Star Trek: Enterprise

"Civilization"

2.5 stars

Air date: 11/14/2001
Written by Phyllis Strong & Mike Sussman
Directed by Mike Vejar

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"It's remote and sparsely populated. If you're exposed there's a reduced risk of cultural contamination."
"This must be why aliens are always landing in cornfields."

— T'Pol and Archer discussing a shuttle landing site

In brief: A story about the negatives of interfering with alien cultures ... except without arriving at the conclusion that we shouldn't interfere with alien cultures.

Maybe the Vulcans were right not to let humans go out into space for so long. From the evidence here, the issue of non-interference in alien cultures has barely entered anyone's minds, let alone the Starfleet rulebook.

Which would be okay if "Civilization" were actually about that very issue. Ultimately, though, it's not; it's a routine "adventure" outing that ends without the characters having learned much of anything. If we're going to sit through a story about the Prime Directive (non-interference) issue, we should at least have some sort of evidence that the characters in the show have learned something.

Aside from having one of the most boring titles in recent memory, "Civilization" isn't a bad hour of television. But it's surprisingly nondescript and doesn't begin to exploit the potential of this series' concept. Let's face it — what happens here could happen on any of the Trek series, or, for that matter, any non-Trek show set in space.

One thing that's beginning to tire a bit is the automatic challenge of T'Pol whenever she mentions anything that represents erring on the side of caution, even if it's reasonable. When she expresses reluctance to interact with this society out of concern for cultural contamination, Archer is quick to fall back on the stock-issue human-and-proud-of-it "we were sent out here to explore" line. True enough, but you also didn't come out here to contaminate less advanced cultures by making contact with them. T'Pol seemingly is becoming a voice drowned out more often by cowboy bravado than reason.

Under makeup effects administered by Dr. Phlox, Archer & Co. go undercover to investigate the mystery of an anti-matter power source that this planet shouldn't have the technology to possess. Archer tracks the power source to inside a shop in the city. The investigation is interrupted by a woman named Riann (Diane DiLascio), a native scientist who tells Archer that she's also investigating a mystery about this shop. She takes Archer and T'Pol back to her house, where she has her own lab, and explains how she thinks deaths linked to the contamination of the local water supply are related to some sort of production from near or inside this shop.

Like other episodes of Enterprise so far, "Civilization" proceeds at an initially slow pace. In particular, the scenes inside Riann's house seem overly padded out with long pauses and silences. Slow is not necessarily bad, but the slowness here seems unnecessary to the point that it's as if the characters are standing around trying to avoid turning into an awkward situation.

The next day, Archer returns to the shop, now open, where he finds that the shop owner, Garos (Wade Andrew Williams in a wooden performance), is actually an off-worlder himself, also undercover. But he's not a Good Undercover Infiltrator like Archer; he's a Bad Undercover Infiltrator who is exploiting this particular region to produce goods he ships off-world for profit. His anti-matter reactor is what's poisoning the water supply. Right there is your evidence that this episode could be about the problems of contaminating other cultures, but the episode has no real desire to follow it through with any sort of thought pattern or to any intelligent conclusion. It just sort of drops it in our lap and proceeds with the episode's superficial adventure and romance aspects.

Yes, romance. No points for guessing that Archer will begin to fall for Riann (even if you hadn't already seen it in the trailer). It always kills me how two TV characters can fall instantly for each other, even though both have more pressing matters on their minds. There's a bit of goofiness here involving a malfunctioning universal translator, a misunderstanding Archer must cover up by "spontaneously" kissing Riann. I'm still not sure how those darn translator things work; it's maybe a better idea just to accept that they do and leave them off the screen.

The best shot in the episode is an homage to alien abduction/conspiracy stories, in which cargo is lifted from the ground by a mysterious beam of light into a small spaceship that takes off. This would seem at home in The X-Files or some other alien conspiracy or UFO abduction premise, and seeing it on Trek is a somewhat new-seeming visual. Based on the activity of the Bad Undercover Infiltrators, this planet would undoubtedly have a high frequency of UFO sightings.

Although not the slightest bit original, I also liked the concept of a hidden underground facility. The story includes a scene where Archer stares down through one of those glass windows in an operations room that allows one to observe the factory floor.

