Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Enterprise

"Extinction"

*1/2

Air date: 9/24/2003
Written by Andre Bormanis
Directed by LeVar Burton

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"You never say please. You never say thank you."
"Please don't be an idiot. Thank you."

— Bayliss and Pembleton

In brief: I think not.

When Archer, Reed, and Sato get transformed into savages and start jumping around like the guys from the Tim Burton version of Planet of the Apes, there's only one course of action: Remind yourself that at least a new Law & Order will be on later tonight.

As it happens, this episode coincides with the renaming of this series, which now includes the franchise branding. The new name is apparently Star Trek: Voyager.

"Extinction" plays like a bad Voyager episode. There's nothing about this episode that couldn't or wouldn't have happened (or, rather, can't or won't happen in the future 24th century; wink, nudge!) in the Delta Quadrant, as opposed to the Delphic Expanse. More to the point, this is an episode that borrows so much from the Voyager bag-o-tricks that it more resembles bad-tier Voyager than bad-tier Enterprise. Three episodes into season three, coming off the impressive and focused "Anomaly," this is not what I had in mind. Writer Andre Bormanis, one of the few Voyager veterans who came to Enterprise, plunders the archives of his previous series. Unfortunately, he plunders mostly unsuccessful material.

Most notably, we have Fun With DNA [TM], a trademark I get to dust off after years of non-use (an archive search shows that season four of Voyager was the last time). Voyager practically reinvented Fun With DNA by way of the infamous "Threshold," and DNA trickery persisted in episodes well after that one.

The trick assumes that a person's DNA can be "rewritten," like a hard drive, or perhaps a rewritable CD, and that can thus transform them into something else — often anything else. Another infamous example is TNG's "Genesis," in which the entire crew devolved into creatures (or, as the episode so brilliantly put it, "de-evolved"). In "Extinction," an away team shuttles down to a jungle planet and is infected by a virus that rewrites their DNA and turns them into aliens. For all dramatic purposes of the show's first half, however, the virus "de-evolves" them: Archer, Reed, and Sato become instinct-driven savages who run around in a confused frenzy. T'Pol, however, is not severely affected by the virus because she has Plot-Driven Vulcan Immunity, which, of course, is the key to the eventual cure that will ultimately reverse this unfortunate condition. (Curing someone's rewritten DNA is apparently like formatting a hard drive and then restoring the original person from backup DNA, replete with their original memories, etc., etc.)

As you can probably guess, I never bought into the whole Fun With DNA thing, and I'm not going to start now. DNA is not magic. If your DNA is being rewritten, I don't expect you to survive the process, especially as new bones grow under your face. I also find it amusing that the episode initially attributes radically altered biology to the Weird Properties of the Delphic Expanse (as if Voyager ever needed Weird Properties to have Fun With DNA).

The problem with this episode isn't simply that the sci-fi is more "fi" than "sci"; the bigger problem is that the episode's alien oddities are too clunky and boring for too long. Call it a bias, but I just don't find much entertainment value in watching savages run around while T'Pol tries to get through to them. Once the Universal Translator allows them all to communicate, we then must sit through tedious scenes where T'Pol gradually tries to gain their trust. These scenes and their lame dialog are DOA. Basically, the mutated away team wants to go to a place called Urquat. But not before cracking open eggs filled with grubs and fighting over them. (The goofy savagery coexists with their ability to think on a higher plane, and it has no consistent foundation. It's random, disjointed, and silly, with dialog in one scene and then animal instincts taking over in the next.)

About here is where a decontamination vessel (from a stock Voyager-type alien race) arrives. The decon commander (Roger Cross), informs Trip aboard the Enterprise that the planet has been under strict quarantine for decades because of this nasty virus, which aims to biologically mutate people into Loque'eque, the race that created the virus centuries ago. Why did they create it? Because the Loque'eque went sterile and had no other way of reproducing. Ain't science grand: They can create a virus capable of mutating multiple alien species into Loque'eque, and yet they can't find the cure to their own sterility. In a word: Doubtful. The only other question, which the episode has no answer for (because it doesn't ask it): Where are the Loque'eque now?

