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Star Trek: Enterprise – Exile (Review)

Next year, Star Trek is fifty years old. We have some special stuff planned for that, but – in the meantime – we’re reviewing all of Star Trek: Enterprise this year as something of a prequel to that anniversary. This August, we’re doing the third season. Check back daily for the latest review.

If Impulse was Star Trek doing contemporary horror, then Exile is Star Trek doing gothic horror.

It is quite impressive how committed Exile is to its gothic horror trappings. Tarquin doesn’t just live alone in exile and project flattering images of himself; he lives in an honest-to-goodness gothic mansion lit by candles, where he dabbles in the occult while wearing what is a highly stylised dressing gown and between tending to the graves of his beloved(s). Exile does not skimp on its pulpy trappings. Like a lot of the early third season episodes, Exile would make for a satisfying dime-store paperback sci-fi novel; several images from the story would make a suitable cover.

It was a dark and stormy night...

It was a dark and stormy night…

That said, it is quite difficult to pull off gothic science-fiction. The original Star Trek pulled it off on a number of occasions – most obviously with The Squire of Gothos. The later spin-offs have struggled getting the right balance of po-faced seriousness with heightened absurdity. Star Trek: The Next Generation attempted Sub Rosa in its final season, while Star Trek: Voyager had some early experiments with Janeway’s gothic horror fantasy. Neither could be deemed a resounding success, and Exile stumbles a bit in the execution.

There are a number of leaps that the plot doesn’t quite articulate as well as it might. It is hard to believe that Archer would leave Hoshi alone with Tarquin, even with a phase pistol tucked under her pillow. The revelation of Tarquin’s powers should terrify the crew; having the ability to alter another person’s perception across lightyears is utterly unlike anything these explorers have seen before. However, everybody seems to accept it at face value so that the plot can move along at a reasonable rate.

Somebody has a fixation...

Somebody has a fixation…

The way that Exile ties back into the larger arc is somewhat clumsy, right down to the convenient segue into The Shipment that comes in the final scene. In many ways, the structure of Exile recalls that of Extinction, an effectively stand-alone story that contains a very trite nods to the larger Xindi arc without any substantive connection. Despite the vital exposition that Tarquin provides in his final scene (and the subplot involving the spheres), Exile feels rather unnecessary in the larger scheme of things.

And yet, despite all that, Exile has something quite interesting to say. Written by Phyllis Strong, directed by Roxann Dawson and starring Linda Park, Exile is a very rare episode of Enterprise. It is a story with a very clear (and somewhat prescient) feminist subtext that has some very astute observations to make about certain facets of what might be deemed “nerd culture.” Specifically, male nerd culture.

He sees you when you're sleeping...

He sees you when you’re sleeping…

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Star Trek: Enterprise – Sleeping Dogs (Review)

Next year, Star Trek is fifty years old. We have some special stuff planned for that, but – in the meantime – we’re reviewing all of Star Trek: Enterprise this year as something of a prequel to that anniversary. This January, we’re doing the first season. Check back daily for the latest review.

There’s really very little to say about Sleeping Dogs. It’s not particularly good, it’s not particularly bad. Like Civilisation before it, it’s an episode of Star Trek constructed to a familiar formula. The ship in question answers a distress call from an alien ship. Our crew attempts a rescue mission, during which the away team end up stranded. Meanwhile, our captain tries to figure out how to communicate with an alien from a radically different culture, eventually coming to realise that he must address them on their terms.

These are all stock elements, and they are mixed into Sleeping Dogs with a minimum of fuss. The only real kink in Sleeping Dogs is that the aliens in question are Klingons. However, we’ve spent so much time with Klingons in the various other Star Trek spin-off shows that using them as a light seasoning in a fairly stock Star Trek plot doesn’t make for a particularly appetising combination.

Again with the Klingons...

Again with the Klingons…

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Star Trek: Enterprise – Fight or Flight (Review)

Next year, Star Trek is fifty years old. We have some special stuff planned for that, but – in the meantime – we’re reviewing all of Star Trek: Enterprise this year as something of a prequel to that anniversary. This January, we’re doing the first season. Check back daily for the latest review.

Fight or Flight is reasonably solid as second episodes go. It’s very clear that Rick Berman and Brannon Braga are making a conscious effort to avoid the mistakes of Star Trek: Voyager. There’s a sense that they are trying to give Star Trek: Enterprise its own unique mood and flavour. As such, Fight or Flight feels like a story that isn’t just tailor-made for Enterprise, but is tailor-made for early in the first season of the show. It isn’t a story that could be done by another spin-off, and it’s also not a story that could be done by Enterprise even a year later.

While Fight or Flight works on a conceptual level, the execution feels a little strange. While Broken Bow was a big and bombastic Star Trek pilot with its own feel and rhythm, Fight and Flight feels almost quaint. As a piece of television, it’s constructed in a very meticulous and very precise manner, one that seems suspiciously outdated for a show broadcast in late 2001.

Slugging it out...

Slugging it out…

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