Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Enterprise

"The Aenar"

**

Air date: 2/11/2005
Teleplay by Andre Bormanis
Story by Manny Coto
Directed by Mike Vejar

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"It's never been all that hard to figure out what I'm thinking." — Shran

In brief: An aimless, unsatisfying wrap-up to this inconclusive three-episode arc.

Earlier this season, we had the Augments trilogy and the Vulcan trilogy. Now comes the conclusion to ... uh, this trilogy, whatever you want to call it. "The Aenar" is a messy epilogue in a three-parter whose most significant story arc was wrapped up in last week's "United." Watching the rather aimless "Aenar," I wasn't sure what this episode was supposed to be about, and by extension, the trilogy itself lacks a concrete through-line.

I think the main problem is that the show focuses fairly heavily on the Romulans and their meddling in the affairs of others, but we never really get the sense that this show is actually about the Romulans. The Romulans are more like arbitrary placeholders to drive the plot. We learn very little about them; they're sketchy people doing bad things for half-baked reasons. And if you stop and think about their genius plot, you're left amazed by the sheer stupidity of it all.

Most disappointing is the fact there's not much to suggest that this episode contributes to the prequel agenda that has been the selling point of this season. Unlike the Vulcan trilogy, which told a mostly coherent prequel story, we're left in a vacuum here wondering if we're going to see the Romulans again. If so, I'd hope for something more substantial. If not, then that's the way it goes and I guess the notion of Romulans sneaking around is all Enterprise intends to give us. Either way, "Aenar" has mostly wasted our time.

Not that "The Aenar" is all bad. It's never unwatchable and it has its moments. There is a scene, for example, where the Romulan admiral, a former senator, explains how he was cashiered from the senate for questioning the Romulan "precept of unlimited expansion." It would seem that reasonable people who question authority are quashed. Too bad this scene is never followed up.

It turns out the pilot of the Romulan drone is actually an Aenar, one of an Andorian subspecies who are blind and have strong telepathic abilities. The Romulans' remote-controlled drone is designed to respond directly to the telepathic signals sent by this Aenar, a man named Gareb (Scott Rinker), whom the Romulans abducted from Andoria about a year ago.

Shran explains that the Aenar were considered mythical for centuries until they were officially discovered "50 years ago." Even so, very few Andorians have ever met an Aenar, who are staunch pacifists, very secretive, and live only among themselves. Oh, and they can also read minds.

Frankly, much of this strikes me as quickly concocted Civilization Lite. These two species have lived on the same planet forever and only a few decades ago realized that the other even exists. But the story gives us little reason to believe these are real cultures that live on a real world. The Enterprise travels to Andoria to recruit their own Aenar to tap into the signal and stop the drone. But once there, we don't even see Andorian society.

Andoria is represented by empty ice-tunnels which, according to Shran, "branch off for thousands of kilometers." (The cities are all underground, with access from these tunnels.) You'd think there'd be a better way than walking to traverse thousands of kilometers of treacherous ice tunnels. I for one hope they brought a map. In any case, it strikes me as great fortune that Archer and Shran happen upon the Aenar as quickly as they do. Even greater fortune that it happens so quickly after Shran has accidentally impaled himself through the leg.

I suppose the notion of expanding this series' canvas of societies with the Aenar is commendable. Still, I wasn't all that riveted by them. The main selling point here is the decent characterization between the always-suspicious Shran and the innocent and well-intended Aenar named Jhamel (Alexandra Lydon), who, as it happens, is the sister of Gareb, the Aenar who was abducted by the Romulans. This gives her and her alone the motivation to break from her people's pacifist ideals to attempt to stop the Romulan drone.

Not that I understood how this was physically supposed to happen. You see, Trip has rigged up a remote-control chair/device on the Enterprise — similar to the one the Romulans have — which I guess has all the right frequencies and encryption codes needed to break in and interfere with the Romulans' remote-control system. One would think a remote-controlled war drone wouldn't be so easy to tap into, but then one would be wrong.

Whatever; that's one of the overall problems with this episode — too much meaningless tech and mechanical plot and not nearly enough emotion or relevance. I should care about Jhamel's plight to help her brother, but I don't. It's a perfunctory "human" tack-on to a remote-controlled plot filled with technobabble and explosions. The climax, where Jhamel is able to contact Gareb by telepathy and get him to turn the drones against each other, is overly simplistic — underwhelming at best, hokey at worst. Gareb expresses guilt over the people the Romulans forced him to kill, which made me wonder why he didn't just make the drones return to Romulus and start strafing the city. Oh, never mind; he's a pacifist. (Truthfully, he's just a weak pawn of the plot.)