One sequence that seemed a bit silly was the action cliche of Which Button to Press. Blue button or yellow button? One solves the plot's problems. The other sets of the alarm. The story has Archer press the first one to manufacture a crisis and some suspense, and has him press the second one to fix the crises. How very nice.

The episode turns up the heat in the final act, which includes a phaser shootout on a crowded sidewalk and an attack on the Enterprise by the Bad Undercover Infiltrators' ship, which proves that this Starfleet vessel will have to outsmart its opponents since it definitely won't be outgunning them. The Enterprise doesn't even have shields; I wonder, how long can it last against enemies that do?

The problem I'm having with "Civilization" is that there's precious little I can put forward in terms of useful analysis. The plot is straightforward and easily followed, but without any hints of depth or serious intentions. It's no more than the means for an action-oriented payoff. You're on your own if you bought into the romance; Riann is pretty and Diane DiLascio is an acceptably likable actress, but there's just nothing here in terms of substance. The romance is based on the whims of scriptwriters (perhaps fulfilling the opening stretch's Archer Must Kiss a Girl quota), not because of characterization or motivation.

"Civilization" doesn't say anything new or interesting, or have anything that can be called a "point." It ends without asking any sort of question about the dangers of interfering with alien cultures, particularly those who don't have the technology or understanding to defend themselves from the social effects of a more advanced alien influence. The plot is stock-issue adventure with little in terms of compelling characters or debate. If Enterprise is going to be about the early lessons discovered by a new human crew in its early explorations, then the writers owe it to us to make the stories hinge on these ideas rather than ignoring them.

Next week: Stop the presses — Mayweather voices an opinion!

Previous episode: Breaking the Ice
Next episode: Fortunate Son

◄ Season Index

30 comments on this review

chris
Fri, Oct 7, 2011, 2:36pm (UTC -6)
Watching for the very first time the Enterprise series, I have to say that I am very dissapointed, the first episodes are rather boring and uninspired, and there is no chance to be compared to Next Generation, or even Voyager.

I hope the episodes get better later.
Michael
Thu, Oct 27, 2011, 3:35pm (UTC -6)
So, we have an infant civilization, which: (1) Looks anatomically almost exactly like humans, (2) has women who cover their hair, (3) builds houses with red roof tiles, (4) has streetlights using what look like incandescent lightbulbs, (5) uses doors with squeaky hinges.

This is getting really old.

Who cares about the rest of the episode; the above put me off in the first five minutes. Have they NO imagination whatever???
Michael
Thu, Oct 27, 2011, 4:30pm (UTC -6)
One more, one more: So, El Jefe and whoever-the-guy-with-him-was are cornered by a broad brandishing a weapon. T'Pol sneaks up to her and tasers her, and the "captain" body-slams T'POL with "Was that really necessary?" WTF!?!?! No, Archer, coz usually when you've got someone angry and aggressive pointing a weapon at you threatening to pop you, what you want to do is offer to hug them and talk about their misplaced belligerence, rather than try to neutralize them using a non-lethal method. Dumbass.
Captain Jim
Mon, Jul 2, 2012, 10:23pm (UTC -6)
I partially agree and partially disagree with Jammer's analysis here. Nothing of substance here? Probably not, but I still found it enjoyable. I understand being anxious for more substance early in the first series, but I don't mind the occasional episode like this.

Not really sure why this is a prime directive matter. It was the other ship that was interfering in the affairs of this world, not Enterprise. They were simply trying to stop that interference, drawing as little attention to themselves as possible.
duhknees
Tue, Aug 7, 2012, 8:51am (UTC -6)
Just because they didn't end with a trite discussion on ethics doesn't mean they didn't learn something. These are the experiences on which the prime directive was later verbalized.
Krog
Sun, Oct 14, 2012, 3:43pm (UTC -6)
I fell asleep watching this episode.
Freddy
Mon, Mar 18, 2013, 3:30am (UTC -6)
Sometimes i just love certain episodes for what they offer,despite their lack of substance

The first time i watched 'civilization' i felt very entertained by solid pacing, a terrific and innovative score by JAY CHATTAWAY, an adorable guest actress, well executed action sequences and, above all, a stunning production design ( watch all the details in the shop).

