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Sat, Feb 8, 2020, 8:10pm (UTC -5)
Re: ENT S4: Fourth Season Recap

Just finished my first complete rewatch of Enterprise since the show came out. Though I tend to be more forgiving than Jammer (on average, bump up each of Jammer’s ratings by ½ star and that’s how much I enjoyed the episode), I do concur that S3 was stronger overall than S4. S4 was the most consistently good season of the show, but S3 hit higher highs.

“Perhaps one problem this season is that the show was so mired in expansive plots and cross-series continuity games that the characters and their personalities tended to get lost.”

^^This to me is the central problem of Enterprise’s second half (S3 and 4). I’d go one step further and say that the series completely changed its storytelling philosophy halfway through, and it actually lost something in the transition.

When Michael Piller took over TNG in S3, he brought a whole new storytelling philosophy to the table: each episode had to tie back in to one of our lead characters. It had to be “a Geordi show” or “a Worf show,” etc. This was a revelation for Trek. In TOS and the early seasons of TNG, each story tended to be about a sci-fi concept or real-world allegory. The stories were rarely personal to the characters, with exceptions such as “Amok Time” or “The Measure of a Man.” But with the new Piller Philosophy, suddenly the characters snapped into focus and the show took off. This character-based approach to storytelling was arguably the reason for Star Trek’s stunning success over the next decade.

The Piller Philosophy continued through the rest of TNG, all of DS9, and all of Voyager. We got used to seeing “Odo shows” or “Seven of Nine shows,” etc. Each character got their own showcase at least once a season. Even the first two seasons of Enterprise maintained this philosophy. Even in S2, Enterprise’s worst year, the supporting characters each got their own showcase: “Minefield” for Reed, “Vanishing Point” for Hoshi, “Horizon” for Travis, “The Breach” for Phlox. It was one thing that Enterprise did right.

But in S3 and 4, this went out the window. S3 had vestiges of the old approach: “Exile” for Hoshi, “Doctor’s Orders” for Phlox. But really, the season was *about* the Xindi arc, not the characters. In S4, the Piller Philosophy was completely gone. Except for “Home,” every episode was *about* its plot, not its characters.

Now I still think S3 and 4 were a vast improvement on S1 and 2. The series’ biggest problem in its first half was the lack of a big picture. But when the show gained a big picture, it lost its characters, and a key component of what made Star Trek work for so many years.

I enjoy Enterprise overall. It gave us a lot of solid episodes, even some great ones. But it never rises to the heights of the other series because it hardly ever stops to think: who are these people? What do they want? And how do they change?
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Thu, Jan 30, 2020, 11:59am (UTC -5)
Re: ENT S4: The Aenar

Let me join the chorus here. I really liked this episode and thought it made a solid conclusion to the trilogy. The Aenar are a great addition to Star Trek lore, helped along by awesome visual design. The pale, creamy color palette in the Aenar city is visually distinctive and consistent across the sets, costumes, and makeup. Great coordination between talented designers that makes the Aenar stick in your mind more than dozens of generic “aliens of the week” in TNG and Voyager. (The ice caves looked fake, but fake-looking caves are a Trek staple.)

I also loved the idea of a reclusive, pacifist group of Andorians as a foil for their dominant martial philosophy. The relationship between Shran and Jhamel is particularly well done as a microcosm of their two societies. At first, Shran is contemptuous of the Aenar. He thinks they’re weak for not “serving their society.” To him, honor and virtue comes solely from military service; that’s the culture he was raised in. But when Jhamel volunteers to come along to save her brother, he develops a respect for her. He realizes that strength comes in different forms, and that by breaking the traditions of her people and putting her life on the line, she’s showing a strength that’s just as powerful as the martial strength he’s been taught to respect. It’s a powerful, understated arc. This and Shran’s doomed romance with Talas really make him a fully-fleshed out character, with more compelling relationships, perspectives, and screen presence than several Enterprise leads!

That said, we needed more on Gareb for this trilogy to really soar. In hindsight, I think it was a mistake to save his reveal for the end of “United.” We didn’t get enough time with him to grasp his arc and really feel for him as a person. The telepathic conversation between Gareb and Jhamel hints at an emotional, wrenching story: the Romulans convincing Gareb that his people are dead, then manipulating him to betray his deepest beliefs to kill others until a final, redemptive moment when their deception is revealed. But you just can’t convey all that in one scene. The facts come across, but not the feel. I actually assumed that Gareb was drugged until this final conversation, after which he seems to have free will and turns on his Romulan captors way too quickly.

The final scene between Archer and Trip is excellent. A down-to-earth, genuine feel of two friends having a tough conversation. The subtext of Trip’s love for T’Pol hangs over the scene like a cloud.

In the end, I’d give “The Aenar” 3 stars, scraping the edge of 3.5. But definitely some 4-star moments.
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Wed, Jan 29, 2020, 10:08pm (UTC -5)
Re: ENT S4: United

Two things:

1) Great physical acting from Jeffrey Combs after he loses his antenna. Just watch the way he limps and lurches around, perfectly conveying that he’s lost his sense of balance on that side of his body, all without any acknowledgment in dialogue. Great detail and evidence of an actor who really knows his craft.

