Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Enterprise

"The Seventh"

***

Air date: 11/6/2002
Written by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga
Directed by David Livingston

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"I'm not certain what this means, but the admiral asked me to inform you that, 'Cal beat Stanford 7 to 3.'"
"I'll be sure to tell him."
"Tell who?"
"Um, I'm afraid it's ... confidential."

— Conversation between perplexed Vulcan captain and Enterprise Acting Captain Trip Tucker

In brief: Some anomalies, but reasonably engrossing and well acted overall.

Deep in the recesses of T'Pol's mind lies a dormant, repressed memory of a disturbing and volatile nature. T'Pol doesn't know it's there, but it's there nonetheless, and in the course of "The Seventh," it will grab her, shake her, and leave her reeling.

Seventeen years ago, she was an operative for the Vulcan Ministry of Security. She was specifically trained for an assignment to track down and capture seven Vulcan fugitives — undercover agents who were accused of joining the corruption of a world government they were supposed to be investigating. (T'Pol remembers tracking only six of the seven fugitives, but therein lies the mysterious crux of the issue.) While on her mission, something happened, and the last of her targets, a surgically altered Vulcan named Menos (the always reliable Bruce Davison) escaped, never to be heard from again ... or rather, until 17 years later.

T'Pol receives a message from the Vulcan High Command telling her that Menos has been spotted on a remote world near Enterprise's current position, and that he's smuggling synthetic biotoxins that can be used for weapons. T'Pol is dispatched on a secret mission to finish the job she started 17 years ago. Only Archer and Mayweather, who accompany her in a shuttlepod, know the details of the mission. Trip is left in command of the Enterprise, which is idled in orbit of a planet elsewhere in the solar system.

"The Seventh" is clearly in the spirit of what on Voyager I called the "Borg psychological thriller." Those episodes — "The Raven," "One," "Infinite Regress," "The Voyager Conspiracy" — were about what happened as a result of a situation colliding head-on with the unique properties of Seven of Nine's Borgified brain. Those shows usually had Seven deeply troubled or going berserk over something that mainly existed in her mind. Now, with "The Seventh," we have a similar situation in T'Pol's head, a result of unique Vulcan mental disciplines inappropriately applied.

Jolene Blalock, whom I've criticized lately, turns in one of her best performances to date in "The Seventh." Blalock, I suspect, just doesn't have the "Vulcan thing" down to my satisfaction; something about it sometimes feels stilted and forced. I also suspect the writing for T'Pol often lacks a certain spark. But given an opportunity to show the cracks in her disciplined Vulcan control, Blalock — and the writing for her character — becomes much more engaging. You can put me in the camp that argues in favor of more emotional issues for T'Pol to deal with; I'm less interested in the monotone routine.

Coming off the heels of the puerile "Night in Sickbay" and boring test-pattern-like "Marauders," "The Seventh" is a pleasant relief that returns to the characters and tells a good, solid story. Menos, when we encounter him, is a character we respond to: We're not sure whether he's telling the truth or inventing self-serving lies, but we're involved either way. He says he's not a smuggler as the Vulcan government claims, but merely a target of a probe that wants all their former agents recalled at any cost. Bruce Davison is a perfect choice for this sort of role, because he's an actor who is equally believable as an innocent victim or a play-acting villain. He effectively wins our sympathy even as we're wondering how much of Menos' story is fabricated.

Going head-to-head with Menos is T'Pol, whose repressed memory is a ticking time bomb to an emotional meltdown. Without overreaching, Blalock is able to suggest a percolating emotional volatility beneath the surface that T'Pol is trying with all her might to suppress, with little success. She regards Menos with an icy glare of contempt that Blalock excels in selling, and as her repressed memory creeps its way into her conscious mind, T'Pol seems vulnerable and on the verge of a breakdown. The performance is right on the mark, and I believed it.

The repressed memory involves another of T'Pol's mission targets, Menos' partner Jossen, whom she killed when he drew a weapon on her. Unable to cope with having taken a life, T'Pol underwent an obsolete Vulcan mental ritual to repress the memory of the killing along with her emotions of it. Tracking Menos now has brought the repressed memory back to her consciousness. The episode uses briefly inserted flashback images — jarring and visually effective — to hint at and ultimately play out for the audience the 17-year-old incident involving Jossen's death.

Menos, observant and opportunistic, tries to use T'Pol's obviously emerging weakness to his advantage, playing upon her guilt. He paints Jossen as an innocent wrongly accused by the Vulcans and dead at T'Pol's hands because of it. Menos pleads his case by saying he doesn't want to be doomed to walk the same path. Some initial evidence suggests that perhaps Menos is even telling the truth, which sends T'Pol into a whirlpool of self-doubt involving her past and present actions. But as Archer notes, the Vulcans sent T'Pol on this mission to capture Menos, not determine his guilt or innocence.

