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[ENT] Jammer's Review: "The Seventh"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Warning: This review contains significant spoilers. If you haven t seen the episode yet, beware. In brief: Some anomalies, but reasonably engrossing and well
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 13, 2002
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      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."
      "Tell who?"
      "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
      monotone routine.

      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
      apparently prevailed.

      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,
      Vulcan-like control.

      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
      Action."

      -----
      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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