Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Enterprise

"Kir'Shara"

***

Air date: 12/3/2004
Written by Mike Sussman
Directed by David Livingston

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"His name now means 'fool' in our language, just as yours will in Andorian!" — Soval to Shran, the tale of Nirak

In brief: Some rough edges and a rushed ending, but a solid ride for most of the way.

The reason Deep Space Nine often worked so well was because of its expansive canvas of governments, societies, and characters with their own agendas. You got the sense that the characters were people populating a whole universe, and the overarching storylines had the will to throw that universe into chaos. And because the characters weren't all playing for the same team, there were plenty of possibilities for some characters to take unpredictable actions that were in partial or direct conflict with other characters.

I think that was ultimately the key to DS9: It wasn't just about Starfleet officers. It was also about everyone else. As a result, a lot more could happen, and we could empathize with more people and situations, even the bad guys and the neutral people caught in between.

That's sort of why this three-part Enterprise saga, which wraps up with this week's "Kir'Shara," makes for such interesting fare. The starship Enterprise feels like a part of a bigger universe rather than simply all of it. This three-parter reminds me of DS9's "Circle" trilogy from the beginning of its second season. Lots of characters, history, and political maneuvering. (Also, lots of names and objects that are spelled with apostrophes.)

That's not to say this Enterprise trilogy is perfect. "Awakening" had some notable logical gaffes (among them is one I didn't mention in my review for that episode, which is the lack of a reason for why Syrran didn't know the location of the Kir'Shara even though he carried Surak's Katra). Now "Kir'Shara" wraps things up with an ending of whiplash-like haste and overt tidiness — although it features a last-second revelation that's intriguing.

So — not perfect, but good.

One big thing in the episode's favor is that it's a mess for everyone involved, and there's disagreement in virtually every camp along the way. "Kir'Shara" has its obvious goals and solutions, but it also demonstrates that there may be various ways of working a problem, rather than just being about one problem and one solution.

For example, we have Trip making the decision to go to Andoria to warn Commander Shran (Jeffrey Combs) about the Vulcan surprise attack. There's a scene where Reed unhappily points out to Trip that warning the Andorians is a flat-out betrayal of the Vulcans — which Reed doesn't think is right. Trip has his own uncertainties, but in order to play the part of would-be peacekeeper, he must contact Shran so the Andorians can set up a blockade to intercept the Vulcan fleet. The thinking is that maybe the Vulcans will be forced to turn back if the stealth assault is revealed. If not, "I'll save you a seat at my court-martial," Trip mutters.

The Enterprise arrives at a nebula where Soval knows (from Vulcan intelligence reports) that Shran and an Andorian fleet are hiding. Shran reluctantly beams aboard the Enterprise and Soval lays out the details of V'Las' sneak attack. This initial meeting shows no signs of trust on Shran's part. Indeed, it could be said that the definition of Shran's character is that he's so paranoid that he trusts no one. He thinks perhaps Soval and the Enterprise are trying to lure his fleet into a trap.

Such distrust makes for scenes of charged drama, and it's in these scenes where the show's best visceral strengths lie. With Combs' performance, Shran is a guy always interesting to watch. Perhaps not as interesting as the very different Weyoun — who was more fun as a slickster politician, equal parts villain and sycophant — but engaging as this angry, distrustful man who needs proof and not just your word.

To get that proof, Shran is willing to take extreme and distasteful measures. He carefully kidnaps Soval from the Enterprise with an undetected transporter beam and puts him in a torture device designed specifically to lower the emotional inhibitions of Vulcans. This is a rather unique form of torture that makes for a series of potent scenes.

Gary Graham gets a chance to step outside the usual boundaries of Soval's character and deliver a memorable performance that shows his fear and anger in this appalling situation. He also reveals a bitter regret for having thought he could put faith in Shran's abilities to trust him in the first place. I especially liked Soval's tale about the Vulcan lookout guard named Nirak, whose incompetent inaction allowed an attacking army to destroy a city. Nirak now means "fool" in Vulcan; Soval predicts that Shran's legacy will be similar. Soval's tale is one of those welcome details that elevates plotting into storytelling.

