Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Enterprise

"The Forgotten"

***1/2

Air date: 4/28/2004
Written by Chris Black & David A. Goodman
Directed by Levar Burton

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"The letter — how's it going?"
"I got as far as 'I regret to inform you.'"
"That's a little dry, sir."

— Taylor, Trip

In brief: More standout stuff. Has the season perhaps turned the corner?

"Azati Prime," "Damage," and now "The Forgotten" form a successful troika of episodes that represents some of Enterprise's most involving storytelling to date. Surely, in the past three shows we've seen more pure substance than in any three shows from the rest of the season. And when I say substance, I mean not just plot advancement (although there's plenty of it) but also a reasonable level of thematic relevance. I'm tempted to wonder why we had to sit through so many vapid episodes ("Extinction," "Harbinger," "Carpenter Street," "Hatchery," etc.) in order to reach this point. But I suppose when you have 24 episode slots you need to fill, there are going to be some casualties in the midst of all the setup.

On a thematic level, "The Forgotten" refers to the Enterprise's casualties (a better title might've been "The Remembered" given the point here). When the tally is finalized, the battle in "Azati Prime" has claimed 18 crew members. In a crew of less than 100, that's a significant blow.

"The Forgotten" is both commendable and necessary because it humanizes and faces up to the subject of death rather than ignoring it as a throwaway piece of action plotting. Earlier in the season I mentioned that the issue of fatalities had been rather superficially glossed over — especially considering that the first two seasons saw zero fatalities (at least as far as we were shown). You'd think the first deaths aboard Enterprise would've been something of a tragic milestone — but then maybe not considering there had already been 7 million killed in the Xindi Swath.

The episode begins with Archer giving a speech in the engine room, promising that the mission will go on in the name of those who died on Earth and also "for the 18." It's an effective way to start the show, on a solemn but determined note that follows up the past two episodes and makes this feel like a legitimate piece of an actual trilogy, with the ship going through an extended recovery.

The story's structure involves two basic threads — one regarding the nuts-and-bolts plot involving the Xindi negotiations, the other regarding a more intimate character theme. The two threads at times cross over relevantly into each other's territory. In Story A, we have Archer making the arranged rendezvous with Degra inside the cloaking field of one of the spheres. Archer's goal is to present evidence that convinces Degra that the sphere-builders are the real enemy manipulating everyone. In Story B, we have Trip coming to terms with personal loss. Archer has assigned him to write a letter to the family of Crewman Taylor, one of Trip's engineers. Trip cannot face this task, because Taylor's death reminds him of his sister Elizabeth, who died in the Xindi Swath.

Degra, along with the unnamed Xindi council member who is always flanking him (Rick Worthy), comes aboard the Enterprise, where Archer walks them both through the evidence. He shows them the Xindi reptilian corpses brought back (forward?) from Earth 2004 and put into frozen storage since then (I admit that I'd written them off as long forgotten). He shows them the bioweapon-development technology that they were using. He shows them the scans of the sphere-builder that perished aboard the Enterprise. (Degra: "Perhaps your atmosphere was toxic to him." Phlox: "I believe our universe was toxic to him.")

What I especially liked about these scenes was Archer's cold — and yet cool — response in the face of what could've been endlessly frustrating skepticism. Not convinced? Well, then, follow me into this room and take a look at this. Still skeptical? I have something else to show you over here. Scott Bakula has refined to a near-science Archer's utterly serious determination, and here plays him as a man who is going to show the Xindi what's what, is certainly not going to smile about it, but is also completely rational and calm in going about it. It's an interesting performance that keeps us right there with Archer in his attempt to let the facts speak for themselves.

Trip, however, makes things a little more personal. In a tense but respectably restrained scene, Trip confronts Degra over the mass-scale death Degra's weapon caused on Earth, including the death of his sister. It's a dramatically effective scene, not just because of what it contains but also because of what it does not contain. Trip is angry but does not lash out over the top. Archer and T'Pol both shut him down but not without a certain understanding. Degra takes his licks and then takes them to heart. There are uneasy emotions at work here, but there's also a certain amount of civil rationality that is maintained, and it makes the scene credible.

Later, there's a wonderful and subtle moment that I cherished. After Trip and Reed extinguish a fire on the hull of the ship, which leaves Reed injured, Trip finds another opportunity to lash out (again, understandably) at Degra. A disquieted Degra walks solemnly out of the room. Just before he walks through the door, he pauses for the briefest moment, as if he might say something. But he instead silently steps through the door without turning around. This is just about perfectly played. Degra, I have no doubt, wanted to express some sort of regret. But what could he possibly say that would be of any value to Trip? In this case, it's perhaps better to say nothing. (The writers have done an excellent job of humanizing Degra in the past half-dozen or so episodes, and it's no coincidence the series has been looking better during that same period.)

