Star Trek: Enterprise
Air date: 3/27/2002
Teleplay by Maria Jacquemetton & Andre Jacquemetton
Story by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga
Directed by James Whitmore, Jr.
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
Ferengi: "You'll never see us again."
Jammer: "I'm going to hold you to that promise."
In brief: Lame and pointless.
"Acquisition" is a low-octane action-comedy. Or maybe a no-octane action-comedy. But then, if we're talking about octane, we're probably also talking about gasoline, which in turn implies internal combustion automobile engines. I wouldn't want to come close to implying that this story is powered by a V8, V6, or even an inline 4 when it's at most powered by a heavy-duty rubber band, or perhaps monkeys at typewriters.
"Acquisition" raises a questionable continuity issue (it's always been my understanding the Federation didn't know about the Ferengi until the time around the TNG universe), but never mind. I just want to know if the writers really think the Ferengi are so valuable as story subjects or entertaining as comedy players. An army of DS9 fans — who suffered through at least one of these sort of shows per season — undoubtedly would say no. If "Acquisition" was trying to live up to — er, I mean down to — one of those shows in spirit, then it's a success.
What is laughingly called a plot here is that the crew of the Enterprise has been completely knocked unconscious with Acme Knock-Out Gas (or, to use a year-old Internet catchphrase, somebody set up us the bomb), giving a crew of four Ferengi the chance to board the ship and steal all the valuables. If it's this easy to take over the Enterprise, then be afraid — be very, very afraid. This ship is in desperate need of a security officer — or, for that matter, security.
One crew member remains awake, however — our illustrious Commander Tucker, who has the honor of running around the first half of the show in his underwear. The entire first act has no dialog at all (except non-translated Ferengi) and solely relies more on music than probably any episode of Trek in a very long time. I appreciated Velton Ray Bunch's score, though I must complain that my low-octane (to continue a gasolinic theme) local station's sound was so spectacularly bad and scratchy this week that the soundtrack was often unendurable. Ah, the wonders of living in a tertiary television market.
The Ferengi wake up Captain Archer and demand that he take them to the ship's vault, where they can plunder the most valuable of the valuables. Of course, the Enterprise doesn't have a vault, but when the Ferengi threaten to take the ship's women and sell them into slavery instead, Archer uses the knowledge he gained from Stalling Techniques From Action Movies 101, and says that, yes, there is a vault after all, and I'll take you to it. How many times has this plot device been used in the action arena? You'd think that if Archer is smart enough to borrow it, the Ferengi would be smart enough to recognize it as the trick that it is. But then again, maybe not, because these Ferengi are some dumb mofos.
For anyone who has watched anything, the story progress (such as it is) will come across as beyond predictable and stale. If it were a loaf of bread, you'd throw it out because of all the mold growing on it. If it were a computer it'd be a 386. Scratch that — an Apple IIe. Scratch that again — a TI-99/4A. But I'll stop before I run off the rails.
First of all, we have the Ferengi themselves, whose antics were pummeled so unrelentingly into the pavement during DS9's run that there is nowhere — absolutely nowhere — this series can take them, short of taking them seriously and examining them as a culture, which we already know just doesn't work with the Ferengi.
Then there are all the action cliches, beginning with Archer's lie about the vault and then continuing on to the central character theme involving one of the Ferengi, Krem (Jeffrey Combs), a meek subordinate who has dreams of becoming a master businessman but is under the thumb of his cousin Ulis (Ethan Phillips). Archer tries to turn Krem, of course, telling him that maybe there's a deal to be made here if he double-crosses his buddies. Hostages always do this in these movie situations — trying to gain an upper hand by playing the kidnappers against each other.
Meanwhile we have Trip running around trying to secretly help Archer. Trip wakes up T'Pol, who also goes on a secret mission trying to sabotage the Ferengi plans, inevitably leading to scenes where she has run-ins with them, who of course find her to be a perfect candidate for stroking their lobes.
A complete synopsis of "Acquisition" would make it sound like there's more going on than there really is. Believe me when I say there's less. This is simply an assemblage of bland scenes, going from A to B in the most standard way possible, where A is a dumb idea and B is a predictable and meaningless destination.
The Ferengi are typically broad caricatures whose stupidity makes you wonder how they managed to pull themselves off their planet and into space flight in the first place. In addition to Combs and Phillips (apparently, Phillips so much liked his turn as a Ferengi in the equally lame "False Profits" five years ago that he couldn't resist coming back for more), we also have Clint Howard and Matt Malloy playing Ferengi. These actors are wasted in interchangeable roles, except perhaps for Combs' character, who's the nice-but-dumb guy we're supposed to care about in some fashion.
Indeed, the show's saving grace is the always reliable Combs, who plays Krem in a way that clearly departs from Combs' other Trek roles, including Ferengi Brunt on DS9. It's yet another unique personality Combs creates under piles of makeup. Too bad it's just not interesting as written.
There are a couple of mildly — emphasis on mildly — amusing moments, including Trip leading the Ferengi through a seemingly endless maze of corridors to the "vault," and a scene where Archer and Trip go into role-playing conflict mode. The latter made me smile because of the sheer lunacy of how dumb the whole idea was, and how the episode had realized just how dumb its villains truly were, and how in turn our heroes had realized how dumb the villains were. It's nice to see stupidity recognized, but that unfortunately doesn't make it any less stupid. What does it say when the Enterprise crew fell victim to their Knock-Out Gas trap in the first place?
Finally, T'Pol at least gets to use the Vulcan nerve pinch, though I find it almost out of character that she would play along with Krem for so long when she could've overpowered him much earlier. The blatant sexual overtures are obvious and too drawn out.
The episode marches through the obvious low comedy and standard action of this confrontation, and what does Archer do after defeating the Ferengi? He lets all four of them go on their merry way with a "stern" warning. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't take so kindly to people taking over my ship and almost getting away with stealing everything of value on board — including all the weapons! What kind of rules does Starfleet have on conflicts of this nature? What kind of responsibility does Archer have in holding people who are essentially criminals and pirates? What authorities are out here to deal with the criminal element? Does the Enterprise have the authority to take prisoners, and what would it do with them? All are questions that might actually be worth consideration but which this episode couldn't care less about, since it's merely a Dumb Ferengi Episode.
I guess that's fair, because I really couldn't care less about "Acquisition."
Next week: A strange ghost story featuring another familiar-to-Trek face.