What's also interesting about these scenes is that the role of the torturer, as angry as he may be, is not to be sadistic but merely pragmatic — to gather the information. Shran simply needs to know that he isn't walking into a trap. I found myself somewhat reminded of the great sequence in "The Die Is Cast" where Garak tortures Odo, although Shran here shows himself as more ruthless, putting his people's agenda first, far ahead of surrender. Combs' and Graham's performances carefully walk the line of being intense and in-your-face without straining to the point that it feels like overacting.

These kinds of situations would be impossible if we didn't have multiple conflicting forces in play, and if these forces and personalities didn't already have established backstories allowing us to identify with all points of view. It's interesting how Shran's character retains a certain self-serving integrity in arriving, via his brutal methods, at a truth that satisfies him. We disapprove of his methods and yet respect (if grudgingly) his eventual level of reasonableness, as he quietly laments, "There's been too much suspicion, too many lies, on both sides."

All the while, V'Las is moving forward with his planned invasion. It's worth noting that most — if not all — of the rest of the Vulcan High Command is initially in the dark about V'Las' plan, which leads me to question the wisdom (and indeed the possibility) of giving so much military control to one man, who then conducts large-scale operations in secret, unbeknownst to the other council members. The council's voice of dissent is Minister Kuvak (John Rubinstein), who is opposed to the invasion and later learns that the Syrrannites are looking for the Kir'Shara. V'Las dismisses the Kir'Shara as a myth.

The plot's other major strand involves Archer, T'Pol, and T'Pau trying to get the Kir'Shara to the High Command. The Kir'Shara, you see, contains Surak's original writings and will lead the Vulcans back to the proper Path. This could defuse the escalating tensions between the Vulcans and the Andorians, but only if the Kir'Shara reaches the capital before V'Las' attack unleashes an interstellar mess. Archer is aware of the Ticking Clock because of memories transferred by Syrran when he received the Katra. I for one would like to know: How would Syrran know anything about V'Las' war plans? (I'm calling it a plot hole.)

Along the way, we get a few insightful dialog scenes. I like how carrying the Katra gives Archer an understanding of Vulcans that he'd never had before.

In another scene between T'Pau and T'Pol, T'Pau explains that T'Pol's Pa'nar Syndrome (see "Stigma") is actually a side effect caused by having melded with an inexperienced mind-melder. It can be easily corrected by an experienced mind-melder (which T'Pau performs). The notion that Pa'nar Syndrome is a permanent affliction is merely a lie spread by the High Command to discourage mind-melds. That's a rather sublime — if simplistically tidy — invocation of the Undo feature on the part of the writers. They easily solve what was purported to be a major character problem while keeping true to the parameters of the story at hand. (Follow-up question: What about the emotional imbalances caused by T'Pol's Trellium addiction? Wouldn't T'Pau have noticed those as well?)

That T'Pol still voices her doubts about the motives of the Syrrannites is good for the sake of discussion, but somewhat dubious in execution: Wouldn't she better understand them after having melded with T'Pau? And doesn't the 180 T'Pol pulls a few scenes later, after she is captured, seem a little confusing? For that matter, it might've been a good idea for the writers to better explore the Syrrannites' belief system. Were they really just another of many sects that claimed to have the true answers? What makes them special and a target for destruction by V'Las?

There are also, of course, the requisite fight scenes after the High Command sends soldiers into the Forge to capture the escapees. I enjoyed the touches in these scenes, especially the gag where Archer discovers his sudden ability to use the Vulcan nerve pinch, as well as the Vulcan soldiers carrying those staffs with the semicircle blades on the end, ported straight in from TOS.

The ending, as I mentioned, is hasty. The crises all climax simultaneously, as they must. V'Las refuses to back down when his surprise attack is foiled, and the Vulcan fleet opens fire on the Andorian fleet, with the Enterprise caught in the middle. Meanwhile, Archer and T'Pau gain access to the High Command with security codes they get from T'Pol's husband, Koss. (The business with Koss' security codes is probably one plot piece too many, especially considering by this point T'Pol is in custody and unavailable to make the plea to him herself.) They open the Kir'Shara and reveal Surak's writings in a light show that impresses everyone except V'Las, who loses his temper in a decidedly un-Vulcan display of frustration as all his plans fall apart. Kuvak finally shows some backbone and stuns V'Las and calls off the fleet.