The quote of the week is Trip's, about the planet's quarantine status: "It wasn't very well marked." My thoughts exactly. If this is such a dangerous world holding such a dangerous virus capable of wiping out entire populations in favor of its own, why is it not surrounded by armies of blockades to prohibit curious folks like our gallant Enterprise crew from taking shuttles down to the surface? (Or, even better, why not destroy the planet or make it uninhabitable so the quarantine is unnecessary?)

From a structural standpoint, the episode also blows its central mystery by showing us certain cards at the wrong time. Consider: Mutant Archer feels drawn to a place called Urquat. So the story's central would-be mystery is finding out what Urquat, in fact, actually is. But it doesn't remain a mystery for long, because on the other end of the plot we're given the full explanation from the decon commander about how the virus makes those who are infected feel drawn to the Loque'eque's home city of Urquat. With ill-timed over-explanation, the show destroys all mystery surrounding both Mutant Archer's dream sequence (one of few good scenes of any interest) and the scene later on where the mutated away team finds the ruins of Urquat. What might possibly have been interesting and puzzling is instead painfully obvious because we're supplied all the answers from the outset. Most of the last half of the hour, consequently, becomes completely predictable.

We get the usual conflicts between the decon commander, who wants to incinerate the away team ("We're going to contain this outbreak!"), and Tucker, who needs Phlox to find a cure before the alien decon vessel opens fire on the Enterprise. Will Phlox find a cure in time? I'm on the edge of my seat here...

If only it didn't all feel so forced. Of course the decon commander is utterly against the possibility of the Enterprise looking for a cure; after all, a cure obviously doesn't exist since his people haven't found one in all the decades of dealing with the virus. And, of course, our brilliant doctor can find the cure in a few hours flat, despite having never encountered the virus before. But of course even these few hours will be too long for the decon commander to wait, because we must have our dose of forced conflict/action rather than allow the characters to listen to each other and exercise a reasonable level of patience and restraint. The cure is found and administered just in time to prevent a major incident, allowing Archer to walk onto the bridge with perfect timing. Too perfect, if you ask me.

I have a serious problem with the ending. Archer orders Phlox to save a sample of the virus, on the rationale that it is all that remains of the extinct Loque'eque that created it. Archer's logic goes something like this: The Xindi intend to destroy humanity, but while we're in the expanse looking for them, we're going to be Better Than That by not destroying all that remains of the Loque'eque, i.e., the virus that could repopulate them.

Um, excuse me?

With all due respect to your Evolved Human Sensibilities, captain, are you on freakin' crack? (1) This is not a remnant of an alien culture, it's an extremely dangerous contagion responsible for infecting tens of millions of people who had to be destroyed to prevent the total annihilation of another society. The virus might as well be the biological equivalent of a Borg scourge, assimilating everything it comes in contact with, destroying whatever existed before. (2) No character here so much as questions the morality of a race that created a virus to, yes, save their society, but at the cost of genocide to others.

And Archer wants to put it in cold storage?

I'm sorry. There comes a point where common sense must wake up and smell the coffee. This is a misguided ending to a misfire of a show.

"Extinction" on UPN, by the way, was brought to us in part by Nextel, who was at least kind enough to supply us a hilarious commercial depicting a 30-second performance of Romeo and Juliet. This is a concept, and execution, far more entertaining than anything in "Extinction" itself.

Thanks, Nextel.

Next week: Beautiful Alien Sex Slave!

Previous episode: Anomaly
Next episode: Rajiin

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26 comments on this review

robgnow - Fri, Jul 11, 2008 - 8:51pm (USA Central)
I have no problems with the basic outline of this story (I don't mind 'fun with DNA', no matter how implausible) but it is hideously boring. On the other hand, I like 'Genesis' on TNG a lot. Although, the "secondary crewman is in danger because his DNA is being rewritten" has become a bit too overused.
Brian - Fri, Aug 1, 2008 - 4:47pm (USA Central)
This is the episode that had me say "I am finished with Enterprise." Since I heard it got better, I am going to give it another shot but boy, after the very medicore second season and then this, I had had enough.
Jakob M. Mokoru - Tue, Oct 21, 2008 - 11:55am (USA Central)
Well, at least Next Gen's "Genesis" was entertaining. Picard as frightened lemur was great, as was the Barclay-Spider, the Troi-Frog and Riker-Australopithecus. It was thrilling and kinda creepy (even though the Fun-with-DNA-story IS questionable, to say the least, from scientific viewpoint.

