Space Ramblings

Star Trek Enterprise episode review – Rajin

Overall episode score: 6.0
Performances: 7.0
Writing: 3.5
Direction: 5.0
FX and Production Values: 6.5

Summary: A Xindi spy romances and probes the Enterprise crew.

“Rajiin” picks up the Xindi arc and references events in previous third season episodes like “The Xindi,” “Anomaly” and “Extinction” that has Archer dealing with the aftereffects of his mutation, the Enterprise searching for a way to synthesize the hull compound suggested by the Osaarian and the council mentioning Enterprise’s attack on the mine. There are more scenes of the Xindi leaders, which sketch out the agendas of the individual Xindi races a bit more and their long-term plans beyond what the premiere showed us. The Expanse still seems more like VOYAGER’s Delta Quadrant than the unimaginably mysterious place that terrified both Vulcans and Klingons at the end of the last season; but the alien bazaar is nicely done both conceptually and visually. Vejar’s direction shines most in the bazaar scenes filled with strange goods and animals for sale by strange species. Like “Broken Bow” and “The Seventh”‘s takes on STAR WARS’ Mos Eisley, it’s an effective evocation of interspecies trade and mingling. And what 24th century Earth should probably look like but never does.

Like the behind the scenes looks at the Suliban’s interactions with Future Guy, the Xindi council scenes serve to position the conflict as being something greater than just isolated threats to the Enterprise. But at the same time the council also seems to be following the classic pattern of bad aliens/reasonable aliens subdividing the threat into the same categories of evil enemies and ones that can be negotiated with that have served as the resolution for many a STAR TREK episode. It would have been more interesting if their positions hadn’t been quite as biased to appearances, if perhaps the humanoid Xindi had been the most ruthless while the insectoid Xindi had been the most sympathetic to the humans. It would have put forwards the traditional STAR TREJ message of disassociating outward appearances from inner humanity. Much in the same way that TOS’s “Devil in the Dark” recontextualized the monster to show a mother, it might have also been interesting if instead of being an attractive woman, “Rajiin” had been something that outwardly looked like a monster. It would have had real possibilities for changing how we think about the Xindi instead of doing yet another episode about a mysterious seductive woman with a hidden agenda and thus going where STAR TREK has already gone so very many times before.

Like other ENTERPRISE episodes in the past, “Rajiin” becomes a struggle between the high road and the low road that only tangles the story and the motivations of the characters even more. While Archer was perfectly prepared to send back the Cogenitor to a life of slavery in order to maintain good relations with an alien species, he’s prepared to fight all comers in the alien bazaar in a completely alien part of the galaxy on behalf of another slave. At the end of “Cogenitor” Archer asks Trip what kind of example he’s been setting, which is a really hard question to answer because a lot of the time Archer doesn’t seem to know himself. Is this meant to be part of Archer’s character growth in the Expanse, is he being manipulated by Rajiin, is it because he’s attracted to the slave in question but he wasn’t attracted to the Cogenitor? Or is Archer simply being written inconsistently because the show’s writers and therefore also its characters are not operating within any kind of consistent moral framework? It’s important for characters to have worthy goals but without a consistent understanding of how they solve problems in order to achieve those goals, stories become exercises in plot contrivance.

But “Rajiin” suffers from the same problem that the series does as a whole. This is, after all, the show that featured the first Vulcan to serve on board a human starship even as they paraded her around in skimpy clothing at every opportunity. This is also the season which took Trip’s post traumatic disorder suffered after the death of his sister and turned it into an opportunity for a topless massage. ENTERPRISE wants to do serious stories but it also wants to desperately appeal to the lowest common denominator with desperate tactics like these. And the two are not all that compatible, particularly because unlike when in the Original Series, it smacks of a kind of cynical desperation that treats the audience with contempt while scrambling for ratings. It’s no surprise that “Rajiin” seems to place as much emphasis on the deliberations of the Xindi council as on T’Pol and Trip doing the heterosexual version of K\S fan-fic. Except, of course, for the suggestions of intimacy in Rajiin’s encounters with Hoshi and T’Pol, which once again serves to present homosexual contact as threatening and a violation, rather than portraying it positively. If B&B have to stage exploitative scenes, they could at least avoid associating same sex intimacy with rape against an otherwise heterosexual character as an offensive stereotype in movies and TV shows.

If the high road in “Rajiin” holds up, it’s because of an effective performance from the guest starring actress in taking a part that could easily have been reduced to a heavy breathing cliche and infusing Rajjin with a distinct personality that’s always present. And overall the performances generally do hold up, as aside from the massage scene everyone manages to keep their dignity and take the material seriously aided in no small part by Vejar, STAR TREK’s best director. Unlike LeVar Burton in “Extinction”, whose episodes usually look good, Vejar is not only good visually but good at working with the actors to get the right performance out of them. Whether it’s an alien trader doing an almost lighthearted impression of an alien trader on the original series to Rajiin’s intense concentration on everything around her, “Rajiin” boasts the right performances every time. It’s likely more to his credit than to Friedman’s script that “Rajiin” doesn’t become another “Favorite Son.” And while the battle scenes don’t live up to the standards of “Anomaly” or the fight scenes to the standards of “The Xindi,” this fourth episode of the season manages both satisfactorily. More importantly than the action scenes are the interactions between Archer and Rajiin that play well and without which no amount of action scenes could have salvaged the episode. Ultimately Rajiin’s report to the council hinges on the credibility of those scenes and as a result so does the entire episode as a whole.

Next week: What could make a Vulcan lose his or her mind?

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