Sunday, October 16, 2022

Enterprise, Season 2: Regeneration

Enterprise, Season 2
"Regeneration"
Airdate: May 7, 2003
48 of 97 produced
48 of 97 aired

Introduction

When Earth scientists find strange cybernetic wreckage in the arctic, a terrifying outbreak occurs.

 

"We are the Borg. You will be assimilated. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own.
You will not find us as annoying as you did the Ferengi."

 

Writing

Matthew: I recall hating this episode when it first premiered, but this was mainly because of my protective, perhaps even "gatekeeping" fandom. The Borg weren't introduced until "Q Who!" Or was it "The Raven?" Whenever it was, it wasn't "Enterprise," right? A ship that shouldn't even exist, because it's not on the rec room wall in TNG or The Motion Picture. Well, Maybe twelve unremitting years of Paramount defecating upon Star Trek has mellowed me, because I find there is a lot to like here. My main beef is that there is no mechanism put in place to explain Picard's not knowing or having access to Starfleet information about this event (the writer's commentary tells us that the co-writers were aware of this issue, and took no steps to address it). Anyway, the episode starts out as an homage to classic monster movies of the 20th century, "The Thing" chief among them. It's a good 12 minutes before we see the Enterprise crew, and I have to say it's a nice change of pace to see other people in this universe doing their jobs. Badly, perhaps? But of course that fits with the trope. It was a clever touch having wreckage from First Contact precipitate this story, and if it weren't for the results of this story not squaring with future episodic continuity, everything would be hunky dory.

Kevin: This is one I don't think I've actually seen all the way through until this watch. I remember hearing about it and being really annoyed they were retconning in the Borg. We didn't have social media at the time, so I didn't catalogue every thought the instant it occurred to me, but the mere knowledge of this may have really put the nail in the coffin of not watching Enterprise past season two in real time. Having watched it, my opinion of this episode specifically has certainly softened, but my macro issues certainly remain. I agree using the remains of the sphere from First Contact is a pretty elegant solution, and the horror elements built well. The scientists were dumb, but in the way you expect these scientists to be dumb. I mean, if it were me, I would think "Wow these look like literal zombies with saws for hands, so we're leaving until we can napalm the place." But that's just me. I agree that the absence of this event from any later discussion retroactively nags me. If you want to rewrite continuity, just do it. If you want them all to fit together, they have to actually fit.

Matthew: I liked the Star Trek touch of having Archer and the Enterprise crew desiring a chance to save their fellow humans, and the genuine remorse shown when they had to decompress the Tarkaleans who had been assimilated, and when they destroyed the "Borg-ified" vessel. I also liked the tension between Phlox's initial cavalier reaction and his later hyper-caution once he had been infected. The ticking time element of the ship getting faster was also a nice touch. Everything proceeded at a nice pace and was quite entertaining.  

Kevin: The Phlox stuff was the most effective for me, since it focused on relatable reactions from a character I like. And especially in light of how much I disliked the ending of The Crossing, this is a nice return to form for Starfleet ethics. Enterprise has tried to make a lot of hay out chase scenes and the ship's warp five speed limit, and I think this and Fallen Hero are by far the most successful. The ship repairing itself and getting faster really worked to ramp up the tension.

Matthew: This episode was not perfect by any stretch, and here I will detail more gripes and beefs. These Borg should be at 24th century levels of adaptation. I can't imagine any level of souping up 22nd century phasers that should get beyond that. Archer and Reed shoot Borg dead with phasers after the Borg on the Enterprise have adapted. It is even indicated in this script that there was a collective between at least the Borg we see in this episode. It's great that there is some follow-up to Cochrane mentioning cybernetic zombies, but the problem is repeated and the can is just kicked down the road with no acknowledgement of this episode's incident in later stories. If Phlox has cured being assimilated with radiation, shouldn't future Starfleet doctor know about it? Sussman in the writer's commentary weasels an explanation that maaaybe Dr. Crusher helped de-assimilate Picard with this knowledge. And why will a subspace message take 200 years to reach the Delta Quadrant, if Voyager can fly back in 70? Let it suffice to say I think there was some sloppy treatment of future continuity and in-episode continuity, in the service of "thrills."

