Star Trek: Enterprise
Air date: 10/1/2003
Teleplay by Paul Brown and Brent V. Freidman
Story by Brent V. Freidman and Chris Black
Directed by Mike Vejar
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
"Some of our calculations may have been slightly off." — T'Pol after the lab blows up
In brief: Plot pieces set in motion reasonably, but there's still something missing here.
The general sense in "Rajiin" hints that the writers — at least for this week — envision the Xindi storyline arc as the perfect canvas for a comic-book space opera. This is an episode far better than "Extinction," not nearly as good as "Anomaly," and probably about on the level of "The Xindi." Already, I think, I am beginning to sense what "average" will look like in the Delphic Expanse.
If "Rajiin" has a strength — and it does — it's that it indicates that the Xindi arc is at least moving in some sort of a direction. Its drawback is that even while it manipulates characters, action, and plot pieces, it nevertheless feels kind of empty. The people do not have any chance to emerge as defined characters in the process of running around the ship. Sure, we have Archer being Deadly Serious as has been the case so far this season, but there's no take on the fact that he's so serious. He just is.
The main problem, I think, is that the principal villains, for the moment, are not invested with enough depth to come across as anything more than a run-of-the-mill super-threat. We see them in their roundtable meetings, and we even see how they disagree with one another, but we don't understand exactly what's going on here or why. For now, at least, the problem is one of motivation: The Xindi do not have one. Why must they destroy Earth, and why are they so urgent about it?
The one motive that we were supplied courtesy of Future Guy — that humanity would allegedly destroy the Xindi homeworld 400 years in the future — was seemingly quickly debased in "The Xindi." Consequently, we're left with no motivation for these guys. They seem to think it's awfully important that the Enterprise be stopped and that humanity be wiped from existence. Assuming that this is not because they are Pure Evil, why are they going to all the trouble? This might be a mystery to be solved with some interest further down the road, but the flip side of that coin is that for now we have conflict that rings pretty hollow. It is essentially Us vs. Them. Them are the Evildoers, and Us are the Good Guys. Us vs. Them doesn't make for particularly interesting drama. It kind of just sits there waiting around for the action to get rolling. "Rajiin" as a result is lacking.
But I'm getting ahead of myself, because I haven't even brought up the title character, Rajiin. Rajiin is, in what the trailers were so helpful in explaining, a "beautiful alien sex slave" exclamation mark. (Leave it to UPN trailers to blow things out of proportion in order to appeal to the base.) Archer and the away team rescue Rajiin (Nikita Ager) from her owner in a western-like spaceport while tracking down a contact who has the formula for Trellium-D, the substance that we learned in "Anomaly" can insulate starships from the dangerous Delphic Expanse anomalies. There's a barter sequence here that's mildly amusing, in which Trip trades black pepper and other assorted seasonings for the Trellium-D formula. "On my planet, wars were fought over these," he explains. The quirky alien trader (Dell Yount) sneezes and cackles with enthusiasm.
Archer takes Rajiin back to the Enterprise where alarms in most audience members are probably sounding by now, even if they haven't seen the trailers. Is Rajiin the innocent slave-since-childhood she claims to be? Will Enterprise win an Emmy for writing?
Rajiin has a mental power that is hinted at but never quite explained, and as a function of story, that kinda works. There's a scene where she seduces Archer, but the seduction is not quite what it seems to be, and indeed the scene gives us the distinct impression that it might not have really happened at all. At the very least, Archer can't be sure; it's like he lost a few crucial seconds of time. Rajiin, meanwhile, seems to be stealing something directly from Archer's body. What, exactly? We find out at the end, and the way this pays off is actually kind of clever.
Rajiin is really an operative employed by the Xindi reptilian species, who have on their own accord, without the approval of the rest of the Xindi council, sent Rajiin to get bio-scans of the humans so they can begin work on a bio-weapon (the show's opening moments show a frustrated scientist who explains that it will take quite some time to complete the orbital weapon that can destroy Earth; the bio-weapon is proposed as an alternative).
