Friday, July 1, 2022

Enterprise, Season 1: Civilization

Enterprise, Season 1

Airdate: November 14, 2001

8 of 97 produced

8 of 97 aired


The crew of Enterprise visits a world at roughly a Renaissance level of development, but then feels compelled to investigate an advanced energy signature they discover on that world. 

"Someday you'll develop the glass tube thingie with the alternating red lights."



Matthew: I've been going back and forth on how to review this episode for a week. Talking with Kevin recently has clarified why -- it's sort of like a burrito that's missing an ingredient. It's underfilled, and no matter how good the existing ingredients are, without that balance of flavors, the result is oddly unsatisfying. Kevin suggested a B story. I don't disagree, but I want to focus on the A story and how it might have been fixed.  Here we have a medieval-level society, a la "Thine Own Self" or "Who Watches The Watchers." Why did those episodes satisfy while this one doesn't? Well, "Thine" has a B story with Troi seeking promotion to command. But its A story is also more "full," because it melds the "people being sickened by future technology" angle with Data playing the role of a Frankenstein's Monster in the village. In "Watchers," there is no B story, but there is a very keenly developed dilemma - Picard must decide whether he is willing to sacrifice himself in order to prevent the contamination of the medieval society. Here, neither is really the case. Some interfering aliens are mining... something or other.... and it's making people sick. So the Enterprise has to stop that. See what I mean? Too simple, not enough "raising of stakes."

Kevin: I agree this needed something more. My thoughts were maybe making the aliens ones we know like the Andorians or even the Suliban to give Earth some skin in the game. I would have also accepted a little more crackle in the relationship with Riann. If Archer were fighting a more intense attraction, it could cloud his judgment about what is preserving these people versus going further in helping them. The skeleton is here, but there is not enough meat on the bone, if that metaphor isn't too tortured.

Matthew: The brief on the first season seems to be taking shape - action is emphasized in this plot. We have multiple firefights in the streets, blowing stuff up in orbit, Archer and Riaan hiding behind walls, etc. I think this time could have been better spent learning more about the native species of the planet, how the illness is affecting them, Riaan's role in this society, and the like. Or, alternatively, we could have learned why the interfering aliens are mining stuff, or could have been given a more interesting reason. As it stands, they're just mining stuff for explosives. What if it were medicine for their world? Fuel for their fusion reactors that are staving off a climate catastrophe? Something to give their side a rationale we can identify with. It's basic TNG Season 1 storytelling - even the Aldeans, or the Ornarans and Brekkians, had better arguments for their actions than we are presented here.

Kevin: I think the best version of the episode is the one that gives Riann the most to do. She was engaging enough to carry the episode if asked, and they just didn't ask her. Even with a one-dimensional evil alien, an episode could have been carried by the choices and stakes for her.


Matthew: Diane DiLascio was really nice as Riaan. I wanted to learn more about her apothecary business, her science background, or heck, I would have even liked it if she had a more developed romance with Archer. As it stands, she is attractive, pleasant, and inhabits the world believably. Wade Andrew Williams' Garos did a lot less for me. He was too transparently unctuous and villainous, and not in a fun way.

Kevin: I liked Riann so much, I was convinced I had seen her in other things. In retrospect, I think it's just that she bears a passing resemblance to Paget Brewster. In any case, she gave me notes of Carolyn Seymour's Mirasta Yale from TNG's First Contact. She was both a credible scientist and curious in a way I could identify with. Even if the episode wanted to avoid retreads of other Prime Directive quandries, I think it certainly given her more to do.

Production Values

Matthew: On the CGI front, the orbital combat shots were pretty good this time around. On the other hand, the "secret base" was again pretty lackluster (reminiscent of the P'Jem listening station). The practical sets were very rich with detail, especially Riaan's lab, which had a really nice "Renaissance painting studio" look to it. I think the alien makeup was a bit underwhelming - though Linda Park looked radiant in it.

Kevin: Note to the galley: Romulan Ale no longer to be served at diplomatic functions, and insert shots of big rooms no longer to be used in Enterprise. I totally agree on the physical sets. This easily competes and may bets DaVinci's sets in Voyager. And I agree on Park. I think it's the the volume in her hair framed her face beautifully and the wig people should have made notes.


Matthew: I don't want to, because the ingredients we got were fine - but I have to go with a 2 here. I don't hate it, I'm not mad at it, and I'm not sad I spent 45 minutes on it, but this episode was just missing some development on the writing side. 

Kevin: I almost hate to agree, but I must. I kept waiting for the episode to slip into gear and really give me more. It's all the more sad because the lead guest actor was so engaging and capable. I am sadly forced to agree with the two for a total of four.

1 comment:

  1. Long-haired T'Pol. And that's all she wrote.