Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Enterprise

"Demons"

***

Air date: 5/6/2005
Written by Manny Coto
Directed by LeVar Burton

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"You're behind this." — Detective Charles Tucker III

In brief: A good Trekkian allegory, although the storytelling is awfully rigid.

"Demons" tells a pretty good story in an exceptionally average way. The ideas are here, but the juice is lacking. As I look over my notes, I see that they outline a pretty decent — but not great — story. "Demons" at least has the temerity to have a point, unlike "Bound" or "In a Mirror, Darkly."

I guess the real problem is that, as Enterprise winds to a close and Star Trek is about to go away, I don't have many strong feelings about this episode at all. Maybe it's just my typical end-of-season malaise. It happens. If Star Trek is out of gas, then so am I.

Which is maybe sort of unfair to "Demons." After all, here's a story that's about Earth and its internal problems, which is a relevant thing to consider before Earth can become a part of an interplanetary alliance. There's a conference being held on Earth in which the Vulcans, Andorians, and Tellarites have all arrived to work on a historic alliance. The Enterprise crew looks on and applauds, but Trip grumbles over the fact that Minister Groener (Nathan Samuels) has all but taken full credit for the conference and has left Enterprise out of the story. "I'm sure history will reflect our contribution," Archer says. "Not if he's the one who's writing it," Trip responds. Perhaps the exchange is a reference to the fact that Enterprise, as a prequel series, was not known by any of its sequels.

But away from the negotiation table, trouble is brewing. A radical isolationist movement called Terra Prime is plotting ... something. It involves their custody of a six-month-old Vulcan/human child and a hotbed of radical plotting at the Orpheus Mining Facility on the moon, which is owned by John Frederick Paxton (Peter Weller), leader of the Terra Prime movement. The plot thickens when a Terra Prime member abandons the movement, is shot dead by her own people, but not before revealing the existence of the child to Archer — and the fact that it's the offspring of Trip and T'Pol.

Archer immediately opens an investigation. Meanwhile, Trip and T'Pol are baffled: T'Pol has never been pregnant, so how can this be their child? The mystery of the child and Terra Prime prompts Archer to send Reed back to Agent Harris (Eric Pierpoint) to get Section 31's leads. Is this a good idea? After all, it's Archer who forced Reed to choose one side or the other in "Divergence." Now Archer sends him back to Harris, who seems likely to strong-arm Reed back into the agency. This might've been an interesting setup to a thread if the show were coming back for a fifth season.

Archer has his own shrewd methods for getting information; he subtly blackmails Minister Samuels with exposure (Samuels had briefly and misguidedly joined Terra Prime at age 18) if he doesn't open up more investigative avenues. Subsequently, Archer sends Trip and T'Pol to the moon to investigate leads at the mining colony.

The episode's wild card is a reporter named Gannett (Johanna Watts), who is an old girlfriend of Travis. She wants an inside scoop about the Enterprise, and she also wants to get with Travis again. Travis is less enthusiastic; their relationship obviously didn't end on the best note. I've bemoaned for years the lack of characterization for Travis, and this episode seems to at least make an effort to give him something to do.

But let it also be said that the episode is very obvious in following the rule that no guest character can be inconsequential to the main plot. Is Gannett just a reporter looking for a story? Please. Eventually, Travis and Gannett are making out in a shuttlepod. Subsequently, Travis gets laid and pumped for information. These scenes might've worked better if the actors weren't so wooden about them, but the actors seemingly exist only in a plot and not in the moment. I didn't buy any emotional history between these two. What I did buy is that they are a function of a bigger puzzle. It comes as no surprise that by the end of the episode Gannett is in the brig, charged with being a Terra Prime spy.

The best aspect of the show is the idea of isolationists and the allegorical themes. The enemy in the story is Earth's own xenophobia (particularly since the Xindi attack). Even before the attack, Terra Prime believed Earth to be humanity's domain, and humanity's alone. Like many radical groups, Terra Prime simply believes what they are doing is right. Paxton has a moment where he reflects upon the "misunderstood" Colonel Green, made famous in the aftermath of World War III because Green "euthanized" millions who suffered from radiation poisoning. Paxton views it as an act of mercy that spared generations from genetic defects. Green is generally remembered as a butcher, and Paxton wonders if he will have a similar legacy.

Paxton sees interbreeding between humans and aliens as an unhealthy corruption of DNA. He and Terra Prime are essentially the 22nd-century equivalent of white supremacists or racial purists. (There are black actors portraying prominent lieutenants in Terra Prime, and I wonder if that irony was a deliberate casting choice.) Terra Prime also uses the sort of anti-government rhetoric that's similar to that of current-day extremists.

Paxton's lunar mining facility doubles as a spaceship, which he pilots to Mars and uses to take control of its verteron array, normally used to deflect asteroids and comets throughout the solar system. From this station he can fire on any ship or facility in the system. He makes an ultimatum: Either all non-humans in the system leave, or Paxton will use the verteron array as a weapon. (Shouldn't this thing have been under much heavier guard?)

What I like about "Demons" is that the villain is ourselves — at least, a subset of ourselves via a particular way of thinking. What I find lacking is the somewhat mechanical advancement of the plot. It's too routine to be exciting, and too pat to be believable. Paxton is a villain of ideology, yes, but not a particularly interesting one. He doesn't rise above adequacy. Peter Weller's voice suggests plentiful arrogance, but more as a stylized presence than as a real demagogue. This is an episode that always feels scripted, even though the script itself is pretty good.

Next week: Two finales for the price of two.

