Star Trek: Enterprise

“North Star”

2 stars.

Air date: 11/12/2003
Written by David A. Goodman
Directed by David Straiton

"All the things humanity has accomplished — building ships like this, traveling to other worlds — and we're still down there shooting each other." — Bethany

Review Text

In brief: A shallow Trek adventure by the numbers.

"North Star" takes a high-concept situation and filters it through the most obvious and worn of Star Trek formulas. The result is an episode that's all about setting and rarely about substance. What little substance we have here is awfully tired, and reveals a dearth when it comes to depth.

The trailers make this look like a fun send-up of the Western genre. It's not. I'd have gladly taken the send-up over what we get here, which is an all-too-simplistic alien abduction premise that becomes an earnest but barely-scratching-the-surface meditation on prejudice. It then limps to its insipid action climax involving the clichéd shootout on Main Street and obligatory fistfight in the horse's stall. If you want a sci-fi Western that's actually fun, then go watch Back to the Future Part III, because "North Star" is a bore.

The episode's assumption is that we'll go along with the story merely because it's Trek ported into a Western. That's Level One thinking. Level Two thinking would've come up with a story to make the Western setting necessary or interesting. At the very least, the writers could've exploited the setting for some good gags. (There is a gag involving an anachronistic shootout between gunslingers and phaser, um, slingers, but it's not a very funny gag.) There is one scene-changing wipe in the episode, which I found amusing in an in-joke kind of way. But it's not representative of the episode's tone, which for the most part is painfully straight. This is not a satiric homage in the vein of, say, Voyager's "Bride of Chaotica!" but merely a mediocre outing in Western clothing.

The idea is that some aliens called the Skagarans kidnapped a bunch of humans from America's Old West some 300 years ago and brought them to this planet in the Delphic Expanse to use as a colony of slave labor. Would space travelers with advanced technology really need to resort to bringing primitive slave labor all the way here from Earth? I tend to doubt it, but we must press on.

Since that time 300 years ago, the humans have overcome the Skagarans. The onetime oppressors are now the oppressed — second-class citizens that the humans subjugate in order to keep them in check (they are commonly referred to pejoratively as "Skags," and the opening scene shows a Skag lynching). The Message is that these humans are in arrested development in their prejudices as well as their clothing. But I wonder if a human colony that has learned of space travel and come to accept Earth as a long-ago myth would still look like they just stepped off the set of a Western. Maybe, maybe not; the episode doesn't much care.

The story takes its time getting off the ground. The first act establishes the villain with the standard cliché (I hesitate to say "homage") of a run-in between him and Archer at the town saloon. Meanwhile, T'Pol and Trip strike a deal to borrow a horse and ride out to the town's outskirts to investigate. The scene where T'Pol reluctantly rides with Trip on the horse is an example of an idea that wants to be funny but simply has no inherent humor; the fact alone does not equate a funny situation, and the writers don't build it into anything.

The episode essentially has three guest characters, all Western clichés. There's the sheriff (Glenn Morshower), who lays down the law, but not harshly; the crooked, wrong-headed deputy (James Parks), who's the villain of the piece; and schoolteacher Bethany (Emily Bergl), the noble sympathizer who ventures into the woods late at night to teach the Skagaran children how to read and write and 'rithmetic. Schooling the Skagarans, by the way, is against the law.

Archer joins Bethany for the night's lesson, which is interrupted by the deputy, who gets to invoke Enterprise's #1 cliché by ensuring that Archer Goes to Jail™. The next day the sheriff releases him with a warning, but the message is clear: Archer cannot allow these humans to continue oppressing the Skagarans.

One thing I liked about the episode was Archer's swift decisiveness. Because these people are human and have an awareness of their history, he sees no problem in intervening. He lands a shuttlepod right in the middle of Main Street, which is an amusingly anachronistic image. He strikes a reasonable dialog with the sheriff and explains how humanity has evolved and left old prejudices behind. He convinces the sheriff to put aside the past and ill-will toward the Skagarans so this colony might eventually rejoin the human race.

Also anachronistic (but less amusing) is when the Evil Deputy and his underlings force a shootout, resulting in bullets being answered with phaser-fire from the Enterprise's faceless MACOs. This action climax is obvious, tired, and blatantly obligatory, and involves the expected Western standbys, including a guy being shot and rolling off a sloped roof in slow motion and other guys ducking behind troughs of water. In the tradition of modern action heroes, Captain Archer can be shot through the shoulder and naturally still go mano a mano with the villain and win. T'Pol is taken hostage with a gun to her temple; I liked Reed's solution — he takes a tip from Jeff Daniels and shoots the hostage.

The problem here is that the Evil Deputy is not a character representing the troubling or subtle nuances of prejudice, but simply a cardboard source of conflict to initiate the fighting at the end. This guts any possibility of drama, because we are not watching a fight for ideas, but simply a fight for the sake of staged television action. It's so obviously going through the motions that we abandon any hope the deputy will stand for any ideas, even bad ones.

