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Star Trek Enterprise episode review – Marauders

Summary: Enterprise goes western as Archer and Co. help some townsfolk…err deuterium diners fight off some bandits…err Klingons.

Enterprise has encountered the Klingons three times so far. But each encounter, including the overhyped “Sleeping Dogs,” was essentially star trek enterprise maraudersconducted in the 24th century ‘grudging allies’ mode. “Marauders” is the first violent, or at least semi-violent, encounter between the proto-Federation and the Klingons. Though, of course, “Marauders” takes great pains to emphasize that the Klingons are rogue bandits who don’t answer to the High Council and the Federation never identifies itself as such because the series is seemingly unready for a state of open hostilities with the Klingons.

Star Trek series have used this essentially Western plot for some time now, most recently in TNG’s Insurrection and Voyager’s “Homestead” (Both of which also featured a Shane-like relationship between a crewmember and a boy). The basic plot is a simple formula that works time and time again. Setup the hapless townsfolk, the gang of varmints who exploit them and the rescuer(s) who stage a showdown with the black hats. There are limited ways to tweak this basic plot, though the Original Series’ “Errand of Mercy” did so with another Klingon showdown in a rather innovative way that redefined the basic relationship with the Klingons and raised questions about the real differences between Our Heroes and the Klingons. “Marauders” returns to the basic plot efficiently enough, at least until the final showdown.

Mike Vejar’s smooth direction lays out the deuterium rig-cluttered desert atmosphere and manages to really bring the town to life and give it dimension and history, even if the script reduces the characters to the same formulaic roles as in “Homestead” and Insurrection. All in all, “Marauders” may well tie Roxann Dawson’s work on “Dead Stop” for the best directed Enterprise episode, of both seasons.

The episode begins with the now-familiar notes of continuity as the episode follows up on the chain of events that began with “Minefield,” continued in “Dead Stop” and hit a low point in “A Night in Sickbay.” This time out the crew is looking to replace the deuterium they used as a bomb in “Dead Stop” (nitpickers will probably point out that in that episode, Trip said they could spare the deuterium and now Enterprise appears to be running dry). They discover a small mobile settlement that pumps the substance out of the ground with what look like futuristic oil rigs–the more technically knowledgeable nitpickers will probably find fault with the entire technological premise of the episode, which treats the deuterium as a futuristic version of oil. From here on in, it isn’t long until the Klingons show up.

Archer discusses the issue with T’Pol, who fails to disagree with him. While the Enterprise Vulcans are clearly more militaristic than those of the Star Trek universe, T’Pol seems rather blasé about the prospect of a fight. Up to now T’Pol has provided an opposing point of view as a valuable part of any discussion; hopefully this is not being truncated because of some brewing romance arc between the two characters. Archer’s arguments essentially recap some of the basic debate from the first season’s “Fight or Flight,” right down to the formulation that asks what the right thing would be to do if the aliens were human. His argument countering any Prime Directive objection is out of place since Starfleet has no Prime Directive of its own at the moment and hasn’t accepted the Vulcan Prime Directive. Based on a short-sighted studio directive with the intention of reducing crew conflicts, “Dear Doctor” rewrote Archer’s scene to have him invoke the idea of a Prime Directive, but it’s hardly Starfleet policy. And half the fun of a pre-‘Original Series’ series should be the lack of such constrictions. It’s certainly odd to see Archer worrying about the Prime Directive in a situation where 23rd century Kirk wouldn’t have given it a second thought.

Archer shares the first of two good scenes with the settlement leader as he convinces him that he needs to defend his colony while repairing a crawler. The training scenes also proceed well with a variety of nice little touches like the colonists discussing their lizard problem and Hoshi giving a firearms lesson. All except T’Pol’s ridiculous martial arts segment, however, which involves teaching the colonists how to dodge Bat’leths and only foreshadows how ridiculous the final showdown will be. Archer’s second scene with the settlement leader references some more continuity and the character manages to argue realistic justification for his behavior without invoking any pregnant gazelles, while Trip’s scenes with the obligatory youngster just demonstrate once again that Star Trek can’t do kids or pets and should probably stay away from both.

