Star Trek: Enterprise
Air date: 11/14/2001
Written by Phyllis Strong & Mike Sussman
Directed by Mike Vejar
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
"It's remote and sparsely populated. If you're exposed there's a reduced risk of cultural contamination."
"This must be why aliens are always landing in cornfields."
— T'Pol and Archer discussing a shuttle landing site
In brief: A story about the negatives of interfering with alien cultures ... except without arriving at the conclusion that we shouldn't interfere with alien cultures.
Maybe the Vulcans were right not to let humans go out into space for so long. From the evidence here, the issue of non-interference in alien cultures has barely entered anyone's minds, let alone the Starfleet rulebook.
Which would be okay if "Civilization" were actually about that very issue. Ultimately, though, it's not; it's a routine "adventure" outing that ends without the characters having learned much of anything. If we're going to sit through a story about the Prime Directive (non-interference) issue, we should at least have some sort of evidence that the characters in the show have learned something.
Aside from having one of the most boring titles in recent memory, "Civilization" isn't a bad hour of television. But it's surprisingly nondescript and doesn't begin to exploit the potential of this series' concept. Let's face it — what happens here could happen on any of the Trek series, or, for that matter, any non-Trek show set in space.
One thing that's beginning to tire a bit is the automatic challenge of T'Pol whenever she mentions anything that represents erring on the side of caution, even if it's reasonable. When she expresses reluctance to interact with this society out of concern for cultural contamination, Archer is quick to fall back on the stock-issue human-and-proud-of-it "we were sent out here to explore" line. True enough, but you also didn't come out here to contaminate less advanced cultures by making contact with them. T'Pol seemingly is becoming a voice drowned out more often by cowboy bravado than reason.
Under makeup effects administered by Dr. Phlox, Archer & Co. go undercover to investigate the mystery of an anti-matter power source that this planet shouldn't have the technology to possess. Archer tracks the power source to inside a shop in the city. The investigation is interrupted by a woman named Riann (Diane DiLascio), a native scientist who tells Archer that she's also investigating a mystery about this shop. She takes Archer and T'Pol back to her house, where she has her own lab, and explains how she thinks deaths linked to the contamination of the local water supply are related to some sort of production from near or inside this shop.
Like other episodes of Enterprise so far, "Civilization" proceeds at an initially slow pace. In particular, the scenes inside Riann's house seem overly padded out with long pauses and silences. Slow is not necessarily bad, but the slowness here seems unnecessary to the point that it's as if the characters are standing around trying to avoid turning into an awkward situation.
The next day, Archer returns to the shop, now open, where he finds that the shop owner, Garos (Wade Andrew Williams in a wooden performance), is actually an off-worlder himself, also undercover. But he's not a Good Undercover Infiltrator like Archer; he's a Bad Undercover Infiltrator who is exploiting this particular region to produce goods he ships off-world for profit. His anti-matter reactor is what's poisoning the water supply. Right there is your evidence that this episode could be about the problems of contaminating other cultures, but the episode has no real desire to follow it through with any sort of thought pattern or to any intelligent conclusion. It just sort of drops it in our lap and proceeds with the episode's superficial adventure and romance aspects.
Yes, romance. No points for guessing that Archer will begin to fall for Riann (even if you hadn't already seen it in the trailer). It always kills me how two TV characters can fall instantly for each other, even though both have more pressing matters on their minds. There's a bit of goofiness here involving a malfunctioning universal translator, a misunderstanding Archer must cover up by "spontaneously" kissing Riann. I'm still not sure how those darn translator things work; it's maybe a better idea just to accept that they do and leave them off the screen.
The best shot in the episode is an homage to alien abduction/conspiracy stories, in which cargo is lifted from the ground by a mysterious beam of light into a small spaceship that takes off. This would seem at home in The X-Files or some other alien conspiracy or UFO abduction premise, and seeing it on Trek is a somewhat new-seeming visual. Based on the activity of the Bad Undercover Infiltrators, this planet would undoubtedly have a high frequency of UFO sightings.
Although not the slightest bit original, I also liked the concept of a hidden underground facility. The story includes a scene where Archer stares down through one of those glass windows in an operations room that allows one to observe the factory floor.