What feels like only minutes later, V'Las is put under investigation for the embassy bombing, the Vulcans are talking about the dissolution of the High Command, Soval is instantly reinstated, Koss releases T'Pol from her marriage obligation, Vulcan has returned to the Correct Path, and the Vulcans promise to give Earth more leeway in its exploration missions. What a difference a day can make.

I'm not sure what the ideal ending would've been, but it might've involved more extended dialog and just a tad more ambivalence about all this change. This ending is so tidy it's as if the Vulcans had been waiting around for someone to hand-deliver the Kir'Shara so they could usher in an era of change. Perhaps it was that they were all obliviously following V'Las down the wrong path.

That's actually a possibility the very end of the show puts forward, when V'Las is revealed to be conspiring (for decades, it turns out) with a Romulan operative hiding in the shadows. The Romulan speaks of "reunification," a term fans will be familiar with. I must say, this is a cleverly appropriate way to insert the Romulans into this series, since we all know that no human will see a Romulan until TOS's "Balance of Terror." This twist sheds some light on V'Las' motives, actions, and emotionalism — although I'm still not sure how a war between the Vulcans and Andorians would help pave the way for Vulcan/Romulan reunification.

All in all, "Kir'Shara" makes for a reasonable cap to a good trilogy — far more successful and interesting than the "Augments" trilogy. As storytelling it has holes, but as Star Trek it shows the ambition of tying pieces together and providing prequel-worthy substance.

Intriguing.

Previous episode: Awakening
Next episode: Daedalus

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22 comments on this review

Christina - Sun, Sep 6, 2009 - 11:41am (USA Central)
They should've kicked out Archer and renamed this series The Soval and Shran Show. ;-)

Season 4 still had some shaky parts, but it was a huge improvement over the previous three seasons of Enterprise.
Kev - Wed, Sep 16, 2009 - 9:20am (USA Central)
Correct me if I'm wrong, but Shran beams Soval away to kidnap him, but it was established when Shran took over P'Jem that the Andorians don't ahve transporter technology. Have the just recently aquired it?
Disagree with nerve pinch - Mon, Dec 7, 2009 - 3:50am (USA Central)
"How would Syrran know anything about V'Las' war plans?"

You call it a plot hole, why? Is it not possible Syrran has contacts and/or visits Vulcan city's under his other name?

Doubtful, perhaps. A plot hole-no. You make this episode sound much worse then it really is.
Jeff - Sat, Feb 27, 2010 - 1:15pm (USA Central)
I've got to get me one of those Vulcan torches. They never go out, even when being used as a quarter-staff!
Jeff Bedard - Mon, Apr 26, 2010 - 6:49pm (USA Central)
Overall I enjoyed this three parter. It certainly helped the Vulcans regain their original stature from TOS. I really wasn't happy with their portrayals up to this point.

My overall complaint though is that the actors playing V'Las and Kuvak just didn't look Vulcan. Yes, they had the ears and the eyebrows, but their faces, especially the blue eyes, just didn't look Vulcan to me. I didn't buy it. Not to mention that they were emoting all over the place during the trilogy. Simply illogical. At least this trilogy fixed the damage initially inflicted on Vulcans in this series.
Grumpy - Tue, Apr 26, 2011 - 6:16pm (USA Central)
Funny thing about retcons: they only work after alienating the very audience who would care most. Surely when B&B rolled out the "mind-melding is like gay sex" idea, they didn't plan on undoing it later. But Trekkers revolted, setting the stage for this story, which would not have been half as rewarding without the initial misstep.
Marco P. - Fri, Jul 15, 2011 - 3:57am (USA Central)
Too true Grumpy. Like Jammer said, simplistic yet sublime use of the "Undo" button, and further evidence of Manny Coto's skill at undoing 3 years of B&B bullsh**.
Marco P. - Fri, Jul 15, 2011 - 4:07am (USA Central)
P.S.
Without going into too much detail (contrary to my usual habits), I will just say that I second Jammer's thoughts on this three-part "The Forge/Awakening/Kir'Shara" story arc. I completely agree that logical flaws aside, the political relevance within the Trek universe (especially considering all the species involved... Humans, Vulcans (+ separate factions), Andorians, and even a tease of Romulans) is what makes the arc so interesting.

