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SEASONS TWO, THREE , and FOUR
AIR DATE: Wednesday, April 2nd, 2003
The CROSSING ironically demonstrates the best and worst of ST, and in so doing validates TV GUIDE'S recent criticism. Non-corporeal contact is not new to anyone familiar with CHARLIE X, the Organians, the Metrons and Troi's CHILD. However, in each of these episodes, the writers established a transcendent theme, suggesting for example, that human potential needs direction in order to survive, a concept not lost on Picard after much contact with Q.
THE CROSSING fails, except for one moment, to actualize the transcendence of the cited episodes. Other than a brief reference by the aliens to what humans may learn from their 'first contact,' the rather bland episode predictably crawls toward the denouement as ship and crew escape.
Rather than the sense of awe we and Kirk experience during THE EMPATH after contact with GEM, the audience is left to wonder when the writers will study the recommendations of viewers on the TV GUIDE web site.
EPISODE FORTY-FOUR: JUDGMENT
AIR DATE: Wednesday, April 9th, 2003
Hopefully, the "FORCE" is with the writers, for JUDGMENT reminds us of what ST can be when quality matters. The plot device, seen before as any alum of Rura Pente knows (Kirk ./ McCoy), does actualize the transcendence the previous episode did not. By offering a 'fascinating' glimpse into Klingon history, we learn that in ages past, the Klingons were not the predatory species that value combat above all, as dramatized, for example, in SINS OF THE FATHER and BIRTHRIGHT.
In JUDGMENT Archer stands accused of liberating a ragtag band of colonists from the Klingons who naturally want them repatriated for treason. Kolos (remember General Martok), here Archer's advocate, demands the tribunal honor traditional values that apparently predate the martial philosophy that would , in the UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY, put the empire into receivership. In demanding that Archer be allowed to present evidence, Kolos admonishes that previously, Klingon honor met tolerance and respect for the rights of others, rather than an aggressive comitatus code demanding honor and vengance which forced even Worf to admit that his discommendation was imposed by a corrupt high council to protect a traitor: Mogh was innocent. Seeds of corruption though run deep; the court found that Klingons owed Archer for past assistances, but although his death sentence was commuted, he did receive life in the penal colony until T'Pol found a way (bribery) to rescue him.
There are significant literary antecedents. Currently my ST class is studying literary allusions to THE ILIAD and THE ODYSSEY in the Klingon episodes from Odysseys weeping as the bards play (Worf tells imprisoned Klingons that their stories "tell us who we are,") to more obvious parallels: Odysseus in Hades (Odyssey XI) to THE BARGE OF THE DEAD (Torres in Sto-Vo-Kor). Homer was of course ahead of his time, and his great 'war' poem perhaps dramatizes the consequence of a code (Book XII Iliad) that regards predatory violence as an absolute. How aware, for example, is Hector in VI that he prays for his son's death? In parallel, what might our read be if we view BIRTHRIGHT from the Romulan perspective, one not ironically unlike Kolos in JUDGMENT?
EPISODE FORTY-FIVE: HORIZON
AIR DATE: Wednesday, April 16th, 2003
ST often does "family shows," and certainly Mayweather was long overdue for his "15 minutes of fame." Anticipating what Picard will later find objectionable, Reed wonders why Starships do not have families on board, and this episode's conflict dramatizes Mayweather's conflict with his brother who deemed his decision to leave a freighter to serve in Star Fleet a mistake. Reminiscent of Spock's conflict with Sarak, this decision, however, eventually seems to please all, as the new freighter's captain, Paul--Travis' brother, accepts his brother's decision after he provides the tech. support needed to fend off pirates.
Set against a macrocosmic background of explorations fraught with danger and conflict, these microcosmic moments of family remind us of what is important as our nation appreciated following the several tragedies NASA endured. Kirk once noted that space exploration entails significant risk--machines can be improved, but only by the human spirit's willingness to explore and profit from success and tragedies. Family episodes dramatize the humanity behind the technology.
EPISODE FORTY-SIX: THE BREACH
AIR DATE: Wednesday, April 23th, 2003
Ironically after watching THE BREACH, I viewed a PBS documentary in which adults Jews reflected on their childhood horrors during the holocaust. Hilter was reputed to have said when challenged by adults with a moral perspective, "It does not matter; we have your children," and thus the Nazification of the schools began.
THE BREACH demonstrates the consequences of such learned behavior. Victims of 300 years of race hatred, an Antarans refused treatment from Phlox, a Denobulan whose race he blamed for genocide. When Archer orders Phlox to treat the Antaran, regardless of the patient's hatred, a catharsis develops. Unexpectedly, the Antaran learns that Phlox, contrary to expectations, refused to pass the racism of his grandmother to his children, four of whom did reject the intolerance. One however did not.
Gradually, the Antaran sees Phlox as a guilt-ridden victim himself, and allows treatment. As the episode concludes, Phlox transmits a message to the son who apparently had rejected his father's tolerance. Macrocosmically, Mayweather, Reed and Archer rescue Denobulan scientists from a holocaust and in so doing, create a scenario that makes their deliverance contingent on the patient Phlox tried to heal. Apparently that attempt is successful.
The episode's message may be obvious, but in the best ST tradition, it dramatizes how often the obvious is ignored or rejected as residents of Ireland, The Middle East and any victim of hatred well knows.
EPISODE FORTY-FOUR: COGENITOR
AIR DATE: Wednesday, April 30, 2003
In CULTIVATING HUMANITY, Martha Nussbaum identifies the moral crux of this episode, and perhaps writing of such moral and intellectual quality presages a return to the standards ST fans expect. Nussbaum observes, "The inquirer simply narrates the way things are, suspending all normative judgment about its goodness and badness." (p. 136)
The "way things are" greatly outrages Trip whose vigorous critique of Vissian mating customs jeopardizes first contact with the race. While Archer and the Vissian captain discuss the exchange of technologies, Shakespeare (Hamlet, Act I, scene v), and Sophocles and appear to be getting along famously, Trip convinces the Cogenitor that "its" (correct identification) treatment is immoral. In a tri-sexual culture, the "its" were used simply to aid in procreation having no other purpose. Trip in secret awakened "its" identity in the same sense that John Keats argued we actualize our souls: by imaginative inquiry. Thrilled by the ability to read and explore, "it" demands asylum outraging the couple who need "it" for procreation, and Archer who sees first contact protocols jeopardized.
Torn between what he sees as a duty not to judge, and his humanitarian instincts to allow "it" to stay, Archer finally decides against asylum, and in the crushing denouement, we learn "it" commits suicide upon being returned; an act for which Trip feels morally responsible.
The ethics are complex beyond the surface read of respect for gender differences. What is the mean between the extremes (Aristotle?); Does Trip act of out ignorance (Plato)?, and are we duty bound to treat people as means and not ends (Kant)? Interestingly while Archer acknowledged the moral dilemma of "interference," he seemed more willingly to endorse Trip's actions if the situation had occurred on earth. Are ethical situations determined situation ally (Mill or Bent ham)? If it were useful to star fleet to accept or reject asylum in return for safe passage home (a situation more than once requiring Jeannie to "bend" the rules), what would have been the outcome?
The problem has confronted man since the pre-Socratics. How situational are ethics? What would Sartre do? Are any acts intrinsically evil? If so, do we have a moral obligation to intervene? ... World War II, Korea, Viet Nam, Iraq, Bejor, the wormhole and so on.
EPISODE FORTY-FIVE: REGENERATION
AIR DATE: Wednesday, May 7, 2003
Although less substantiative in a universal philosophical sense, REGENERATION may be of interest to fans as it explores first contact with the Borg, who interestingly in the Kirk universe, did not exist, so we must 'suspend disbelief' and accept the fact that the good Captain did not 'boldly go' everywhere. Nonetheless in what must be a daunting task, the writers have tried here to integrate massive amounts of data by alluding to FIRST CONTACT and Q's gauntlet in the 24th century when to be tested, the crew of TNG, was sent to the Delta Quadrant. Temporal anomalies abound of course concerning who contacted whom and when, but Capt. Janeway put in best when she argued that such are often best left alone.
The Borg promise a better life as they once told Worf in TNG, and thus far their race in all series has been characterized as fascistic, best dramatized in the struggles of Seven of Nine to assert her individuality. As more and more medical and computer technology mold human progress, we might ask if the Borg represent our future? How have we been already assimilated? The poet Shelley, whose wife wrote FRANKENSTEIN, certainly thought so in the 1830's when arguing that we have eaten more than we can digest; thus being enslaved by the technologies designed to liberate us.
After the blistering criticism of ENTERPRISE episodes rather lackluster scripts, the writers have promised to do better next season. The May 10th issue of TV GUIDE interviews executive producer Rick Berman who notes, "What we are about to do is a first for Star Trek." Scott Bakula (Archer), in the same article notes, "...while I don't think we've been bumbling, we have been unprepared and ill-equipped at times."
Both producer and actor are correct, and what the writers need to remember is that Star Trek's own worst enemy is Star Trek. Living up to past successes must be daunting, but fans have come to expect precisely that. After viewing EMISSARY (the first DS-9 episode) with my class, one student remarked, "that is really deep." ST has survived so many franchises because it has managed simultaneously to teach and entertain. ENTERPRISE must do likewise.
EPISODES FORTY-SIX AND FORTY SEVEN : FIRST FLIGHT & BOUNTY
AIR DATE: Wednesday, May 14 , 2003
Co-aired, the first episode editorialized critics and fans reminiscent of Aristotle's 'golden mean' between excess and deficiency. Excessive recklessness almost kills A.G. Robinson, the first pilot to break warp 2, and Archer's caution in blaming test failures on an engine his father designed, almost curtails future space flight. ENTERPRISE now struggles to define how a Captain means and acts. Kirk's brashness (rushing in where angles fear to tread), Picard's Shakespearean depth, Sisko's courage and Janeway's gender-defining leadership all seemed to make ST a success. What must Archer do? He tell us that no one remembers what Aldrin said when walking on the moon because he wasn'f first, but to be first means taking risk as he and Robinson do when they 'appropriate' a second ship and indeed successfully fly faster than warp 2. Now A.G. much later does die, and Archer becomes the first to command a starship and notes that he does know what makes a successful captain--the ability to achieve the balance Aristotle mandates. Significantly, Aristotle notes that mean is not automatically derived. Courage and reason are required to determine the mean which varies according to circumstance. The episode, parenthetically, chillingly reminds us of the risk of space flight; the explosion almost kills A.G, but life is not always as kind...we should remember the courage of the crews of Challenger and Columbia for whom determining the mean meant heroic sacrifice. Let's hope the writers know this.
