Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Enterprise

"Rogue Planet"

**

Air date: 3/20/2002
Teleplay by Chris Black
Story by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga & Chris Black
Directed by Allan Kroeker

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"With respect, captain, I wonder if you would be so determined to find this apparition if it were a scantily clad man." — T'Pol

In brief: Well-intended but underwhelming, labored, redundant, and built on a completely illogical foundation.

"Rogue Planet" goes to great lengths to create and uncover a mystery whose solution is predictable, and whose reason for being is downright illogical. By the time the "mystery" was uncovered I was wondering why it had been allowed to be a secret in the first place, let alone a secret for so long. There's no rationale except for the fact the writers must try to entertain us with it. A few lines of dialog would clear everything up, but the guest characters — for reasons that are artificially imposed by the writers — don't divulge key information until late in the game, at which point I was wondering why they chose now to finally divulge that information. Meanwhile, the central subject of the mystery — a strange woman — intentionally creates confusion where it is not warranted.

Worse yet, this is a story that steps perilously close to being a total yawner, with the first three acts belaboring the same points repeatedly. It ends with your typical Star Trek respect-all-life moral — a reasonable message boringly conveyed. At the very least, the story is inoffensive and respects its emotional undercurrents, misguided as they may be.

The rogue planet (no star system so therefore no daylight, which begs the question — glossed over with useless pseudo-science — of how it can plausibly support so much plant life) is an always-nighttime hunting ground for a species called the Eska. They use this planet for safari purposes. Archer and his team come across three Eska (Conor O'Farrell, Eric Pierpoint, Keith Szarabajka) during their initial survey, and camp out with the hunters in the interest of cultural observation. One little character bit I appreciated was that of Lt. Reed taking an interest in the actual hunt action, for strictly tactical educational purposes, of course.

About here is where the central mystery begins. Archer starts seeing a beautiful, mysterious woman (Stephanie Niznik) who calls to him and says she "needs" him. She tells him he is not like "the others." Vanishes ominously. When Archer tells the others what he has seen, they write it off as hallucinating or dreaming. Meanwhile, Reed and the Eska go hunting and one of them is attacked with alarming swiftness and surprise, leading to eventual speculation that there's more here than meets the eye. But of course we already knew that, because if you're even remotely paying attention you know where this story is going from the moment the mysterious woman shows up.

Unfortunately, that's about all there is to "Rogue Planet." Acts two and three are drawn out and redundant, as Archer, convinced there's a mystery here that must be solved, is drawn into the forest where he again sees the woman, who has cast a strange spell upon him, and who again vanishes at the convenient time when T'Pol and Trip come near, lest they see her themselves and be convinced that Archer isn't imagining things.

The solution is that the woman is one of a race of shapeshifters indigenous to this planet. They can read minds, which is useful in defending themselves from Eska hunters who consider them to be the best hunting trophies. It's also useful in reading Archer's subconscious and predicting that he might take a moral stand against the hunters, which is why she has come to him asking for his help.

The problem is that the events of the story's construction are purely illogical if you step outside its need to create this artificial mystery. If the mysterious woman wants Archer's help, why doesn't she just ask for it and explain what she is? Why go to the trouble of speaking in riddles and ominously disappearing, prompting everyone else to think Archer is crazy? The simple answer is that because if the woman didn't create a mystery, this story would have little else to do and would be over in about 20 minutes instead of 60.

Similarly, we have the Eska writing off Archer's sightings. But they know about the shapeshifters and their abilities. Why don't they explain what they know? The obvious answer would seem to be because they know Archer would disapprove of their hunting of a sentient species — but no, because near the end of the story they lay all the cards on the table voluntarily. What makes them decide to do this, when nothing about the situation has significantly changed? This answer is also simple: because the story had 15 minutes left and it was time to uncover the mystery so we could now deal with its implications, leading Archer & Co. to help the shapeshifters by sabotaging the Eska's technology.

Aside from all the silly mystery plotting, "Rogue Planet" has a few good points. I liked the cinematography in the darkened setting. Allan Kroeker does a good job of managing space and motion on what is undoubtedly a few tiny sets. I also appreciated the sentiment behind the idea of reaching deep into Archer's subconscious and finding the image of this fictional woman, who has been in his memory since childhood and whom he hadn't thought about in years. It's an interesting idea with some nice psychological elements, employed by the plot, alas, in absolutely the wrong way.

The lesson here is in the tradition of enlightened Trek but far too derivative and obvious: Hunting sentient species is bad, and we should help those who are in need.

Perhaps another lesson to be learned here: The next time your life is in danger and you need help, go to the cops, but be sure to send them on a convoluted chase where the clues eventually lead them back to your actual problem. I'm sure they'll find the exercise a whole lot more interesting that way. Or not. Hopefully you won't be dead by the time they figure out the game you're playing.