In my opinion, other TV-Series can't offer even half of the dedication that was put into ENTERPRISE.
And not every single episode has to be a lesson about right or wrong choices, as long as they're entertaining.

ROGUE PLANET for example was boring AND without substance or any kind of productiom value.

'CIVILISATION' will always remain one of my favourite season One episodes


Lt. Yarko
Thu, May 9, 2013, 5:45am (UTC -6)
I really have been enjoying this series. Although, yeah, a lot of it is pedestrian trek (which I really like anyway), I am enjoying everything about them being fresh out in space.

But, this episode really fell down. After the final firefight - where are all the people? How are they affected by all this action in the middle of their city? The episode didn't address this at all. They just disappear and that's the end of that. Talk about lazy.
Sintek
Sun, Jun 2, 2013, 6:06pm (UTC -6)
I so wanted to like this episode, but after the intro I paused it and made a little list in my head:

1. if Archer goes down he will meet a woman.
2. the person who ends up helping the away team will be an open-minded genius way ahead of their time.
3. Archer, ever the bumbling fool, will be found out and be seen as a demon/sorcerer/whatever.
4. Oh there's an anti-matter reactor now? So much for the list, this episode already sucks.

Well, 3 out 4 isn't bad. I really hoped that they, for once, wouldn't reveal how super duper awesome advanced they are to the backward yokels, but there was the scene not even half way through.
J.B.
Thu, Jan 30, 2014, 4:51pm (UTC -6)
I liked Chattaway's score. It was the first time I really noticed that they were going for a different tact with the music (and that became especially prominent starting with the third season).
NCC-1701-Z
Sun, Feb 16, 2014, 1:27am (UTC -6)
I laughed so hard when Archer kissed Rianne. I saw it as the writers' personal in-joke/homage to TOS times when Kirk would always get the girl. That was my personal interpretation anyway, especially since this was an episode made in the grand tradition of Star Trek-style beam-down-to-the-planet-of-the-week-exploration.
Gskunk
Sun, Sep 21, 2014, 7:35am (UTC -6)
I guess T'Pol is to this show what Worf was to in TNG...the crewmember who says the reasonable thing and immediately gets shouted down by others who need the plot to get going.
Eli
Mon, Oct 13, 2014, 1:38am (UTC -6)
This episode is a great example of why I like Star Trek: Enterprise so much. I think the episode was understated and contained great interactions between the characters. The love story was convincing and compelling. Some have complained about the series in general being underwhelming. I instead, find it subtle and restrained, intelligent and sincere. The captain's thoughtful approach really embodies this spirit.
Yanks
Mon, Oct 13, 2014, 7:30am (UTC -6)
So when the Captain kisses a beautiful Alien woman its a problem?

...only on Enterprise...
Peremensoe
Mon, Oct 13, 2014, 8:35am (UTC -6)
Who said the kiss was a problem? I see two mentions more-or-less appreciating the joke.
NCC-1701-Z
Mon, Oct 13, 2014, 10:19pm (UTC -6)
@Gskunk: If you haven't already seen this video I think you'd appreciate it:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=edflm7Hh3hs
Yanks
Tue, Oct 14, 2014, 8:32am (UTC -6)
Peremensoe,

I read Jammer's reviews.

Jammer: "There's a bit of goofiness here involving a malfunctioning universal translator. Archer must cover up by "spontaneously" kissing Riann."

Jammer: "The romance is based on the whims of scriptwriters (perhaps fulfilling the opening stretch's Archer Must Kiss a Girl quota), not because of characterization or motivation."
Peremensoe
Tue, Oct 14, 2014, 8:38pm (UTC -6)
Hm. I missed the second bit, read the first as approving.

I thought it was clear that the kiss is meant to be funny, both in the "goofy" context of the moment and as a meta reference to Kirk.

