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140[ENT] Jammer's Review: "Rogue Planet"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Mar 26, 2002
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      Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Enterprise's "Rogue
      Planet." If you haven't seen the episode yet, beware.


      In brief: Well-intended but underwhelming, labored, redundant, and built
      on a completely illogical foundation.

      Plot description: While observing an alien hunting expedition on a world
      that has no daylight, Archer is contacted by a mysterious woman seeking
      his help.

      -----
      Enterprise: "Rogue Planet"

      Airdate: 3/20/2002 (USA)
      Teleplay by Chris Black
      Story by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga & Chris Black
      Directed by Allan Kroeker

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
      Rating out of 4: **

      "With respect, captain, I wonder if you would be so determined to find
      this apparition if it were a scantily clad man." -- T'Pol
      -----

      "Rogue Planet" goes to great lengths to create and uncover a mystery whose
      solution is predictable, and whose reason for being is downright
      illogical. By the time the "mystery" was uncovered I was wondering why it
      had been allowed to be a secret in the first place, let alone a secret for
      so long. There's no rationale except for the fact the writers must try to
      entertain us with it. A few lines of dialog would clear everything up, but
      the guest characters -- for reasons that are artificially imposed by the
      writers -- don't divulge key information until late in the game, at which
      point I was wondering why they chose *now* to finally divulge that
      information. Meanwhile, the central subject of the mystery -- a strange
      woman -- intentionally creates confusion where it is not warranted.

      Worse yet, this is a story that steps perilously close to being a total
      yawner, with the first three acts belaboring the same points repeatedly.
      It ends with your typical Star Trek respect-all-life moral -- a reasonable
      message boringly conveyed. At the very least, the story is inoffensive and
      respects its emotional undercurrents, misguided as they may be.

      The rogue planet (no star system so therefore no daylight, which begs the
      question -- glossed over with useless pseudo-science -- of how it can
      plausibly support so much plant life) is an always-nighttime hunting
      ground for a species called the Eska. They use this planet for safari
      purposes. Archer and his team come across three Eska (Conor O'Farrell,
      Eric Pierpoint, Keith Szarabajka) during their initial survey, and camp
      out with the hunters in the interest of cultural observation. One little
      character bit I appreciated was that of Lt. Reed taking an interest in the
      actual hunt action, for strictly tactical educational purposes, of course.

      About here is where the central mystery begins. Archer starts seeing a
      beautiful, mysterious woman (Stephanie Niznik) who calls to him and says
      she "needs" him. She tells him he is not like "the others." Vanishes
      ominously. When Archer tells the others what he has seen, they write it
      off as hallucinating or dreaming. Meanwhile, Reed and the Eska go hunting
      and one of them is attacked with alarming swiftness and surprise, leading
      to eventual speculation that there's more here than meets the eye. But of
      course we already knew that, because if you're even remotely paying
      attention you know where this story is going from the moment the
      mysterious woman shows up.

      Unfortunately, that's about all there is to "Rogue Planet." Acts two and
      three are drawn out and redundant, as Archer, convinced there's a mystery
      here that must be solved, is drawn into the forest where he again sees the
      woman, who has cast a strange spell upon him, and who again vanishes at
      the convenient time when T'Pol and Trip come near, lest they see her
      themselves and be convinced that Archer isn't imagining things.

      The solution is that the woman is one of a race of shapeshifters
      indigenous to this planet. They can read minds, which is useful in
      defending themselves from Eska hunters who consider them to be the best
      hunting trophies. It's also useful in reading Archer's subconscious and
      predicting that he might take a moral stand against the hunters, which is
      why she has come to him asking for his help.

      The problem is that the events of the story's construction are purely
      illogical if you step outside its need to create this artificial mystery.
      If the mysterious woman wants Archer's help, why doesn't she just ask for
      it and explain what she is? Why go to the trouble of speaking in riddles
      and ominously disappearing, prompting everyone else to think Archer is
      crazy? The simple answer is that because if the woman didn't create a
      mystery, this story would have little else to do and would be over in
      about 20 minutes instead of 60.

      Similarly, we have the Eska writing off Archer's sightings. But they know
      about the shapeshifters and their abilities. Why don't they explain what
      they know? The obvious answer would seem to be because they know Archer
      would disapprove of their hunting of a sentient species -- but no, because
      near the end of the story they lay all the cards on the table voluntarily.
      What makes them decide to do this, when nothing about the situation has
      significantly changed? This answer is also simple: because the story had
      15 minutes left and it was time to uncover the mystery so we could now
      deal with its implications, leading Archer & Co. to help the shapeshifters
      by sabotaging the Eska's technology.

      Aside from all the silly mystery plotting, "Rogue Planet" has a few good
      points. I liked the cinematography in the darkened setting. Allan Kroeker
      does a good job of managing space and motion on what is undoubtedly a few
      tiny sets. I also appreciated the sentiment behind the idea of reaching
      deep into Archer's subconscious and finding the image of this fictional
      woman, who has been in his memory since childhood and whom he hadn't
      thought about in years. It's an interesting idea with some nice
      psychological elements, employed by the plot, alas, in absolutely the
      wrong way.

      The lesson here is in the tradition of enlightened Trek but far too
      derivative and obvious: Hunting sentient species is bad, and we should
      help those who are in need.

      Perhaps another lesson to be learned here: The next time your life is in
      danger and you need help, go to the cops, but be sure to send them on a
      convoluted chase where the clues eventually lead them back to your actual
      problem. I'm sure they'll find the exercise a whole lot more interesting
      that way. Or not. Hopefully you won't be dead by the time they figure out
      the game you're playing.

      --
      Next week: Ferengi -- just what the doctor didn't order.

      -----
      Copyright 2002 Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved.
      Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.

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      Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...