Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Enterprise

"Sleeping Dogs"

***

Air date: 1/30/2002
Written by Fred Dekker
Directed by Les Landau

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Remind me to stop trying to help people." — Archer

In brief: Some admittedly good character moments, but the story is too bland and not really about anything.

The most prevailing sense I get from "Sleeping Dogs" is that it wants to be a submarine movie, but, no, it doesn't really know what it wants. It doesn't tell much of a story; it simply documents a recycled situation, and that's not adequate.

To be fair, there's some reasonable character work in the middle of all this, particularly with young Hoshi Sato. But there's also a sense that the plot is simply rounding the usual bases. After last week's insightful "Dear Doctor," this week's "Sleeping Dogs" has almost nothing in terms of insight, and opts instead to tell a simple, watchable, pedestrian plot. It's not that I disliked it; it's that I didn't care.

If you want to see a Trek submarine story of a ship trapped in an unforgiving atmosphere, I more urgently recommend DS9's "Starship Down." At least that maintained some level of tension. "Sleeping Dogs" is too often lackadaisical in execution, which is fatal for any story like this.

The run-down. Away team takes shuttle to investigate ship adrift in gas giant's atmosphere. Team boards ship, finds out ship is Klingon. Ship's Klingon crew is unconscious and/or dying. Lone Klingon woman attacks away team, steals away team's docked shuttlepod. Away team is now trapped on Klingon ship slowly descending into atmospheric pressures that will eventually crush ship. Enterprise can't mount rescue because pressure is now too great.

So now it's time for our characters to work the problem. Like any submarine thriller, the enemy here is the clock, as the crush depth becomes nearer and nearer with every passing minute. If our away team — Hoshi, T'Pol, Reed — cannot figure out a way to power up the ship, they will perish along with it. Meanwhile, Archer attempts to work the problem back aboard the Enterprise; he captured the Klingon woman who tried to escape in the shuttlepod and he now tries to enlist her help in saving the downed Klingon vessel. Her name is Bu'Kah (Michelle C. Bonilla), and she's not particularly wanting to help, which is perhaps an understatement.

One of the annoyances of "Sleeping Dogs" is its painfully simpleminded approach to the Let's Work Together storyline of Archer reaching out to Bu'Kah. Of course she doesn't trust him. Even though it's beyond obvious that the humans are trying to help her, she maintains the standoffish You Are My Enemy rhetoric. This leads to a line that may hold more practicality than Archer may realize, as he says to Trip, "Remind me to stop trying to help people." When you try to help the Klingons, they get offended on the grounds of bruised honor.

But, of course, Archer probably should have known this, particularly after the events of "Broken Bow" and "Fight or Flight." There's a scene after his initial failed olive branch where Archer studies the Vulcan database on what's known about Klingon culture, and he learns what every Trek fan already knows — that they consider most encounters in terms of a potential conflict and that they are based on a rigid code of warrior honor. That Archer hadn't already read this material is approximately as suspect as the notion in "Silent Enemy" that the crew could be out here for months with plans and materials for installing phase cannons, yet chose to wait until their backs were against the wall to begin construction.

Back aboard the Klingon ship, Hoshi attempts to decipher the Klingon language ("Reading it is a lot harder than speaking it") in order to work the ship's controls and get the vessel up and running. This proves difficult, however, and the away team is unable to reactivate the engines. But they do figure out the weapons system. One nice character bit: When Hoshi reads a display that says "photon torpedoes," Reed, the weapons guy, perks up with immediate interest. Any character who by nature likes to blow things up is cool in my book.

A lot of the plot plays like documentary footage of three people walking around a ship and trying to work a problem. That is to say it's not a misguided story subject, but it's also not terribly interesting. Part of the appeal, I think, is supposed to emerge from the fact that our characters get their first up-close-and-personal look at the inside of a Klingon ship (the walk through the mess hall in particular is depicted with a heavy intent of Ominous Foreboding). The lighting and production design aims for "strikingly dark and mysterious" and succeeds in reaching that goal.

What's lacking is any sort of surprise or pattern of deep thought whatsoever. There are, to be fair, a couple good character moments, mostly surrounding Hoshi's attempts to get her "space legs" by accepting this away mission in the first place, which hints at actual character growth following up "Fight or Flight." The scene where T'Pol tries to calm Hoshi's agitated nerves is notable in that we see T'Pol opening up a little bit to her human crewmates, but the Vulcan calming method employed here seems a little too much like magical hypnosis left unexplained. Potentially interesting, the plot instead runs away from the moment as quickly as possible. Much like a lot of the episode, it ends up sitting idly.

In the final act, our desperate away team resorts to firing and detonating photon torpedoes and hoping the shock wave will push them upward into lower-pressured areas of the atmosphere. The tricky part is in not shaking the ship apart with the shock wave in the process. I liked how Hoshi stood up and forcefully voiced her opinions as the situation turned more desperate. The rest of the solution depends on Bu'Kah helping get the engines operational, which Archer convinces her to do in scenes of surprising banality. But then the whole conflict is forced in the first place, because Bu'Kah and the Klingons are required to be flat-out dumb to believe the Enterprise crew is responsible for their predicament, or a threat in any way.

I was left unsure as to exactly how (or even if) the Klingon crew was cured (to say nothing of why they didn't simply die in the first place). Presumably Archer gave Bu'Kah the antidote to the poison that had disabled them, but there's no scene that shows or talks about that happening. It's left a little muddled.