The only real flaw of “Marauders,” however, comes oddly enough in the showdown itself, which normally would be the eye-candy payoff, but turns into some sort of strategy as bizarre as a Rube Goldberg contraption. The key problem can be traced back to Enterprise’s desire to avoid open hostilities with the Klingons, which requires a non-lethal solution. Archer formulates the issue as ‘standing up to a bully’ because presumably the hypothetical bully is really weak and afraid of a fight. You have to wonder which show the writer was watching: Klingons like fights, they pretty much live for them, they spend their free time fighting and arm wrestling over daggers. Their elections end with a corpse on the floor. This formulation might have been plausible for some alien race of the week, but it’s laughable when applied to Klingons.

The actual showdown is even more more so. The entire strategy here was to lure the Klingons to the deuterium fields by moving the entire town and disguising the deuterium fields. This is a plot roughly equal in cleverness to Blazing Saddles creating an entire fake town to lure the villains in. But Blazing Saddles was a comedy and a spoof of Western cliches, “Marauders” doesn’t have the same excuse. After all, it’s Andromeda that wants to be like a Mel Brooks movie, not Enterprise. Yet the entire showdown plays out like a comedy routine, not something that anyone would survive even in the Star Trek universe.

The crew rule out dealing with the Klingons themselves because then the settlers would be helpless against anyone who else came along. Although since the Klingons are rogues and no one else has ever come along before, there’s no real reason to believe that anyone would. The episode assumes that dealing with the Klingons is some sort of impossible task, yet the Klingons beam onto the same platform every single time with their weapons holstered. A child could plan a successful ambush under those conditions and one that wouldn’t require dragging a town around the desert. A bomb under the platform would take care of the Klingons or a ring of armed men surrounding the platform and waiting to gun down the Klingons as they arrive. Instead Marauders has the townspeople running around under the guns of the Klingons. Now, mind you, the episode claims that Klingons are nearly unstoppable and invincible warriors and two dozen armed men are no match for them in a fair fight. Apparently they’re completely helpless when rocks are being thrown at them and wires are being raised to trip them up. The only thing the settlers seem to forget is to leave banana peels out where the Klingons can slip and fall on their backs.

The goal of this encounter is to apparently make the Klingons really mad before surrounding them with fire, thus frightening them into leaving. Apparently the Klingons are too dimwitted to beam out and transport back down to another location and slaughter everyone responsible. But apparently they’ve been so terrified by the courage the settlers displayed in throwing rocks at them and tripping them up with wires, that they’ve decided to leave and never come back for fear that next time out they’ll have to deal with the banana peels. And if four Star Trek series have taught us nothing else about Klingons, it’s that they panic and retreat at the first sign of trouble. John M. Ford’s classic Trek novel, ‘How Much For Just the Planet’ featured just this storyline with cream pies substituted for banana peels and tuxedos for ropes and it’s a hilarious and offbeat work, but the “Marauders” showdown is just unintentionally hilarious.

I’ve never been the biggest fan of DS9, but had it done this storyline the showdown would have either been intentionally hilarious or it would have been a dark story about the cost of freedom. Enterprise seems to think that you can have a non-violent story about people fighting for their freedom with trip wires and a strategy that’s right out of Spy vs Spy. As in “Minefield,” Enterprise is afraid to push the boundaries in storytelling or at least get somewhere near them. It’s afraid to even sacrifice one of three minor colonist characters whom we’ll never see again in favor of a bizarrely sunny ending. Had “Marauders” gone the DS9 route and actually finished with a dark ending that would have shown the settlers the price they had to pay for freedom and Archer the cost of his decision that might have challenged his naivete, thus providing a conclusion to his speech to the colony leader about his own uncertainty, it might have been a great episode. As it is, “Marauders” has some great moments and some strong scenes and even some low-key development of Archer and Hoshi with a tacked on screwball comedy ending that really doesn’t do justice to the material.

