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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.

Star Trek Voyager review – Friendship One

Summary: A well meaning but predictable and uninspiring rehash of standard Star Trek material.

Between the Vidiians and the Maalon, the disfigured race preying on other species and using their problems as justification has become a

star trek voyager Friendship One

"We come in bulky spacesuits"

staple of Voyager. But where the Vidiians were compelling as both monsters and victims, the alien species of Friendship One are merely a series of victims. The episode repeatedly suggests that they’re our victims and that Voyager should somehow feel guilty for their conditions, but Voyager had nothing to do with the launching of the probe and all the probe did was provide them with advanced technology meant to serve beneficial purposes. Their inability to properly use that technology was their own fault and responsibility.

That leaves us with the same Star Trek setup we’ve seen a thousand times before. There’s the bad ruthless alien, the potentially good but uncertain alien and the human interest female. Our crew attempts to convey our humanity to the aliens through personal exchanges which humanize them. The good alien helps Voyager thwart the schemes of the bad alien. There’s the red shirt whose off the cuff conversations about family make it certain that he’ll die before the episode is over. We’ve seen the same material used – in more innovative ways- before; and without any standout performances or dialogue, the show has little to contribute except the irony of Friendship One itself as a defense of the importance Prime Directive.

Though it doesn’t really accomplish this either since the problem wasn’t so much that the technology was given out but that it was given out blindly and without supervision. And they’re only saved by more interference from the Federation. This isn’t a very convincing criticism of Starfleet or exploration. And Janeway’s final statement about exploration not being worth the lives lost sounds ridiculous and bizarre since exploration, like it or not, runs precisely on those who gave their lives to see over into the next horizon. Star Trek has always acknowledged this and paid tribute to it, as recently as the far superior Voyager episode, One Small Step. Indeed Janeway’s entire policy has been to conduct exploration rather than a straight route home.

Friendship One had the potential to construct an intricate commentary on Starfleet and Voyager’s own mission using the trial of Friendship One, but One Small Step did a better job of handling that material. So all that was left was a lesson about helping people, but as in Insurrection that lesson was buried by the generic undistinguished nature of the people who needed to be helped, as well as their persistent whining about “nobody understanding how hard it is for them” which was more than a little reminiscent of the Baku’s touting their advanced spiritual values. Except where the Baku’s sense of superiority seemed to actually come from sort of accomplishments no matter how questionable, the FO species accomplishment was to be murderous, miserable and diseased.

Janeway’s initial incompetence e.g. failing to detect both an alien civilization and the people living there, even though Voyager had encountered a close cousin of this same state of affairs in Dragon’s Teeth, and then attempting to push Brin into giving up the hostages instead of demonstrating their good faith first finally and unexpectedly gives way to good command skills when she actually does the sane, practical thing and shockingly enough pulls off a successful rescue mission to release the hostages. Unfortunately by this point the hostages have developed Stockholm Syndrome and demonstrating very little regard for the fact that one of their friends and crewmembers was just murdered (Paris argues that it was only one man who did it, conveniently overlooking that it was their leader and that no one else found the act objectionable in the least) jostle Janeway into risking Voyager to clean up the planet’s atmosphere.

Considering that these people have anti-matter weapons and anti-matter missiles, it seems odd that Janeway doesn’t just propose giving

star trek voyager Friendship One

Friendship means saying "Sorry we blew up your planet"

them instructions for constructing their own ships and evacuating themselves. Or for that matter since it was doubtful that they could have produced anti-matter without leaving their planetary orbit, they should have had their own starships. Not that doing so would be a very smart idea, since the last thing the Delta Quadrant needs is another set of Vidians murdering and torturing people while whining about how hard their lives are. Voyager was quite ready to accept the Vidiians justifications for their actions and certainly has no trouble accepting the Friendship One species sense of self-righteous victimization. Wonder if it’ll make Lt. Carey’s family feel any better that his killers had “a bad childhood” ?

But this is characteristic of Friendship One as a paint-by-the numbers episode that relies on reusing Star Trek formulas to produce a predictable episode whose values are barely skin deep. After VGR of STTMP, the Mars spacecraft of One Small Step, the old American ship of Casino Royale and now Friendship One it seems a few too many old Earth space program vehicles have gone a lot further than they were supposed to go and it really strains all credulity that two of these would have ended up in the Delta Quadrant. Reusing this notion cheapens One Small Step and has no real purpose since this episode would have worked just as well if the aliens had found any advanced technology which they misused and blame all aliens for their own foolishness.

In part it seems Friendship One is introduced as a possible buildup for Series V. The entire fairly extraneous conversation about the timetable for the probe’s launch and Tuvok’s comment about its launch “preceding Starfleet” seems like it might have been planted as possible background for Series V. Or at the very least it may have been informed by the Series V premise. And I suppose it is a measure of how little Friendship One has to offer that its most intriguing aspect involves sifting a minor piece of dialogue for clues to the premise of the next series. And it may well be a clue as to how little Voyager’s seventh season has to offer as well.

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