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231[ENT] Jammer's Review: "Awakening"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Dec 7, 2004
      Note: This review contains significant spoilers.

      In brief: Plenty of illogical turns of the plot, but a pretty entertaining
      hour nonetheless.

      Plot description: While Archer and T'Pol are taken prisoner by the
      Syrrannites, the crew of the Enterprise seeks answers to why the Vulcan High
      Command has blamed the Syrrannites for the embassy bombing.

      Star Trek: Enterprise - "Awakening"

      Airdate: 11/26/2004 (USA)
      Written by Andre Bormanis
      Directed by Roxann Dawson

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
      Rating out of 4: ***

      "You have a lot to learn about humans. We don't sit back and do nothing
      while our people are attacked."
      "No, you traverse vast wastelands based on false information."
      -- Archer and T'Pau

      There's less to discover in "Awakening" than in "The Forge," but then how
      couldn't there be? "The Forge" gave us a truckload of pieces, and now
      "Awakening" puts them into play. The results are entertaining, although not
      great, and certainly not logical.

      For having performed a prohibited mind-meld to uncover the truth of Stel's
      involvement in the Earth embassy bombing, Soval is promptly cashiered from
      the High Command by Administrator V'Las. As for Soval's allegation of Stel's
      involvement in the bombing -- which was a frame-up falsely implicating the
      Syrrannites -- V'Las has a convenient answer: Stel was also a Syrrannite;
      "numerous documents" were found in his home. The only remaining question:
      Did Stel agree to the role of fall guy? I suppose it hardly matters, because
      no one is hearing any of this evidence anyway. V'Las practically runs the
      High Command unilaterally, and he won't have it.

      Meanwhile, Archer and T'Pol are captured and held prisoner by the
      Syrrannites at their camp in the Forge. This gives them the opportunity to
      finally meet T'Pau (Kara Zediker), whom Archer quickly accuses of having
      bombed the embassy and murdered his friend. It's an emotionally charged
      reaction -- perhaps foolishly so -- to which T'Pau tells him, "You traverse
      vast wastelands based on false information." Funny -- that's something I
      might've expected to hear at the beginning of last season's arc into the
      Delphic Expanse (only I suppose that information didn't turn out to be false
      after all).

      It turns out that Arev was actually Syrran, the Syrrannite leader, traveling
      under an assumed name. And, yes, Syrran was in fact carrying the Katra of
      Surak, the father of Vulcan logic. T'Pau laments that the death of Syrran
      and the loss of the Katra represents the loss of everything the Syrrannites
      have worked for. Of course, as a person who must bring too much logic to
      this situation, I have to ask why Syrran, knowing he carried the crucial
      Katra, would be out in the Forge at the height of the deadly Sandfire
      season. Wouldn't it have been more logical for him to be tucked away in a
      bunker somewhere?

      Never mind, because then we wouldn't have a story. As we know, the Katra has
      actually been passed to Archer, who now begins having visions of Surak
      (Bruce Gray), 1,800 years in the past, when a war devastated Vulcan but
      paved the way to the Awakening, where logic would prevail and society would
      move forward into a new era. "My people have strayed," Surak says to Archer.
      Surak asks that Archer do what he can to help the Vulcans back onto the
      right path. Archer doesn't really want the job, but Surak is adamant: "We're
      stuck with each other. Don't fight what's been given to you." Later, Surak
      tells Archer that he must find the Kir'Shara, which is an ancient artifact
      that holds the original teachings of Surak and may be able to bring Vulcan
      back to the proper path (or is that Path?).

      To recap: Now that the Prophets have given the Emissary his mission to help
      a Bajor that's in danger from its own government-induced turmoil, the
      Emissary must reluctantly embark on this mission by finding and using the
      Orb and its vast wisdom. (Okay, it's not a synopsis for "Emissary" exactly,
      but it plays like a distillation of several Bajoran episodes. I for one
      would be interested to know how many people involved with this storyline
      were -- or weren't -- familiar with DS9's Bajor stories.)

      I digress. Interestingly, like with mind-melds, the notion of the Katra is
      not embraced by much of Vulcan society. The High Command dismisses it as
      myth, and so does T'Pol. But Archer is quick to point out how the Vulcan
      Science Directorate deemed time-travel impossible. Besides, he can't argue
      with what's in his head, which is giving him visions, insights, and
      knowledge about Vulcan facts he would otherwise not know.

      Among the Syrrannites is T'Pol's mother, T'Les (Joanna Cassidy), who
      explains to a not-exactly-understanding T'Pol that she has joined the
      Syrrannites because she understands their motives and intentions to return
      to the true teachings of Surak. T'Les has become disillusioned about Vulcan
      society, mostly because of the increasingly questionable actions of the High
      Command, which has been involved in suppressing dissent among the people and
      made the unseemly decision to put a listening post inside the P'Jem
      sanctuary. T'Les hoped that T'Pol might join their cause.

