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Category Archives: Season 3 Of Star Trek Enterprise

Star Trek Enterprise episode review – Zero Hour

Synopsis: Archer tackles the weapon, T’Pol tackles the Spheres and Enterprise tackles a rewrite of Planet of the Apes

Review: Zero Hour most obviously refers to the countdown to the Weapon’s attack on Earth. Of course it’s also a sly reference to the final twist of the episode which plunges an already teetering storyline into sheer lunacy.

star trek enterprise zero hour For the most part Zero Hour’s strongest scenes are those that rest on the tension leading up to the actual attack on the Weapon. Archer exploiting Hoshi to carry out his mission pushes his character further into the wolfish ruthlessly desperate mode he’s been in all season. Dr. Phlox facing death also makes for a touching if somewhat overly sentimental scene.

After that the episode begins its steep decline into cliche and then incoherence. First we have T’Pol and Trip’s attack on the Sphere which leads to some really bad skin for the crew. Undoubtedly TPTB thought that the idea of having everyone on the ship turn into a walking commercial for skin care products would be dramatic but instead if just makes what should have been a tense situation look silly as you wonder if Lubiderm isn’t paying Enterprise for product placement.

And indeed the entire Sphere attack storyline is mostly pointless. Enterprise’s Xindi arc would have been stronger if this attack had been accomplished episodes ago leaving Archer in command of Enterprise to pursue the weapon. It would have been appropriate and fitting as a conclusion to an arc that had Enterprise leaving earth to pursue the Weapon and returning home battered but unbowed to destroy it. Instead the audience’s attention is split between Archer’s pursuit of the weapon which is the compelling story and the sphere attack which isn’t.

Unlike the Weapon, the Spheres aren’t going anywhere so it’s not clear why T’Pol is so desperate to destroy them even at the risk of destroying Enterprise and killing the crew. Yes the anomalies will expand but all life in the Expanse, let alone Vulcan, as T’Pol seems to suggest is a long way from being threatened. The addition of the Sphere Builder’s attack is cliched and looks silly all the more so in the rose colored haze. Additionally the Sphere seems to call up Braga and Berman’s worst instincts giving us tons of technobabble solutions from Phlox’s magic anomaly resisting formula whose effectiveness he can apparently calculate to the second to the deflector pulse to the weapons frequencies. Watching T’Pol do her best Janeway impression as she nearly killed the crew to do something utterly pointless; really brought nostalgic tears for Voyager to my eyes.

The plot then only becomes more awkward as once the Weapon is destroyed the focus shifts away earth and to Enterprise sitting and waiting for Archer in the Expanse. And so we get an absurd scene in which Degra’s ship heads to the Expanse to meet up with Enterprise to tell Enterprise Archer is dead at which point they all head back over to Earth. Instead of the Acquatics simply delivering Enterprise to earth directly to meet Degra’s ship. Sometimes I complain about time being trimmed from Enterprise’s episodes and then I look at a complete inability to grasp the use of time on the part of the Enterprise producers and wonder why I even bother?

The attack on the Weapon itself is a bit too strongly suggestive of Insurrection or for that matter Generations, First Contact and Nemesis; all star trek enterprise zero hourof which involved fights between our heroes and the villains over a launch sequence or a set of controls. But what Rick Berman lacks in originality, Allan Kroeker does his best to make up for in some decent action sequences. The effectiveness of the various fights range between clumsy to suspenseful and Archer’s final coup de grace to Commander Dolim is not original but quite effective. The bloodstains on the wall and on Archer’s face are particularly effective touches.

Shran’s appearance might be a bit dubious plotwise but he is a great character and Coombs is a great actor so that the only regret is that putting his name in the opening credits killed any surprise at his appearance. Coombs of course rules every second of his screentime and his lines make for some of the coolest moments in the episode. It also is a good reference point to the revelation of a future Federation in which Andorians and humans work side by side.

All of this would have made for a decent enough episode. Not the greatest Star Trek episode of all time or anything near it but adequate enough. There is a clear decline between the writing quality of Countdown and Zero Hour. Brannon Braga and Rick Berman’s writing is simply not up to the task and once again we see heaps of Voyager style technobabble thrown in and the kind of amateurish plot awkwardness that characterized Voyager episodes. But Braga is unfortunately not satisfied with that.

As the second season finale set up the third season, the third season finale is apparently meant to set up the fourth. Of course the situation becomes all the more desperate since Enterprise’s ratings are doing quite poorly and the series has become increasingly unwanted by UPN which instead favors top quality programming like ‘America’s Top Bulimic.’ This makes it crucial for the Enterprise season finale to have a hook that will pull viewers back in. And so we get Braga’s Planet of the Apes style ending to the episode.

Of course the problem with the ending is that it’s silly. Not only does it seriously resemble Voyager episodes like Future’s End and The Killing Game spliced together but it completely defuses the conclusion of the entire season’s arc and its payoff in favor of a gimmicky conclusion that the audience is likely to treat the same way it did the similar ending of the remake of Planet of the Apes.

Storytelling requires continuity. It requires an understanding of the emotional journey and the parts of the narrative that make a story whole. Zero Hour is yet another demonstration that Rick Berman and Brannon Braga understand nothing of the kind. Zero Hour’s ending screams of unoriginality and desperation. Not to mention contempt for the same viewers who sat through a season of the Xindi arc expecting more of a payoff than Archer waking up in the Twilight Zone.

