The Cynics Corner


"Terra Nova"

by David E. Sluss

28 October 2001

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: I didn't much care for this episode when it aired last season as Voyager's "Friendship One," and it's no better here.


WEIRD TECHNOLOGY OF THE WEEK: Enterprise's gadgetry, like Voyager's, seems to operate on the "works when the story demands it" principle. In this case, we are told that Reed was too deep in the caverns to be transported; so why did T'Pol consider it viable to beam enough grenades into the tunnels to stun all of the Novans? Earlier, Hoshi was able to detect Reed's specific biosigns, even though everyone else in the tunnels was human. I'm not sure that what we've seen of Enterprise's sensors supports the notion that they can identify a specific individual. And in "Broken Bow," the sensors weren't able to pin down Archer's biosigns in the Suliban structure at all.

WEIRD SCIENCE OF THE WEEK: In typical Star Trek fashion (c.f. "Miri," from the original series), the children of Terra Nova were able somehow to survive the lethal radiation. The usual questions surface, like why they weren't rendered sterile and whether there aren't other cases of cancer besides Nadet's; Phlox doesn't bother to investigate on either score. I'm not entirely certain that the Novans' faces were supposed to be "mutated" or just caked with mud. If it was supposed to suggest mutation, then the usual Star Trek "Fun with DNA" caveats apply; Nadet was disfigured by radiation exposure and passed her disfigurement on to her son, in total defiance of basic biology. In the end, though, the episode ends on a cheerful note, as the Novans move to uncontaminated caves, with seventy years of radiation exposure destined to magically reverse itself. Hooray!

QUESTIONABLE DIALOG OF THE WEEK: T'Pol's characterization and Blalock's portrayal of her have had their ups and downs. This week was mostly good, especially when she logically but calmly dismantles Archer's idea of relocating the Novans to Earth. But something about her dialog seemed off to me: "They've lived in those tunnels for three generations. You can't just pluck them up and bring them to a strange world and hope they'll adapt. You'd be destroying their identity, destroying the Novan culture." Now, she's not supposed to be Data, but it seemed to me that for a Vulcan she was using a lot of contractions.

STAR TREK CLICHE OF THE WEEK: A shuttle crash, though we had a throwaway line suggesting that the vessel would be recovered. But how could they have landed right on top of a collapsing tunnel when they had such detailed maps of the underground structure? And how could it take so long to fall eight meters?

GENERAL PURPOSE CLICHES OF THE WEEK: Oooh, a ghost town. Look, there's an abandoned bicycle (Reed can't resist spinning one of the wheels, of course). And a tumbleweed? Oh, brother... And then we have one of the top ten story devices of all time: Two adversaries overcome their distrust of one another to rescue some unfortunate soul facing certain death.

RECYCLING OF THE WEEK: Another Cave Episode. It seems caves are all the rage this year (see "Strange New World" and Andromeda's "The Widening Gyre" and "Exit Strategies"). I know there's something of an electricity crunch in La-La Land, but surely they don't have to give up lighted sets...

TEMPORAL ANOMALY OF THE WEEK: At one point, Archer asks Trip to put the tunnel maps "on a PADD" (Closed Captioning confirms it wasn't just a "pad"). Those things didn't seem to exist, at least under that name, until The Next Generation. Perhaps that's what those Etch-a-Sketch things Yeoman Rand was always giving Kirk to sign were supposed to be, but I don't think anyone ever said so.

CONTINUITY ISSUES OF THE WEEK: Let's do some more temporal anomalying: Enterprise takes place 88 years after First Contact and 70 years after the attempt to colonize Terra Nova. Before that attempt, we are told in this episode, humans built a colony on the Moon (presumably the one seen just before Enterprise's appearance in the opening credits) and on Mars. Take a look at the people of Earth in First Contact; did they look like they had their act together enough to have those colonies up and running less than 18 years later? Another problem is the further hosing of the history of "Zephram Cochrane of Alpha Centauri." First Contact did a number on his continuity, of course, but rationalizers could still claim that he moved to Alpha Centauri in his old age. Now, however, that rationalization is in jeopardy, since the first, and closest, colony outside Earth's solar system according to this episode was Terra Nova, about four times farther from Earth than Alpha Centauri. Oh, well, the Eugenics Wars never happened either...

Previous: "Unexpected"
Next: "The Andorian Incident"
NEXT WEEK: Enjoy the Andorians while you can, because they'll most likely be eunuchs before this series is through with them.



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This review is copyright 2001 David E. Sluss
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