by David E. Sluss
30 January 2002
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THE BOTTOM LINE: A strong episode, one which manages to avoid most of the usual pitfalls.
CYNICS CORNER RATING: 8.75 (B+)
GOOD THINGS OF THE WEEK: This episode managed to pull together a lot of very old and familiar Star Trek elements and spin them together into something that seemed fresh. At nearly every turn, the script avoided the usual nonsense (Treknobabble either solving the problem or arbitrarily taking the choice away, Forehead Aliens getting surly and starting a Battle Sequence, one race turning out to be Evil Exploiters or something, etc.), and instead allowed the characters to work through the issues, argue with each other firmly but rationally, and come to a hard decision. You can argue about whether Archer's decision to not give the Valakians the cure in the end was the right one, but the fact that this episode has an ending that's worth discussing is to its great credit.
For my own part, I'd have to say I lean towards disagreeing with Archer's choice. The decision is largely based on the notion that the Menk are destined to be the dominant species on the planet, and that the extinction of the Valakians is necessary for that to come to pass. As long as Archer and Phlox are speculating about what might happen on the planet during the next couple of millennia, they might consider the idea that even if the Valakians survive, they may not be able to "keep the Menk down" indefinitely, and that the Menk may very well take their rightful place whether the Valakians are around or not. In the end, though, Archer has to follow the Prime Directive, even though it doesn't exist yet (as we're reminded in a none-too-subtle bit of Archer's dialog at the end of the hour remember to wink at the camera when you say that, Scott).
On the other hand, we don't really know what was on the PADD that Archer gave the Valakian doctor; it could be warp drive specs for all we know. And incidentally, if that was a Starfleet PADD, might that technology lead the Valakians down some "unnatural path" (see the Original Series episode "A Piece of the Action," in which accidentally leaving a communicator behind on a pre-warp planet was thought to be a potentially serious problem).
A B-story of sorts is the interaction between Phlox and Cutler, who appeared in "Strange New World" earlier this season. Unlike the idiotic "misunderstanding" between Hoshi and Reed last week in "Silent Enemy," this story works because the characters are portrayed as adults rather than sitcom cliches.
OK, enough of that. Let's get to the real issues...
LINGUISTIC ANOMALY OF THE WEEK: Let's hear it for the universal translator, which began to interpret the Valakian language flawlessly after hearing about six spoken words. Oh, yeah? Translate this: "Gung'f ohyyfuvg!" And it's strange that the UT was unable to do anything with the Menk language.
LINGUISTIC ANOMALY OF THE WEEK RUNNER-UP: A strange choice of words: When Enterprise first encounters the Valakian ship, Reed declares it to be "pre-warp," which strikes me as a judgment about the race that built the craft rather than the craft itself. It seems to me that while you might be able to say that this vessel is not warp capable, you can't conclude that every ship from its home planet is not, or that the civilization that built it is "pre-warp." OK, that's pretty trivial...
CHARACTER ASSASSINATION OF THE WEEK: I'm not sure that T'Pol was completely in character in this episode. I found myself shocked that she signed off on visiting the Valakian homeworld in the first place. In the past, she's objected to interacting with most everyone, warp-capable or not. She also never objected to the notion of finding a cure for the disease; I would have expected her to have the same concerns as Phlox on the subject.
WEIRD SCIENCE OF THE WEEK: Fortunately, this episode doesn't dwell on the details of the "Fun with DNA" disease with which the Valakians are afflicted, because it doesn't seem particularly plausible. Stranger still was the fact that the Valakians, who seemed to be relatively advanced technologically (apparently intended to be a little more advanced that Earth of 2002, based on set design, props, and so forth) seemed to be treating the disease as a virus or bacteria, when it should have been pretty obvious that it wasn't. And even more strange: they claim that the antibody treatment they created (based on their faulty assumption) actually did work to ameliorate some of the symptoms for a while, but then the disease "mutates." It doesn't really make much sense.
SPATIAL ANOMALY OF THE WEEK: The alien astronaut marvels at the fact that Enterprise can get to his home planet in days, while his ship took a year at sublight to get out this far. Meanwhile, every exterior shot of the Enterprise shown during the trip back has it going at impulse...
TEMPORAL ANOMALY OF THE WEEK: Here's the jaw-dropper of the week:
Ferengi? What the hell? Come on it was well established in Next Generation's
first season that the Ferengi had only recently been discovered as of 2364 (or whatever)
and weren't seen by human eyes until then. Now we find that they were running around
within a hundred light years or so of Earth two centuries earlier? "Gung'f
ohyyfuvg!" If this were confined to namedrops it would be bad enough, but once the
Ferengi start showing up in person in this series, well Enterprise's
credibility will be leaving skid marks on the bowl, to say the least...
Next: "Sleeping Dogs"
|NEXT WEEK: Klingon Klaptrap and a threesome in the Decontamination Room. Hell, yeah!|
since 31 January 1999
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© 2002 David E. Sluss