Star Trek Enterprise episode review – Countdown

Synopsis: The Sphere Builders act to thwart the crew and Xindi’s attempts to stop the weapon from being armed

Review: As the last episode before the season finale, Countdown is appropriately suspenseful and ominous. But at the close of the season it also delivers a strong episode by harnessing the power of characters who have been all too often kept in the shadows this season in favor of exploitative Trip and T’Pol material.

star trek enterprise countdownReed once again emerges as a troubled but determined leader and his scenes with Major Hayes compromise some of the most moving scenes this season that speak eloquently about command and responsibility all the more so for being understated even as it is clear that strong currents of emotion are boiling underneath. Both Steven Culp and Dominic Keating deliver excellent and restrained performances as they finally resolve their conflict in favor of the mission.

Unfortunately we haven’t seen nearly enough of Major Hayes and Reed has been woefully underused this season. Hoshi too has been barely visible this season manages to nearly compensate for it in only a few scenes in which she shows strength and courage amidst her fear. And Phlox fighting with Captain Archer over transporting Hoshi is yet another great moment in the work of yet another underused Enterprise character.

Even Commander Dolim, despite the cheesy makeup, cheesy character and pretty much cheesy everything somehow comes off as menacing perhaps because his tone is that of cold grim amusement like Gul Dukat, rather than a cartoon monster. He is not senseless or consumed by hatred but coldly determined to do his job while enjoying it in a grim sort of way at the same time.

The only weak moment in the episode really comes when we get another round of Trip and T’Pol’s whining. Suddenly the episode grinds to a halt while we indulge in some more cheap soap opera. Worse yet I experienced a flashback and was certain that I had somewhat stepped back into an episode of Voyager with Paris and Torres bickering at each other. And after all Trip is Paris with a southern accent and T’Pol with her emotions out of control is increasingly turning into Bellana. God alone knows why TPTB decided that 4 years of Paris and Torres weren’t enough and that we needed another 5 but apparently that’s what we’re going to get.

Considering the ending, you almost wish T’Pol and Trip would really get their own ship along with their own spinoff show in which they could voyage around the galaxy annoying alien species and giving them erotic massages. As things stand now UPN would unfortunately probably be a lot more interested in ordering it than a 5th season of Enterprise.

Countdown itself suffers from the premise of the idea that the Xindi can deliver the weapon from their council area and then directly to earth in a matter of hours. This steps up the suspense but it also looks ridiculous. Enterprise should have broadened the Xindi arc by adding an extra episode that would have focused on the pursuit of the weapon and the interrogation of Hoshi, the relationships with the Xindi and perhaps Dolim and the Insectoids questioning the real role of the Sphere Builders. There’s a lot of rich material here that’s going untapped because of the need to artificially accelerate the pace.

Archer’s deal with the acquatics though is a nice touch. Up till now the Xindi seemed to have been all too willing to go along with anything Archer wanted. The deal though is a more plausible exchange in which they aid Archer in exchange for something of interest to them. Though the move to transfer the team going after the weapon to a Xindi ship while leaving Enterprise and most of the crew in the Expanse hacking into a Sphere seems off. It makes logical sense but not emotional sense to leave Enterprise out of the fight to stop the Xindi weapon.

Nevertheless the transfer scene is effective and has overtones of Voyager’s Year of Hell separation sequence. Archer’s voiceover log giving the exact date as the ships launch and the crew members prepare for combat is another excellent scene that sets up the momentous events to follow. And the dinner at which Archer, Trip and T’Pol discuss their future plans after the ‘war is over’ nails each bit of dialogue just right. Chris Black’s skills with dialogue are evident yet again in turning even ordinary banter into exchanges that really connect with the underlying themes. It is many ways striking to see the opening of Enterprise with a rundown of humanity’s exploration accomplishments that seems to have nothing at all to do with the show today. Scenes like this look to a future beyond.

Meanwhile the Sphere Builders like the Olympian Gods watch over and manipulate the fate of the mortals from their cloudlike positions straddling time and space. In some ways this season Enterprise has been an Odyssey and now finally despite all the gods can do enterprise is coming home.

Star Trek Enterprise episode review – The Council

Synopsis: Archer arrives at the Xindi Council while maneuvers continue among the Xindi races and the Sphere Builders before the launch of the weapon.

Review: The Council is many things but not the least among them a compelling argument for Manny Coto being in charge of Enterprise rather than Berman and Braga. As a complete episode it often comes off a bit disjointed but that is because its real accomplishments are in the characterization of the Xindi. A characterization that is long overdue. Unlike some of the previous episodes, this is not one dominated simply by the character of Degra.

star trek enterprise the councilWhile Randy Oglesby does deliver another resoundingly powerful performance as Degra in his final appearance; Coto fleshes the Xindi out by giving the other Xindi council members depth as well and making their interplay ppear more than the cartoonish stereotypes they have been up till now. The Avian skull alone is a deceptively simple but excellent touch that does more to bring depth to the Xindi and their agenda than all the Council meetings have throughout this season and until now. Details such as this or Degra’s revelations about the role of the Sphere Builders in their lives should have been a part of the show long before this to make the Xindi and their motivations plausible.