Do they? Is the second episode, BOUNTY, an illustration? If so, there are warnings: dressing the beautiful T'Pol in almost nothing, using her sexuality to boost ratings may be too much of a risk. The writers should recall that Seven of Nine's initial reception in her tight fitting body suit was critiqued until fans recognized her acting talent: Seven became a dynamic and substantial character, based not exclusively on how she looked. Archer in this episode thinks and fights his way out of Tellarite captivity as bounty for the Klingons, but not without touching the conscience of the Tellarite who aided the escape.
What the writers need to do is review the very best episodes from each series--the mean is audience sophistication. Recall that Roddenberry's pilot, THE CAGE, was rejected as too intellectual for TV. He knew that fans wanted articulate science fiction that both teaches and entertains. ST can and must do both if ENTERPRISE is to survive. It can survive, and it should.
EPISODES FORTY-EIGHT : THE EXPANSE
AIR DATE: Wednesday, May 21 , 2003
EARTH DEVASTATED BY UNKNOWN PROBE
DEATH TOLL REACHES SEVEN MILLION
EVIDENCE POINTS TO TIME TRAVEL
...those are the headlines as a revitalized Captain Archer vows to do "whatever it takes" to defeat the Xindi, aliens of awesome power determine to wipe out earth to prevent their future destruction by earth. To meet the enemy, the Enterprise must enter something called the Delphic Expanse, compared to the Bermuda triangle, from which few return. Among other horrors, the expanse or those residing therein have the power to turn people inside out, while keeping them alive--we see a brief clip designed to sober the adventurous. Even the Klingons, still enraged after Archer's earlier escape, won't follow. Part One ends with the Enterprise crossing the threshold of the Expanse.
Lots of possibilities...certainly Archer is dynamic--shades of Kirk, but we wonder if the writers will explore the cognitive / moral implications of the conflict. We recall that Kirk in his pursuit of the Gorn was forced to admit that maybe the Federation was guilty of encroachment, thus meriting reprisal and the praise of the Metrons who commended the Captain for demonstrating the "advanced trait of mercy." Will such happen again? Second guessing until next season indulges only speculation, but humanity's role in the Xindi response could be explored.
Archer will need to do more than demonstrate physical courage. At her funeral in TNG, Tasha Yar spoke eloquently of each bridge officer, noting that Picard is both poet and explorer. We could add philosopher as well. Patrick Steward's comments on the DVD edition of NEMESIS are worth hearing in that regard. Characters, though, do appear to be changing. T'Pol resigns her commission to remain on board, noting that Archer will need her to see all of this through, and Dr. Phlox likewise chooses to remain while others do not. A hint is offered regarding the addition of military troops on the ship, recalling perhaps what the Federation had to endure to win the Dominion war.
No doubt viewers were intrigued, and it remains for us to wonder how and where season three will "boldly go."
EPISODE FORTY-NINE: THE XINDI
AIR DATE: Wednesday, September 10th, 2003
The previous review noted, "Lots of possibilities...certainly Archer is dynamic--shades of Kirk, but we wonder if the writers will explore the cognitive / moral implications of the conflict." Did the sequal fulfill these predictions: Well, yes and no? Certainly Archer (aka Kirk) appeared raring to go as he warned Star Fleet did not have the luxury of playing safe. We recall Kirk in Return to Tomorrow: "Risk is our business. That's what this starship is all about. That's why we're aboard her." And with the fate of our planet presumably at risk, why not?
Three perspectives are needed for sophisticated science fiction: good special effects, lots of action and (most important according to Roddenberry and quite correctly), idea - based scripts that mimetically reflect the human condition. The Xindi certainly had the special effects; the five different species of Xindi, from reptilian to humanoid, were stunning, and of course action abounded, but what of the ideas? Perhaps they are to come and for now exist embryonically if the writers are creating an arc of episodes as they did with the Dominion war, but for the moment season three began rather predictably.
Apparently the writers believe that a fourth perspective will boast ratings: sex, i.e. T'Pol's disrobing for the massage, but "those who ignore the past are doomed to repeat it." We might recall Seven of Nine on Voyager. Her character ultimately was validated by acting ability; not just how she looked in a tight-fitting uniform.
ST has always been a drama of ideas. That's what Roddenberry wanted, and we all hope this new adventure will sustain his premise that Good Sci. Fi, can and must be literate and believable.
EPISODE FIFTY: ANAMOLY
AIR DATE: Wednesday, September 17th, 2003
Perhaps the writers read my last review, for now we have a taste of what made ST great--an action-orientated idea script. Mired in the horror of dealing with both the Xindi threat and Ossarian pirates, Archer, like Captain Sisko in In the Pale Moonlight, must weight the moral consequences of what means should or should not govern an action, an issue analyzed from Siskos perspective by Dr. Judith Barad in The Ethics of Star Trek. Weighing both the existential and utilitarian consequences of brining the Romulians into the Dominion war by any means including murder, Sisko notes, ...here I am still worrying about the finer points of morality. I had to keep my eyes on the ball: winning the war." (p. 283). Of course Sisko countenances bribery and murder to achieve his goal, and Archer faces a similar dilemma.
Stranded in the expanse and reluctantly forced into piracy to survive, the Ossarian taunts Archer than he lacks the courage to act in kind: It takes time to learn to kill without remorse, he warns, while Archer responds, Too much is at stake to let my morality get in the way. Apparently hes right, as the Ossarian provides valuable Xindi data after being decompressed in an air lock., an interesting parallel to the Nazi medical experiments during WWII, except that the Nazis didnt stop in time.
The moral dilemma rings true in our own times, as we debate whether to torture POWs to learn about the next 9-11. What would a Mill, Bentham or Kierkegaard say? What determines the morality of an action? What does the greatest good for the greatest number mean, and at whose expense? The writers can do much with these questions if they choose: the secret of ST has been to blend action with thought, which this episode appears to have done successfully...It is a start.
A bit of a footnote: references to stem bolts (self-sealing?), and perhaps the Dyson sphere remind us of the good old days of ST and TNG.
EPISODE FIFTY-ONE: EXTINCTION
AIR DATE: Wednesday, September 24th, 2003
Reminiscent of TNG's Genesis, wherein Barkley and some crew de-evolve into more primitive life forms (causing much consternation for the technical writers due to its scientific implausibility), Archer, Hoshi and Reed in pursuit of the Xindi encounter a planet wherein a virus causes the same to occur. Pursued by a decontamination squad who wishes to exterminate the carriers which of course does not occur, the 3 of course due to the doctor's efforts escape destruction. As the de-evolving occurs, the three dream-link to a civilization that once boasted of beautiful cities long fallen into ruin due to the disease.
Not a great deal happens besides that. The moral (idea? didactic element?) appears in the concluding moments almost as an afterthought. Archer's ethical restraint contrasts with the previous episode's apparent utilitarianism: here he chooses not to use the virus for destructive purposes should the situation occur with the Xindi. Picard faced a similar dilemma with the Borg, Hugh in particular, opting not to infect the entire collective: to commit genocide much to the chagrin of Star Fleet Command.
In my ST class, we debate whether morality can exist without God. Given Roddenberry's belief (in The Humanist Interview--on line from this web site's main page), that it can and must, the crew often seems morally adrift.
EPISODE FIFTY-TWO: RAJIIN
AIR DATE: Wednesday, October 1st, 2003
This sexually charged erotic episode achieves its effect by trying not to be. Rajiin, a Xindi operative, while allegedly seeking asylum on the Enterprise, attempts to gather data for Xindi use in making a biogenic weapon. In so doing, she pursues both male (Archer, a guard), and female (TPol) crew in scenes with overt sexual overtones. Her mission apparently successful, Rajiin is rescued by the Xindi. She warns them, however, that humans are more complicated than her scans reveal, leaving open the question of whether the weapons development will be continued or abandoned.
Of course ST has used sexual themes before from Spocks "marriage" to Siskos, with varying degrees of intensity. Throughout the franchises, the sophistication increased from Kirks macho perspective to Picards quasi sexual-Platonic liaisons, eventually miming Greek mythology on Voyager as Q sought a liaison with Janeway. Memorably, the best of these episodes served serious philosophical moral issues as, for example, Rikers impassioned defense of his relationship with Soren (The Outcast), an episode loathing the bigoted treatment of those with non-heterosexual preference..
The writers have to achieve a similar perspective in this franchise. Recall, for example, DS-9s, Rejoined, in which the so-called lesbian kiss scene between Dax and Lenara Khan provoked a decidedly mixed audience reaction. Erdmanns Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (p, 278 ff), provides commentary, noting, however, how the scene was morally and philosophically justified by the writers. They were correct: the story was about love. At the moment, the scales are precariously balanced; the erotic scenes may raise the ratings, but the gain will be temporary unless more is served than momentary gratification.
EPISODE FIFTY-THREE: IMPULSE
AIR DATE: Wednesday, October 8th, 2003
IMPULSE merges the emotional paranoia of AMOK TIME (TOS), the philosophy of the early ST moves with the gothic of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Trapped in a area of Xindi space wherein a needed ore causes Vulcans to lose their suppressed emotional calm, the crew of a Vulcan ship and eventually TPol begin to regress, losing restraint, so TPol herself attempts to kill an Enterprise rescue mission headed by Archer. The gothic horror segment actually takes most of the show wherein Archer and crew are attacked by the Vulcans whom they wish to rescue. They are beyond medical aid, however, and die.
The philosophical tag appears at the end. Archer badly need the ore, but advises TPol that its use will be abated until she can be protected: I cant save humanity without holding on to what makes me human, he tell her. Thus, the needs of the one transcend those of the many (Spock and Kirk).
We appreciate that the writes are trying to balance action with ideas, and hope they succeed, but it should be noted that the best ST episodes integrated the "ideas" rather than added them right before fade-out.
EPISODE FIFTY-FOUR: EXILE
AIR DATE: Wednesday, October 15th, 2003
Directed by Roxann Dawson, EXILEs dramatization of the effects of alienation approaches ST at its best. As these reviews have long noted, ENTERPRISE must transcend the mechanics of action orientated plot and special effects per se. EXILE succeeds as a character based show, focusing this time on Hoshi , the Enterprise linguist specialist.
