Warren Ellis, creator of "The Auhority," "Planetary," "Orbiter" "Red" and loads of other amazing comic books you should run out and purchase immediately, reviewed Wednesday’s “Enterprise” opener for his email-distributed Bad Signal column. It’s both pointed and laugh-out-loud funny, and Mr. Ellis just gave us permission to post it here!
[BAD SIGNAL] Flogging A Dead Horse
Sept. 10, 2003
Consider this therapy, as I've felt like shit all week so far.
Through magic, I watched the first episode of the new season of ENTERPRISE this morning. As regular readers will recall, I follow these things through a kind of Darwinian interest in tv drama.
Everyone knows that theme tune because everyone hates it. A sort of sub-Creed pomp rock. Music for old people. Again, the regulars will know of my slightly bizarre fascination with credit sequences. They stamp the identity on the show, require great skill and invention, and can make or break the thing. The only intelligence evident in the vile STAR TREK: VOYAGER was in the quite beautiful credit sequence, if you turn the volume off. ENTERPRISE's credit sequence, too, is clever and attractive. If you turn the music off. If you've got the music on, well, you poor bastard... but you can at least see where work has been done to match the visuals to the sound. The point where the International Space Station morphs and grows in speeded-up time is matched by a howling guitar from Session Musician #1143, for instance. So, yeah. The music is a horrible horrible misstep, but there was at least thought.
How do you make that theme tune worse?
Simple. Keep the vocal line and make a new mix, adding a string section, lots of strummy guitars and a new percussion track, making it into a full-blown oldie AOR nightmare. Also, due to your new and yet somehow festeringly ancient mix, mistime all the sound-to-vision cues in the original, so that the music just sits there totally independent of the visuals.
It really would have been much easier and cheaper for someone to record a voiceover along the lines of "We really don't know what the fuck we're doing here. Hold on, this'll be over in 40 seconds" and run that instead of the music. Using the original mix in the first two series at least made a statement, even if that statement was "We are very old. Is this what the young folk of today like listening to? Does this sound like one of those popular beat combos from the hit parade?" Using a remix -- particularly one this ugly and tired -- just says "We know something's wrong with this, but we don't know what."
I use credit sequences the way shamen use animal entrails. You know, instinctively, that Something Is Wrong.
You can extrapolate that out to the show. They know ENTERPRISE isn't working, but they really don't know why. So they introduce Terrorist Aliens -- a race comprised of five divergent intelligent species, the equivalent of humans, dolphins, mantises, bears and lizards all sharing the same intelligence rating. They live inside The Delphic Expanse, a kind of Afghanistan of space where spooky people hide in metaphorical caves and Nothing Makes Sense. And they add the MACOs, who are basically the Marines from ALIENS, except terribly polite and middle-class, like everyone else in the future. (Steven Culp, who plays the head of the marines, is actually a bloody good actor who did a fine turn as Bobby Kennedy in THIRTEEN DAYS.)
Because the Enterprise crew aren't hard enough to take on terrorist aliens alone.
There you go. Right here. That's the point where the producers should have gotten their coats and gone home.
Imagine you've been watching this show for the last two years. Just for a second, no need to call the bloody doctor's. Assume you've been enjoying the adventures of presumably tough and resourceful spacefaring types exploring and taming their little bit of the galaxy. And here's the third season of stories, presenting their greatest challenge yet.
And they say fuck it, we better take on a bloody great squad of Marines to do the tough stuff for us, eh? I might break a fucking fingernail fighting terrorist aliens.
Or, if you will:
"Well... Spock. I've considered the.... situation. And. I. Think it would be best if... we turned around, went back home and got a lot of soldiers todothefightingforus."
"Dr McCoy, please observe. The Captain's entire penis has broken off at the root. Fascinating."
Basic rules of serial storytelling: don't totally fucking undermine your protagonists unless you have a damn good story-driven reason for doing so that leads to a decent conclusion without pressing the reset button.
It's a release to know that I won't need to keep tabs on what ENTERPRISE is doing. Because, like VOYAGER, it's not going to be doing anything. It's probably going to be dragged out to seven series because all the others were, and to do less is to look like a failure. But you can write them off. Because the production team admit it in their work right here: we don't know what's wrong. We don't know what to do.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, finally, the conclusion of the Star Trek franchise. And thank Christ for that.
In another couple of years, STAR WARS will be all over, and the lifting of these two things from the world will be like removing a toxic waste dump from the landscape of the mind.
© Warren Ellis
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