One sequence that seemed a bit silly was the action cliché of Which Button to Press. Blue button or yellow button? One solves the plot's problems. The other sets of the alarm. The story has Archer press the first one to manufacture a crisis and some suspense, and has him press the second one to fix the crises. How very nice.
The episode turns up the heat in the final act, which includes a phaser shootout on a crowded sidewalk and an attack on the Enterprise by the Bad Undercover Infiltrators' ship, which proves that this Starfleet vessel will have to outsmart its opponents since it definitely won't be outgunning them. The Enterprise doesn't even have shields; I wonder, how long can it last against enemies that do?
"Civilization" doesn't say anything new or interesting, or have anything that can be called a "point." It ends without asking any sort of question about the dangers of interfering with alien cultures, particularly those who don't have the technology or understanding to defend themselves from the social effects of a more advanced alien influence. The plot is stock-issue adventure with little in terms of compelling characters or debate. If Enterprise is going to be about the early lessons discovered by a new human crew in its early explorations, then the writers owe it to us to make the stories hinge on these ideas rather than ignoring them.
Next week: Stop the presses — Mayweather voices an opinion!
Previous episode: Breaking the Ice
Next episode: Fortunate Son
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47 comments on this post
Fri, Oct 7, 2011, 2:36pm (UTC -5)
I hope the episodes get better later.
Thu, Oct 27, 2011, 3:35pm (UTC -5)
This is getting really old.
Who cares about the rest of the episode; the above put me off in the first five minutes. Have they NO imagination whatever???
Thu, Oct 27, 2011, 4:30pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Jul 2, 2012, 10:23pm (UTC -5)
Not really sure why this is a prime directive matter. It was the other ship that was interfering in the affairs of this world, not Enterprise. They were simply trying to stop that interference, drawing as little attention to themselves as possible.
Tue, Aug 7, 2012, 8:51am (UTC -5)
Sun, Oct 14, 2012, 3:43pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Mar 18, 2013, 3:30am (UTC -5)
The first time i watched 'civilization' i felt very entertained by solid pacing, a terrific and innovative score by JAY CHATTAWAY, an adorable guest actress, well executed action sequences and, above all, a stunning production design ( watch all the details in the shop).
In my opinion, other TV-Series can't offer even half of the dedication that was put into ENTERPRISE.
And not every single episode has to be a lesson about right or wrong choices, as long as they're entertaining.
ROGUE PLANET for example was boring AND without substance or any kind of productiom value.
'CIVILISATION' will always remain one of my favourite season One episodes
Thu, May 9, 2013, 5:45am (UTC -5)
But, this episode really fell down. After the final firefight - where are all the people? How are they affected by all this action in the middle of their city? The episode didn't address this at all. They just disappear and that's the end of that. Talk about lazy.
Sun, Jun 2, 2013, 6:06pm (UTC -5)
1. if Archer goes down he will meet a woman.
2. the person who ends up helping the away team will be an open-minded genius way ahead of their time.
3. Archer, ever the bumbling fool, will be found out and be seen as a demon/sorcerer/whatever.
4. Oh there's an anti-matter reactor now? So much for the list, this episode already sucks.
Well, 3 out 4 isn't bad. I really hoped that they, for once, wouldn't reveal how super duper awesome advanced they are to the backward yokels, but there was the scene not even half way through.
Thu, Jan 30, 2014, 4:51pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Feb 16, 2014, 1:27am (UTC -5)
Sun, Sep 21, 2014, 7:35am (UTC -5)
Mon, Oct 13, 2014, 1:38am (UTC -5)
Mon, Oct 13, 2014, 7:30am (UTC -5)
...only on Enterprise...
Mon, Oct 13, 2014, 8:35am (UTC -5)
Mon, Oct 13, 2014, 10:19pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Oct 14, 2014, 8:32am (UTC -5)
I read Jammer's reviews.
Jammer: "There's a bit of goofiness here involving a malfunctioning universal translator. Archer must cover up by "spontaneously" kissing Riann."
Jammer: "The romance is based on the whims of scriptwriters (perhaps fulfilling the opening stretch's Archer Must Kiss a Girl quota), not because of characterization or motivation."
