Saturday, October 22, 2022

Enterprise, Season 2: Bounty

Enterprise, Season 2
Airdate: May 14, 2003
50 of 97 produced
50 of 97 aired


When Captain Archer is kidnapped by a bounty hunter, he must find a way to effect an escape. Meanwhile, T'Pol is hot and horny for some reason. Can you guess what it is?

Why? Why are these the scripts I get?



Matthew: When an episode doesn't work, as I think this one doesn't, I often try to diagnose and fix its problems with a "rewrite." What should they have done instead? Let's take the A story. The Tellarite bounty hunter Skalaar captures Captain Archer. That's pretty boring in and of itself. We are told that Tellarites are famously argumentative and irascible. Do we see that at all in this story? Skalaar seems positively good natured, for the most part. Maybe he is an outlier, and that can be contrasted with other Tellarites like his brother... or maybe it should have been a greater focus of this story. If Archer could have argues Skalaar until he was blue in the face, using his contrary nature to trick him into adopting suboptimal strategies, that could have been something to hang a comic episode on. Instead, what I think we're supposed to take from this is a pseudo-buddy story, where Archer and his captor come to like one another. But I don't think there is enough there to justify this. When they're joking at the end, I was just thinking "you should be Angry Dad at this guy, not buddy-buddy" (I leave it to Kevin to calibrate where this should sit on his embryonic scale). I think the best angle for the story would be to show Archer the seamier side of the galaxy, contrasting it with his relatively comfortable Earth cultural expectations.

Kevin: I think given this is like the billionth time he has been unjustly abducted, I think he would be at a 10 (Gas more than $5/gal.) because I know I am. When I was reading about the development of the story for Judgment, apparently, part of that episode was a prison break from a ship and the story element got so large, it became Canamar, a separate story. So why do another episode about a prison break tied to the story from Judgment. It's just so lazy. Had they subbed out the disappointing Canamar for this one from the start, I would be more charitable. I might even buy the buddy-buddy elements, since I normally like when foes in Star Trek find common ground. But this is just lazy and repetitive. 

Matthew: The B story, of T'Pol entering Pon Farr due to a bacterial infection, could be fixed by.... no, it can't be fixed. Look, the ship on Pon Farr has sailed. There are two ways to do the story in which they are not just slash porn. One is to underscore the secret, unknown, alien nature of it, as was done in TOS "Amok Time." The other is to do the consent episode, which was done in VOY "Blood Fever." Here we get a sort of warmed over version of the latter, with Phlox for some reason putting T'Pol at risk because he doesn't want to just do the easy thing. Couldn't he create some sort of medical insanity-relief-vibrator (which might actually be an interesting angle, because that's what they were ostensibly invented for back in the 19th century)? I guess this was the angle in VOY "Body and Soul," with Tuvok's holodeck simulation. My point is, every reasonable angle of this story has already been explored, and putting it in the decon chamber with T'Pol in her undies makes it... an uncomfortable watch to say the least. It feels cheap and exploitative.

Kevin: It feels cheap and exploitative because it is cheap and exploitative. It's the usual retcon nonsense. If the first captain of the first Enterprise had a first officer deal with Pon Farr, it just beggars belief that Kirk would be soooo unaware of it in Amok Time. Again, it's one of those situations where, yes it doesn't technically contradict anything, but the implication of Spock's experience was that this was a carefully guarded Vulcan Secret. It's less credible that that is so given that it happened a century earlier. That all aside, I will allow a certain latitude in reconciling continuity if the story is good. This one, obviously, is not. It's a lazy way to get Jolene Blalock acting horny in the promos for the episode. This is also the billionth time we have cheaply sexually exploited T'Pol, and my patience is at an end. I'm saving this for our season wrap up, but as much as we credit Enterprise for 'feeling' more like Star Trek than the Kurtzman verse, this is as bad as any of the lazy or tonal violence the new shows have done to the franchise. This has officially outpaced Kirk's offhand comment presuming the hot yeoman will get married and leave Starfleet for cringeist casual sexism.


Matthew: I think Connor Trinneer was probably the most fun to watch in this episode. His dubious reaction to T'Pol and Phlox elicited a chuckle, and his desire to find the captain was believable. I can't fault Jolene Blalock for trying - she committed to a bad script and that's worth something. John Billingsley's discomfort was an excellent stand-in for my own - I don't think he had to do much acting there. Bakula turned in a pretty prototypical Archer performance. I think Jordan Lund was under-utilized as Skalaar. Also, Robert O'Reilly was completely hidden under his bounty hunter makeup. Who knew?

Kevin: I wanted to like Skalaar more than I did and I think the actor could have handled it. He had a sad, hangdog expression, accentuated by the makeup that really almost made me feel something for his plight. I feel bad because I feel like my antipathy for the umpteenth Archer kidnapping is spilling over into my other assessments, but I agree, he's good but not given enough to do. 

Production Values

Matthew: Somebody on the body-spritzing team really earned their paycheck this week. The other big sets and environments we got were the bounty hunter ship with its weird yellow brig force beams, the planet, which looked rather bad as CGI and completely like a soundstage when they were filing live, and the alien port, which was pretty underwhelming. I suppose we got some Klingon corridors, too. All in all, nothing to write home about.

Kevin: I think everything was a little on the dark side, but after nine weeks of House of the Dragon, it looked like the decks of Discovery One from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Beyond that, I agree, nothing really stands out.


Matthew: I wasn't hopelessly bored, and nothing was outright offensive. But this episode was a miss, and was a big restructuring away from being worthwhile. I think it's a 2.

Kevin: I disagree that it's not offensive. Season 2 is really driving home the need for a nice long HR meeting with everyone. I am embarrassed and angered on Blalock's behalf. It's not bad enough to muster a 1 from me, but my 2 has more fire on it. That's a total of 4.

Matthew: I want to clarify that "offensive" here is being used by me in a "consistent with Star Trek" sense, not in a "contradicting universal laws of morality" sense.

Kevin: I'll say I think it fails at both. If it were a one off, it would be Enterprise's Angel One. The fact that they keep returning to the well makes it both bad, and bad Star Trek. Star Trek has variously tried mild, syndication-safe titillation, but it's never gone so hard to stage a live-action Maxim cover. I would argue this exceeds the sexism of Kirk's offhand comment about a woman in the crew likely leaving when she gets married.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, this one is bad on multiple levels, and the desperation in the writing room is palpable at this point. They're frantically mashing at any fan service button they can think of, and we just hate it. Having looked it up, the script for this one was finished just two months before the episode aired, and in the weeks following Canamar airing. B&B must have been wondering whether that damp feeling was actual flop sweat.

    Remember how they say that all the Wesley episodes in first season TNG were down to some sort of industrial action from writers? 'Everyone please turn in a rough draft of Wesley saving the day' sort of thing, and then suddenly this was all they had to work with, and Wesley the kid genius became history. I kinda wonder if someone asked for all the pitches they could come up with, where Archer was made a prisoner. It's the merest speculation, but it is seriously weird that the scnario is coming up this often.

    Maybe they just want him off the bridge to make Tucker vs Reed or T'Pol come though more clearly. Whatever the reason, it's not working on some fundamental level.