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Star Trek Enterprise episode review – Regeneration

“Regeneration”

Summary: The Borg make a comeback as Enterprise goes where just about every Star Trek series has gone before.

There’s nothing precisely wrong with “Regeneration.” Unlike some of the more mediocre NEXT GENERATION and VOYAGER efforts, it manages to let the Borg keep their dignity while portraying them as ominous and menacing. It doesn’t reduce them to a single oversexed Borg queen and even gives them back some of their mystery. But at the same time there’s nothing precisely right about “Regeneration” either. Maybe over the past decade the potential of the Borg has been thoroughly tapped out by various STAR TREK spinoffs or maybe any future Borg episodes or movies need to break new ground to be effective. Either way, despite striking work by David Livingston, particularly in the arctic scenes, and an adequate enough script, “Regeneration” ends up regenerating all the cliches resulting in an episode that just doesn’t add up to much of anything.

Like FIRST CONTACT, the movie that the episode serves as a pseudo-sequel to, “Regeneration” plays as a horror movie with the Borg as the monsters. Beginning with the arctic discovery scene that suggests a homage to the classic Sci-Fi monster film, THE THING, the Borg appear as monsters safely buried until somebody foolish enough digs them up resulting in the usual havoc horror movies are made of. Substitute mummies or vampires for Borg and you could have pretty much the same episode, and there is a case to be made for arguing that the Borg are indeed space-age vampires. After all, they’re nearly invincible to ordinary unmodified weapons. They infect their victims, making them one of their kind with double-fanged incisions causing them to lose their humanity. They rest in special alcoves analogous to vampire coffins. And like all vampires the final confrontation with them, in any number of the Borg episodes, from their first appearance to this one where Archer plays Van Helsing, involves a trip to their lair.

What has elevated the best Borg episodes above mere space fright has been the examination of the borderline between human being and Borg in episodes like “The Best of Both Worlds,” “I, Borg” or “Dark Frontier” rather than reducing the Borg to shambling monsters. “Regeneration” makes some attempt towards incorporating such a storyline with Phlox’s infection, which also results in some of the episode’s best scenes including a memorable exchange with Hoshi. But it never really explores the boundary between individuality and collectivism as the above mentioned episodes did, instead it mainly features Phlox being sick. Archer’s storyline that deals with his realization that he can’t save the research team is plausible enough, though never really gripping. It might have been more gripping if Enterprise crewmembers had been on that transport forcing Archer to sacrifice the lives of his own people. But as it is Archer is once again coming to realize something the audience already knows, which may make for some character development but not for interesting viewing.

“Regeneration”‘s resolution also comes a little too unbelievably easy considering what a challenge the Borg were for Picard and Co. in the 24th century while Archer and Co. experience much less trouble disposing of them in the 22nd century. Admittedly they are facing weaker and smaller numbers of Borg but the key Borg strategy in this story is a timed shutdown of Enterprise’s power systems at a critical moment, which is a bit too cunning for the more literal-minded Borg, who traditionally utilize direct smash and grab tactics.

But mostly “Regeneration” is an episode-scale reworking of FIRST CONTACT without a revenge motive for the captain or a master plan for the Borg. And without a significant motive on either side, it’s is reduced to another ‘Borg as Monsters’ plot that could have been done with any number of monsters or races. There’s no real risk for the Enterprise because “Regeneration” is a stand alone episode with no future repercussions despite its ending since we know that it’s Q who will bring the Enterprise-D into contact with the Borg well ahead of schedule. And there’s no new ground being broken because “Regeneration” offers nothing in the way of a plot that we haven’t seen before. With those factors eliminated the only justification for the episode seems to be the need to exploit the Borg one more time in the hope of boosting ENTERPRISE’s ratings. So instead of the Borg assimilating the series to add to its perfection, ENTERPRISE assimilates the Borg to add them to its mediocrity.

Next week: Can the show do better with two chances on one night?