Tue, Oct 14, 2014, 8:38pm (UTC -5)
I thought it was clear that the kiss is meant to be funny, both in the "goofy" context of the moment and as a meta reference to Kirk.
I guess I don't see Kirk's Beautiful Alien Woman dalliances as any less writer-whimsical. I'm not sure why Jammer's looking for more from Archer.
Wed, Oct 15, 2014, 2:48pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Jan 9, 2015, 1:51pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Mar 30, 2016, 6:44am (UTC -5)
Nevertheless, as an actioner it worked fairly well, even if playing up some major cliches. But even Archer getting the girl had a playful nod to TOS so it's difficult to mark it down too much on that account. 2.5 stars.
Thu, Jul 14, 2016, 9:29am (UTC -5)
Soooo.... Archer get's to kiss and alien and she likes it! A homage to TOS of I've ever seen one. :-)
I also thought they were going to more pointedly delve into the Prime Directive thing, but I'm fine they didn't. I probably would have been upset had they thrown that in our faces using this plot.
All in all a fun episode. Glad they involved Hoshi. Linda does a great job with her part here IMO.
Love it when T'Pol stunned that gal!
"ARCHER: Was that necessary?
T'POL: She was armed.
ARCHER: Let's try not to shoot anyone else while we're here, okay?
T'POL: I'll try."
2.5 stars from me.
Thu, Sep 8, 2016, 7:18pm (UTC -5)
The thing that stuck in my mind the most about this episode was when they took a picture, from space, of one native girl and decided "oh, we can do a little stage makeup and fit right in with these people we know nothing about". I know that they are kinda new to this exploring thing, but that's pretty dumb.
Tue, Sep 27, 2016, 7:12am (UTC -5)
Wed, Dec 14, 2016, 9:27pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Dec 15, 2016, 2:58pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Jul 17, 2017, 12:03am (UTC -5)
As for this episode, I thought it was about average for the series. But it was most certainly a precursor of the prime directive. Many of enterprise's episodes were about it, but not explicitly, and I think this would go down in Archer's logs as one of the reasons to have the prime directive. Or at least the way they handled it in the show.
I don't think Picard would have had a problem trying to get rid of the alien on the planet, but not by blatantly telling someone there that they are aliens, but that is only another example of us humans learning to interact with other species. Archer is the first and is basically making it up as he goes along remember.
I give it 2 1/2 stars.
Wed, Aug 23, 2017, 6:04am (UTC -5)
Coupled with a clumsy and awkward romance theme, this is a really lazy and uninspired installment. A handful of shows in, I'm really warming to the 'earthiness' of the characters. It seems to be the lackluster stories that let the whole thing down.
Since this is my first watch though, I look forward to improvements.
Sat, Sep 30, 2017, 11:33am (UTC -5)
Sun, Oct 8, 2017, 3:25pm (UTC -5)
That aside, I'm fond of this episode but it does have several areas that could be improved:
1) The aliens should have been a LITTLE less humanoid. The parallels are too convenient, but that happens a lot in Trek. They've only got 45 minutes to tell the story so they have to take shortcuts somewhere.
2) The timing seemed off - the actual "time". They've already gone 78 light years? Maybe it should have been 28 or 38, but 78 seems wrong. The other timing: how many hours actually passes and how long is a day on that planet? Seems like Riaan's little cottage had light streaming in whether it was night or day, morning or afternoon. Did Archer hang with her all day until they went to watch the back door of the shop? Maybe that is when they had a little time to flirt or get familiar?
3) T'Pol is jealous. Really jealous. Is this the behavior of a Vulcan, even a slightly emotional one? Spock was half human and didn't make snot remarks to Kirk about his behavior with aliens. She told him to "enjoy your tea" with the venom of a rattlesnake, and I can only attribute that to the director.
4) The writing is predictable, with the exception of the Malurians turning out to be scaled under their masks. That was a cool twist. It was pretty standard, but as Trek goes, I would have liked to see something slightly different happen. Riaan's reaction to the various space age technology was unremarkable.