      T'Pol makes an interesting point when she accuses the Syrrannites of simply
      seeking to replace one aberration of Vulcan thinking with another. The
      argument is relevant in that it highlights the tendency of some sects or
      extremists to blindly believe they are right, and that everyone else is
      wrong. (Of course, in Trek fiction it's a little different, because the
      writers can say there is a provable truth, and invent the evidence for it in
      terms of Katras or Kir'Sharas.)

      Besides, in this story, the Syrrannites are the innocents targeted for
      destruction. V'Las wants nothing less than a complete carpet bombing of the
      vicinity of the Syrrannite sanctuary. But before V'Las can do that, he must
      remove the Enterprise from orbit as witnesses. This leads to a series of
      terse viewscreen showdowns between Tucker and V'Las, as V'Las orders the
      Enterprise out of orbit and eventually threatens to open fire, and
      ultimately carries out that threat.

      Notable is how V'Las (Robert Foxworth) is performed pretty much like a
      human, with a human range of outward emotions. I'm not sure what to make of
      this. Perhaps it's to make the scenes more dynamic and theatrically engaging
      (which they are, and I for one won't complain if the alternative is the kind
      of Vulcan monotone that made "Carbon Creek" so unwatchable). But at the same
      time, I can't help but wonder what the rest of the High Command officers
      think of it. Do they notice? They don't seem to care. And I found it a
      little hard to explain how V'Las goes so unchallenged in trying to eliminate
      an entire group of people with little more than one officer's weak protest
      that "You are presiding over a massacre." Where V'Las goes, the High Command
      apparently follows. I guess the Vulcans *have* strayed.

      Once the Enterprise is forced from orbit, V'Las' forces begin bombing the
      vicinity of the sanctuary, and the Syrrannites begin their evacuation.
      Before leaving, however, Archer is certain that his memories as interpreted
      from Surak's Katra will lead him through the caves to the location of the
      Kir'Shara. "I can find it," he says. The way he says it, we believe him, but
      the whole notion strains credulity: You're telling me that Archer can find
      the Kir'Shara in a few minutes, and yet the Syrrannites in scouring these
      caves for two years couldn't find it? Nor did it turn up in the last 1,800
      years of Vulcan history? Even though it sits in a chamber behind a door that
      practically announces, "IMPORTANT RELIC INSIDE"? This was one plot detail I
      found hard to believe. (Perhaps other Vulcans were simply afraid of taking
      the Kir'Shara. I would be, for fear that if I were running through caves
      with a pointed obelisk while the area was being shaken by explosions, I
      might trip, fall, and impale myself.)

      Archer, T'Pol, and T'Pau escape with the Kir'Shara, and find T'Les lying
      outside the tunnels, seriously injured. She dies right there in T'Pol's arms
      after some heartfelt dialog, which makes for a sincere, nicely acted scene,
      despite the fact that it's admittedly contrived and manipulative.

      I was both interested and amused by the last-minute revelations that shed so
      much more light on what's going on. Soval tells Trip that the Syrrannites
      are pacifists, and that the framing of them for the embassy bombing must be
      so that V'Las could use that as an excuse to neutralize (i.e. destroy) them,
      so that he could advance the High Command's plan to attack Andoria. Why is
      the High Command planning to attack Andoria? Because they believe the
      Andorians have developed weapons based on Xindi technology ("Proving
      Ground") and want to launch a preemptive strike before the Andorians do.

      Okay, but:

      (1) Bombing Earth's embassy for a frame-up seems like an awfully elaborate
      and roundabout way of creating an excuse to wipe out a small faction of your
      own people -- who, by the way, pose no actual threat to those making the
      unilateral decisions to attack Andoria. (Wouldn't that be roughly as
      necessary as the Bush Administration destroying an antiwar lobby group prior
      to the Iraq invasion?)

      (2) If Soval knew all this, why didn't he say something to Trip hours or
      days ago, when this information would've been equally or more useful? Why
      does Soval wait until a moment that provides the maximum dramatic effect as
      a revelation to the audience? The answer, no doubt, is because that's when
      it provides the maximum dramatic effect as a revelation to the audience.

      Only now, after picking apart all the pieces, do the flaws in this episode
      seem so obvious. It must be said that, despite the logical gaffes, I enjoyed
      this episode, and found that it worked on an emotional and entertainment
      level. I liked all the twists and turns, including the eventual reveal about
      the Andorians. That V'Las' plan has so many holes in its logic is almost
      beside the point. Oh, well -- forget about logic. How ironic to say that, in
      a review for an episode about Vulcans and their logic.

      Next week: Can the Enterprise stop a conflict from breaking out between the
      Vulcans and Andorians?

      Copyright 2004 Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved.
      Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.

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      Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...