Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Enterprise

"Borderland"

**1/2

Air date: 10/29/2004
Written by Ken LaZebnik
Directed by David Livingston

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Jonathan Archer. What brings you here? They naming the prison after you?" — Soong

In brief: Reasonably diverting, but it seems more like an easily discarded prologue than necessary storytelling.

Sometimes I get painted into a corner with my star ratings, which seems to be the case with "Borderland," an episode I liked more than either of the "Storm Front" installments but which nevertheless feels sort of ... unnecessary. The episode is the first part of a three-episode storyline, and when it comes down to it, much of what happens here is incidental rather than crucial.

That's not really a huge problem so much as an observation. This is a safe, brisk-paced, not-bad hour of Star Trek that invokes some fun classic-Trek references. But your brain is not going to break a sweat. Given the ethical/controversial underpinnings of the story — centuries-later consequences from the Eugenics Wars — that's kind of too bad. (But, yes, I know: There are still two more episodes in this arc to sort that out.)

A small band of genetically enhanced humans takes over a Klingon ship. They have fight moves that might give Jackie Chan second thoughts, and they easily overpower the Klingon crew. As it happens, I watched TOS's "Space Seed" on DVD just last week, and these guys put Khan's fighting abilities to shame. (Stunt coordination and editing have come a long way. Then again, they'd better have, seeing as it's been nearly four decades.) The most puzzling aspect of this sequence is why J.G. Hertzler is cast as the commander of the Klingon ship in what is a complete throwaway role; he's killed before the opening titles.

This deadly hijacking is an outrage that makes the Klingons Real Mad, to the point that, apparently, This Means War between Starfleet and the Klingon Empire. Archer is ordered to take the Enterprise and find the genetically enhanced humans (called "Augments") and bring them back to Earth. Why such an isolated criminal incident is impetus for the Klingons threatening all-out war is not a plot point that I really understand ... nor is why Starfleet thinks they can avert such a war merely by recapturing the Augments.

Archer enlists the help of Dr. Arik Soong (Brent Spiner), a brilliant biologist who has been incarcerated for the past 10 years because he stole 19 Augment embryos from cold storage at a top-secret Starfleet research facility where he worked. The facility holds a stockpile of embryos left over from the Eugenics Wars.

Soong saw the 19 stolen embryos through to birth, and then raised the children as his own until about the age of 10, around when he was caught and sent to prison. The children escaped and have been in hiding, until now — grown up, hijacking ships, and turning pretty much into terrorists with delusions of grandeur.

Soong knows the territory of space where he believes his "children" might be roaming: a region where the Klingons regularly butt heads with the Orion Syndicate and their slave trade. The area is called the "Borderland," which sounds suspiciously like "Neutral Zone." The Enterprise has barely entered the Borderland when they are attacked by Orion slavers and nine members the Enterprise crew are kidnapped from the ship and promptly put up for slave auction on a nearby merchant world.

With Soong as his guide, Archer beams down to retrieve the missing crew members. This leads to one of the show's most intriguing scenes, where we see an Orion slave auction. Rather than going for the obviousness of barbaric shouts and grunts and noise, the creators depict the auction in an almost geeky, worker-bee sort of way: There's the sight of dozens of slave buyers punching buttons on their data pads, while an electronic screen runs up tallies. It's one of the quirkier things I've seen on this series in a while.

Indeed, I like the whole notion of the slave trade being played for its quirks and goofiness rather than more harrowing qualities. In a scene where T'Pol goes up for auction, a massive Orion played by WWE star Big Show lifts her up like a slab of beef for all the crowd to see. He then shakes her up a bit, satisfied with the price she has brought in. Later, all the doors on the prisoner cages become unlocked, resulting in a chaotic uprising. Soong attempts to escape in the confusion, which ends with a clever action gag involving his magnetic handcuffs and the on/off remote that Archer uses to control them.

Much of which, you see, is irrelevant to the big picture involving Soong and the Augments. Fans will like the Orion Syndicate references, but those looking for story might be ready to get on with more substantive fare.