Next week: Ferengi — just what the doctor didn't order.

Previous episode: Fusion
Next episode: Acquisition

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18 comments on this review

Straha - Sat, Sep 13, 2008 - 5:34am (USA Central)
Well, illogical or not, I for one enjoyed this episode. I was especially taken by the great atmosphere being on the dark rogue planet conveyed.
Jakob M. Mokoru - Wed, Oct 1, 2008 - 5:19am (USA Central)
Well, oh well: Enterprises Log must have been lost sometime after the events shown in the series or Kirk and McCoy are not too interested in history or exobiology because they are quite intrigued by the shapeshifter in Star Trek VI - "I thought shapeshifters were a myth!". Well, they are not, they live within months of low warp travel from earth.

I know...cheap point!
Carbetarian - Sun, Aug 22, 2010 - 5:58pm (USA Central)
@Jakob I totally agree! Why would everyone be so mystified by Odo and his origins later on in DS9 if there was a whole planet of shapeshifters in the Alpha Quadrant that Starfleet had already visited? Even if both the Bajorans and the Cardassians were totally ignorant of the first contact records of other planets, it still doesn't explain why Sisko or Bashir wouldn't have known something about Odo's background. You would really think at some point there would have been an episode like this:

Odo: I'm asking Commander Sisko for permission to go into the gamma quadrant. Dr. Morra thinks he may have found a clue to my past in some planetary ruins.

Bashir: Wait, I seem to recall reading the entire library of Captains Logs since the first warp flight one night for some light reading. It seems to me that - ah, yes. Computer, bring up the memory alpha page on changlings. You come from a scientifically improbable planet about five minutes away from here.

Odo: I've wasted my life feeling alienated for no reason.

OR:

Odo: I've come all this way, only to learn that my people aren't just a part of the dominion... They ARE the dominion!

Sisko: Wikipedia says there are also changlings on some random planet about 3 days east of here. Apparently, people hunt them.

Odo: Great, so either I'm from a planet of war mongering douches... Or a planet of pussies who live in the dark and let red neck aliens hunt them for fun. I'll just stay here, thanks.

Sorry, that comment brought out the deep space nerd in me! :)
Marco P. - Sat, Sep 18, 2010 - 3:27am (USA Central)
To summarize your review in one sentence: "neither bad nor great, and once again highlighting the lack of talent/imagination of this series' script writers."

I agree wholeheartedly.
RussS - Mon, Nov 8, 2010 - 6:23am (USA Central)
I had a hard time accepting a sunless planet with a full-on leafy jungle.

Picking hairs, maybe. And I am usually good at suspending disbelief. But it was an unnecessary, implausible setting. Why not just a regular planet? The again, TOS had countless shows like this. I just kind of expect more nowadays.

But the lady was hot. And interplanetary hunters are cool. I found the anti-hunting morality play mildly offensive. I'm not one, but I'm aware that hunters are largely conservationsists (anyone notice the turkey is not extinct?). It's dumb liberal hollywood morality stuff like this that causes so many real riffs in our country.
Cloudane - Sun, May 1, 2011 - 5:02pm (USA Central)
I couldn't suspend my disbelief either, and I'm a lot more forgiving than some (I tend to turn a blind eye to Fun With DNA for example). Green leaves, breathable atmosphere, comfortable temperature... eh? Sometimes the setting is so illogical as to be extremely distracting and detract from the story being told. This is definitely one of those cases. What was even the point of it being a rogue planet... surely they can do "creeping around in the dark" some other way.

I did like the idea of it basing itself on something it read from Archer's mind (even if I did think we were in for an homage to Red Dwarf's "Camille", and there was definitely a sense of that when she turned back into Blob) but everything else was just so half-arsed.

Still patiently waiting for something to be done really well.

Oh and it seemed like a parody of itself sometimes. Archer: "Have you ever known me to do something foolish?" - hahahaha what is this... Episode 18? Um.... about 18 times, Jonathan.
Southofreality - Wed, Oct 5, 2011 - 8:48pm (USA Central)
So they oppose hunting but in the previous episode they were eating chicken Marsala? Did the chickens commit suicide or did they just wait for them to die of old age?
Michael - Fri, Nov 11, 2011 - 12:39pm (USA Central)
So, wait: They touch down on a planet in the middle of nowhere, yet the air composition, temperature, soil rigidity and flora are all conducive to human life-support!?! Mmm, O.K.

Ah, not even 10 minutes into it and the gloves come off: We're on an anti-hunting crusade this time around. "Hunting went out of style of Earth over a hundred years ago." Sure it did. And we're all 7umus-scoffing vegetarians. You know, I used to sneer at those Tea Party nutjobs who forever ranted on about the "liberal media" and "commie Hollywood," but I'm beginning to think they have a point.

