In brief: Milk toast.
While watching "Marauders," I saw during one of the commercial breaks an ad for an upcoming action movie called Half Past Dead, set inside a prison and starring Steven Seagal and Ja Rule. Much to my amazement (and dismay), the end of the commercial informed me that Half Past Dead is rated PG-13. Yes, PG-13. And I'm thinking, has the bloodthirsty testosterone-driven violent American action genre been so watered down for mainstream marketing reasons that now Steven Seagal films are rated PG-13? What has our world come to?
It is of some irony or coincidence or appropriateness or something (or not) that this commercial airs during "Marauders," the epitome of milquetoast Star Trek action, where the last act is devoted almost completely to an extended action sequence where Our Heroes must ward off the threat of the Evildoers, and yet not one person — friend or foe — is killed or even seriously injured. Given that this is, after all, the Star Trek universe and its Evolved Sensibilities we're talking about, I'm willing to grant that this is somewhat appropriate. Certainly more appropriate than a Steven Seagal film released to the masses as PG-13.
My point? I guess that "Marauders" is so devoid of anything worth getting worked up about — for good or ill — that I'd rather get worked up over the fact that Steven Seagal now stars in movies that are rated PG-13 (it's not bad enough that Seagal films are generally garbage; now they're watered-down garbage). Perhaps "Marauders" is your cup of tea and perhaps it's not, but I found it to be a very tame and unimaginative recycling of a very familiar story. (A recent version of this story is the Disney/Pixar film A Bug's Life, more entertaining than this.) Yes, the location shooting and production design here is impressive. Yes, Mike Vejar is a good director. But all the surface gloss and competency in the world cannot make up for story developments that make me shrug and say, "So?"
The plot is about as bare-boned as they come. Colony of miners produces refined deuterium. Colony sells deuterium to passersby. Colony, unfortunately, is being bullied by group of Klingon marauders, who use intimidation and violence to hoard all the miners' output production, leaving them empty-handed. Colony has tried to fight back, but Klingons are too strong and mean. Enter the Enterprise and Captain Archer, who, once he learns about this situation, wants to help.
There's certainly nothing wrong with that story sketch as a starting point. It's classic Trek material, albeit very middle-of-the-road stuff. Unfortunately, there's nothing really right about this story either. The script's approach is to give us the facts and assume we care about them, without giving us anything dramatic or interesting to invite us to care. I guess that's the problem — not that I disliked this episode but rather that I was so disinterested. Archer's humanistic desire to help people (who are initially too afraid to accept his position of standing up to the Klingons) is an admirable (if obvious) character trait. But the episode has no real depth or questions to consider. It's painfully straightforward. "I've never liked bullies," Archer tells Trip at one point. End of story. Philosophizing goes no deeper than that. Okay, there's also, "Give a man a fish, and he eats for a day; teach him to fish, and he eats for a lifetime." Whoa. Deep.
Archer's plan is to teach the colonists how to defend themselves in the few days before the Klingons return to raid the colony. T'Pol holds an introductory martial-arts class, showing how to avoid a Klingon wielding a bat'leth. (There's one amusing moment when T'Pol asks a reluctant Mayweather to help her demonstrate an attack. T'Pol: "You won't hurt me." Mayweather: "It's not you that I'm worried about.") Reed and Sato offer sessions for target practice with firearms. A clever plan is hatched to relocate buildings so the deuterium field will be exposed and can be set ablaze. Trip befriends a boy (Jesse James Rutherford, a sub-par performance) whose father was killed in an earlier skirmish with the Klingon bullies. Archer reassures the colony leader (Larry Ceder, performance par for course), who quietly despairs at his own ineffectiveness. These scenes represent a series of facts mostly free of underlying tension or suspense, scarcely more interesting than as I've just described them. Hence the episode's unfortunate lack of an emotional spark.
The Big Battle in the show's closing act is a bizarre and ultimately borderline-humorous compromise between elaborate action staging and attitudes of unmistakable non-violence. Despite the fact the Klingons are trying to kill Our Heroes, every effort is made for Our Heroes not to resort to killing any of the Klingons. The good guys punch, kick, throw rocks, shoot guns without hitting anyone, and use other non-lethal tactics (included is a scene that shows how T'Pol also fills the role of Action Hero Chick With Spin-Kick Moves), and ultimately they lure the Klingons into a trap where a fire ring appears around them. The big payoff involving the fire ring is overplayed to the point of goofiness; the Klingons' moment of realization is hammered at with the precision of a sledgehammer, making our heroes look not nearly so clever as the villains are clueless.
I dunno. "Marauders" is what it is — a bloodless, light-as-a-feather action show with handsome production values but absolutely and positively no edge. It takes bland safeness to new heights; it doesn't come within a hundred yards of anything daring, offensive, challenging, or otherwise intriguing. If you're looking for a very simple hour of TV that pushes no buttons or envelopes and inspires in you little thought or emotional reaction, this will maybe get the job done. Plus, nobody gets hurt.
But then, you might also find yourself more riled by the notion of a PG-13 Steven Seagal movie than anything that happens here.
Next week: A skeleton in T'Pol's closet?
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