Meanwhile, I'm asking myself: Why would the Romulans even design remote-controlled war drones that require a telepathic pilot, of all things? Couldn't they just design remote ships that, you know, used keys or a mouse or a joystick or something, anything, but telepathy? Even more silly: (1) These drones require an Aenar to pilot; (2) The Romulans were apparently so shortsighted as to kidnap only one Aenar to fly them; (3) the Romulan admiral forces the Romulan scientist to push the pilot to the limits of brain damage, saying his health is "of no consequence"; so (4) I guess when he dies, their brilliant plan is to mothball the drones.

Really, this whole thing is more often than not a Swiss-cheese plot. Just what are the Romulans actually trying to do, anyway? Cause general chaos as a prelude to an invasion? The story never says. It's just a vague pseudo-threat — the Romulans out here stirring up trouble for trouble's sake. Not exactly enlightening, particularly in prequel terms, and it's to the detriment of the first two episodes in this trilogy, which were sold mostly on their setup and mystery, which now has not been lived up to.

The show's best scene comes at the end, when Trip asks to be transferred to the Columbia, and Archer reluctantly grants that transfer. It's a payoff that was set up in several scenes earlier in the episode, centering on the simple fact that Trip realizes he's in (unrequited) love with T'Pol, and finds that it's affecting his work. This Archer/Trip scene is a quiet one that explores actual characters and the relationships and personnel realities of a starship. I like that Trip can't confess the reason for his request to Archer, and that Archer doesn't force him to.

As for much of the rest of this episode, I'll quote Archer: "Looks like we went all the way to Andoria for nothing."

Next week: Klingons, medical mysteries, and shadowy intelligence agencies.

Previous episode: United
Next episode: Affliction

Season Index

17 comments on this review

fjakfjsdfjasd - Wed, Dec 9, 2009 - 10:03pm (USA Central)
I feel sorry for you, it must be painful to analyze everything. This episode certainly wasn't as bad as you make it sound.
David - Wed, Dec 23, 2009 - 12:01am (USA Central)
I enjoyed learning more about the Andorians and seeing their planet, so this was a good ep for me. Only part that didn't ring true for me was Trip's decision to leave Enterprise - but then, his character wasn't well-served at all in the series' final season.
Mister Jacobain Tee Talyor-Teetertotter - Mon, Aug 23, 2010 - 10:57pm (USA Central)
Yes, after the previous two installments of this arc being good, the payoff is downright disapointing. Never answers the whys sufficently, and the ending creates alot of more whys. Two popcorns.
Paul - Sat, Oct 30, 2010 - 1:52pm (USA Central)
Dear Jamahl,
I've really been enjoying reading you. Your analyzes are very often compelling, done with humor, and above all, very clever.

I've seen many times each epidode of all Star Trek series, and I have enjoyed all of them, each series having its own strenghts and weaknesses. Which series is the best is clearly a personal matter. Although I personally prefer Next Generation for its originality, Enterprise is second on my list, primarily for the quality of acting (Bakula, Billingsley, Blalock , Trinneer...) which cleary beats all other series by a mile... and despite the fact that the plots are too war oriented and with too many hostile species (clearly not the same Zeitgess than TNG)...

I write because I feel that you have been somehow unfair with Enterprise, being far more demanding in comparison to DS9, which appears to be your favorite. Fine, I too like the soap-like DS9 (except most, if not all, the Ferengi's epidoses), but this very refreshing (icing) episode deserves more than two stars, especially when we look at the DS9 episodes that were given two stars!

Thank you for this website and continue the good work.

Sincerely,
Paul
Chris - Wed, Nov 10, 2010 - 3:51pm (USA Central)
I enjoyed the glimpse of Aenar society, and the characters seemed sympathetic.

The biggest difficulty I had with this episode is that there are only supposed to be a few thousand Aenar, they have no contact with the rest of the Andorians, and yet they have very advanced technology - good enough to fix Shran's leg, for instance.

Perhaps their telepathic ability allows them to access Andorian technology without physical contact. I can't see how else they could have developed it.
Jay - Mon, Dec 13, 2010 - 2:52pm (USA Central)
How could the space-faring Andorians, with sensors at least as good as Starfleet's of this time period, not have detected the Aenar on their own world, especially with that elaborate structure that they reside in?

This whole trilogy was an insult to intelligence, most notably the ridiculously out of place in the 22nd century Romulan technology.
Grumpy - Fri, Apr 29, 2011 - 12:09am (USA Central)
I'd like to associate myself with Paul's comments. Upon revisiting "Enterprise" on DVD, I must conclude that it was unquestionably the best-produced Trek series in terms of costumes, props, sets, lighting, makeup, FX, music, etc. Even the acting was on par with every other series. So it all came down to the writing. The factory that churned out scripts for years on TNG and Voyager fell into the troubling habit of formulaic plots, forgotten continuity, flimsy or erratic characters, and technobabble dialog. "Enterprise" also inherited Voyager's one innovation: juvenile pandering. But that turned around in the 3rd and 4th seasons, giving this series a claim to have some of the best-produced Trek scripts, as well.