Next week: T’Pol gets her gun.

Star Trek Enterprise episode review – A Night in Sickbay

Summary: Archer obsesses over the health of his dog while fantasizing about T’Pol as Berman and Braga give this episode their unique touch.

star trek enterprise a night in sickbayThere are different kinds of bad episodes. There are episodes that are poorly written, episodes whose direction is so unstructured and clumsily paced that they’re dreary and unwatchable, episodes ruined by bad acting and episodes that simply should never have been made. It was never a good idea to have Spock’s brain be stolen by alien women leaving him with a remote controlled body. Having the DS9 crew play alien hopscotch or turning Paris into a catfish were never high points of their respective shows either. The problem with episodes like these are that they leave you wondering what the hell Berman and Braga could have been thinking when they wrote this. “A Night in Sickbay” is one of those episodes.

Though the subject matter is much less exotic than some of the above mentioned episodes, “Sickbay” manages to achieve much of the same effect with a bizarre episode that has Archer’s emotional dependence on his dog move well into the creepy range while displaying some of the more unprofessional behavior of his career (and considering some of the low points of Archer’s actions thus far, that is saying a lot). Star Trek Captains have had their share of angst and all but Kirk had large spells of celibacy, but they’ve also found more crucial issues to worry about. And better ways to cope than to become emotionally dependent on a pet to the extent that their ship takes second priority. Archer having a near breakdown and abandoning his responsibilities over something like this seriously undermines his credibility and his decision making abilities and his very fitness for the job. What is particularly baffling is the way that “Sickbay” chooses to throw away the credibility that Archer has gained this season in episodes like “Shockwave 2,” “Minefield” and “Dead Stop” in favor of resurrecting his worst qualities and basing an episode around them. Namely his speciest arrogance towards aliens, his emotional dependence on a pet and his lack of professionalism as a Starfleet officer. While some of Archer’s earlier conversations with Dr. Phlox suggest that this might all be done in favor of character growth for Archer, instead it turns out to be a way of setting up a romantic relationship arc between Archer and T’Pol.

This is particularly foolish since at this point the Human\Vulcan interaction between Archer and T’Pol is one of the few things Enterprise has succeeded at and manages to recapture some of the Original Series spirit. “Sickbay” demonstrates every intention of tossing this out the window by having both characters indirectly admit to being attracted to one another. Even if we overlook the simple fact that Star Trek series have blown just about every single relationship between cast members ever attempted, it comes down to the fact that the producers have demonstrated their intention of turning a subtle interspecies rapport into a romance. Where before the key difference of viewpoints between Archer and T’Pol came from their differing species, we are now supposed to view it as coming from differing genders. The character of T’Pol has always hovered between a role as a Spock\Data character and the exploitative sinkhole that Seven of Nine fell into on Voyager. So far the clothes and the decontamination scenes have been suggestive of Seven of Nine, but the actual story elements have been more suggestive of Spock\Data. “A Night in Sickbay,” which at best serves as a trial balloon for this story element and at worst the beginning of a romance arc, serves notice that T’Pol’s story is set to follow through on the innuendo. That is a poor decision and exactly the kind of thing that some of Enterprise’s recent improvements suggested the show had matured beyond. Fortunately, having learned nothing from the Janeway\Chakotay storyline, Berman and Braga were here to give this episode their own ‘unique’ touch.

