Enterprise and the Early Days of the Star Trek Expanded Universe

Enterprise only had four seasons to explore the early days of Star Trek. Luckily, there's more out there for fans to discover.

Star Trek: Enterprise ended its brief television run in May 2005, cutting short our journey with what turned out to be the original crew of the starship Enterprise. For the time that it was on our screens it let us see what went on in the universe before the era of Kirk and Spock and captured the imagination of many fans. Those that enjoyed its prequel stories unfortunately did not get to see many of the events that led up to The Original Series play out on screen due to the show’s cancellation.

However, the end of Enterprise on TV didn’t mean the end of opportunities to learn more about Captain Archer, his crew, and that time period. Thankfully books have continued these stories and offer us a further glimpse at the characters’ adventures, expanding the world that Enterprise introduced.

This is good news for fans of the show. Despite its rocky reputation, Enterprise did have loyal viewers who wanted to see stories told in this prequel setting play out on TV. They weren’t the only ones who wanted to further explore this time period, either. Manny Coto, writer and executive producer of the show’s last two seasons, told Den of Geek that as someone who grew up as a Star Trek fan and loved The Original Series, working on Enterprise was tremendous fun.

“What was fun about Enterprise for me was being able to touch on old Original Series aliens and themes and ideas and see them in their origins and also see them brought up to present times as far as technically. The Andorians, which were always kind of a favorite species of mine, seeing them presented a little more realistically was a tremendous amount of fun,” Coto said. “Also seeing the Vulcans and being able to go to planet Vulcan and explore and dig into the lore of Vulcan and things like that which The Original Series kind of touched on and the later series never really went into in a real deep way. Enterprise was able to do that.”

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Despite having a short run on television compared to other Star Trek series, Coto thinks the show was able to accomplish its goal of offering insight into this period leading up to the idyllic Federation viewers were familiar with.

“I think particularly in the last two seasons when we were consciously trying to really push the show more into a prequel, we set up a lot of story threads which I think people have seized upon in the novels and people have not been able to let go,” he said.

If the show wasn’t canceled, fans would have seen much more come of these story threads in future seasons.

“I would have liked to do two things primarily and that is to really show how the Federation came into being and finally the founding of the Federation, the actual founding of the Federation, and tie that into the Romulan War,” Coto said. “I think over the years as continuity’s been worked up the Romulan War has been something that has kind of been tied I think with the founding of the Federation so I thought those two events would have been really great to explore because they kind of make Star Trek what it is, the concept of the Federation and multiple species coming together for a united front. I think that would have been the primary tale I would have loved to [have] told.”

Even though the show came to an end, as Coto said these ideas did not disappear. Instead they continued to be explored in other media. Novels continued the story of Archer and his crew, and the years before the Federation. Not only have fans been given the chance to see the story play out in novels but an in-universe history book titled Star Trek: Federation – The First 150 Years also provides a fascinating look at this era, representing it as if it truly took place featuring “historic” documents, art, and more.

Author Andy Mangels co-wrote the Enterprise novels Last Full Measure, The Good that Men Do, and Kobayashi Maru with his former writing partner Michael A. Martin. Their first novel, Last Full Measure, was released in April 2006 after the series ended and took place during season three. In this season the crew goes on a mission to stop a second attack on Earth by aliens known as the Xindi, who killed millions on Earth in a probe attack in the season two finale “The Expanse.” Throughout the season they search for a superweapon being built by the Xindi that could destroy Earth. Accompanying them are a group of MACOs (Military Assault Command Operations). While the story took place during the show, the book set the scene for continuing the story after the series finale.

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“We thought it would be interesting to write a very military novel about Starfleet which was a more peaceful organization and the MACOs which were very clearly a military organization,” Mangels told Den of Geek. “We were given two directives. One was write something set in this time period and the other was write something that opens and closes the novel that is set after the series ended.”