2) I was hoping for an epic pullback shot of all 128 ships in the fleet, but budget constraints, I guess. The pullback shot we get is very satisfying and again conveys a lot through pure visuals.

3.5 stars. Entertaining, snappy, satisfying, with important contributions to Star Trek lore.
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Wed, Jan 1, 2020, 9:00pm (UTC -5)
Re: ENT S3: The Forgotten

Most of what I have to say has already been said above. Outstanding episode and Trip dealing with his sister’s death is one of the most well-acted, moving storylines in all of Trek. Some thoughts:

- It’s hilarious to see Seth MacFarlane as some random crewmember who gets yelled at by Trip. His cameo could’ve come in any episode and it was just luck that landed him in such a great one! Today he’s much more recognizable thanks to the Orville and his movies, but back then, none but the biggest geeks would’ve noticed. I remember there being a small amount of hype about him at the time. And wouldn’t you know, today Brannon Braga works for *him*!

- Among the many standout scenes, I also have to commend the excellent way that Trip’s dream sequence is staged: Taylor’s darkened, smashed-up quarters, a ghostly light across her face. It’s eerie and powerful. Kudos to LeVar Burton, whose directing chops are IMO underrated. (He also directed another one of Trek’s finest, Voyager’s “Timeless.”)

- I think part of the reason most of us love this trilogy of episodes so much comes down to screenplay structure. If you think of the entire Xindi arc as one long story, we’re at the end of Act 2, the “all-hope-is-lost” moment, the gearing up for the final confrontation. “Damage” showed the crew at their lowest point, while “The Forgotten” shows Degra’s crucial moment of character change and sends the Enterprise toward the season’s climax: the meeting with the council. Of course, these episodes are really well done on their own, but they get a huge boost from being at such a crucial part of the story. If the creative team nails it, “all-hope-is-lost” moments can make for the most effective, powerful portions of any serialized story. See: The Empire Strikes Back.
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Sun, Dec 29, 2019, 2:07pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

I did not expect to like TROS. The one-two punch of Last Jedi and Solo really put me off the entire Star Wars franchise. Not because I hated either movie, but because the magic was gone. Star Wars had so clearly become a corporate profit-making machine, and I no longer expected it to do anything new or exciting. (I continue to insist that Last Jedi was nowhere near as “bold” and “subversive” as many claim.)

Then the reviews of TROS came out, and they were baaaaaad. I read all the spoilers in advance because I just didn’t care anymore. I only dragged myself to see it a week after release because friends were going. I spent the first 45 minutes or so deeply skeptical. It felt like watching a movie on fast-forward: barely coherent, frantically cutting to a new location every 30 seconds, jumping from one miniscule, underdeveloped scene to another. My mind started to drift, thinking about scenes from the original trilogy that took their time, like Obi-Wan explaining the Force to Luke, or Yoda raising the X-Wing on Dagobah. I just longed for the movie to SLOW DOWN and let us connect with this universe.

But you know what? It gradually got its hooks into me. It ended up being my favorite of the sequel trilogy. I still wouldn’t call it a “good” film. It does not hold up to serious analysis in terms of story structure, cinematic technique, etc. But it has its moments, moments that plucked at my emotions one by one and gradually softened this jaded heart. The brief conversation between Finn and Horse-Riding Lady about deserting the First Order. Han reappearing to Kylo Ren (in a scene which actually did slow down and take its time). The fleet of ordinary people appearing out of nowhere with the Millennium Falcon in the vanguard. Rey hearing the voices of all the Jedi that came before her, including nice cameos by Mace Windu and Qui-Gon Jinn. The kiss between Rey and Ben, one truly human moment in the midst of this technological and spiritual maelstrom. And the final scene where Rey takes on the Skywalker name, the message that you can choose to be whoever you want to be.

This trilogy is not something I’m eager to watch again and again. It’s too uneven and oddly structured, and the pieces don’t really hang together. But TROS somewhat redeemed TFA and TLJ for me. I’ve heard the whole gamut of responses, from “it was awful!” to “it was disappointing” to “I actually liked it!” I wouldn’t begrudge anyone their opinion, because I think the movie offers plenty of material for all these points of view. But for me, it was a relief. It finally had the inkling of a message / theme (choose your own destiny, change happens when ordinary people rise up) and finally, FINALLY got to me emotionally.

1) A New Hope
2) The Empire Strikes Back
3) Return of the Jedi
4) Revenge of the Sith
5) The Phantom Menace
6) The Rise of Skywalker
7) Rogue One
8) Attack of the Clones
9) The Last Jedi
10) Solo
11) The Force Awakens
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Tue, Dec 24, 2019, 1:18pm (UTC -5)
Re: ENT S3: Proving Ground

Excellent episode! Everything seemed taken up a notch. There was just more energy to the directing, acting, and score, plus the script was solid.

