Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Enterprise

"Oasis"

**1/2

Air date: 4/3/2002
Teleplay by Stephen Beck
Story by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga & Stephen Beck
Directed by Jim Charleston

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Twenty-two years, captain. I've lived here for 22 years. And that ship down there may seem like nothing more than spare parts to you, but to me, it's home. I don't want to leave. I'm happy here. Comfortable." — Ezral

In brief: Pleasant but too familiar.

Part of me enjoyed the easygoing dialog and sensibilities of "Oasis," which is for the most part a quiet, well-acted outing that scores lots of points for being amicable. But then logic takes over where emotions taper off, and I see before me a story that is very obviously derivative and predictable — a Trek story that borrows generously from Trek stories that came before.

The cynic in me that wants to say "been here, done this" is beaten into quasi-acceptance by the sentimental optimist, who notes that even if this story isn't new, some of it works on an emotional plane. Which side of me wins this debate? Neither, because "Oasis" is quite simply too average for either side to get worked up about.

Probably not very useful is the episode's idea of playing much of the show as a mystery, particularly given how painfully conventional the solution ends up being. In this day and age, where major story twists are benchmarked by those found in movies like, say, The Sixth Sense or Fight Club, "Oasis" finds little of value when playing the mystery card.

The mystery is the question of a marooned crew on a crashed vessel. Before visiting this crew, Archer is handed an ominous warning by a passing trader (Tom Bergeron) who recently came in contact with them: "The, um ... crew objected," he says, before adding, mysteriously, "There wasn't anything alive."

The Enterprise away team lands on the planet to find what initially appears to be a deserted ship, before finding the crew hiding out in a room that apparently protects them from being detected by sensor sweeps. This crew says they've been stranded here for three years after crashing, unable to repair their ship. Archer offers to help, and in the process of making repairs, Trip and T'Pol come across some strange facts that indicate this crew isn't being completely forthcoming about their situation, hence the episode's air of mystery: What is this crew hiding and why? The big "shocker" comes in the form of a long-dead corpse in an escape pod orbiting the planet. It's the corpse of one of the crew members Trip has seen alive and well on the planet surface. How can that be? Are they ghosts? (Cue ominous music.)

The answer is predictable, conventional, and familiar: The crew is made up of holograms, save two survivors: Ezral (Rene Auberjonois) and his daughter Liana (Annie Werscing, whose character sometimes bears an uncanny resemblance to Kes from the early seasons of Voyager). They alone survived the crash some 20-plus years ago, when Liana was still a very young child. Ezral, unable to repair the ship to leave the planet, designed the holographic crew to become her — and his — extended family. Similar plots/themes include DS9's comparable "Shadowplay" and TNG's superior "The Survivors."

That's about all there is to the less-than-surprising plot, but what I liked about this episode was its presentation. Trip and Liana strike up a sweet, understated chemistry that reveals Trip as quite the gentleman. Such a gentleman, in fact, that I wanted to slap T'Pol around for being a needless thorn in Trip's side. She's all over his case for being friendly with Liana, and reminds him of how he got pregnant in "Unexpected" — something which I'd like to point out to T'Pol was hardly Trip's fault (unless he missed the lesson at Starfleet Academy that said, "For human males to avoid getting pregnant by Xyrillian females, you must be sure not to put your hands in a box of granules while sitting in a holographic boat").

Probably the best thing about the mystery was revealing it at the end of the third act and thus leaving the fourth act in the hands of a good deal of heartfelt dialog and human choices. Ezral turns out to be a real person instead of just a vessel for the plot. He had to make a choice — saving his daughter's life in the heat of a crisis — that indirectly caused the deaths of most of his ship's crew, his wife included. Now he just wants what's best for his daughter, and for years that has meant raising her with this virtual family — but now we suspect she's ready to move on to real life while he's content to live in this virtual past. The always-reliable Rene Auberjonois brings a wonderful authenticity to Ezral's regrets, pains, and fears in a way that really makes a difference. Where this story could've fallen victim to its own familiarity, the actors make it watchable.