“Sickbay” opens with a welcome note of continuity as Enterprise revisits the Aliens of the Week from the first season’s “Vox Sola.” The continuity is welcome but not the aliens themselves, who had a limited role in “Vox Sola” and whose only purpose here is to behave in a hostile and unpleasant manner, thus seemingly justifying Archer’s behavior. That “Vox Sola” was one of the worst episodes of the first season suggests that maybe the fruit of a rotten tree is also going to be rotten. The opening scene which features Hoshi, T’Pol, Archer and Porthos rubbing each other down in the decontamination chamber is unwelcome. Considering the innuendo that’s come to be associated with the chamber scenes, it’s a bizarre note that serves to introduce an episode where Archer’s emotional dependence on his dog reaches new lows. It’s also only the second suggestion of bestiality since the Ferengi inspected Archer’s cabin in “Acquisition,” which is remarkably restrained for Brannon Braga.

Whatever mix of retro-futuristic projection and sleazy motives inspired the decontamination chamber, it’s about time for it to go. It’s certainly not a credible way of demonstrating the more primitive technology of the Enterprise era, especially since its process makes no sense whatsoever. If it’s suspected that one or more people in the group may have picked up some sort of infection, crowding them together into one room certainly doesn’t lessen the chances of transmission. Nor does having them rub gel all over each other as a way of preventing the spread of disease. Separate chambers would make a lot more sense and so would spraying the gel through some sort of automatic system. That’s probably why the best cure for the flu isn’t to get a mix of infected and uninfected people together into a small room, breathing the same air and rubbing gel all over each other. It is a good way to spread the flu, though. If the producers should have learned anything by now, it’s that Enterprise won’t resonate with viewers because of gimmicks or sleaze but because of solid storytelling.

“Sickbay” aims at something between low comedy and character growth for Archer and achieves neither. The credibility Archer has gained from the “Shockwave” two-parter, “Minefield” and “Dead Stop” is squandered on a storyline that plays out like a dog version of ER rather than dealing with the problems of his ship and the potential danger to his crew or the obligations of his mission; Archer spends his time obsessed with his dog and T’Pol, in that order. Indeed, Archer seemed a lot more relaxed when he had to choose between sacrificing a member of his crew or risk the destruction of his ship in “Minefield” than he does when his dog gets a virus. T’Pol’s suggestion that he spend more time worrying about his ship, rather than being treated as legitimate criticism worth listening to becomes sidelined into Archer’s obsession with her. So that when Archer becomes angry over her comment, it isn’t because she’s voiced a criticism that made him question his conduct, but it’s because of a romantic factor. And there is no clearer demonstration than that of how transforming a professional relationship into a romantic one impinges on the discussion of command related issues. As a professional, T’Pol can try to make Archer reevaluate his actions and offer a clash of viewpoints, in a romantic light his and her comments merely become the product of ‘sexual friction’ and thus have no meaning in of themselves.

Worse yet, Archer snaps back into his contempt for any race that doesn’t share his identical values. His own jingoism when it comes to the Denobulan’s pets or lack thereof precisely mirrors the arrogance of the aliens on the planet below who naturally expect Enterprise to be doing things their way. Both view anyone who doesn’t share their worldview as the equivalent of barbarians. This time it’s not amused contempt, but outrage because the aliens didn’t bother to ensure that his pet, whom no one to be brought along, wouldn’t catch any diseases. It’s not just narrow-minded or incompetent, it’s Archer’s refusal to accept the consequences of his own actions. He chose to take a pet along to an encounter with a culture that he knew could be offended by some rather unpredictable things. He never bothered to double check and make sure that the planet didn’t have any diseases his dog could contract. Apparently he didn’t think that an alien race who was offended by public eating might take umbrage at his dog urinating anywhere it liked. Yet Archer can’t seem to comprehend that he might be responsible for any of this or that he might have prevented it from happening. Instead he chooses to blame others, all the more conveniently so when they happen to be aliens. It’s an emotionally immature inability to accept the consequences of his own actions. Yet another matter that T’Pol points out to him and is ultimately dismissed as the product of more ‘sexual friction.’