Once Rajiin's true motives are discovered, she's chased down and thrown into the brig and questioned about the Xindi by Archer, who this time opts not to resort to methods of interrogation involving the airlock, perhaps because Rajiin is more sympathetic and cooperative than the surly prisoner in "Anomaly," but probably because the audience would quickly turn on Archer if he were to use similar tactics on a woman.
About this time, two Xindi ships appear and their boarding party storms the Enterprise to retrieve Rajiin, leading to a final act of action that makes it a priority to establish a slightly different take on hand-held weapons. The action is competently staged, if a little hokey at times. However, I find myself somewhat annoyed by the fact that the crew casualties are not mentioned in dialog. The thing about sci-fi violence is that we don't know exactly where we stand when someone gets hit by an energy beam. Are they dead? Knocked out? What? I'm pretty sure the first crew fatality on this series came just a couple weeks ago, in "Anomaly," and I'm at least hoping that the increased action-oriented drive of this season doesn't turn our crew into action props. So if someone gets killed, I'd at least like an acknowledgement. We don't get that here. I guess I'll just have to assume they're dead.
(Speaking of sci-fi violence, it occurred to me that maybe the Enterprise crew should keep around some conventional projectile firearms. Sure, a Xindi can absorb an energy beam with his sci-fi suit or whatever, but can he take a bullet? I'd be interested in knowing.)
As a piece of the Xindi arc, "Rajiin" is reassuring in that it follows some pieces that were placed before it and sets up pieces that can be built upon later. The search for and subsequent attempts for synthesizing Trellium-D grow nicely from "Anomaly," and the way the Xindi ships escape into a vortex is the same visual as when the Xindi probe emerged from nowhere in "The Expanse." These are decent continuity touches.
On the character front (albeit not especially significant), there's follow-up on the issue of T'Pol's treatment sessions for Trip. As much as I hated the transparent and spectacularly unbelievable presentation of their first session in "The Xindi," I'm certainly not going to keep harping on the point. In fact, now that the writers have settled down a bit and made these scenes somewhat more plausible, I won't really object, so long as it doesn't stagnate for the next six months. There's a relevant point brought up here, about the fact that "people are talking" about all the time Trip spends in T'Pol's quarters. This I can believe. It acknowledges the sexual undercurrents that the writers so completely sidestepped in "The Xindi" (and why, consequently, the scene came off as an utter crock).
Several people have offered me their prediction that the bio-weapon story thread will inevitably tie back to last week's misguided "Extinction." The logic goes like this: Since there's Phlox's early dialog about Archer having not completely finished staving off all the alien DNA-mutation effects, and because Rajiin took her bio-readings from Archer, T'Pol, and Sato — all of whom (conveniently) were infected by the alien virus — the bio-weapon will be based on those readings and will not work on normal humans. I applaud the foresight and audience predictions, but I don't think I would applaud the idea itself if it turns out to happen that way. It strikes me as pretty anticlimactic to base the solution to a major plot line on an arbitrary sci-fi technicality and not on something more substantially dramatic. So put me on the list of people who would rather wait and see rather than predict how this scenario will play out.
In terms of advancing the bigger picture, "Rajiin" isn't bad, but nor is it all that interesting or enlightening. The Xindi council scenes are going to get really old really fast if the writers can't come up with dialog that's better than the cardboard comic-book lines ominously uttered here. It seems to me the writers have slightly miscalculated regarding the Xindi by showing us either too much of them or not enough. They've showed too much for the Xindi to remain a mystery, and they've not shown enough for the Xindi to be villains we can understand or care about, except in the most simpleminded ways. At the moment, they simply exist as a threat. I'd prefer an interesting threat. It's quite possible we will still get that.
Until then, shows like "Rajiin" are simply average space-opera adventures. The characters march around, the action is in the spirit of comic books, and the dialog moves us along without getting us too wrapped up in anything or anybody. There's nothing really wrong with that. Nothing great about it either.
Next week: Vulcan girls gone wild!