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Star Trek Enterprise episode review – E2

Synopsis: ENTERPRISE does VOYAGER and encounters its future in the form of reruns of previous STAR TREK episodes hashed together.

star trek enterprise E2Review: DS9’s “Children of Time” was hardly all that great of an episode, so it’s unclear as to why ENTERPRISE felt the need to remake it again. Or why after already doing one episode that showed Enterprise’s dark future if the Xindi mission failed, they chose to do another one. Or why they chose to interrupt the concluding arc of the season that had just begun gathering steam with an episode that distracts by rehashing a bunch of old episodes. But such are the mysteries that earn one a position on the writing staff of a television series.

It’s not that “E2” is a particularly bad episode. In fact, Mike Sussman has generally done good work and so has Roxann Dawson. But as the saying goes, there’s only so many times you can go to the well. The STAR TREK franchise has managed to drain the life out of such strengths as the Klingons and the Borg, and ENTERPRISE is well on its way to doing to time travel VOYAGER to the Borg. “E2” is not a bad episode but we’ve seen better versions of it plenty of times before. Take “Children of Time,” hash it together with some bits and pieces of “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” “Deadlock” and “Equinox” and you pretty much have this episode.

Worst of all, “E2” really doesn’t manage to do anything significant with the material. None of the future descendants are particularly interesting and aside from the great mess hall scene with Hoshi, Mayweather and Reed, the encounter with a future version Enterprise seems redirected into yet another round of Trip -n- T’Pol. And that is what really manages to reduce “E2” to a pile of barely digestible mush. Much as ENTERPRISE Season 3 took the destruction of Earth and the death of Trip’s sister and turned it into an excuse for erotic massages, “E2” takes the encounter with a future Enterprise and turns it into yet another round of gracelessly shoving Trip and T’Pol together. But of course even this silliness isn’t original because “Children of Time,” the DS9 episode this episode is cribbed from, featured a futuristic version of Odo revealing his love to Kira.

But it isn’t the turpid scenes between T’Pol and Trip themselves that destroy the episode but the outcome of twisting the episode to accomodate them by the creation of Lorian. Despite being derivative, however, “E2” had some possibilities. Imagine an encounter with a more wolfish and desperate Archer a decade or two down the road. Or even the same aged T’Pol we see in this episode in command and becoming more unstable as she desperately tries to achieve her goal by any means necesarry. It wouldn’t be the greatest STAR TREK episode of all time but it could have been compelling. It would have been about the crew and the choices they’ve made and what they can become if they continue down this path. It would have tied neatly into the previous episodes.

But instead as an articulation of Trip and T’Pol’s Love That Dare Not Speak Its Ratings, we get Lorian the first Redneck Vulcan on STAR TREK. He might have been entertaining if played for laughs, maybe meditating under a Confederate flag to a piece from a Harley’s motor. But instead David Andrews portrays him with all the intensity of a coma patient being pumped full of extra sediatives. Meanwhile, the child of Trip and T’Pol combines Trip’s boneheaded stupidity with T’Pol’s emotionlessness to produce a truly boring idiot. Aside from his emoting scene in the brig, Lorian isn’t just boring, he taps into a whole dimension of tediousness we never thought previously possible. God knows when you’re looking forward to Mayweather saying a line, something is seriously wrong.

Not only does “E2” waste enormous amounts of time on a character who does not seem to survive this episode but it wastes more time drawing out this round of the ‘Will They Or Won’t They Game’ for T’Pol and Trip, a game best reserved for the viewership of teenage girls, and ultimately is not about the choices Archer makes so much as the moral struggle of a boring character who is not a member of the crew and whom we will never see again. While it was a nice touch of irony to see the Enterprise crew end up on the other side of the treatment they handed out in “Damage” and for the same reason, “E2” manages to flub even this scene by centering the confrontation on Trip rather than Archer (you know, Archer, the guy who struggled with that tough decision to steal a warp coil from innocent people to save Earth only to find himself in the same predicament from the other side.)

There are worthwhile moments in the episode, however. Reed’s worries about remaining a bachelor, the two beaten ships docked together, the revelation of who Phlox married, Archer’s disappointed expression when he realizes that it’s Degra’s ship and not the other Enterprise and Degra becoming even more desperate and determined as Randy Oglesby continues stealing every scene he’s in. Jolene Blalock turns in another surprisingly good performance as the aged T’Pol, which perhaps might remind the producers that they might consider more possibilities involving her than getting her on drugs or taking her clothes off. But when all is said and done this episode simply does not work.

It is a poorly hashed together mix of older episodes that fits poorly into the arc, has the wrong focus and is a letdown in every way. Even the production values seem poor with the corridor effects looking cheap and terrible and T’Pol’s caked makeup making her look more like a swamp monster than an old woman. Makeup this bad was understandable on TOS when Kirk, Spock and McCoy underwent dramatic aging. But it’s completely unacceptable in 2004. But then T’Pol’s makeup, like this episode, shows the age of a creaking franchise in its last throes. With two episodes this season showing a dead and doomed ancient Enterprise fighting a hopeless battle, one almost wonders if the writers are prophecying the eponymous show for which they work.

Star Trek Enterprise episode review – Extinction

“Extinction”

Overall Episode score: 4.0
Performances: 2.0
Writing: 3.0
Direction: 6.0
FX: 7.0

Summary: Archer, Reed and Hoshi get turned into alien werewolves and spend a lot of time sniffing T’Pol and playing in the trees.

star trek enterprise extinctionReview: 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.

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