By contrast the Enterprise crew doesn’t come off nearly as well this episode. Archer is still focused but a bit too casual. His principal’s office exchange with Hoshi is clever and well played but it also clashes with the context of the situation. 7 million people have died and this is Archer’s last ditch attempt to preserve the remains of humanity and it makes him seem far too lighthearted and casual especially considering the terrible things Archer has had to do up till now to the point that he sent himself off on a suicide mission only a few episodes ago.

The real purpose of these scenes seems to be to remind us of Hoshi’s existence as a human being with a likeable personality so that we’re shocked and saddened by her kidnapping. But of course Enterprise should not have neglected her or Reed or some of the other crewmembers this season as gratuitously as they did in favor of the compelling ideas embodied by T’Pol’s erotic massage parlor. However as in E2, Reed gets another small but effective scene. This time with T’Pol. It’s ironic that despite all the fuss and all the effort dedicated to T’Pol and Trip and T’Pol’s unlocking of her emotions with Trip; one of her best scenes and unquestionably best demonstration of the empathic use of her emotions is in a scene with Lt. Reed.

Billingsley’s Dr Phlox of course is always entertaining to watch even if he’s given little to do. By contrast Connor Trinneer who was certainly never one of Enterprise’s best actors but managed to give a pretty good performance in The Forgotten, phones in his scenes in The Council. Not that he’d really even be noticeable alongside Randy Oglesby’s work but at least he could have made an effort to put some depth in his performance. In this episode Manny Coto manages to make even the proverbial doomed redshirt stand out but in an episode full of compelling characters; Tucker is strictly a no show.

All in all the human side of The Council is easily outweighed by the Xindi side of it. It would have been intriguing if the producers had the guts to tell this episode’s story from the Xindi perspective. It certainly would have been doable as Degra was already on Enterprise a lot of the time. But “The Council” comes as close to that as it dares with an episode in which the Xindi rather than the humans are undeniably the key players.

Again the issue of proof is dubious since all Archer presents is a holographic mockup of the Sphere Builder. Considering what Degra tells us about the level of devotion of the Xindi to the Guardians, half the Council seems rather willing to turn on them with limited evidence at best. If T’Pol’s mission had returned from the Sphere with compelling evidence to the Council that might have more credibly explained their willingness to believe Archer’s story. Still the radical steps taken by the Reptillians help tip the balance.

Degra’s murder is excellently directed, written and played and stands as the best part of the episode. Much of it could have been done as a cliche but the writing gives us two personalities with two different worldviews colliding with one another in that room. Both are fanatics of a particular kind with two different visions of the future that will rebuild and reunify the Xindi. Degra’s vision embodied in that handshake with Trip is incompatible with the Reptillian dominated Xindi Council hunting down the very last humans in the galaxy. The launch of the weapon becomes a tug of war with the victory going to the Reptillians and Insectoids seeking to rebuild a destroyed way of life through mass murder.

Star Trek Enterprise episode review – E2

Synopsis: ENTERPRISE does VOYAGER and encounters its future in the form of reruns of previous STAR TREK episodes hashed together.

star trek enterprise E2Review: DS9’s “Children of Time” was hardly all that great of an episode, so it’s unclear as to why ENTERPRISE felt the need to remake it again. Or why after already doing one episode that showed Enterprise’s dark future if the Xindi mission failed, they chose to do another one. Or why they chose to interrupt the concluding arc of the season that had just begun gathering steam with an episode that distracts by rehashing a bunch of old episodes. But such are the mysteries that earn one a position on the writing staff of a television series.

It’s not that “E2” is a particularly bad episode. In fact, Mike Sussman has generally done good work and so has Roxann Dawson. But as the saying goes, there’s only so many times you can go to the well. The STAR TREK franchise has managed to drain the life out of such strengths as the Klingons and the Borg, and ENTERPRISE is well on its way to doing to time travel VOYAGER to the Borg. “E2” is not a bad episode but we’ve seen better versions of it plenty of times before. Take “Children of Time,” hash it together with some bits and pieces of “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” “Deadlock” and “Equinox” and you pretty much have this episode.

Worst of all, “E2” really doesn’t manage to do anything significant with the material. None of the future descendants are particularly interesting and aside from the great mess hall scene with Hoshi, Mayweather and Reed, the encounter with a future version Enterprise seems redirected into yet another round of Trip -n- T’Pol. And that is what really manages to reduce “E2” to a pile of barely digestible mush. Much as ENTERPRISE Season 3 took the destruction of Earth and the death of Trip’s sister and turned it into an excuse for erotic massages, “E2” takes the encounter with a future Enterprise and turns it into yet another round of gracelessly shoving Trip and T’Pol together. But of course even this silliness isn’t original because “Children of Time,” the DS9 episode this episode is cribbed from, featured a futuristic version of Odo revealing his love to Kira.

But it isn’t the turpid scenes between T’Pol and Trip themselves that destroy the episode but the outcome of twisting the episode to accomodate them by the creation of Lorian. Despite being derivative, however, “E2” had some possibilities. Imagine an encounter with a more wolfish and desperate Archer a decade or two down the road. Or even the same aged T’Pol we see in this episode in command and becoming more unstable as she desperately tries to achieve her goal by any means necesarry. It wouldn’t be the greatest STAR TREK episode of all time but it could have been compelling. It would have been about the crew and the choices they’ve made and what they can become if they continue down this path. It would have tied neatly into the previous episodes.