But this episode is just...boring!
midian - Sat, Jan 17, 2009 - 3:37am (USA Central)
why does re-writing DNA make archer's hair grow?
Katie - Mon, Apr 19, 2010 - 6:24pm (USA Central)
Wow. Berman and Braga reach into their "Voyager" bag of tricks and pull out...Threshold? The show that was so unbelievably bad it's not considered canon by Trek fans? The show that can be summed up "they go so fast they turn into lizards"?

I was about to say that Enterprise had hit a new low, but then I remembered that the first season included a Ferengi episode. Oh, well.
ct - Mon, Mar 21, 2011 - 7:42am (USA Central)
For a moment, at the end, I thought that Phlox was about to destroy the contagion. Now that would have made for a good ending.

So, in the end, he saves the contagion but in Season 2 destroys the wisps?
Ken - Thu, Mar 31, 2011 - 7:37am (USA Central)
I don't think I can add much to what has been said. This episode was just horrible.

I am not a fan of the premise as a whole - it seems implausible and hokey. It reminds me of too many other Star Trek episodes I also didn't like.

It also suffers from the same problems as many Voyager episodes - all of the aliens they meet are hostile, are unwilling to walk, etc. Why is this so damn common for? And why do they show species we've never seen before? Just how many freaking species are there in Star Trek?

Anyway, it might have been interesting from a story point of view for to have the crew discover that it was the aliens that originally destroyed their race who created the virus in the first place... and so that "virus" was that race's last form of justice against their conquerors. At least it would have made the creators of the virus to be morally justified in creating it.

As it stands, taking over other people's freewill is a pretty evil thing to do, even if it does save your species from extinction. What does that say about the species that created the virus in the first place? Maybe they deserved to be extinct because they had a history of violating the rights of other species as a general rule.

I don't agree with Archer's moral reasons for keeping the virus either. If he had destroyed the virus, he wouldn't have caused the extinction of a species - somebody else was already responsible for that.

Honestly, if you value the right to life and freewill at all, you would destroy the virus immediately. After all, you took those actions under self-defense. That virus is trying to change you into something through the use of FORCE - the only way to respond to force is by using force. End of story. You can't "reason" with the virus.

As someone else had said, it would have been better if Phlox destroyed it anyway, giving the above arguments for his decision.

Ultimately, the episode was just slow and boring. The clashes with the alien race was predictable drivel like that reminded me a lot of Voyager, which is NOT a good thing.
Grumpy - Sun, Apr 10, 2011 - 12:39am (USA Central)
TNG's "Genesis"? What about TNG's "Identity Crisis"?? In which this episode's director had his DNA rewritten to become a new species.

For that matter, "Extinction" could be matched thematically (if not in terms of quality) with other Trek episodes: TNG's "The Inner Light" and "Masks," DS9's "Dramatis Personae," VOY's "Remember" and "Favorite Son" all share the motif of another culture imposing itself on our heroes. TNG's "Condundrum" might also fit into this category, as could ENT's "Unexpected. Oddly, this theme was not explored much in TOS; rather, the opposite was more often the case, when Earth culture overwhelmed others in "A Piece of the Action" or "Patterns of Force" (and, more abstractly, in TNG's "I, Borg").

I agree with Ken's point that the race was already extinct; their culture could only survive by destroying others (although why they would make their virus so easily communicable, I don't know). However, there is another perfectly logical reason to keep the virus in storage: as a weapon against the Xindi! As I make my way through ENT on DVD, I'll watch to see if this virus returns. However, from reading Jammer's reviews at the time, I don't recall the point being raised.
Marco P. - Fri, Apr 15, 2011 - 7:21am (USA Central)
"With all due respect to your Evolved Human Sensibilities, captain, are you on freakin' crack?"

