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190[ENT] Jammer's Review: "Bounty"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    May 20, 2003
      Warning: This review contains significant spoilers. If you haven't seen the
      episode yet, beware.

      In brief: A pedestrian and obvious main plot saddled with a shameless,
      obvious, and dumb, dumb, dumb subplot.

      Plot description: Archer is abducted by a Tellarite bounty hunter who has
      been hired by the Klingons to bring him to Kronos.

      Enterprise: "Bounty"

      Airdate: 5/14/2003 (USA)
      Teleplay by Hans Tobeason and Mike Sussman & Phyllis Strong
      Story by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga
      Directed by Roxann Dawson

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
      Rating out of 4: *1/2

      "Why aren't you popular with the Chicago Police Department?" -- Jonathan
      Mardukas, "Midnight Run"

      Just how many times can Jonathan Archer be kidnapped, captured, or thrown
      into a holding cell in a single season? With "Bounty," the answer is no less
      than four. He was held in a cell in "The Communicator," he was sent out on a
      prison ship in "Canamar," he was put on trial in "Judgment," and now he's
      captured by a Tellarite bounty hunter (hired by the Klingons to return him
      to Kronos after his escape from Rura Penthe) in this episode. I'm thinking
      the writers have played one plot card too many in regard to Archer being
      wrongly imprisoned. How many iterations do we need on this tired, tired

      The main plot for "Bounty" is about a bounty hunter with a conscience. He
      wants his bounty payment, but he also begins to sympathize with his
      prisoner. The story follows an arc similar to the 1988 comedy "Midnight
      Run." Archer is Jonathan Mardukas, the Tellarite bounty hunter is Jack
      Walsh, and the Klingons are Jimmy Serrano's crime syndicate. Unfortunately,
      "Bounty" is not a fraction as entertaining as "Midnight Run," because that
      story (which itself was a formula) had priceless profane dialog, great
      deadpan comic timing, and a memorable chemistry between Robert De Niro and
      Charles Grodin. "Bounty" is simply going through the motions of a formula
      plot. Will the bounty hunter eventually let Archer go? Well, what do you

      "Bounty" also has a subplot, in which T'Pol contracts a virus, or something,
      while on an away mission. This forces her and Phlox to be quarantined in the
      decontamination chamber until the virus is eradicated. It also triggers the
      premature onset of T'Pol's pon farr cycle, causing her to go into extreme
      sexual hyperdrive. "It's finally happened!" the trailers exclaim with glee.
      "T'Pol's in HEAT!" Please kill me now. Yep, that's what I've been WAITING to
      have "finally" happen on this series; I've been waiting and waiting and
      WAITING for the show where T'POL IS IN HEAT. Because, God knows, a show like
      that couldn't possibly have predictably dumb results. Are we going to see
      Jolene Blalock's Hot Bod [TM]? Is she going to slink around like a sex
      kitten in skimpy clothes and sweat and pant and moan? Gee, I wonder. Not
      that the trailers left any question. The ever-embarrassed Phlox, meanwhile,
      awkwardly tries to fend off the aggressive advances while the two are locked
      in decon. I'm thinking it's about time the producers just admit their
      eventual goal for a soft-core series on Cinemax: "Star Trek: Decon Chamber."
      Gene would be proud.

      The oh-so-clever spark within this plot device is that it's caused by a
      virus-of-the-week. This allows (a) the problem to be reduced to a technical
      point that can be easily solved by waiting rather than having anything that
      requires anybody making actual decisions, and (b) means that the writers can
      have T'Pol go through pon farr all over again at any future time of their
      choosing, since this one is artificially induced and therefore doesn't
      "count." Gee, I can't wait until next season when we get to do this story
      all over again, but for *real*!