Don’t believe anyone has mentioned this, but they actually were planning to bring on Shran as a series regular if ENT had gotten a fifth season. Now that I would’ve loved to see. Who knows? It might’ve given ENT the same jolt of energy that Seven of Nine gave Voyager in S4. An entertaining frenemy relationship with Archer, friction with T’Pol, his likely respect for Reed as a fellow military man… Ah, we can dream.

I enjoyed the B-plot between Reed and the Andorian officer. The writers walked a perfect balance between building genuine respect between them, playing understated notes of sexual tension (I was reminded of Reed hooking up with ANOTHER visiting alien in “Cogenitor”), and keeping Reed smart and vigilant. He’s clearly enjoying his time with her, but he still keeps his head about him and doesn’t trust her completely. In a season where the supporting characters are getting swamped by the main arc (except for Hoshi in “Exile”), Reed is getting some good screentime.

This is all I want from good space opera. Bombastic acting, energetic music, a zippy, adventurous tone, solid drama, and intergalactic politics. Heck, I’m even enjoying the scenery-chewing, comic-book Xindi council scenes because they’re so over-the-top. (It helps that I remember the concluding stretch of S3 is so strong.) 3.5 stars.
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Thu, Dec 5, 2019, 11:08pm (UTC -5)
Re: ENT S2: The Expanse

I’m surprised at the cynicism of some of the comments above. I always thought this episode was well-paced, entertaining, emotionally involving, and set the stage for Enterprise’s best season. There’s nothing about the Xindi arc that violates canon. The Russo-Japanese War probably seemed like a big deal at the time, until it was completely blown away by World War I ten years later. Similarly, Earth is about to experience the Romulan War, then form a galaxy-spanning Federation. In Picard’s day, the Xindi attack is probably taught in history classes as the precursor to a very violent, eventful period. No one’s walking around saying, “Remember the Xindi attack” because they’re saying, “Remember when we formed a Federation that lasted for 200 years.”

After two seasons that I mostly enjoyed but generally found sleepy, listless, and rudderless, “The Expanse” delivers a real sense of urgency, drive, and stakes for the first time. I appreciate the 9/11 allegory too. It feels very truthful to how America and much of pop culture reacted at the time: a sudden, jarring shift into darkness. All of Star Trek up until Discovery was made in America, after all. It led to a myopic perspective at times, but it’s inevitable that every movie / TV show bears the imprint of the time and place that it was made.

I’d give it ***1/2 stars. Knock off half a star for the silliness of the Klingons hanging around for months just to get their asses kicked at the last second.
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Thu, Dec 5, 2019, 7:49pm (UTC -5)
Re: ENT S2: Bounty

I had just turned 13 when this episode came out, so I was right in that “horny teenage boy” demographic they were obviously aiming for. I have a vivid memory of watching this episode. Why? Because oh Lord, it was one of the most embarrassing experiences of my life up to that point.

I was used to Star Trek as something the whole family could watch. My parents would regularly stop by the background of Enterprise episodes, plus my sisters, at the time age 11 and 6. So when a sweaty, horny T’Pol started slinking around in that blue light, holy shit, I wanted to crawl under a rock and die. Imagine being 13 and just discovering that girls were kinda interesting, and then watching this episode with your MOM.

This was my first time seeing it since then. Boy does it look different at age 29. The issue isn’t that there’s sex. It’s that the PG-rated “sex” is so fake and the writers had to twist the Trek universe in knots to get there. I actually differ with Jammer somewhat. I don’t know if Gene would’ve been proud of this episode specifically, but that man was decisively not afraid of sex, and of trying to get sexual content on TV. The Original Series is PACKED with sex, as much as they could get past the censors. Gene always named “Mudd’s Women” as a favorite episode and bragged that he was able to get a plot about “space hookers” on TV. Hell, after Trek, he wrote and produced Pretty Maids All in a Row, which is basically softcore porn mixed with trademark Roddenberry speeches. (I wouldn’t call it good, but it’s… something.) He created the character of Ilia, who was so sexually hypercharged that she had to take an Oath of Celibacy to serve in Starfleet. As for Season 1 of TNG… “Justice.” ‘Nuff said.

The problem is the way it’s depicted here: embarrassing, and frankly degrading. Fun tidbit from the DVD extras: John Billingsley actually asked the writers, “Why wouldn’t Phlox do it? He’s a doctor. She’s a patient. It’s a medical issue. He’d be professional about it.” Not that I wanted to see that, but it would’ve made more sense, at least.

On to “The Expanse” with a sigh of relief. It’s like they had to get this BS out of their system before finally reinventing Enterprise as something fresh and exciting.
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Tue, Dec 3, 2019, 9:59pm (UTC -5)
Re: ENT S2: Regeneration

Kick. Ass.