But instead as an articulation of Trip and T’Pol’s Love That Dare Not Speak Its Ratings, we get Lorian the first Redneck Vulcan on STAR TREK. He might have been entertaining if played for laughs, maybe meditating under a Confederate flag to a piece from a Harley’s motor. But instead David Andrews portrays him with all the intensity of a coma patient being pumped full of extra sediatives. Meanwhile, the child of Trip and T’Pol combines Trip’s boneheaded stupidity with T’Pol’s emotionlessness to produce a truly boring idiot. Aside from his emoting scene in the brig, Lorian isn’t just boring, he taps into a whole dimension of tediousness we never thought previously possible. God knows when you’re looking forward to Mayweather saying a line, something is seriously wrong.

Not only does “E2” waste enormous amounts of time on a character who does not seem to survive this episode but it wastes more time drawing out this round of the ‘Will They Or Won’t They Game’ for T’Pol and Trip, a game best reserved for the viewership of teenage girls, and ultimately is not about the choices Archer makes so much as the moral struggle of a boring character who is not a member of the crew and whom we will never see again. While it was a nice touch of irony to see the Enterprise crew end up on the other side of the treatment they handed out in “Damage” and for the same reason, “E2” manages to flub even this scene by centering the confrontation on Trip rather than Archer (you know, Archer, the guy who struggled with that tough decision to steal a warp coil from innocent people to save Earth only to find himself in the same predicament from the other side.)

There are worthwhile moments in the episode, however. Reed’s worries about remaining a bachelor, the two beaten ships docked together, the revelation of who Phlox married, Archer’s disappointed expression when he realizes that it’s Degra’s ship and not the other Enterprise and Degra becoming even more desperate and determined as Randy Oglesby continues stealing every scene he’s in. Jolene Blalock turns in another surprisingly good performance as the aged T’Pol, which perhaps might remind the producers that they might consider more possibilities involving her than getting her on drugs or taking her clothes off. But when all is said and done this episode simply does not work.

It is a poorly hashed together mix of older episodes that fits poorly into the arc, has the wrong focus and is a letdown in every way. Even the production values seem poor with the corridor effects looking cheap and terrible and T’Pol’s caked makeup making her look more like a swamp monster than an old woman. Makeup this bad was understandable on TOS when Kirk, Spock and McCoy underwent dramatic aging. But it’s completely unacceptable in 2004. But then T’Pol’s makeup, like this episode, shows the age of a creaking franchise in its last throes. With two episodes this season showing a dead and doomed ancient Enterprise fighting a hopeless battle, one almost wonders if the writers are prophecying the eponymous show for which they work.

Star Trek Enterprise episode review – The Forgotten

Synopsis: Archer attempts to forge an alliance with Degra while Trip and T’Pol try to hold themselves together.

Review: It’s nice to see at the beginning of “Forgotten” that all the damage Enterprise took is still present and the ship is in bad shape rather than being fully repaired, as has happened all too often on previous shows. In that, ENTERPRISE seems to be giving us what some expected VOYAGER to deliver with “Year of Hell” but didn’t. From inside to outside Enterprise is still battered, still limping along, and not magically resurrected with a few lines of technobabble.

star trek enterprise the forgottenIn some ways, she’s worse off as the crew is reaching its limits. Archer is more wolfish and desperate than ever; Trip is stumbling around without sleep for two days and T’Pol is dealing with uncontrollable emotions and brain damage. Degra, meanwhile, is coping with the consequences of the decisions he has to make and Randy Oglesby delivers another strong performance as Degra is torn between the demands of his duty, the consequences of his crime, and Archer’s alternative. When he responds to Archer’s hail after his destruction of the Reptillian ship, it is with the resigned face of a man who knows that no decision he makes will be the right one anymore.

Once again Chris Black delivers snappy and witty dialogue from Trip’s encounter with Taylor to Phlox sending him off to bed. His confrontation with Degra even manages to give Trip and T’Pol a believable scene together minus the cheap and sleazy innuendo. LeVar Burton again does a solid and smooth job directing the episode. Trip’s grieving storyline is effectively handled and very well done but should have been part of an overall grieving process going on throughout the season. Instead TPTB chose to redirect that storyline into Trip receiving erotic massages from T’Pol, which was a rather unfortunate and slimy mistake to say the least. ENTERPRISE had the chance to do an arc and instead has done a single episode while devoting far more time to the far less interesting story of T’Pol having a breakdown.

Degra and the Xindi-Arboreal finally bring up the issue of demanding actual proof from Archer and are actually skeptical about the proofs Archer provides. This is nice but of course it’s hard to buy that they’d have freed Archer and left Enterprise unmolested, if they never considered his proofs credible to begin with. Ultimately Archer doesn’t manage to provide them with a whole lot anyway. But at least “Forgotten” makes a serious effort to address this issue while previous episodes expected us to swallow the absurdity of Degra and other Xindi council members having a complete change of heart based on some wonky temporal readings on a piece of metal. It was also a good decision to have Degra regain his memory, since a credible alliance has to be built on honesty, though it’s not clear when or how this happened.

The warp plasma leak scene is a credible crisis that gives Trip and Reed a chance to bond again. Reed has been badly shortchanged this season and Trip and Reed worked great together in the past. But this season some of that relationship has been sadly allowed to fall by the wayside. It’s nice to see Reed once again prepared to suffer near suicidal abuse for the team with the old stiff upper lip. Hoshi and Mayweather are again pretty much out of a sight but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Phlox is well within his element and his scene with Trip is comedy gold and another demonstration of how underused Phlox is for anything but tedious exposition scenes.

