Synopsis: The Augments attempt to stage an attack to begin a war between Earth and the Klingon Empire, which is thwarted by Enterprise and a defecting Soong.
Superior genetics... Superior Brooding
Review: “The Augments” is a fairly predictable conclusion to the three-part arc that lacks the stumbling incompetence of “Borderland” and the strong dramatic center of “Cold Station 12,” leaving it an episode without any real strengths or weaknesses. The result is mostly bland and cliched and few moments in the episode manage to make you sit up and take notice.
Malik proceeds on the usual self-destructive course of villains ticking off every cliche along the way, right down to a shock horror movie-style reappearance when you least expect it. Brent Spiner‘s Soong, who was responsible for much of the strength of “Cold Station 12,” still gives a committed performance but the writing fails to give him a partner to play off the way that last week’s installment did. Where “Cold Station 12” engaged him in a destructive father-son dynamic with Malik, Soong mainly ignores Malik here, producing scenes that don’t really spark. Even when the two talk, the dialogue is increasingly trite and rings hollow. The actors are clearly making an effort and the acting is the best part of “The Augments” but the writing just isn’t there.
Once Soong leaves the Augments’ Klingon ship we’re left with him trying to make his case to Archer, who in true Archer fashion never pays attention. At the heart of Soong’s story is a tragedy of hubris and love that Spiner understands but that the structure of the episode fails to bring out properly. Where “Cold Station 12” functioned more as a stage play, “The Augments” is a formulaic episode that moves from programmed confrontation to action scene but doesn’t enable the actors to really grapple with each other emotionally, intellectually, or morally. The arguments for the Augments — and thus genetic engineering itself — being evil are supposed to underlie the episode are quite weak, too. Archer tells Soong that Malik’s actions prove that the Augments are innately ruthless mass murderers but that may or may not be the case. The Augments were shaped by events.
First by being deprived of a father figure in Soong and left to be raised alone and amoral as feral wolf children. Second by being hunted by
Genetic Superman, Robots, is there anything he can't do?
Starfleet and an awareness that human society would not tolerate their very existence. The first resulted in a lack of morals other than obedience to leaders, from Soong to Malik, who told them exactly what to do. The second caused them to feel persecuted and hunted so that they felt they had no choice but to kill. Even Malik does not use weapons of mass destruction until Archer pursues them into Klingon space, even though of course he had taken them along before hand.
The distinction is that the Augments did not seek to rule humanity, they wanted to be left alone. On the flimsy excuse of conflict with the Klingons, Starfleet refused to do that. However Archer then pursues them into Klingon space and damages a Klingon ship, something which should have caused in a war with the Klingons at least as much as the Augments’ actions. Malik suggests to Soong that Starfleet will simply help the Klingons find them and one wonders why Archer doesn’t do this. The Klingons may be angry with Enterprise but they would still be happy enough to capture the Augments and it is their territory, after all.
But reasonable behavior is not standard in “The Augments,” where things play out formulaically and everything is nicely resolved even to the extent that Archer never has to confront what should happen to the Augments when Malik conveniently destroys them all. If the embryos had survived at least and Archer had to ponder keeping them around or not, it might have been an interesting moral dilemma. Similarly, Persis or any other Augment could have abandoned Malik and survived, raising the question of what humanity should do with them and what role they could play in humanity. But “The Augments” eradicates this and most other questions, leaving Soong planning to build artificial beings in a nod to Data. Of course, ironically, quite a few of the stories involving robots also involve them turning on mankind.
All in all “The Augments” has some nice continuity references from Botany Bay to the Briar Patch. It had some strong acting weakened by deeply formulaic writing. It has the occasional entertaining moment such as Archer bluffing his way past the Klingons but unlike “Borderland” such moments are all but absent from the episode. Few tough questions are raised and most problems are easily solved and the Klingons apparently let Enterprise leave their space easily enough even after Enterprise damages one of their ships and Archer has a Klingon bounty on his head as an escapee from a Klingon Gulag (a piece of continuity that would have been more helpful for the episode to bring up rather than the Briar Patch of all things.)
Ultimately “The Augments” is neither a bad episode nor a good episode, it doesn’t stand out in either way. Like the Augments characterize humanity – it’s simply mediocre.
Next week: Vulcan Trek.