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auralgami
Tue, Jan 15, 2013, 1:37am (UTC -5)
Re: ENT S4: The Augments

In short: blah

Everything that was subtle about Cold Station 12 is blasted out an airlock here. Malik is back to scene chewing and bad dialogue. Soong and Persis are oblivious. The gotcha ending is so stupid they don't even try to offer an explanation.

Where Cold Station 12 offered shades of grey, here we get the Augments are defective and bad. Should we even feel sorry for them, since they never even had a choice but to be evil? Was this even written by the same people? It chronologically comes after the previous episode, but has none of its smarts, character, or logic.

Brent Spiner does what he can, but he comes of more like Borderland -- half jokey, slick, and over the top. All of the wonderful drama that came from his character losing his grip on his children seems to evaporate, as this Soong just seems criminally dense and unaware.

Soong doesn't seem to be concerned about the glaring warning signs seen in Cold Station 12. There's also no followup to poor, unfortunate Smike. While I generally despise speechification, it's pretty bad when Soong doesn't even try to tell Malik that murder is bad and mass murder is worse. Parenting, is like, hard. What can you do with kids these days?

The references here failed for me. When Malik crawls across the bridge of the Reliant, it just reminded me of a better story containing characters I actually cared about. Malik doesn't even have enough substance to be Khan's second in command, much less Khan. The throwaway line about cybernetics also does double disservice -- not only does it remind us about better episodes, but it insinuates that a genius in genetics would know squat about robots. This is ludicrous.

Where Cold Station 12 showed all the characters as smart and competent, here they just pull out tricks that are never discussed before or after. Changing the warp signature. Super duper sensors. Pushing the warp drive. Torpedos targeting torpedoes. Archer moving components around to stop the Xindi weapon, sorry, pathogen release. Archer's conversation in faux Klingon. These aren't characters acting smart -- these are contrivances. "Cuz if we find we're in a bind, we just make some sh*t up" indeed. It's bad when the majority of lines for *all* the characters are just to get them from point A to point B.

What a disappointment. Cold Station 12 was great, but this episode dumps everything that was good and complex and replaces it with cliche. Malik sums it up several times with his line: There is no other choice. Really? That's all you've got? We have a super genius coming back with a grade school response that any Vulcan would brand as illogical.

Trip and T'Pol get a good scene, and Spiner does some good work, but there's no issue or discussion or weight here. It's all stop the bad guys with kewl tricks that ultimately mean nothing.
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auralgami
Tue, Jan 15, 2013, 12:09am (UTC -5)
Re: ENT S4: Cold Station 12

Wow, such an improvement over "Borderland"! That was about nothing in particular, but this was genuinely about something interesting and substantial, with no easy answers.

More than that, the episode was surprisingly subtle, on a show which is frequently anything but. The overall theme has to do with genetic enhancement, but there's very little black and white here. The inclusion of Udar/Smike means that Augments aren't bad just because they're genetically enhanced. The reactions of Soong and even Persis show that one's humanity isn't solely dependent on genes but on the choices you make and how far you are willing to go. Archer's query to Phlox about his father (a seed planted by Soong) cements that this episode is not about pronouncing any one thing good or bad, no matter its source, but exploring the issue and weighing the concerns. This is refreshing.

Soong is particularly interesting for desperately wanting to be the father of the future but not being a very good parent. Soong is clearly uncomfortable with what he must do, and willing to accept blame and fault, but Malik has no such qualms, and this conflict is interesting because there's no guaranteed outcome. We know Malik is dangerous, but Soong is unpredictable. We know it won't end well, but how it gets there and who pays the price along the way isn't set out in neon.

The episode does a lovely job of showing much of this complicated nuance without telling. We don't get lectures or speechification, which makes lines like Archer's and Lucas' just crackle. Continuity is put to great use, using Phlox's longtime relationship with Lucas to influence both characters' actions. Smike is won over by Archer's actions; seeing his reaction to the datapad with his parents' info is more effective than any blahblah Archer could deliver. The groan-inducing Augment dialogue that brought down "Borderland" is nowhere to be seen, making me wonder why they bothered with that in the first place. We learn everything we need to know about Malik in this episode, and don't need "Borderland"'s ham and cheese.

The only complaint I have is that the cliffhanger countdown to destruction is unnecessary and even a bit silly. After the hostage crisis, where things were genuinely tense and it wasn't a given who was going to live and die, it seems a letdown to end the episode on such a cliche, one that we know will be resolved.

