Star Trek Enterprise: Civilization

Archer: "This must be why aliens are always landing in cornfields."

By nature I love brevity: Meh. Formulaic and bland, with very little to offer and very little to offend.

'Civilization' has precious little as far as substance goes. It's filler from beginning to end. The story and characters never got anywhere near compelling, and were only very mildly entertaining throughout the hour. I had entirely forgotten this one existed, because there was nothing in it at all that would make you say, 'Oh! This is the one where this happened!' or 'This is the one with that villain!' Not even a recognizable guest star. Nothing.

The premise involves the ship's exploration of an M-Class planet with 500 million life forms on it. It's a 'pre-industrial' civilization, and most of the crew is eager to go down. T'Pol urges caution; it's Vulcan policy to wait until a society develops warp drive before making first contact with it. Archer intends to ignore this advice, and T'Pol acquiesces when she detects neutrino emissions from the surface, presumably produced by an antimatter reactor. For long-time fans of Star Trek, T'Pol's initial recommendation will sound very familiar. It's the Federation's first and greatest rule - the Prime Directive.

Now I'm going to make a comment that will probably rile up a lot of Star Trek fans - I am not a fan of the Prime Directive. The goal of the PD is to prevent the Federation from interfering in the natural development of other cultures. But, I would argue, who are we to decide what the natural development of a culture is? Who's to say that discovering warp drive and other technologies from species that have already developed them isn't the natural course of their society's development? It's not like time travel, where meddling with the flow of time is messing with something that's already there and set.

That said, I do see where the PD is coming from, and whatever the case, it hasn't yet been put into effect for our characters, or for our other alien race. You see, when they reach the planet, Archer and co. discover a man named Garos (Wade Williams), who has been posing as a member of the indigenous species. Garos claims to have been a part of an exploratory survey team that never intended to stay long, but that he fell in love with the planet and its culture, and decided to stay. The antimatter reactor, he says, is powering a fabrication device that he uses to make clothes and food and such for himself. But that kind of power would only be necessary if you wanted to make food and clothes for a whole continent, according to Trip.

Enter Riaan (Diane DiLascio), an indigenous woman who discovers Archer and Trip when they break into Garos' shop. She believes that whatever Garos is doing is the cause of the disease that has been spreading throughout the continent. Archer tells her that they are from another province, and that they've been sent to investigate Garos. T'Pol takes a few surreptitious scans of Riaan's research, which she takes to Dr. Phlox to study further.

Phlox determines that the water on the planet has been contaminated with tetracyanate, a manufactured toxic chemical. Whether or not it is causing the disease, and whether or not it's Garos' fault, has yet to be seen. Archer and Riaan investigate the crates of mysterious contents that leave Garos' shop every night to find out. When they do so, they discover another alien of Garos' species, who offloads the crates to his starship. After a brief altercation with the Malurian, Archer reveals to Riaan that he's an alien.

Archer and Riaan then infiltrate Garos' shop, entering the restricted area with a remote they retrieved from the Malurian. The Malurians, it turns out, have been powering a mining operation with their reactor. The disease is a side effect of the chemicals they are using in the mining. This leads to the boring action conclusion, where Archer and Riaan fight the Malurians on the planet with phase pistols, as Enterprise faces off against the Malurian ship in orbit. There's very little that's noteworthy here - just a generic sci-fi action sequence.

Of course, Archer has a half-baked romance plot with Riaan. It's stupid and forced, and Bakula and DiLascia have practically no chemistry with each other. The scene where Archer's translator stops working and he kisses her to buy himself time to fix it isn't romantic, it's ridiculous and in today's social climate would likely be considered harassment. This is an unfortunate trend for Enterprise - shoehorning a romance into as many episodes as possible, especially when Archer can be involved.

Strange New Worlds:

The planet never got a name, but it was M-Class and the aliens were called Akaali.

New Life and Civilizations:

We were introduced to the indigenous species - the Akaali, and the invaders the Malurians. The Tellarites were also name-dropped.

Pensees:

-What the heck is up with the forced, weird chuckles in the beginning?
The look of a man dead inside.

The look of a man auditioning to play the Joker, or some other serial killer.

-The ship has a quartermaster who makes their indigenous clothes. That's because they won't have replicators until the TNG era.

-Yet another species of alien that expresses affection by pressing each other's lips together. Who'd have guessed?

-So... the blue button is the 'trap yourself in the room and set off the alarm' button?

-The Malurians have shields, yet another reminder that Enterprise does not. Polarizing the hull plating does basically the same thing, though, especially since you'll occasionally hear them say things like 'Hull Plating at 33%!' Of course, if you only had 33% of your hull plating left, you're probably floating in space. Just sayin'.

-T'Pol asks Archer if he's alright, and tells him they thought he'd been killed. Is she really asking him if he's been killed, when he's already been having a conversation with her?

-Another Deus ex Transporter. I'm starting to think it's a bad thing that we have this device at this point in the series; it's already been overused.

-Travis watch - basically nothing. A few throwaway lines, though, so that's something.

-The indigenous clothing T'Pol was wearing reminded me of the Romulan Commander from the TOS episode 'The Enterprise Incident.' I think that makes it outfit of the week, beating out Archer's Roman centurion getup.

-Who doesn't love a little utterly pointless conflict between Trip and T'Pol?

Quotes:

Trip: "If our scans are correct, there's a whole civilization down there."
Not a whole minute into the episode, and we've used its name already.
Archer (to T'Pol): "You might have put that at the top of the list."

Archer (watching Riaan pour liquid out of a test tube): "What is that?"
Riaan: "Tea. Would you like some?"

Riaan: "We're so backward compared to you.'
Archer: "If you take away our technology, we're not all that different."

1.5 out of 6 Deus ex Transporters

---
CoramDeo's mother was a caterpillar. His father was a worm. But he is okay with that now.

1 comment:

Billie Doux said...

I remember when this one aired, I thought the lack of a prime directive could have been a cool new way to go. But oh well. I also didn't like the way they're trying to make Archer into Kirk with the alien women thing.

And I agree that T'Pol and Trip are fun together.

Archer admitted that he talks to his dog. A lot of us talk to our non-human companions, but we usually don't admit it up front. :)