Surprise surprise, Archer's moral compass is kaputt. "Dear Doctor" anyone?
Jasper - Tue, Nov 8, 2011 - 12:20pm (USA Central)
About storing the virus and Archer's reasons to do so: to me, it felt like this virus was actually kept aboard as a weapon. Most definitely by the writers of the episode (actually, I wouldn't be surprised if that was the sole reason for having this episode at all, but I haven't see any further than this yet, so I can't tell).

However, it also feels like it was more than just the writers. In my opinion, the reason Archer was giving for keeping it around was just him rationalizing the thing, be it consciously or subconsciously.


And actually, that in my eyes makes it much more of a dark Star Trek episode than the recent episodes have been, in which we weren't shown dark Star Trek, but what the Vulcans were afraid we would be.
Scott of Detroit - Thu, Aug 16, 2012 - 9:27pm (USA Central)
Wow, this episode was bad. At first it was a little interesting trying to figure out why those dudes were torching the people. At first I thought it was going to be another "ENT: Rouge Planet" episode.

As soon as the away team started to transform I immediately, and literally picture a big red "RESET" button on the TV screen that they were going to press at the very end.

The main characters always have to live, so when you do episodes like this where we know what the ending will look like, it's important for it to have interesting dialogue. However, this episode was so boring.

First off, I agree with Jammer. I don't buy into the "DNA-Rewrite". First off, you wouldn't survive. Secondly, even if it were possible, it would not happen so quickly. Thirdly, if it was to happen so quickly they would need to eat like crazy to generate the energy for their bodies to do all that transforming,

I found the ending where Archer magically storms on the bridge when just 40 seconds ago he was a weird alien to be totally bogus. I usually only roll my eyes at the T'Pol Hot Bod[TM] scenes, but this one managed to get one from me.

Also, Archer wouldn't let Phlox destroy the "last remains" of the alien race. I simply don't get it, is there not a whole %$^#ing planet of virus still left? What does one vial matter?

I really thought Archer was going to tell Phlox to save the virus so he could use it on the Xindi if negotiations didn't work, but that would have been too evil for any Trek captain to save a genocidal biological weapon for the purpose of using it. However, if you want to keep a genocidal biological weapon on your ship for the hell of it, that makes perfect sense!

1.5 stars was generous. I give it 1-star tops.
duhknees - Thu, Aug 23, 2012 - 3:46pm (USA Central)
I've been trying to get the rest of my family to watch the ST series with me, touting the ideals, acting, action, and technical effects. Then an episode like this comes along. I'm embarrassed to be watching it, for me and for the actors.
Cloudane - Fri, Nov 23, 2012 - 6:22pm (USA Central)
Hah.... Threshold: Enterprise Edition. Oh dear oh dear oh dear. Just after the Anti-Trek episode, too.

This season is starting to look like "for hardened fans / completionists only". Hopefully it improved.

It was entertaining for a bit but got very old and very silly. Classic "hard headed aliens" too bone-headed to sort out a cure instead of frying everything. Surely a scrapped Voyager episode.
DG - Tue, Dec 11, 2012 - 6:01am (USA Central)
Thank you for comparing it to Voyager.

Imagining TNG suffering from this garbage was searing my mental eyeballs.

Voyager it would actually be funny, as in comedic, and it wouldn't be hard to pull off. Imagine Ape-Tuvok and Ape-Neelix interacting on instinct only, or Ape-B'lanna trying to whack something while Ape-Paris follows her around eating her ticks is *funny*.

This... this starts out just cringeworthy. It gets... tolerable, but Voyager would have been better.
DG - Tue, Dec 11, 2012 - 6:06am (USA Central)
Oops, hit enter too soon.

When I said "TNG suffering from this garbage", I hadn't realized "Genesis" *is* sort of this. Same concept, (mostly), on an even stupider premise (Crusher accidentally unleashes a tweaky medicine involving Barkley), and it's one of my favorite episodes!

Probably because TNG executed it well. There was suspense, concern, *threat*! (Worf is trying to eat everybody and it works!)

Imagining the excellent execution of "Genesis" combined with the mystery of Urquat could be *beautiful!*

But, of course not. We get... yick.
John the younger - Mon, Dec 31, 2012 - 1:22am (USA Central)
Dear god.