- Loved the sense of creeping dread in the first act, as we know from the first minute that these researchers are dead meat.
- Loved that Admiral Forrest showed up, even as a cameo. He and Admiral Ross are in a perpetual dead heat for Trek’s best admiral.
- Loved the thought of a possibly drunk Zefram Cochrane going on a conspiratorial rant about cybernetic creatures from the future at a *college commencement speech*. LOL.
- Loved John Billingsley, who played the body horror aspects of assimilation perfectly and gave a great sense of tension to all his scenes.
- Loved the direction, music, effects, everything technical.
- Loved the idea that when Q threw the Enterprise-D into the path of the Borg cube in “Q Who?” he knew that the Borg invasion was already coming. So he was both teaching an abstract lesson about the dangers of the unknown AND likely saving humanity from annihilation by giving us a heads up.

As commenters above have said, what makes this one of the best Borg episodes is that it strips them down to their basics. No cubes, no Queen, not even the word Borg, just mindless drones advancing ever forward at a sinister walking pace. One of my favorite Enterprise episodes and an easy 4 stars.
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Sat, Nov 30, 2019, 4:40pm (UTC -5)
Re: ENT S2: Horizon

^^ Love this analysis of T’Pol in this episode. I have a soft spot for these lightweight, “just another day in space” subplots. They humanize the Trek universe and make it feel real. It’s the exact opposite of Star Wars, which is epic space action all the time. Not a complaint about Star Wars; it usually succeeds on that level. But I don’t buy into the Wars universe as much as Trek, because part of me craves funny, warm, everyday plots about movie night on a starship. I got a great chuckle out of imagining Soval sitting down with intense Vulcan meditative focus to watch Frankenstein!

The episode, though, is awkwardly written on a basic structural level. There’s the mention of lifeforms on the erupting planet which goes nowhere. There’s the one scene featuring Travis’ childhood buddy (girlfriend??) who we just start to get interested in before she disappears into oblivion. Though I really enjoyed the B-plot, it’s like they shoved it in because they were afraid that Mayweather couldn’t carry an episode on his own. Anthony is… fine. Merely fine. Though I do enjoy the understated mentor / mentee relationship between Archer and Mayweather. Feels very much like an experienced actor (Bakula) showing the ropes to a newbie (Montgomery).

*** stars from me. Nothing too special, but I appreciate the insight into Mayweather’s background and how the episode makes the Horizon a believable world.
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Thu, Nov 28, 2019, 2:35pm (UTC -5)
Re: ENT S2: The Crossing

Ugh. IMO, this is one of Trek’s worst episodes. Stuff like “Spock’s Brain,” “Threshold,” and “Sub Rosa” may be bad, but at least it’s entertaining and you can have a good time laughing through it. After the first act, which had a great sense of wonder and eeriness, this was just dull, flat, and lifeless. I can pinpoint the exact moment it went bad; a creature appears in the launch bay, and Reed IMMEDIATELY starts shooting and ducking and dodging like he’s in a video game. WTF?? There was no indication before this scene that the aliens had hostile intent. This scene comes out of nowhere.

Also, didn’t we see in “Marauders” that T’Pol is a butt-kicking martial-arts badass? The entire time Reed is in her quarters, they’re trying to play it like she’s in danger, and I’m thinking, “Seriously? Come on!” Based on what we saw in that episode, she could pin him to the floor in two seconds. It’s like Berman and Braga 1) forgot that moment or 2) chose to shove it under the rug for the sake of one scene.

As for the infamous “Phlox turns valves to save the ship” scene… I couldn’t help thinking that those people got paid to write pages and pages of dialog like, “Turn the valve 90 degrees. Set the panel on the floor.” It is pure filler depicted in the most lifeless, soul-sucking way possible, with monotone music straight out of latter-day TNG.

It’s a miracle that the actors mostly make it watchable. Connor Trinner is spot-on, both as the alien and as Trip in awe at his out-of-body experience. Poor Travis has nothing to do except look for Trip and get punched in the face; par for the course. This gets one star from me BECAUSE it starts out so well and goes so very wrong.
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Wed, Nov 27, 2019, 12:40am (UTC -5)
Re: ENT S2: Future Tense

“Entertaining but meaningless” sounds about right. What was the ship’s purpose? Why did it end up in the 22nd century? Why do the Suliban and Tholians want it? *shrug* The point here is to deliver sci-fi weirdness, and the episode succeeds on that level. Plus, it’s fun to see the Enterprise caught in the middle of a shootout where we have no idea what anyone wants or why it’s happening. Fitting for a show about humanity taking our first steps into a broader world far beyond our understanding.

What pushes this into three-star territory for me is the low-key, enjoyable Trip / Malcolm friendship. As Jammer points out, their dynamic is just like “Dead Stop,” fitting because both episodes are written by Sussman / Strong. I’m sure the nod to “Minefield” with Archer and Malcolm defusing the bomb is deliberate too.

