Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Enterprise

"Precious Cargo"

zero stars

Air date: 12/11/2002
Teleplay by David A. Goodman
Story by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga
Directed by David Livingston

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Careful, man, there's a beverage here!" — The Dude, The Big Lebowski

In brief: Bad. Bad bad bad bad bad. Bad.

If a casual viewer happened to tune in this week, they'd have but one question: So, this is what passes for Star Trek these days?

I sincerely hope not. I hope the producers realized this was a dog and aired it only because, faced with a deadline, they had no choice. I hope they can one day look back and laugh at this atrocity. Laughing is not likely to happen right now, however, as UPN and Enterprise continue to face woeful days of sagging ratings and a questionable future. With an episode like this, those lousy ratings are deserved. Have the producers no respect for their audience's intelligence and, more important, the audience's desire to be entertained?

"Precious Cargo" is nothing. Zero. Zilch. A test pattern. An empty vessel. A hollow corpse. A lifeless mass. A limp body. A vapid hour. A lamentable experience. A lousy outing. A table scrap. A scrap without meat. A piece of garbage. A test of viewer endurance. Television detritus. Hoary insipidity. A road to nowhere. A road from nowhere. Utter crap. Astounding banality. Awful dreck. A dismal failure. An abomination. A self-parody. A bad self-parody. An insult to the intellect. A slap to the face.

Did I mention it was bad?

At the risk of overstating my case, I'll just say that essentially, this episode is one big, long, long, long, long cliche. This is certainly one of the longest hours of Trek ever made. And one of the dumbest. And most boring and pointless. There is literally NOTHING here that inspires thinking. The actors are deer trapped in the blinding headlights of the script, coming at them at 60 mph. Wham. Yikes — looks like this one's a DOA.

The plot rehashes elements of TOS's "Elaan of Troyius," which I'm sure was already a rehash in 1968. "Precious Cargo" is a rehash without the benefit of humor or satire. It plays its premise basically straight, as if it were actually a legitimate story. It clearly is not. It's nothing more than an assemblage of cliches.

The plot in a nutshell: Two aliens are transporting a woman in suspended animation ("Precious Cargo" — get it?). Their cover story is that they were hired to transport her in this manner. The truth is that they actually kidnapped her and are holding her for ransom. In a series of contrivances, this woman emerges from her hibernation, Trip gets on board the alien vessel and is knocked unconscious, and one alien takes off in the ship with Trip and the woman. Trip and the woman must then team up in an effort to escape the alien ship. The other alien is left behind on the Enterprise, where he is subsequently interrogated in the episode's only scene that comes close to working, but is still not nearly as clever or satisfying as it should be.

The woman is named Kaitaama and is played by Padma Lakshmi, who is very nice to look at but delivers a terrible performance. It certainly doesn't help that Kaitaama is a walking, talking cliche — a typically ultra-haughty princess who is appalled at her situation and even more appalled that she might be rescued by a lowly peasant like Trip Tucker. The ongoing "banter" between Trip and Kaitaama is downright painful to be subjected to. Like Trip, we're trapped with Kaitaama for the whole episode, and she's unbearable while also being unconvincing. I never for one moment felt like I was watching actual people, but rather artificial constructions of a hopelessly recycled, lame-brained plot.

There are scenes of Trip and Kaitaama crawling through air vents, cramming into an escape pod (tight spaces, up close and personal; har har!), and finally crash-landing and traipsing through a swamp. All of this goes on for a very long time with very bad dialog and very obviously no dramatic reason for existing whatsoever other than to fill an hour of a floundering network's bandwidth. It's utterly perfunctory and pathetic and without purpose or merit or life or entertainment value. Eventually Trip and Kaitaama get in a shouting match before they then suddenly clinch/kiss, in an oh-so-predictable scene that is so horrendous as to induce eye-rolling and groans. Watching all of this is like witnessing actors sleepwalking through an hour in a meditative trance, while production mechanically soldiers on, pulling the machine's garbage-in-garbage-out lever.