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.

Star Trek Enterprise episode review – Impulse

“Impulse”

Overall episode score: 7.0
Performances: 6.5
Writing: 5.0
Direction: 8.0
FX and Production Values: 8.0

Summary: ENTERPRISE does EVENT HORIZON with Vulcan zombies. Fortunately there’s a method to the madness.

star trek enterprise impulseThus far s three has not exactly been T’Pol’s year. Her primary role on the show seems to have been to serve as Trip’s unclad masseuse and in the last two episodes she’s hit a particularly low point. In “Extinction” she was reduced to helplessly scrambling away from the mutated crewmembers like an extra in a slasher movie with no trace of the specially trained operative with Vulcan strength her character is supposed to be. In “Rajiin” she was reduced even lower to a psychic rape victim. This week she’s back in sickbay again but at least there’s some character development in it for her.

EVENT HORIZON substituted a spaceship for a haunted house and a mysterious faster than light space drive for an Indian burial ground, but essentially the material was the same. Ever since the Vulcan ambassador tried to frighten Archer with grainy green videotape of psychotic Vulcans running amok in the expanse, the resemblance to the movie’s data log was unmistakable. And since ENTERPRISE’s early season episodes tend to be better on continuity, Vulcan zombies was a concept that a Brannon Braga-produced series could never pass up; it was almost inevitable that Enterprise would run into them sooner or later. Once it does the resulting plot is a predictably formulaic series of zombie chase scenes not significantly different from most horror movies or for that matter STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT, except that the Vulcan zombies are never scary. The results are more reminiscent of season two’s “Sleeping Dogs,” in which characters scramble around a rundown broken Klingon ship with a Klingon stalking them. The one thing STAR TREK has never really done well is horror and “Impulse” is no exception. Still, veteran Trek director David Livingston goes all out to do some great work right down to the flashy, final horror movie-style nightmare sequence and if “Impulse” never manages to be disturbing, it’s not his fault. Even the FX are well directed with dramatic pans across an asteroid field roiling with tumbling rocks.

Vulcan zombies are just hard to take seriously and horror is premised on the idea that the characters are in a situation beyond their control and in which some of them will not survive. On STAR TREK, on the other hand, the situation is almost always under control, even if it’s via Deus Ex Technobabble, and we know the cast members will survive. The franchise simply doesn’t do horror well because TREK episodes are too afraid to let go of their control. The only out-of-control element involves T’Pol’s growing instability but at this point seeing crew members go wonky is nothing special. Archer, Reed, and Hoshi did it two episodes ago and the last time T’Pol lost her sanity was during last season’s “Bounty,” not to mention “The Seventh” or “Strange New World.” Fortunately, unlike “Bounty”‘s abysmal T’Pol B-Plot, T’Pol’s instability here serves to allow some character development.

“Impulse” also features a long overdue look at how the crew has been coping with their mission and the Expanse. A look that should have been part of the arc and developed episode by episode instead of giving us Archer as an alien werewolf, T’Pol’s massage parlor, the obnoxious alien of the week or any of the other nonsense that has sidelined season three’s promising storylines. It’s nice to see a return of movie night and a discussion about morale as ENTERPRISE picks up on season two material right down to T’Pol silencing Phlox at the screening. That’s the kind of thing that lets us see Enterprise as a single entity, a ship and a crew, rather than the cast wandering around through empty hallways while battling the alien of the week or a virus of the week whom we’re certain to never see again. Like TNG’s Ten Forward or DS9’s Promenade or Voyager’s Holodeck, it’s important to emphasize rituals that bind the crew together outside emergency and duty situations. It’s what makes the setting of the ship, and by extension the show, three-dimensionally believable.

Star Trek Enterprise episode review – Regeneration

Summary: The Borg make a comeback as Enterprise goes where just about every Star Trek series has gone before.