There are other minor quibbles I could make, but the episode made an effort to make the characters smart and competent, with plans and contingencies, and so it comes off like a game of chess that spirals out of control. Here's hoping it continues at this level of quality, as I found it captivating and interesting.
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auralgami
Mon, Jan 14, 2013, 6:01pm (UTC -5)
Re: ENT S4: Borderland

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.
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auralgami
Mon, Jan 14, 2013, 1:48am (UTC -5)
Re: ENT S4: Home

Overall, I enjoyed this quite a lot. As Jakob said, very much like "Family", though not quite as strong. Although, I think I'd qualify: not quite as strong in the same areas.

"Home" does not do for Archer what "Family" did for Picard. It was close. But as soon as Hernandez kisses Archer, it jumps over that cliff Archer only dreamed about. However, I think this is the best that the T'Pol/Trip relationship has been portrayed, and their scenes are all wonderful. For them, it's "Family" and more.

Restraint. This is the key to what works in the episode. All the Vulcan scenes have restraint, even though T'Pol is near bursting and everyone, Vulcans and Trip, have emotions bubbling to the surface.

It makes these scenes appear low-key, but there's this charge and energy beneath it all that just crackles. Also, I have to say that I'm very glad that all the Vulcan scenes felt exactly right. For a series that typically makes them one-dimensional jerks, it's refreshing to see Vulcans that look and act, well, Vulcan for a change.

Archer and Hernandez have this restraint, until they cross the line. I particularly liked Archer owning up to torture and marooning, as we as viewers constantly wonder if the writers forget these things. It's nice to see his character reflective, and see the contrast of war-weary Archer and starry-eyed Hernandez. It's a shame that her offer to help Archer find what he lost ended up in her pants. (I have nothing against Archer getting some, or relationships between senior officers, but it just seems to trivialize everything Archer is going through to say that all he needs is a good lay. It's a simplistic, lazy out.)

Restraint is the thing the bar scenes most definitely did *not* have, and they suffered for it. The scene where Malcom cautions Phlox before he goes to Earth is effective, because it seems so unfortunate yet all too believable.

Then it becomes a bad cartoon. Barfights are a tired enough cliche as it is, but they really don't work for a serious episode or issue. There's a way to tackle this kind of sentiment. That way is not "Stupid prejudice is bad. Let's punch each other."

I thought Jolene Blalock was fantastic, striking just the right note of a barely-contained T'Pol. It would have been easy to go too far, but she provides just enough contrast to the normal Vulcan facades.

I think the biggest difference between "Home" and "Family" is that "Family" kept its eye on where the characters came from, what was going on in their lives, and where they needed to go.

This worked beautifully for Trip and T'Pol, encompassing all those aspects and developing them. It's no surprise that these scenes were my favorites, but I think they were just all-around the most satisfying.

The Archer scenes come close, but drop the ball in the resolution. Yes, we want Archer to get his optimism back. But this was the pivotal crisis for Picard in "Family", and it was wrenching. Here, it's just a little too easy. In more than one sense of the word.

Finally, the Phlox story, while no less deserving, is just not well developed. Phlox's attitude is nuanced, but nothing else is. I don't know if this will be referenced later in the season, or it would have been better just to junk it in favor of more Vulcan scenes and giving Archer's turnaround a bit more meat on that bone.
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auralgami
Fri, Jan 11, 2013, 5:34pm (UTC -5)
Re: ENT S4: Storm Front, Part II

I don't think it's "well-written" or "good". I wish I could go back and skip over these two unnecessary and and ultimately pointless episodes.

Rather than beat a temporally displaced horse, let's look at what *really* worked:

Column A:

- Billie Holiday and the subtext of accelerated integration
- Silik's "You've changed" and Archer's response
- the reactions to Archer being alive
- performances

Column B:

- the newsreel
- laser Stukas shooting the Enterprise
- flying over Manhattan

If you look at Column B, there are some enjoyable things that are mainly "ooh shiny". I don't have a problem with them.

If you look at Column A, you see the things that really matter. These are the things that give it depth, emotional resonance, or reasons to care about any of it.

