We had to confront it eventually, and tonight The Girlfriend and I started Enterprise. I’m already fairly familiar with the general parameters of the show due to my fascination with reading Memory Alpha, and it seems clear to me that the show was not just a creative failure, but a conceptual failure. The problem is that it starts off with the first mission of Starfleet. By that time, all the really interesting events have already happened. How did humanity transition from a security state characterized by vast inequality to a planet with no war and no poverty? Why would humanity submit to the guidance of the Vulcans, who apparently did not use force in their dealings with Earth? Basically, the Star Trek franchise tells us about the dystopian pre-First Contact Earth in several iterations (the Eugenics Wars that produced Khan, the military tribunal in the pilot of TNG, the lockdown society that prompted the Bell Riots in DS9, etc.), and they show us First Contact itself — and then they skip ahead to the point where everything important has already been decided.
It’s difficult to imagine what a show about the transition would have looked like. Perhaps it would have been a bit like The Wire‘s experiment with the ad hoc legalization of drugs in “Hamsterdam” — but instead of being shut down, it would have been allowed to evolve and spread, until we could envision an entire society in which the War on Drugs was over.