The final episode of Enterprise has weathered its fair share of criticism for the decision to prominently feature Riker, Troi, and the scenario of the Next Generation episode "The Pegasus." Some of the less generous observers have even called it the worst episode of the series.
I've always loved "These Are the Voyages..." For one, it puts a big spotlight on the show's best character, Trip Tucker. (In Pocket Books continuity, criticism of the episode reaches the point of nullifying his death in the episode. Oh, um SPOILER ALERT.) That alone puts a smile on my face. I love the structure. I love that after his death, we receive what is arguably Trip's definitive scene, and speech. I love that he's munching on a carrot during this scene.
I love that Shran is also a featured element of the episode. I always loved Shran, too, thought he was one of the show's strongest and most distinguished elements. Set six years after the events of the Terra Prime Dulogy (the preceding episodes), "Voyages" is all about shipping Archer to the big moment of actually getting to give the commencement speech to the Federation. Complications arise. Shran, for example, has seen better days. (Oh, how rich it would have been to see that arc, Archer rising while Shran's fortunes fall.) He's gotten into trouble and is looking to rescue his daughter from some thugs. Archer agrees to help. Things turn out well, except Trip sacrifices himself so Archer can survive the decision to help Shran.
All of this technically plays out on the holodeck, as Riker attempts to make his decision to rat on Terry O'Quinn, with a little encouragement from Troi (Data makes a vocal cameo as well). The critics would have you believe that this is embarrassing, that the final episode of Enterprise is stolen by another series. I would say instead that it's a remarkable tribute.
Being a prequel series, it was always hard to establish the connections other shows were able to accomplish on a regular basis, even Voyager (and not just with Q, mind you). It was set a hundred years before everything else. Having familiar actors appear is one thing, but having familiar characters show up is like an acknowledgement that this new Trek was a worthy endeavor. Who would argue that the point of "Sarek" was anything else?
And besides, Riker using Archer's crew as a source of support (via Troi's suggestion, though she never accessed the program herself, another notable detail) is a direct show of support for the series. That it features Next Generation characters and sets is also a way of supporting another Star Trek. Until this point, the only nostalgic trip to another series was the original one ("Relics," Trials and Tribble-ations," "Flashback"). But Next Generation, despite the harsh failure of Nemesis was at one point the reason anyone cared about Star Trek.
The producers said at the time that they viewed "Voyages" as a finale to not only Enterprise but that phase of the franchise as a whole. Kirk, Archer, and Picard can all be heard proclaiming the old mission statement in the closing moments of the episode. And yet, short of trying to shoe-horn every cast into the episode, choosing to spotlight one other cast in some way was absolutely necessary to that goal. And Next Generation made perfect sense.
And beyond that, Riker was always a charming and welcome presence, and Troi had already proven her crossover appeal in Voyager. That I have things to say about the episode other than their presence proves that they did not, after all, dominate it.
Trip did that. He dominated the whole series, even though his role was carefully balanced with T'Pol and Archer, who was the captain of the ship. Trip did it effortlessly, from the very start, even when he became pregnant in the fourth episode of the series, a story that would have destroyed any other character. That's how strong he was. "Voyages" serves as a testament to him, and to the series as a whole. Sure, Archer was important in the grand sense. But Trip was what defined the series, held all the characters together. And this was a series about character.
Ignore what you've heard. This one's essential.
franchise * series * essential * character
Brent Spiner (voice)
Memory Alpha summary.