I see El Capitan clearing the path later trodden by Good Kirk Humping. THe only difference being that whereas Kirk actually got some bootie, Archer is having to content himself (no pun intended...hehehe) with wet dreams.

Altogether, a lackadaisical and deeply uninspiring show, on a par with dime-a-dozen ST: T.O.S. exploits in/with the surreal. In fact, if I closed my eyes, Archer could just as well be Kirk.

Bleh. Next.
Michael - Fri, Nov 11, 2011 - 1:05pm (USA Central)
Oh yeah, another thing. I see "Dr." Phlox had no compunction about interfering in the "survival of the fittest" order of things this time around, the way he did a few episodes back.

I guess that's because back then the point of the plot was not to peddle some politically-correct agendum.

So, what's on next week: Anti-guns, pro-choice or a reprise of the capital punishment? Funnily enough, I'm actually pretty liberal, but this kind of blatant propaganda really grates on me and actually pushes me in the opposite camp.
Nathan - Thu, Nov 17, 2011 - 12:45am (USA Central)
"So they oppose hunting but in the previous episode they were eating chicken Marsala? Did the chickens commit suicide or did they just wait for them to die of old age?"
Resequenced proteins, I believe. (And maybe they see a difference between hunting and growing on a farm; the former has the possibility of causing extinction.)
Hhhmmmm - Mon, Jan 30, 2012 - 2:33am (USA Central)
So hunting went out over a century ago? So what? Like 2040? So sometime in the next 28 years hunting is banned globally? Uh huh.

So it's perfectly ok to breed animals to eat, but no hunt them in their natural habitat.
Joseph B - Fri, Aug 10, 2012 - 6:59am (USA Central)
Still rolling my eyes at plant life without any sun whatsoever. Even assuming that they are highly-evolved alien plants, why do they look so similar to Earth flora???

Bah!!
Annie - Mon, Nov 5, 2012 - 5:29pm (USA Central)
LOL of the episode: T'Pol tells Archer he probably dreamed the woman, and he says, "It wasn't a dream! She knew my name!" My God does the writing suck.

Hated Archer's ever-sanctimonious anti-hunting lesson as well as Reed's ass-kissing. "I promise not to kill anything, sir."
Rosario - Wed, Nov 7, 2012 - 12:28am (USA Central)
I was hoping beyond hope, that the woman really was some sort of wraith that was trying to lure him off alone and drain him of whatever keeps him ticking. Then she talks to him. Now I hope she's lying, then the hunters confirm this! They read yeh mind, show yeh what yeh wanna see! But no. They went the heavy hannded anti hunting route. Could see it coming a mile away, just wishing it otherwise can't make it so.

Although I did find the idea of given the wraiths a defense kind of... neat. Would have been more interesting though if the wraiths had attacked those cornered hunters. Hopefully as something more intriguing than tentacles. Then Archer would have had some consequences to deal with - his new defenses being used to set ambushes! Oh my!

@Michael: I also noticed Phlox's eagerness to interfere in "nature's course" this time around. On a 2nd viewing 'Dear Doctor' relies way too much on the faulty science. I still think that Archer made the right decision, hell even my wife who is as left as I am right, for once agrees with me. It just makes defending that decision pretty close to impossible.
Sintek - Tue, May 21, 2013 - 2:42pm (USA Central)
I'm a sucker for any Trek episode involving a rogue planet or pulsar - my two personal favorite universal phenomena - so I enjoyed this solely on an aesthetic level. It's doubtful there would be plantlife, and watching now as they explore-- I take it back, rogue planets don't have atmospheres and they are deep cold, so how are they walking around in their uniforms? At least they got the sky of bright and abundant stars somewhat right.
Jack - Wed, Oct 1, 2014 - 7:55pm (USA Central)
From the look of the creatures you'd think they'd taste less like pork and more like escargot.
Eli - Mon, Oct 13, 2014 - 1:22am (USA Central)
I thought this episode was very creative. The aliens were interesting, the conflict was compelling, and the setting was fascinating. It seems like the episode is based on the idea of chemiosynthesis. Of course, the elaborate life on the planet is a fictional creation. Still, a very imaginative episode.
NoPoet - Wed, Nov 12, 2014 - 5:35am (USA Central)
This episode committed the cardinal sin of many Enterprise S1 and S2 episodes: it was boring! I admit, the writers did make Archer look a fool, but at least the aliens laughed at him for it. I do think Archer is a good captain, he is likeable and a keen explorer, you can't blame the character or the actor for the writers just not "getting" his character in some episodes, or for the creative team to lack any consistency or even a sense of who the characters really are. The wraith should have been a shape shifter from the Gamma Quadrant, one of "the 100", that didn't understand who or where she was, she just wanted to live in peace and isolation and made Archer swear to not file any reports about her to Starfleet. Really though, while the anti-hunting messages were heavy handed, it didn't bludgeon us around the head with it like certain episodes of Quincy would have.

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