5) Sets were budget. You can see the wall shake when Bakula jumps up from behind a well to a doorway so he can shoot at the oil lamp, towards the end. Maybe they were just too tired to notice during the shooting - remembering 9-11.
6) Transporting the reactor from the basement to the transporter room, then re-transporting it into orbit in time for the Malurian ship to crash into it. WHAT? Just transport the thing into orbit. Why the need for a stop mid-way inside Enterprise? Ain't that a little, um, DANGEROUS?
7) transitioning at the end. The medicine to cure the people with the disease just showed up, and Archer with it. It's bothersome, again, back to the timing. What happened between destroying the reactor and the morning (?) the liquid arrives.
8) Did Archer spend more time on the planet with Riaan or go back to Enterprise? His lines from the writers were uninspiring - "you bet." I did like the inside easter egg to TOS - a little romance is part of life - indeed, unless we are all test tube babies in 2150, without sex there won't be 10 billion humans on Earth, so it's not unreasonable for Archer to feel close to Riaan if he's spent 5-6 days down there with an intelligent, attractive female, to kiss her goodbye.
This story could have been really developed much better, but I hardly blame the characters, or the cast and crew. Shannon, thanks for saving me MORE typing.
I give it 3 stars and see it for what it is - a plain wrap Trek that shows the crew how interfering might be a bad idea, as a prelude to Dear Doctor where they are asked again for HELP - the Prime Directive is part of Archer's invention. Fans need to stop slamming him for "not being Picard" and take Archer for who Archer is -the first captain of a deep space ship in Starfleet, 8 episodes in, and filmed the week of our 9-11 terrorist attack.
Wed, Nov 29, 2017, 4:58pm (UTC -5)
Comfortable is how I would describe this episode with a neat little society the crew go undercover to investigate mysterious goings on and team up with a citizen to solve the problem. Nice production too. Nothing remotekyboruginsl but entertaining nonetheless
Tue, Mar 20, 2018, 10:11am (UTC -5)
Another blow on the contrived Vulcan "prime directive" policy.
Fri, Apr 27, 2018, 9:17pm (UTC -5)
There wasn't even much of a mystery to unravel. Archer & co. know right off the bat they have to do something about the reactor and it's just a question of mechanics. I suppose it was clever to beam the reactor near the more powerful enemy ship and blow it up to disable the enemy. This is similar to the street battle scene at the end where Riann tells Archer to phaser a street lamp which blows up and KOs the bad guys.
I guess I wonder about Archer just letting the bad guys beam away back to their ship -- he has no authority to do anything to them, but what's stopping them from coming back with another reactor for more mining? What of the case where Star Fleet sees another advanced culture messing with a pre-warp culture? Here, there's no formal PD yet so Archer just takes it upon himself to figure out the mystery of the reactor come hell or high water.
A couple of the scenes with Archer and Riann were silly -- the whole UT not working so Archer kisses Riann (can she not hear the beeping of the device and ask what's going on?) and then there's the yellow/blue button scene...not very intelligent stuff.
Barely 2.5 stars for "Civilization" and it's meaningless title. This is the kind of episode that ENT should do something better with -- make it more intelligent instead of it being so mechanical. The bad guys were stiff, stock villains, but seem to be more advanced than the Enterprise crew, but without the morals to go with it. Not a waste of an hour, however, it was unsatisfying.
Fri, Jun 15, 2018, 10:52am (UTC -5)
Fri, Jun 15, 2018, 10:53am (UTC -5)
Tue, Oct 2, 2018, 11:15pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Jul 26, 2019, 8:43pm (UTC -5)
Enterprise is my favorite Star Trek series notwithstanding.
Fri, Sep 13, 2019, 5:15am (UTC -5)
Sat, May 23, 2020, 11:13pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Sep 2, 2020, 6:00pm (UTC -5)
1 What the hell was that insubordination by Trip? He seemed to think he was in control. That kind of thing should have been nailed down by Archer from the start. Is TPol 2nd in command or what? They can’t be deciding this stuff when he’s not there. Poor leadership.
2 Quite the kickass move by TPol, use their own reactor as a weapon. Not seen or suspected anything like that from her, but she’s given zero credit by anyone - no mention by Trip he was wrong or the Captain saying ‘well done’. I mean come on, that was a decent move. I know we’re used to it, but they’re not...