And I personally didn’t mind the winking references to future human / Vulcan coupling (i.e. Spock). I like that T’Pol shows some resistance to the idea biologically and philosophically. That way, there’s room for growth and showing T’Pol / the Vulcans reaching a more enlightened perspective. I personally have always appreciated Enterprise’s take on the Vulcans, in theory if not always in practice. The point is to show them at an earlier stage than we’re used to in the 23rd and 24th centuries, just like humanity, and demonstrate that all societies grow and change. If they’re enlightened already, where’s the story?
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Mon, Nov 25, 2019, 9:01pm (UTC -5)
Re: ENT S2: Cease Fire

This is one episode that really improves when considered in the context of the series. I can see how, watching these episodes weekly in 2003, “Cease Fire” would’ve come off as slight and inconsequential, especially with how neatly the situation is tied up in the end. But watching the whole series on Blu-Ray, I’ve been impressed with how well certain story arcs are building subtly and gradually. Mainly T’Pol’s growing acceptance of humans and the bond of trust between her and Archer (let’s pretend “A Night in Sickbay” never happened). Enterprise needed MUCH more world-building in its first two seasons, and this episode is exactly what they should’ve been doing. When you know how well the Vulcan / Andorian plot is handled going forward, episodes like this come off as important stepping stones.

Like Jammer, I really appreciated certain scenes such as the Soval / T’Pol conversation and Archer’s speech to Phlox about humans joining the broader community. It’s exactly what I wanted to see from a Star Trek prequel: showing the beginnings of cooperation between humans and Vulcans, and how the Federation was founded. Trip literally flying the Enterprise in the middle of the Vulcan / Andorian conflict is a great visual metaphor for this latter theme. But unlike Jammer, I enjoyed the rest of the episode too. Jeffrey Combs, Suzie Plakson, and Gary Graham are all great. That’s one of the Rick Berman era’s greatest strengths; they found excellent character actors and brought back the best ones again and again. Even if the plot elements are familiar, the episode is directed with enough zip that it kept me entertained. And though I’m normally down for a great negotiation scene, I was OK with skipping it in this episode. That’s part of the point: getting to the table is an ordeal in itself. ***1/2 stars
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Sat, Nov 16, 2019, 3:26pm (UTC -5)
Re: ENT S2: Singularity

Personally, I judge these “crew going insane” episodes on one basis only: was it entertaining? That’s why I actually love “The Naked Now.” It’s insane, over-the-top, and ill-advised, but damn is it fun to watch. “Singularity” doesn’t hit those heights of lunacy, but it delivers. To this day, I still crack up when I think of Reed’s annoying alarm sounds. Hoshi’s “CARROTS!!” is a close second. I also thought Jolene Blalock was quite good. As the series goes on, she seems to be getting better at modulating that Vulcan reserve. In this ep, she picks the right moments to push for urgency, and her reactions to the crew’s crazy behavior are spot-on.

I also enjoyed the low-tech way T’Pol snaps Archer back to reality: just a cold shower and a cup of coffee! It makes for a more engaging scene than engineering some arbitrary injection or serum consisting of “X particle, which specifically counters the effects of Y radiation,” which is what Voyager would’ve done. A solid *** from me.
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Mon, Nov 4, 2019, 9:07pm (UTC -5)
Re: ENT S1: Fallen Hero

Funny - I WAS in the seventh grade when this episode came out, and even then I thought Hoshi’s shirt getting ripped off was completely lame and unfunny. Not to mention embarrassing - I was watching these with my parents! The decon scenes always made me want to crawl under a rock.

IMO T’Pol’s character arc is the one of the best things about ENT. It’s done subtly and believably. In “Breaking the Ice” last season, we saw her make the choice to stay on Enterprise and open herself up to her surroundings a bit more. Here we see her completely go to bat for Archer and stand up to Soval with quite a bit of barely repressed anger about the P’Jem affair. Blalock is hit-and-miss for me, but I think she’s great in this and the final scene. I’m not sure if the writers planned an arc for T’Pol; considering how loose and improvised ENT’s long-term story arcs are in the first two seasons, probably not. But as much as they failed in other areas, they did a great job at letting T’Pol evolve naturally from episode to episode. Trineer is my favorite actor in ENT, but T’Pol is my favorite character.
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Thu, Oct 31, 2019, 7:24pm (UTC -5)
Re: ENT S1: Desert Crossing

Is it just me, or did I miss why Archer and Trip actually had to cross the desert? So they grab the survival gear from the shuttlepod, take off into the night… and never come back? Wouldn’t they return to see if the shuttlepod was destroyed by the bombardment, and if it was, wouldn’t some of Zobral’s people still be nearby to help them?

I was under the impression that all the events on the planet took place at a single camp; they had dinner, played lacrosse, then hid in a bunker, all in one place. So where are they trying to go? Did they get lost in the desert overnight and are trying to find the camp again? The survival scenario is so unclear, and so overemphasized, that it really sinks the whole thing. Decent Prime Directive stuff and Clancy Brown is a good guest actor, but I can’t get over a large part of the episode making no sense. I’d knock it down to **.
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Mon, Oct 28, 2019, 7:51pm (UTC -5)
Re: ENT S1: Detained

I think you’re way too kind to this one, Jammer. This episode REALLY bothers me; it’s so cavalier and uninterested in thinking through the consequences of Archer’s actions that to me it actually becomes unethical.

