Friday, August 19, 2022

Enterprise, Season 2: Marauders

Enterprise, Season 2
Airdate: October 30, 2002
31 of 97 produced
31 of 97 aired


Captain Archer's morality sense begins tingling when he intuits that a colony of deuterium miners is being bullied by a band of avaricious Klingons.

 "Today is a good day to storm off in a snit, you meanies!"


Kevin: So this is not a great episode certainly, but after last week's A Night in Sickbay, this is practically a Pinter play. I'm still a little grouchy about that one apparently. Treating this episode for itself, the story is solid enough. Our crew would like to help because that's who they are, and the nature of the world and the problem neatly elides any Prime Directive problems. The set up is a solid riff on the Magnificent Seven or any number of other Westerns or the samurai films that inspired them. Protect the nice people from bandits or whatever they are called here. The scenes of the crew helping the miners was nice enough, but it does strain credulity a little that the miners mining a highly valuable commodity wouldn't have been prepared for this problem when they set up shop.

Matthew: This episode's heart is in the right place. It has a crew of fundamentally good people feeling bad about the suffering of strangers, suffering that they are at least somewhat equipped to ameliorate. What is missing for me is a greater exploration of what the concerns are beyond simple morality. How will acting to defend the colony impact relations with the Klingons? Should that even be a concern? Outside of a brief conversation in which T'Pol agrees with Archer, that's all we get. I guess there is also a theme of self reliance and people not trusting help, but that is obviated when the colonists simply acquiesce to Archer's desire to help.

Kevin: The action proceeds well enough, but ends up being a little too bloodless, as odd as that complaint sounds coming out of my mouth. They went the action route, and they basically managed to successfully Home Alone the Klingons into submission. I don't need eye-gouging but we didn't even have the obligatory death of the miner with one week to go to retirement who just bought a boat. Even the Klingons didn't really seem all that threatening as much as run of the mill bullies. I appreciate that this wasn't the grim dark violence fest of other Treks, but I think if they wanted to avoid violence, they should have gone the extra step to figure out how to outwit the Klingons without the Vulcan krav maga lessons. That would have been even more Star Trek and a novel take on the story. Also the solution is silly. You trapped them in a ring of fire...but they have transporters. They can just beam out of the fire, and I'm not at all clear why the Klingons left or didn't just open fire from orbit.

Of all the risible elements of this action plot, the Vulcan evasive martial arts had to be the worst. Rolling around in front of Klingons equipped with bat'leths should result in swift and fatal stabbing, and nothing less. And yes, I don't need to see that stabbing. But it should happen. Fundamentally, all of the alien leader's concerns are completely and totally justified, and he was entirely correct that the Enterprise crew's plans for resistance could and would lead to many deaths. Momentarily trapping the Klingons in a ring of fire and threatening them with burning if they don't leave should and could only work once, when you have them standing in said ring. Why don't they come back tomorrow, and lay waste to the colony? Or come and kill a few miners to instill fear and maintain their supply? Why is the Enterprise crew so resolutely opposed to simply killing the Klingon marauders, since it seems obvious that nothing short of this will halt their depredations? And why are the colonists willing to go along with this, given what they've suffered? This episode fails to ask the most basic questions of the plot.

Kevin: I've done a lot of complaining, but the basics of the story are here. It is nice watching the crew tease out a plan and put it into action. That was some nice ensemble work.

Matthew: I don't really get what the point was of the various scenes of Trip interacting with the local boy. He promised him a tour and didn't deliver. Did the boy view him as a surrogate father figure? The ultimate message seemed to be Trip saying "I feel sad when we have to leave our new friends to continue our mission." Not the most scintillating or revealing storytelling.


Kevin: To give credit where it's due, this is another example of the ensemble showing that it has come together in a pretty solid way, especially when we aren't sexually harassing them. Even Anthony Montgomery got a good line reading this week when T'Pol invites an attack and says he can't hurt her. When he responded "It's not you I'm worried about," I gave a decided chuckle.

Matthew: There wasn't a ton of new ground covered in these character scenes. We've seen Archer being troubled by how mean people are out here in space several times now. About the only new character work here was T'Pol's newfound "Rambo/Red Dawn" persona, and I can't say it was terribly convincing, from a line reading standpoint. To her credit, she performed the various kicks and spins reasonably well. The acting highlights here are probably on the alien side, with Larry Cedar's Tessic coming across as the most organic and reasonable. Not likeable, mind you, but someone whose motivations at least made sense.

Production Values

Kevin: So it's helpful that southern California has so many biomes so close together so we can get so many location sets. I will say it's pretty clear, again that it is southern California, and even as much as I like outside shots, they keep being as monotone as the ship. The ship is all metallic gray, a lot of the outdoors have been arid deserts.

Matthew: I am sick of desert episodes. I've had enough of them. It's just not visually interesting to me any more.

Kevin: The story elements aside, the actual scenes of giving the Home Alone treatment to the Klingons worked pretty well. This episode might not have been high drama, but I wasn't bored.

Matthew:  I found the training montages very trite and unconvincing. How could that guy have missed the target two feet in front of him every single time with his own weapon? How could one sentence of advice from Hoshi have rectified this? The effects failed to make the plot points less silly, and instead magnified their flaws.


Kevin: This is a 3, if not by a huge margin. Looking over the last season or so, I've given a lot of these kinds of 3s. I've decided to give it a name, the 'default 3.' It's a 3 where I really can't muster a case for why it's bad, but it's not exactly good or great either. Without some sin I can point to, it's harder to justify a 2, so it gets the 3, by default. Enterprise has gotten a lot of default 3s. To be fair, the earlier series got their fair share of those as well. But TNG and DS9s placeholder 3s were peppered in among some great episodes. Suddenly Human is not a barn burner of an episode, but honestly, after BoBW and Family and even the big swings Brent Spiner was taking in Brothers, a nice, average, low impact episode is almost a nice palate cleanser. But Enterprise's milquetoast 3s are the norm, not the exception. The best I can say is that I can't say anything bad. This episode is fine, and competently done, but I can't say much more than that. 

Matthew: I'm stuck on a 2 here, for a total of 5. My incredulity was consistently engaged here. These people should be dead, dead, dead. If that were the ultimate point of the episode, it would be pretty dark for sure, but I could have appreciated it. Instead, we are asked to accept that this non-lethal intervention on the part of the Enterprise crew resulted in a cadre of trained warriors essentially saying "we didn't want your dumb deuterium anyway" and storming off in a permanent huff. To call this outcome unsatisfying both narratively and with respect to established continuity re: Klingons and their behavior is an understatement.

Kevin: I'm going to stand by my three, but your score came very close to convincing me to lower it. I still think this limps across the line, but I am willing to admit that may just be in comparison to the train wreck from last week. If this were placed after another mediocre episode, maybe I would have responded differently. Still, this is not a great run Enterprise is building off a solid start to season two.

1 comment:

  1. Excessive combat rolls, check. Implausibly without deaths on either side, check. Incrediblby large and fast move from incompetence to competence, check. This commenter finds the episode guilty on all counts, and sentences it to time already served.

    I'm guessing the Trip + local boy scenes were just part of the homage. There is that same thing in The Magnificent Seven, which culminates in a boy calling his father a coward, and the gunfighter pointing out that the father is far braver than the gunfighter, albeit in a different way. This ought to have, say, led to a moment where Trip wonders about the road not taken, so we can see how he feels about that. You know, make that moment resonate with this show.