Trip's dilemma of writing the letter is played out explicitly in a dream sequence where he talks to the deceased Crewman Taylor (Kipleigh Brown) and explains how difficult it is for him to come up with the right words. She tells him: "Just remember me. Is that asking so much?" "Yes," he responds.

Of course, it's overly obvious that his inability to confront his sister's death is the psychological root of his inability to confront Taylor's death, but it still makes for a couple well-acted, well-directed, substantive scenes. It also supplies some welcome closure for an issue that was prevalent early in the season before being set aside.

T'Pol, meanwhile, helps console Trip, which is an appropriate choice; earlier in the episode we saw her telling Phlox that she can no longer suppress her emotions, even after her Trellium-D detox. Phlox likens her situation to that of a genie being released from its bottle. She may have to learn to live with her emotions.

I guess what I'm saying here is that "The Forgotten" tells its story with the sort of conviction that was not apparent earlier in the season. Now that we're facing crunch time, the pieces are much more easily and effectively falling into place. Degra reaches his personal turning point when the issue is forced: A reptilian ship appears and threatens to derail the Enterprise's alliance with him. Reluctantly, he agrees to team up with the Enterprise and attack the reptilians. He even destroys them to keep them from reporting the alliance and derailing the plan, which is to have Archer meet with the council and show them the evidence.

All of this is accomplished with solid and efficient storytelling, good performances, and a respectable balance of plot and character. Right now is about as optimistic as I've felt about Enterprise in as long as I can remember.

Next week: Tomorrow's Enterprise meets Today's Enterprise. (No mention of Yesterday's Enterprise.)

Previous episode: Damage
Next episode: E2

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12 comments on this review

jim gosney - Wed, Jul 29, 2009 - 7:52pm (USA Central)
If Voyager and Enterprise had written episodes consistently like this trilogy throughout their entire runs, Star Trek would probably still be on the air today.



Chris - Mon, Oct 25, 2010 - 2:40pm (USA Central)
The trilogy ending with this episode is among the best 2 hours of Star Trek in any of its incarnations. Story, pacing, direction and acting have all been superb. Trip breaking down and T'Pol comforting him affected me as much as any moment in the whole of Star Trek, particularly as it arose naturally in the story, and was not forced in any way. A vindication of the decision to devote pretty much the whole season to the Xindi arc.
Carbetarian - Thu, Dec 30, 2010 - 5:25pm (USA Central)
I cried during this one. Four stars from me!
Marco P. - Tue, May 10, 2011 - 8:17am (USA Central)
THREE good episodes in a row???? This must be some kind of a record for this show. I am almost speechless.

No fear! The inevitable traces of imperfection are still present, but there's also a lot to smile about in this episode (well, actually "The Forgotten" exudes more of a *sad* mood, but you get my point). I guess I'll start with the negative (in bullet form so as not to delve on it):

• Archer's speech, while a welcome novelty at last (the captain finally acknowledges the casualties) could have been done a lot better (see Adama's speeches on Battlestar Galactica for some REAL inspiration).
• The same can be said about Tucker's letter. Too short IMHO, although it did move me.
• When T'Pol tries to comfort Trip, why didn't she hug him or something? If she has now access to all these emotions, the writers should have embraced the opportunity. Instead they have her simply put her hand on Trip's shoulder sympathetically.
• How the Reptilian ship found Degra & Archer's rendezvous point is conveniently ignored.
• More importantly and all things considered, this episode's MAIN event isn't Archer's speech, repairs to the Enterprise, T'Pol's feelings, or Tucker's letter. It's the fact Degra has gone past the POINT OF NO RETURN!!! He attacked and destroyed a Reptilian ship! This essentially means *civil war* (that is, unless you buy the fact the ship was destroyed quickly enough, before it had a chance to alert to other Reptilian ships). This is a momentous occasion, one that Degra should have acknowledged with a lot more gravitas and solemnity.

All that aside, I agree with everything Jammer wrote. A very good outing.

I will disagree on one point though: "Has the season perhaps turned the corner"? No. Only time will tell. Optimism in this series is a luxury I cannot afford, lest it bite me in the ass (as it repeatedly has in the past) later.
Tiarfe - Sat, Oct 27, 2012 - 11:23am (USA Central)
Finally an episode where I enjoyed watching Trip. The scene with T'Pol telling her about dealing with his sister's death was the best performance I've seen from him.