What's perhaps worst about "Precious Cargo" is that it's awful without also being funny. It's simply awful while being relentlessly boring. Okay, I did laugh when Trip punched the bad guy/alien in the face about five times, and then the alien actually looked straight at Trip and exclaimed, "Ha ha!" How ridiculous. My laughter was one of incredulity. If the alien had a mustache, he'd be twirling it while tying Kaitaama to railroad tracks.

The best thing about this episode was its ending. Not because the ending was good (it wasn't), but because it meant the show was over. Just how bad was this episode? Let me give you some details for the sake of perspective. I taped it on Wednesday and watched it on Friday, and when I queued the tape backward one hour, the counter on my VCR told me exactly how long was left in the show until it was over. "0:00" meant the end. My VCR's countdown to zero was the equivalent of Burgess Meredith in Rocky, telling me to hang in there and get through this fight.

Next week: The ship is taken over by aliens and Archer considers blowing it up. Looks like the Cliche Patrol will be on duty again.

Previous episode: Vanishing Point
Next episode: The Catwalk

Season Index

35 comments on this review

indijo - Mon, Oct 22, 2007 - 12:12pm (USA Central)
That bitch needed a slap (or a spanking). She was sexy, but the 3 Orion women in Bound were much sexier eye-candy.
Admirable Chrichton - Wed, Nov 21, 2007 - 8:42am (USA Central)
Nice to see the Kriosians choosing their royal family from "My Super Sweet Sixteen!!!"
PM - Wed, Jul 15, 2009 - 11:15am (USA Central)
Yep, this is it. The absolute bottom of the Trek barrel. Makes Threshold look like Shakespeare.
David - Tue, Aug 25, 2009 - 9:46pm (USA Central)
Not one of the better outings for Enterprise, but zero stars is a bit harsh. It wasn't a painful hour for me to endure, and I enjoyed T'Pol's bit as a Vulcan inquisitor, and seeing Padma Lakshmi here, given her subsequent TV success.
Will - Tue, Oct 13, 2009 - 11:06am (USA Central)
The teleplay for this episode was written by a future Family Guy writer which tells you all you need to know.
Elliot Wilson - Thu, Feb 18, 2010 - 7:16pm (USA Central)

@Will: Hey! I like Family Guy!
LWG - Wed, May 5, 2010 - 11:07am (USA Central)
If no one else is going to stand up for this episode, I will. I just saw it for the first time with a friend and neither of us thought it was so bad. I went in expecting legendary badness. If this is supposed to be the worst of Enterprise, it's still better than the bottom of the barrel episodes of other Trek series, such as Spock's Brain, Shades of Gray, Profit and Lace, or Threshold. It was better than the TOS episode Elaan of Troyius which it was loosely based on. The woman in this one was actually less rude than her if you can believe that and unlike that episode, Trip doesn't have to put up with her crap. It has a decent enough pacing to keep it from being painful to watch. Was this a good episode? No. Did it deserve better than zero stars? Yes.
You're spot on with most of your reviews Jammer, but I think this one was a bit harsh.
Nolan - Sat, Jun 12, 2010 - 4:31pm (USA Central)
Before this guy was a Family Guy writer, and before he was a writer for Enterprise, he wrote the Star Trek parody episode of Futurama, "Where No Fan has Gone Before" Apparently he was overjoyed to be able to write it, because he was such a fan of the original series. Something to keep in mind for his first script.
Chris - Sat, Sep 11, 2010 - 6:32am (USA Central)
I didn't find the time dragging. I quite liked the aliens of the week who were endearingly shifty and cowardly. Trineer's performance was just fine, and if Lakshmi was a bit stilted, I was prepared to put that down to her character's upbringing and the fact that she had been in stasis for several months.