The one thing Enterprise needs to be wary of this season is its cookie-cutter use of gratuitous fourth-act action. They say television writing is all about structure, and the structure that this season has settled into is one that mandates a predictable shootout in the final act. Sometimes it works when the story supports it, as in "Twilight," but this mechanical pattern has also played into "The Xindi," "Rajiin," "Impulse," and now here. It's going to play itself out if the writers aren't careful. (Let's not devolve this show into a slicker version of Andromeda.)

And enough with the gratuitous staccato film exposure. Just because it's an action sequence doesn't mean it justifies staccato effect. In Saving Private Ryan, yes. In the Old West, no. Visually speaking, I have no objection to staccato effect, but it shouldn't be used constantly and for no reason.

The closing passage makes an attempt to put this all in perspective. Bethany and Archer have a pithy discussion about how far humanity has evolved in 300 years while this lost colony hasn't evolved a day. Why are these colonists still stuck in the Old West, anyway? It's an interesting question, but that's all it is — a question dropped in our laps. The episode brings no insights, answers, or reasoned thoughts to the whys and workings of this colony. The writers' interest strikes me as perfunctory, as if they were simply more interested in showing the Old West than in figuring out why it might still exist.

Who knows: Sealed off from the rest of humanity, an isolated culture with so few people might not have the capacity for much growth. Unfortunately, this is a point the episode doesn't bring up, because it doesn't bring up any points. We can see here that prejudice and stagnation are bad things, but we don't see how or why they came to be or what anybody in this colony really thinks about them.

Next week: One of the regular characters dies ... and it's not Mayweather!

Previous episode: Twilight
Next episode: Similitude

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Comment Section

70 comments on this post

    this episode isn't half bad. Not great, but it's definitely one of the better Enterprise episodes. Then again, that's not saying much.

    The this episode dealt with real issues, and real morality, which is a nice change of pace. And the ending is kinda uplifting.

    I, too, enjoyed this episode a bit more than 2 stars worth. It was well acted throughout and provided some distance from the somewhat self-repeating Xindi storyline.

    I agree, the suspension of disbelief factor was extremely high, but in Star Trek, it always is.

    So the fate of the entire planet (earth that is) rides on Archer's shoulders, and yet he's on some random planet risking getting his head blown off sticking up for some random kid in a saloon, by getting in the middle of some dispute he doesn't even necessarily understand. This is too far a stretch for Archer's character at this point in the Xindi story.

    It's a stretch for Archer to be a hotheaded idiot? News to me.

    Excellent episode. Why does a western story have to be a send-up? They played it straight, with the sci-fi overtones, and did an excellent job. It was a very welcome break from the ongoing Xindi arc, and I'll bet Bakula had a ball donning the cowboy garb. I guess I'm just a dumb ol' level one thinker, though.

    I agree with David. Not every episode needs to be an enlightening development of characters or climatic messages. I thoroughly enjoyed this departure from regular Enterprise (plot holes aside) I'm sure this episode would have gotten a much fairer rating had all the other actually bad episodes not biased the reviewers analysis.

    So many missed angles in this episode.

    For one, the Enterprise crew should have mentioned how this mass abduction of humans by Skagarans was recorded by comtemporary Earth historians. A reference to some Earth event (perhaps called something like "The Great Disappearance of 1863") would have been nice.

    But the episode's oddest quirk was its total ignoring of the race question within human society. We got to hear the descendents of the white American abductess wax emotional about their ancestors' abduction and enslavement. Because of this, the show would have benefitted from a scene showing some discussion amongst the humans about the existence of black slavery in their anscestors' homeland -- and possibly even about their anscestors' own slave-owning practices. (We don't know what state the abductees were from, whether it was a slave state or a free state.)

    How would these humans, who have a deep hatred for human slavery as practiced by Skagarans, have regarded human slavery as practiced by humans? Unfortunately, the episode never explored this.

    The exact year that the abduction occurred is never stated. If it was after 1859, then the human abductees and their descendants would presumably know about John Brown's raid. I would really have loved to hear some mention of this somewhere within the dialogue about the humans' liberator Cooper Smith.

    Finally, it is really too bad that Mayweather, the only regular character who is black, was totally absent from this episode. But, in light of the episode's avoidance of the issues pertaining to race within human culture, I suppose that it isn't too surprising that he was left out -- it was just easier that way.

    While this episode looked great, its conceptual holes ultimately became distracting, and overwhelmed the initially-promising story that this episode presented.

    @Limey I agree, it was too much of a stretch to think that Archer was still doing his "hidey ho neighborino!" routine while he was supposed to be saving humanity from the Xindi. Why was he on this planet to begin with?

    @LM lmao, I agree with you too. Archer has always been a hotheaded idiot.