The Augments themselves are something of a frustration, because the writers are mostly content to have them engage in the usual cliches of characters who are indignant because of their superiority. Here are people who are stronger, faster, smarter, and they know it. I'm not so sure about the smarter part — at least not when it comes to common sense and assessing human nature. I guess unlimited hubris is an inevitable byproduct of genetic superiority. It's hard to get a feel for what the Augments think about their situation, because the background of Soong's teachings and philosophy are not completely clear, and the story is content to let the pack follow one predator.

The predator, by the way, is Malik (Alec Newman), a Khan-like figure, power-drunk, but lacking the Khan-like charisma. There's a power struggle going on between Malik and Raakin (Joel West), who is the leader at the beginning of the episode but most definitely not by the end. In between them is Persis (Abby Brammell), who seems to support one, and then the other; she has a skill for manipulation and deception. Alas, these dynamics aren't interesting enough to transcend the overall shallowness of these characters.

Fortunately, we do have Soong, who ends up escaping with the Augments on the Klingon ship. Soong — well played by Spiner as a mix of canny instincts, human sympathy (he does, after all, have a sincere love for his children), and a mildly smug sense of humor — keeps this storyline alive.

Hopefully we'll get a better idea of what makes him and the Augments tick before this is all over.

Next week: Soong and his children attempt to release the rest of the Augments.

Previous episode: Home
Next episode: Cold Station 12

Season Index

26 comments on this review

Joe - Fri, Oct 3, 2008 - 9:39am (USA Central)
I do agree. The slave trade scenes of the Orion Syndicate really stand out. These scenes are just hilarious
David - Wed, Dec 2, 2009 - 1:14am (USA Central)
Spiner alone makes this 3 stars. The storytelling really perked up in season 4, and I'm surprised this is not reflected in your ratings/reviews.
jerk - Sun, Dec 6, 2009 - 10:24pm (USA Central)
I'm tempted to swear at you, I'm a very immature person, Mr. Epsicokhan.
Hasjtracker - Sun, Jan 10, 2010 - 11:14pm (USA Central)
I feel so sad for Brent Spiner.His bankaccount is running dry so he obviously had to play in this abomination of gene's star trek.

Cant wait for someone like Russel T. Davies to step in and save star trek,like he revived and saved dokter who(revived and saved are capital understatements here).About time we see some gays in space anyway ;)

We already had two cowboys,a femalish knowitall,a shakespearian powerhouse and a black supernarrator.
The next captain should be a welsh gay.

And a little less american and a little more european could do the franchise some good.
Jacob Tee Taylor Seven - Tue, Aug 3, 2010 - 1:01am (USA Central)
Nice change of pace from the Xindi arc which drug out over a year and prolly lost more viewers than gained any.

I dont know why the CBS.com skipped the Space Nazi eps. They also skipped the e2 eps.


The Giant aka Big Show aka Paul Wight as an "Orion" space alien is super funny the way he picks up 'Topol' like a doll. The look on her face is priceless. Over all enjoyable story, but weird that these green Orion fellows just take people for the hell of it. Get on to Cold Station nunmber 12!
Jay - Fri, Feb 4, 2011 - 4:54pm (USA Central)
This whole trilogy was ruined for me by the actor that played Malik...he just worked on my last nerve, playing the role as a bratty kid, I couldn't see him as remotely menacing but rather just petulant.
Marco P. - Sat, May 14, 2011 - 8:48am (USA Central)
I really have to second David's thoughts Jammer. I don't understand why your ratings don't reflect the vast improvements Enterprise went through since Season 4 began. We finally have a REAL show on our hands, intelligent storytelling, multiple nods to Trek continuity (that *aren't* a big B&B-style "fu** you" to the fans)... AND we also have Brent Spiner as a special guest star! What more do you want?

If you absolutely wanted to nitpick, Richard on firsttvdrama (www.firsttvdrama.com/enterprise/e80.php3) raises some fairly good points. Particularly one about the feasibility/practicality of randomly abducting people off their ships by the Orion syndicate: how they do this without pissing off every alien race they encounter is indeed a very good question. That said more than anything, most of Richard's issues are of a *technical* nature and I disagree when he claims this episode is full of plot holes. For the first time on this show in a VERY long while, plot holes (the few that are present) cannot be spotted a mile away, which in itself represents eons of progress compared to previous ENT seasons.