Capitalizing on what Nichole Nichols found objectionable about Uhura --a role limited to Hailing frequencies open, Captain, Dawson probed Hoshis parochialism--a role limited to translating. Perhaps Dawson recalled her own characters struggle with her Klinglon-human heritage and the angst that caused, (She was abused as turtle head by her peers in school).
In EXILE, a telepathic alien, Tarquin, (think Shakespeare) lures Hoshi to his world on the pretext of delivering information about Xindi weapons, but the reality reveals more. Exiled because his telepathic powers were deemed threatening, the alien sensed the same about Hoshi; this time an exile imposed by cognitive abilities which set her apart from childhood to her present assignment.
His desire to keep Hoshi, however, becomes obsessive ( in Shakespeare, their is a rape, and a murder--"Tarquin's ravishing strides" as Macbeth moves toward Duncan) to the point of his refusing to release the Enterprise unless she agree to stay on his world, a plot thwarted when she threatens to destroy his ability to contact telepathically other companions. All though appears resolved: Hoshi returns to Enterprise, and the alien does provide needed information about a Xindi weapon and a mysterious text that may offer linguistic clues to....?
Henry James noted that plot is character in action, and from the days of Kirk -Spock-McCoy, ST has worked because audiences came to believe in the humanity of its characters. Even the ambiguous Garak and the psychopathic Dukat intrigued with their layers of complexity. Such takes time, and the ENTERPRISE writers must do the same to succeed.
EPISODE FIFTY-FIVE: THE SHIPMENT
AIR DATE: Wednesday, October 29, 2003
If art imitates life, then here we have a bit of Schindler and shades of TOS's Arena. Hoping to neutralize an explosive that the Xindi could use to destroy earth, Archer and crew infiltrate a manufacturing plant run by one Gralik, who appears to have a conscience despite being in the arms business. Appalled by the knowledge of Xindi intent Gralik (Schindler), has second thoughts and sabotages the explosive despite his knowing the Xindi would not respond benignly.
Gralik, however, does take to heart the Xindi warning that the weapon is needed to forestall the attack of a "ruthless alien species" intent on destroying them. One wonders if we will learn as did Kirk, that the Gorn's attack was really self-defense for the Federation's encroachment. Will there be a Metron - like comment that in sparing the Gorn's life, Kirk manifested the "advanced trait of mercy," something they did not expect? In The Shipment, Archer hesitates to destroy the manufacturing plant, fearing that the Xindi would have confirmation of human aggressive hostility. He prefers instead to trust Gralik, which pro tem appears justified.
As has often been noted, the success of this franchise will depend on how well the writers "teach and delight" audiences. The Shipment hopefully sustains our optimism.
EPISODE FIFTY-SIX: TWILIGHT
AIR DATE: Wednesday, November 5, 2003
From TOS's Mirror Mirror with links to multiple DS-9 episodes to TNG's Yesterday's Enterprise to VOYAGER's Year of Hell, ST has explored with various plot devices alternative time lines and parallel universes. Here, a parasite producing anomaly infects Archer causing a memory loss, thereby forcing his resignation. In the resulting alternative time line, the Xindi destroy earth, most of its colonies and the Enterprise until Phlox's cure restores the status quo.
A major sub-theme involves T'Pol's willingness to defy once again the Vulcan high command, this time to stay with an Archer whose illness ironically prevents him from seeing the depth of her feelings for him, emotions which obviously exist as suppressed in the normal time continuum.
The episode, not without pathos, holds interest as did most of its predecessors in the other franchises, but Yesterday's Enterprise was able to draw more substantially on TNG's depth of characterization, notably Yar's sacrifice, which led to Crosby's return as her own Romulan daughter. What this franchise lacks is precisely the complexity that allows for such development, but as Spock once remarked, "Every journey begins with the first step." Hopefully Twilight is one of those.
EPISODE FIFTY-SEVEN: NORTH STAR
AIR DATE: Wednesday, November 12, 2003
When I saw the preview, NORTH STAR initially recalled TNG's A FIST FULL OF DATAS, and I had visions of the writers trying to bolster sagging ratings with Archer as Eastwood. Fortunately, however, that did not happen.
NORTH STAR makes sense in its own right, combining a shoot out or two (naturally) with the morality play atmosphere that made ST successful. Once enslaved by a race pejoratively termed Scags, a human community in the expanse, now free and in control 200 years later, rigidly limits Scag educational and social progress, believing any enlightenment will inevitably lead to their re-incarceration Archer allies with a scag-humanoid teacher, Bethany, who risks censure, even death, to educate the Scags which she does until prohibited by ruthless human deputy sheriff. Hoping to promote the kind of utopia Roddenberry envisions, Archer promises eventually to relocate the humans to earth, provided they are willing to understand that forgiveness of one's enemies (perhaps the Eighteenth Century's rational deism), will be a necessary condition for the transport. When town leaders doubt such progress could occur, Archer recalls that human progress was painfully slow, as the camera pans to reveal a Scag school in session in the very town where education had been recently prohibited.
In TOS's LET THAT BE YOUR LAST BATTLEFIELD, we are reminded that "way back in the 20th century," humans fought to near extinction before prejudice and hatred were overcome in a cleverly scripted episode that saw two races self-destruct in an orgy of hatred based merely on the biological anomaly that one was white on the right side of the face, and the other race on the left side. Prejudice is stupid of course, and we need art to remind us of the folly of our own irrational progress toward annihilation, and ST has always done well when serving as the "north star," guiding us in the right direction.
EPISODE FIFTY-EIGHT: SIMILITUDE
AIR DATE: Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Impressively faithful to FRANKENSTEIN, SIMILITUDE recreates what Mary Shelley actually wrote. Beginning with a Walton-like frame, the crew bids a cathartic farewell to Trip, injured fatally in an attempt to repair ships engines.
Harold Bloom rightly notes that Shelley's novel transcends the obvious cautionary tale of not usurping God creative prerogative to dramatize rather the consequences of the failure of the characters to love. Victor, in despising what he creates, initiates a catastrophe in which the created being, longing for acceptance, turns horrid; not importantly innately evil as some dramatizations suggest.
Utilizing space age technology, Phlox transplants to a creature, Trips stem cells needed to reanimate the dead engineer. Like Victor, however, the doctor miscalculates, learning too late that the process will kill the clone, called Sim, which (who) in the meantime had acquired enough of Trips memories to want to remain alive and serve the ship. Archers utilitarian perspective demands, however, that Sim will die by murder if necessary to save Trip and the ship.
Empathy, however, prevails. True at least in part to the novel, Sim willingly loves the crew enough, perhaps animated by a (justifiable) mini-love scene with TPol, to sacrifice his life for Trip. Hence, the frame ends with an eulogy for the clone; not the real Trip who recovers having been given the stem cells Sim willing donates at the cost of his own life.
In the novel of course, Victor attempts an Eve, but destroys it only to have the creature revenge the death on Elizabeth. In turn with Lear like pathos,however, the creature ironically asks Victors forgiveness and disappears into the Arctic wilderness. In the episode, though, the love of Sim for the crew saves Trip, and is sent into space with the thanks of a grateful Captain who lauds the power of love to save, as Percy Shelly, perhaps ironically, noted in his Apology for Poetry.
This is a must see episode that teaches and entertains in the best ST tradition.
EPISODE FIFTY-NINE: CARPENTER STREET
AIR DATE: Wednesday, November 26, 2003
Apart from TPol trying to use a fast food drive thru, Archer borrowing money from an ATM and trying to drive (a bit better than Kirk in A Piece of the Action), this rather bland episodes finds them (courtesy of Daniels), whisked to the present to prevent the Xindi from developing a bio-weapon designed to exterminate humanity.
Of course Archer (almost) leaps tall buildings and runs down alleys to prevent the release of the weapon, which he does. The humor returns at the denouement when the local police arrest a human accomplice of the Xindi who warns them about reptilian aliens with ray guns.
Crew and dead Xindi end up back aboard the Enterprise. To be continued?
EPISODE SIXTY: CHOSEN REALM
AIR DATE: Wednesday, January 14, 2004
CHOSEN REALM, blending the current horrors of religious terrorism with DS-9's "Wormhole aliens / prophets" and Roddenberry's antireligious humanism, was worth the wait. To the Bejorans, the wormhole served as a celestial temple and the aliens prophets, and in this episode, the Spheres in the Expanse (chosen realm) were created by "The Makers," venerated by one D'Jamat and his fellow religious zealots bent on skyjacking the Enterprise to exterminate those of his own people less orthodox: the dispute concerning the number of days (9 or 10) taken by the Makers to create. In the process people on all sides die.
The satire is devastating and complex. We recall from the HUMANIST INTERVIEW that Roddenberry believed religious humanism retarded secular progress, denying humanity the utopia he thought it could achieve. In ENCOUNTER AT FARPOINT, a crux of Q's condemnation of mankind as a "dangerous, child savage race" rested on endless wars over "tribal god concepts."
Making this a war of persecution over the number of creation days underscores Roddenberry's point, and of course history from Luther and Galileo forward demonstrates that any organization claiming infallibility sooner or later will denounce or even opponents as Archer made clear to D'Jamat.
The debate of course continues. Roddenberry's secular utopia has yet to be achieved, and one might well question the wisdom of placing moral dilemmas completely within human perspectives. Is an action right because someone says so, or because it is intrinsically so, and who makes that determination? Humans have not fared well in moral matters, and perhaps a God is a necessary condition for growth, but as noted in WHO WATCHES THE WATCHERS, the difficulty with a God concept "...is trying to figure out what it wants."
CHOSEN REALM is worth the watch.
EPISODE SIXTY-ONE: PROVING GROUND
AIR DATE: Wednesday, January 21, 2004
I wonder how Jeffrey Combs (Shran aka Weyoun) would compare the Dominion war with the Xindi conflict, or is it that Andorians lack "something" the Founders have? Not that this episode lacks all merit: indeed the Machiavellian "lion" and "fox" metaphor is dramatized as a suspicious Archer ponders why the Andorians would want to assist "pink skins" in the war effort, only to discover that they want a captured Xindi doomsday device to prevent further Vulcan incursion in their space. T'Pol of course warns the Captain not to trust an old enemy, while Shran, ironically, comes to doubt the wisdom of his superiors in taking the weapon; so much so that even after Archer is seemingly betrayed by Shran, he receives data from the device given by him obviously against his superior's knowledge, and this after Archer threatens to detonate it aboard the Andorian ship.
The cleverly written episode by itself may have merit, but when compared to the really sophisticated, intricate and "fox" like talents of "...plain, simple,..." you know who of DS-9 fame, it unfortunately pales. I wonder again what Andrew J. Robinson might say?