There’s nothing precisely wrong with “Regeneration.” Unlike some of the more mediocre NEXT GENERATION and VOYAGER efforts, it

star trek enterprise regeneration

"Wait, a Starship named Enterprise. Haven't we done this before?"

manages to let the Borg keep their dignity while portraying them as ominous and menacing. It doesn’t reduce them to a single oversexed Borg queen and even gives them back some of their mystery. But at the same time there’s nothing precisely right about “Regeneration” either. Maybe over the past decade the potential of the Borg has been thoroughly tapped out by various STAR TREK spinoffs or maybe any future Borg episodes or movies need to break new ground to be effective. Either way, despite striking work by David Livingston, particularly in the arctic scenes, and an adequate enough script, “Regeneration” ends up regenerating all the cliches resulting in an episode that just doesn’t add up to much of anything.

Like FIRST CONTACT, the movie that the episode serves as a pseudo-sequel to, “Regeneration” plays as a horror movie with the Borg as the monsters. Beginning with the arctic discovery scene that suggests a homage to the classic Sci-Fi monster film, THE THING, the Borg appear as monsters safely buried until somebody foolish enough digs them up resulting in the usual havoc horror movies are made of. Substitute mummies or vampires for Borg and you could have pretty much the same episode, and there is a case to be made for arguing that the Borg are indeed space-age vampires. After all, they’re nearly invincible to ordinary unmodified weapons. They infect their victims, making them one of their kind with double-fanged incisions causing them to lose their humanity. They rest in special alcoves analogous to vampire coffins. And like all vampires the final confrontation with them, in any number of the Borg episodes, from their first appearance to this one where Archer plays Van Helsing, involves a trip to their lair.

What has elevated the best Borg episodes above mere space fright has been the examination of the borderline between human being and Borg in episodes like “The Best of Both Worlds,” “I, Borg” or “Dark Frontier” rather than reducing the Borg to shambling monsters. “Regeneration” makes some attempt towards incorporating such a storyline with Phlox’s infection, which also results in some of the episode’s best scenes including a memorable exchange with Hoshi. But it never really explores the boundary between individuality and collectivism as the above mentioned episodes did, instead it mainly features Phlox being sick. Archer’s storyline that deals with his realization that he can’t save the research team is plausible enough, though never really gripping. It might have been more gripping if Enterprise crewmembers had been on that transport forcing Archer to sacrifice the lives of his own people. But as it is Archer is once again coming to realize something the audience already knows, which may make for some character development but not for interesting viewing.

“Regeneration”‘s resolution also comes a little too unbelievably easy considering what a challenge the Borg were for Picard and Co. in the

star trek enterprise regeneration

"Resistance is futile. Resist... You know with our track record, it's probably not futile. Go ahead and resist."

24th century while Archer and Co. experience much less trouble disposing of them in the 22nd century. Admittedly they are facing weaker and smaller numbers of Borg but the key Borg strategy in this story is a timed shutdown of Enterprise’s power systems at a critical moment, which is a bit too cunning for the more literal-minded Borg, who traditionally utilize direct smash and grab tactics.

But mostly “Regeneration” is an episode-scale reworking of FIRST CONTACT without a revenge motive for the captain or a master plan for the Borg. And without a significant motive on either side, it’s is reduced to another ‘Borg as Monsters’ plot that could have been done with any number of monsters or races. There’s no real risk for the Enterprise because “Regeneration” is a stand alone episode with no future repercussions despite its ending since we know that it’s Q who will bring the Enterprise-D into contact with the Borg well ahead of schedule. And there’s no new ground being broken because “Regeneration” offers nothing in the way of a plot that we haven’t seen before. With those factors eliminated the only justification for the episode seems to be the need to exploit the Borg one more time in the hope of boosting ENTERPRISE’s ratings. So instead of the Borg assimilating the series to add to its perfection, ENTERPRISE assimilates the Borg to add them to its mediocrity.