      And by the way: Since when does pon farr affect Vulcan women? Every previous
      reference in the Trek canon has said that the pon farr affects adult Vulcan
      *males*. The writers are once again tweaking if not rewriting Trek history
      for their own benefit (and, I suppose, for the benefit of horny teenage boys
      across the country who do not have access to Maxim). Suffice it to say, this
      plot is utterly shameless and brainless. It is *about* watching T'Pol go
      berserk with sex on the brain, and photographing her rubbing herself with
      gel (which in the plot has allegedly medicinal purposes -- ha!). It's
      puerile camp from the IQ Vortex, and my reaction was one of groaning and

      Now, there's absolutely nothing wrong with sexual titillation, but there
      must also be a context and a purpose behind the content -- otherwise it's
      just wannabe masturbation fodder. (And news flash to Paramount: On an
      8/7c-airing show rated TV-PG, the operative word is "wannabe.")
      Unfortunately, there is no context here -- none -- assuming there's even any
      content. Of course, that may be the point if UPN's demographics targeting is
      any indication, but that's not why I watch the shows I watch. To UPN, it's
      not enough to have a Hot Chick on a show; the fact that there's a Hot Chick
      has to be rubbed in our faces at gunpoint. Subtlety is a lost virtue, and
      sex is no longer sex, but simply hollow marketing.

      Nope, this subplot is just as dumb as the trailers make it look. The music
      tries to make this intense and aggressive, as if to say this is an awful
      ordeal forced upon T'Pol (which, by the way, it is -- but it's the writers
      who are forcing it), but who are they kidding? This isn't tense or funny or
      anything else. It's campy juvenile sexploitation, contrived by an arbitrary
      sci-fi catalyst. Hey, I'd be all for seeing sexual situations on Star Trek,
      which has been far too sexless in the past, but I want to see it in a
      real-life sophisticated way that is relevant or thoughtful, not this
      lame-ass crap.

      The "Midnight Run" plot fares a little better but is still way too recycled,
      obvious, recycled, predictable, and recycled. The Tellarite bounty hunter is
      named Skalaar (Jordan Lund), and he just wants to collect One Last Bounty so
      he'll have enough to Get Out of the Business. Then he can finally finance
      the opening of his coffee shop -- er, I mean, buy back his cargo vessel and
      resume his life as a cargo ship captain. Archer plays the guilt card as
      frequently as he can to get Skalaar to soften and ultimately relent into
      releasing him. Meanwhile, Enterprise chases down Skalaar's ship to rescue

      There's another bounty hunter here (Robert O'Reilly, who played TNG/DS9's
      Gowron) who also wants Archer, which would make him the Marvin Dorfler
      character, I suppose ... but are you really interested in this off-the-shelf
      plot? I can't say that I was. I suppose I should laud the fact that this
      episode follows up on "Judgment," but I have too many reservations. The
      point of Archer's escape in "Judgment" was that it was orchestrated via
      payoffs and corruption within the Klingon prison system itself. Now here we
      have the notion that Archer is the *only* person to have ever escaped Rura
      Penthe -- which I severely doubt -- and that the Klingons are willing to
      track him across light-years to get him back. I don't think this tracks; it
      misses the whole point of their system's corruption in "Judgment."

      The show ends with the usual imagination-free phaser shootouts in the
      corridors, while the Enterprise exchanges fire with the Klingon ship. This
      hoary material isn't badly executed per se, but by this point I wasn't
      interested in it, because there's precious little in terms of surprise or
      suspense. The ruse put together by Archer and Skalaar is reasonably
      telegraphed, but it requires mediocre Klingon security to allow Archer every
      opportunity to free himself.

      Skalaar is not an unsympathetic figure, but he also isn't too bright. He
      jumps through all these hoops for a payoff that is not what he expected so
      he can buy back a ship that no longer flies. You'd think he'd do his
      homework before working for the Klingons, whom he knows to be corrupt.
      Skalaar is no Jack Walsh.

      After this, I'm thinking the writers need to post a rule on the
      brainstorming board that says, "No more Archer-in-jail shows." For that
      matter, I hope they also post a note that says, "No more T'Pol pon farr
      shows." After all, it's not like they can't or won't find plenty of other
      ways for Jolene Blalock to take off her clothes.

      Next week: Something Real Bad happens to Earth, allegedly resulting in a
      dramatic new direction for the series. (Season finale.)

      Copyright 2003 Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved.
      Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.

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      Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...