Overall Episode score: 4.0
Summary: Archer, Reed and Hoshi get turned into alien werewolves and spend a lot of time sniffing T’Pol and playing in the trees.
Review: The first portion of “Extinction” was so bad that about halfway through as Archer and Reed gibbered and capered through the trees, I began hoping that another blackout would strike the northeast. Of all the TNG episodes in the world to remake why in all the galaxy would ENTERPRISE choose to remake bottom of the barrel material like “Genesis” and “Identity Crisis?” Throw in a premise reminiscent of fine VOYAGER episodes like “Threshold,” “Nemesis,” and “Favorite Son” and you’ve really hit a high water mark in quality. ENTERPRISE’s stated goal this season was to be all new and exciting, yet “Extinction” not only borrows wheelbarrows of material from past STAR TREK shows, but borrows from worst possible places.
In previous seasons, Andre Bormanis was responsible for some of ENTERPRISE’s best work and “Extinction”‘s second half occasionally shows glimmers of the quality of his past abilities. But even this show’s best moments such as the mutated Archer’s dream sequence in the alien city and the death of the contaminated member of the alien containment team have the stamp of the director, rather than the writer, on them. And “Extinction”‘s worst moments aren’t moments, but entire scenes in the forest with the alienated crew and T’Pol that might have only lasted minutes in objective time, but subjectively seem to run for hours. The idea of having the aliens speak an alien language before shifting to the universal translator’s english is a good idea and worked well in “Precious Cargo” and “Dawn.” But “Extinction”‘s gibbering is more reminiscent of the altered English in VOYAGER’s Nemesis. A good idea in theory, but painful to experience and combined with the mutated crewmembers acting like extras from PLANET OF THE APES, completely impossible to watch.
What made “Identity Crisis” a better episode than “Genesis” was that it was about the slow transformation of people into alien things. While “Genesis” like “Extinction” got the transformation over with as quickly as possible, assuming that the whole point of a classic ‘transformation’ story is in watching the werewolf scamper around the forest, rather than in watching the man struggle not to become a werewolf. The drama is ultimately with the human being rather than with the moster and with the choices that they make rather than with scenes of animalistic behavior. Had “Extinction” chose to make the aliens humanoid rather than animalistic, the moral dilemma Archer only manages to articulate in the final moments of the episode could have been a real part of the story.
Like “Tuvix,” ENTERPRISE might have gone into interesting philosophical territory by, for example, broaching the question of whether the crew would be prepared to destroy the replacement aliens to restore Archer, Reed, and Hoshi, and whether Dr. Phlox would have gone along with such a move. It could have explored the moral dilemmas of the species maintaining the containment and contrasted their desperate tactics to protect their species with Archer’s own desperate measures to save humanity as recently as in the last episode. It could have similarly articulated the desperate measures that drove the alien species the crew are transformed into, to doing what they did through the voices of the crewmembers themselves. But instead, “Extinction” has the aliens act more like werewolves sniffing each other, gibbering and leaping into and out of trees. Any potential for centering the episode around more than a formulaic VOYAGEResque plot in which T’Pol tries to reach Archer’s humanity, the one-dimensional aliens obstruct Trip from saving the crew just long enough for a few commercial breaks and the Doctor comes up with an immediate solution to a problem no one else has been able to solve for decades, is completely wasted.Star Trek: Enterprise: The Complete Series
In the second half, “Extinction” makes a weak attempt to deal with the plight of an extinct species, but aside from Archer’s excellent dream sequence, it mostly fails to do anything but force the poor actors to act like they’re in a dinner theatre production of CATS. Where it tries to be “The Inner Light” or “Memorial,” the episode mainly ends up being “Genesis” for its focus on having the crew pantomime animal behaviors rather than reveal human ones. But unlike that TNG episode, it’s never so absurd or bad that it’s actually funny. “Extinction” wants characters that behave like the devolved crew from “Genesis” to get the same kind of reaction as Picard’s journey in “Inner Light.” But it doesn’t have the script or the performances or the genius to pull something like that off and what results instead is painful to watch. Even Blalock’s T’Pol stumbles around dazed and confused with nothing to work with except fellow actors behaving like German Shepherds in a dog park.
“Extinction” should get credit for continuity by tying in “Anomaly”‘s Xindi database to this week’s plot and lose credit for the continuity of including yet another skimpily-clad massage scene. In a better episode like “Anomaly” this type of material might have brought down the episode’s average, but so much of “Extinction” is so bad that it barely stands out. Also, ENTERPRISE’s third season seems to be in danger of following VOYAGER into a Gilligan’s Island scenario in which the crew’s search for the Xindi keeps getting sidelined into wacky adventures every week. The MACO’s are curiously absent this episode even though there is an assault and rescue mission that should have required their talents. Obviously they can’t and shouldn’t use them all the time and guest stars of course cost money, but giving an explanation for their absence might have been a good idea. “Extinction”‘s special effects are also a bit uneven with some great space-based scenes like the Enterprise streaking away from the planet with the alien quarantine ships in pursuit, and some poor ground scenes, like the alien city in Archer’s dream sequence, which looks toylike.
Finally, while the touch of continuity provided by the Xindi database is nice, it would have better if “Extinction” had continued fleshing out the ongoing arcs like the MACO’s, the Xindi, the crew’s reaction to the Xindi attack and to Archer’s actions in the previous episode. The aliens maintaining the quarantine could have by now gained some awareness of the Enterprise’s previous actions in the Expanse such as their attack on the mining facility and their skirmish with the Osaarian pirates and might have drawn some conclusions based on these rumors. That would mean that Enterprise is gaining a reputation in the Expanse. Perhaps the episode could have shown the quarantine aliens making a report to a Xindi contact or Trip could have obtained more information from the Xindi shuttle. There are of course plenty of other possibilities that ENTERPRISE could have employed to strengthen its arc-based content in an otherwise throwaway episode.