The icing on the cake is how the Klingon captain arrogantly threatens the Enterprise after we have just saved his ship! Archer stands his ground and threatens back (and has a far better hand), and I admit to laughing at the way the Klingon captain switches off the transmission in defeated disgust, but come on — is this necessary? The Klingons come off here as stupid ingrates and clueless thugs, which — I don't know — might be the point. I'm honestly not sure what the point is.

If there's a lesson to be learned, I wonder if it's that we shouldn't bother helping the Klingons anymore. They don't seem to deserve it, and they clearly don't want it. I hope someone reminds Archer about that in the future.

The final scene takes place in the decontamination chamber, not seen since the infamous T'Pol/Tucker rub-down scene in "Broken Bow." The decontamination chamber should be renamed the Reduced Clothing Zone, as that is its more obvious purpose. This scene is no more or less interesting or inappropriate than most scenes in "Sleeping Dogs," which methinks serves as a commentary on both the scene and the episode, if you see what I'm saying.

Next week: A follow-up to "The Andorian Incident." A test of continuity?

Previous episode: Dear Doctor
Next episode: Shadows of P'Jem

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7 comments on this review

lost4 - Fri, Jul 16, 2010 - 7:15am (USA Central)
I found it contradictory that T'pol says the Klingons "Don't call for help." and that Klingons don't use escape pods because "it would be considered an act of cowardice to abandon ship" when;

the first thing Bu'kah does is flee on the shuttle and call for help.

whatever.
Jake Taylor - Thu, Mar 10, 2011 - 3:10am (USA Central)
Is it 2 or 3 stars?
Michael - Mon, Oct 31, 2011 - 2:28pm (USA Central)
Bah, an alright show; nothing spectacular or groundbreaking though. 2.5-3 stars.

I cannot believe a race as obstinate, belligerent and primitive as the Klingons would ever have invented the wheel, never mind done anything useful with it. For them to be a warp-capable civilization is incredible. But anyway...
Captain Jim - Sat, Jul 7, 2012 - 10:20pm (USA Central)
I think Jammer was too hard on this one. I'm in agreement with Michael's rating: 2 1/2 - 3 stars. Personally, I thought the Klingons were completely in character, and I didn't think Archer's actions were really that unbelievable or off base. This episode wasn't a classic by any means, but I certainly found it enjoyable. That doesn't seem to be enough for Jammer, but it is for me.
CeeBee - Sun, Dec 23, 2012 - 7:58pm (USA Central)
The way Enterprise handles this is creepy and becomes creepier with even more episodes to come.

After the Klingonette told Archer and co that they raided the ship (according to their captain) or the outpost (according to the Klingonette - do these people read their own scripts?) and "took what they want" Archer still wants to become friends with her. Pirates! They robbed and probably killed innocent people. This is eerie. Since when does Starfleet condone piracy?

Well, we get the answer further on in the series. Nausicans can sail away pirating while a freighter defending itself is being scolded by Archer, left to its enemies.

Ferengi plunder the ship and collect women to be sold as slaves - for goodness sake - and they can waltz away like nothing happens.

In that episode about the dilithium miners the Klingons are sent away with a few fire crackers, left to terrorize other people. Maurauders, it was.

It's no surprise when you realize how the series wrote Archer. Shockwave Suliban Silik ordered to kill 3000 miners and Archer lets him go, smiling happily because Enterprise after all wasn't guilty. And 3000 families grief, knowing the murdered was set loose by Archer.

Weird to see Archer making such a fuss about a Mallurian poisoning the water on a Sid Meyer world.

Not to mention when Archer _himself_ is a victim of pirates. In Anomaly he has no problem to nearly push a guy out of the airlock. Archer and co are written like creeps and mass murderers, like in Dear Doctor. Has this guy no common decency?

The 22nd century is not a good place to live in. Especially when you meet Archer and his ilk.
NoPoet - Sat, Dec 14, 2013 - 2:21am (USA Central)
I watched this episode when it was originally shown in the UK and haven't been able to make myself watch it since. Not only was the episode boring, it was a huge missed opportunity.

This is set before the first Klingon war. While I didn't necessarily want to see another Trek turn into a long war saga - too many memories of the amazing DS9, too far from what Trek is supposed to be about - I want to see the seeds of conflict being sown, especially because it's supposed to be humans who started the war. In ENT, all Archer ever does is help the Klingons out and they act like retards about it, always trying to arrest or kill him. Archer does nothing to incite a future war or earn realistic enmity. There's too much "You are my enemy, prepare to die!" which came in during Voyager and never seemed to go away.

Sleeping Dogs is a wasted opportunity on so many levels. We don't actually see the interiors of alien ships very often - we've had bridge shots of Romulan vessels, a couple of Cardassian corridors and a number of locations aboard a Klingon bird of prey - this was a chance to see a new generation exploring something that would be vaguely familiar to us but more primitive than that seen in DS9 and TNG.

Not to mention the massive hole at the centre of this episode, which is humans and Klingons having to work together to solve a common problem, or alternatively the seeds of future war being sown. I thought the Klingons acted like prats in this episode.
Alex - Fri, May 16, 2014 - 11:18pm (USA Central)
As Jammer mentioned, this episode lacks urgency. The away team has 30 minutes before they are crushed to death, meanwhile Archer and Tucker are casually discussing Klingon psychology. And the Klingon reinforcements are promised to arrive at any moment, but their arrival never challenges the timeframe of the rescue.

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