However, even if all the ingredients are top quality in general, any given episode may fail to click for the viewer. I don't begrudge Jammer awarding star ratings based on his honest response. It's true that his ENT ratings skew far lower than any season of DS9; he gave 4 stars to only four ENT episodes, fewer for the whole series than in some individual seasons of DS9. That could be the result of DS9 setting a standard that ENT couldn't match, rather than judging ENT on its own merits.

On the merits, "The Aenar" works as well as any 2.5 or 3 star DS9 episode. Following Paul's suggestion, compare this episode to the 2-star outings from DS9's best season (according to Jammer's ratings), season 5. Is this episode better than "Empok Nor"? I'll say it is. Is it at least as good as the 2.5 star "The Ship"? I'd say so, and I liked "The Ship" more than Jammer did. I definitely prefer "The Aenar" to DS9's "The Assignment," which Jammer gave 2.5 stars. This is not to split hairs over star ratings or accuse this site's proprietor of bias. If anything, this shows that the rating scale does not apply across series and is mainly useful for comparing episodes within a series. In that case, "The Aenar" may be a merely average episode of ENT, but that in itself doesn't mean it's awful.
Marco P. - Tue, Jul 26, 2011 - 6:10am (USA Central)
You've raised several good points Jammer, and I particularly agree with what you said in paragraphs 2 and 3. It's true: the Romulans could have used more characterization and seem to be the routine "bad guy" of the week, but I disagree the episode has mostly wasted our time. We haven't just gone from point A to point B: if anything, albeit in a contrived way, the trilogy has laid the foundations for species cooperation within the galaxy (and further down in time, for the creation of the Federation). So what if the Romulans were used as a plot device?

I also liked the interactions between Shran and Jhamel, as it brings humanity (er... Andorianity?) to what Gareb has done (or rather been forced to do). Prior to meeting Jhamel, Shran is appalled by the deaths the drone ship caused (including obviously his mate Talas). After the revelation Jhamel is Gareb's sister, the poor kidnapped Aenar is given a background and isn't merely the pawn-of-the-Romulans any longer... he becomes someone's loved one. Despite what Jammer says, I did empathize with him somewhat even though the final scenes (him turning the drones on each other, his "sacrifice", his goodbye to his sister) were a bit too melodramatic.

I will agree on your 4th-to-last paragraph though: the whole design of the drones requiring a telepathic Aenar, as well as the elimination of a seemingly vital piece of the whole puzzle being dismissed as "of no consequence"... well it doesn't really make sense.

As for the Trip/T'Pol sublot at the end, I really felt it was unnecessary. This is almost turning into Ross & Rachel, something which really has no place in a Star Trek context.
jerthewicked - Wed, Apr 4, 2012 - 1:26pm (USA Central)
Cynicism getting a bit outrageous bud
Milica - Thu, Jul 5, 2012 - 6:16am (USA Central)
I really do not understand why you think that love and sex are out of place and unnecessary in Star Trek. This is really a part of life you cannot avoid, to say the least. Portraying anykind of life out there somewhere without exploring romance is visibly incomplete. However much you disdain cheesyness, this is part of who we as humans are. A major plot hole in Star Trak is total lack of love – even when love is explored it is incomplete, in traces, simmering but never realised fully (as in Janeway/Chakotay) or sometimes even gross (Kira/Odo). As life is the way life is, to ignore love and delete it from a series altogether is foolish.
Can you imagine that some 80 men and women spend 3 or 4 years living together 24/7 on board a starship that cant be that big in size and never get involved romantically? Even with short excursions and short leaves, this is not feasible because humans are humans – they need emotional involvement if not sexual. This could have been a rich topic to explore, having in mind that there are a lot of internal conflicts going on and tensions piling up. Even if they never bend the starfleet rules – there are a lot of people with the same ranking on board and restrictions only apply in case superiors and subordinates get involved. I even think that star fleet should have devised elaborate rules about this, which would have to be feasible, and that it should have given it no less importance than the prime directive. You just cant expect humans to act like robots for a number of years.
You also criticised the way T’Pol and Trip got together in Harbinger. Well, that’s how it usually goes in real life – no deserted islands(planets), no extreme conditions and life-threatening situations, just some ordinary situations.
Zane314 - Tue, Sep 25, 2012 - 8:54pm (USA Central)
I really liked The Aenar, maybe 3.5 stars. It had excellent human drama, again anchored by Shran and the albino but also T'Pol and Trip. Neither are my faves but their strained relationship is compelling. The remote controlled ships were very cool and the whole arch was excellent. s4 Enterprise is like a whole new, good show!
Cloudane - Sat, Dec 22, 2012 - 11:28am (USA Central)
I'll have to jump on the "Jammer being overly critical" bandwagon here. (Though I love the reviews in general.. that's why I'm here after every episode). It wasn't that bad!