Kevin: I've said before that I can forgive even fairly significant continuity changes if it serves a good story, or at least an interesting one. This one falls somewhere in the middle for me. It's not as bad as Acquisition, since the episode is certainly briskly entertaining and genuinely scary in places. It's not as shredding as basically all of ST:Picard. They managed to perforate continuity as cleanly as they could, and they made a good episode out of it, but I still can't quite sign off on the 'why' of the episode. This wasn't a story that needed to be told; it was a way to work a popular recurring villain in the promos for the episode. Of all the continuity stretching the show has done, this is the most successful, but that doesn't mean I think they should keep doing it.

Acting

Matthew: I think John Billingsley had the performance of the episode, with the dread Phlox displayed upon becoming infected. That isn't to say the rest of the cast weren't good - there were particularly good scenes between Archer and T'Pol, as well, and no bum notes were to be found.

Kevin: I have not been this show's biggest cheerleader, but I will give credit where it is due, and the ensemble collectively did gel nicely in this otherwise uneven season. And agreed on Billingsley. Just great work front to back.

Matthew: The guest cast worked for me.  I could have watched another act's worth of the Arctic team, learning their foibles and caring more about them as they got whacked. Apparently the female scientist is played by John Billingsley's real life spouse, Bonita Friedericy.

Kevin: I think the real trick to introduce the Borg in Enterprise would be to do their origin story, isolated from the main cast, like they would eventually do with the Mirror Universe in season 4. This team of scientists could have been some Delta Quadrant alien race that's connected to it. The team was fun to watch to the point I excused the classic horror trope mistakes they make.

Production Values

Matthew: This was an effects and new set heavy episode, and they did a fine job with each. The arctic sets were nice, and only in one or two spots did the snow look like soap flakes. The ship shots in space were clearly CGI, but the Borg-i-fied ship evolved nicely over the course of the episode. Overall, an entertaining visual tableaux.

Kevin: I'll give a shout out to the direction. The pacing, framing, and escalation of the fight scenes was handled really nicely, and without resorting to nausea inducing rates of cutting or angles. 

Matthew: My only objection on this score was the strobe lights in the Borg-i-fied ship. Enough, already.

Conclusion

Matthew: I don't think I can go above a 3 here. Entertainment value is one thing, but sloppiness both interior and exterior to this episode holds the show back despite strong acting and production. Just because Kurtzman Trek has sinned so many more times and in ways far worse doesn't retroactively eliminate the problems on display here. There's no whataboutism in my Star Trek. But Archer's reticence to slaughter the Borg was refreshing, and softens my stance for anything lower than 3. So a 3 it is from me.

Kevin: I agree with your score for pretty much your reasons. They did a good episode, but that almost makes me wonder if they had done the extra work to find a way to make this story about someone other than the Borg, they could have made a great episode. There's no reason a team of likeable but doomed scientists can't show up in other episodes, and there's no reason you can't have Archer debate the ethics of killing in the same saving lives in a story. They didn't need to tell a story about the Borg, and the thing is, they don't need the Borg to make a story this enjoyable. They could just write those stories all the time. In any case, that's a total of 6.

3 comments:

  1. Agreement all around. Particularly about softening on the episode in hindsight. Still, not trying to explain or fit things in does not feel quite right. Not that I know anyone could have come up with satisfactory explanations. So yeah, same story, different anatagonists.

    I'm glad they did at least shy away from any Borg Queen stuff. These are the ruthlessly driven hivemind, devoid of sentiment and caprice that I know and love/fear. The Borg haven't felt this much like the Borg since mid-TNG.

    But yes, the premise is some quite jarring fan service, and so fails to provide the buzz intended. Like the Ferengi episode, it smacks a little of desperation on the part of the writers.

    (Btw it's 'Q Who' that introduces the Borg. 'The Raven' comes when Seven is already on board the Voyager.)

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    1. Oh, I'm well aware it was "Q Who." As Rainier Wolfcastle likes to say, "That's the joke." :-)

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    2. I thought as much. Just, you know... *eye twitches slightly*

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