Star Trek Enterprise: Sleeping Dogs

Reed, doing the best Trip impression ever: "It means we're dead in the water."

By nature I love brevity: Rather dry and by-the-numbers, with several competing styles that don't seem to mix. There are a couple of interesting character dynamics here, though, which save it somewhat.

If 'Sleeping Dogs' had been made for Star Trek: The Original Series, the episode would've been very different. The Klingons would have woken up while the away team was inside their ship, and the crew would have to think of an inventive way to escape. In DS9 or (on a good day) TNG, the Klingons would have objected to accepting help, and the episode would have been about the moral dilemma of whether or not to help anyway in defiance of the Klingon culture. VOY would have taken either the TOS or the DS9 route, depending on how the episode's writer was feeling when they wrote it. But this is not any of those shows. This is Enterprise. So how would this show handle the given premise? I don't really know, since this episode didn't feel very focused and seemed to jump all over the place. I think that's because this show is having an identity crisis, and it doesn't really know what it wants to do.

In 'Sleeping Dogs,' we are treated to a taste of every classic Trek approach to this sort of concept, in quick succession. There's some of the protagonist-antagonist 'let's solve the problem' that TOS always did, a bit of the character work and moral pondering that DS9 loved so much, and a very small portion of the 'exploring the unknown' theme that this show started out with. None of these very different approaches takes the lead over the others, and as a result, I spent the whole thing just waiting for them to pick a method and stick with it. I think this is not just a problem with this episode, but with the show as a whole.

The first few episodes of Enterprise centered around the exploration and discovery theme, up until 'The Andorian Incident.' That episode took the classic TOS approach; fitting, considering the inspiration for the episode's name. Then we were back to the regular Enterprise style for a few episodes, before veering into DS9 territory for 'Fortunate Son.' The next few episodes cycled through the three basic approaches, regardless of each episode's success at accomplishing that task. This brings us to 'Sleeping Dogs,' where all three approaches appear in the same episode.

The pattern is clear. The show started strong, doing Star Trek in its own, unique way. Then the old habits of the creative team kicked in, from the last two and a half decades they'd spent with the series, and they started doing stories the way they'd done them before. They say old habits die hard, and it is 100% true. Especially in the case of Rick Berman and co. here. Enterprise will continue to struggle with these issues until it gets a new showrunner, who's never worked on Star Trek before, in the fourth season. The truth is that Berman and co. were tired at this point. By the end of Enterprise, they'd been doing Star Trek for 28 years. They'd told many innovative and fascinating stories, but the creative juices were running dry. By the end of Voyager, that show was running almost entirely on stories, concepts, and cliches from the other Trek shows. Enterprise, as a new show, gave them a bit of a boost, but here we see them start to run out of that. Are there creative concepts and great stories for the next few seasons of Enterprise? Absolutely. But the majority of it has been cherry-picked from the 28 years of good storytelling that came before it. Hang on tight, folks. It's not the most fun of rides.

But what of this actual episode? Well, besides its inability to settle on a direction, 'Sleeping Dogs' does contain some decent material. I liked the developing dynamic between Hoshi and T'Pol, which is perfect though I would have never thought of it before this. T'Pol is, in many ways, the perfect mentor for Hoshi. Hoshi is very competent and very skilled within the confines of her field and her job, but anything outside of that is outside her comfort zone and scares her to no end. She is extremely curious and just a little bit more cautious. In contrast, T'Pol has no fears, but also no curiosities. She knows how to be competent and keep a handle on the things Hoshi can't deal with, but she lacks that spark of curiosity and excitement that drives Hoshi. Both can learn great things from each other. T'Pol can see Hoshi's potential as an officer, but I'm not sure she sees that yet.

This is why T'Pol requests that Hoshi be assigned to the mission. It's why she gives Hoshi clear tasks that are just outside Hoshi's comfort zone in order to drive her to be better. It's why she continually checks in on Hoshi to make sure she's performing the best that she can. T'Pol is mentoring Hoshi, even though she might not know it. Hoshi sees it, I think. She's certainly taking T'Pol's direction and using it to better herself and to learn. It's a great dynamic, and I can't wait to watch it grow and develop over the course of the show. That is, assuming this is one of those bits of character work that doesn't disappear after the episode in which it originates.

Archer's interactions with Bu'kaH (Michelle C. Bonilla) and his revelations about Klingon culture are nothing new to long-time fans of Star Trek, although I'm sure to a franchise newcomer they would be fascinating. Really, there's not a whole lot more you can explore about the Klingons that one of the other shows hasn't already done, unless you completely reinvent them like Star Trek: Discovery has.