I guess I don't see Kirk's Beautiful Alien Woman dalliances as any less writer-whimsical. I'm not sure why Jammer's looking for more from Archer.
Yanks
Wed, Oct 15, 2014, 2:48pm (UTC -6)
I'm not sure why anyone would require more of Archer throughout the series. They treat him like he is part of an organization that's been around for 100 years... they seem to forget he's the 1st one out here.
Shannon
Fri, Jan 9, 2015, 1:51pm (UTC -6)
Jammer, first of all you are not even getting the facts of the story correct. Riann doesn't invite Archer at T'Pol back, Archer asked to return and when he did he had T'Pol in tow and introduced her as a fellow scientist. And it wasn't the antimatter reactor poisoning the water, it was the drill bits saturated in tetracyonate... As for your review, I think you're being a bit harsh. This episode clearly isn't meant as a prequel to the prime directive, although there are some aspects of that. T'Pol does convince Archer not to make first contact, so Archer rightly decides on an undercover observation mission, especially when they detect the antimatter reactor. Besides, just a few episodes later that writers did put forth a terrific prime directive prequel with "Dear Doctor"... Star Trek episodes don't always have to "make a point", and can just be fun every so often.
Diamond Dave
Wed, Mar 30, 2016, 6:44am (UTC -6)
I thought this made a strong start and I had anticipated it was heading in a Prime Directive prequel kind of manner given the lack of protocols for handling pre-warp societies. However, after discovering there was a reason to intervene we quickly devolved into a skulking and shooting actioner that left behind any sense of deftness in the handling.

Nevertheless, as an actioner it worked fairly well, even if playing up some major cliches. But even Archer getting the girl had a playful nod to TOS so it's difficult to mark it down too much on that account. 2.5 stars.
Yanks
Thu, Jul 14, 2016, 9:29am (UTC -6)
Thank you Shannon for saving me some typing.

Soooo.... Archer get's to kiss and alien and she likes it! A homage to TOS of I've ever seen one. :-)

I also thought they were going to more pointedly delve into the Prime Directive thing, but I'm fine they didn't. I probably would have been upset had they thrown that in our faces using this plot.

All in all a fun episode. Glad they involved Hoshi. Linda does a great job with her part here IMO.

Love it when T'Pol stunned that gal!

"ARCHER: Was that necessary?
T'POL: She was armed.
ARCHER: Let's try not to shoot anyone else while we're here, okay?
T'POL: I'll try."

lol

2.5 stars from me.
NoPrize
Thu, Sep 8, 2016, 7:18pm (UTC -6)
I felt like this episode was similar to "Thine Own Self" from TNG, but not nearly as compelling. Plus, the reveal of a secret facility hiding underneath a building where there shouldn't be technology was used in "The Adorian Incident" just two episodes prior.
The thing that stuck in my mind the most about this episode was when they took a picture, from space, of one native girl and decided "oh, we can do a little stage makeup and fit right in with these people we know nothing about". I know that they are kinda new to this exploring thing, but that's pretty dumb.
mephyve
Tue, Sep 27, 2016, 7:12am (UTC -6)
Very nice (***) I really don't understand why people have a problem with life on other M class planets developing like life on earth. Seems logical to me that given similar circumstances you'd get similar results.
NCC-1701-Z
Wed, Dec 14, 2016, 9:27pm (UTC -6)
Just realized - the Malurians are the same race that gets wiped out by Nomad in TOS "The Changeling".
Sean
Thu, Dec 15, 2016, 2:58pm (UTC -6)
So let me get this straight - Archer aggravates every hostile alien force known to exist and tells them they're humans from earth? No wonder earth is under constant attack.
skittles
Mon, Jul 17, 2017, 12:03am (UTC -6)
I have to preface this by saying that I think enterprise is the best of the star trek series. Mostly due to the acting and the more realistic dialogue.

As for this episode, I thought it was about average for the series. But it was most certainly a precursor of the prime directive. Many of enterprise's episodes were about it, but not explicitly, and I think this would go down in Archer's logs as one of the reasons to have the prime directive. Or at least the way they handled it in the show.

I don't think Picard would have had a problem trying to get rid of the alien on the planet, but not by blatantly telling someone there that they are aliens, but that is only another example of us humans learning to interact with other species. Archer is the first and is basically making it up as he goes along remember.