And yes, this episode is a prequel to a trilogy and isn't complete... but so what? It sets the necessary bases for what's to come, giving us just the necessary glimpse of the Augments' abilities and inner character, as well as Dr. Soong's. After 70+ episodes of crap, if this isn't good television I don't know what is.
Jammer - Sat, May 14, 2011 - 12:11pm (USA Central)
My reactions to these episodes were done in real time as the episodes aired and took into consideration all the factors I'd always taken into consideration in the past. All I could do was write what I thought and felt when I saw the episodes. I'm not sure why you're surprised at my reactions; I've supplied all my reasons in the reviews themselves.

Honestly, I've long thought the conventional wisdom that Manny Coto came in and saved Enterprise because he was a fan to the original show and liked continuity, was an overstated meme. Continuity and respect for the canon material as a part of making a prequel series is important, yes, and I thought many things Coto did were good. But continuity is not the end-all-be-all, and nor did Berman & Braga ignore the canon material themselves.

I think that Berman & Braga have long been made into the villains of the post-TNG era, and while I don't excuse their mistakes, I think there has long been a tendency to prejudge the episodes based solely on who the showrunners were. Coto represented the very definition of the halo effect for many people.

I like to think I was being objective in trying to review the episodes, and not going along with the general pre-agreed narrative that Coto was here and so now Enterprise was suddenly great. (In some ways it was better, but in other ways I was not impressed, as you will see as the season continues.) At the same time, I give Coto credit where it's due.
Marco P. - Sat, May 14, 2011 - 1:17pm (USA Central)
Understood.

I should say that despite not always agreeing with with what you write, I always find your reviews interesting and insightful Jammer. I know of course that you wrote the reviews immediately after the episodes aired, I do keep this fact well in mind. In fact whenever I write & add my own comments it is generally right after watching the episode myself: it gives me a similar, immediate "gut" reaction to what I've just seen on screen, just like I were watching the series back when it aired in 2004.

The reason of my surprise on your ratings is not that you didn't acknowledge the work of Manny Coto, but rather you didn't emphasize strongly enough (IMHO) the incredibly sharp contrast in quality between seasons 1-3 and season 4. Like I already wrote in a previous comment, I think it is really night & day. Also I don't think I can be accused of prejudice or to have followed the pre-agreed narrative you refer to, because unlike fans watching the series at the time (for which B&B leaving creative control to Coto must have been hyped & discussed quite extensively over the break between seasons), I only found out about it *after* reading it here on this website. So my reactions, for "Storm Front Parts 1 & 2" at the very least, should in theory be fairly objective.

That being said, and all knowledge about B&B-Coto taken aside, I think the episodes speak for themselves. From the points of view of dialogue, storytelling, and script quality it is simply much much MUCH better television.

So no, I don't think I'd put a halo on Manny Coto and proclaim him the saviour of Enterprise just yet. I do believe in fact that he penned a few stinkers of season 3, so I reserve judgment until the season (and series) wraps up. But I *do* consider the first 5 episodes of this season so largely superior to anything we have seen so far, it should merit a much greater acknowledgement than you've given.

Obviously ultimately, it's all just a matter of opinion.
Mr.Mister - Mon, Sep 26, 2011 - 9:32am (USA Central)
One of my fav trilogies on Enterprise(4th season was the first I saw) and I think Malik isn't like Khan because unlike Singh, he never visited Earth. As for Brent Spiner, I quote Geordi La Forge:"My hero."
Jay - Sat, Oct 15, 2011 - 9:20pm (USA Central)
I think the story ideas of Season 4 were much better, (and much more along the lines of what the show should have been, given it's chronological setting, using already established alien races), but the actual episode to episode presentations weren't necessarily better than in previous seasons (though they generally were). For example, the entire notion of the Xindi arc of Season 3 I found absolutely ridiculous. Introducing a race that had such an impact but that was never mentioned in the earlier (but later chronologically) series was just a bad idea. We're led to believe they'll eventually be Federation members, but we've never seen a trace of them in the "future".

That said, accepting that the Xindi arc was what they went with, and after sifting though the excruciata of the cartoon villainy of the Spherebuilders and of Dolum, there were a handful of well-told stories in Season 3, particularly towards the end.
ceebee - Sat, Jun 30, 2012 - 8:04pm (USA Central)
So superior people are defined as being stronger. I always guessed they were smarter, let alone dumber.