0.5 stars for the inflatable jaw gland things.
Wisq - Tue, Jan 1, 2013 - 2:03pm (USA Central)
I too was disappointed by the final scene. At the moment where he told Phlox to keep the virus, I was completely ready and eagar to hear them turn this into another "the stakes are too high for our usual ethics — we need as diverse a bag of tricks as possible, even if it means considering deploying a potentially genocidal virus".

Instead, it's just the usual "I won't commit genocide except when I do" junk. The virus didn't even give people any kind of genetic memory or contain a cultural database or anything.

If/when humanity goes extinct, I would hope that if someone created a virus so virulent that it can destroy entire cultures just so it can turn them all into lost and confused humans, that the alien cultures would be enlightened enough to say "well, cool, we've put the human genome into our database, now let's get rid of this despicable bio weapon for good".
Nebula Nox - Wed, Apr 17, 2013 - 6:08pm (USA Central)
Wow... aren't the actors embarrassed?
Elliott - Thu, May 9, 2013 - 11:36am (USA Central)
I found the final Archer/Phlox scene to be about the only redeeming feature of the episode, except, perhaps, how noticeably better the music is getting.

It's the first indication that something about this damned Xindi Arc might mean something "Trek" to the series and the franchise at large.

If memory serves, the only previous episode of the series to do this was "Dear Doctor"--every other prequel element had to do with technology or cosmic geography.

Considering what the humans have just been through with the Xindi attack, it's a good sign that, even without having got to Picard's "evolved sensibility", there are glimmers of hope for the human race scraping its way to greatness.
Lt. Yarko - Sun, May 19, 2013 - 10:08am (USA Central)
I hate the DNA change episodes too. But, what annoyed me most about this episode is that it was totally disconnected from the Xindi storyline. They start out going to the planet because their Xindi data informed them it was the last place the Xindi ship visited. But then there is no explanation given as to why the Xindi ship had been there. The entire episode is a throw-away unless somehow it plays into a future episode. I suspect it won't, however.
Dom - Tue, May 28, 2013 - 11:12pm (USA Central)
A really bad version of TNG's "Inner Light"... The idea is cool, but who thought we'd have fun watching the main actors jump around like a bunch of primitive idiots.
SQL Paul - Thu, Sep 26, 2013 - 6:39pm (USA Central)
Besides being a stupid story with poor science, the episode does nothing to further the main story arc of the season. You can safely skip the episode and miss nothing.
Jack - Tue, Nov 26, 2013 - 11:59am (USA Central)
The virus seems to work in literally seconds. The shock of the change would kill any being.
Jack - Tue, Nov 26, 2013 - 12:00pm (USA Central)
And why would the change suddenly and instantaneously make them know the native language?
Aly Edge - Fri, Jan 3, 2014 - 1:41am (USA Central)
"Silly" seems pretty spot-on for this episode, especially the whole matter of bringing to a halt the budding Xindi arc. This episode could have happened anywhere at any time, so why here is a real head-scratcher.

I will say it was interesting seeing regulars, Bakula in particular, playing aliens. I liked the visual look of the Loque'eque too.

And yes, that ending. WHAT. Is Archer hoping to find people to willingly infect themselves or something? I hadn't previously thought of the analogy to the Borg, but it's fitting. And don't these clowns believe in a natural order or somesuch? In season one's "Dear Doctor," Archer refuses to share warp technology with the Valakians, out of an apparent belief that It's Their Time to die out. So why would the Loque'eque get different treatment?

And didn't the episode state that the Loque'eque had been repopulated anyway? I recall Tucker asking why the virus was still present on the planet when the Loque'eque's numbers had been replenished. And indeed, where are they?

Messy episode. Not entirely without points of interest, so I'm in agreement with the 1.5 rating.
Captain Jim - Tue, Jan 28, 2014 - 9:53pm (USA Central)
Jammer said, "Extinction" plays like a bad Voyager episode."

LOL, that was exactly what I was thinking after watching it, before I logged on. Such a disappointment! I really enjoyed the first two episodes and then we got this clunker. :(

Nebula Nox said, "Wow... aren't the actors embarrassed?"

I was embarrassed for them.

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