Unfortunately, Column A is pretty slim for two hours of television. It also shows that these two episodes focused relentlessly on things that were pretty much by-the-numbers and pedestrian. Gun battles and fighting. SFX. Time travel hoohah. Captures and escapes. Aliens and Nazis arguing tediously over things that won't matter to anyone. Trip escaping from the Evil Alien Nazis and then doing absolutely *nothing* of consequence, despite seeing the Evil Alien Nazis on the verge of their Moment of Triumph. Another convenient communication blackout. Silik wasting most of his talents -- why didn't he go on ahead and kill all the guards while cloaked? -- and then dying pointlessly. As with the previous episode, it's little more than moving pieces to where the script needs them to be, full of arbitrary and unexplained conveniences and limitations.

For a conflict that has involved so much airtime and so many players, it's completely baffling who is fighting for what or why. There's really no stake for viewers in any of it, because we know that it will all be magically undone anyway. And if you think about what Vosk tells Archer for even a second, it makes no sense. I can only commend the actor for keeping a straight face as his character is trying to recruit Archer to his side against Daniels because Daniels' side is a bunch of meddlers. This is coming from the Evil Alien Nazi who is rewriting the history of Archer's planet and promises to put it all back later when he's won the Time War, pinky swear. It's the episode's most unintentionally amusing moment.

Something that sums up everything wrong? The goodbye scene between Alicia and Archer. Predictably issued in the middle of a terribly unconvincing gun battle, it's totally uninvolving because this Alicia will never exist. There's nothing poignant about it, and Archer is a lump. The scene is completely perfunctory and emotional deadweight, included only because it ticks off the checkbox. This is City on the Edge of Boredom.
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auralgami
Fri, Jan 11, 2013, 5:09pm (UTC -5)
Re: ENT S4: Storm Front, Part I

To continue with what Ken is saying, there's a difference between this episode and a "well-written script".

Was no one else bothered by the oh-so-convenient loss of communicator signal because of the shuttle explosion? Despite all the vehicles converging on the area, no one thought to, you know, make a plan?

What was the deal with Silik? First he wants Trip in the shuttle, then he stuns him and leaves him behind. If he just wanted the shuttle, why couldn't he steal it with no one looking. If he wanted Trip, why didn't he take him? For that matter, how did Silik get aboard and why doesn't he have his own ship? No matter how you look at it, Silik's an inept idiot and the scene makes no sense.

Let's think big picture for a minute, too. Until Daniels expositions everything, nobody is quite sure what is going on except that they are in an altered past. Shouldn't the characters think twice before shooting *humans* and abandoning Trip and Wallpaper with their contaminating technology? *We* know there will be a Temporal Doodad with a reset button, but they don't, not until Daniels tells them. Every human killed could be generations worth of future ancestors paradoxed out of existence. Archer himself takes aim at some Nazis.

Stuff likes this makes our *main characters* look like idiots. They don't think about anything. They just react, stimulus response. Note that the Enterprise crew does jack -- no one seems to be doing anything productive, planning, analyzing, or working to solve the predicament. Why? Because Archer will show up and tell everyone what to do. They all have to wait around until that happens.

It's plot-by-numbers -- setting up the pieces and then writing around what's needed, without bothering to make sure any of it holds together. The explosion causes communication interference because we need Trip and Wallpaper to be captured. Silik really doesn't need Trip at all, except to exposition to him and appear cryptic and threatening.

I'm all for junking the Temporal Cold War in as short a time as possible. What I am not wild about is that instead of any sort of emotional catharsis from the Xindi season we get Evil Alien Nazis and time travel nonsense. We just completed a season unlike any in Star Trek and now we have completely disposable Reset Button episodes. The only thing that separates it from a schlocky Voyager episode is the lack of either holodecks or nanoprobes.

The episode has terrific visuals, decent acting, great pacing (except for deadly dull gun battles -- just what we all wanted to watch on Star Trek), and is a generally fun if eye-rolling ride. But, once the mystery of What Is Going On is solved -- heck, once we know we're in an altered timeline -- we know it's all essentially meaningless.

Like it or not, the Temporal Cold War has been a bad idea for three seasons. I guess it's only fitting it goes out in the same underbaked, nonsensical way it has shuffled along. However, even if you are handed a parting middle finger with the Evil Alien Nazis, that doesn't mean Enterprise and the viewers should be subjected to two more hours of pointless, plotless, characterless bubblegum.
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auralgami
Wed, Jan 9, 2013, 4:39pm (UTC -5)
Re: ENT S2: First Flight

I thought this was boring.