The plot, too, has nothing much to speak of. It's your everyday, run-of-the-mill 'solve the problem' plot for T'Pol, Hoshi, and Reed, and a bit of well-tread exploration of the Klingons for Archer. Nothing else really happens of note, though it is nice to see Archer make good command decisions for once.

All in all, I think this episode has some interesting elements to it, mostly the stuff involving Hoshi and T'Pol. Also, if you're new to Star Trek, the Klingon stuff here would probably interest you. But the episode's failure to land on a consistent approach ultimately sinks this outing.

Strange New Worlds:

The Klingon ship was embedded in an unnamed Class 6 gas giant. Nothing special here; you could replace it with a Nebula and give some reason for the ship to be drawn to its center and nothing would change.

New Life and New Civilizations:

The Klingons are not new, and we don't learn anything about them that TNG and DS9 didn't already firmly establish.

Pensees:

-I thought at first that Reed's cold would be played for endless comic relief, but I was comically relieved to find otherwise.

-It was kind of fun to see Hoshi practicing her aim in the teaser. Yet another example of Enterprise's teasers being scenes you could easily miss and not lose anything from the episode.

-The decon chamber continues to serve its purpose as a concept that makes a lot of sense, which in practice is just a flimsy excuse to strip attractive actors down to their underwear and coat their skin with gel.

-The fact that Enterprise goes out of its way to demonstrate the need for a linguist and a translation matrix every single time they come across aliens has been refreshing so far. We'll see if it gets old.

-Is this the first time outside of The Klingon Dictionary that we learn that Qapla' means 'Success?' Also, Archer's pronunciation needs serious work. Get on it, Hoshi.

-Why the heck does Reed say they've never come across anything like Photon Torpedoes before? The ship is armed with 'Photonic Torpedoes,' which really cannot be all that different. At least it's got a similar name, so it shouldn't be completely alien. *sigh*

-The Klingon Captain was played by Vaughn Armstrong, one of Star Trek's favorite guest stars to use. He plays Admiral Forrest regularly on this very show.

-Travis watch: Some 'Aye, sirs' and parroting technobabble, but not much more.

-At one point, the subtitles on Netflix gave a line to Archer when he wasn't even on the ship. It was Trip in the Captain's chair.

Quotes:

Reed: "We can travel faster than the speed of light. You'd think we could find a cure for the common cold."
Phlox: "You should be grateful human cold is so mild. I once had a patient with the Kamaraazite flu. He sneezed so violently, he nearly regurgitated his pineal gland."

Hoshi: "I realize that I haven't always been the first one in line to volunteer for this type of mission, but I want you to know that I am prepared to go. It took a while, but I think I finally got my space legs."
Archer: "I never doubted that you'd find them."

Reed: "I, for one, have no interest in imploding a valuable shuttlepod."
If you think shuttles are valuable, Reed, you need to watch Star Trek: Voyager. You'll realize they just appear out of thin air whenever you need them.

T'Pol: "Think of yourself on a turbulent ocean. You have the power to control the waves."
Hoshi: "Whatever it is you're trying to do, it's not working."
T'Pol: "Focus. The water is growing still. You're in control."

Archer: "You wouldn't last ten seconds in a battle with us. You've got multiple hull breaches, your shields are down, and from what I'm told, you're fresh out of torpedoes. If I were you, I'd take what little honor I had left and go home. Fire one shot, and I'll blast you right back to where we found you."

---
CoramDeo doesn't natively have a British accent, and he can't do a Trip impression anywhere near as well as Dominic Keating can.

2 comments:

Billie Doux said...

From my original review notes for this episode:

This week's character development gold star goes to Hoshi, although T'Pol came in a close second. Is Hoshi really starting to love the exploration, or is she just trying to pull her weight? Either way, it was smart of T'Pol to take Hoshi along.

The decon sauna scene at the end was fun and sexy, but I think my favorite scene in this episode was when T'Pol was teaching Hoshi to control her emotions, and stroking Hoshi's hand at the same time. It was cute that T'Pol really liked the sauna, too. I think Jolene Blalock has stopped channeling Nimoy and has started feeling comfortable with the part; I wasn't into T'Pol when the series began, but I'm really starting to like her a whole heck of a lot.

CoramDeo said...

Yeah, my favorite scene was T'Pol teaching Hoshi, too. That was the only storyline here that really interested me much. As to Blalock, I don't feel like she ever really channeled Nimoy (at least not well), but I would agree that she definitely grew into the role. I am one of the few that likes T'Pol, though with a few reservations. She's a very interesting and good character, I just don't think she feels a whole lot like a Vulcan. Actually, that's a good description of the Vulcans as a whole in this show.