Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Enterprise, Season 4: Kir'Shara

Enterprise, Season 4
Airdate: December 3, 2004
84 of 97 produced
84 of 97 aired


Archer races to deliver the Kir'Shara to the Vulcan capital before the High Command starts a war against Andoria.


Wait, wait, let me just adjust the brightness and turn off motion smoothing...




Matthew: As this three-parter winds up, I am struck by how thoroughly engaged I was by the whole thing as a piece, and how unified the storytelling is despite three separate writing credits, with no "Story by" credits to muddy things up. This installment swings more into the political drama, but this was ably foreshadowed in the prior installments. Kevin has compared V'Las to Admiral Leyton in DS9's "Homefront/Paradise Lost," and I think this is an apt comparison not only for the character (they are similar) but the level of quality of political commentary. Of course DS9 gets credit for prescience, but this is fine commentary on manufactured intelligence leading to war at he behest of manipulative leaders. This is only 2004 after all, so Enterprise deserves some credit for apt commentary at an early stage of the US-Iraq war. Anyway, the way the plot plays out is engaging and effective. Rushing to undercut the leader's rationale for war is a solid tension builder, and the various obstacles put in the way of our heroes were good ones. The eventual triumph (essentially a coup) over V'Las was satisfying and well told, with a space battle hanging in the balance.

Kevin: The story of falsely accusing another state of a belligerent act as a pretext for invasion does certainly seem timely, though I would have to check the numbers on what the consensus was at the time about US claims of Iraqi attempts to obtain uranium. This thread works well, I'm just not totally sure it would or could have been intended as a critique of the Iraq invasion based on when it would have had to have been written. I will agree that the portrayal of diverse opinions even inside V'Las' inner circle made it feel more grounded and not just eeeeevil. My only real complaint is shoehorning in Romulans and the word reunification. Spock's reaction to Mark Lenard in Balance of Terror is genuine surprise that the Romulans are the Vulcans who left, and it undercuts that story that there were apparently earlier Vulcans who both knew about the Romulans and wanted to reunify their worlds. Spock's reasons make sense. V'Las's don't because his only reason is to call back to Spock's.

Matthew: "The more Shran the better" seems to be a relatively common refrain among Trek fans who have watched Enterprise, and I don't disagree. His entrance was great, his motivations were solidly sketched out, and his interactions with other characters were a delight.... until the torture scene. I think his motivation there was underbaked. It would have served the story better if he was acting at the behest of superiors, given the fact that he has negotiated with and trusted Soval in the past (something alluded to in this very story). Failing that, there needs to be more meat on the bones of his own personal conviction that Soval may be withholding vital information. Either way, the Andorian presence in this story was well done. Their paranoia is justifiable given Vulcan behavior, but they don't come across as so war-like that we lose sympathy for them.

Kevin: I wish they had found a way to achieve the results of the torture scene without actually resorting to torture. The idea of a machine that nullifies Vulcan emotional control is fun enough, and it's a happily non-graphic form, like Madred's device in Chain of Command, but I agree, I just don't want to watch torture scenes just for the sake of the having them. I will say that Shran's characterization was layered to make it clear it wasn't just for kicks.

Matthew: As far as the Vulcan history angle, I like what we are given here. First of all - kudos are due yet again for respecting past Enterprise continuity, when T'Pol's Pa'nar Syndrome is referenced. T'Pau cures it, which is fine - but the rest of the scene is missing - the one in which she shares her intimate knowledge of T'Les with T'Pol. I guess in some ways, this was an overstuffed episode, because also missing was another scene with Surak, who I enjoyed to such a large degree last episode. But we learn about the evolution of the Vulcan state, the High Command and the differences of opinion within it, Surak's teachings, more mind melds, and it all just reads as consistent with past Trek. This is how you do continuity backfill, folks, not by inventing yet another quasi-sibling for Spock.  One last Vulcan note, it was sweet of Koss to dissolve his marriage to T'Pol. Is it simply undoing an annoying romantic reverser from prior episodes? Sure. But it felt organic and the scene was given time to breathe.

Kevin: Once again, I get that it's good they remember that T'Pol has Pa'nar, since it's gone largely uncommented on since Stigma, but the way they acknowledge it is to undo it. There is a thread of just undoing whatever Enterprise has contributed to Vulcans to this point. I'm not saying they are wrong, I wasn't the biggest fan of it, but it does feel like tacitly admitting the fact the previous threads weren't working. I agree that some final resolution with T'Les would have really made the scene sing. I agree that Koss exiting stage left is good, but again, Enterprise invented a character that when good writers got here, just dispensed with. It's good that Enterprise is better, but it does feel a little...something...that it succeeds by wiping the slate clean.