On two separate occasions, Archer then voices threats against the aliens. It’s a particularly bizarre point that Archer has descended to. He’s destroyed any possibility of a diplomatic relationship with entire alien races and fought with them based on some rather questionable pretexts, but wrecking humanity’s relationship with an important species and even raising the possibility of violent action because they let his dog catch the sniffles is definitely a new low, and not one Archer can explain away with a rambling speech about gazelles. It’s a component of the greater problem, which is Archer’s egocentric view of the Enterprise as an extension of himself rather than the vehicle of Earth’s exploratory and political aims. Thus, like an emperor who can avenge an insult to his horse by razing a city, Archer can lash out at an alien race for not seeing to his pet’s needs. The episode makes much of Archer’s eventual apology, but the situation that caused the need for an apology is a product of his own actions, which he never really recognizes. Nor does he seem to comprehend that what happened might have been seriously hurtful and offensive to the aliens, just as if their pet had urinated on an important human relic. His only sincere apology is to Phlox and that only because he manages to emotionally relate to Phlox through his story about his unsatisfactory relationship with two of his children.

Though it is Phlox who provides this episode’s only worthwhile material. John Billingsley is Enterprise’s best actor and he manages to perform some of the most ridiculous material without ever looking ridiculous himself. It’s a skill that’s greatly in demand here and manages to make the little touches such as nighttime rituals like clipping his nails add up to more in characterization than the entire Archer-centered storyling does for Archer. It’s also the most development Phlox has gotten since “Dear Doctor,” which really suggests that perhaps Enterprise is seriously misplacing its priorities. He seems to have been sidelined like Mayweather, without there being any reasonable cause for it. The show really shouldn’t wait for Archer’s dog to get sick again to give Phlox the attention he’s due.

Enterprise’s second season had been competent thus far with four generally well-received episodes and Enterprise’s improving ratings suggest that viewers like what they’re seeing. These episodes may have had their flaws, but “Sickbay” leads back to some of the more disastrous first season episodes and contains the germ of a storyline that would seriously hurt what Enterprise has achieved until now. The upswing in the ratings suggests that the producers don’t need to fall back on a romance between T’Pol and Archer or more exploitative decontamination scenes and instead look at what made those episodes work.

And Archer might seriously consider just getting a cat.

Star Trek Enterprise episode review – Dead Stop

Summary: In a space age revival of an old fable, Enterprise discovers a station whose offer of repairs turns out to be too good to be true.

star trek enterprise Dead StopIn one of the closer intersections between episodes thus far on Enterprise, “Dead Stop” begins shortly after last week’s episode. The Enterprise’s hull is damaged and so is Malcolm’s leg. The situation seems problematic until, in what is the first of several continuity references, Enterprise gets directions from a Tellarite freighter to a repair station (though in light of what happens later in the episode it may be reasonable to conclude that there was no Tellarite freighter at all). Where the natural instinct of a Voyager episode might have been to populate the episode with some weird foreheaded Alien-of-the-Week for the crew to pit their skills against, “Dead Stop” goes for the ghostly feeling of an automated computerized station. A place that is seemingly empty and at once filled with an unknown presence. And it works.

The writing team of Mike Sussman and Phyllis Strong, who up until this point had churned out mediocre and mostly forgettable episodes like “Civilization,” “Fusion” and “Strange New World” manage to deliver here, greatly aided by Roxann Dawson’s smooth and crisp direction and some of the unquestionably best lighting on the series thus far. Dawson displays here some of the potential she demonstrated in “Workforce, Part II,” infusing every scene with an uneasy atmosphere. Despite the seemingly lighter subject material, “Dead Stop” manages to have the sense of danger and tension that “Minefield” simply did not. Bakula, meanwhile, displays the anger and frustration he should have been showing in last week’s episode. While Mayweather’s eventual resurrection is no real surprise, nor is the menace posed by the station, the way they come together is effective and one of the few surprising twists of an Enterprise episode thus far.