Next week: More future shock.

Star Trek Enterprise episode review – Damage

Synopsis: Enterprise tries to recover from its pounding by stealing a warp coil. The Xindi Council bickers and T’Pol has to learn to ‘just say no’.

Review: The damage in the title of this episode refers to both the physical damage we can see in the tears and devastation on the Enterprise hull and the moral damage sustained by Archer and members of his crew over the term of the Xindi mission. It’s an episode that lingers over the damage Archer, T’Pol and even the Xindi see in themselves as much as it does over the lightless and beaten interiors of Enterprise itself.

Damage star trek enterpriseThe scene of the Xindi council calling off the attack early on dampens far too much of the tension too quickly, as it might have been much more helpful to keep the audience wondering why the Xindi called off the attack and whether they might return for a while. Still, “Damage” does a credible job of showing the beating Enterprise has taken and closes as it began with a devastated ship not healed by any quick fix or technobabble solution.

While STAR TREK, particularly on TV, will never top the sense of devastation Enterprise experienced after Khan’s attack, crystallized in the awful image of Scotty standing helplessly in the turbolift with a bloody body cradled in his arms, “Damage” provides some excellent… well, damage. The exploding EPS conduit over the heads of the senior officers followed by debris raining down during the briefing is a particularly nice touch; Archer looking over the covered bodies in sickbay is a more understated moment, but arguably a more effective one that hardens both his determination and pain.

The truly inspired touch, though, is the damaged alien vessel with the warp coil that Enterprise must raid in order to stop the Xindi weapon. Unlike DS9’s much-hyped “In The Pale Moonlight,” Archer faces a genuinely impossible moral dilemma because circumstances give him no choice but to carry out an immoral act against innocent victims. This puts it closer to the depth of great TOS episodes like “A Private Little War,” that require an immoral act for a pragmatic outcome.

When Archer’s team raids the alien vessel, it visually suggests the raids on Enterprise in “Anomaly” and “Rajiin,” and thus the victims become the victimizers, as happens all too often today. Archer’s final confrontation with the alien captain is brief but effective. Throughout the course of an agonizing year Archer has gone from being naive and arrogantly optimistic to a hard-driven and wounded man who acts not out of hope but pragmatism. The scientist and explorer has become the unwilling soldier.

All in all “Damage” effectively shows the price Enterprise has paid and the way in which Archer and the crew respond to it. However the other two stories circling around the episode, namely T’Pol Gone Wild and the Xindi council debating Archer’s claims, are a good deal weaker. The Xindi Council scenes in general to tend to deflate too much of the tension and claustrophobic atmosphere that makes for the episode’s strongest scenes. Brannon Braga and Rick Berman should have learned from George Lucas’s THE PHANTOM MENACE, which demonstrated that political bickering in government offices doesn’t make for the best drama. Worse yet, the Xindi Council scenes represent exactly what much of “Damage” avoids, easy and quick fixes.

The Xindi Council members moving from genocide to freeing Archer and letting Enterprise go is just too implausible. Degra argues that Archer had provided proof where the Sphere Builder has not, but that is even more absurd; Archer did not prove his claims about the sphere-builders or their ambitions. All he did was prove that he might have access to time travel, which the Xindi already know the Sphere-Builders do. Archer did nothing to demonstrate or prove humanity’s good intentions and at the same time it’s also completely implausible that Degra and the others would be so committed to wiping out humanity without a single shred of evidence that Earth presented a threat, but just on the word of the Sphere-Builder.

Randy Oglesby continues to deliver strong performances as Degra and Tucker Smallwood is quite good too. The Sphere-Builder from the future pacing through the Xindi Council is eerie, even if her performance is so transparently malevolent that it’s absurd that anyone would take her claims seriously. Compare that to the more subtle female shapeshifter on DS9 who didn’t have to act like she was about to bake Hansel and Gretel in a giant oven to convey the presence of evil.

T’Pol’s story is something else entirely. Namely an exercise in contemptible stupidity and unforiveable ignorance. We had good reason to believe that sooner or later TPTB would tie in something involving the anomalies and Trellium-D to T’Pol’s bizarre behavior in order to get them off the hook with the STAR TREK fans Braga derides as ‘Continuity Pornographers.’

But it was difficult to imagine a storyline in which we are told that Vulcans need to take drugs in order to experience emotions when in fact Vulcans experience emotions far more intense than humans–the very reason that requires them to maintain such strict control. The idea that a Vulcan needs to take drugs to experience emotions is as insane as saying that a weightlifter needs to take drugs in order to be able to put down barbells rather than to lift them up. The difficulty is in suppressing emotions, the emotions Vulcans experience all the time and must continually struggle to control using their mental disciplines. Trellium-D degrades those disciplines but those disciplines are a voluntary
exerciseto begin with. It simply makes absolutely no sense at all.

Of all the aspects of STAR TREK, Vulcans have taken the worst beating from ENTERPRISE, first being cast as villains plotting to obstruct our heroes, as militarists, as prudes, metaphorical homophobes, mind rapists and just about any nasty thing imaginable. But T’Pol’s portrayal this season has really hit a whole new low. It is, of course, difficult to top the repulsive depiction of T’Pol in “Bounty,” running through the halls half-undressed in a mating frenzy and having to be hunted down by Enterprise security teams, but season three has certainly been working up to it.

