I disagree with all the “Archer hate”; in fact, Archer is my favorite character among all of the series that I watched (I’ve only seen a few eps of VOY, so I may very well be missing some revelation there).
Prior to Archer, Starfleet captains came across as right, all the time, even when they were wrong. Almost every TOS episode ended with Kirk smugging it up with Bones and Spock, and we, the audience, were supposed to acknowledge that he was, once again, right. This reached its apex with Picard (“he who is never wrong, and will tell you so, repeatedly”). Sisko was the first captain who, for me, showed a side of doubt, second guessing, and straight up shocking behavior that made him believably human. Archer takes that to a new level. Did he dislike Vulcans? Yes, and eventually, we’re shown why. But two or three eps in, he’s already giving T’Pol her props, even as she condescends to him daily. He’s not happy about it, and resists it, but he respects her voice. (I’ve said it before, but one of my favorite moments is in Fallen Hero
, where he turns the ship around just because she asks him to
; that’s trust and respect right there.)
His journey may have been accidental, in the sense that I don’t think TPTB had any long view of his development, but his qualities were consistent. He would do anything for his crew, including lay down his life; he didn’t like to kill, but would if necessary; he swallowed his pride on numerous occasions, and was not ashamed to beg for his officers’ lives (see The Communicator
); he was the very opposite of a xenophobe – Vulcans and Andorians couldn’t talk to each other, but he could reason with both. And he would rather talk and negotiate and persuade than go to war. I think this character as he turned out had an openness and, yes, a naiveté that ended up being vital to the birth of the Federation. I much prefer that than the my-way-or-the-highway approach of Kirk and Picard (and early seasons Sisko). Bakula played Archer as a likeable hero, sometimes with feet of clay, always with a self-deprecating sense of humor, proud, but never pompous.
And, frankly, some of the best dramatic notes were Archer moments, like learning about humanity’s fate in Twilight
; going quietly to his death in Shockwave part 1
; his deterioration and threat over Sim in Similitude
; grieving the Admiral in The Forge
, to name a few. Once TPTB stopped trying to make him swagger in a “Kirk-lite” manner, Bakula regularly hit it out of the park.
I get that this isn’t a popular opinion, but then again, I had no preconceived notions about how Trek captains ought to act, and I appreciate Archer being a three-dimensional, warts-and-all character who grew and changed over time, something that is very rare in episodic television even today.