EPISODE SIXTY-TWO: STRATAGEM
AIR DATE: Wednesday, February, 4 2004
In this cleverly crafted episode employing flash back and in medias res, we find Archer gradually convincing a captured Xindi humanoid to reveal the location of the weapon used to ravish earth. Exploiting a conflict between the humanoid and insectoid elements of the Xindi, Archer's recreation of their prison escape initially appears to work as the humanoid, Degra, reveals the coordinates of the weapon's proving grounds to his "ally," only to suspect, however, Archer's duplicity. The charade ends with Archer threatening Degra with the memory purge necessary to recreate the prison-escape simulation.
The devices are not new. Mission Impossible used it as did Sisko in the Federation's darkest moment" In the Pale Moonlight. Transcendentally, Degra's guilt regarding unleashing a weapon that killed millions of children on earth (in self-defense?) recalls many of the more substantiative episodes. My Star Trek class has analyzed the Pale Moonlight episode from Aristotle's perspective to Mill's, but I wonder if Stratagem could sustain such while retaining its sterling entertainment quality. Perhaps the contemporary allusions to the treatment of POW's from the Middle East being held in Cuba suggest parallels. Would we justify physical or psychological maltreatment to prevent another 9-11? The Pragmatic theory at its best does teach and delight, and Enterprise to be successful must succeed at both: quantitatively and qualitatively.
EPISODE SIXTY-THREE: HARBINGER
AIR DATE: Wednesday, February, 11 2004
HARBINGER (aka "As The Enterprise Turns") indeed provides some "frothy" moments, from Trip with T'Pol or Cpl. Cole or T'Pol who may or may not be jealous...to be continued. We have a space disrupting alien [literally] who warns in the denouement-just before vanishing that he will be present when the Xindi destroy earth. Meanwhile back at the war, Reed and Hayes (crew and military adjunct force: Maco's)) manage to train the crew while brutalizing each other until Archer warns them to "settle" their differences immediately.
But seriously folks...this episode does engage interest more than some of the others, as I suppose each of the dramatized scenarios will in future episodes find further explication...harbingers of "things to come."
EPISODE SIXTY-FOUR: DOCTOR'S ORDERS
AIR DATE: Wednesday, February, 18 2004
Another cleverly crafted episode gives the good Doctor his moment of fame. Forced by a transdimensional disturbance to put the crew in stasis, Phlox, aided by TPol, must mind the store along with Porthos. All seems to be well until rather bizarre events apparently materialize: noises where there shouldnt be any-on the hull, Xindi on board where they definitely shouldnt be, an angry Trip who is supposed to be in stasis, Hoshi out of statsis and decomposing or not, and finally TPol in an emotional daze.
Perhaps reminiscent of Turn of the Screw, viewers must decide whether these events are objective or hallucinations since they occurred after Phlox viewed the Exorcist and perhaps, for trivia buffs, a Twilight Zone episode featuring someone who later became JTK.
As noted in the first episode review, Phlox understates his role with a Garrick-like delivery, and he does so here in the form of diary entries to a colleague which offer his observations on serving with humans in general and TPol in particular.
The ending is great and unexpected....(watch again for the first time!!!)
EPISODE SIXTY-FIVE: HATCHERY
AIR DATE: Wednesday, February, 25 2004
Using a time-honored device (What to do about a Captain who can't captain.), Hatchery dramatizes the agonies of conscience suffered by Trip, T'Pol and Reed when debating relieving Archer of his command for obsessively protecting Xindi eggs to the exclusion of the ship's safety.
At first Archer says the right things, and that is the problem with this episode. "Humans," he argues, "don't throw morality out the window when things get a little tough," and "There are rules even in war. We have to help these [Xindi] children." Unlike even Sisko's decisions (In the Pale Moonlight), Archer's orders honor an objective moral standard, one debated in another DS-9 episode: In Time of War, the Law Falls Silent.
But the problem concerns motivation. Phlox discovers the reason for Archer's behaviour comes from the debilitating psychiatric effects of a neurotoxin sprayed on the Captain when he first found the Xindi hatchery. The ethical dilemma would have been better debated without this, making the show more mimetic of the decisions our homeland security officials must face when questioning potential terrorists without the neurotoxins.
EPISODE SIXTY-SIX: AZATI PRIME
|POSSIBLE RED ALERT:
With the ratings in doubt, and
The question is SHOULD IT?
|What would one write if the RED ALERT comes true, and the series is cancelled? TOS left the scene after 3 seasons (almost after 2 except for a write in campaign), and few could have predicted what the future would bring. ST has accomplished more than any other series in television history: three major quality spin-offs of 7 years each, 10 movies, and my incredible ST Class.|
|Ph.D.'s have written books on Star Trek, thereby validating the Pragmatic theory that art can teach and entertain at the same time. Roddenberry after all was right, having in the process to fight short sighted network executives who continued to believe that all SCI FI needed was a few flashy special effects to offset mundane plots.
The XINDI episodes were designed to transfuse the series when viewers complained that the characters and plots were too drab. Kirk, Picard, Sisko and Janeway have become legends as have the plots. Has Archer, or is it too soon to tell?
This episode finds in the denouement, the Enterprise in ruins, as Archer seeks to destroy the Xindi weapon. When Daniels takes the Captain some 400 years in the future, we learn that the Xindi have been fighting the wrong enemy: the sphere builders are culpable; not earth.
Characters with a conscience or at least having psychological depth have always attracted attention in ST: from Spock to Data to "plain, simple" Garrick, and here Dagra who is willing to risk the wrath of the insectoid Xindi to oppose the weapon's deployment. That kind of writing made ST special: remember Gul Dukat--what an insight into the mind of a psychopath.
The torture of Archer by Xindi recalls Picard's ordeal when captured by the Cardassians. Patrick Stewart won critical acclaim for that episode, having first reviewed the findings of Amnesty International to learn the psychological effects of torture on political prisoners. Did that kind of research happen here? I do not know, but the cumulative effect of this series so far seems to suggest that despite moments of greatness which these reviews have noted, the results have been disappointing.
If the series is renewed, and we learn what happens to the Enterprise, Archer and the Xindi, the writers will need to revisit the past to teach them how to re-energize the present. T.S. Eliot (Tradition and the Individual Talent), notes that we appear to know more that the Homers, Shakespeare's and Plato's of the past because they were and are still today, our teachers.
EPISODE SIXTY-SEVEN: DAMAGES
AIR DATE: Wednesday, April 21, 2004
"I am about to step over a line, a line I thought
I'd never cross."
"We can't save humanity without holding on to
what makes us human."
T'Pol quoting Archer to Archer
TV GUIDE summaries this episode in one of its offset boxes, noting, Damages to be "...a tale of tough choices as the crew tries to restore the Enterprise...." The review further notes T'Pol as well must come to terms with an illness, which as the episode reveals, turns out to be an addiction to a substance that allows her to release emotions, an experience she finds pleasurable and horrific as her liaison with Trip dramatizes in a nightmare flashback.
The ethics of emergencies indeed offers tough choices. The greatest good for the greatest number? Does Archer have the right to attack an alien ship to take by force technology he needs to get the badly damaged Enterprise out of danger, even if it means gravely jeopardizing the aliens' chances for survival. Well, he feels he does, and so the 'crime' occurs, but not without some guilt.
This of course is not ST's first testing of such muddled ethical dilemmas. Long ago, Kirk had to remind Capt. Tracey that even the extinction of his own crew could not justify such an action, and more recently the intense and brilliantly executed In the Pale Moonlight, found Capt. Sisko willing to countenance lies and murder to help the Federation defeat the Dominion.
If one were to compare Sisko's soliloquy-like performance with Archer's, then a reason why DS-9 lasted the post-Kirk magical "7" years becomes evident. It is not that the current episode is bad per se, but viewers have come to judge all ST by the best that ST has ever done. How did Sisko feel about his decision at the end of the episode? Did the rising casualty list justify his decision? How did he feel when Quark remarked that Sisko restored his faith in humanity--that everyone DOES have a price? Can we ask these same questions of Archer?
I conclude by repeating the final paragraph from the last review: If the series is renewed, and we learn what happens to the Enterprise, Archer and the Xindi, the writers will need to revisit the past to teach them how to re-energize the present. T.S. Eliot (Tradition and the Individual Talent), notes that we appear to know more that the Homers, Shakespeare's and Plato's of the past because they were and are still today, our teachers.
EPISODE SIXTY-EIGHT: THE FORGOTTEN
AIR DATE: Wednesday, April 28, 2004
"She was a great engineer, and she was my friend.
She won't be forgotten...Goodbye Elizabeth."
Trip to the parents of Jane Taylor,
Most great literature including the best of Star Trek must reach a "level three" meaning while subsuming the other two levels: level one--basic plot (important for some TV audiences), to level two--a didactic intent, to level three--commentary on what it means to be human that transcends even the second level by exploring what it means to be human, even if accomplished, as Henry James argued, by telling both the ugly and its beautiful counterpart. Ethically, Kierkegaard had discerned this, as did Roddenberry when he argued with obtuse TV executives about what really good sci. fi. ought to do.
These reviews have argued that episodes such as In the Pale Moonlight and City on the Edge of Forever approach level three, but this series has suffered from too much level one. This episode, perhaps more poignant as was The Best Years of Our Lives following WW II, approaches level three, what it means to be human, by dramatizing a theme that no doubt many commanders today in the Middle East must enact in the 'real' world: writing letters to families: "We regret to inform you..." Of course Trip can't write the first or second time; he does not know what to say to the family of Jane Taylor? Who would, but it must be done?
Exacerbating the situation is the presence of Degra, the Xindi turned traitor to his own kind, who now wishes to aid the Enterprise in the destruction of the terror weapon. Further, he must convince the Xindi that earth is not the enemy; rather a race of super-aliens who built the spheres. Trip must work with Degra, whose technology destroyed most of Florida causing the deaths of seven million people and one, the one being his sister, Elizabeth. Churchill was reputed to have said that he would make an alliance with the devil if Hitler invaded hell, as Major Kira ironically trains Cardassians to resist the Dominion occupation. Nothing about any of this is palatable, but approaching a level three meaning implies looking deep within ourselves as Conrad reminds us in Heart of Darkness.