The bonus sexism of a woman being left in command on a ship while becoming unfocused and then hysterical, only to be relieved by the male Captain is yet another of ENTERPRISE’s thoughtful additions to the STAR TREK legacy that we will undoubtedly treasure for years to come. Somewhere Harlan Ellison, who has spent countless hours over the past few decades shrilly complaining because Gene Roddenberry wouldn’t let him portray a crew members as drug users and dealers is undoubtedly quite happy right now. Perhaps next season we can look forwards to Trip tripping out on E or Archer on crack? After all, we’ve now opened the door and we might as well step all the way through.

“Damage” is strongest when it focuses on the moral and physical dilemmas of the Enterprise crew, rather than the more soap operatic elements. Unfortunately, along with the physical and emotional damage to the Enterprise and its crew, the episode suffers from its own damage as well.

Next week: There are only 5 new episodes left. Count em, that’s 5 new episodes.

Star Trek Enterprise episode review – Azati Prime

Synopsis: Archer attempts a lone attack on Azati Prime, which leaves him captured in enemy hands.

star trek enterprise azati primeReview: “Azati Prime” in many ways resembles the episode that closed out the second season, “The Expanse.” “Prime” is chock full of plot developments and important things happening. So many and so much, in fact, that the episode seems unbalanced like an old woman carrying a heavy load on her back. Enterprise reaches Azati Prime, Archer goes to the future to discover the truth about everything that’s been going on, Archer goes off on a suicide mission, Archer is captured and tortured, T’Pol struggles with command of the Enterprise, Archer convinces Xindi council members they were wrong about attacking Earth (the latter in under 15 minutes), and the Xindi vessels nearly destroy Enterprise. This isn’t material for one episode, this is material for at least 2 or 3 episodes, which is ironic, considering that episodes like “Doctor’s Orders” and “Hatchery” were essentially filler, marking time until this week. Even so, “Hatchery” was a more coherent and better structured episode.

The deeper problem is that despite the competence and decisiveness and intelligence Archer and his crew have begun showing in recent Xindi episodes like “Stratagem” and “Proving Ground,” it goes completely out the window in this key episode. Archer suddenly decides to go off on a suicide mission even though he is not only the officer most needed on Enterprise but is actually far less qualified for the operation than Mayweather, who actually piloted the shuttle in. His whole course of action is irrational and endangers the mission but despite the crew being prepared to mutiny last week when Archer compromised the mission, this week the crew do no more than express muted sadness. Archer argues that he’s doing it because he doesn’t want to order anyone to their deaths, but that’s nonsense. The Xindi killed 7 million humans; Enterprise would have plenty of volunteers ready to carry out the attack, just as essentially suicide missions like the Doolittle Raid after Pearl Harbor had plenty of volunteers.

T’Pol then follows up on the situation and does nothing and eventually Enterprise is torn apart by a Xindi attack. Archer tries to get the Xindi star trek enterprise azati primeReptilian to kill him once he’s captured and being tortured which is pretty silly since the time for suicide was when Archer was on his powered-down ship with a lot of explosives on board and vital security information in his head. And despite simulations like the ones we saw Major Hayes running last week, Enterprise’s response to the Xindi is mostly to sit there and take it. Unsurprisingly this doesn’t work out too well. And while the image of Enterprise crewmembers being sucked out into space is shocking, it evinces more disgust than grief because of T’Pol’s incompetence and indecisiveness and Archer’s abandonment and desertion that led up to the moment.

Azati Prime has its stirring moments, like Archer’s farewell speech to his crew and turning over Porthos to Dr. Phlox. It has some great visual effects like the shuttle splashing down into the water and Enterprise being ripped apart. Allan Kroeker‘s direction is solidly dramatic through. The concept of Daniels bringing Archer to stand on the bridge of a future Enterprise at the scene of a battle with the Sphere Builders is pretty neat, too. Continuity tie-ins with previous episodes ranging from “Twilight” to “Hatchery” to “Strategem” to “Harbinger” to “Carpenter Street” are all well and good, but “Azati Prime” remains an episode burdened with too much material and too little intelligence. Ultimately, the core developments of the episode are driven by Archer and T’Pol, the ship’s top two officers, doing stupid things. And it’s hard to find stupidity gripping or moving.

“Azati Prime” would have worked much better by splitting up its material over more episodes, especially since far too few of Enterprise’s episodes this season have been truly arc episodes. Ending the episode with Archer’s capture would have also made for a much stronger ending than dragging it on while Archer rather unbelievably convinces Degra and other council members with no real evidence that he’s been to the future and that their real enemy is a race from another dimension. The plausible response by the Xindi wouldn’t have been anger or belief but laughter. Randy Oglesby again does a great job with the material but his change of heart based on Archer’s absurd claims, rather than based on his moral qualms, is completely ridiculous. “Azati Prime” would have done better by having Archer appeal to Degra’s sense of morality and the children who would die if the weapon was launched then by telling Degra he’s been to the future.