BTW, the Reptilian ships are awesome in appearance.
Cloudane - Tue, Dec 4, 2012 - 2:20pm (USA Central)
Yet another of the best episodes going, in this short little "clump of greatness". Powerful, moving stuff that really had me feeling with them (despite those killed not really being people we know), and very well done. Can't argue with a word of the review or much in the way of the comments

Including that first comment, that if they'd kept to this kind of quality more consistently, Star Trek (the real one not the crappy alternate timeline reboot movie thing) would still be airing today. Very true.
Arachnea - Fri, Feb 15, 2013 - 12:55am (USA Central)
Thanks for this review and the comments. It was definitely another great outing.

I'd also like to say (To Marco P.) if you're waiting for bad episodes, don't be so surprised to get some. You can say the same for any 26 episodes show. And if you need to overanalyse each one of them to find the flaws, well, you can do that for the other series too. Yes, even in BSG ! And I disagree about the hug: the way it was shot and how the lines were delivered, I thought it was spot on.

As to what killed the franchise, I'd say it's more a sequence of events more than just Enterprise. The producers have been too avid and should have spread the series over time, with pauses. For example, having DS9 and Voyager almost at the same time was not good. Then, each show have had 7 seasons of (average) 26 episodes except for TOS (and TAS) + the movies. They gave us exploration the cow boy way, exploration in perfect circumstances, a space station and a war, a ship stranded in space and now a prequel. After a while, the stories in the same universe are bound to become redundant.

If we rewatch Trek, it's because it was good quality. Today, I'm looking for a new sci-fi show that's entertaining and makes me think. Well, if you have something in mind, feel free to share, because I find myself looking at a void... No more Farscape, BSG, B5, Firefly or Trek. Not even a Stargate. Sigh.
Nancy - Sat, Sep 21, 2013 - 10:44am (USA Central)
This trilogy was very powerful. The way it ended - "goodbye Elizabeth" and the close up on the girl's photo - brought tears to my eyes. That's a first for Enterprise. Have "nameless" crew casualties (deaths of non-regulars we've never heard of before and who have no previously established relationships with regulars) ever been dealt with this seriously in the Star Trek canon? Intense and well done!
Mahmoud - Tue, Oct 15, 2013 - 8:43pm (USA Central)
Seems like parts of the episode were made out of order, I'm fairly sure that's the only reason we see an unconscious and near-fatally injured Reed looking hale and well an act later, shouting orders out on the bridge. Also, this episode suddenly has Degra aware of the memory "game" Archer tortured him with, yet the last we knew, he had no clue as to how Archer had this mysterious knowledge of his internal conflict and family history.
John G - Fri, May 23, 2014 - 5:25pm (USA Central)
@Mahmoud: It’s implied more than once that Archer told him about that, just not on camera, in particular the scene in the lab where Degra and Archer are discussing the spheres. Hence Degra’s remark about humans and their deceptions, and Archer’s mea culpa.
Snooky - Mon, Jul 14, 2014 - 6:57pm (USA Central)
Wonderful episode in an overall excellent trilogy of episodes. I had forgotten how good Enterprise could be when it was at its best. Connor Trinneer brought me to tears (again -- Similitude was the first time.)

I also at first felt T'Pol should hug Trip, but I think having her study his face and look in his eyes had more emotional impact.

I completely understood Trip's angry comments to Degra, and while his going off wasn't diplomatic, I immediately saw how it could actually help get Degra to see the humans as people who experienced pain, pain that he was directly responsible for. And that idea did come out later from Degra himself. Well done, Trip. Well done, Degra. Well done, show.

On a less emotional note, I also enjoyed the EVA segment -- seeing how parts of the hull can be removed and what a plasma vent might look like satisfied the SF nerd in me.
Yanks - Wed, Jul 16, 2014 - 8:31am (USA Central)
What an outstanding episode!!

Little taken back about Jammer's comment.

"Has the season perhaps turned the corner?"

"Turned the corner"???? Season 3 has been a great ride, these last 3 episodes just elevate it.

Everything is well done in this episode.

Suspenseful, dramatic, realistic, tense... the ship is blown to hell, struggling to just "stay afloat"... just great stuff.

I've seen this episode probably 8 times and I still tear up when Trip is talking about his sister to T'Pol. Wow. I can only imagine losing a family member and keeping it all bottled up inside for so long. Conner's and Jolene's performances were outstanding.

Outstanding writing adding Trip having to write a letter about losing one of his team.

This trilogy is one of the finest in all of trek!

Easy 4 stars for me.

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