And what about a slave market just around the block. I thought people capable of building ships that can generate a level of energy to travel the stars wouldn't be in need to travel light years to buy untrained manual laborers or people as food. They simply make all of that on their home worlds, with their sophisticated automatons and machines, never running out of energy.

Not to mention the chance that those Orions are blasted to smithereens by a joint venture of those species not accepting that their citizens are being kidnapped. Even today a kidnap is front page news.

But nevertheless a nice episode with much better continuity.
Brock - Mon, Aug 6, 2012 - 6:16pm (USA Central)
You know everyone keeps talking about "can't wait for Star Trek to be returned to it's former glory"...what former glory? What are you insane people talking about? I think so many people have built up the old Star Trek to be something legendary that it is not. Mid-late TNG and late DS9 were the only Star Trek worth talking about, and Enterprise does a damn fine job at doing entertaining Sci-Fi. TV evolves and changes, stop living in the past it wasn't as "perfect" as you remember it being.
Zane314 - Tue, Sep 18, 2012 - 3:17pm (USA Central)
1.5 stars. The super genetic twenty somethings were unconvincing and uninteresting. Why did they have torn clothes and lots of leather straps and what not? I guess Mad Max style clothing is required in the Boderland though tough cities in the U.S. usually feature well dressed baddies, at least their cloths don't have 20% holiness. So the slave market was neat with lots of money in the set and make up plus Big Show was, well, big! But I felt bad for Blalock being held up twice like she was. I don't care about the "accuracy" of it or that Orion slavers are bad. I immediately pitied her for the indignity of having do go through that. Not to mention the pathetic cliche kick in the crotch and tacky quip right before she beamed out. Also, I love Data but Brent Spiner always seems to play the same non-Data character: swarmy, sarcastic, sneering, nasty. He's not a subtle or varied bad guy. I guess it's better than Daniels but still he's no Combs that's for sure. But I'll take Spiner evilly hamming up any day over the ridiculous super twenty somethings and their holy clothing.
Cloudane - Fri, Dec 7, 2012 - 5:14pm (USA Central)
Hah, to be fair, Brock has a point.
TOS had some great moments but was cheesy
TNG had probably the biggest percentage of True Classics and the best captain, but definitely had its incredibly weak and sometimes completely bats**t moments especially early on.
DS9... alright, that was awesome. But then it was also quite different and some would argue a little less Trek (though I felt it clung onto Trek values better than, say, S3 Archer)
Voy... LOL. (actually in hindsight it was very entertaining and lighthearted, but shhhhh, I'm supposed to hate it, don't tell anyone I secretly love it in retrospect)

Annnyway.

Pretty good. After such an abrupt end to the episode before I was kind of taken aback that it didn't continue on from exactly where it left off, but no matter.
Nice to see Spiner - I thought at that point he'd Thoroughly Had Enough (hence his exit in Nemesis, and from reading his Twitter in the past I've had the impression he half regretted any involvement in Star Trek. But he IS kind of a troll, hehe)
Glad that Hertzler only got a moment, to be honest. Don't get me wrong he's absolutely brilliant, but two familiar actors-from-the-future in the same show for too long would've been too much.

The Orions were fun. Good to see the green babes from TOS again, and the ogre guards :P

No huge complaints really.

I can understand the star rating system biting back. It only has 5 (10 if you include half-star) ratings! 1-10 works better for me.
On the star system though... hmmm.... 3 seems to work for me.
Cloudane - Fri, Dec 7, 2012 - 5:17pm (USA Central)
9 for half-star ratings (including 0) sorry. That's why I didn't get a high grade in maths!
Cloudane - Sat, Dec 8, 2012 - 1:37pm (USA Central)
That moment when you watch this episode on DVD then switch on Sky Atlantic the next day and the same episode is on!
Wisq - Sun, Jan 6, 2013 - 3:04am (USA Central)
So T'Pol finally gets an official position in Starfleet … and they still have her dressed in her tight pink non-regulation outfit.