    Does anyone else still have a hard time buying the guy from Quantum Leap as a serious character? Is that just me? This new story arc had me for going for a little while, and for a brief moment I didn't think of Archer as a big joke. Then they do another episode like this... And all I can think is "Please, let Scott Bakula leap back onto a more appropriate show!".

    Archer is way too goofy and awkward for me to take seriously. I feel like the writers desperately want Archer to be Kirk, and that is never going to happen. For example, that scene in the stable where Archer is chasing after the bad guy after being shot in the arm. Kirk could have pulled that off; Archer cannot. Scott Bakula just doesn't have the face, the voice or the demeanor of someone who wins fist fights. I could have bought Archer as a diplomat if the writers hadn't killed that idea (see 'a night in sick bay' for an example of character assassination). I can buy Archer as someone who is driven to lead others to victory by his strong emotions. But, I can't buy him as some kind of super hero who will save humanity on his own, which seems to be a huge part of what the writer's have been selling with this temporal cold war jazz. I'm not even sure I could buy Kirk in that role, come to it.

    Surprising as it may be, I actually enjoyed this episode. *shudders*

    Uhm... let me rephrase that: I did not *detest* it like I usually do things Enterprise lately.

    I will agree with Jammer in that there's little substance here, the prejudice issue obviously being the episode's focal point but not receiving enough in-depth exploration to provide us viewers with anything substantial. Then there's the usual Enteprise clichés already mentioned by Jammer, as well as some strange plot points that are either merely brushed aside (the arrested development of this society for 300 years, the exploration of only *one* settlement by the Enterprise crew, etc. etc.) or not mentioned at all (see Mayweather and black slavery issue).

    But despite all that, I actually welcomed the chance for the show's characters to don cowboy boots and parade around a Far West town for a little while. It sets this episode apart from the mountain of mediocrity we're accustomed to. Archer is no John Wayne, but he gets a few Western mannerisms right. Even the "evil" deputy sheriff isn't the total cliché one would think.

    So despite not achieving the same pinnacles as its predecessors (Jammer mentioned VOY's "The Bride of Chaotica", but I also recall TNG's "A Fistful of Datas" which granted, takes place inside the Holodeck) this episode was a somewhat enjoyable 40 minutes for me.

    Oddly enjoyed this episode. Not sure why...the premise is ridiculous. However it has good acting and great guest actors. 3 stars for me.

    While some might question the lack of advancement for this group, you have to wonder how far our own west would have advanced with no influence from the east, who brought in the European ideas along with a constant influx of new people. No universities, no education beyond eighth grade. And, may I say, there weren't nearly enough women. It was women who were the civilizing influence on those wild western towns!

    Call me shallow, but I enjoyed this episode for much the same reason I enjoyed the recent zombie episode: Impulse. If you think about it to much, it all falls apart. But it's very effective as an atmosphere. It's fun and enjoyable, both to watch the zombie Vulcans and to take part in the standard western cliches. Neither are particularly good by Star Trek standards, but they're well done and entertaining for what they are.

    Agreed, what has happened with this review is overanalysis, IMO. There comes a time, now and again, when one must stop being Deadly Serious and let your hair down much like the writers and actors obviously got to do and just have *fun*.

    This was one of those times, and because I wasn't expecting extreme in-depth storytelling (like one wouldn't when watching, say, The Expendables) I really enjoyed it. YMMV, it would seem.

    Did you notice how Archer said "keep a low profile" to Trip and T'pol, then goes around the corner and starts a bar brawl? That was funny.

    And of course it's non-interference time for Archer because the natural development let the humans overtake the aliens here, like the Menk were going to do with the Valakians in Dear Doctor. Oh, no, it isn't. Sorry.


    That's all I could think of for most of this episode.

    Though given that it's written by David Goodman I guess he'd claim it's an Original Series homage. And I suppose the production does count for something here. The Sheriff and Bennings were also pretty decent.

    But ultimately I agree with Jammer; A high-concept show that doesn't realise it should be a comedy. Just what you'd expect from the guy that brought us Precious Cargo.

    *I've only seen the first 5 episodes before getting bored.

    I agree with Jammer's comments, but I thought the episode was fun to watch.

    It makes no sense how they could have changed so little. They should have adopted elements of Skagaran culture and language. Some elements of Western culture would have been dropped b/c the natural resources, climate, and absence of a world economy made were different. Some new elements would have cropped up for the same reason. The show takes itself that seriously, not just a Western in space, so they should have brought some of that out.

    Like most Star Trek episodes, this one treats a planet as a place the size of Delaware. There were only a few thousand individuals there. Couldn't they share a whole planet?

    I wasn't expecting much going into this episode, so it was a pleasant surprise that I found it quite entertaining. Certainly not one of the season's best, but it was an enjoyable change of pace from the ongoing Xindi arc. I certainly didn't find it at all boring, as Jammer did. (The only episode I've found boring this season, to date, is Extinction.) I'd give it at least 2 1/2 stars.

