled the Dominion War fairly well. They didn't just rush into it head-on. The writers gave it a great build-up, slowly tip-toeing into it, mentioning the Dominion here and there throughout Season Two (the Dominion were first mentioned in "Rules of Acquisition
", a Ferengi episode
, no less!) before introducing us to their foot soldiers, the genetically-grown [url]=http://memory-alpha.org/wiki/Jem'HadarJem'Hadar[/url], in the Season 2 finale
. Even after that, the Dominion didn't quite take center stage yet, opting instead for a Cold War
against the Alpha Quadrant powers, during which they covertly started two wars involving the Klingons - a war between the Klingons and the Cardassians
(which the Maquis
would get involved in) and renewed hostilities between the Klingons and the Federation
. After destabilizing the Alpha Quadrant's major powers, the Dominion finally invaded. Brilliant tactic! By then, the Federation was so shell-shocked from having to deal with wars on all borders (save the Romulan Neutral Zone) that they barely had the resources to fight the Dominion, a nigh-unstoppable force compared to the Federation. The Dominion seemed militarily superior in all respects: non-stop construction of warships while the Federation was still trying to convert aging exploration vessels into battleships; they could grow Jem'Hadar at an exponential rate (and even tailor-make them for warfare in that part of the galaxy
) while Starfleet couldn't recruit new officers fast enough; the Dominion were united while Starfleet was divided between the pacifists and the war-mongers (usually represented by a shadowy "rogue" group of Starfleet Intelligence called Section 31
, a sort of Starfleet "Men in Black" that utilized very dirty tactics like assassinations, cover-ups and even genocide to preserve the Federation; this was the series' attempt at exploring a darker side of Starfleet that I, for one, appreciated). Good mix of drama, tension and action all around, plus it was an interesting examination of the Federation through darker lenses than we're used to.
While Deep Space Nine
's executive producer, Rick Berman (Roddenberry's hand-picked successor), wanted the Dominion War to last only three or four episodes tops, DS9
's lead writers - Ira Steven Behr and Ronald D. Moore (themselves chosen by Berman for their outstanding work on The Next Generation
and Deep Space Nine
, both of whom would later helm the Battlestar Galactica
reboot and create its prequel series Caprica
) - conned him into allowing the Dominion War to play out until its "natural" end, which came during the final episode
of the series. Say what you will about the Dominion War as a storyline and how it diverges from Roddenberry's utopian vision of the future or about Deep Space Nine
as a series, I think the Dominion War worked successfully (mostly), given its purpose as a method of deconstructing Roddenberry's notions of the Federation as a utopian society. Ira Steven Behr re-imagined Deep Space Nine
as a darker, grittier version of Roddenberry's vision, and given how the series was written before that (set aboard a Cardassian space station by Michael Pillar - the brain behind some of the best TNG
episodes ever, including "The Best of Both Worlds
" - who imagined the series as a "frontier town in space" filled with broken individuals, former terrorist "freedom fighters", orphaned aliens and unscrupulous bartender/merchants), the series worked well as such. The Dominion War, while I admit it was rather protracted (and ultimately weakened the hell out of Season 7, when the writers had to figure out a quick way to end the war in only one season
after building the story arc to be a lengthy epic), worked overall as the ultimate test of Roddenberry's dream. When such a dream - the notion of humankind striving to better itself through peace and cooperation - is threatened by outside forces, what will humanity endure to protect it? The approach to this was very realistic, from the major portions of the story ("Operation Return
", the re-taking of DS9 after it was taken over by the Dominion
) to the humdrum day-to-day stuff (Sisko's grim ritual of posting casualty reports
from the war every Friday). Ultimately, the war took a bitter toll on everyone involved, especially Captain Sisko; he would later commit acts that many Trek
fans consider cardinal sins
against Roddenberry's lofty ideals - specifically helping a former Cardassian spy murder a Romulan senator in cold blood and blame the Dominion for it in the masterpiece episode "In the Pale Moonlight
" - just to bring a quicker resolution to the war by bringing the Romulans into it. By the series' end, the Federation is saved, and all the major goals of the series - bringing an end to the Cardassian threat and putting Bajor on the fast-track to membership in the Federation - have been met, along with the added bonus of creating a tentative peace between the Federation, the Klingons and the Romulans. Additionally, Ira Steven Behr was able to inject a bit of Judaism into the story through the Bajorans and their Emissary (messiah figure), Benjamin Sisko, whose story arc Behr based loosely on Moses.
