Truth, justice, naff shirts: it's Star Trek, Jim, as we know it

First Night : Star Trek: Enterprise
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The space travellers who boldly go where no man has gone before in Enterprise, the "prequel" to the original series of Star Trek, are technologically in the Dark Ages.

These voyagers are the first humans to journey into deep space, some 100 years before James Kirk first crowbarred himself into a corset. They carry huge unwieldy guns as opposed to the dinky phasers favoured by their "successors" and are afraid of using the transporter because it tends to turn people inside out. They can't even understand Klingon, for goodness' sake.

In virtually every other respect, however, it's business as usual in Enterprise, which premiered on Sky One last night. There is something pleasantly reassuring about the fact that as it enters its fifth incarnation, the philosophy of the Star Trek franchise seems to have developed as little as a Vulcan's ability to understand a joke.

As the cycle has moved from the original series through Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine to Star Trek: Voyager, the cast may have worn ever more exotic prosthetics. But the basic premise of the series hasn't altered since Gene Roddenberry first dreamt it up at the height of the Cold War in the early 1960s: the USS Enterprise still shuttles around the universe bringing truth, justice and appallingly naff shirts to previously benighted species.

The breathtaking special effects of the Star Wars cycle have given television viewers very high expectations, and no expense has been spared on Enterprise. The big budget is up there on the screen – particularly in the sequence where Captain Jonathan Archer (played with enthusiasm by Scott Bakula from Quantum Leap) tries to fight a dastardly alien who holds the distinct advantage of being able to blend, chameleon-like, into the background.

Rick Berman and Brannon Braga's script has the odd neat touch, too. I liked the revelation that there is no Klingon word for "thank you", which will also, no doubt, tickle the Trekkies, the passionate followers of the programme who remain the only fans listed by name in the Oxford English Dictionary.

Overall, though, Enterprise failed to beam me up. For a start, Archer seems nothing but a Kirk-alike; recklessly brave in combat, always putting the good of the mission above himself.

Like Kirk, Archer also enjoys joshing exchanges with the ship's doctor and has a competitive yet caring relationship with his Vulcan deputy (Jolene Blalock); the moment he tells her to "take your Vulcan cynicism and bury it along with your repressed emotions", you know they are going to get along fine.

The series cracks along at a fair old pace, and it looks a million dollars (although, obviously, it cost rather more than that). But for all that, Enterprise appears to be a case of "meet the new show, same as the old show".

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