This framing of the novel addressed one of the aspects of the series that many fans disliked which was the final episode “These Are The Voyages…” which was set six years after the previous episode “Terra Prime.” The series finale focused on The Next Generation characters William Riker and Deanna Troi watching a holodeck recreation of Enterprise’s final mission before being decommissioned and the United Federation of Planets formed. These events included the controversial death of the character Commander Charles “Trip” Tucker III.

“We were given the job to find a way to undue the end of the series without violating continuity and do it in this book set a year prior to the end of the series. So we decided to do it in a framing sequence at the beginning and at the end that framed the story and revealed that Trip Tucker was still alive and that the rest of the book was a flashback,” he explained.

Not violating continuity while working in the prequel era was not just something the books had to consider. The TV show also had to deal with this challenge. To Coto Enterprise’s challenges were the same as with all prequels in that you know where the story is going and thus where the series is ultimately ending. He had to be careful with a lot of continuity along the way.  

Star Trek has a very detailed continuity that fans are particularly conscious of and are very picky about. One example is the Romulans in The Original Series. It was the first meeting of the Romulans on screen [in the episode “Balance of Terror”]. It was said that the Romulans and humans had never seen each other,” Coto said. “So in the prequel we wanted to have Romulans [and] we had to make sure that they never actually meet, that was one of the continuity issues so things like that. When you have a universe as well worked up as Star Trek was, making sure you don’t violate what’s been done is an important thing.”

While the show ended before it could touch further on the Romulans like Coto wanted, Mangels was able to bridge the gap leading up to the Romulan War with the two books The Good that Men Do and Kobayashi Maru. They worked with a timeline to decide how events that took place during this period should be included.

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“We had a timeline of ‘well, this is going to happen in 6 months and this is going to happen in a year. This is going to happen in 90 days’ or whatever, so we were able to kind of say ‘ok which events do we want to build into the framework of our story? Where are the characters now? Where is the universe now? Where’s Starfleet?’ And we were kind of able to pick and choose do we want to address this directly or is this going on in the background? Do they have their own adventure, but then they hear that something happened on Earth or they hear that something happened on Q’onoS, the Klingon home world, or something like that? Are they directly involved with it or is it just are we aware that this is happening?” Mangels said.

The books didn’t just offer a look at what was happening with Starfleet and the Enterprise crew during this time either, but Mangels said they were able to show what was going on from the Romulan perspective as well which both authors were enthusiastic about.

“As we were working with the Romulans and even some of the Klingons and other alien races that we did we always made sure to write chapters from their perspective and not make them villains in their own eyes. They always say that a villain doesn’t believe that he’s a villain. If he believes he’s a villain, he’s insane. The Joker believes he’s a villain, he’s insane. Darth Vader doesn’t think he’s a villain. Lex Luther doesn’t think he’s a villain. They think what they’re doing is the right thing to do and so we did that with the Romulans and the Klingons and anybody else who was kind of an antagonist in our stories,” he explained.

Dealing with how and why Trip survived was explored in The Good that Men Do, a novel set after season four’s “Terra Prime,” in which Mangels said they took a page from the last show and the holodeck recreation of what happened. They looked at the holodeck story as similar to someone reading a history book. They wondered who programmed the computer and where exactly it was getting its facts, determining that it was just one version of history and not one that was correct. They once again used a framing sequence that showed Deep Space Nine’s Nog in the future figuring out the history books and files were tampered with for a specific reason. He figures out what really happened with Trip’s death and about more issues with the timeline.

“There were little problems with the Star Trek timelines where like ‘well this happened here but no, this other episode of Next Generation said it happened during this time period and Deep Space Nine said it happened here’ or ‘The Original Series said it happened here but Voyager said it happened here.’ There were all these little bits and pieces where things would be off so we said ‘ok let’s figure out how to make it all sync up and why it all syncs up.’ In the process of that we were able to kind of talk about why Trip is thought to be dead. We were able to bring some closure to the relationship between Trip and T’Pol as we knew it from the TV show while still acknowledging the fact that Trip wasn’t actually dead. Then he undertakes this spy mission to go undercover and so it was very complex what we had to do with the series.”