While the story arc itself had its problems and the series as a whole did have its flaws (overuse of the Ferengi as comic relief, a very weak seventh season with a rushed finish, poor to non-existent exit strategy for the Dominion War story arc, etc), I think the Dominion War worked overall and helped define Deep Space Nine
as a series, for better or worse.
By contrast, the Xindi storyline in Enterprise
was a good idea that was not as well executed as the Dominion War... but that describes many
of the ideas Berman & Braga have come up with over the years. To begin with, the concept itself was really a clone of the Dominion War done to drive up Enterprise
's lackluster Nielson ratings. Created as a prequel by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga (both of whom had lost their touch by then, in my not-so-humble opinion), Enterprise
wasn't doing very well as a series. This was largely due to poor stories that either lacked internal continuity (on an episode-by-episode basis
) or pissed all over established continuity for either the series or
the franchise (by either introducing certain concepts from TNG
way too soon in the timeline or by introducing potentially major
threats to Earth in one episode, then completely ignoring
them and the story-telling opportunities they could have raised in later episodes by never mentioning them again
and zooming off to some other would-be threat). Remembering the brief viewer increase caused by the Dominion War in DS9
, Berman & Braga decided to bring their own war into Enterprise
with the Xindi.
While that might
have been a good idea, the concept suffered problems from the start. To begin with, the entire Xindi arc wasn't its own story; rather, it was just one season-long subset of a larger conflict that was shown, but never explained
in the series: namely, the Temporal Cold War
. No real details were ever given as to what the nature of the Temporal Cold War really was (a cold war across time itself, we assume?) or who first started it. We know some of the factions, but not all, nor do we truly understand their motives, beyond the old "Saturday morning cartoon villain" m.o. of "destroy the Federation
!" that gets so
cliché. Like many concepts from Berman & Braga, it was a great concept poorly executed and given little true depth. We saw precious little of this concept in Enterprise
(aside from the occasional Suliban
episode or the odd appearance by either "Future Guy
" or Daniels
, none of whom give nearly enough exposition), and what we did see was rather lackluster. Originally, this concept was expressed through a rather poorly-conceived race called the Suliban
(which, guessing by their name, I assume were supposed to be some sort of heavily veiled parody of the Taliban?), though that didn't quite pan out the way Berman & Braga hoped. With more viewers slipping away, they rushed the Xindi storyline into production.
Again, it began with a great concept: some faction in the Temporal Cold War called the Sphere Builders
, you couldn't give them a better name than that
?) attempted an invasion of the Federation in the 26th Century, but the Federation repelled them. Instead of retaliating in that era, the Sphere Builders attempted to prevent the founding of the Federation. (As time travel expert M.J. Young
would attest to on his website about temporal anomalies
, such a notion has its own problems, but Star Trek
has always played rather fast and loose with the concept of time travel, anyway.) To do this, they provided the Xindi
with trumped-up evidence that the Federation would one day cause the destruction of their homeworld. (So, they're fighting a war over something that hasn't happened yet based on evidence "from the future" that could easily be manufactured? We can manufacture war photos using Photoshop right now
. What kind of photo/video/hologram-doctoring technology would they have in the 22nd Century? Surely the Xindi thought of that!) This managed to get the Xindi moving in high gear, and they initiated a conflict against humanity - the Federation's major founding member - by attacking Earth in "The Expanse
's Season 3 opener. Enterprise
gets recalled from its mission of exploration (which, I'm sorry to say, really
hadn't been going very well, as the crew of Enterprise
either nearly got their ship destroyed each episode or spent as much time as they could pissing off the Vulcans, who - for whatever reason - were written to be colossal uptight assholes
during the series) and assigned to head for a massive area of space called the Delphic Expanse
in search of the Xindi's homeworld. Once there, they would either parlay with the Xindi's leaders and try for peace, or kick their asses and come back home victorious.