    Cloudane said, "what has happened with this review is over-analysis."

    I agree.

    Strangely I liked this episode much better than TOS' Spectre of the gun or TNG's Fistful of Datas (really disliked both of those).

    I think ENT season 3 is pretty good so far.

    Lighten up, Jammer. This was just a sort of stupid but fun to watch episode for entertainment purposes only. It did remind me of Firefly, but in a nice way, not in a rip-off way. I hated that weird Fistful of Datas, but North Star was pleasant with an adequate although preposterous plot line.

    Enterprise manages a holodeck episode before the invention of the holodeck.

    I'm a fan of westerns and I thought this was good fun.

    As some other mentioned above, I too thought it was ridiculous and silly, but unlike those who mentioned it above, I did not like this episode and think two stars is too generous. But then I've never been a fan of Old West stuff. As Jammer said, this was chock full of cliches.

    But eh, too each their own.

    I see why this turkey series flopped. I sat thru this once just to see it. Ferdinand was right. Given the parallels between the Skagarans and black slavery it was odd that it was never once mentioned or even alluded to. I suppose not having Mayweather on the show at all would make the crew look like a bunch of pious hypocrites. Considering that the dog has gotten more screen time than he has they aren't far from that now.

    Pure trash. Never again.

    When this started I thought: "Gee - I wonder what they will do once they go through all the western cliches of the 'hangins', possies, saving the schoolteacher, jailbreaks, bar fight/standoffs and shootouts?"

    Answer: Nothing at all. A hackneyed revisit of every cliche in the book of how to make a western without any humour, risk, intelligence or imagination. Zero stars.

    I'm shocked so many posters here liked this episode. I thought it was rather shallow in plot and full of cliches. The premise that an advanced alien species would need to travel to far away Earth to find slaves is ridiculous. And if the Earthlings overthrow the Skag overlords, why didn't a Skag SWAT team show up to put down the human uprising? Just makes zero sense. The action scene at the end was a joke with Archer got shot in the shoulder and then taking down the deputy at the horse stalls. Just embarrassingly bad, and such a shame to have such a dud after two solid episodes.

    It is absurd to think that humans from the late 19th Century would still only have 19th Century technology, 300 years later. Also, it seems unlikely that a species so far advanced that they were capable of interstellar travel could be overcome and subjugated by 19th century humans.

    Wow, what interesting comments on this one. A break from the Xindi storyline is a huge problem here I guess... wonder what those same folks thought about all the diversions in seasons 6 & 7 of DS9?

    Somehow the countless "holodeck" episodes throughout Trek are acceptable (with some pretty much universal duds for sure), but when Enterprise takes break and gives us a holodeck episode without the holodeck it's rubbish.

    How dare an episode mention the word slavery without paying homage to the black slaves of America. ... as if slavery was an American "thing", as if blacks didn't sell their own into slavery, as if there weren't black slave owners, as if America was the last despite of slavery left on earth. Jesus... slavery was a human problem, not an exclusively American one. They probably left Travis out of most of this episode because they didn't want to have to relate slavery to just an American problem. Although I wouldn't have minded including him as long as the conversation/reference was done properly, not like was done in TNG: MOM. See 'The Savage Curtain' from TOS for an appropriate context.

    These folks weren't plucked out of Boston or New York, they were plucked out of the Midwest somewhere... somewhere that didn't even have running water or plumbing or the steam engine or even electricity. Folks forget how big a societal gap there was between the cities and the mid-west during that time frame.

    They were swooped up. I'm sure they didn't grab their history or science books or bring along Benjamin Franklin for the ride. It's really not too much of a stretch that they hadn't progressed technologically at all noting their lack of resources, initial enslavement and education level upon abduction - unless of course you're looking for a reason to dis Enterprise.

    Archer did the right thing here. I'm not sure what else someone could have expected.

    The episode was good fun, while illustrating the huge differences between folks of that time and now.

    Seeing T'Pol get up on that horse was a riot. The shoot-out at the end was good fun too.

    My only issue with this episode is the Skagarans and stranded humans were never addressed again in the series [I think]. (so I guess the Illyrians never had a chance :-) )

    Good acting all around except the deputy was pretty hammy.

    4.0 classic? No, but a solid 3.0 for sure.

    After the superb "Twilight" episode I wasn't in the mood for another one of the recycled hack scripts that seem to fill half the show. At the point that it was clear T'Pol was in mortal danger if discovered, the logical action was to replace her on the mission. And she would have said so, because it was a needless risk - only used to generate tension by lazy writers. I turned it off, sarcastically predicting the ending (which I later saw was right).

    Ok story and playing. I liked it. The only really irritating thing was when T'Pol was held by the villain. Is she not a Vulcan , stronger than a human man and good in material arts? But she just hangs there. Poor not to show some Vulcan feminism.