Ah well. I guess every Trek series just *has* to have a sex icon character that doesn't dress like everyone else.
Ken - Wed, Jan 9, 2013 - 10:49pm (USA Central)
I feel like this is the first Star Trek episode we've seen in a long time. It feels like it belongs in the Star Trek universe, and isn't just boring a few species to make us think it's a little familiar, like Vulcans and Andorians during the Xindi arc - which was about as foreign as you can get without actually going to the Delta Quadrant.

I don't think this episode was amazing though, but it's definitely a step in the right direction. If Enterprise episodes were of this quality or better to start with, the show would never have been cancelled in the first place.

I agree that it doesn't make any sense at all for T'Pol to be wearing this outfit. It made a little sense for Seven to wear it on Voyager, but even there it's a stretch - especially when Seven is pretty much apart of the crew at the end of season 5.

I find that in general, the costume designers for this show try to take every opportunity to dress T'Pol in the most inappropriate and even trendy attire they can find. The tight, cut-off pants, for example, just don't belong in any century for this series - it's clearly a 21st century fad that was very relevant at the time the show aired. The look goes against everything we've known about Vulcans in every series, and Star Trek costumes have always looked different, a bit more squared, simple in design, mono-coloured, and professional in taste (for the most part), etc.

DS9 was the only show that really did it right - both Dax and Kira wore their regular uniforms. Even civilizations like Kassidy Yates wore fairly uneventful, down-to-earth clothes. It's hard to believe a Vulcan would outdo this, but T'Pol is all about the tight fashion.

Anyway, I mostly enjoyed the episode. Brent Spinner does a really fantastic job, and I love all of the new sets. The Orions look really, really good.

My only real complaint about the story itself is that not much really happened beyond some introductions of characters, but since this is a trilogy, I'm basically okay with that.

I do wish they had shown the bargaining with the Orion to disable the collars. It just happens off-screen, which I think was a bad decision. Something could have surely been cut to allow for that.
auralgami - Mon, Jan 14, 2013 - 6:01pm (USA Central)
ORION'S GOT NARDS!!!

Seriously, this was...eh. I honestly don't know what Marco P. is talking about -- this is *not* better than Season 3, which gave us multiple stories and season-long plot elements converging on episodes like "Damage". Maybe that's coming in Season 4? I don't know. But so far the Augments look just as half-baked as the Xindi started out, except with an extra helping of cheese.

What I do know is that if you take Brent Spiner out of this episode, it's just schlock. All the Augments do is chew scenery and spout terrible dialogue, and poorly at that. They look and act like Andromeda rejects on a grade Z Syfy series.

We get Orion Slave Girl boobies, an unvoiced Vulcan Love Slave joke, and a bunch of stuff that superficially *looks* like TOS but doesn't really have much content.

The Orions don't make any sense -- why steal 9 crewmembers and leave the majority of the crew and the ship in functional order? It invites rescue attempts, declarations of war, and diplomatic nightmares. It's a gaping plothole, and the only reason it was done this way is that the reasonable alternative -- enslaving everyone and/or destroying or salvaging the ship -- isn't where they wanted to go with the plot.

I hate to harp on this, but it's a very BIG problem with the episode. If you have to make one of the major players of the episode behave completely illogically and nonsensically just so the plot will function, everyone is better served by thinking up a better plot.

The slave market is fun to look at but it didn't feel terribly real to me. Enterprise should be doing more with aliens like the Orions than just using them as window dressing. Instead, it's more "fun" than fundamental, failing to do anything meaningful with them.

Brent Spiner is great, and the ideas behind the episode -- setting up the Augments, having them steal a Klingon ship, and giving the crew more than the planet-of-the-week mission -- these are all worthwhile. I just wish it hadn't felt like mostly filler, or that the Augment stuff hadn't seemed quite so cheesy. There were lots of little moments that were nice -- Archer giving T'Pol the compass, the clever usages of the handcuffs, Phlox's retort to Soong. Here's hoping the big moments will start matching them.
Ken - Mon, Jan 14, 2013 - 11:03pm (USA Central)
I second that the show was mostly filler. I also second that the notion that a plot hole exists with the Orion kidnapping crew members. I thought this to some extent when watching it too.