At the cost of repeating myself, I am so glad at the change of pace & direction that's taken place in season 4. It really turned Enterprise into a different and proper TV show.
Jakob M. Mokoru - Tue, Sep 6, 2011 - 7:10am (USA Central)
I agree with the posts above in this: This story arc was necessary to UNDO the terrible thing that had been done to the Vulcans in ENT (had you not called it the "Evil-Vulcan-Syndrome".
Yesterday I rewatched TNGs "Sarek" - it is inconcievable how a man that was a producer at that time could demean the Vulcans years later!
Paul York - Mon, May 14, 2012 - 9:27pm (USA Central)
This trilogy was great; it redeemed my like of Enterprise -- to properly represent the value of ST. Morality is everything in this series. It stands for something. In this case it stands for reforming corruption in the Vulcan gvmt and opposing war.
Zane314 - Sat, Sep 22, 2012 - 9:47am (USA Central)
Kir'Shara wraps up an excellent trilogy. And the stinger at the end is right on, much better than the bat faced, red eyed, time traveling, Nazi space demons at the end of s3. I’m glad they explained the Vulcans being sort of jerky and showing the path toward the TOS Vulcans who don’t lie and are frequently pacifist. And though I’d like Shran to always be Archer’s buddy, I liked how they made him a dangerous frenemy again by his deplorable torturing of Soval who acted very well. It was cool to see Kuvak nerve pinch that guard with an aggressive sneer - I was like “go, pinch that a-hole guard!” And Kuvak gets to zap the warmongering, jerk-wad V'Las. All the story lines were excellent and it was great to see the migration from mind melds are taboo to mind melds are going to be much more common since by TOS-time Spock was melding left and right. Superb stinger at the end, I hope they get in a few more episodes of this arch. 3.5 for all three - great stuff!
Cloudane - Fri, Dec 21, 2012 - 3:22pm (USA Central)
Very good - what people say about ENT (that it finally gets good just in time to end) appears to be true. Better late than never, but sad nonetheless.

Great to finally explain and fix the Vulcans!
John TY - Wed, Jan 16, 2013 - 8:07am (USA Central)
I pretty much agree with you here Jammer although those negatives outway the positives.

In addition: No one seems to have mentioned the inconsistency of having pacifist Vulcans, like T'Pau, fly-kick a guy in the head. And once again we have Archer beating up Vulcans at will even though they are meant to be significantly stronger than humans.

So a good change of scope for Enterprise, yes. But aside from The Forge this is another wasted oportunity; An action romp that could have been so much more.
Ives - Fri, Feb 15, 2013 - 6:00am (USA Central)
This trilogy gives me mixed feelings. On one hand it was a great voyage into Vulcan culture and politics. On the other hand, it gave a lot of deja-vu, because a lot of story elements where taken from some of the nest DS9 episodes.

Blowing up the embassy to trigger an investigation, was taken from Garak blowing up his own shop in Improbable Cause. Creating fake evidence to be found after an explosion, that's taken from In the Pale Moonlight. And one character torturing another character, while begging to please give answers before he has to inflict permanent damage, that's Garak & Odo in The Die is Cast.
Arachnea - Sat, Feb 16, 2013 - 4:45pm (USA Central)
I agree: political imbroglios are often the best for arcs and entertaining shows.
When episodes are good and give me substance, character and thoughtful dialogue, I tend to put aside some of the plot holes, particularly when they are manufactured to get the viewers to stay on edge. Although the end was too fast and it would have been great to ponder about the consequences.

However Ives, you can take almost every episode on any series and draw parallels to other shows. If you take DS9 as example, well, it was a rip-off of Babylon 5's premise (B5 was written years before DS9, but Straczynski was never given the chance to produce it before DS9).

I also don't agree with the fact that the story has anything to do with the Prophets. You could get the feeling, but Surak was/is a vulcan who's witnessing his people being led astray. Also, what Archer saw weren't visions, but memories of Surak. The Prophets were aliens who had almost no idea of what being humanoïd meant and didn't give a damn about bajorans. Surak was very well aware of vulcans flaws and that's why he deliberately chose to give an outsider the location of the Kir'Shara (and not half a descendent to fulfill a prophecy in order to ensure their own survival).

You can blow apart the bad episodes, but please, give a little credit when it's due. Here, we have a fulfilling, introspective, innovative-in-a-prequel-way and very trekkian three parters.
mark - Sun, Mar 3, 2013 - 9:39pm (USA Central)
And Surak said: "Don't be douchebags". And lo, it was done.