Matthew: Bakula and Blalock have some nice scenes, in which she is questioning his motivation, and he is challenging her to open her mind. And while I think there is a scene missing to really sell it, she convincingly acted as though she was converted to the cause by the end. He scene with Michael Reilly Burke's Koss worked, as well, though probably more from her contributions than his - he was rather wooden.

Kevin: I think there was just less to do here, it was a lot more standard action fare, but I agree it was competently done. Bakula in particular wasn't an annoyed suburban dad at all.

Matthew: Whatever you want to say about Robert Foxworth's V'Las being a Leyton retread, isn't he a villain you just love to hate? In fact, hate is too strong a word. I love to disagree with him. Foxworth gives V'Las the same steely resolve and utter confidence in self that marks the most dangerous dictators and insurrectionists. I thought his subordinates played things well, too, particularly John Rubinstein's Kuvak.

Kevin: There was a line reading about not waiting until the Andorians had developed the Xindi weapon that was just great, but I do think he just didn't read as Vulcan. He read as Robert Foxworth. He has gravity sure, but not the Vulcan reserve. It's ultimately a small complaint since it is just fun to watch him.

Matthew: I was not a fan of the scene as a storytelling angle, but Jeffrey Combs and Gary Graham acted their torture scene to the hilt, didn't they? It almost sold me on it. Especially effective was Soval's story about the fool who ignored the warning of war. Combs seemed to try to give Shran a degree of conflict that wasn't entirely there in the script, probably because his instincts about his character were better than the writers.

Kevin: I agree, Graham in particular almost made it worth the time. But yeah, more of these two having conflict with each other, please.

Production Values

Matthew: Was I happy to see Lirpa weapons? Sure. Was I wondering why a crack squad of assassins didn't just have phasers? Yup. Either way, the fight scenes felt a bit "goofy sound stage" to me, as did the rock... chute? Suffice it to say, it felt as though they had spent the bulk of their budget on the prior two shows. With that said, we got oodles of well done CGI space battle footage, all of which was well constructed and dramatically comprehensible. The Vulcan City CGI was more on the "adequate" side of things - neat to look at, but ultimately somewhat unconvincing in its details.

Kevin: I very gently rolled my eyes at the lirpas. I get it. It was fine. It was just the tiniest bit too much. I've been saving this critique since it appears most here, but there is something about the High Command robes that reads upholstery to me. It just looks like they skinned a couch. I get they want a heavy patterned fabric, but maybe it was just a little stiff. I'm not sure, it's just nagged me.


Matthew: As I've indicated above, some of this felt a bit rushed, and I disagreed with the choice of the torture scene for the Shran character. But this still was roundly entertaining, contained excellent performances, and beautifully filled out Vulcan history while adequately finishing the three part tale. So I'm at a 4 on this one. 

Kevin: I think this is a 3 from me. It's a high three. It's a satisfying three. But since so much time is spent tying up threads, there's not as much room for the bigger swings. That said, there is something really encouraging throughout this three parter, a truly defined sense of the broader world Enterprise occupies. It uses three dimensional pictures of peoples suggested by Shran and Soval and then explores the natural ways they would conflict, and that conflict plays out personally for several of our characters. That's just good writing, and a total of a 7 for this one. Definitely a career high this month for Enterprise.

1 comment:

  1. I actually thought Shran WAS under orders to take extra measures to figure out if this was a Vulcan scheme. I guess I must have picked it up from Combs' acting, because he really seemed to me not to want to do this.

    What I felt was missing from that scene was Soval objecting to the, well, logic of inflicting this torture on him with no way to check whatever story he cared to give. We only get a vague 've have vays of making you talk' as explanation.

    [Insert]While waiting to comment, I went back and watched the torture scenes, and Shran did say he had to confer with his superiors prior to abducting Soval. And there's a general who calls during the session and wants an update. That could explain where I got the notion that this wasn't Shran's idea. But you're right, coldly viewed this was his own initiative.[/Insert]

    And I just want to echo that Combs and Graham sell the scene very well - Shran as always at odds with himself and the world, and you can still see and hear the character of Soval under the torture.