140[ENT] Jammer's Review: "Rogue Planet"
- Mar 26, 2002Warning: 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
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
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@...