From the eerily white interior of the station’s corridors to the dank yellow conduits (visually suggesting that the pristine package is an illusion with a grimmer interior), to the computer itself, suggestive of The Matrix’s towers of human batteries on a smaller scale, “Dead Stop” is overshadowed by a mostly unspoken menace. Like much of classical Star Trek and much of science fiction, the show returns once again to the theme of human violation by technology. Somewhere between “Spock’s Brain” and the Borg, “Dead Stop”‘s repair station is indicative of a smaller evil with plenty of unspoken implications. By not addressing its history, the writers suggest that Enterprise might return to the subject at some later date or that it’s a mystery best left alone. The final scene of the station’s broken parts slowly repairing themselves again is one of the best narrative uses of FX since the conclusion of Voyager’s “Year of Hell, Part I” showed pieces of Voyager’s hull being ripped away and flying directly into the camera.

With its classical Star Trek themes, “Dead Stop” is an Enterprise episode that achieves the series goal of being strongly suggestive of an Original Series episode. “Dead Stop” nails the sense of isolation and dislocation produced by space travel, the responsibilities of command and the strangeness of what might be out there. It’s one of the few Enterprise episodes where the crew of the Enterprise could be easily interchanged with the original Enterprise crew.

And the episode certainly has no shortage of continuity references. We encounter 24th century technology like the Replicator and the Protoplaser for the first time, along with more than a few Star Trek universe tidbits, even not counting the “Spock’s Brain” premise of the episode itself. While it might be nice if Enterprise had stayed away from 24th century Next Generation technology–after three races with cloaking devices, two holodecks and numerous other gadgets–the proverbial starship seems to have sailed on that one.

“Dead Stop” also functions well as an ensemble episode, with nearly every crewmember having an important scene or two. Hoshi gets to deliver the premature eulogy for Mayweather, Phlox has his own well played autopsy scene and Reed and Trip have their own little adventure before being bawled out by Archer in one of his rare displays of command ability and suggestive of TOS’s own “Trouble with Tribbles.” Mayweather contributes most to the episode by being dead, of course, which gives him an important non-speaking role mostly in absentia. One might even argue that the station’s willingness to take the least important member of the Enterprise senior staff in exchange for its repairs was still quite a bargain.

Next week: Archer shows us how well he balances the twin priorities of dog ownership and starship command.

Star Trek Enterprise episode review – “Minefield”

Summary: Enterprise is menaced by the Romulan coast guard and Reed gets himself stuck on a mine while bonding with Captain Archer.

star trek enterprise minefieldIf much of Minefield’s Reed scenes seem distinctly familiar, that’s no surprise since much of Minefield is essentially a reworked version of Shuttlepod One with a mine on Enterprise’s hull substituted for a damaged shuttlecraft with an oxygen leak and Archer taking over Trip’s role. The two characters start out uncomfortable with one another and then are trapped together confronting a crisis that seems as if it can only be solved by a sacrifice. The different personalities of the two characters cause them to first clash and then bond as personal revelations are pried out of Reed under the pressure of the situation. But where Shuttlepod One was effective, Minefield is less so; in part because we’ve now seen it before and because Reed and Archer don’t really throw off any sparks.

Shockwave 2 and now Minefield do suggest that the producers have decided to confront questions about Archer’s command abilities. In Minefield, Archer’s own command style is justified by contrasting it with Reed’s more militaristic proposals as being more humanitarian. In part, Minefield’s flaw also ironically comes down to the same issue for which it defends Archer: his laid back command style. Thus Archer’s side of the dialogue is delivered lifelessly, as if Bakula is trying to order pizza on the phone or doing a publicity interview. The producers should be commended for finally recognizing that those questions exist, but Minefield really fails to challenge anyone but Reed and it’s a form of challenge that we’ve seen before now.