Next week: Can the show do better with two chances on one night?

Star Trek Enterprise episode review – The Crossing

Summary: Spectral aliens try to take over the Enterprise crew when their own spaceship breaks down.

star trek enterprise the crossingSTAR TREK has done many alien possession episodes and “The Crossing” is another one of them. It’s not the worst of them but it’s certainly not the best of them either. Based on yet another story by Berman and Braga it rehashes TREK formulas without adding anything to them. Over a decade ago, TNG aired “Lonely Among Us” in its first season. Like “The Crossing,” the Enterprise runs into a spectral alien that takes possession of members of the crew and Picard to further its goals. Somewhat later TNG aired “Power Play,” in which more spectral aliens take over members of the Enterprise crew also as a means of transport. Unlike “The Crossing,” “Lonely Among Us” and “Power Play” both used the theme of possession as a means of exploring how the familiar Enterprise crew could become both alien and menacing. “The Crossing,” though, focuses on gags about Trip stuffing his face and Reed trying to mate with any available female with only Hoshi displaying any sense of unnatural menace. Nor does the episode offer anything as memorable as a possessed O’Brien trying to silence his child or a possessed Picard contemplating exploring the universe in non-corporeal form.

And for an Invasion of the Body Snatchers storyline, “Crossing” can’t even manage to generate much suspense, which should be a snap. Instead, aside from some bad behavior by Hoshi and Trip, all the possessed crewmembers allow themselves to be locked up without any trouble. Rather than trying to take over the ship they seem to be a lot more interested in having some fun in their new bodies in between brief lectures to Archer on how much he’ll enjoy being non-corporeal, a state of being Archer would obviously have little interest in unless the aliens also offered to make Porthos non-corporeal too. Despite the fact that the Enterprise crew has no thought out plan for containing the threat, the aliens are themselves in no hurry to take over the Enterprise crew and don’t bother to do anything as simple as taking over the command crew or security first or hopping from the bodies of locked up crewmembers to ones that aren’t locked up. Even the funny hatted aliens in Voyager’s “Displaced” had a better plan and a better twist to their plot.

The aliens’ reason for trying to take over the Enterprise crew is rather mundane. Apparently it’s easier for them to take possession of some human bodies than repair their own starship. That’s the trouble with all those spectral aliens who’ve evolved to a higher plane of being. They’re not willing to pull up their non-existent shirtsleeves and do the dirty work of maintaining their own starship. Apparently spectral aliens residing on a higher plane of being don’t just evolve beyond corporeal bodies but also evolve beyond the timeless values of hard work and self-discipline. Unfortunately many spectral aliens would rather just take the easy way out and take possession of any available humanoid without thinking the consequences through and it always ends in tears.

“The Crossing” does, however, do a better job of using the ensemble cast with Hoshi, Phlox and Mayweather getting something to do, instead of the entire episode focusing on just Archer, T’Pol and Trip as far too many have. Indeed John Billingsley‘s ability to make even Phlox’s most routine tasks and dialogue seem extraordinary and entertaining is really the only thing that makes this story watchable. There’s no other actor or character on the cast that could make pulling open a panel seem more interesting than half the rest of the cast being possessed by aliens put together. Even with Phlox playing a crucial role in saving the ship, the final act still isn’t particularly gripping but it is watchable.

David Livingston returns yet again to ENTERPRISE and does his usual good work directing the episode, though he has little enough to work with. The script by Berman, Braga and Andre Bormanis based on a story by Berman and Braga serves as yet another demonstration of why the exec producers should leave the writing to the writers they’ve hired instead of coming up with original stories any random viewer could also come up with by watching STAR TREK reruns. Only the use of the catwalk is a nice touch of continuity that seems to suggest that we’ll be seeing the nacelle catwalks used as a kind of makeshift auxiliary bridge on Enterprise in the future.

Next week: Captain Archer faces the Klingon justice of STAR TREK VI.

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