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Star Trek Enterprise episode review – First Flight and Bounty

“First Flight” and “Bounty”

Summary: While on a mission with T’Pol Archer recalls the rocky history of the Warp program. Archer is taken by a Tellarite bounty hunter as T’Pol’s mating drive kicks in

star trek enterprise first flight

First Flight

By airing two ENTERPRISE episodes on the same night UPN has given viewers the chance to compare two different approaches to the show. Both are clearly priority episodes and both have excellent production design and outstanding special effects and are professionally and capably directed by LeVar Burton and Roxann Dawson, respectively. The difference lies in the stories they tell and how they tell them. “First Flight” is a relatively subdued episode mostly told in flashbacks by two people in a shuttlecraft. It features very little action and its entire strength rests on an evocation of the risks and emotional drives of space exploration. “Bounty” by contrast goes to the well yet again by putting Archer in peril and featuring a sexually exploitative storyline for T’Pol with Klingons and a space battle thrown in for anyone who might be losing interest. By the logic of the school of plot development, which STAR TREK has often been accused of subscribing to and says an episode needs to put its main cast members in danger, include some T&A and deliver some action scenes to keep viewer interest, “Bounty” might be considered the better episode. But in actuality “First Flight” is far superior.

After the Columbia shuttle disaster there was talk of how ENT might commemorate the tragedy; intended or not, “First Flight” serves as a valid homage to the sprit that drives space exploration and the costs along the way. For all the solemn grandiloquence of the historical montage that opens every episode, the series has never come as close to the sprit of those discoverers, explorers, aviators and astronauts as it does here. Like VOYAGER’s “One Small Step” it offers a look back at the time when the future was made possible but “First Flight” is able to deliver on ENTERPRISE’s premise of the Birth of STAR TREK by showing that that time is now.

The series had promised to deliver this but its premise seems to offer just another starship with a slightly more rugged interior and just another crew slightly greener around the edges while substituting friction with the Vulcans for a genuine look at the progression of events between history and the future. “First Flight,” though, does what ENT up till now had only tried to accomplish with occasional references to the continuity of Starfleet’s warp program by actually showing just how raw and precarious the process that led from first contact to the 23rd century was. Countless episodes have gone back in time but “First Flight” is one of the few that actually orients itself and the series it’s part of in time.

Co-written by John Shiban and Chris Black, two of the staff’s best writers, and for once an episode not [apparently] originated by Berman

star trek enterprise bounty

Bounty

and Braga, “First Flight” has Archer piloting a shuttlepod on a mission of exploration even as he ponders and tries to find meaning in the death of a man who was his rival and who helped make him the Captain he is today. With T’Pol along to serve as his confessor, “First Flight,” as one of the last episodes of the season turns the tables on one of the first, reversing “Carbon Creek”‘s setup by having Archer tell T’Pol a seemingly unbelievable story about the past in flashbacks. It also reverses TNG’s “Tapestry,” which showed the young Picard as a risk taker by showing the younger Archer as a ‘by the book’ officer. The flashbacks don’t only show a less mature Archer but a less mature Starfleet in the form of Commodore Forrest, who finally gets some character development of his own, as he nervously tries to appease the Vulcans. Trip makes an appearance to show the origins of his relationship with Archer but Trip is just too ridiculous to allow for any character development by the contrast of his past and present selves. The flashbacks also ground Archer’s anger against the Vulcans in real complaints by showing that their refusal to fully share technology could have cost lives and how close they came to nearly derailing the entire space program in contrast to his contemporary grudge which has often seemed petty and prejudiced.

The process of the search for nebulae itself by Archer and T’Pol parallels the psychological process in which, even as she uses the shuttlepod’s instruments, T’Pol searches out what is bothering Archer and as he fires the charges that illuminate space, he comes to terms with the chain of events that brought him here. He also copes with what no captain has been shown to confront before: the possibility that maybe the best man for the job was the one who wasn’t chosen. Kirk’s rival Finnegan was so very clearly a bully and a fool. Picard’s friends in “Tapestry” were sidekicks like Trip. Anderson though, while at times reckless and unsympathetic, seems a more plausible candidate for the job than Archer does. It’s his idea that salvages the warp program and it’s the friction of his character that drives Archer to become more reckless and gregarious. And even at the end Archer hasn’t entirely let go of his jealousy so that it falls to T’Pol to suggest Anderson as the name for the newly discovered nebula. The nebula’s illumination, though, serves as closure for both the scientific and psychological search as Archer finds the drive for exploration that brought him here.

