The Cynics Corner


"Carbon Creek"

by David E. Sluss

1 October 2002

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THE BOTTOM LINE: While potentially fun, the episode is so poorly scripted and acted that it doesn't come close to justifying the contrivances and continuity gymnastics involved.


FILLER OF THE WEEK: Wouldn't you love to be a fly on the wall at one of Enterprise's story meetings? You have to wonder what ideas get torpedoed, when a premise like this -- "Vulcans land on Earth in the 1950's and invent Velcro" -- consisting entirely of filler, makes it all the way to production. The episode feels like a product of writers totally bereft of ideas, a type of story that really shouldn't happen until a series is lurching toward its end. I suppose one could argue that since it's now the sixteenth season of "New Trek" (or twenty-third, depending on how you want to count), these kinds of episodes are inevitable, but Enterprise's characters are relatively new, at least in name. It seems a shame for more than half of them to sit out an entire episode so that a story almost entirely about characters we will never see again can be told, particularly when some of the MIA's (e.g. Mayweather) have gotten so little attention and when the episode seems to exist for the sole purpose of thumbing its nose at existing continuity to no good end.

I suppose we should credit the episode for not going in certain unspeakable directions, such as having Jack's last name turn out to be Archer or Cochrane, or having the local rubes discover that T'Mir and company were aliens and turn into a torch-and-pitchfork-toting mob, only to have one enlightened human appeal to their better natures with a speech about how "they're just people like you and me." It's surely a Good Thing that these tropes were avoided, but what was accomplished here? We learn that most Vulcans are arrogant pricks who think little of humans, but some of them have a heart of gold. Old news. We learn that humans have A Great Potential. Yawn. We learn that television is an "idiotic device," presumably an unintentional irony on the part of the writers, considering the quality of this particular hour of programming. And we learn that First Contact isn't what it used to be...

HISTORICAL ANOMALY OF THE WEEK: This story really undermines First Contact in a big way. That film was predicated on the notion that the only reason the Federation ever comes to exist and that Earth doesn't become easy pickings for the Borg is that in 2063, a Vulcan ship just happened to be flying through the Sol system as Zephram Cochrane was piloting Earth's first warp-capable vessel. We are told that without this serendipitous event, humans were doomed to dronehood, and it's a lucky break Cochrane caught the Vulcans' attention when he did. "Carbon Creek" seems to unravel that story pretty thoroughly. It shows that, contrary to what we were explicitly told in First Contact, the Vulcans don't simply ignore pre-warp planets, but in fact have procedures, processes, and an entire command structure in place for the sole purpose of investigating these types of planets. It also makes the chance meeting between Cochrane and the Vulcans seem somehow less vital to history, for if the Vulcans were running around the Sol system a hundred years before, it seems likely that even if they miss the first warp flight, they'll catch the second one, or the tenth. The bright side, I guess is that Braga and company are crapping all over their own creation for a change rather than someone else's...

HISTORICAL ANOMALY OF THE WEEK FIRST RUNNER-UP: What's weird about the whole Velcro thing (aside from the obvious) is that it's clear that the Enterprise staff actually did a little research on the subject, but chose to ignore it. It turns out that Velcro (or, more properly, VELCRO) was invented by a man named George de Mestral(!) and patented in 1955. If the writers went to the trouble of digging up that bit of trivia and naming the Vulcan with a heart of gold "Mestral," why would they have a different Vulcan turn the invention over to the patent office (and at least two years too late, since the first Sputnik was launched in 1957)? Apparently, they view actual history as being just as flexible as the fictional Star Trek history they're so fond of tampering with -- if the details are inconvenient, f*** 'em! See, if I disregarded facts and timelines the way that Braga and company do, I'd accuse them of exploiting the recent real-life story of the Quecreek miners who were trapped in a Pennsylvania coal mine for a few days this summer. But since thirty seconds of research demonstrates that this episode went into production about a month too soon for that to be possible, I won't...

HISTORICAL ANOMALY OF THE WEEK SECOND RUNNER-UP: As pleased as I was about the fact that the local rubes didn't degenerate into total paranoia over the true nature of their visitors, it struck me as a bit odd that in that time, in that place, no one seemed to think it unusual or improper for a woman to be living in a house/apartment with two "business acquaintances."

ILLOGIC OF THE WEEK: Even given the fact that Vulcans have been known to fast, having only five days worth of emergency rations on the ship seems like a bad idea. And the Vulcans are so repulsed by the notion of eating the flesh of a deer that the risk interacting with humans so they can eat... TV dinners? I wonder how many vegetarian varieties they had in 1957.

MARKETING PLOY OF THE WEEK: I don't know which is tackier: T'Mir's nude silhouette behind a sheet, or the shameless Twilight Zone plug...

CONTRIVANCE OF THE WEEK: Mestral observes about thirty seconds of a game of Eight-Ball, and is able to discern from that not only the geometry involved, but also the exact rules of the game (for instance: One person is "stripes" and the other is "solids"; the eight-ball is the last ball to shoot, and the player must call the shot). That's bull, of course.

POOR CHOICE OF THE WEEK: Plenty to choose from here, but I'll vote for the "twist ending" in which we get evidence in the form of T'Mir's earthly purse that T'Pol's little fish story was in fact true. I think ambiguity would have been the better part of valor here, even if it would have robbed me of most of this article...

Cynicette would like to chime in about the fact that she enjoyed the episode quite a bit. I love her anyway.

Previous: "Shockwave,
Part II

"Minefield" (not yet reviewed)
NEXT WEEK: Continuity fans, brace yourself for another golden shower, courtesy the Romulans.



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This review is copyright 2002 David E. Sluss
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