    I always hated this kind of episode, no matter if TOS, TNG, DS9, VOY or ENT.

    It's complete and utter rubbish that humans who are taken from their surroundings just keep doing the same things for hundreds of years, not developing at all.

    Yay, Western! Or not... I'm also not keen on these types of episodes, but I suppose at least with a holodeck you can have an excuse that works a little better than the giant contrivance at play here. As an instrument this is fairly blunt in terms of messaging as well, and it mines every Western cliche in the book from lynching to shootout.

    I suppose the cast seem to be enjoying themselves but I can't say that I did. 1.5 stars.

    I've been going through Enterprise in its entirety for the first time the past couple of weeks, and despite it's apparent mediocraty (Season 2 being a slog at points) I'm enjoying it. Not great Trek, better than VOY.

    For all those complaining about the lack of advancement over 300 years, it's important to realize several things.

    1) the rail/mail system we had on earth in the period these humans were abducted from was integral to the spread of ideas and scientific discovery. By all accounts, each human settlement here is relativly isolated.

    2) The number of people here. There's not many, and that cuts down on the number of people able to have big ideas.

    3) At that time, science and research was something the higher social class did. It was in vogue to experiment and discover things. The higher classes would though tea parties to discuss the results of some nuts attempt to sew one dog's head on another's body, and what was learned.

    4) Not being high-class, instead only farmers and the like, these people probably are to busy toiling with the day to day, just trying to survive. They don't have time for discovery or big ideas. It probably took them a hundred years to wrap their heads around aliens and being on another planet.

    5) I still don't know where they got horses or the means to make meaningless money. Now THAT doesn't make sense.

    I enjoyed this episode a lot. Some points:

    Archer, despite being on mission to save earth, is doing intensive scanning looking for Xindi. Therefore, I imagine he felt that he could afford two days to investigate humans in the Expanse!

    Given the time frame and cultures he found, it is unsurprising he encountered "routine" western experiences. And the cultures are explicable because of the whole slave/slave revolt/burn everything that enslaved us events that occurred. A key comment was "they abducted the wrong people." I would imagine that just surviving on this particular planet would be very challenging and we have to remember that life expectancy has a lot to do with technological and social innovation.

    It would have been nice to have discussed the slave/indigenous issues that existed in mid 19th century US but that pulls the plot away from the basic conflict that exists in this planet today.

    I thought the horse thing was funny.

    I liked not having edges tied up and that Archer makes no promises because he knows that if he fails his larger mission, no ships will come for these people. What he does do is to leave materials and ideas that can help these cultures move forward constructively.

    It would have been nice to find other Skagorans later on their home world or on colonies to learn more about them.

    And, I imagine that given how isolated some parts of West were, that some alien abductions could happen without a pattern being evident.

    Another episode that allows me to think about possible sequels--this always moves it to 3 stars

    After the exceptional 'Twilight' I'm not going to dismiss this episode because it failed to contribute anything to the Xindi story arc.

    I 'll just dismiss it for being awful.

    Actually I will make one specific criticism of 'North Star' after all, because I think it explains why I can't just go along with the 'Shucks, why can't you just enjoy a light episode' thinking. 'Twilight' did no harm to the - remember DESPERATELY URGENT - Xindi story arc, because ultimately it never happened. But here, Archer and co. completely forget that the genocide of the Human race is imminent, and go arsing around on the set of Gunsmoke. I see now Limey made this point already, but it's sorta important, I'd have thought.

    It’s a mystery of the sort found on TOS. Kirk, I mean Archer, finds an earth-like planet inhabited by humans of the Wild West era, oppressing an alien race. Archer learns that nearly 300 years before, the alien race had abducted humans from Earth and brought them to this planet for slave labor. Somehow the humans defeated the technologically superior aliens and now oppresses them. No signs remain of the alien superior technology, except for a wrecked spaceship. After defeating the aliens, the humans have not progressed a bit in the 300 years: Their technology remains 6-shooters and horse transportation. I guess horses had also been abducted. The Wild West weapons don’t look 300 years old, so the humans must be able to manufacturer them …

    Or maybe I’m thinking too much. There’s the obligatory checklist: Archer is imprisoned in jail, Archer gets into fist fights, Archer spends time with the pretty guest star, Archer makes a speech about tolerance.

    There was a fun moment when, during the battle, a Wild West dude grabs T’Pol and uses her as a shield. Reed barely hesitates before shooting T’Pol with a phaser. She falls unconscious leaving the guy who’d grabbed her exposed and easily dealt with. Wait, aren't Vulcans suppose to be stronger and faster than humans? Nevermind. Two stars feels about right.

    This was nice. Alien abductions were big in the 1900's why not have them happen in the 1800's. Nice idea to have Enterprise encounter abduction victims from the old west. It's just surprising that no one in the past couple hundred years, was able to learn from Skag technology and develop beyond 19th century science.

