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Stuck in the eighties
We don't admit it, but a lot of Trek is just competent schedule filler. That's the role of a 22-episode season, and the key to Trek's enduring success. We remember the plots by rote and can predict how each will end. If it does offer a philosophical problem, it may be wrongheaded or dated by today's standards because 1990's television was tame and inoffensive (this is especially true of TNG). Even the Abrams movies rely on iconography and nostalgia. But then again, Abrams doesn't have 20 hours to fill with interchangeable, nonthreatening three-act stories.

With that in mind, let's look at Enterprise. The show is praised (deserved) for movie cinematography and a darker atmosphere. It doesn't gel with the tone of the show, which is the same as it ever was; even standouts like "Terra Prime" could have been produced by SG-1 (let alone TNG) by swapping out the actors. What's unique about ENT is the stronger character focus; no longer are the crewman defined solely by their rank, which is refreshing. But the characters are broad, cop show stereotypes who don't really evolve or budge on issues. The show tries at greatness by introducing some big idea episodes (Dogged fans tend to overlook the fact that ENT borrows heavily from TNG and VOY missions), but those questions are hand waved away by the epilogue. If Archer tortures a suspect, or leaves an enemy crew defenseless, or endangers his own crew, everyone backs his decision and the matter is forgotten because continuity is poisonous to Trek's treasured demographic. There were some attempts at adult relationships and frank sexuality amongst the crew but—like with VOY—this led nowhere, because Star Trek is firm on being "dinner" programming which anyone can watch, crack a beer and enjoy without complaints from relatives. Trek has also always been a bit prudish about sex and this hasn't changed in this millennium; single men are still molested and shamed for going to Risa to find hookups, and the women are attractive set dressing.

The cumulative effect is schizophrenic. The show wants to be an epic prequel saga, but within safe, outdated network parameters. The series is structurally flawed to the core, and even if Season Four had, in Braga's wistful words "been the first", it's obvious that those flaws were baked into Star Trek as a whole.
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