Oddly enough, the better an episode is, or when I really like aspects to it, I tend to ignore the faults and still enjoy the episode as a hole. It's only when the episode is just terrible do I nitpick the hell out of it.
Arachnea - Sat, Feb 16, 2013 - 7:24am (USA Central)
I couldn't agree more with Brock and Cloudane.
- TOS is praised (and it should be) because it was inventive and totally new for its era. It was used to make social, societal commentaries and mythos allegories. The women - save Uhura - were mostly used as beautiful flower pots with very mini mini skirts or to be thrown into Kirk's arms.
- TNG had crappy first 2 seasons and last seasons, but has given us most of the classics. Also, it was also like a first new series, so it could invent as it went. However, besides Picard and Data, it wasn't good on character developements, nor continuity.
- DS9 was the best in continuity and characters and was good mostly due to outstanding recurring cast. But a lot of it wasn't very trekkian and I enjoyed more Garak, Dukat, Nog, Weyoun or Martok than the main characters.
- Voyager was good on characters (except for Kim, poor guy) but not in continuity and focused too much on two members (seven and doc).
- Enterprise being the sequel, filmed in a time where TV has radically changed, had a challenging task (being innovative after 4 shows). Even if the fans (me included) didn't like some very adolescent scenes, it was bound to be. Enterprise wasn't bad with continuity and characters (save Mayweather), even if the writers made us dislike the captain. For example: Troi is the same from start to finish and I don't know a lot about her. I know more about Hoshi who developped into a strong-willed yet still fragile (in a good way) character. And to be fair, the Xindi arc was just ONE year in earth history: for those who are hard about the cannon, well, tell yourselves that not every member of Starfleet would mention everything that took place centuries before. And all the ranting about the vulcans (half spoiler -->) is a lost cause because it will be explained why they were acting so strange.

I'm not saying I wouldn't have liked something better, but I don't really understand the hate. Maybe it's about expectations, some wanted the Romulan war and didn't get it. The best seasons were usually the fifth. Well, Enterprise didn't get the chance ;).

Back to the episode, I agree that it would have been more enjoyable with another actor to get a more charismatic Malik, but the seeds for the arc are planted. Let's wait for the conclusion.
Andrew - Tue, Apr 23, 2013 - 10:12pm (USA Central)
I'm watching Enterprise from beginning to end on Netflix for the first time (I'd only seen a few episodes on UPN when they aired). I've been watching about one a day, so obviously I don't have the time span between each episode that original fans had (i.e., I remember watching the first season just a little while back as opposed to years back), but I don't see what is so special or different about this particular episode.

I've never been a particularly big Brent Spiner fan (he's always seemed to play the same two characters, as another commenter put it, and gets far too much screen time to play them) but even if you take him out of this episode all that's left is something that feels like one of Voyager's less interesting kidnapping plots sped up.

I'd have much rather seen "Home" followed up with more much-needed character development.
Andrew - Tue, Apr 23, 2013 - 10:14pm (USA Central)
Also, if anyone's reading this, thanks to Jammer for the entertaining, thought provoking reviews. Many of them far more fun to read than their respective Enterprise episode was to watch!
Nebula Nox - Tue, Apr 23, 2013 - 11:29pm (USA Central)
Loved the ogres on Orion...felt as if I were watching Shrek.
John G - Sun, May 25, 2014 - 4:54pm (USA Central)
A little surprised that T’Pol’s, uh, “uniform” has gotten so little notice. Seems a bit slapdash of Starfleet to let her wear her rank and service insignia on what appears to be civilian clothing.

Loved the bit with Big Show and T’Pol, though. I’d pay good money just to see the outtakes on that scene. :D

I agree that the augments were lame as hell — the two rival leaders were both not even B-movie level and the costumes ridiculous. Funnily enough for a while I thought Persis was played by German Olympic swimmer Franziska van Almsick…certainly a strong resemblance.

Still, overall a good outing. Great to have Spiner in there, with a little foreshadowing of Data’s “father”. In fact I was kinda wondering if the character *was* Data’s father Dr. Soong, who somehow managed to extend his own lifespan, but the production notes say he’s intended to be the latter Soong’s grandfather or great-grandfather. Nice way to get lots of continuity in there.

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