I give it 2 1/2 stars.
Joe
Wed, Aug 23, 2017, 6:04am (UTC -6)
This episode would make it seem that Star Trek's production values have not progressed in 50 years. The crew land on a planet full of 'aliens' who walk, talk, dress, look and live exactly like humans, who drink tea and go to the market and live in nice villages with cobbled streets and houses with doors and windows. In fact, other than two budget-friendly bumps on the natives' foreheads, the planet overall is indistinguishable from Earth.

Coupled with a clumsy and awkward romance theme, this is a really lazy and uninspired installment. A handful of shows in, I'm really warming to the 'earthiness' of the characters. It seems to be the lackluster stories that let the whole thing down.

Since this is my first watch though, I look forward to improvements.
Dave
Sat, Sep 30, 2017, 11:33am (UTC -6)
78 light years in less than half a season, with a top speed of Warp 4.5. Hmm...
H S Rivney
Sun, Oct 8, 2017, 3:25pm (UTC -6)
Something no one has mentioned - this episode was shot the week of September 10-14, 2001. Ring any bells? The actors and crew had a TERRIBLE time working during the 9-11-01 aftermath. Any criticism of the actors should be suspended in totality for this episode.
That aside, I'm fond of this episode but it does have several areas that could be improved:

1) The aliens should have been a LITTLE less humanoid. The parallels are too convenient, but that happens a lot in Trek. They've only got 45 minutes to tell the story so they have to take shortcuts somewhere.

2) The timing seemed off - the actual "time". They've already gone 78 light years? Maybe it should have been 28 or 38, but 78 seems wrong. The other timing: how many hours actually passes and how long is a day on that planet? Seems like Riaan's little cottage had light streaming in whether it was night or day, morning or afternoon. Did Archer hang with her all day until they went to watch the back door of the shop? Maybe that is when they had a little time to flirt or get familiar?

3) T'Pol is jealous. Really jealous. Is this the behavior of a Vulcan, even a slightly emotional one? Spock was half human and didn't make snot remarks to Kirk about his behavior with aliens. She told him to "enjoy your tea" with the venom of a rattlesnake, and I can only attribute that to the director.

4) The writing is predictable, with the exception of the Malurians turning out to be scaled under their masks. That was a cool twist. It was pretty standard, but as Trek goes, I would have liked to see something slightly different happen. Riaan's reaction to the various space age technology was unremarkable.

5) Sets were budget. You can see the wall shake when Bakula jumps up from behind a well to a doorway so he can shoot at the oil lamp, towards the end. Maybe they were just too tired to notice during the shooting - remembering 9-11.

6) Transporting the reactor from the basement to the transporter room, then re-transporting it into orbit in time for the Malurian ship to crash into it. WHAT? Just transport the thing into orbit. Why the need for a stop mid-way inside Enterprise? Ain't that a little, um, DANGEROUS?

7) transitioning at the end. The medicine to cure the people with the disease just showed up, and Archer with it. It's bothersome, again, back to the timing. What happened between destroying the reactor and the morning (?) the liquid arrives.

8) Did Archer spend more time on the planet with Riaan or go back to Enterprise? His lines from the writers were uninspiring - "you bet." I did like the inside easter egg to TOS - a little romance is part of life - indeed, unless we are all test tube babies in 2150, without sex there won't be 10 billion humans on Earth, so it's not unreasonable for Archer to feel close to Riaan if he's spent 5-6 days down there with an intelligent, attractive female, to kiss her goodbye.

This story could have been really developed much better, but I hardly blame the characters, or the cast and crew. Shannon, thanks for saving me MORE typing.
I give it 3 stars and see it for what it is - a plain wrap Trek that shows the crew how interfering might be a bad idea, as a prelude to Dear Doctor where they are asked again for HELP - the Prime Directive is part of Archer's invention. Fans need to stop slamming him for "not being Picard" and take Archer for who Archer is -the first captain of a deep space ship in Starfleet, 8 episodes in, and filmed the week of our 9-11 terrorist attack.

Submit a comment





Notify me about new comments on this page
Hide my e-mail on my post

◄ Season Index

▲Top of Page | Menu | Copyright © 1994-2017 Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved. Unauthorized duplication or distribution of any content is prohibited. This site is an independent publication and is not affiliated with or authorized by any entity or company referenced herein. See site policies.