[ENT] Jammer's Review: "The Seventh"
- Warning: This review contains significant spoilers. If you haven't seen the
episode yet, beware.
In brief: Some anomalies, but reasonably engrossing and well acted overall.
Plot description: The Vulcan High Command dispatches T'Pol on a covert
mission to capture a Vulcan fugitive she once tracked 17 years ago, now
triggering memories of a disturbing incident from her past.
Enterprise: "The Seventh"
Airdate: 11/6/2002 (USA)
Written by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga
Directed by David Livingston
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
Rating out of 4: ***
"I'm not certain what this means, but the admiral asked me to inform you
that, 'Cal beat Stanford 7 to 3.'"
"I'll be sure to tell him."
"Um, I'm afraid it's ... confidential."
-- Conversation between perplexed Vulcan captain
and Enterprise Acting Captain Trip Tucker
Deep in the recesses of T'Pol's mind lies a dormant, repressed memory of a
disturbing and volatile nature. T'Pol doesn't know it's there, but it's
there nonetheless, and in the course of "The Seventh," it will grab her,
shake her, and leave her reeling.
Seventeen years ago, she was an operative for the Vulcan Ministry of
Security. She was specifically trained for an assignment to track down and
capture seven Vulcan fugitives -- undercover agents who were accused of
joining the corruption of a world government they were supposed to be
investigating. (T'Pol remembers tracking only six of the seven fugitives,
but therein lies the mysterious crux of the issue.) While on her mission,
something happened, and the last of her targets, a surgically altered Vulcan
named Menos (the always reliable Bruce Davison) escaped, never to be heard
from again ... or rather, until 17 years later.
T'Pol receives a message from the Vulcan High Command telling her that Menos
has been spotted on a remote world near Enterprise's current position, and
that he's smuggling synthetic biotoxins that can be used for weapons. T'Pol
is dispatched on a secret mission to finish the job she started 17 years
ago. Only Archer and Mayweather, who accompany her in a shuttlepod, know the
details of the mission. Trip is left in command of the Enterprise, which is
idled in orbit of a planet elsewhere in the solar system.
"The Seventh" is clearly in the spirit of what on Voyager I called the "Borg
psychological thriller." Those episodes -- "The Raven," "One," "Infinite
Regress," "The Voyager Conspiracy" -- were about what happened as a result
of a situation colliding head-on with the unique properties of Seven of
Nine's Borgified brain. Those shows usually had Seven deeply troubled or
going berserk over something that mainly existed in her mind. Now, with "The
Seventh," we have a similar situation in T'Pol's head, a result of unique
Vulcan mental disciplines inappropriately applied.
Jolene Blalock, whom I've criticized lately, turns in one of her best
performances to date in "The Seventh." Blalock, I suspect, just doesn't have
the "Vulcan thing" down to my satisfaction; something about it sometimes
feels stilted and forced. I also suspect the writing for T'Pol often lacks a
certain spark. But given an opportunity to show the cracks in her
disciplined Vulcan control, Blalock -- and the writing for her character --
becomes much more engaging. You can put me in the camp that argues in favor
of more emotional issues for T'Pol to deal with; I'm less interested in the
Coming off the heels of the puerile "Night in Sickbay" and boring
test-pattern-like "Marauders," "The Seventh" is a pleasant relief that
returns to the characters and tells a good, solid story. Menos, when we
encounter him, is a character we respond to: We're not sure whether he's
telling the truth or inventing self-serving lies, but we're involved either
way. He says he's not a smuggler as the Vulcan government claims, but merely
a target of a probe that wants all their former agents recalled at any cost.
Bruce Davison is a perfect choice for this sort of role, because he's an
actor who is equally believable as an innocent victim or a play-acting
villain. He effectively wins our sympathy even as we're wondering how much
of Menos' story is fabricated.
Going head-to-head with Menos is T'Pol, whose repressed memory is a ticking
time bomb to an emotional meltdown. Without overreaching, Blalock is able to
suggest a percolating emotional volatility beneath the surface that T'Pol is
trying with all her might to suppress, with little success. She regards
Menos with an icy glare of contempt that Blalock excels in selling, and as
her repressed memory creeps its way into her conscious mind, T'Pol seems
vulnerable and on the verge of a breakdown. The performance is right on the
mark, and I believed it.