There's no question of success here, since the history has been written. So the meat has to be in the story, the interactions, the dialogue, the atmosphere.

The best is clearly the last of that list. Everything looks great and feels authentic. The SFX shots are top-notch, but more than pretty graphics, we're given a time and place that seems exactly right.

However, I found it difficult to care about a character who is now dead in the present; we won't be meeting him again, and having met what was essentially a walking bag of cliches, I'm not terribly sad about that. I might have cared had the relationship been genuinely engaging, but it was stock from the get-go.

A barfight? Really? In a present day when this already seems anachronistic -- how many people get into good-natured barfights and Bond In Manly Ways anymore? -- it's just hopeless that Robinson insults Archer's dad and Archer throws his fists. When Picard gets in a barfight, we get Tapestry. Sisko punches Q, not because Q called him names, but to establish his character. Here, Archer can't stand that the bad man told him his daddy was stinky-poo. We learned things about Picard and Sisko. What do we learn about Archer, other than he's a child? (We learn that he's a bit more "by the book" -- apparently this book contains a guide to barfights.)

C'mon. This is bottom of the barrel stuff. So is the dreary 'conflict' between the Vulcans and Starfleet. What kind of Starfleet is this, where a single bad test run (that had successful elements) puts the program on hiatus? It's manufactured drama and urgency.

As an aside, I know that the Vulcans of TOS are long gone, replaced by the arrogant jerks we see on this series, but real Vulcans would have looked at the flight results, documented every trivial error, and told the humans in excruciating detail what the inadequacies were. These aren't Vulcans on the show; they're middle managers.

The best thing that I can say about Robinson is that he understands that they need to *show* that the craft works and that he wants to help. This displays an understanding of their situation. But, again, we know it will succeed, and the scene with Admiral Putdown is so dreary. Of course they will say something inspirational and humanity will go to the stars! Blah.

Archer gets one of the best lines, saying it's not the Vulcan's call. But would this really be so novel a sentiment? Everyone else at Starfleet is all, "Oh, sure, man. Let's slow it down for a few decades. No worries." That's silly. It means that Archer is speechifying for no real reason, since he shouldn't have to preach to this choir. Or he is surrounded by really dumb people that need the obvious pointed out to them.

As a point of comparison, the one-season show Defying Gravity did something like this episode in *every* episode, because while they were in space, they'd flashback to the obstacles and difficulties all the characters had in basic training. Like this episode, there was never a question they'd succeed because we saw them in space. But it was the nature of the problems and *how* they were overcome that provided the interest, and characterization went a little deeper than fistfights. What choices did they make? What sacrifices? What costs will you pay and what demons will you face to get where you want?

Here, there's little interest in the "how" and there are no choices of any consequence. Trip has a technobabble solution and Robinson turns some dials. Voila. Yawn. The only thing approaching conflict or a decision is Archer blaming Robinson, Robinson blaming Dad, and both boys going for a joyride. None of that is surprising or engaging. We know it's a foregone conclusion; it shouldn't *seem* like one as we are watching it.

There's no "drama" in hey, the design is fine and it was just a change to the Preferences and you're good to go. There's no choice there, because the alternative -- to do nothing and and have everyone sit on their thumbs while the Vulcans babysit -- has *nothing* going for it, and no sane person would choose it. Archer and Robinson are out of a job anyway if they go on hiatus. There's nothing to lose, no price to pay, and no reason for viewers to stay awake. Archer learns something he already knew, that it's okay to beat people up and disobey orders when it's convenient to the plot, and to not go rock climbing. If only Kirk and company had learned that last one...
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auralgami
Wed, Jan 9, 2013, 2:50pm (UTC -5)
Re: ENT S2: Regeneration

This episode is kind of fun if you turn off your brain. I normally despise episodes like that. Maybe it's because it was a decent, non-boring Enterprise episode and the pace and visuals were overall very good.

But please? Let's even take continuity off the table. We've got Magic Borg here, who can seemingly fabricate everything out of nothing. In TNG, newly minted Borg got their prostheses from surgery. Here, random metal parts start appearing, bubbling up from under the skin. Are nanoprobes now mini-replicators too? I guess that's consistent, since they seemed to do everything but Seven's dry cleaning.

