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[ANDR] Jammer's Review: "Vox Sola"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Warning: This review contains significant spoilers. If you haven t seen the episode yet, beware. In brief: Some nice moments and an ending that rings of
    Message 1 of 1 , May 7 5:24 PM
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      Warning: This review contains significant spoilers. If you haven't seen the
      episode yet, beware.


      In brief: Some nice moments and an ending that rings of genuine sci-fi, but
      overall just a little too average.

      Plot description: Ensign Sato attempts to communicate with a bizarre alien
      lifeform after it boards the ship and traps several members of the crew in
      its clutches.

      -----
      Enterprise: "Vox Sola"

      Airdate: 5/1/2002 (USA)
      Teleplay by Fred Dekker
      Story by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga & Fred Dekker
      Directed by Roxann Dawson

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

      "Are you staying for the movie tonight?"
      "What's playing?"
      "'Wages of Fear.' Classic French film. No, you'll like it. Things blow up."
      "Hmm. Sounds fun."
      -- Mayweather and Reed
      -----

      "Vox Sola" begins with a shaky alien first contact that sets the stage for
      an even bigger, shakier, more awe-inspiring alien first contact. This is not
      a story sold on an original premise or even new takes on old ideas. Rather,
      the truth here is in the details.

      I sort of liked the details. This is an episode that goes to the core of the
      "seek out new life" clause in the Trekkian mantra and seems to genuinely
      believe in it. The question is whether this particularly journey is worth
      our time.

      Almost. I sort of liked this episode, but not quite enough to give it a
      pass. In terms of fascinating content, there just isn't enough here. But I
      enjoyed the story's payoff, which manages to generate enough wonder to
      qualify as true sci-fi.

      Something Is On the Ship. Our illustrious crew is not sure what, but it has
      webs of gelatinous tendrils that are good for reaching out and grabbing
      somebody. It starts by grabbing two engineers before the captain and Trip
      wander down to investigate and are also snared. The rest of the episode is
      an exercise in figuring out how to communicate with this lifeform and get
      our people released.

      It also serves as a reminder, as Phlox says to Reed in a brief and calm
      argument I appreciated, that we're out here to explore and contact new life.
      This weird gelatinous thing would seem to qualify as a perfect example, but
      the crew is uncertain whether the creature is sentient. Meanwhile, the lives
      of four crew members, including the captain and chief engineer, lie in
      jeopardy.

      Quite simply, I have little to say about the way this mystery is solved. The
      usual courses of investigation and tech are documented in competent ways
      that, gladly, do not threaten to grow too tedious. Nor are they worth the
      time of summarizing in a review.

      On the character front we get Hoshi facing what is perceived as an early
      failure in translating an alien language, resulting in their becoming
      greatly offended and storming off the ship. For audience members paying
      attention, this should trigger the Full Circle Alarm. Will Hoshi be tested
      again in this new situation involving the strange lifeform's language, which
      seems rooted in mathematics and musical tones? Hmmm.

      Hoshi doesn't appreciate the boss nagging her, though. T'Pol seems to go out
      of her way to remind Hoshi about the importance of having this second chance
      go right, with a little bit of attitude buried in that Vulcan calm. Or
      perhaps not. My take? T'Pol should be a little more forgiving, Hoshi should
      ignore subtle digs, and this might all be more interesting if it didn't feel
      quite so tired and forced anyway. (I liked the T'Pol/Hoshi interaction
      better in "Sleeping Dogs.") On the other hand, I liked the unforced humor in
      the dialog between Travis and Malcolm regarding a French film where "things
      blow up." (Insert grin here.)

      Alas, Anthony Montgomery is less effective in serious scenes, as when he
      talks with the offended aliens over the viewscreen while on an empty bridge.
      Montgomery, who every day seems more like the weak link in the Enterprise
      cast, is far too wooden to make the scene work; the whole thing comes across
      as stilted. Perhaps there's a reason he's been getting so little screen time
      this season.

      But never mind all the setup, which works only because of the cumulative
      effect of watching the crew tackle the problem at hand. Where "Vox Sola"
      comes together is in the payoff where Hoshi communicates with the lifeform.
      It's a strange and well-conceived sequence that uses sound effects, slowly
      building revelation, and Paul Baillargeon's surprisingly workable score to
      create an inspired moment that works as true science fiction; it feels like
      we're making contact with a truly alien presence rather than the usual
      routine involving humanoids and the universal translator. I was reminded of
      the communication at the end of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."

      Granted, the moment doesn't make for a fully satisfactory episode. This is
      all pretty routine stuff -- exploration of the Star Trek ideal in the most
      rudimentary, if reliable, of ways. The alien lifeform ends up as not much
      more than something you think of the crew later documenting in a report
      after the mission is complete: "Captain's log: This bizarre thing happened
      today." But hopefully in the details of such a report, it would reveal
      itself as a bit more interesting, and we'd see the curiosity of our space
      travelers emerge.

      --
      Next week: Two episodes for the price of one.

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

      Star Trek: Hypertext - http://www.st-hypertext.com/
      Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...
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