    I thought this episode was okay, surprisingly. There's not a great deal of depth, cliches abound, and I never was a big fan of westerns. But the classic Trekkian plot and the good acting kept my attention. I wish this had contributed to the Xindi story in some way, but it just turns out to be a diversion. How did the Enterprise even get here? Why did Archer & Co bother to land and go poking around this human/skagaran colony when millions of lives on Earth are at risk? It's a change of pace, but really for its own sake. Once the novelty wears off there's not much left. I liked it more than 'A Fistful of Datas', though, so that's something.

    So, 6,000 people have managed to form mining and manufacturing sectors that can produce guns and rifles, bullets, gunpowder, steel, chalk and blackboards, glass, etc. 6,000 people? Presumably from knowledge carried over from a few hundred kidnapped regular folks back on Earth 300 years ago?

    These writers are dumb (freakin’ liberal arts majors) and this show is an insult to the intelligence of its viewers. At least make it somewhat plausible.

    And their horses? Where did the earth horses come from? Skagarans stole humans and horses?

    This season was looking so good, too.

    When the episode started, I did think I would hate the episode: heck, a WTF TOS like episode. I really disliked the NAZIS and Gangsters in TOS. Simply farfetched.

    Bad guys: cardboard, check. Some western cliches: check. But it was sincerely played (maybe, except for Bakula, who tends to yell unecessarily), and the plot's excuse based on abducted slaves from Earth felt unexpectably ok to me. After all, I've far worse in ST.

    Maybe it's just some sort of nostalgia. I have never been a big fan of Westerns, but in the 70's we had just one 20" B&W TV set at the house. My old man happened to LOVE westerns. Logically, most evenings we ended up having to watch all sort of western movies available on aired TV.

    Any way, it was a really entertaining episode to me because it felt just right as a short Western homage to those hundreds of low budget bang-bangs, as we called them.

    I don't know why commenters are saying they liked this episode: it was predictably awful. Wild West stuff has been done to death to the point where I'll be happy if I never see another Wild West set in my life. As for the storyline, let me summarize:

    Dat's raycist!
    Dat's slavery!
    Dat's preduduce!
    We hate raycism!
    We hate slavery!
    We hate preduduce!!

    Why can't they come up with a more interesting storyline? Where were the surprises here?

    Bringing Wild West sets and stories into SciFi happens to be a pain in the ass each time it is attempted, and it was done several time across the various Star Trek series, starting with TOS. Why?
    Wild West is Americana in purest form. So I think the show feels like it has to serve this at least once for it is basically American TV entertainment, makes feel people at home and stuff. A little playing around with cliches alright.
    Second reason is there seems always a bunch of Wild West decos, sets and props around in a studio so why not use them for other shows? As they are cheap and just have to get borrowed...
    The execution of the plot however was sound and flawless from professional point of view. Down to a rougher film material (or digital simulation of such) with mostly dusty brownish colors like in old western films.
    Plotwise, I agree it is strange a colony of less than 10.000 people could still produce window glass, steel, ammunition and what else which requires technology and manufacturing. The presence of horses has been questioned for a reason. And it would have been more humanlike to adopt as much of the Skag technology as possible instead of extinguishing it completely and leave behind only ruins of a ship (did those alien colonists not build homes for themselves which must have looked different than those of 19th century Humans?).
    The presence of the Enterprise crew I see justified by the discovery of Humans (in the sense of Earth people, DNA-wise, as has been said) on that planet. A month-long search for Xindi certainly leaves a day or two for opportunities like this. And you never know, from Archers point of view, if this exploration does not produce some connection with the Xindi which could be worth their time down there. As the series has already the connection Xindi-Humans, it makes sense to examine an isolated surprising presence of Humans accordingly.

    This is style over substance and follows a well-trodden formula for ENT. It's watchable because of the style but it's pretty shallow ultimately and quite farfetched in terms of the setup/premise. I guess we take a break from the Xindi arc and regress back to Season 1 / Season 2-style ENT for an episode. Why, I'm not sure.

    Of course we get plenty of Western cliches and some weak attempts at humor. The final shootout is part of the well-trodden formula and has definitely worn out its welcome for me. We got the carboard villain deputy but at least Archer can reason with the teacher and the sheriff.

    What is farfetched, of course, is how the Skagarans could take humans captive 300 years ago from Earth (recall it took the Enterprise like 7 weeks or something to get to the Delphic Expanse). And then the 19th century humans overpower the highly advanced aliens and turn them into outcasts? What was the point of all this? I don't buy it.

    There's the usual moralizing (the Skags are just as valuable as humans, freedom, equality etc.) but the whole setup is somewhat ludicrous that these (again) well-trodden human virtues don't seem to go anywhere. Sure Archer is trying to be the good guy but incorporating that just prevents the episode from falling into absolute turkey territory for me. So the Sheriff agrees to change some laws -- yippee!