Beyond that I have little to say. "Oasis" is ultimately a simple tale of human choices and with a little bit of good character study. It's a credit to the actors — especially Auberjonois — that we're invited to care. It's somewhat unfortunate that such well-delivered tones of pleasantness and classic Trekkian attitudes must play themselves out in a plot that's so obviously routine. Three acts of pedestrian "mystery" and one act of sincere sentiment add up to an episode that I wasn't sorry to be watching, but also wouldn't be breaking down any doors to see again.

Previous episode: Acquisition
Next episode: Detained

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9 comments on this review

Jakob M. Mokoru - Fri, Oct 3, 2008 - 3:20pm (USA Central)
Well, the episode is watchable, but I could imagine better uses for a guest star like René Auberjonois!
Will - Sat, Oct 30, 2010 - 6:07am (USA Central)
I have a soft spot for mysterious stories centering around ghosts and unexplained mysteries. So it's a real downer when they're handled poorly. I think if you're going to a ghost or mystery do two things:
1) Make it spooky
2) Make it watchable to hold our attention
This episode started out doing that, then dropped the ball halfway through. It wasn't as bad as the abysmal "Terra Nova", but almost.
Elihawk - Sun, Dec 5, 2010 - 2:35pm (USA Central)
I liked this episode the first time I saw it, when it was called "Shadowplay."
Cloudane - Sun, May 1, 2011 - 7:32pm (USA Central)
I can see why Auberjonois was invited, because of the obvious link to the excellent "Shadowplay" which he was very good in and seemed to enjoy himself.

But - I had the "mystery" pegged as holograms before the half-way point, specifically when they walk into the computer room with what I thought were quite holodeck-like glowy things tiled around the wall like shining beacons of hologram-ness. Others probably realised even earlier. Because of that, it suffered, I thought.

It wasn't bad though. The equivalent "Shadowplay" was very good so of course this carries some of that success with it. It's just a little too familiar and the mystery wasn't one, at least for me.

It was a bit obvious, but I liked "what if she gets sick, will you program some sort of holographic doctor?" :)
Chris NI - Sun, Apr 7, 2013 - 4:49pm (USA Central)
I'm afraid Berman and Braga deserve a good dose of criticism for this first season. They were completely out of ideas - we've had a holodeck, a Ferengi episode, a hologram episode, a "Vulcan experiences intense emotions" episode....we've seen it all before. This episode might be pleasant enough - Trip and Lianna had a nice chemistry - but it's totally forgettable.

I watched a featurette on "Shuttlepod One", and had to laugh when Braga said how they'd become tired of space battles and wanted to do more character-driven shows. Shuttlepod One is a complete exception to a season where Enterprise and the characters have been firing phasers more often than not.
Cloudane - Tue, Jan 21, 2014 - 3:42am (USA Central)
What a shame they only showed having "became tired of space battles" approximately once in the whole show's run then, heh.

More character-driven episodes would've been perfect! Especially since even by the end the most developed character is still the dog. I guess Braga and co had just become too jaded to press forward with such ideas at that point in Trek's history.
Paul - Fri, May 16, 2014 - 1:08pm (USA Central)
They missed a couple of tricks here. Why not make Ezrial or whatever his name is the ancestor of the inventor of Voyager's hologram Doctor?

Second, they must have thought this too, because I'm sure there is a knowing joke when Trip asks

'What will you do if she gets hurt? Create a holographic doctor?'.

Put those two together, it might have been good.

NoPoet - Wed, Nov 12, 2014 - 5:50am (USA Central)
If people continue to make idiotic remarks about Porthos throughout these reviews, I'm gonna have to break something. PS This episode was yet another boring one, there's just no drama in these episodes.
Capitalist - Wed, Dec 17, 2014 - 12:59pm (USA Central)
Hmm, once again Jammer misses the point of the Trip/T'Pol scene, even after bringing up the related scene from back in "Unexpected." Isn't it obvious? Everytime Trip gets involved with a woman, T'Pol gets all miffed, pissy, n snarky. :D :D

I'm watching Enterprise for the first time, so I don't know how it'll play out, but it seems clear what the writers had in mind for these two at this point.

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