One and a half to two stars from me.
Pete - Sat, Sep 25, 2010 - 11:24pm (USA Central)
So it's official - I love the episodes that get the lowest Jammer ratings. This one was big campy space fun, Buck Rogers style, and I enjoyed every second.
Marco P. - Sat, Dec 11, 2010 - 5:05am (USA Central)
What I find disturbing is not that you gave this episode zero stars Jammer (I agree with the rating), but the fact you're acting so outraged a mere one week after giving 3.5 stars to "Vanishing Point".

Both episodes are on the same level for me. At least this one's got Padma Lakshmi to look at.
Carbetarian - Sat, Dec 11, 2010 - 8:21pm (USA Central)
Good lord, Padma Lakshmi is TERRIBLE in this episode! She sounds like a robot. The episode itself isn't that bad. Ok, that's a lie. The episode itself is pretty bad too. But, wow, she's just awful! She's a beautiful girl. But, a truly painfully horrible actress. She really brought this episode from the toilet bowl to the septic tank.
Paul Smith - Mon, Feb 7, 2011 - 12:58am (USA Central)
It's not THAT bad. We're not talking Threshold here. Heck, I thought it was better than the tedious speechmaking of "Stigma".

It was at least competently executed from a plot perspective - step by step. True, nothing ground-breaking here - perhaps 1.5 stars or 2, but honestly I'd rather have watched this than a Mirror Universe episode or a Ferengi comedy episode or several other Trek staples.
Will - Mon, May 2, 2011 - 3:15am (USA Central)
@Elliot Wilson This clown also wrote Fred: The Movie...
Jeremy Short - Sun, Jul 24, 2011 - 1:29pm (USA Central)
I can't call this one zero stars, but I can't call it good either. If Padma could actually act worth a flip it'd be a lot better.
Darren - Sun, Jul 31, 2011 - 10:53pm (USA Central)
I'm quite surprised anyone is defending this episode. Lakshmi's acting was execrable, but Trineer doesn't exactly light it up, either. The rest is just all-around bad.

One thing this episode does illuminate are several themes that will become fatal hallmarks of this series:

1) Numerous episodes in which the crew must put on some kind of poorly acted and elaborate ruse to get something out of the antagonist (T'Pol's silly performance as an inquisitor here, the Ferengi episode, "Canamar", but to cite a few).

2) The consistently adolescent way in which sexuality is depicted or otherwise alluded to on this show. Like the writers are a bunch of Mt. Dew-addled 13-year-olds. I can see the pitch: "Hey, I've got an idea! Let's make them spread K-Y Jelly on each other half-naked every time they return to the ship!" It's insipid.

3) Abductions, kidnappings, and hostage situations provide the basis for the plot in seemingly every episode.

It's clear Star Trek is a money-generating franchise with all the creative strictures and stunted story-telling that that label implies. It's content to run over the same well-trod ground, but with half the brains and a quarter of the heart. And I was naive enough to think Berman and Braga would stretch their wings on their last go-round.

I did get a laugh reading about and remembering "Threshold". I remember seeing it first-run and thinking, "What the hell just happened?"
Cloudane - Sun, Sep 25, 2011 - 6:54am (USA Central)
I didn't see this as bad enough for 0 stars (leave that to some of DS9's Ferengi episodes and/or things relating to Lwaxana Troi) but yeah, pretty bad.

The second that it was known that a) The precious cargo was female and b) Trip was the one going in - it was painfully obvious where it was leading, so much that I cringed and said "oh here we go" out loud.

Trip's reputation as this series's token tart precedes him.
Jasper - Sun, Nov 6, 2011 - 8:11pm (USA Central)
I'm sor t of disappointed in you here, Jammer. This is not a review. I'm sorry. This is clearly where you very strongly dislike an episode and then try to rationalize that, with an emphasis on try.