So Archer doesn’t share his info on the Cabal because, “I don’t like being strong-armed. And I don’t like what they’re doing to these people.” WTF? Of course we’re supposed to feel sorry for the Suliban being herded into internment camps. But did anyone stop to consider that befriending the Tandarans might be a better way of helping the Suliban than, oh say, riding in like cowboys to bust loose 90 people out of potentially millions? That sharing info on the Cabal, *a mutual enemy,* might hasten the demise of the Cabal and end the need for internment in the first place?

There’s an even better real-world analogy today than in 2002 when Jammer wrote this review: China’s internment of the Uighur Muslims. If a team of American Marines parachuted into China and just liberated a single camp, it would be an outrageous, blatant act of war. And it would accomplish nothing for the Uighur Muslims as a whole. The entire world agrees that internment is wrong, but because this is the real world and the great powers all have nuclear weapons, we outside of China can’t do much about it except apply sanctions and diplomatic pressure.

What does Archer think will happen to the rest of the Suliban being held elsewhere? Does he really think the Tandarans won’t crack down on them harder, perhaps hide them away more carefully so other races won’t see what’s going on? Is he that stupid to make a new enemy when the sum total of humanity’s interstellar might is the starship Enterprise? The Suliban he liberated are either going to 1) get shot down immediately, 2) get captured again and probably subjected to much harsher treatment, 3) escape and be used by the Tandarans as symbols that the Suliban can’t be trusted. Assuming the sympathetic Suliban guy doesn’t make a run on the camp holding his wife and make things worse.

But the episode doesn’t care about any of that. We’re supposed to blindly root for the good guys. Hey look, they freed some people. Great job! They might have just ignited a full-blown genocide. Good Star Trek is about sitting down to think, reasoning through the possibilities, thinking through the consequences of your actions. This episode fails on that most basic level. ** from me, hovering on the edge of *1/2.
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Fri, Feb 1, 2019, 3:27pm (UTC -5)
Re: ORV S2: A Happy Refrain

Now that was lovely! From last week's preview, I was worried we'd get a retread of "In Theory," and while it kind of was in its broad strokes (artificial lifeform tries dating and relationships with a human), it had such an endearing sweetness that I found it impossible to resist. It made all the difference that the seeds of Claire and Isaac's relationship were planted in "Into the Fold" and "Ja'loja." Also that it's two leads dating, rather than Data and a guest star who we knew would be gone next week.

"The episode's piano performance and live orchestral show... reveals Seth MacFarlane as not only a TNG fanboy, but giant romantic at heart. The longings, romances and broken hearts in this show are much criticized, but IMO they don't feel like cliches, but something personal."

Nailed it! If there's a dominant theme in the Orville, it's not exploration of space and the human condition like Star Trek, it's the complexity of dating and romantic relationships. This has been a consistent thread throughout the series that has touched every character: Ed/Kelly, Bortus/Klyden, Claire/Isaac, even Alara and Gordon have been on dates and John's role as Official Love Advisor. This episode, more than any other, clarifies this theme and resonates with previous episodes like "Ja'loja," which I also loved because it was about character and relationships. If the Orville evolves into a giant rom-com in space, I'd be totally on board. Trek gave us plenty of science, adventure, action, politics, exploration, etc. Let the Orville do a different take on the format.

I've also found that the Orville is a great audience show. Trek is fun to watch with people, but I find that we usually just sit there in respectful silence. With the Orville, the group I watch with, which is a mix of Trekkies and non-Trekkies, is constantly laughing, commenting, talking back to the screen, and just having a blast. This episode was a real winner in that regard. And it was our resident non-Trekkie who was most on board with the romance and excited at every turn it took.

My favorite episode of the series so far. Loved it top to bottom, from the silly B-plot about Bortus' moustache to the sweeping camera moves during the orchestral performance to the corny but completely earnest and sincere starry-eyed tone.

As every new piece of news about Star Trek just makes me cringe (a Section 31 show!! gritty gore and violence!!), I'll take a cheesy romantic ending where a woman and robot kiss to "Singin' in the Rain" any day.
Set Bookmark
Wed, Jan 30, 2019, 3:43pm (UTC -5)
Re: ORV S2: All the World Is Birthday Cake

I have to agree with Jammer here. This was an entertaining, well-produced episode with plot holes that you could drive a truck through. It recycled the worst elements of TOS's planet episodes: find a planet with a unique societal problem and solve everything in less than an hour.

Even granted that these people have an absolute, dogmatic belief in astrology, they can't comprehend that aliens come from different solar systems with different constellations and therefore different astrological signs? As for the crew's plan to add another star to their sky, to paraphrase Red Letter Media, it's hard to untangle how complex the level of awfulness is. So these aliens, with an advanced system of satellites dedicated solely to tracking the sky, don't immediately discover this blatantly obvious object in high orbit? I assumed the crew was placing this mirror well outside the solar system to keep it hidden and solve the perspective problems, but the VFX shots show it in an orbit similar to our modern-day space stations. The swiftness with which Bortus and Kelly are released is absurd, and Ed's hand-waving away the vast societal changes he's wrought in the final scene is frustrating. I can deal with cliches, and I cut this show some slack because I mostly view it as a comedy, but this episode IMO crossed the line from cliche to absurdity.

