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Friday, July 16, 2010

Star Trek Enterprise Retro-Spective "Civilization"

Civilization is hardly an original story. They encounter a “Minshara” Class planet along their path with an interesting-looking pre-industrial society. This gives T’Pol a chance to remind them about the Vulcan’s non-interference policy (that will of course become the Federation’s Prime Directive), and it gives Archer and Trip a chance to remind her that Enterprise is a human starship and they’re in charge. Anyway, as they’re scanning the planet and Hoshi is learning that she is going to go down there when they pick up massive neutrino emissions that T’Pol suggests come from an antimatter reactor. Obviously someone else is down there. So Archer, T’Pol, Trip and Hoshi all submit to Phlox’s plastic surgery (two small, vertically placed sets of ridges) and put on period costumes and take a shuttlepod down.

They track the neutrino emissions to a curio shop, which is closed up for the night. Trip uses a 22nd century lock pick to break in, and they are led to another door, which is protected by an energy screen. While they’re contemplating this, they’re accosted by a (hand-sized) crossbow-wielding woman who thinks that they are part of the same group of people making secret night time deliveries that she is convinced are contributing to many unexplained illnesses. While Archer is trying to talk his way out of trouble, T’Pol stuns her with a phase pistol blast in the back. Archer doesn’t like this, but it works, and he gets the woman back to her attic, hoping to get answers from her. All he gets is the name of the guy who owns the shop. Archer comes back the next day to see the guy, Garos, who quickly realizes that Archer and Trip are from another province. Archer scans him, and says that they know he’s knows he’s an alien. Garos scans him and says the same thing. Archer tells Garos where they’re from, and Tucker says that they detected the signature from Garos’s reactor. Garos says that he’s from the Malurian system (slated to be wiped out by Nomad in the 23rd century) who led a survey mission to the planet two years ago, but decided to stay because he liked it so much. He says that he uses the antimatter reactor as a fabrication device (like a TNG replicator). Archer implies that the reactor is tied to the illnesses. Garos denies it and says that the apothecary (Riann, the pretty girl that Archer likes) is lying. Archer wants to look at the reactor, but Garos turns him away.

In Riann’s shop, Archer and T’Pol talk to her about the illness, and she explains that the illnesses start at the same time that Garos arrived. Archer orders T’Pol to take the others back up to the ship to give Phlox some samples to analyze. He wants to stay to see if he can learn more about Garos and the mysterious night deliveries. T’Pol cautions him about cultural contamination, rather snidely tells him, to enjoy the tea that Riann made, and leaves.

On the ship, Phlox remarks that Riann has done some excellent forensic work, and discovers that the water sample is contaminated with tetracyanate 622, a highly toxic synthetic compound used as an industrial lubricant.

On the planet, a glitch in the (invisible) universal translator gives Archer an excuse to kiss Riann. Then they catch someone making a night delivery. They follow him in. Eventually the man unloads a crate and conveniently leaves it in the forest. Archer moves to investigate when a ship descends from the sky and tractors the crate up and away. A man jumps out of a tree and gets in a fight with Archer, who eventually knocks him out. Then Archer sees that the guy is wearing a latex map. Archer peels the mask away to reveal a scaly face. They scrabble for the phase pistol. Archer gets to it and stuns the guy. They come back to the lab and use the guy’s equipment to deactivate the force field and go in. Looking from a control room, they see a huge cavern with other people and machinery. Archer informs T’Pol that they Malurians are mining a veridium isotope that T’Pol explains is used to manufacture explosives. Archer and Riann take a guess at deactivating the dampening field, so that Trip can beam the reactor up, but when they do it, they are locked in and the Malurian ship rises from orbit and fires some heavy weaponry at Enterprise. On the planet, Archer and Riann are arguing with Garos. Eventually they manage to get the power cut (somehow) and rush out of the room.

Trip beams the reactor up, and (on T’Pol’s orders) out into space where they detonate it to bring down the Malurian ship’s shields. Then T’Pol orders their weapons arrays destroyed. That finishes the fight. After losing a shoot-out on the planet, the Malurians leave. The Enterprise removes the mining equipment, and Archer delivers some medicine to cure the population. He tells Riann that T’Pol’s people will make sure the Malurians don’t come back. Then he steals one more kiss before moving on.

This story really has been done a thousand times in a thousand ways, and honestly, there is nothing that Enterprise does to improve it. At the same time, we get to see a Malurian before Nomad wipes them out, and we get to see T’Pol with long hair that suits her. Overall, the episode itself isn’t bad. Not great, not original, as I’ve said, and not one that I’ll feel compelled to go back to specifically. But it was also not stupid or poorly done. Not the most enthusiastic recommendation, but a rather unenthusiastic thumbs up.

Next Up: “Fortunate Son”

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