Previous episode: In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II
Next episode: Terra Prime

Season Index

12 comments on this review

navamske - Thu, Dec 25, 2008 - 8:27am (USA Central)
"Trip grumbles over the fact that Minister Groener (Nathan Samuels) has all but taken full credit"

Actually it's Minister Nathan Samuels, played by Harry Groener.
JNG - Sun, Feb 21, 2010 - 10:30am (USA Central)
I enjoyed this one a lot more than Jammer did, apparently. The speech at the end is like a quick summation of an anti-Star Trek philosophy. "Terra Prime...forever" could have sounded like schlock in the hands of a lesser actor, but as delivered by Peter Weller, I found it genuinely unsettling.
RockRedGenesis - Fri, Apr 2, 2010 - 3:11pm (USA Central)
I thought this two parter was an good end to the series (I don't consider These are the Voyages to be the finale to ENT) and Peter Weller was an excellent guest star. But I did notice that Travis did get some good character development,i think he actually got more in this two parter then during the remaining 96 episodes of this series, including Fortunate Son and Horizon.
Carbetarian - Sat, Jan 8, 2011 - 5:05pm (USA Central)
Poor Travis... Let's review the most important contributions he made to this show:

• getting cloned, and subsequently killed

• accidentally screwing a spy

I mean, yeah, he flew the ship and stuff too; and he also had those two cargo ship episodes. But, basically, the above two points are all I will remember about Travis when I finish this show out.

Well, those two points, and how great this man looks without a shirt. I feel like we've seen most of the main cast in underwear or less at this point. Travis definitely gets my vote for "crew member who never should have been issued a shirt in the first place". He wins the award for best half naked male crew member, for sure. In fact, if Travis walked around without a shirt in every scene, it might have compensated for his total lack of actual character.

Here are a few things I think might have improved Enterprise as a whole:

• As previously mentioned, Travis without a shirt at all times

• Porthos becomes a bridge officer

• Shran in every episode

• OR Jeffrey Combs just kills Archer in another Ushaan related incident and takes over the role of Captain of the Enterprise altogether. In fact, if that were to happen, I'd be willing to drop the first two requests completely.

But anyway, in all seriousness, I really liked this episode. It had a good sense of Trek history, and Peter Weller is great as the bad guy.

It's almost *ALMOST* a shame this show got canceled when it did. I thought season three got quite entertaining by the end, and season four has honestly been much better than the first two seasons. I wouldn't say this is particularly great trek. But, season four has been very competent and (for the most part) fun trek. I would even venture to say that season four has been far more consistent as a whole than season three. Although, I do think the brightest spots in season three did shine slightly brighter than the brightest spots in season four.

I would have liked to see more of what the writing team tried to do with this season. The prequel concept was finally starting to feel like something that at least had a direction, even if it didn't always make the mark.
cc - Mon, Feb 7, 2011 - 4:50pm (USA Central)
If they had made a fifth season, they should have told the story of how the Moon emancipated itself from Earth's gravity. When they fire at it with the verteron array, it's at an impossible angle in relation to Earth in the background.
Pete - Thu, Feb 17, 2011 - 9:50pm (USA Central)
Something about a clean, hot, scrawny Vulcan girl posing as a miner makes ZERO sense. Phlox could have at least given her temporary human ears...or at least a wig to cover them!
Max Udargo - Sat, Nov 12, 2011 - 11:11pm (USA Central)
For someone so sensitive to the comic book camp of the alternate universe episodes, you seem to have a lot of tolerance for all the campiness on display here. Come on, Peter Weller is basically a Bond villian with a Super Weapon that allows him to destroy any target on Earth (et al) with the touch of a button. I was waiting for him to touch his pinky to the corner of his mouth and say, "unless you pay me... ONE MILLION DOLLARS!"

And somebody besides Dr. Evil should have known that the asteroid diversion device could also serve as the Ultimate Weapon of Total Universal Destruction. Yes, they probably should have posted a guard or two. Little bit of a security hole there.

And, I'm sorry, but this episode proves there is no way to make the Travis character interesting. I don't know why, and I guess we'll never know why, but Travis sucks the life out of every scene he's in. One of the few things that rang true in this episode was that the reporter was only using him. There's no way she could possibly have found him interesting.
Steve - Sat, Mar 31, 2012 - 2:40am (USA Central)
Thats' one impressive weapon they have there. Such a shame it wasn't around to destroy the Xindi probe. Could have been useful...
Cloudane - Sun, Dec 23, 2012 - 11:33am (USA Central)
Whoa, Travis got a story. Kinda. One problem, I didn't care about it because we still don't really know him!

A chilling look at how history repeats itself with one Hitler after another. Here's hoping the future doesn't really pan out that way, and reaches the Star Trek ideals more peacefully.

Loving the excuses to hop around the moon and Mars. Really makes the show seem like a prequel (finally, just before it ends!)
Annie - Wed, Jan 9, 2013 - 7:47pm (USA Central)
Sure, T'Pol has never been pregnant, but Trip has...

LOVED Peter Weller as the baddie bad guy.
Jons - Sun, Nov 3, 2013 - 1:39pm (USA Central)
i really enjoyed this episode, until I realized: Why was there the need for a vulcan-human hybrid?? I mean, honestly?? Did I miss it? Was there a point?
John G - Tue, May 27, 2014 - 7:01pm (USA Central)
@Jons: See my comment on the next episode for an explanation. Basically the summary is that the Terra Prime people planned to use the baby to show that Vulcans and humans were incompatible, because they knew the baby would not survive, and humiliate Starfleet officers (one of which is Vulcan) in the process.

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