“Bounty” is in its own way an odd sort of episode. On the surface it appears to be designed as the ultimate sweeps episode and to that end it throws in just about everything imaginable to peak viewer interest. In a single episode the captain is kidnapped and threatened with death, T’Pol experiences her mating drive and there’s a space battle with Klingons. The only thing the producers seem to have left out are the Borg and they were on last week. But with all that content the actual episode mostly turns out to be a lukewarm story about a Tellarite captain with an unnatural attachment to his impounded ship. The problem might be that the episode is based on yet another Berman and Braga story and that the final script seems to have contributions from five different writers each of whom may have had a different episode in mind. But whatever happened behind the scenes the end result has a Tellarite Bounty Hunter getting more camera time than anyone else as he tells his listless story of woe involving the Klingon department of traffic enforcement and ship impoundment while T’Pol begs Dr. Phlox for sex.

“Bounty”‘s premise is a nice touch of continuity in that it follows up on the events of “Judgment” and even bases on an episode around its repercussions. It is good to see ENTERPRISE developing the Klingons as a hostile and expansionist alien race, as they should be in this time period of TREK, even accounting for this series’s warped continuity. If Archer’s rescue of the refugees led to the events in “Judgment” open hostilities between Enterprise and a Klingon vessel should have even more serious consequences. And Archer being kidnapped by an alien bounty hunter makes for an interesting premise.

Unfortunately, “Bounty”‘s premise does not involve an alien bounty hunter ruthlessly kidnapping Archer. Instead its premise has an alien bounty hunter kidnapping Archer and then complaining about his sad lot in life. On the way to the docking bay Trip reminds Archer that Tellarites are belligerent and aggressive, unfortunately he failed to remind the writers of this since the Tellarites we see are all depressed and whiny. Yes the Bounty Hunter is kidnapping people and taking them off to be disemboweled by the Klingons but that’s only because he really wants his ship back. And of course that makes it all right. Any number of people who have had their vehicles impounded by the traffic department probably have the urge to buy a gun and go around the country hunting down people to pay off their fines and could probably sympathize with Skalaar. Unfortunately while Robert O’Reilly is wasted on a minor part, the part of Skalaar is tepidly acted with all the energy of a Prozac medicated Ben Stein. That leeches any remaining momentum out of a storyline whose few twists and turns are borrowed respectively from “Precious Cargo,” “Canamar” and “Dawn”; all from this very season.

That leaves us with “Bounty”‘s B-story, undoubtedly gleefully thought up by Team B&B, that has T’Pol going into premature Pon Farr. It’s ironic that Roxann Dawson directed “Bounty” as she was stuck with the same ridiculous and degrading storyline in VOY’s “Blood Fever.” The difference is that this time she gets to be on the other side of the camera. John Billingsley has no such luck and even though Phlox has managed to keep his dignity in some pretty bad scenes and some pretty bad dialogues in the past, Billinglessly not only can’t redeem the scene but loses Phlox’s dignity too. Meanwhile ENT’s writers demonstrate that not only can they not keep track of STAR TREK continuity, they can’t even keep track of their own, as Dr. Phlox–despite being part of an interspecies medical exchange program and possessing expertise with large numbers of species–doesn’t know about Pon Farr while both Hoshi and Trip do. It can be hard to remember now that the original Pon Farr episode was a heartfelt and powerful production written by talented Science Fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon. It wasn’t about sleaze, or snickering gags about mating urges but about the power of the bond between two colleagues and friends. It’s an episode these writers might do well to review before they touch on the subject again.

To some fans each STAR TREK series creates new low points going lower than any spin-off has gone before. As “First Flight” presents one franchise high point, “Bounty”‘s scenes with T’Pol present a new low point. That’s a pretty impressive accomplishment for any series to pull off in one night.

Next Week: Hostile aliens probe Earth as Archer looks resolutely into the camera.

Voyager review – Body and Soul

Summary: Sex on a Starship. Ryan does a bad Picardo imitation, aliens of the week menace the Delta Flyer again, Tuvok goes through Pon Farr in 5 minutes.

To begin with, it’s hard to figure out why this episode was made. Could the producers really have taken a look at the 7th season so far and

star trek voyager body and soul

"Wait, you want me to do what?"

thought, “what we need here are more light episodes”? As it is, Body and Soul is an episode that swallows two interesting plot ideas inside a one-shot gimmick that manages to be passably entertaining for a Wednesday night. While UPN promos for Voyager have been historically deceptive, B&S’s promo nails the episode pretty well. If you’ve seen the promo for Body and Soul, you’ll find that there’s not much to the episode you haven’t seen.