In a dream sequence, the anguished Trip sees the ghost of Taylor. "Remember me," she pleads as did a certain ghostly appearance to a just as tormented Prince in 1601. He too of course anguished "to revenge or not to revenge," working either in consort with a belief system which forbade such, or challenging past perceptions, dialectically, and thus defining "what it means to be human." ahead of his time. (Harold Bloom). If any one at all reads these commentaries, perhaps the comparison is a bit overstated, but this reviewer's previous harshness deserves to be mitigated by better crafted episodes than what we have seen.
Star Trek alums. have directed previous episodes in the franchise, and LaVar Burton is no stranger to both sides of the camera. His directing The Forgotten may be what those who love ST need to see happen for the series to succeed. Amidst cancellation rumors, we may hope that as Enterprise approaches the SEASON finale, that it will not be the SERIES finale.
EPISODE SIXTY-NINE : E 2
AIR DATE: Wednesday, May 5 2004
ST of course has done time travel before and often with the success merited by the Hugo Award winning City on the Edge of Forever, the theme of which was the utilitarian dilemma of "the needs of the one vs. those of the many." Kirk sacrificed Edith Keeler, whom he loved, to prevent the Nazis from winning WWII.
Here, Lorian, a descendent of Trip and T'Pol wrestles with that dilemma as he chooses to sacrifice his crew to allow Archer's Enterprise to meet Degra and perhaps change the course of history by prevented the Xindi attack. Initially that had not been the case, as Lorian wishes to appropriate Archer's technology to get home. Riddled, however, with the guilt engendered by his earlier failure to prevent the Xindi assault on earth by destroying his ship, he in this instance changes his mind. We do not know for sure if his ship perishes, but it might have.
Microcosmically, the episode explores the consequences of T'Pol's passions which initially had lead to the birth of Lorian. Emotions are frequently associated with evil impulses, a perspective appearing to dominate her thinking, but she is admonished by Phlox, "T'Pol" and Trip to explore passions rather than censure them. In The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf admonishes Biblo to pity Gollum, noting that he may yet have a role to play in the defeat of Sauron, and surely if he had been killed, the ring would never have reached Mt. Doom. Analogously, had T'Pol repressed her passions would the Degra-Archer meeting occur?
This episode was well-written, and since were are in the countdown to the SEASON finale, hopefully the next season will profit from the mistakes of the past.
EPISODE SEVENTY : THE COUNCIL
AIR DATE: Wednesday, May 12, 2004
"The limit of acceptable casualties is 20%"
(Reed with anger)
"The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few."
(Vulcan proverb by T'Pol)
Percy Shelley argued that, "the great secret of morals is love, or a going out of our own nature, and an identification of ourselves with the beautiful which exists in thought, action, or person not our own. A man to be greatly good must imagine intensely and comprehensively; he must put himself in the place of another and of many others. The great instrument of moral good is the imagination and poetry enlarges the circumference of the imagination by replenishing it with thoughts of ever new delight which have the power of attracting and assimilating to their own nature all others thoughts and which form new intervals and interstices whose void forever craves fresh food."
Although Roddenberry may have modified Shelley's distrust of technology, he doubtless envisioned such a utopian scheme, but in reality Plato knew that utopias are well nigh impossible, but such should not nullify the attempt. To achieve peace, be in the Middle East, our neighborhood, on DS-9, or in the Xindi expanse, people of courage must enlighten the way, bringing us out of the shadows. Such was Degra, a future Count Von Stauffenberg, who ultimately sacrificed his life to convince the Xindi Council that the real enemy is not earth, but beings they had worshiped as gods, the Sphere Builders. To deconstruct their 'omniscience' must have been as difficult as convincing some Germans that their Reich builder was an abomination.
Degra and in this episode Trip are drawn with great care, doing therefore what ST does best: probing the human condition with subtleties transcending the triteness of plot orientated 'humans vs. aliens.' Slowly Trip comes to admire the man whose race exterminated his sister, while Degra appreciates that he would not doubt act as Trip were he to lose a loved one to an invader. We remember in To Kill a Mockingbird, that one can not truly know another until he has walked a mile in his shoes.
As the season approaches its end, and everyone hoping that the series new-found quality will result in new episodes, this episode does not lack suspense as well as intelligence. Following the murder of Degra, the Insectoids and Reptilians capture and launch the Xindi weapon having withdrawn from the council. The weapon, along with Hoshi, vanish into the void of space.
To be continued...
EPISODE SEVENTY-ONE : COUNTDOWN
AIR DATE: Wednesday, May 19, 2004
THE GOOD NEWS, OF COURSE, IS THAT ENTERPRISE WILL BE BACK FOR ANOTHER SEASON: NOW THE WRITERS HAVE THEIR WORK CUT OUT FOR
THEM. PERHAPS MEMORIES OF THE KIRK SERIES LOOMED, BUT....
...certainly the last episodes have been more dramatically intense and perhaps more mimetic, as was Countdown, but traditionally ST has also been an idea show going back to Roddenberry's premise that sci. fi. really follows the same compositional norms as any sophisticated literature (The Star Trek Writer's Guide) In this the pragmatic theory, of entertaining while teaching, holds force.
Mimetically, the torturing of Hoshi to learn the launch codes, the death of Major Hayes, and the Xindi civil war sound very Middle East. Suspense reigns, as the weapon is launched: did Hoshi crack under pressure? Did the sphere builders alter time? Next week's finale will probably be a cliff hanger. Can the weapon be destroyed? Will earth be spared? Will the Xindi civil war end or expand? Will humans and Xindi coexist? What will Archer do next?
The question is : what will happen next? Have the writers learned from the past? Books such as Star Trek and Sacred Ground (my text), and the Ethics of Star Trek discuss episodes from a sophisticated philosophical perspective using the past franchises. Currently, using only Enterprise, these books could not have been written, but the potential exists if...
EPISODE SEVENTY-TWO : ZERO HOUR
AIR DATE: Wednesday, May 26, 2004
We do indeed have a cliffhanger thanks to time travel, Shran, and Nazis.
Archer's obsession to destroy the Xindi weapon places Hoshi in some psychological and physical jeopardy, but the needs of the many....Fortunately, though, the weapon is destroyed, earth is spared, and Hoshi recovers.
Beyond what was logically expected to happen, the season finale deserves mention for focusing on development of personality, that which has been lacking, and which distinguished prior franchises. It has been difficult to isolate individualizing moments as we could with Kirk, Sisko, Picard, and Janeway. Archer needs more emotive and psychological depth. When during a time shift, he is admonished not to enter the Xindi weapon as his death could seriously jeopardize the future of the Federation [UFP], we are reminded of how Sisko was warned by the Prophets not to fight the Dominion. What seemed folly, however, foretold his metamorphosis into a Prophet himself. The writers need to plan something equally distinguishing for Archer. His presumed death of course anguishes the crew, and as the episode ends we find him among Nazis, a crisis faced by Kirk and Janeway.
T'Pol experiences genuine emotion when mourning Archer's apparent loss, even noticed by the way she treats Porthos. Phlox's understated demeanor reminds one of a certain Cardassian tailor, but not morally of course. These last two episodes also did much to develop Hoshi's character. Her torture and remorse were well acted, and remind viewers of Picard's capture by Cardassians. More needs to be done with character.
We wish the series well next season, and hope the writers and crew of the Enterprise will "live long and prosper."
EPISODE SEVENTY-THREE: STORM FRONT-PART I
AIR DATE: Friday, October 8, 2004
Some words of prelude: TV Guide's review (week of October 3rd) of this new season's first show, a continuation of last May's episode, calls the crew 'wooden' and the American resistance fighters 'stereotypical' gangsters. Further, the air day has been moved to Friday from Wednesday, not a good sign since Friday is often seen as the pre-graveyard scenario for TV episodes, although CSI deconstructed that hypothesis. TV Nazis allying with aliens in a 'time war' to conquer the United States do indeed act as such. There are also rumors the series was extended only to sustain lucrative marketing franchises. Additionally, in two weeks Brent Spiner will appear, a tactic which ST employed before in the face of flagging ratings: Worf on DS-9, for example...So where are we season four skittishly opens?
The fourth season will apparently focus more on time-travel civil wars and the implications for humanity than the Xindi threat to destroy earth. These pages have noted the exceptional manner in which time travel has been used from Kirk and Edith Keeler (an episode also using Nazis) to Patterns of Force which, despite its historical inaccuracies, purported to teach the evils of totalitarian conformity in times of crises. TNG's Cardassian story arcs often paralleled Nazi horrors from the death camps that Major Kira liberated, and later Capt. Janeway's encountered Nazi-aliens interested in perpetuating war games. This season must mime these successes by stemming perceptions, which many discern as facts, of mediocrity driven by writers who have run out of ideas, and actors who cannot act. Comparisons are inevitable and ST's greatest challenge is to live up to its own standards that defined literate science fiction.
In the season opener, the Nazi-alien compact (Pact of Steel?) trades Nazi expansionism for construction of technologies needed to bring the latter home. Archer of course joins the resistance in New York and by Act IV, finds himself back on the Enterprise. In next week's continuation, will the mechanics of plot reveal the socio-moral commentary that distinguished past franchises?
EPISODE SEVENTY-FOUR: STORM FRONT-PART II
AIR DATE: Friday, October 15, 2004
Well, the special effects were "fascinating" (to quote our favorite Vulcan): we have newsreel footage of Hitler touring New York (formerly the Eiffle Tower), Stuka dive bombers attacking the Enterprise (and getting off an occasional shot), and gangster-resistance fighters armed mostly with pistols taking on and almost defeating Nazis armed with machine guns...all in the name of restoring the time line which of course Archer does, although he does not seem to want the credit Daniels bestows at the denouement. Nonetheless, kudos is offered as the Captain reviews the history of time set right (as happened in City on the Edge of Forever minus the high tech.). All Archer want is to be left alone with his restored time line, so the crew can return to earth in tact, which does happen at least potentially for now.
Setting all of this right perhaps will involve time travel: what the show needs is a real-life counter to Far Beyond the Stars, ranked as one of the best DS-9 episodes in which the crew appears out of costume in a bigoted 20th America. Therein, a very talented African - American sci. fi. writer (Brooks) dreams of a future time when all races and cultures will live on a space station. Prevented from publishing by a racist culture, he nonetheless persists, and his dream becomes reality again in a series that lasted seven seasons. Maybe the writers of Enterprise need to follow suit. Now, though, the enemy is not racism but mediocrity--visiting ST franchises of the past might therefore serve to invigorate tired cliches by writing the episodes that mime past successes.
