Aug 28, 2023

6 Ways Enterprise’s Archer Broke & Created Star Trek’s Captain Mold

As a prequel, Star Trek: Enterprise retconned Captain Jonathan Archer as the creator of certain tropes while going where no Captain has gone before.

Star Trek: Enterprise's Captain Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula) both broke and created the mold of Captain of the Enterprise thanks to the series being a prequel. Set from 2151 to 2154, with its final episode glimpsing events from 2161, Enterprise chronicled the first starship by that name, the NX-01, which was Starfleet's first Warp 5-capable starship that allowed for galactic exploration. The NX-01 Enterprise's crew were true pioneers, and Jonathan Archer was regarded by future generations as "the greatest explorer of the 22nd century."

Of course, Enterprise was actually the fifth live-action Star Trek series, and it followed the more widely-seen and more highly-regarded Star Trek: The Original Series and Star Trek: The Next Generation. TOS' Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) and TNG's Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) predated the creation of Captain Archer by decades, and together, they established the common tropes associated with what it meant to be Captain of the Enterprise. Jonathan Archer and his NX-01 Enterprise were a retcon that changed what was previously known about Star Trek's beginnings. By preceding Kirk, Picard, and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds' Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount), here are 3 ways Archer broke the previous Enterprise Captain's mold and 3 ways he established what Kirk, Pike, and Picard became known for.

Star Trek: Enterprise and Captain Jonathan Archer were more contemporary by design. Enterprise's 22nd-century setting allowed Star Trek producers Rick Berman and Brannon Braga to decidedly move away from the look and feel of Star Trek: The Next Generation's 24th-century era. Enterprise more closely resembled how people looked, dressed, and talked in 2001 when the series aired, even though the show was set 150 years in the future.

Captain Archer and the characters of Star Trek: Enterpriseliked to dress casually and even wear baseball caps. Their manner of speech was also more colloquial than the dialogue spoken by Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) or Captain Picard. Enterprise's Starfleet uniforms were forebearers of the jumpsuits worn on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager, but they also had pockets. And on their off time, the NX-01 Enterprise crew liked to relax with movie nights, compared to the classical music concerts held on Picard's USS Enterprise-D.

Captain Jonathan Archer grew up with his father, Henry Archer (Mark Moses), but he doesn't have the familial trauma or parental scars that Captains like Jean-Luc Picard harbored. Henry Archer worked with Dr. Zephram Cochrane (James Cromwell) to develop the Warp 5 engine that would power the NX-01 Enterprise. By accounts, Jonathan had a good childhood with Henry, and it was his life's mission to command the first ship utilizing his father's engine to explore the galaxy.

This is a sharp contrast to Captain Picard's lifelong resentment of his father, Maurice Picard (James Callis), which Jean-Luc finally faced and resolved in Star Trek: Picard season 2. In J.J. Abrams' Star Trek movie, James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) tried to live up to the heroism of his late father, George Kirk (Chris Hemsworth), and Strange New Worlds established the Prime Timeline's James T. Kirk (Paul Wesley) also lives in the shadow of his famous father. Strange New Worlds also revealed that Captain Pike had problems with his father as well. Jonathan Archer has no such daddy issues.

Porthos, Captain Archer's beloved beagle, went where no dog had gone before. Archer brought his beagle with him aboard Enterprise, and Porthos became part of the NX-01's legendary voyages. Although, Porthos was mostly confined to Captain Archer's cabin, and he didn't have the run of the ship. Still, Archer was the first Captain of the Enterprise to have a pet aboard his starship unless one counts the fish in Captain Picard's Enterprise-D ready room. Both Picard and Captain Kirk also owned dogs, Number One and Butler, respectively, but neither Captain brought their best friend along with them into outer space the way Jonathan Archer did.

By virtue of Star Trek: Enterprise being a retcon, the classic Star Trek: The Original Series triumvirate of Captain Kirk, Spock, and Dr. Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley) was created by Captain Archer aboard the NX-01 Enterprise. Archer turned out to be the first Captain of the Enterprise to have a Vulcan, TPol (Jolene Blalock), as a dual First Officer and Science Officer, and Jonathan's closest friend, Commander Trip Tucker (Connor Trinneer), was a Southern gent who completed the trio the way "Bones" McCoy did for Kirk. Spock and Dr. McCoy loved to test each other's patience, but T'Pol and Trip, who initially disliked each other, ended up in a romantic relationship.

Captain Archer was not a distant figure of command to his crew. Rather, Archer was personable and affable, and the Captain maintained a personal touch with the 83 souls aboard his NX-01 Enterprise. Notably, Captain Archer liked to have regular dinners with T'Pol and Trip, and he would also invite other members of his crew to dine with him. Archer set the stage for how Captain Pike personally cooked dinner for his senior staff in his quarters aboard the USS Enterprise on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. Captain Kirk was also close to his senior staff and earned their undying loyalty, while Captain Picard eventually learned to let down his guard and enjoy the company of his Enterprise-D crew - his found family - by the end of Star Trek: The Next Generation and in Star Trek: Picard season 3.

Notably, Captain Archer is not known to have married or had a significant romantic life partner. Rather, Archer's life seems to have been dedicated to exploring the galaxy aboard the NX-01 Enterprise and then later, playing a key role in the founding of the United Federation of Planets and serving as the first President of the Federation. Star Trek: Enterprise was canceled before the series could introduce a love interest for Archer who could become his significant other, if that was ever in the plans.

To be the Captain of the Enterprise appears to be a lonely life that Archer pioneered on Star Trek: Enterprise that Captains Kirk and Picard would later adopt. Neither Enterprise Captain married when they commanded the flagship of the Federation, although both Kirk and Picard would have sons. On Strange New Worlds, Captain Pike has a girlfriend, Captain Marie Batel (Melanie Scrofano), although Star Trek canon indicates their relationship is not destined to last. But it's safe to say that like Captain Archer, Kirk, Pike, and Picard's first and most important loves were their starships named Enterprise.

John Orquiola is Screen Rant's Star Trek Beat Editor, Senior Features staff writer, and interviewer.

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