    It's interesting that Archer showing the technological advances to the teacher and sheriff illustrate the progress Earth has made, whereas these people still haven't made any progress -- that too is questionable. Are there no remnants of Skag technology -- the ship is just totally a shell (other than the data modules taken by T'Pol/Trip)? Something's missing here.

    2 stars for "North Star" -- a reminder of what ENT typically serves up while in the midst of a promising season-long arc. I'm obviously reminded of "Spectre of the Gun" which had more substance and used a surreal atmosphere better to add to the story. Nothing is terrible here but it just feels like we've seen this type of story in a different incarnations. Hard to buy the premise and to care much about the characters.

    As an Englishman I’ve never really “got” the Western genre and every classical Western I’ve seen just plays like a parody. The exception is Unforgiven, which is a great movie, but that’s probably because the film expertly deconstructs many of the tired tropes associated with Westerns.

    So then, when you have an (almost) contemporary sci-fi show set in space dozens of light years from Earth, hundreds of years in the future, and they decide to do a Western, it becomes a parody of a parody. If you do a parody of a parody, it has to be funny, otherwise it comes off as cheesy and riddled with cliches. This isn’t funny and it is cheesy and riddled with cliches.

    Red Dwarf, season six, Gunmen of the Apocalypse. A sci-fi Western parody that’s well worth a watch, is cheesy and riddled with every cliche in the book as well as being hilariously funny.

    "So, 6,000 people have managed to form mining and manufacturing sectors that can produce guns and rifles, bullets, gunpowder, steel, chalk and blackboards, glass, etc. 6,000 people? Presumably from knowledge carried over from a few hundred kidnapped regular folks back on Earth 300 years ago? "

    Thanks Gooz, was thinking about the same thing. Lame episode, fell asleep during the shootout. Also: why is aliens only abduct Americans? They could've abducted some Russians for a change? Oh well.

    Very polarizing episode it seems! I was expecting it to be terrible based on the criticisms here, and it was not that bad. As mentioned above, put your aspirations aside and watch it for a fantasy/holodeck type episode and it was not that bad. Your experience, however, may vary...

    Of course they wouldn't have remained at a 19th century level for 200 years. Instead, they would have regressed to an even more primitive level. With only 6000 people and no infrastructure, they would never have been able to maintain the level of an early industrial civilisation.

    I learned from this episode that 22nd century ray guns are about on par with 19th century fire arms in a shootout. And I'm surprised Jammer didn't mention Archer going to jail again.

    Whoops my bad. Jammer did note the Archer going to jail thing. But riddle me this: just how did they plan to have that schoolteacher serve her 10 year sentence? Do they have women's prisons to send her to on their cardboard planet of three villages or were they planning to keep her in that little jail cell behind a screen door for her sentence? And what if they needed the cell for petty thief or a disorderly drunk?

    With it being the middle of June 2020, in this insane situation right now where racial tensions are so bad after the George Floyd death that was followed by protests and riots that are still happening right now, it was interesting to get to this episode recently while watching the Enterprise series with my kids.

    I haven't seen anyone mention anything about the message I saw in this episode. Maybe most people didn't get the same thing from it, or maybe I misread the intentions of it.
    An alien race made slaves of humans, but the humans later gained freedom. Instead of living peacefully with each other, the race that had humans as slaves is heavily oppressed and generally hated, even a couple of hundred years after the slavery thing ended. Though in the end the sheriff decided laws and rules needed to change, it would take time and would be difficult to let the old hate go.

    Here we are now, in a climate where despite all the efforts and success America has had with civil rights movements and racial equality progress, the media makes sure anything they can present as evil whites hunting, killing, and oppressing blacks, is presented that way. Important real statistics people really need to be aware of are ignored so a racism narrative can be pushed for political reasons at the cost of dividing the country even more. I was shocked to see so many people fall into supporting the protests and riots, but hate from the past has always been an easy tool to manipulate people with all over the world.

    This episode used extreme yet also simplified examples of the negative impact of being unable to leave past transgressions in the past to move forward, working together in peace.
    I thought the episode was just okay, but I liked the message about getting past old racial hate.

    This episode was pointless from beginning to end. Why were they even on the planet? How did they discover it? Why did they decide to interfere? And the shootout. Ugh. Except for a few small moments, like Malcolm shooting T'Pol to get at her abducter. there was nothing interesting about this episode. It was clearly a "lets use some costumes and sets that are lying around" filler type episode. Next!

    I REALLY loved this episode! I don't know why people don't like it. It is classic Trek-a not-too-subtle analogy on real life problems. And it had humour and a fairly decent message unlike some Enterprise episodes.

    I don't think it is a stretch that an isolated group never advanced beyond the technology they had before. If a couple towns were taken from the wild west, it would be harder for them to invent things like the combustion engine, computers, or mass communication than it would be for the whole planet to.