I liked the dynamic between Archer and T'Pol; it's right where it should be — featuring a bond of growing trust, respect, and friendship between the captain and first officer. When T'Pol is thrown into chaos by the psychological turmoil, Archer is there to help guide her in the right direction. Indeed, it's a downright shame that "A Night in Sickbay" had to play moronic games involving "sexual tension" and hint at a romantic subtext, because I found myself waiting here for the other shoe to drop. Thankfully, it never does; such subtexts are nowhere to be seen. Sanity has apparently prevailed.

As a production, there's plenty to recommend in "The Seventh." The station where all this takes place — essentially a truck stop for starships — is set on a snowy alien world that provides some appealing visual flair. The station's tavern has a wooden motif that gives the episode a sort of Western-wilderness atmosphere that is refreshingly non-Trek. I also liked the fiery action sequence when Menos sets the tavern ablaze.

Of course, there are some details I found a little bit perplexing, like the whole need for all the Vulcan cloak-and-dagger secrecy. T'Pol brings Archer and Mayweather into this plot reluctantly, while the rest of the crew is left completely in the dark. This is presumably because the Vulcans don't want to broadcast their role in infiltrating off-world government corruption, but I didn't quite understand why Archer couldn't give Trip so much as a hint about this mission since, as Trip points out, details would be useful in the event of an emergency.

Also, showing Trip in command proves to be a bit of a mixed bag. It's played for some light, understated comedy that's fairly amiable, but from what we're shown, Trip is indecisive to a fault, forever telling people, "I'll get back to you." It doesn't speak well for his leadership abilities that he can't give anyone a straight answer so they can do their jobs. Considering he's in command of engineering and third-in-command on the ship, I find it a little hard to swallow that this is how he would actually approach command, whether the ship is in an idle situation or not.

And then, of course, I must again point out this series' tendency to treat Mayweather as a cipher, even when he's in the middle of the story's action. Archer orders him around with little in terms of respect (such lines as "Get back over there" and "Go back to the cockpit, Travis" are delivered surprisingly coldly). Also, many scenes are shot as if consciously trying to minimize Mayweather's presence in the frame, as if he's not worth the camera's attention. It's downright odd. What gives?

I also wonder about the notion of the trained Vulcan elite in the Ministry of Security who are yet somehow unable to cope with the prospect they may have to take a life in the course of their duty. (And if it's such a problem, why didn't T'Pol use the stun setting when firing on Jossen? After all, she uses the stun setting to capture Menos here.)

Despite these qualms, I liked the net result. As a show where T'Pol is going up against her own psychological terror as well as Menos' scheming, "The Seventh" gets the job done. A final scene suggests that T'Pol will be deeply affected by reacquiring the repressed memories; she looks as if she's just been whacked with a sledgehammer. Blalock shows that she may be more interesting to watch when playing a character facing internal conflict in regard to her emotions than one who has everything under precise, Vulcan-like control.

Given that, I certainly wouldn't mind seeing the troubled side of our resident Vulcan surfacing more often.

Next week: Our newest Trekkian cast does their rendition of "A Piece of the Action."

Previous episode: Marauders
Next episode: The Communicator

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13 comments on this review

indijo - Thu, Jan 24, 2008 - 3:11pm (USA Central)
Too much of the plot was based upon the idea that T'Pol wasn't smart enough to use the stun-setting. That ruined it for me.
TH - Thu, Feb 21, 2008 - 4:08pm (USA Central)
I had a notable problem with the clich├ęd "maybe he's telling the truth and he's really a good guy" routine, only to find out that he's really the bad guy in a scene of them finding the biotoxins which came about 5 or 10 minutes after I think everyone watching had already pretty much resigned to him being evil.

I'm also not a fan of fictional characters being unwilling to shoot people. Archer asks "What are you doing" as Menos goes for the trap door on his ship... if you were a real cop, I would hope you'd have shot him BEFORE he pulled the lever that could just as well have been a weapon or trap. Especially if you have the benefit of a stun setting.
Joe Menta - Wed, Nov 18, 2009 - 3:32pm (USA Central)
The couple of times Archer yelled at Travis occurred when he was preoccupied with intense conversations with T'Pol. Still, kind of rude, but it's not like he was being intentionally mean.
Pete - Fri, Sep 24, 2010 - 4:24pm (USA Central)
I think Archer kept Trip in the dark mostly out of respect for T'Pol's trust in him - it was her info to share, not his.