This war lasted all of one season
(when has an actual war ever lasted only one year
? Hell, Voyager
took seven damn years
to cross the Delta Quadrant - a feat they only barely
accomplished by cheating several
times via numerous space/time "shortcuts" - and the NX-01 Enterprise
, which is technologically inferior
to even the [/i]shuttlecraft[/i] of Kirk's day, was able to cross this vast expanse of space in one year
and return home in less time than that
??). Some of the Xindi sided with our heroes; the others said, "Fuck it!" and launched a superweapon at Earth, which our heroes then had to stop in the Season 3 finale "Zero Hour
". Since the producers weren't quite certain if Enterprise
would return for Season 4 or not, they tried to bring all the major plot threads they had woven into the series (what few plot threads they actually bothered
with, like the switch from a potential Archer/T'Pol pairing to a much more intriguing T'Pol/Tucker match)... Then they completely
threw a giant WTF into it by ending the episode on a shot of an alien in a Nazi uniform
. (I kid you not! Click the damn link and see for yourselves already!)
To be honest, Enterprise
as a series bored me to tears (except for the occasionally interesting or even good episode, like "Regeneration
"), and the Xindi storyline - while offering a few intriguing tidbits here and there (like "E²
") - was something I was rather blasé about altogether. To start with, I had grown weary of the emotional highs and lows of the Dominion War, so another war in an entirely different Trek
series - especially when that war wasn't the Earth-Romulan War
we had been promised so
many times - just didn't hold as much appeal to me. I had just come to terms with the ending of Voyager
(good or bad), and I wasn't quite ready to commit to Enterprise
the same way I had for TNG
. Moreover, I had just started watching a different Roddenberry-based series - Andromeda
- and had grown quite fond of it. The episodes I had seen of the Xindi war were very reminiscent of both the good and bad aspects of the Dominion War with a few interesting (and many not
so interesting) twists. The writing, unfortunately, was still done by Berman & Braga (way
past their prime, if you ask me) and the characters were still as... well, dull as they had been since series launch.
In Season 4, they left it to new Enterprise
scribe Manny Coto - Brannon's & Braga's replacement, as they were refraining from writing duties (yay!) - to finish out the faux cliffhanger they created with the silly Season 3 finale "space Nazi" end scene. This he did in the two-part "Storm Front
", which explained how aliens had gone back in time and aided Nazi Germany, changing the timeline and enslaving America, and how our heroes had wound up back in the 1940s and blah blah blah... Normally, I enjoy alternate histories, but these two episodes stretched the concept beyond credibility.
After this horrid start, Manny Coto gave us a kick-ass final season of Enterprise
, as (unlike Berman & Braga) he actually had a little something called talent
. By then, however, the damage to the series had been done by Berman & Braga, and not even the Xindi conflict or the talented Manny Coto's intriguing fan-wank scripts loaded with awesome original series references could save it. Enterprise
was cancelled. The Earth-Romulan War plot they kept promising us and building up to? Never happened.
As interesting as portions of the Xindi conflict were, maybe they could have focused on the Earth-Romulan War instead? *sigh*
To sum: Dominion War good
, Xindi War so-so
Anyway, that's my two cents on the issue. Apologies for both the length of the post and the time which I posted it. (I hadn't gotten to see my sister on her birthday, so I was taking her around town last night to make up for it.) What's your take on the whole mess?