    The girl who played Bethany is pretty. I just saw that she is British and born the same time as I was! That's neat!

    Just Enterprise trying to do a holodeck episode, lack of a holodeck be damned. And half the cast didn't even get to put on cowboy hats and join in on the fun! What a waste of time.

    I didn't care for this one initially, but on a recent re-watch I enjoyed it more.
    It's a fun episode that is hampered by being stuck in the middle of the Xindi arc; I think it would have been received more warmly in seasons 2 or 4.

    p.s. The second commentary track is very informative and is worth a listen.

    Hoorah! Space Cowboys! Why has no one thought of that before! Oh yeah...rats!
    Can't wait for the Space Nazis, Space Knights, Space Detectives, Space Alice in Wonderland.....wonder what they'd come up with if they'd had a holodeck ?

    Malcom shooting T'Pol is honestly the first time I've ever liked Malcom....

    Ironic that people are *both* angry at why have they not advanced in 300 years and at how can they maintain this level of technology. Any point of view, as long as we can hate the episode, eh?

    The backstory seems clear. After the human uprising, the Skagarans were marginalized. Help from the larger Skagaran society never appeared because the Delphic Expanse had happened by that time, cutting off this world from the rest of the galaxy. Archer is trying to get as much information about the Xindi as he can. If he sees a planet with human biosigns, he is obviously going to investigate to see if he can make allies or get information.

    This episode asks one of the most difficult questions to ever be asked. How much retribution is OK? When does the oppressed become the oppressor? I guess when the question being asked is not popular, the writers try to hide it by not belaboring the point. But then evvvvveryone misses it. Kinda like Spock's Brain.

    I laughed out loud when Archer went to jail again!
    Also a few minutes in it was predictable Travis wouldn't be in this episode either, at least on the ground.
    I wonder if what drove progress was Earth's resources like oil and gold which are absent here, hence the frozen in time effect. But yeah they could have at least moved the needle to some degree.

    Reed was competent at his job here. That's literally the only positive thing I have to say about this episode. Reed anticipated the attack by the guy in the window and dispatched him first. Also, decent handling of the T'Pol hostage situation as well. A bit risky though, since the guy could have pulled the trigger before he did. That's the same reason why, to "Maq's" comment above, they did not show "Vulcan feminism" by having her somehow handle the situation herself. Just because she couldn't get out of it without help doesn't mean that she's weak. Yes, Vulcans are stronger than humans, but they aren't faster than speeding bullets. So when someone is holding a lethal weapon mere centimetres away from your face, it's not logical to struggle. Commenter "Yanks" above also needs to come off his high horse (pun intended, I guess). I'm not sure if he genuinely enjoys this drivel, or is just being a contrarian for the sake of it. A lot of us didn't like the holodeck episodes either, Yanks. And while you're right that slavery was not limited to the U.S., this *is*, however, an American show. So it would actually make a lot of sense for it to address slavery/oppression in that context, if it were actually trying to do any sort of useful social commentary at all.

    How did Archer replicate 19th century clothing and weapons if the NX-01 Enterprise has no replicators?

    I think this is the best western Trek has ever done, feels more sci-fi than the others (alien abduction story), and makes use of the show's early exploration premise. Contrast it with Voyager's "The 37's" which although I liked the episode, having aliens abduct humans from another quadrant to use as slaves made no sense.

    Over all score: 5/10

    This is a very watchable episode. I get the review, this one isn't exactly breaking new ground for the series. However, this felt like a classic TOS episode, and I think its good to occasionally have that feel in the later series.

    "Also: why is aliens only abduct Americans?"

    Jeez, these BBC programs sure see to have a lot of Brits on them. Pretty implausible if you ask me.

    To repeat what others have said:
    I marveled at the shot glasses. Maybe they could forge steel; guns have utility. But shot glasses (and windows) are a luxury that they'd likely loose -- how many old west towns had a glass manufacturer?
    And don't get me going on primers for center-fire ammo.

    And yes, a pet peeve of mine in pretty much every Trek since TOS: phasers seem less effective than 1870's guns.

    Silly and pointless. What was Archer thinking?
    Yes, DS9 had holoadventures in the middle of the Dominion war. But the holodeck is an evening off from war, not a side stop in the old west....

    Post-modern view of humanity. I dont like it. Yes, we're incapable of evolving beyond our primitive need for revenge and slaves. Yuck. Not Trek.

    Good episode. Better than the earlier episodes. If one more person shines a flashlight in my face...

    I wonder what this episode would look like if TOS did it? Like I know there was Spectre of The Gun, but this makes for a much more compelling story. Kirk would probably fall for the woman who was illegally teaching the Skags. Alternatively what if SNW did it?

    well acted episode. bartender, sheriff, villian. all great stuff... it elevated an average script.

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