I'm not saying that this episode is good, I'm just saying that this review isn't either. Let's disect the review:

In brief: The episode is bad.
Paragraphs 1 through 5: The episode is bad.
Paragraph 6: Reviewing
Paragraph 7: Summarizing
Paragraph 8: Some reviewing before we're at "This episode was bad" again
Paragraph 9: Mostly summarizing, but also some reviewing and some calling the episode
Paragraph 10: There was some reviewing, but more importantly, we're just calling the episode bad again
Paragraph 11: This episode is bad.

This just won't cut it as far as reviews go. You need to spend less time repeating yourself and finding new clever ways to say the same thing and instead comment on why you think the way you do about an episode.

Nathan - Sat, Nov 19, 2011 - 4:20am (USA Central)
I'm going to jump on the "it was bad but not zero stars" bandwagon. I mean, plotwise, it's no worse than the Star Wars prequels... oh wait.
NCC-1701-Z - Mon, Apr 2, 2012 - 6:43pm (USA Central)
I just have to say this is one of the funniest reviews you've ever done, Jammer. Whenever I need picking up, I just read this review. I've never seen the episode, and I don't intend to, either, once I get around to watching Enterprise.

That said, I'd say this is tied with your "Demon" review as your funniest. The runners up would be your reviews for VOY"s "The Disease", ENT's "The Xindi", and ENT's "A Night in Sickbay". (I don't intend to ever watch "Night in Sickbay" either, after reading the Agony Booth recap of it and then your review.)
Victor Leon - Tue, Jul 17, 2012 - 1:02am (USA Central)
Jammer...really? Why again was it bad? You must be a TOTAL nerd to not appreciate a little romance and fun. I admit, Enterprise episodes were pretty bad, but I actually liked this one. Watching T'Pol play bad magistrate was pretty funny, and seeing a beautiful woman like Padme was fabulous (oh yeah and I'm a gay trekker). I am watching episodes on Netflix and this has in fact become the highlight of Season 2 so far (I'm on episode 12 now). Season 2 is sucking so bad..the one I kinda liked was Carbon Creek and it was because of the pathos of it.
Also that you for reminding me of ST VOY Threshold episode, I just saw it a few weeks ago and it was terrible...again. I thought maybe it might have remembered it differently. haha
Scott from Detroit - Mon, Jul 30, 2012 - 8:22pm (USA Central)
I agree that this episode was terrible. For me it wasn't so much the cliché. The only parts that I found to be completely cliché were when their anger boiled over into romance and the "pampered" part of Kaitaama's character. Yup, it's sure believable that when two people are in a life and death survival situation that they can't even keep their pants zipped for even the first night.

What took this episode from bad to completely terrible was Padma Lakshmi. Her acting in this episode sounded like she was reading the lines for the first time and just saying the words to say them. Lakshmi reminded me of the very first Janeway that didn't work out.

As for those criticizing this review, I rather liked the review. It made me feel better about the last 43 minutes of my life. Knowing that I'm not the only one that watched this episode gives me comfort.
Brock - Thu, Aug 2, 2012 - 9:58pm (USA Central)
In ABSOLUTE agreement with Marco P. This episode and the last deserve the SAME exact rating 1 star, at least in this episode we have someone to challenge T'Pol 's utter lack of acting skill. I'm not sure who wins...it's close but I think Padma wins by a hair.
Captain Jim - Wed, Aug 8, 2012 - 9:58pm (USA Central)
I'm offended... not by the episode, by the review. I don't think I've ever seen anyone overreact so much in my life. This might not have been a gem, but it was eminently watchable and entertaining as well. Both "A Night in Sickbay" and "Acquisition" were much worse episodes and I could name several others that were no better.

Nor did I have a problem with the guest actress's acting. I think people are reacting negative to the personality of the character she plays and transferring these negative feelings to the actress instead. For shame.