Sat, Nov 21, 2020, 3:53pm (UTC -5)
It seems that a lot of Star Trek fans are comfortable with the "rules" already set down. (eg Humans are civilized, Prime Directive, etc). I would actually be disappointed if Enterprise ran like that! This show shows that exploration is fresh, new and the humans travel is seat of the pants and untried
Also, I applaud the way the episode turned out. Because if there was a bad contamination of culture from Enterprise, THEN it would be foolish of the crew to do it again and again. This way, with bad aliens on the planet doing bad things and our heroes stopping them, it would make sense if Archer and co do this kind of thing again (so that plot isn't shut down the rest of the series). I mean, yes, eventually they (or another 22nd century crew) will do something that will make Starfleet realise that a non-interference policy is prudent. Until then, I can enjoy the show!
I also like the indigenous woman from the planet. Maybe my tastes differ from most, but many of the actresses are not attractive to me, but she is.
I also like that they refrained from bad language this episode. For that and other reasons, this is the last Star Trek series (I mean the last one made) that I watch
Sat, Nov 21, 2020, 4:06pm (UTC -5)
Point #6: Once again, this is a prequel! In this Enterprise, the crew is afraid of the transporter and barely understand it! They probably didn't know you COULD transport something somewhere else without going on the transporter pad first! Actually, maybe you couldn't (that might be something that isn't invented yet)
I personally think Enterprise did a good job of showing that this is a prequel (especially since the "future" deals with a 1960s show with 1960s effects and a shoestring budget)
You know, though, this really is to be expected. The reason why the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew are still being written is that the characters and situations are constantly updated in newer books. *(Bear with me, this is NOT a non sequitur) I have talked to kids about older books like the classic Nancy/Hardys or the Three Investigators, and they can't get over the fact that when the young detectives get in trouble, they can't whip out a cell phone and call for help. Or if Nancy is lost in her roadster, they ask why she didn't use GPS! I don't think a lot of people can put themselves in a time period when reading/watching a story!
I think it must have been VERY hard for the Enterprise writers to show that this prequel really has less technology (and know-how) from a show written in the 1960s, and I think they did a good job of it. I just think that Enterprise came too late. I think that if it were made before Next Generation, it would do as well and have a sucessful 7 years (as the other 3 shows did)
Fri, Jan 22, 2021, 2:02pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Jan 25, 2021, 1:28pm (UTC -5)
Yeah, I thought that part was cool, too.
I didn't like this episode much when I first watched it, but it's grown on me a little after a recent re-watch. The sets, music, and lighting were all very good. Bakula had good chemistry with the guest actress.
Not great, but a solid half-hour.
Mon, Apr 19, 2021, 7:25pm (UTC -5)
Trip: "Belay that. Keep this ship right where it is."
Trip: "Billy, stand by to vent the nacelles on my order."
Trip: "We're not going anywhere!"
So Trip tried to raise a mutiny... where's the consequence? It's just forgotten immediately. You'd think trying to overthrow your superior would have adverse effects on your position as chief engineer. Maybe T'Pol is just very lenient, but I wonder how Trip could keep his position after such an extreme display of insubordination.
Tue, Feb 7, 2023, 7:47pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Mar 25, 2023, 1:32pm (UTC -5)
Why was Archer on the away team? It's a recurrent flaw in so many Trek episodes: the captain should be sending high-ranking well=trained subordinates, not taking the risks involved in being away from his command. He has a ship to look after.
T'Pol can be eminently reasonable, even obviously correct and she gets the smug "oh you're a Vulcan, we're human, you mean nothing" treatment. It's weak writing to just use her as a foil, especially when she has meaningful input to offer.
One of the better aspects of this episode is the performance of Diane DiLascio as Riann. She's one of those versatile actresses who showed up in many series. IMDB lists 26 different series in which she appeared from 1993 to 2007. I think she's the most memorable part of this otherwise ho-hum episode. I remember her and the shot of the sailing ship from orbit. Otherwise it seems we've seen a lot of stories like this in other Trek series before.
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