In his script, MacFarlane employs a frustrating array of hacky shortcuts. There's the time jump between commercial breaks that spans almost a month yet reveals the situation is totally unchanged. The assumption that this planet has one leader, one religion, and one world government was a tired trope 30 years ago. MacFarlane is a prolific writer, and I give props to the guy for his work ethic. But prolific writers are particularly prone to cliches and formulas. Look at Gene Coon from TOS. He was hugely prolific, wrote some great episodes, and developed some great ideas like the Klingons and the Prime Directive. But he was also responsible for many of TOS's most memeable cliches: the redshirt death, Kirk vs. the computer, an ending scene where Kirk and McCoy tease Spock for showing emotion and Spock says some variety of "I believe I've been insulted." Jammer identifies the Planetary Union's philosophy of first contact as "just wing it." The same could be said for MacFarlane's writing, which works great for a comedy, not so well when you're trying to establish a universe with consistent rules.

I did enjoy the early scenes that show the crew genuinely excited to make first contact. Bortus is a gem throughout, with his usual deadpan one-liners. My favorite: "We are having separate celebrations." The episode is fun to watch, with a basic level of technical competence. But "Who Watches the Watchers" this ain't. I don't expect The Orville to surpass TNG in terms of its drama or original sci-fi premises. I just ask that it makes sense.
Set Bookmark
Fri, Jan 18, 2019, 4:39pm (UTC -5)
Re: ORV S2: Nothing Left on Earth Excepting Fishes

I loved this one! I always found the Orville entertaining and tuned in to its sense of humor because I'm a fan of MacFarlane's other shows (mostly American Dad. I haven't watched Family Guy in 10 years). But this one really nailed the *drama* for the first time.

I was worried that the Gordon B-plot would be a repeat of TNG's "Thine Own Self" where Troi takes the command test. What else can you do with a plot about a command test other than "character takes it, runs into obstacles, and passes or fails?" But it worked for me since Gordon is so obviously unfit for the job and actually realizes it by the episode's end. His desperation and lack of self-esteem is really well-played by Scott Grimes. Kelly gets a really strong showing, and comes off as a thoroughly competent, professional officer.

At first, I was iffy on the A-plot since it dipped into the well of Trek cliches: the Shuttle Crash [TM], getting to high ground to send a signal ala DS9's "The Ascent." I actually laughed at the line, "They're venting drive plasma." But it really came together once Ed and Tyler were in the cave, and we actually got some thoughtful dialogue about how a civilization reacts to discovering it's not alone. It was the Trekkiest thing I've seen in TV or film since Archer's big speech at the end of "Terra Prime." And the ending montage with the Billy Joel song: wow! I was not expecting to actually *feel* for Ed: his loneliness, the tragedy of meeting an amazing woman, only to find out she never really existed. Well done!

I admit, I didn't make the connection with Discovery until I read the above comments, but now I can't unsee it and it's hysterical. The episode is absolutely a middle finger to the Tyler / Voq plot. It gives me joy to imagine MacFarlane, Braga, and the Orville team riffing on Discovery like it's MST3K. (A bit of offseason news that caught my eye: Joe Menosky jumping ship from Discovery and joining up with his old Trek buddies on The Orville. I bet he has stories to tell.)

Really, I have no complaints. Great show and I can't wait for the next one. (Side note: After every single Trek series refused to reference pop culture after the 60s, I was amused to see Ed's movie tastes stretching into the 80s with Raiders of the Lost Ark. God, I would love a meta joke about Ed actually watching Star Trek.)
Set Bookmark
Sun, Jan 13, 2019, 12:57pm (UTC -5)
Re: ORV S2: Home

This was fine. Pretty good as far as "saying goodbye to a crewmember" episodes go. I was worried that they were going to rip off (VOY) "Homestead" right down to the line of crewmembers in the hallway to see Alara off (a very lovely moment in Homestead, but it would have been *too* shamless a ripoff here), so I'm glad they picked the low-key route of having each main cast member hug her one by one. Understated and classy.

My problem was, like the commenters above have pointed out, the family scenes were incredibly stilted and the family came off like rich WASPs, not aliens with a distinct culture. The episode had a latter-day VOY / ENT vibe which is not in its favor, since that was Trek at its most stilted. Alara's conflict with her dad worked OK, and so did the hostage crisis. Very nice moment where she tells her dad "you can do it," which resonates with their earlier argument. I mostly enjoyed this story for the novelty value of seeing Robert Picardo and John Billingsley in the same scene, and Billingsley playing a bad guy. (This was an alum-heavy episode overall. Molly Hagan, Alara's mom, played a Vorta on DS9, and Patrick Warburton is instantly recognizable to Seth McFarlane fans.)

The B-plot on the Orville with Warburton's new security officer was incredibly jarring and didn't fit with the rest of the episode. Even though I found the *content* of the A-plot standard, I did appreciate how it played as straightforward drama and encouraged us to take it seriously without digressions into random jokes (aside from the occasional Gordon quip, but that's what he's here for).