I'd probably give this two stars.
duhknees - Thu, Aug 16, 2012 - 1:02pm (USA Central)
I agree, Captain. Any episode where the main characters don't end up devolving into amphibians deserves at least a star or two.
John - Wed, Sep 19, 2012 - 2:05am (USA Central)
I never bothered watching all of Enterprise.

Then, when I was considering it after a few years passed, I caught this episode.

Needless to say, I still haven't finished Enterprise.
John - Wed, Sep 19, 2012 - 2:07am (USA Central)
Excellent review though Jammer.
Tiarfe - Sat, Oct 20, 2012 - 9:08am (USA Central)
Although it was predictable with little plot I thought it was light=hearted and kind of fun to watch. I don't expect a serious episode (especially from Enterprise) each time I watch. Sometimes it is relaxing to enjoy a mindless show.

However, I keep watching this series in hopes of more profound plots.

Annie - Sun, Nov 18, 2012 - 7:46am (USA Central)
One long cliche. When I saw Padma's name in the opening credits I cringed. She is a model, not an actress.

When the First Monarch tore her dress to get into the pod I thought they might actually depart from the helpless princess trope and make her useful. Silly me! She only tore her dress so we'd see her legs. Low point of the episode was when she asked Trip if there was any food, he said, "Check the compartment right above your head," as in literally a foot above her head, and she whined, "Can't you do it?" I fell asleep with ten minutes to go but it sounds like I didn't miss anything.
mark - Sat, Feb 16, 2013 - 1:34pm (USA Central)
Yes, nearly every single step of the plot could be seen coming from a mile away, and yes, Padma Lakshmi is not a great actress. But zero stars is going way overboard. Tbe worst thing an hour of television can do is be boring, not derivative and cliched. This was derivative and cliched, but I was never bored. As another commenter mentioned, Ms. Lakshmi's stilted performance sort of works for a monarch in waiting who isn't used to talking to her inferiors, and I thought she had nice chemistry with Connor Trineer.

I also liked T'Pol's play-acting--the fact that she's willing to play along with Archer's sort of goofy plan shows that she's become more open-minded (or perhaps just a good sport) since first joining Enterprise--and I would have liked that scene to have played out a bit more. The one thing I really objected to is the ultimate in Trek cliches: the fact that Reed suddenly has to be such a lousy shot with his phase pistol in order to allow the aliens to escape.

At the end of the day this is a solid two-star episode for me--it didn't require me to use my brain but it kept me reasonably entertained, and yes, Lakshmi's performance even helped seal the deal simply because she played off of Trineer so well.
mike - Sat, Mar 9, 2013 - 9:41pm (USA Central)
Jammer is spot on. This episode is absolutely useless. It goes down in my hard-core fan history as the only episode of any Star Trek I have absolutely steadfastly refused to watch again.
Nebula Nox - Mon, Apr 15, 2013 - 9:02pm (USA Central)
Bad ... but not as bad as Threshold, which set and still maintains the threshold for the worst episode ever.

Padma is good as eye candy.
Lt. Yarko - Tue, May 14, 2013 - 12:42am (USA Central)
When are people in Enterprise who are holding hostages going to realize that you can't leave them alone for extended lengths of time? Too many episodes have used this tired pattern.
T'Paul - Fri, Aug 16, 2013 - 1:04pm (USA Central)
The "princess's" fake language was really horrible... thank god for the universal translator.

Oh for the days when trek languages were actually thought out with dictionaries and people who actually studied them... now we get people making noises in an American accent.

Odd that if she's known on hundreds of worlds we never see her people again.

Did like T'Pol as judge though.
Nancy - Fri, Sep 13, 2013 - 8:48pm (USA Central)
After seeing the vehemence of this review, I was expecting a lot worse. It's not Shakespeare ad it's certainly derivative, but I'm always a sucker for Han Solo/Princess Leia style courtship, and this definitely imitates that. Trip is more likable here than usual. The bit with "tough T'Paul" was cute. I'd give it 2.5 stars.

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