Having T’Pol and the crew formulate a realistic plan of attack that incorporated what they learned about Xindi insectoid vessels and having Enterprise fight believably for its life would have also made the devastation far more powerful and gripping. Also, you have to wonder why Enterprise didn’t bother keeping an eye on the outpost. Didn’t they consider the possibility the Xindi might check on them? But basic intelligence seems to have been checked at the door this time out, right along with common sense. “Azati Prime” has some good material but sadly it’s poorly deployed and jumbled together in an episode with too much whiz-bang and too little of the horse sense and strategy of recent scripts. No amount of special effects or plot developments can compensate for watching characters use their minds and do their best to cope with a problem instead of retreating into stupidity or apathy.

Star Trek Enterprise episode review – Hatchery

Synopsis: When Archer is infected by a Xindi hatchery he becomes the proud and overprotective godfather of a whole bunch of Xindi spawn.

Review: Viruses, mind-control devices, hallucinogenic plants, remote hypnotic suggestions and various radiations on STAR TREK have often been the vehicle for exploring behavior and playing out conflicts that the producers and writers do not dare have the characters act out in reality. Such plot devices are convenient because they allow conflict and dramatic events to take place without consequences that would redefine the characters and their relationships to each other. But such episodes are also often lifeless and dreary because ultimately we know that the Reset Button will be pressed by the end, eliminating whatever development has occurred in it.

star trek enterprise hatchery“Hatchery” partially dodges this trap by limiting the effects of the Xindi chemical to Archer alone. The actions of his crew and the MACO’s were not undertaken due to any outside influence and so continue to be a factor even though the episode hastily wraps up the conclusion with Major Hayes accepting everything without too much fuss — although as far as he knows the people giving him the information may well now be the enemy. The bigger questions about Enterprise’s command structure remain unanswered, however. A single scene of Archer telling Hayes not to accept any illegal orders from him in the future or orders that violate Starfleet’s chain of command would have gone far in that regard. As would T’Pol and Trip or Phlox questioning whether the presence of the MACO’s gives the Captain too much power and subverts the Starfleet approved hierarchy on the starship.

Still, “Hatchery” does well given the timeworn and derivative material. Despite the fact that just about any viewer with any STAR TREK experience under his belt realized that Archer had been infected and his behavior was due to the infection very quickly, “Hatchery” manages to draw out the suspense by framing Archer’s behavior with appealing liberal rhetoric from the him. The more obviously bizarre and dangerous Archer’s behavior becomes, the more appealing his rhetoric becomes, like a drug addict finding increasingly persuasive ways to defend his addiction. A literal metaphor since Archer had, in fact, been drugged. Unlike previous Captains in similar episodes whose behavior was clearly aberrant, Archer remains deeply persuasive almost until the end.

“Hatchery” also manages to throw in a good deal of background and character development for the Xindi Insectoids, more so than anything that we’ve gotten in the past. We’ve seen the Xindi Insectoids at their worst but now we also see them possessed of a compelling instinct to preserve their offspring, even if that instinct appears to be a chemically-generated fact of their biology. “Hatchery” also throws in a variety of other continuity references, including a long-awaited one to the Eugenics Wars, even if Archer does make it sound more like a UN peacekeeping mission than the hell and horror of WWIII. The revelation that the MACO’s were trained at West Point points to continuing questions about the status of individual nation states in this time period.

The key conflict in the episode simmers occasionally but never really boils. Trip’s takedown of Archer is anti-climactic where a more extended scene in which Archer tries to use his newfound persuasive abilities and call on their friendship before Trip is forced to shoot him would have worked better. Major Hayes has also not been all that developed throughout the season and his tension with Reed should have been far better defined by this point. Nevertheless, the crew’s willingness to defy the Captain for the mission even without any solid proof of a foreign agent acting on his mental state shifts the balance of power a bit as Archer recognizes jokingly in his final scene with Trip.

Star Trek Enterprise episode review – Doctor’s Orders

Synopsis: While the crew is asleep, Doctor Phlox is left in charge of Enterprise.

Review: Doctor Phlox has been the most consistently underused ENTERPRISE crewmember with the exceptions of poor forgotten Mayweather. But unlike him, Phlox actually has an incredible amount of potential that tends to get wasted by just utilizing him to occasionally move the plot along or as a minor supporting character. A situation that has only grown worse in the third season as a recent interview by the actor testifies.

star trek enterprise doctors ordersNevertheless, Phlox has managed to steal the show in even the smallest parts in other episodes. His appearances in “A Night in Sickbay” that cataloged his routine were the highlight of an awful episode. “Doctor’s Orders” is strongest at the start when as in “Sickbay,” Phlox is simply and calmly going about his routine. But it’s when the episode tries to fit him into a remake of VOYAGER’s “One” that the material begins to unravel.

“One” was a very strong episode and a great concept in no small part because it was a way of creating character development for Seven of Nine by demonstrating to her that she needs other people. But there is no similar development necessary for Phlox and “Doctor’s Orders” doesn’t provide that development. As Billingsley has himself pointed out in the interview, Phlox is at heart an unflappable character. Odd as it might be, a scene of Phlox making his rounds with Porthos is somehow more interesting than one with Phlox stalking imaginary Xindi. “Doctor’s Orders”‘s plot would have made sense for T’Pol, incredibly derivative of VOYAGER as that may have been. But aside from training him to run parts of the ship it fails to do much in the way of developing Phlox.