The repressed memory involves another of T'Pol's mission targets, Menos'
partner Jossen, whom she killed when he drew a weapon on her. Unable to cope
with having taken a life, T'Pol underwent an obsolete Vulcan mental ritual
to repress the memory of the killing along with her emotions of it. Tracking
Menos now has brought the repressed memory back to her consciousness. The
episode uses briefly inserted flashback images -- jarring and visually
effective -- to hint at and ultimately play out for the audience the
17-year-old incident involving Jossen's death.
Menos, observant and opportunistic, tries to use T'Pol's obviously emerging
weakness to his advantage, playing upon her guilt. He paints Jossen as an
innocent wrongly accused by the Vulcans and dead at T'Pol's hands because of
it. Menos pleads his case by saying he doesn't want to be doomed to walk the
same path. Some initial evidence suggests that perhaps Menos is even telling
the truth, which sends T'Pol into a whirlpool of self-doubt involving her
past and present actions. But as Archer notes, the Vulcans sent T'Pol on
this mission to capture Menos, not determine his guilt or innocence.
I liked the dynamic between Archer and T'Pol; it's right where it should
be -- featuring a bond of growing trust, respect, and friendship between the
captain and first officer. When T'Pol is thrown into chaos by the
psychological turmoil, Archer is there to help guide her in the right
direction. Indeed, it's a downright shame that "A Night in Sickbay" had to
play moronic games involving "sexual tension" and hint at a romantic
subtext, because I found myself waiting here for the other shoe to drop.
Thankfully, it never does; such subtexts are nowhere to be seen. Sanity has
As a production, there's plenty to recommend in "The Seventh." The station
where all this takes place -- essentially a truck stop for starships -- is
set on a snowy alien world that provides some appealing visual flair. The
station's tavern has a wooden motif that gives the episode a sort of
Western-wilderness atmosphere that is refreshingly non-Trek. I also liked
the fiery action sequence when Menos sets the tavern ablaze.
Of course, there are some details I found a little bit perplexing, like the
whole need for all the Vulcan cloak-and-dagger secrecy. T'Pol brings Archer
and Mayweather into this plot reluctantly, while the rest of the crew is
left completely in the dark. This is presumably because the Vulcans don't
want to broadcast their role in infiltrating off-world government
corruption, but I didn't quite understand why Archer couldn't give Trip so
much as a hint about this mission since, as Trip points out, details would
be useful in the event of an emergency.
Also, showing Trip in command proves to be a bit of a mixed bag. It's played
for some light, understated comedy that's fairly amiable, but from what
we're shown, Trip is indecisive to a fault, forever telling people, "I'll
get back to you." It doesn't speak well for his leadership abilities that he
can't give anyone a straight answer so they can do their jobs. Considering
he's in command of engineering and third-in-command on the ship, I find it a
little hard to swallow that this is how he would actually approach command,
whether the ship is in an idle situation or not.
And then, of course, I must again point out this series' tendency to treat
Mayweather as a cipher, even when he's in the middle of the story's action.
Archer orders him around with little in terms of respect (such lines as "Get
back over there" and "Go back to the cockpit, Travis" are delivered
surprisingly coldly). Also, many scenes are shot as if consciously trying to
minimize Mayweather's presence in the frame, as if he's not worth the
camera's attention. It's downright odd. What gives?
I also wonder about the notion of the trained Vulcan elite in the Ministry
of Security who are yet somehow unable to cope with the prospect they may
have to take a life in the course of their duty. (And if it's such a
problem, why didn't T'Pol use the stun setting when firing on Jossen? After
all, she uses the stun setting to capture Menos here.)
Despite these qualms, I liked the net result. As a show where T'Pol is going
up against her own psychological terror as well as Menos' scheming, "The
Seventh" gets the job done. A final scene suggests that T'Pol will be deeply
affected by reacquiring the repressed memories; she looks as if she's just
been whacked with a sledgehammer. Blalock shows that she may be more
interesting to watch when playing a character facing internal conflict in
regard to her emotions than one who has everything under precise,
Given that, I certainly wouldn't mind seeing the troubled side of our
resident Vulcan surfacing more often.
Next week: Our newest Trekkian cast does their rendition of "A Piece of the
Copyright 2002 Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved.
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Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...