EPISODE SEVENTY-FIVE: HOME
AIR DATE: Friday, October 22, 2004
In the past, ST has flashbacked to earlier franchises no doubt to remind viewers of the "glory days" of the past, hoping that the tradition (of excellence) will remain in tact. Thus Spock appeared in more than one TNG episode. Here, HOME honors that tradition by synthesizing Amok Time (TOS) and Family (TNG). The denouement wedding between T'Pol, who really loves Trip, and Koss, mimes virtually exactly the Spock - T'Pring - Stonn ceremony, but we will have to wait I suppose until next week to finally see. And after the horrific experience with the Borg, Picard returns home to heal only to confront his not too sympathetic brother who reminds the Captain of the ancient Greek's admonition that hubris invites retribution.
In HOME, Archer faces intense scrutiny from a board of inquiry headed by the always critical Vulcan Soval, (who does, however, eventually apologize), and more pleasantly a romantic liaison with Capt. Erika Hernandez, although Capt. Kirk once remarked how unfair it was not to have women captains--we would have to wait for Janeway. Phlox as well has his moment as the good doctor confronts earth's prejudices against aliens with a rather intense glare that defines his angst in more ways than one.
Does all this work? Perhaps, with the heavily advertised appearance of Brent Spiner in the next story arc as the ancestor of Dr. Soong, Data's creator also of course played by Spiner, the writers are on more solid ground, but "flashbacks" to the past are contingent on substantiative writing in the future.
EPISODE SEVENTY-SIX BORDERLAND (PART I OF III)
AIR DATE: Friday, October 29, 2004
"HERE WE ARE AGAIN" (Capt. Archer)
"YOU HUMANS COULD USE A SENSE OF HUMOR" (Dr. Soong)
"MANKIND IS SOMETHING TO BE SURPASSED" (Nietzsche)
TV GUIDE (October 24, 2004), quotes Spiner as saying, "I want to see TREK continue...,." and if it does, actors with his track record will "make it so." Everyone knows Data, Dr. Soong, and many a holideck character Spiner created with such skill. His wit and talent in this episode was all the more apparent when contrasted with the often stale episodes Enterprise has presented.
The first of three episodes in this arc deals with Data's creator's ancestor's manipulation of DNA to create a super race of humans called "Augments" who precipitate a war with humanity by attacking a Klingon ship. Many flashbacks, even to the Kirk era, provoke nostalgic memories including a look at the Orions from their green - animal - women one of whom tempted Pike, to their slave auctions conducted by none other than BIG SHOW, and the machinations of the syndicate that almost got Quark in trouble with Odo. Mimetically, the current election year debate over cloning and stem cell research is echoed in Soong's dabbling in DNA research that spawned the eugenics wars with which Kirk had to deal both on TV and in the movies.
And a sidebar: T'Pol indeed marries Koss, but foregoes the honeymoon to mediate perhaps about how to remain alluring to Trip.
So maybe we are here again: if what Spiner initiates remains sustained in future episodes, for the writing and acting are the things wherein to catch the conscious of the audience.
EPISODE SEVENTY-SEVEN: COLD STATION 12 (PART II OF III)
AIR DATE: Friday, November 5, 2004
Although Part II is more plot than idea based, Spiner continues to shine as do the TV GUIDE reviews. The quest for genetic embryos pits Augment against Augment, brother against brother, and eventually against Soong. Bio-weapons including the release of a deadly plague virus darkens the conflict as the pursuing Archer is thus threatened for intervening.. Additionally, Dr. Lucas is tortured by the Augments to get the codes needed to seize the embryos, while on the Enterprise, T'Pol must fire on the space station and the Enterprise to prevent Soong's escape.
Science fiction and mimetic literature has examined these themes which the final arc episode should hopefully discuss. Soong in some respects mimes Victor Frankenstein with the Augments as his "creatures." Beyond the obvious that man should not "mess with creation" as Vincent Price once articulated, the novel dramatizes how the created needs love to survive and nurture. Ironically in that respect, the created becomes humane, while the creator de-evolves to a monster. Since the episode begins with an 11 year flashback with Soong teaching youthful Augments, we might speculate whether he, as did Victor, come to understand that few possess the wisdom and love to direction creation's evolution.
Mimetically, with bio-terrorism and human cloning looming, the three-part arc offers many opportunities to resurrect what Star Trek does best.
EPISODE SEVENTY-EIGHT: THE AUGMENTS (PART III OF III)
AIR DATE: Friday, November 12, 2004
With "Data" in front of the camera and "Jordi" behind it, the arc comes to a rousing conclusion reminding viewers of what made Star Trek great from the beginning. The writers, taking advantage of such acting and directing talent, deftly reminds us of what has (will) occur in the Star Trek universe: the eugenics wars involving The Botany Bay which mattered (will matter) so much to Capt. Kirk. "Superior ability breeds superior ambition."
Action serves philosophical content the way it is supposed to in Star Trek. With the Augments in revolt and threatening to provoke a Federation-Klingon civil war, we find the Malik - Soong conflict climaxing with the suicide of the former, so we think. That confrontation, however, is deflected when he escapes to the Enterprise and is stopped by Archer who thus saves Soong's life. That scenario sets the stage for what we know will come. Given some freedom of action, Soong contemplates that genetic engineering should define the future less than perhaps the creation of artificial life, something we know his descendent will accomplish. Past, present and future merge.
The arc was a success, but without Spiner, can the excellence be sustained? Next week's teaser promises another three part arc set on Vulcan. Wouldn't it be fantastic if Spock's ancestors....
EPISODE SEVENTY-NINE: THE FORGE (PART I OF III)
AIR DATE: Friday, November 19, 2004
...were discussed, and perhaps such will occur. The formula seems to be the resurrection of ideas sacred to any ST fan of the Kirk era. Everyone knows what happened in The Search For Spock movie: that Katra transfer / meld worked brilliantly because of what Spock and McCoy brought to the scene from the TV series.
Here, though, in search of the radical Syrrannites, Archer appears to be entrusted by Arev with the Katra of no less than Surak, whom most Vulcans revere as their Socrates and Aristotle combined. Accompanying Archer of course is the married T'Pol whose mother may have been implicated in the terrorist murder of some 43 Vulcan and human lives allegedly master mined by the Syrrannites. Of additional interest is the IDIC emblem (Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combination), given to T'Pol which Spock will revere as the touchstone of Vulcan logic. We also learn of the genesis of the mind-meld, rejected by High Command leader V'Las, determined to exterminate the Synnannites for reasons soon to be revealed.
Macrocosmically, the episodes recalls the Vulcan-human conflict of the pre-Kirk era. The philosophical themes are interesting: Archer's comment regarding the variant interpretation of sacred Vulcan texts strikes a chord familiar to anyone lamenting religious factionalism today. Later, of course, Q decries the same when mocking humans who taut progress while squabbling over "...tribal God" conflicts. Our inability to solve such denominational conflicts mocks the harmony and love religion and worship of God is supposed to nurture. Enterprise has discerned that to its credit. Ambassador Soval's observation that humans have the intellectual capability to progress while simultaneously lapsing into Klingon-like savagery recalls Pope's Essay on Man. We are still the "glory, jest and riddle" of the world, a paradox the Ambassador finds just as baffling.
Revisiting the past recalls fond memories which fans will enjoy who know the Kirk era, but is the base too narrow? Further, will this arc sustain the interested generated by Spiner's appearance in the previous one?
EPISODE EIGHTY : AWAKENING (PART II OF III)
AIR DATE: Friday, November 26, 2004
Part two of the arc does sustain interest both dramatically and philosophically. By continuing to delve deeper into the "shadow" archetype characterized by Jung as dangerous when repressed, we learn more and more of what shaped Vulcan pre-history. Determined to exterminate the Syrranites who wish to preserve the logical purity of founder Surak, Vulcan High Command leader V'Las' sustained emotional perspective reveals the mind of a fanatic not unlike Dukat. Archer, who carries the Katra of Surak, and T'Pol remain on Vulcan with the Syrranites, one of whom T'Pau tries unsuccessfully to remove the Katra. The failure allows Surak to explore with Archer the consequences of emotions unexamined by reason and logic, the consequences of which macrocosmically dramatize when V'Las plans to destroy the pacifistic Syrranites and the Enterprise in order to launch a preemptive strike against the Andorians, with whom Archer had arbitrated a treaty two years earlier.
Shades of Tolkien appear. Ironically, T'Pol doubts the reality of one's Katra, thinking its existence myth, while Archer's perspective transcends the literal to embrace myth as truth.
Part of this arc's fascination derives from the depth Spock's perspectives now achieve. His occasional references to Surak and his planet's philosophy were often critiqued by McCoy and even Kirk, but now the "backstory" clarifies. Interestingly in that connection as philosophers from Plato to Alexander Pope discerned, the human paradox embraced both the logical and the emotional--with courage mediating. Spock knew that, having a human half, when he tried to explain to McCoy in The Enemy Within that only his will kept the human and Vulcan half at peace. Thus, we now may see Soval in a more sympathetic light as Trip noted when saying the AmNazibassador did a fine job in hiding his affection for humans. Likewise then, there must be traces of V'Las in T'Pol and Soval.
Hopefully, the final episode of the arc will sustain the dramatic and philosophical momentum thus far created.
EPISODE EIGHTY-ONE : KIR'SHARA (PART III OF III)
AIR DATE: Friday, December 3, 2004
The Kir'Shara embodies the writings of Surak, sacred to the Vulcans. Its supression by V'Las would radically alter the development of Vulcan history, allowing the maniacally obsessive leader of the High Council to attack Andoria. Of course Archer and T'Pol thwart the plan: the Kir'Shara is returned, and V'Las is removed, but not without the courage of Soval who survives torture by the Andorian Shran, also seen in Proving Ground (January 21, 2004).
The arc concludes with Surak's Katra being removed, and a hint of what Spock will later confront in TNG's Reunification. By implication, the denouement implies that the Vulcan home world will eventually create the culture known as Romulan, so passion vs. reason.
Philosophically, the Aristotelian golden mean may apply as it has in other episodes such as Kirk's The Enemy Within. Plato as well understood that courage must mediate reason and passion for the soul and state to survive. Spock would note that only the force of will keeps the two opposing sides at harmony, and Alexander Pope argued that all succeed by elemental strife, and "passions are the elements of life,' a lesson Spock himself eventually learned when noting that "Logic is the beginning of wisdom." All in all, we need both elements.