I thought it was wonderful to learn a little more about Andoria and these previously unheard of.. 'ice Andorians'?, and I felt for the girl in her strong willed determination to save her brother. Little touches like the "glow worm" things melting holes in the ice also go a long way towards illustrating a "strange new world" that the show's supposed to be about exploring.

As long as it isn't ridiculous, it doesn't all have to be "The Best of Both Worlds" or "The Inner Light". Peaks and troughs are fine, and this was an enjoyable and quite possibly memorable average-to-good episode. IMO.
Annie - Sun, Jan 6, 2013 - 5:35pm (USA Central)
If people don't want analysis, in-depth critique and ratings, why are they reading a review site?
Wisq - Thu, Jan 10, 2013 - 2:35pm (USA Central)
Plot hole alert: Gareb says the Romulans told him all his people were dead. But he's a telepath. He could easily find out if they were lying.

But, he's not supposed to read their minds without permission, right? Well, he's evidently willing to give up pacifism at the demand of his captors, flying their ship and blowing up countless others … yet he still refuses to read their minds to see what their true motives are. Which is the greater transgression, hmm?
John TY - Wed, Jan 23, 2013 - 8:43am (USA Central)
I'll back you up here Jammer, although I found the plot holes in all 3 episodes to be too much of a distraction. Not to mention the shallow characterisation in all but a few scenes.

It was reasonably fun but ultimately left me flat. An ok cross between TOS and VOY.
Arachnea - Sun, Feb 17, 2013 - 5:26am (USA Central)
"If people don't want analysis, in-depth critique and ratings, why are they reading a review site?"
I believe that most of the people here enjoy these reviews. Jammer is good at writing (as far as I can tell, being a non-english speaker), has insight and owns his opinions. If he didn't wish a feedback, he wouldn't have let comments.

If sometimes we disagree, it doesn't mean we don't respect his points of view. We're all geek or nerd enough to talk about TV shows ! We're individuals, we have different expectations and different points of view and we're sharing them. And while most of the time the reviews are pretty fair, there is a slight bias for or against one series or another (for DS9/TNG, against Voyager/Enterprise). I'm ok with it because reviews also come from emotions and perception. But sometimes, we feel like defending some episodes we believe being underrated. We should get a life, don't we ? ;). (Actually, I'm never really "angry" with the reviews, but with some of the comments :p.)

For instance, this episode is the conclusion of a trilogy. Jammer seems to have had high expectations about a romulan analyse or a view of andoria, instead we have a (mostly) quiet episode that tends to develop more about characters than the plots or politics. I do agree that there are some plot holes but I for one did enjoy the ice caves and the explanation for them. Contrary to him, I cared about Jhamel's and it made us see another face of Shran.

The subplot about Trip/T'Pol was well done too. It seemed very realistic and emotional without falling into pathos. What's surprising is that it gets the same rating as Daedalus which was very inferior in script, dialogue and character developement.

mark - Tue, Mar 5, 2013 - 5:14pm (USA Central)
I'll agree there were plot holes, but I don't agree that the Romulan plan was stupid--it was quite smart, up until Enterprise figured out that the warp signature doesn't match the type of ships the drone was representing. If Enterprise hadn't figured that out, the Andorians and Tellarites would have been at war and that would be the end of any potential cooperation between them. I do think the Aenar plot device was shoehorned in; it would have been much better if the Romulan drones didn't require a telepath, or maybe they had used a Reman telepath (aren't they supposed to be telepathic?) instead.

I still thought the Aenar were an interesting new species though (much more interesting than the Remans ever were.) As for the Andorians never having discovered them until recently--well, didn't Shran mention something about sensors not working that far below the ice? And I suppose if the Aenar didn't want to be found they could have always used their telepathy to screw with various Andorian leaders' heads.

As for the notion expressed above, and in other review threads, that you'rte being too critical of ENT--well, on the one hand I mostly consider the show to be a failure, so I have no problem with your critiques. On the other hand though, I think you gave the previous series--especially Voyager, which I would argue was worse than Enterprise because it was so utterly craven and never did anything interesting with its premise--more of a pass when it comes to weak plotting. But then, 25 seasons (or whatever it is now) of Trek shows probably do all feel "been there done that" after awhile. I still think season four, so far, feels more like a Trek show than the previous seasons ever did, and so far its batting average is higher than previous seasons. The only outright stinker for me was Daedalus, but by this point in previous seasons, the Lousy Episode Percentage was a lot higher.

One more thing about this episode--it has lots of Jeffrey Coombs, and that's at least an extra half star right there.

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