Body and Soul starts out, as quite a few recent Voyager episodes have, with an uneventful journey aboard the Delta Flyer. Shockingly enough, the Delta Flyer is attacked by aliens who in the episode’s one and only twist are after photonic lifeforms like the Doctor. Using a weapon that disrupts photonic beings they nearly destroy the Doc before 7 transfers him into her own circuitry. The EMH takes control of 7’s body and hilarity ensues. It’s not particularly implausible that the Doctor would behave so badly and clumsily in a crisis, considering that Tinker Tailor showed that he’s not quite ready for prime time. But it does get old fast. Ryan doing a bad imitation of Picardo and acting drunk can be amusing but it just seems as if Body spends two thirds of its time on what is at best a five minute joke.

By contrast Seven’s scenes with the tactical officer in sickbay are out of tune with the style of the rest of the episode and really don’t matter since the episode isn’t ready to treat the entire situation seriously to begin with. Worse, we barely just recovered from the Doctor using his medical skills to try and heal a screwed up civilization a few episodes ago in Critical Care, and we had the Doctor as earnest comic relief in Inside Man. Voyager does have other characters besides Seven and the Doctor after all, it might be nice if they had something to do as well. It would be nice if Kim had something to do in this episode except spout technobabble and fake a seizure (doesn’t one naturally lead to the other anyway?)

And fans have been anticipating Tuvok’s Pon Farr for seven years now. Even those people who weren’t on board with some of the weirder

star trek voyager body and soul

The premise on an episode has never been better expressed in a screenshot

solutions for Tuvok’s dilemma wanted more than using it as an aborted B story in which Tuvok mediates, medicates, groans, uses the holodeck and is back to work before anyone notices that he was even gone. Indeed from the character growth perspective, if you compare the utility of having Tuvok suffer through Pon Farr or Seven realize she needs to experience more sensations, it’s hard to see the Pon Farr story as being more disposable.

A well written Tuvok Pon Farr story could have finally done for Tuvok what Wire did for Garak on DS9. The few scenes with Paris did show potential for some good KirkSpock interplay. Even a badly written one could have had a lot more comedic and dramatic possibilities than a 5 minute skit about the Doc inside 7’s body. During the height of Braga’s supervision the 6th season managed to do some of Voyager’s strongest stories, but now with Braga working on Series V, Voyager is back to ripping off Disney movies. Even Jeri Taylor’s stepsonVorik got himself an entire episode (ironically enough directed by Andrew Robison) to deal with his Pon Farr; but Tuvok who according to Body and Soul would experience a much stronger version of Pon Farr resolves his problems with a holodeck program, even though Blood Fever itself showed that this wouldn’t work.

Finally, we have the bizarre and ridiculous line of “It isn’t cheating if the hologram looks like your wife.” Admittedly Voyager has some awful history in the ethical dilemmas department and tends to think moral dilemmas can be solved by having Janeway hit the right pitch of outrage with her rhetoric, but this is just bad. It’s halfway plausible for Paris to propose such a thing, even though he’s moved well beyond that kind of thing. It’s completely ridiculous for Tuvok in a halfway sane state of mind to agree. What indeed does the appearance of the hologram have to do with anything? If there’s anything that should have been hammered home after 4 Star Trek series each of which featured the required dozen “alien possession” shows, is that identity and not appearance is what matters.

The rebellion of photonic servants is certainly an interesting possible plot and the tactical officer’s recitation of how she doesn’t understand why her holodoc rebelled and its similarity to both the justifications for slavery and how Janeway and the Voyager crew condescendingly describe the Doctor as “part of the family” could have had some potentially very disturbing implications for Voyager. Instead the Doctor shrugs her off with a few banalities and focuses on his central goal of flirting with her instead. The Doctor may be a bit overstimulated and clumsy but he’s not completely thoughtless or stupid either. This piece of dialog seems like it belonged in a different episode, an episode that actually had something to say.

Instead, Voyager bases an episode around ripping off a cliche so cliched no one even bothers ripping it off anymore, tips a hat to TOS’s worst episode Turnabout and leaves two potentially interesting stories lying in the dust. And God knows if there’s anything Voyager needs this season it’s an interesting story.

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