Stewart - Thu, Apr 25, 2013 - 3:11pm (USA Central)
I appreciate all your reviews. What you forgot to mention is that the whole, "pre-emptive war" metaphor here clearly reflects the Iraq War arguments. They (Iraq/the Andorians) have weapons, or the potential of weapons, so let's kill them now!!
The Sisko - Wed, May 8, 2013 - 5:18pm (USA Central)
I gotta say, after being slightly bored by the first two parts of this trilogy, "Kir'Shara" really did it for me. I enjoyed every second of it. The pacing just seemed frickin perfect. Pretty much all of the actors did an excellent job on this one and the action scenes just worked brilliantly. Throw in the fact that all of the events in this episode feel highly relevant to the overall Trek universe and you have a total winner. Oh, and by the way: Did I mention Jeffrey Combs was in it? IMO this was easily the best episode of season 4 yet. A full 4 stars from me.
navamske - Fri, Aug 30, 2013 - 9:29pm (USA Central)
"What feels like only minutes later, V'Las is put under investigation for the embassy bombing, the Vulcans are talking about the dissolution of the High Command, Soval is instantly reinstated, Koss releases T'Pol from her marriage obligation, Vulcan has returned to the Correct Path, and the Vulcans promise to give Earth more leeway in its exploration missions."

Also, Tal from TOS "The Enterprise Incident" performs a katraectomy on Archer, moving Surak's "living spirit" into himself. Which raises the question "Where is Surak's katra now?" ("Now" being TOS era and TNG era.) How long do those things last, anyway? If Surak's katra was still around at the time of "The Savage Curtain," wouldn't Spock have known about it?
gogolo - Sun, Jan 5, 2014 - 4:38pm (USA Central)
As for the logical flaw Jammer mentions:

"... which is the lack of a reason for why Syrran didn't know the location of the Kir'Shara even though he carried Surak's Katra"

I think because Surak wanted Archer to find it and solve the conflict as a human mediator. Didn't he even say something like that to Archer in a vision?
Trekker - Sat, Apr 5, 2014 - 12:18am (USA Central)
What if Surak was in Sarek during the TOS and TNG era?

Just grappling at straws, but Sarek, Spock's father, has always struck me as the most stoic and logical vulcan in Star Trek film/TV portrayals.

If that is the case, then when Sarek passed on his memories to Picard before he died, he could have passed on the katra of Sarek and it eventually ended up in Spock.

Just a guess and theory, there is no proof that this was how the Katra moved to the TNG era.
Snooky - Fri, Jul 18, 2014 - 2:21am (USA Central)
I had to laugh at the tunnels...leading to the big nicely marked door. So in all the time the Syrran were hanging out in the cave system, they never went down that particular tunnel (it had cobwebs)? Never found that door? Really?

Even funnier was at the end, when they're coming out, it felt like they were going in circles. Probably walking through the same two sets over and over.

That said, I got a kick out of the use of the katra (though heartily agree with "the lack of a reason for why Syrran didn't know the location of the Kir'Shara even though he carried Surak's Katra"). I also enjoyed seeing a young T'Pau. It took me a bit to get that this was THE T'Pau from "Amok Time," but once I did, I was totally into it. I had to do quick mental math to make sure they weren't just reusing that name, and figured it was definitely possible for it to be the same woman. The actress had the right attitude, for sure. Any TOS references that expand our knowledge of those characters and situations get big kudos from me. Plus, she ends up being the new minister, which makes sense. Interesting that she started out as a member of a rebel faction--love it.

I really enjoyed seeing Vulcan, and Sehlats! I remember an animated series episode with young Spock and his Sehlat pet.

I also really appreciated the explanation for why Vulcans were behaving so badly in the early ENT episodes. They had gone off the rails and needed a course correction.

V'Las was such a Bush/Cheney, what with his plans for a preemptive strike to take out a WMD -- but with a secret agenda. Ugh. Almost too close to reality for entertainment.

I agree about T'Pol's easy illness cure. Glad that disease is out of the way, but the lack of addressing her emotional imbalance from the trellium-D is worrisome. I hope it isn't forgotten. Also odd was how quickly Koss decided to end the marriage he was so insistent on a few episodes earlier. But at least that's over with!

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