The Enterprise novels themselves did not have to worry about being contradicted since they were the only way the series was explored beyond the TV show, unlike its predecessors which received feature films or were continued in additional media like comic books. With no new TV shows to make changes as well, the novels stand out for having nothing outside the book universe to refute their prequel stories, helping make them a particularly special edition to the Star Trek world.

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The syncing up and dealing with the timeline however is part of what made the books enjoyable for Mangels.

“For me a big part of the fun in writing these specific Enterprise books was that it’s kind of like putting a puzzle together that’s also connect the dots. We have to not just put the puzzle together but we have to put it together in a way that the dots connected, not just the pieces fit. You could go the easy way and say ‘that story was untrue’ or ‘that story didn’t exist’ and we didn’t say that. For instance even with the holodeck thing we didn’t say the holodeck story didn’t exist, we just said the holodeck didn’t have the whole story.”

The authors’ sequel to The Good that Men Do, Kobayashi Maru, dealt with a concept very familiar to fans. First seen in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, the Kobayashi Maru is a no-win scenario test taken by cadets on the command track at Starfleet Academy. This became a real event in the novel. According to Mangels, when he and Martin were assigned to write the book it was one they sweated about a lot. They had to figure out what Kobayashi Maru was and why it was so important in Star Trek history.

“There were a lot of question marks. ‘What does this mean? How do we make this satisfying for everybody that’s wondered for forty or fifty years, what is the no-win scenario? What is Kobayashi Maru?’ And for us it almost really was a no-win scenario because whatever we did somebody was not going to like it,” he said.

It’s a prime example of the challenges faced in revisiting events fans have already heard of. Mangels said it’s interesting that out of all their Trek books the Enterprise novels received the most mixed reviews because “so many people had it in their minds how things went” and “had so many expectations as to what they thought had happened.”

That is the slippery slope of the prequel and also the fascinating aspect of the time period. The challenge has not slowed down the exploration of this era though. Other authors have continued the story in novels such as The Romulan War: Beneath the Raptor’s Wing, The Romulan War: To Brave the Storm, Rise of the Federation: A Choice of Futures, Rise of the Federation: Tower of Babel, and Rise of the Federation: Uncertain Logic.

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Why has the appeal remained to explore this area in Star Trek history more fully? Coto thinks it’s the fascinating story for one and “thinking about a human ship that has crossed space for the first time and how you go from there to this powerful alliance that defends multiple worlds.”

“Also I think there’s a part of Star Trek that has always resonated with our world today and I think there’s the idea of how a group of diverse species some who hate each other and don’t want to get along, like for instance the Vulcans and Andorians, can kind of band together to defend against a larger threat and also for exploration. I think that resonates with today’s world as Star Trek always does,” he said.

To Mangels, what makes the Enterprise era interesting is addressing questions like “how does Earth get from being a militaristic society to the more utopian society that we saw by the time we go to Kirk’s era or even more so in Next Generation?”

“How does Starfleet go from being an almost militaristic force to a solely scientific force and how do these characters who are struggling to explore the galaxy, how do they find peace in the midst of war? That was really fertile space to play in because you could really examine what kind of conflicts people have internally. What kind of conflicts they had morally. What kind of conflicts they had physically. What kind of conflicts did they have scientifically? And what kind of conflicts did they have politically?” Mangels said.

“All those conflicts came into play during the time of Enterprise and by the time of Kirk’s era or Picard’s era a lot of those conflicts were in the past. They’d already been dealt with. We were able to really look at how are they resolved or how were they fought or how was the galaxy changed by the actions of the Enterprise crew and other crews and what part did Archer and his people play in history. Because we already knew what happened afterwards so what part did they play in history? I think that was what made Enterprise the most interesting thing to do was the conflict and the question of what part did they play in that history.”

These questions and situations continue to make the time period an attractive one to explore. It’s an era teased in the Star Trek franchise for so long that the curiosity to see how it played out remains. Enterprise and its time is an essential piece to the puzzle for understanding how Starfleet and the United Federation of Planets became the organizations seen in The Original Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager.

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