While Roxann Dawson‘s direction is smooth and effective, visually “Doctor’s Order” simply never comes close to “One” in evoking a hallucinatory, paranoid atmosphere in which the unreal merges with the real. Instead, the episode quickly demarcates the line of reality with the only exception being the SIXTH SENSE-style twist involving T’Pol.

Billingsley and Blalock do get the chance to do some comedy and Blalock is surprisingly funny but Phlox is funniest when he’s relaxed and reacting normally, not in forced scenes when he’s running around like a chicken with his head cut off. The problem is that the producers have not grasped that Billingsley’s Phlox is naturally funny and that they don’t need to put him through awkward routines for that humor to shine.

All in all, “Doctor’s Orders” is a somewhat average and uninspired episode about ENTERPRISE’s most underused character, whose best moments are not so much plot-derived as montages of Phlox wandering an empty ship. The narrative device of Phlox’s letters to the same Doctor Lucas as in prior episodes are good but fails to serve as an adequate showcase for Phlox and Billingsley’s talents.

Star Trek Enterprise episode review – Harbinger

Synopsis: Enterprise finds a mysterious dying alien as the crew divides their time between fistfights and erotic massages.

Review: “Strategem”‘s closing scene last week was reminiscent of the closing scene of DS9’s “Call To Arms” for building momentum to a bigger story about to unfold. Like an alcoholic with a five dollar bill, “Harbinger” squanders that momentum and all the work of its strong two preceding episodes, in favor of a disjointed mix of storylines filled with out-of-character behavior.

After a series of episodes filled with alien attacks, starships, and explosions, “Harbinger” is a bottle show in which most of the tension comes from within; from the crew itself. This is a good enough idea but unfortunately the producers have not managed to come up with character conflicts of any depth. Instead we have remarkably petty behavior from T’Pol and Reed to provide the conflict that ends up overshadowing the Xindi mission in favor of soap opera-style characterization.

And so we go from an episode in which Archer and the crew of the Enterprise are making steady, determined progress toward preventing the annihilation of Earth and the human race, to another episode in which the crew of the Enterprise act like adolescents with poor impulse-control skills. It is not a good contrast and is reminiscent of the worst of ENTERPRISE like “A Night in Sickbay” rather than some of the fine episodes the series has put out lately. At least when earlier STAR TREK shows did this kind of episode, they managed to have a virus, or a plant or some form of radiation take the blame for the crew’s behavior.

The MACO’s have all along essentially been a gimmick and redundant. ENTERPRISE has not helped matters by mostly keeping them out of the picture and failing to properly develop them or integrate them with the crew. “Harbinger” is thus supposed to be the equivalent of VOYAGER’s Learning Curve. Except it should have come much earlier in this season and should have addressed the issue with more depth than simply showing Reed and Hayes beating each other senseless. Archer’s outrage and disgust is fully justified, but it is a disgust and outrage that should be directed at the producers and writer of the episode.

The murder of Trip’s sister at the end of last season should have opened the gateway to some real character development, instead the great minds behind ENTERPRISE determined that it should be a gateway to some erotic massages. And so that’s what we got. Erotic massage grief counseling which is almost as credible a therapeutic tool as the ‘smear your germs’ decontamination chamber was a credible way of fighting alien diseases. Considering the opening of “A Night in Sickbay,” it seemed more like a credible way of spreading alien diseases.

Star Trek Enterprise T'Pol naked Harbinger

This was the most frequent image search result for this episode and the series... says something, doesn't it

Last week we saw the capture of the designer of the Xindi weapon and his confrontation with Archer and the discovery of the location of the project. That was not a Sweeps episode. This week T’Pol takes her shirt off and that is a Sweeps episode. That should tell you something about the priorities of the people running ENTERPRISE (or scheduling it).

Last week with the man responsible for the murder of his sister and millions of other humans in Enterprise’s custody, Trip was kept in the background. This week when it’s time to give massages to female crewmembers, Trip is in the foreground. That should tell you something about the priorities of the people determining Trip’s character development. All in all the less said about this storyline the better, except that it might help if the producers did their research and got their inspiration by watching classic STAR TREK episodes instead of Cinemax.

That leaves us with “Harbinger,” namely the mysterious alien, which is also the only worthwhile part of the episode. Unfortunately, it also takes a back seat to Reed’s Fight Club and Trip’s massage parlor. A storyline connecting the alien spheres and the Xindi attack on earth with a new enemy should have been a major event, instead it’s tucked out of sight in between Reed’s bouts of testosterone poisoning and Rick Berman’s sleazy plea for attention from the 18 to 35 male demographic.

Still, despite the cliched aspects of the plot, the alien’s story stands out from the rest of this mediocre muddle of an episode. From Archer withholding pain medication against Dr. Phlox’s protests to the alien’s Cheshire Cat grin as he vanishes, it’s the aspect of the episode that provides the only memorable and gripping moments to be had. And the only moments that don’t leave you with a desire to erase them from your mind by sticking your head in a working microwave oven.

Along with the story, the special effects and production values also seem to have taken a nose dive. From the clumsy alien makeup to the terrible space special effects that look like they’re from an 80’s movie; it’s clear that this is the episode the series is supposed to be saving money on. David Livingston does what he can to try and compensate for the disaster of a script, and is occasionally effective as with the camera work in Archer’s tirade at Reed and Hayes. But most of the time it simply makes no difference because there is little to nothing that could conceivably salvage this episode. And nothing does.

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