Space Ramblings

Star Trek Enterprise episode review – Terra Nova

Summary: Enterprise explores the mystery of a planet whose human colonists have disappeared and gone feral.

star trek enterprise terra novaAn episode rather similar to the 7th season Voyager episode, Friendship One. Much of the same elements are there. The poisoned planet and its diseased underground inhabitants who blame humans for their plight, hostages being taken, an unreasonable leader and a somewhat more reasonable woman whom they manage to reach through a medical cure. The minor difference is that the settlers aren’t nearly as violent as the cave people from Friendship One, which makes them somewhat understandable and sympathetic characters. The key difference of course is that the inhabitants are actually feral children of the original human settlers from the colony covered in mud. This difference is also the only reason why Terra Nova works and Friendship One didn’t.

Or at least it works for a while anyway. Starting from the premise of a Roanoke colony whose inhabitants have gone missing, the episode makes for an intriguing beginning but as with Strange New World, the episode quickly deflates the mystery and moves on to dealing with the human elements of the problem. While this is an improvement over Voyager’s tendency towards technobabble and spatial anomalies, a little mystery can be good too. And the only mystery that remains involving the impact that brings the poisoned rain is deflated and resolved in an all-together un-mysterious manner.

Still Levar Burton’s (Geordi from TNG) lushly shot exteriors and the talents of the two actors playing the natives at overcoming the dialogue peppered with bad post-apocalyptic 80’s movie slang, help make Terra Nova work well enough as a good episode, even if not a particularly rewatchable one. Recovering from last week’s disaster, TN features some rather clever set design including a brief shot of a large armadillo like creature, whose shells are scattered around everywhere around the caves and turned into tools and food. It’s a cheap and subtle touch that goes a long way. A lesson Unexpected could have certainly used.

Better yet, Dr Phlox and Malcolm Reed who may well end up being Enterprise’s breakout characters get more screen time and the dreary and bland Trip gets less screen time. Reed has some very nice underplayed moments in the caverns and even Bakula himself shows some emotion and becomes genuinely distraught at the revelation of what the colonists have become. After the last two episodes where Bakula bordered on the robotic, it’s nice to see that he has some depth to play.

The ending is more than a bit of cliche. It’s the one piece of the plot that isn’t directly borrowed from Friendship One, but it is borrowed from about a dozen episodes of Bonanza. Still it’s a cliche that flows well enough with the general feel of the episode, which like most of the Enterprise episodes so far is charmingly earnest and sincere, if not particularly engaging or suspenseful.

Next week: Enter the Andorians.

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