T'Pol said the transport gained in mass 3% from the last time they saw it (which was *after* it was done with the Tarkalean ship). Where did they get the mass? Space junk? Stellar debris? Did they assimilate Harry Potter so they could use his magic wand?

While the two assimilated Tarkaleans are running amok on Enterprise, nobody thinks of using the transporter? The Borg adapt quickly to the initial phasers. Then when Malcolm SuperSizes them (in what, ten minutes? by upping the energy?) they drop like flies, then adapt, then drop some more, then adapt again? What? They're a hive mind. Why would some adapt to the phasers while the rest sit there going "Derp. Those phasers killed the last five Borg. Maybe I'll get lucky."

We've seen this kind of convenience before, even in Borg episodes, but never so blatant. Also, even granting that these Borg are perhaps not as advanced as the ones in TNG, it pretty much makes hash of what we know about them. In Q Who, when TNG meet the Borg, they get a couple of shots *maybe*, then the Borg adapt. The TNG crew had to mix it up furiously just to survive. Here, Malcolm does *one thing* and they can *beat* the Borg. Already in this show, in just one episode, they're implacable when we want a good scare, then braindead pushovers when we need to save the day. Some consistency would be nice.

Worst of all, the Borg board Enterprise and stay together and do...nothing. What was the purpose of walking through a bunch of corridors? "Have you told this corridor that Resistance Is Futile (tm)? Right, then. Off to the next one!" Then they inexplicably beam off, when they should have known that Enterprise had its weapons back.

Wouldn't it have made more sense to board the ship, go off in four or more separate directions, and assimilate as many people as possible? Why leave, when all you need is a foothold on Enterprise and then you have both ships? Or, as Jammer pointed out, why leave Earth in the first place? These are the stupidest Borg since Descent.

This episode smacks of *convenience*. Everything is quite convenient, from the number of Borg Reed and Archer are able to shoot to MagicBorg technology that appears out of thin air to how everything was able to be neatly wrapped up.

It works, in a way, but it's also very sloppy and lazy. And that's the kind of thing that tends to take great ideas (like the Borg) and make them boring and toothless. I'd much rather see Our Heroes win because they're smart, clever, and resourceful than because a bunch of contrivances made it so.
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auralgami
Mon, Jan 7, 2013, 4:17pm (UTC -5)
Re: ENT S2: Vanishing Point

I agree with the review...but...

...to me, this played out as a retread of "Remember Me" mixed with "The Next Phase". The disappearing/nonexistent "Cyrus Ramsey" even has overtones of "Dalen Quaice" in reverse.

Unlike those TNG episodes, however, the whole thing was in Hoshi's head. That's both a strength and a liability. I particularly liked the part where one of Hoshi's fears is that she'll dramatically fail at her job -- that's perfect nightmare territory, and it works. So too, the seemingly casual way that people ignore her. It's unsettling and plays to social fears, and it's a great fit for this character.

However, you *know* that it can't be entirely real when Crewman Nobody outlinguists Hoshi. Also, when you hear the *real* Trip and Reed, you're being told it's not real (and also being reminded of "Remember Me" again). From that point forward, it's a hash of those two TNG episodes, Barclay, and Voyager. If I had a bingo card of pilfered plot points, this episode would fill it.

And that's disappointing because all of the previous "inspirations" are more consequential. At least *something* happened in all of them. In "Remember Me", there's a good reason for Beverly's condition, and both she and others have to figure everything out. "The Next Phase" has Geordi and Ro working together, bouncing off each other and actually saving the crew from an alien menace. "Realm of Fear" is perhaps most thematically close to this one, but Barclay still *does* something that has an effect. Barclay also grows in the process.

All Hoshi really "does" in this episode is hallucinate. It's decent for a character study, and for how Hoshi views herself, but Archer's attempt to draw some kind of growth out of this is strained. You can just as easily argue that Hoshi's jumping on the alien pad was as unconsciously scripted as her shower sequence or linguistic meltdown. If anything, Hoshi shows less self-knowledge and insight than either Beverly or Barclay, who are both smart enough to question their own fears and realities.

It's a shame that, fair or not, this episode does more to remind me of previous episodes than stand on its own feet. It's gorgeously filmed. Linda Park's performance is spot on. There are many enjoyable and amusing elements. But I can't help but feel I've seen *all* of it before, and in contexts where it actually mattered to the show, the other characters, and the main character.
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