The new character development for Reed is interesting, but not really ground-breaking. It sheds some new light on the reason why Reed is so determined to prove himself and to maintain such rigorous self-discipline, but it does make you wonder if the only way to develop his character is to strand him in some trap in which he seems doomed to die and pry confessional revelations out of him. It may be a novel technique once, twice it begins to get old and a third time would be too much.

The real reason for viewer anticipation of Minefield of course was the first appearance of the Romulans on Enterprise. Yet this is somewhat anticlimactic, in part because Enterprise let the rabbit out of the hat some time ago by gratuitously featuring cloaking devices numerous times in violation of canon. Thus the Romulan cloaking device is not a shocking thing to the Enterprise crew, but a matter of “Oh, there goes another cloaking device.” It might have been more effective had the aliens in Silent Enemy been Romulans, thus helping to prepare Enterprise for a violent first confrontation. But in Minefield the Romulans react to Enterprise in much the same way that every Alien of the Week reacted to Voyager. The Romulans have been traditionally cunning as well as xenophobic, it’s what makes them interesting. But Minefield really doesn’t feature them doing anything more than playing Coast Guard. They’re never even particularly intimidating. Had Trip or T’Pol actually chosen to pursue the debate with the Romulans over the human view of the value of a single life, something interesting might have arisen from the clash of the two philosophies. But like the Borg on Voyager or the Klingons on DS9, the Romulans in Minefield were expected to be interesting because they were Romulans and not because anything genuinely interesting was happening.

Like both of the previous episodes this season, Minefield never succeeds because it never takes any real chances and never ventures into dangerous territory. There is no real argument among the crew in favor of jettisoning Reed. Nor is there any real possibility that this was going to happen. What if the first Romulan strike had killed a significant portion of Enterprise’s crew. In Minefield’s first moments after the strike, the effect appears to be genuinely devastating. The kind of attack that brings to mind TOS’s Balance of Terror or Wrath of Khan or Voyager’s Year of Hell. But it quickly gets reduced to Hoshi whining in sickbay, instead of the kind of real devastation that would have fueled Archer’s anger. What if more than one member of the senior staff was seriously committed to the idea of jettisoning Reed, over Reed’s protests. That could have been the kind of conflict to really bring some sparks to this episode. What if the episode had actually taken a chance and amputated at least a portion of Reed’s leg. But of course we know that kind of thing would never happen on Enterprise. It never even happened on TNG, when Piller proposed replacing Picard’s arm with a prosthetic one after Best of Both worlds. And that really is the problem with Minefield, we know the formula and we know the status quo will be maintained. The fact that Archer can’t seem to bring himself to take the situation seriously only decreases any suspension of disbelief on the part of the audience. So for all that the episode may be called Minefield, it in fact consists of taking easy choices.

Minefield does demonstrate a pretty impressive display of Enterprise’s special effects. From the original hit on Enterprise that reveals exposed decks and is reminiscent of some of the hard hitting scenes in Wrath of Khan and Year of Hell to the redesigned Romulan vessel, which merges the TNG green streamlined look of Romulan ships with the TOS Bird of Prey shape, Enterprise’s effects tend to be more consistent than that of previous shows and Minefield in particular looks pretty good.

Minefield also contains a few more references to Earth, including the revelation that humanity has yet to evolve beyond watching soccer matches and even manages to have Reed call it football, instead of soccer. Apparently soccer might actually outlive baseball, though not water polo, or apparently football either, if the Fusion reference by the Vulcans is to be taken as current. As in Silent Enemy, we learn that the Royal Navy still exists. Though there is not yet any explanation forthcoming as to why individual countries need military fleets, as opposed to research boats and coast guards.

All in all Minefield is a decent enough action episode but spends too much time on a repetitive Reed storyline too reminiscent of Shuttlepod One and never gives the Romulans anything interesting to do.

Next week: Enterprise discovers that alien space stations don’t take American Express.

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