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Star Trek Enterprise episode review – Vox Sola

Summary: Archer gets captured yet again, this time by a giant ball of CGI goo, and reminiscences about water polo. Vaugh Armstrong plays yet another alien. Enterprise wastes another forty minutes.

The most interesting thing about Vox Sola is not its plot, its characterization or even its special effects, but its title: it all goes downhill from star trek enterprise vox solathere. Every Star Trek series has done its usual ‘Alien invades the ship’ episodes and with little in the way of a story, Vox Sola adds one of the more mediocre examples of the genre. What little in the way of a plot exists follows the usual Enterprise formula of 5 minutes of story and 40 minutes of episode accompanied by the most unadorned and unoriginal plot cliches. Indeed, virtually anyone who has ever seen more than two Star Trek episodes knows quite well that the gimmick meant to disable the alien will cause it to begin hurting the hostages thus forcing the rescuers to abort the attempt. Even many of Enterprise’s worst episodes have tried to reinvent the cliches they’ve used, Vox Sola though makes no such attempt and is simply satisfied to artlessly regurgitate them.

Of course no awful Enterprise episode would be complete without featuring Archer in captivity yet again. At this point, like many Star Trek fans, when I think about the next six years of Enterprise still to come, I hope and pray that Archer is never taken prisoner by anybody, or anything ever again. The attempt by the producers to butch up Archer by getting him involved in sports backfires a bit when they decide that his sport of choice is water polo. Though it does bring Vox Sola as close as it ever comes to comedy when in a truly surreal moment engulfed by a mesh of goo that looks like congealed ropes of milk that’s gone bad, Archer inspires Trip to go on fighting by recounting his courageous water polo victories against all odds. It seems bad enough that they have to lose their lives, do they really need to lose the last remnants of their dignity too?

It’s a testament to how little the main threat of the episode matters that what little suspense the episode has comes not from the actual alien invader, but by way of the friction between T’Pol, Hoshi, Reed and Phlox which itself lacks bite and feels thematically out of place this late in the season. The alien manifesting first as some fairly mediocre T2-era virtual CGI goo and then as buckets of real goo that Bakula is slathered in, possibly as penance for his acting, barely manages to hold the interest of even its victims let alone the audience. Its means of introduction via a failed first contact with an alien race, which finds public eating as distasteful as public copulation, would probably have made for a far more interesting episode. But then just about anything would have produced a more interesting episode than Vox Sola which is essentially an abbreviated and glacially-paced version of some of the most dreary TNG and Voyager episodes ever made.

From questionable continuity references for the sake of appeasing the fans (how likely is it that Reed was really the first human to implement the force field?), to slowly developing ‘plot twists’ you could see coming a mile away (so we’ve got a great plan for crippling the alien but it’s only halfway through the episode, gee wonder what could go wrong), and to Archer once again aimlessly stumbling around the galaxy, Vox Sola manages to encompass much of what is wrong with Enterprise and none of the positive factors. At times it seemed as if Vox Sola might actually give Enterprise that sense of continuity we haven’t seen since Silent Enemy with its movie night, but the two crewmembers we meet are only disposable redshirts. It might be a good idea for Enterprise to take a lesson from its predecessor Voyager and actually begin cultivating recurring crewmembers (and no, occasional references to Chef don’t count) to produce that sense of community and to actually make the viewer care about the redshirts. It would also be more helpful if Enterprise’s decks had a little more life and color to them. And of course it would have been helpful if Vox Sola had a little more life and color of its own.

Based on a script by Robocop 3’s Fred Dekker and the inevitable Berman\Braga story (which makes one wonder if the writers can’t come up with an unoriginal idea without the help of the producers) with some desperately flashy camera angles by Roxann Dawson, Vox Sola is simply what happens when you drain every possible ounce of creativity, drama and originality out of a script. It’s not a bad episode, because bad implies some thwarted aspiration. Whether it’s the Captain turning into a salamander and mating with her pilot or the Enterprise turning into a Mayan temple; truly bad episodes are those that are prepared to take risks and are therefore interesting even if they aren’t watchable. On the other hand dreary fare like Vox Sola is neither interesting nor watchable. It’s simply a wasted forty minutes.

Next week: Looks like Archer gets captured again. Now there’s a shocking episode premise.

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