As to the rumors of McFarlane and Sage dating, it would be a little icky if their relationship ended and that's the reason she's being written off the show. I can't find any straight answers online; it could be as simple as a scheduling conflict, since they left the door so obviously open for her to return. But honestly, actors are fickle creatures (I say this being an actor and working with many actors over the years) who sometimes make odd choices with their careers. We may be looking at a George Lazenby situation where he chose, completely on his own volition, not to return as Bond, thus throwing away his biggest break. Or Denise Crosby, who felt understandably undervalued on TNG S1 but could've gotten some great episodes if she'd stuck it out. Or maybe Sage knows more than we do, and she's making the right choice. Who knows? I'm fine with Alara leaving and fine with her maybe returning someday.

Not the episode's fault, but I laughed out loud when my local FOX station cut straight from a Wendy's commercial to a shot of a woman's finger about to be cut off. Talk about tonal shifts!
Set Bookmark
Fri, Jan 4, 2019, 3:46pm (UTC -5)
Re: ORV S2: Primal Urges

Now that was interesting! "Primal Urges" is "Hollow Pursuits" taken to its logical conclusion, and actually treated with a fair amount of compassion. Bortus' monologue in the shuttle was a moment of pathos I truly didn't expect, especially when he acknowledges how hollow and dead his addiction makes him feel. Was the word "porn" even mentioned on Star Trek? Quark ran sex programs in his holosuites, sure, but that took place far offscreen. Kudos to The Orville for not only bringing up the topic of porn addiction, but actually showing it.

That being said, I still struggle with the show's tone. One minute, Bortus is being stabbed in the chest, and the next, Gordon is making masturbation jokes. At this point, the tonal shifts are a feature of the show, rather than a bug. You like them or you don't. It mostly works for me, but during the porn scenes, it led to some cognitive dissonance. I watch the show in a mixed group of Trek / sci-fi fans and non-fans, and most people were laughing simply at the novel sight of rubber-headed aliens acting out porn scenarios. Whereas it seemed the episode wanted us to feel sad for Bortus screwing up his life. I worry that the show undercuts its own intentions by priming us to expect humor, even during dramatic scenes.

@wolfstar, totally agree that Bortus and Klyden blow Stamets and Culber out of the water as far as a same-sex relationship with characters you care about. Stamets / Culber felt like they were ticking a box ("No same-sex couples so far on Trek? Check!"), but Bortus / Klyden have real arguments, moments of affection, etc. Their relationship lives and breathes, instead of being just a tool in the season arc.

The visual effects are just astounding for TV. The final plunge into the sun was genuinely intense, and the score had a strong Wrath of Khan vibe. My group actually rewound the episode (we DVR it) to figure out if the penis monster with the Jabba the Hutt voice was CGI or a puppet. It looks like a combination to me, maybe a suit with CGI filling in the vocal articulation. I almost wish the refugee subplot had been saved for a different episode, since it's such a dark, rich scenario that could've used more exploration than just a component of Bortus' story. I guess the Orville writers are following the TNG rule of combining character-based A-plots with sci-fi B-plots.

Finally, I do love Bortus, but the rest of the cast is starting to feel underdeveloped. Would love to see more LaMarr / Alarra / Finn episodes that give them this kind of depth.
Set Bookmark
Mon, Dec 31, 2018, 4:02pm (UTC -5)
Re: ORV S2: Ja'loja

Longtime lurker posting here for the first time! I figured the start of Orville S2 would be a good time to jump in. (I will not be watching Discovery S2 since S1 so thoroughly put me off, but I will greatly enjoy watching you fine people tear it apart every week!)

As for "Ja'loja," I loved it! Not everyone's cup of tea, for sure, but if you're a fan of Seth MacFarlane's other shows, you know what to expect. Even on Trek, I always loved these kinds of low-key hangout episodes: VOY's "Someone to Watch Over Me," DS9's "In the Cards." The Orville's sci-fi elements have been pretty weak so far, so I'm glad to see the show lean into its strengths: a laid-back, another-day-at-the-office tone with regular people dealing with regular relationship issues.

I disagree with some of the other posters here; the episode did have a strong thematic throughline of the complexities of dating and romantic relationships (with the exception of the Isaac / Claire subplot). I liked the love triangles being set up among Ed / Kelly / Gordon / Cassius / the new character. LaMarr was fun as a love advisor. The Alara / Dann date was cringeworthy and funny. Probably my favorite small joke was Dann's "I miss you already" text. Too real, Seth. Too real.

I do have to turn off that alarm in the back of my head that goes off whenever the Orville reminds me of a Star Trek episode:

- Bortus' ceremony like Pon Farr from "Amok Time"
- The "your kid is a bad influence" teenage subplot like Jake and Nog in the early DS9 episodes
- Bortus even had a line like "this ceremony is shared with one's closest friends," which is almost word-for-word how Worf refers to his "bachelor party" in "You Are Cordially Invited."

But that's just me and my encyclopedic Trek brain.

Favorite little detail: in the future, the more zippers a jacket has, the cooler it is.
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