In sum, this three episode arc was successful, especially to viewers interesting in learning more of how pre-Kirk era cultures evolved before "First Contact." If Aristotle is right that the soul of art is the dramatization of universals, then the arc earns admiration, but would the accolade be more intense if Picard or Janeway or Sisko had been there, as evidenced by the ratings when Dr. Soong's ancestor appeared in the previous arc.
EPISODE EIGHTY-TWO : DAEDALUS
AIR DATE: Friday, January 14, 2005
Dr. Daystrom angrily lamented to Kirk that after constructing the "ultimate computer" at so young an age that few if any future accomplishments would ever rival that initial achievement. We recall he thus embarked on a destructive path that an attack of conscience and a nervous breakdown eventually thwarted.
In a similar fashion, and continuing this series' tradition of tracing the origins of star fleet technology, Daedalus dramatizes Emory Erickson's obsession with perfecting the transporter he had developed. Here, his obsession concerns attempts to rescue his son, trapped by the device he created and doomed. The danger of fraternal neglect seems to be the theme, ironically sustained by Archer's faith in Erickson as a "father figure" and the injuries confining Erickson to a wheel chair, for it seems that any contact with his son, trapped in the transporter buffers, is fatal. Like Daystrom, Erickson laments that his actions caused the death of his son, and a crewman on the Enterprise, for this inventor also has a conscience.
The episode is not without merit; several TNG shows focused on the moral and psychological implications of managing technology perhaps too quickly. McCoy of course always refused to have his atoms "scattered" about the galaxy, as did Dr. Pulaski. Ensign Barclay, with his penchant for self-diagnosis, feared he had "transporter psychosis," and Scotty on his way to retirement is " rescued" from the tranporter's buffers by Picard.
The analogies are important and separate Enterprise from its predecessors. McCoy, Pulaski, Barclay et. al.define Star Trek as successful in terms of literate scripts and superior acting. Spiner as noted temporarily energized this series, and what fans await now is a similar and sustained experience.
EPISODE EIGHTY-THREE : OBSERVER EFFECT
AIR DATE: Friday, January 21, 2005
IF ALL THE EPISODES OF ENTERPRISE WERE OF THIS QUALITY, then the series would rival TNG, DS-9 and VOYAGER for longevity. Ironically, the blurb in TV GUIDE led me to believe Observer Effect would simply recycle past "aliens observe humans in distress" plots, but what a pleasure to be wrong.
Significantly, the writers use the plot mechanics of a quarantined Hoshi and Tucker to develop personality: ST characters from Spock to Data have reflected what we know to be true of ourselves, holding a mirror up to nature as Hamlet noted. Enterprise has been lacking in this area, but the quarantine allows us to see Hoshi and Tucker as humans with a past. Hoshi's secret envy of Tucker's mechanical abilities permits him to recall his childhood joy in disassembling anything in sight including the family dining room table at Thanksgiving, thereby earning parental ire when the weight of the turkey collapsed it. By making the characters human, the writers invite audience empathy and the "pity and fear" Aristotle knew was necessary for great literature.
Everyone knows of first contact and the prime directive, and this episode manages both with skill. Two aliens, one objective and clinical and the other empathetic, inhabit various crew to observe how humans behave, especially when suffering. By employing narrative techniques familiar to readers of Gulliver's Travels, the writers demonstrate that shifting viewpoints allow viewers to observe the human condition from the different perspectives that make irony possible. Catharsis thus occurs with Archer's condemnation of the clinical alien who resists his companion's pleas to cure Hoshi and Tucker recalls Swift's dislike of a race of intelligent horses (aliens) willing to exterminate the Yahoos (unbridled passion) to achieve their utopia. "Experience compassion yourself," warns the Captain, "You need to do more than observe." They do by not only curing Hoshi and Tucker, but also by revising their own first contact procedures.
Observer Effect is worth watching as (hopefully) a prototype of what will follow.
EPISODE EIGHTY-FOUR: BABEL (PART I)
AIR DATE: January 28th, 2005
Does this "arc" fulfill last week's expectations? Perhaps. Building on Kirk's Journey to Babel, Babel One's most intriguing moment comes AFTER the episode when the voice-over for next week's episode hints that the arc will dramatize how the Federation was founded. That would be awesome!
The question of course, and especially for those who remember the Kirk episode, is will this one achieve the excellence of its predecessor? Fans remember how the quarreling delegates really served as a backdrop, illuminating the intensely poignant relationship between Spock and his parents, especially regarding the "emotional" side of the ship's science officer.
Sometimes Enterprise has achieved this depth as last week's episode did, but we will have to suspend judgment. The teaser engages suspense until we learn that Hoshi and Archer's confrontation is a bit of diplomatic role playing concerning how to negotiate with a Tellarite Shran of course we have seen before in Proving Ground. That review noted, I wonder how Jeffrey Combs (Shran aka Weyoun) would compare the Dominion war with the Xindi conflict? The same may be asked here regarding the Founding of the Federation, a rather momentous occasion. This arc thus far, however, is mostly physical--lots of conflict since Tellarites and Andorians and Star Fleet don't get along well: mutual suspicions abound.
What the writers apparently do, as we saw with The Forge arc is to dramatize moments in the Federation's past worth exploring in more detail. In that review, I noted, The formula seems to be the resurrection of ideas sacred to any ST fan of the Kirk era. We will see if the current arc simply uses violent confrontation for its own sake, or more hopefully places it in the service of ideas more profound.
EPISODE EIGHTY-FIVE: UNITED (PART II OF III)
AIR DATE: February 4, 2005
We do learn a bit more of how the Federation comes to be insofar as Archer, representing humanity, vouches for his race' s ability to negotiate when others fail, as demonstrated, albeit partly by a duel, that Tellarites and Andorians can get along. I wish that such skills had been applied to the network; all fans were hoping for at least a "7" year run, but "All Good Things....." Apparently, however, definitions of good vary, an idea to be addressed after the series finale review is posted.
It seems the Romulans have a technology that permits remote operation of a ship capable also of cloaking itself in the guise of any vessel, thereby making any species think an attack comes from whomever the Romulans desire. Some 128 ships arrive to form the 'union' needed to defeat the Romulans. Perhaps an intriguing moment occurs when we learn that mental telepathy will be used to defeat the aggressor: after all, we know Romulans and Vulcans are related as students of a famous Vulcan's "cowboy diplomacy" recall.
Hopefully, and maybe now this is a moot point, the finale of the arc will dramatize more than the mechanics of plot.
EPISODE EIGHTY-SIX: THE AENAR (PART III)
AIR DATE: February 11, 2005
The finale recalls Kirk's The Empath. Therein Gem inspired awe for her willingness to sacrifice her safety and very life to aid the landing party who were "drones" in an alien experiment. Here, Jhamel, heretofore only a legendary offshoot of the Andorian culture, telepathically places herself at great risk to engage her Romulan-manipulated counterpart, Gareb, to end the attacks on Enterprise. A parallel plot dramatizes Trip's love for T'Pol, an emotion so intense that he wishes a transfer.
Perhaps this arc, the dramatic purpose of which was to outline Federation origins, does touch on the universals of justice, honor and mutual respect, the alleged foundaShrantions of the UFP. Its Constitution, [a link to which may be found on this sites home page,] says as much.
But as has been noted often enough, the spark the ignited past franchises seems to be lacking. Parenthetically, UPN is now promoting future episodes as the final voyages, while simultaneously reminding viewers of what they know: all the STAR TREK franchises (and with this writer's endorsement) accomplished what no other series in the history of the medium has ever achieved, and all the more remarkable by using a genre noted for its mediocrity.
AIR DATE: February 18, 2005
Even it its fading moments, Enterprise has a creative spark as evidenced by the writer's ability to illuminate "anomalies" from ST's past. In one of the most creative and technologically sophisticated episodes of DS-9, Trials and Tribble-ations, Worf refused to explain why Klingons of Kirk's era lacked cranial ridges. By flashing back to the Borderland arc featuring Brent Spiner, Affliction provides a clue. We recall that those episodes deal with Data's creator's ancestor's manipulation of DNA to create a super race of humans called "Augments" who initiate a war with humanity by attacking a Klingon ship. Apparently, the Klingons in the current episode attempted some DNA manipulation themselves, thereby precipitating the genetic changes Worf declined to explain. More information is promised as the arc continues next week. The plot thus involves Phlox's kidnapping to reverse the genetic damage, a mission that may well jeopardize the good doctor's life should he refuse to cooperate.
Personal moments continue. Reminiscent of Scotty loving a engineering challenge, Trip, requesting a transfer, relishes providing the Enterprise's sister ship, Columbia, with enhanced warp drive capability, while in an eerie dream sequence, he appears in T'Pol's mediation prompting the hypothesis that his departure has more to do with hormone drive than warp drive. A bit of gothic emerges when Reed is incarcerated by Archer for refusing to acknowledge what he knows about the Klingon menace. He appears to be clandestinely working for a Star Fleet admiral: "shades of" Section 31?
It will be worth waiting to see how the writers blend these personal and humanizing threads next week. I wish they had done such earlier in the franchise.
The February 20, 2005 issue of TV Guide reported, "Berman promises that Enterprise will end with "a little valentine to all Trek fans." Word is, it will include Star Trek: The Next Generation's Jonathan Frakes...and Marina Sirtis. Berman adds, "I will say that the finale is surprising--something we've never done before--and it might involve people from another Star Trek show"--by Michael Logan
EPISODE EIGHTY-EIGHT: DIVERGENCE
AIR DATE: February 15, 2005
By skillfully weaving two plot elements, we explore the genesis of two intriguing post - Enterprise phenomena: Section 31 that recruits Reed and the origin of Klingon's without cranial ridges. Reed it seems was recruited by a mysterious figure called Harris to assist in the Klingon kidnapping of Phlox. Ethically the incident recalls the poisoning of Odo in DS-9, hoping of course that he would spread the infection to the Founders thus ending the Dominion war. Here, Phlox develops a cure for the Klingon genetic experiments to create a race of Augments, but the cure alters the DNA to the degree that the cranial ridges disappear. Now we know why the Klingons of Kirk's day look the way the do. Archer of course serves as the test subject to validate the cure. In any case, the Klingon High Council cannot make war. Ethically of course the "means vs. ends" debate that plagued Reed received a far more sophisticated treatment in DS-9 by Sisko in such episodes as In the Pale Moonlight, but here we are dealing with origins.
Perhaps the contribution of Enterprise for fans who really love the franchise will be the writer's ability to dramatize the origins of the Federation to explain the Vulcan embracing of logic, what ultimately resulted in the creation of Data, and here Section 31 and Klingon anatomy.
