Monday, January 30, 2023

Enterprise, Season 4: The Augments

Enterprise, Season 4
"The Augments"
Airdate: November 12, 2004
81 of 97 produced
81 of 97 aired


As Archer and crew escape Cold Station 12, Soong breaks with his Augment children and helps the Enterprise track them down.

The cold never bothered me, anyway



Kevin: So last week I posited that this arc would be better had it been trimmed to a two-parter, and I'm sticking to that position. I think the main problem is that there is nothing really new here. It's not a reveal that the Augments are violent and impulsive, we had two episodes of that. It's not we even really get to see the light bulb turn on for Soong, at least not entirely. He has plenty of first hand evidence, between the dead doctor and the marooned black sheep of the family, that the Augments are basically bad people. It may come to a head this week, and I will acknowledge that smaller moments like trying to 'fix' the problem for the embryos almost break out into a new conversation, but overall, not enough happens to feel different from the beats last week. The ending was a foregone conclusion before the episode opened, and I don't like or care enough about the Augments to derive dramatic interest from watching them charge into their own destruction. Also, their plan is dumb. So dumb. Even if the Klingons round up and blame Earth for the genocide of a whole planet, it's not like they would ever stop hunting the Augments themselves. They are only painting targets on themselves. 

Matthew: I really wanted the episode to spin off into the debate about the ethics of altering the embryos and the science of whether aggression is innate or learned or both (anyone interested in these questions would do well to check out this PBS documentary, "Brains on Trial"). I can forgive the dumbness of their plan because, well, they're stupid kids. On the plot as a whole, I was pretty entertained despite any missteps. Archer's escape from the station was novel, and I found the drama of Soong escaping the Augments and helping to capture his "children" to be reasonably effective, in part because of the acting, but some credit must go to writing as well.

Kevin: I also felt like this episode lost the thread on the fan service references. The Botany Bay reference makes sense inside the story I suppose, but it was still a little unnecessary overall. The camouflage bluff scene felt like a copy and paste job from Star Trek VI, and the ending with a scarred Malik crawling through the wreckage was a callback to Khan's end on the Reliant. The greatest sin was Soong deciding to work on androids even though that work will take a 'generation' or two. I groaned audibly. That's the kind of joke you make in the writer's room just so you can let your colleagues throw their pencils at you and get it all out of your system. It's too much winking at the camera. 

Matthew: Yeah, I was mildly irritated by the Botany Bay, the replay of the Reliant destruction from ST2, and the Soong tag line. It was all unnecessary. We all know those things are going to happen, and as such, calling them out does nothing to explain them and only feels like the writers saying "Hey, remember this thing?" Yes, yes I do, and I did not need a reminder.

Kevin: In the plus column, the beats with T'Pol and Tucker work. He's distant without being an overt asshole, and it's a nice credible moment in the development of their relationship. 

Matthew: They're definitely giving T'Pol/Trip the scenes it needs to feel real in a longer season arc. This is the sort of scene where the principals are apart but giving furtive indications that they long to be together. That works when you have charming actors that the audience roots for (and they do). 


Kevin: I've already applauded the Trip/T'Pol scene, and that was in large part due to the acting. When trying to titillate teenage boys is no longer the goal, their acting is more than enough to buoy these relationship scenes. Other than that, everyone did a nice, solid job. Except for the piece of scenery chewing by Spiner in the last shot, he did a good job poking at the crew in a credible way.  

Matthew: So I liked Brent Spiner in this episode, much as I did last time around. I thought his tension with Alec Newman's Malik was well played, as was his escape with Abby Brammell's Persis. Once he left the augment ship, my interest in them faded, however, and the chemistry between Malik and PErsis never really clicked. Anyway, Spiner played off of the Enterprise crew well here, with a good amount of snarkiness leavened by real regret. I even liked his eventual imprisonment until the "android" groaner.

Production Values

Kevin: The planet and ship work remains good. The Augment wigs remain terrible. I think my only real problem this week is the final shot of seeing a hole shot through Malik. It's a level of graphic violence I normally do not see and do not want in Trek. It's not the worst sin, but it just felt out of place. Other than that, a nice solid outing from the behind the scenes crew.

Matthew: The phaser hole was unnecessary, but it was also pretty cheesy in terms of execution. Setting aside whether phasers actually... do that, it just looked kind of fakey. I'd rather see a classic disintegration. We got Gumby Archer flying out into space, but overall that sequence was effectively done.


Kevin: This episode feel less than the sum of its parts. The Augments just haven't been given the depth for me to care. The comparison to Space Seed/WOK feels apt. Maybe it was all Montalban's charm (and chest) that carried it, but even as I didn't want him to win, I couldn't help but be enthralled by the performance on the screen. Without that, these are just violent teenagers in bad wigs. The first two episodes held my interest. This one just didn't. Some nice scenes with Trip and T'Pol aren't quite enough to nudge this into average territory, so this gets a 2 from me.

Matthew: I think this is a 3, because of the strength of the Spiner scenes - something I very much doubted I would see myself writing, given his body of "Star Trek" work since. His acting provided a backbone to a story that was hit and miss throughout its 3 episodes. Combined with solid effects work and a competent plot, this feels average to me. That makes for a total of 5.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, it didn't quite stick the landing.

    After Persis defies Malik by helping Soong, I did invest in her character. Though I'd have liked for her to show some independence, rather than defaulting to a different leader. And, of course, she gets killed quickly after that, so...

    I was okay with the dumb plan. Look who taught them, Mr. Impulsivity himself. And Malik seemed to be gaining a taste for killing as it kept cropping up.

    And yeah, NO subtlety in the android line. I guess they had to do something with it, especially if they weren't intending to bring the character back in the future, and show his development. But this was clumsy.