Thursday, December 1, 2022

Enterprise, Season 3: Chosen Realm

Enterprise, Season 3
"Chosen Realm"
Airdate: January 14, 2004
63 of 97 produced
63 of 97 aired


The Enterprise is taken over by a group of religious fanatics bent on using it to settle a holy war on their home planet.


"What I wouldn't give for better lighting, or to cut off that stupid ponytail."



Kevin: I think the word that comes to mind when I think about this episode is "shallow." It feels like a very first draft pass on the classic Trek allegory on fanaticism and bigotry. The main problem is the lead antagonist is so unlikable and two-dimensionally evil that the episode never really gets off the ground. Their sudden but inevitable betrayal is telegraphed a parsec off, and the meat of the religious conflict is laughable. In Gulliver's travels, the debate about which side to break the egg is supposed to be absurd. Inside the walls of a dramatic story, the 'creation took nine versus ten days' is so shallow that it would break the episode even if it were working up to that point. I understand that these differences feel ridiculous to outsiders, but this one feels ridiculous even as he's saying it. Even if the difference is theology is superficial, the conflicts come from the culture and history and politics that accrete around those differences over time are anything but superficial. That's interesting. This is just the episode saying "religious fanaticism is bad." And I agree it is, but it's not dramatically interesting to recite things I agree with.

Matthew: Up until the reveal of the theological difference, I think the bones of the story were fairly solid. You had fanaticism being bad, leaders pushing their followers to increasingly dark places in the service of a black vs white world view, and the subplot of the woman seeking an abortion had some interest to it. Once the 9 vs 10 days thing was revealed, yes, it did feel like the writers weren't interested in making the positions of the Alien of the Week sensible to us. Now, in their defense, some of the disputes of Europe's schism were similarly silly to modern readers, but of course those disputes were mostly proxy disputes for political and economic conflicts. So that would have helped things a bit here.

Kevin: A good Trek allegory needs to give the opposing sides each at least a little meat on the bone to create believable drama. And the button of the destroyed world was revealed and left so close to the end of the episode that it was practically a gag. Even TOS' Let That Be Your Last Battlefield ends with the two combatants turning themselves over to an endless fight. Maybe that's part of the problem too, we never get to meet the opposing side. It helps render the episode inert dramatically.

Matthew: If I were offering notes on a rewrite, I would have foreshadowed the ruined world by having the fanatics making attempts at communicating with their superiors planetside. Maybe you could have a debate as to what the lack of response means, or you could set up a conflict between the leader knowing and continuing anyway vs keeping his followers in the dark. It really did call into question what the "heretic" ship crews were up to, though, if the holocaust had occurred 8 months prior to them flying around in their spaceships looking for fanatics to obliterate. There was a different, better story that revolved around this point. They missed it here.

Kevin: Beyond these complaints, this is a pretty paint by number "bad guys hijack the Enterprise story," right down to the doubting lieutenant who the crew eventually enlists. The action scenes were fine. I find the perfectly hidden 'organic explosives' annoying, but I can't muster much heat behind it. Their blood was full of plot device, as so many bloodstreams have been before them, so it's not worth getting excited about it now. Beyond that, it was a fine enough action story. I will note that a lot of Enterprise, even in this admittedly better season, gravitates to the 'fine enough' action story, and I'm certainly fatiguing of them.

Matthew: Yeah, there were plenty of clever-ish bits, such as Archer using the transporter to fake an execution, sending secret messages to the Doctor, disabling the explosives, and the like. But it's all stuff we've seen before, so it was competent but not particularly engaging. And I wish this show would give someone besides Archer the action hero showcase.


Kevin: Conor O'Farrell previously appeared as the nice scientist in Little Green Men, and I liked him there. I do not like him here. A combination of the story and the slicked back hair just rendered him eminently punchable to me. I get that we are not supposed to like him, but I don't understand how he could be charismatic enough to get the followers in the first place.

Matthew: I think the most interesting guest actor in this episode was Lindsey Stoddart as Indava. When she went to the Doctor, so many potential stories flashed through my mind (maybe the leader impregnated her), and she sold the emotion. I enjoyed her debates with her husband, as well. I wish this episode had focused on her, really, and the difficulty in being a woman in a cadre of douche-bro male extremists.

Production Values

Kevin: The make-up was classic Westmore-head, nothing more nothing less. The explosion scene was fine. My only real objection was the destroyed planet set. They were clearly on a greenscreen set and I'll take a patented TOS oval of gravel with some styrofoam rocks any day over poorly integrated greenscreen.

Matthew: I have mixed emotions about the planet backdrop. I appreciate what they were going for - with clear references to pictures of Hiroshima after the atom bomb explosion, right down the the half-standing dome, reminiscent of the Genbaku dome pictured here:

Anyway, I appreciate what they were going for, but as you say, it was a failed effect. They just don't have the technical chops or apparently prowess to match lighting and motion on the actors yet, and so this would have been better with a more traditional matte shot, e.g. TNG "Best of Both Worlds" part 1.


Kevin: Yeah, this is a 2. The position and actions of the villains was just too empty and two-dimensional to really carry an episode and the ending was practically a non-sequitur. I never cared about the story and the result episode was just not interesting to me. No one did anything egregious, but that's the definition of a 2.

Matthew: I want to give this a 3 just to be contrary, but I'm afraid I can't. I agree with the 2, for a total of 4. This is a story that had its heart in the right place but failed to develop the initial kernel in any novel or even particularly interesting ways.

1 comment:

  1. I didn't know about what they were going for with that shot, beyond general urban devastation. Thanks for that!

    Afraid I don't have anything much to say the actual episode. It's not exactly scintillating.