The series apparently is on hiatus until March 25 when viewer selected episodes will be rerun until the series finale. As part of the final moments, viewers will be able to enter a contest (UPN.COM) to win prizes including one of Archer's uniforms.
THE FINAL 6 EPISODES ARE REVIEWED BELOW.
THE APRIL 17TH ISSUE OF TV GUIDE DEVOTES
ITS COVER STORY TO STAR TREK WITH DETAILS
OF THE SERIES FINALE, INCLUDING COMMENTS
FROM THE CAST, WRITERS AND THE "SHOCKING"
EPISODE EIGHT-NINE: BOUND
AIR DATE: Friday, April 15, 2005
THE STAR TREK GUIDE ( April 17, 1967) admonishes prospective writers via a little multiple choice quiz that good sci. fi. must observe the same compositional rules as any art form, the most important of which is believability. Thus, a star fleet Captain would never, in the moment of an attack, embrace a beautiful women. Does allowing therefore three beautiful Orion green slave women (remember Capt. Pike) to roam about the ship seducing at will, violate the fundamental axiom that made ST the greatest science fiction franchise ever? Worse yet, does the apparently overt misogynistic overtone -- women seducing men -- contradict a tradition that broke prejudice by casting an African-American women and eventually a women as Captain?
Surprisingly, the response must be no! By deftly blending irony and wit, we discover that appearance after all is not reality, for it would appear that the massive and all pervasive syndicate, at least according to one Harrod-Sar, is governed by women. Interesting literary parallels occur. Was Shakespeare forced to pay tribute to women's intelligence from Kate in Taming of the Shrew to Lady Macbeth by casting them as social misfits or deviants because his misogynistic culture forbade a more overt treatment? Harold Bloom (Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human), certainly not a feminist, wrote that Shakespeare's women are more intelligent than his men, and in the plays just cited, that is certainly the case. Hopefully in our society, no such deception is needed, but good ST has always outlined moral discrepancies.
The episode is entertaining if a bit dramatically implausible. Enterprise has defined the shaping moments of the Federation as these reviews have noted, and flashing back to even the pre-Kirk pilot is a way of coming full circle as well as an attempt to validate the ailing series. Future episodes promise to do the same according to TV Guide by involving the Kirk era productions Mirror, Mirror, used also in DS-9, and The Tholian Web. Apparently though, not all the cast of Enterprise agree, but we must admire Brent Spiner's return and hopefully the appearance of Troi and Riker. In the past, ST did produce memorable characters.
EPISODE NINETY: IN A MIRROR, DARKLY (PART I)
AIR DATE: Friday, April, 22, 2005
WELL!! Watching In a Mirror, Darkly absolutely defines the writer's perspective for salvaging the remaining 5 episodes. By merging past with present, long time fans may revisit the "mirror universe" of the Terran Empire, (Mirror, Mirror), and the Tholians, renown for their 'web' which we see again, and in the words of Spock, perhaps, their p___________! (The Tholian Web).
The parallel universe scheme has been used elsewhere, in DS-9's Crossover, but the predatory enthusiasm in this episode is hard to match. We almost need the proverbial 'score card' to keep straight who is betraying whom. Augmented by a nasty little device called the booth, the officer momentarily in power subjects antagonists to hours of torture best articulated by Phlox's "Will you kindly die!" directed toward a rather uncooperative Tholian. Thus, Capt. Forest commands the Enterprise until 'relieved' by Archer who in turn loses again to Forest until he commandeers the ship, which in turn is destroyed by the Tholians, and so on....
The introductory motif, familiar to those of us who watched for four years, recalls First Contact's meeting of Vulcan and terran. In the mirror universe, however, Cochrane's reply to "Live long and prosper," is a well-aimed phaser, a rather effective opening to the parallel universe's Enterprise.
Pursuing a plot line amidst the carnage is a bit daunting, but perhaps an idea worth pursuing in Part II would be what happens when Archer's alter-ego commandeers the Enterprise to secure a Kirk-era star ship, captured by the Tholians, with its more sophisticated technology in tact for Archer to use or abuse as he see fit. Shades of the Prime Directive emerge, but in the 'mirror universe,' anything seems permissible. Perhaps an interesting read would be recall Jung's shadow archetype and what happens when it's unleashed. The dark side (of the force or whatever we call it) makes for great entertainment if the writers rise above the mere adventure story for its own sake, as Joseph Conrad noted regarding Heart of Darkness.
We have seen Kirk and Sisko's alter ego's, Picard's torture by the Cardassians, Janeway's 'year of hell,' and now Archer's shadow persona. What do YOU think a comparison reveals?
EPISODE NINETY-ONE: In a Mirror, Darkly (Part II)
AIR DATE: April 29, 2005
Remember Arena? (ToS)? In Part II, we meet a (computer enhanced) Gorn whom the 'alternative universe' Archer, of course, kills perhaps laying the groundwork for the former's destruction of Federation bases with which Kirk will have to contend, allowing therefore the Metrons to note humans after all have mercy when a victorious Captain refuses to kill the creature. (And a computer voice sounds quite familiar.)
By contrast, the emperor-seeking Archer notes, "Great men are not peacemakers." We also meet "Spock with a beard," as he and T'Pol struggle to prevent Archer from assuming dictatorial powers, a mission apparently thwarted when he assassinates Admiral Black, but betrayals abound and in yet another twist, Hoshi's counterpart drugs Archer after an obligatory 'bedroom' romp, and announces that she, Sato, wishes to assume the emperorship the Captain wanted.
The merit of these and many other episodes has been the writers' imaginative ability to fill in gaps the previous franchises omitted: Klingon's acquiring cranial ridges, Vulcan passion for logic, etc., and these final episodes, but the microcosm lacks substance. While giving Hoshi the opportunity to grow in the alternative universe that she did not have in the series, Archer in both worlds is not convincing He grits his teeth frequently, and makes ominous threats, but such, as Henry James would note, is external; not internal dramatization. By comparison, Sisko in the alternative MIRROR universe, and Gul Dukat in our reality were far more substantiative, in depth and convincing. The fine consciousness at the center of the drama is lacking, having been replaced by melodrama that ST fans have rightly deserved not to expect.
EPISODE NINETY-TWO: Demons (Part I)
AIR DATE: May 8, 2005
As the series' finale approaches, we learn more of the Federation's founding complete with shades of Gul Dukat in the form of John Paxton, whose xenophobic racism mimes, albeit with less chilling terror, the calculating mesmerism of the Cardassian. Determined to prevent alien cultures from uniting by hoping after the Xindi menace to "make the world safe for [humans only,]" his Terra Prime organization holds not only Trip and T'pol captive, but their [yet to be born] child.
It would appear the first interracial kiss no longer belongs to Kirk and Uhura at least in terms of Federation chronology, but Travis' reporter girl friend, however, turns out to be spy for Terra Prime. Paxton admires one Colonel Green, the Hitler of the day, who along with Lincoln, Surak of Vulcan, seen in The Forge, and Kahless of Deep Space Nine-Klingon fame, test Kirk's ethics in The Savage Curtain, (ToS). This episode was directed by LeVar Burton.
Part I's denouement teases with Green targeting the moon with a WMD, threatening next to destroy earth next unless all aliens vacate. One hopes that Dukat's cognitive sinisterism will not fall to melodrama.
EPISODE NINETY-THREE: Terra Prime (Part II)
AIR DATE: May 13, 2005
Star Trek has always tried, within the constraints of television drama, to mime science. Perhaps that was monetarily forgotten when during the fire fight between the rescuing Archer and the racist Paxton, the resulting decompression did not immediately explode everyone's molecules all over space. At any rate, the proto-Nazi is thwarted but not before we learn T'Pol and Trip's child was cloned. Regrettably the child died as Phlox warns that Vulcan and human DNA are not compatable--that is if medical errors occur. Spock of course reminds us that one of Roddenberry's cherished dreams was of a future when cultures and races would marry and have children, and Plato's Stepchildren defied racist norms of the 1960's.
More importantly for the series finale, though, is Archer's speech to the embryonic Federation Council. His draft notes chart the direction Roddenberry wanted the series to take: "...the most profound discoveries are within us" recalls Q to Picard (All Good Things), and of course "...the final frontier begins in this hall. Let us explore it together" defines, in ideal terms, the very best ST offered in the Kirk, Picard, Sisko, Janeway and Archer franchises.
EPISODE NINETY-FOUR: "These are the Voyages..."
AIR DATE: MAY 13, 2005
The series finale offers much idealism and dispute. For those arguing that the franchise needed more inspiration, the appearance of Troi and Riker offered fans an upbeat scenario, but others including perhaps the cast of Enterprise, found their 'birthright" usurped.
The writers, recalling Riker's anguish in The Pegasus (TNG), created a frame story in which the final voyage of Archer's Enterprise becomes a holodeck recreation Will uses to find the courage to tell Picard about the Federation cloaking device forbade by the Treaty of Algeron.
Within the Frame, Archer's mission to address the Federation Council gives way to his friend Shran's plea that he assist in the rescue of his daughter. Such occurs, but only after Trip is killed. Assuming the role of "Chef" on the Enterprise, Riker questions members of the crew drawing the conclusion that in moral crisis, loyalty and honor sometimes must transcend doctrine as Kierkegaard noted. The human-Andorian bond that helped to forge the Federation reminds Riker that he must disregard Pressman's orders to keep the cloaking technology secret.
The ending is effective. We do not hear Archer's speech, but according to Troi, its substance was morally viable enough to be required memorization at the academy. The holodeck simulation then fades to the intros. to both the Picard and Kirk series: "to boldly go where no man [one] has gone before,"so the past four decades, then, we really have heard Archer.
...And such made television history. Kirk once remarked that one person can summon the future. From Socrates to Christ to Galileo to Dr. King to Roddenberry to as a yet unidentified fan inspired by what ST gave us, Star Trek has summoned a future of optimism and hope. Whatever the flaws of this four year old franchise, the presentations that Star Trek offered from Kirk to Archer makes us believe man will explore the stars someday, but only after exploring the virtues and limitations of his mind. Hamlet after all was right when defining the mission of Star Trek: "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." We are all Horatios in relation to what Star Trek has accomplished, so with all due respect to Mr. Frank Ahrens of The Washington Post, (May 8, 2005), the series after 39 years, is not dead. I would invite him and us all to read....
Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed,
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course untrimmed:
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,
Nor shall death brag thou wand'rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st,
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.