As for Mayweather, I think more and more the producers realized that the dude they hired to play him SUCKS. His acting is some of the worst in Trek. For example, the inane scene where he's talking to Phlox about his sports injury in "Stigma" is acting on par with my High School's production of The Music Man. So maybe they really just started trying to limit his screen time. They should have just left him to be a biological microchip in that automated space station.
RussS - Tue, Nov 9, 2010 - 3:16am (USA Central)
I found T'Pol's guilt implausible.

Guilt like her comes from executing innocent people in the heat or war, or gunning down children in Vietnam. And even then it's only some people who feel it. The reality is that most just move on. Most are just glad to be alive.

T'Pol would not feel guilt for firing on a man who was potentially drawing a weapon. For goodness sake, she was a trained elite security agent. Does the Vulcan CIA pick people who can't follow orders or are vulnerable to inner doubts?

But I guess they wanted to develop the Archer-T'Pol bond.
Jonathan - Tue, Mar 15, 2011 - 8:54pm (USA Central)
All these comments regarding plot implausability, and disbelief. Come on, we just had a Vulcan break down of a main character and one of the first major ones for T'pol. The acting was superb, and that alone made the show enjoyable.
SouthofReality - Tue, Oct 18, 2011 - 12:29pm (USA Central)
Great episode. Regarding the comments of the implausability of T'Pol not using the stun setting, we should note what the story doesn't tell us. We don't whether Jossen was reaching for a deadly weapon or not, in fact we don't really know exactly how he was killed. And also note that T'Pol's memory is not completely reliable. All we know is that T'Pol was forced to do something that put her over the deep end. Whether that action was justified or not, smart or not, the episode does not answer. I'm fine with that level of ambiguity.
Vylora - Thu, Aug 2, 2012 - 2:05am (USA Central)
This episode really did nothing for me. Definetely great acting all around except for the cipher known as Mayweather. I've liked every major crewmember on every series except for this one, though I think he could have been better had he been given the chance.

Neither here nor there, this episode exemplified all that was wrong with Voyager and Enterprise...stagnation and the inability to take risks in storytelling (DS9 was very adept taking risks). I saw a lot that could have come from The Seventh but was unfortunately handed yet another slice of promising premise pizza with average fare topping.

Corny allusions aside, I would still rate this as three star. If only for the acting and the premise. But I still somehow feel disappointed.
Heath - Tue, Sep 11, 2012 - 12:39pm (USA Central)
T'Pol was chasing a couple guys in the woods, killed one in self defense, and instead of approaching it with cold logic - you know, since she's a VULCAN and that's one of the defining characteristics of Vulcans - she had a mental breakdown and had to have her memory repressed. So now the Vulcans send this mentally unstable T'Pol to capture the guy that got away. Because she did so well with that mission the first time. Wow, those guys are smart. And once again all her Vulcan emotion suppressing techniques go out the window and she becomes a basket case and starts acting dumber than normal.

Wouldn't it have been more meaningful if the guy she was chasing was telling the truth the whole time? It would have reinforced what they've been setting up with Vulcans being so imperfect and devious (remember the spy array hidden in a temple)? It would have made a much better story if her memories were repressed because she discovered the truth about the fugitives and killed an innocent man at the order of the Vulcan High Command. But no. The monkeys writing this show wouldn't know a plot twist, even a simple one like that, if it bit them in the rear.
SamDS - Tue, Nov 13, 2012 - 5:49pm (USA Central)
i know this is several years late, but why is a near-emotionless woman freaking out over killing someone? it was calataral of the mission.
Rosario - Thu, Nov 15, 2012 - 12:00pm (USA Central)
T'Pol is actually a human female with makeup on and cosmetic Vulcan ears. Her character growth comes at the expense of over 25 years of Vulcan growth. That is unacceptable and should be considered right alongside her personal gains. Star Trek has its own history and a ;arge part of it is human/vulcan interaction. The writers of this show have set their sights on Vulcans for some unknown reason and this Trek geek does not appreciate anything that stems from this ridiculous writing choice.
John the younger - Tue, Dec 11, 2012 - 9:15am (USA Central)
I would also rate this as pretty ordinary. About 2 stars, max.

Berman/Braga trying to do Behr/Moore and failing miserably.
mark - Wed, Feb 13, 2013 - 8:39am (USA Central)
Why would a trained Vulcan security agent feel such debilitating guilt over taking a life in the line of duty? Isn't that part of a security agent's job? And what about the fact that she was only firing in self-defense? And why didn't she use the stun setting? All of this renders the story's main point completely implausible, and sinks the episode for me. One star.

And although I liked the actor who played Menos and i thought his performance was effective at keeping us guessing, there was nothing at all about him or his performance that said "Vulcan".

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