[ENT] Jammer's Review: "Cease Fire"
- Shameless plug: I was recently interviewed by "TV Guide" concerning my
thoughts on Enterprise. I'm not sure what specifically the article will say
or how much or which of my quotes will be printed, but the article from what
I'm told will be in the issue that hits newsstands on February 24 (dated
March 1 on the cover, I believe). Pick up a copy to find out what I sound
like as a spoken (as opposed to written) sound bite. Hopefully not too
Warning: This review contains significant spoilers. If you haven't seen the
episode yet, beware.
In brief: More middling -- if thematically respectable -- fare.
Plot description: Archer must mediate negotiations over a disputed planet
that both the Vulcans and Andorians claim as their own.
Enterprise: "Cease Fire"
Airdate: 2/12/2003 (USA)
Written by Chris Black
Directed by David Straiton
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
Rating out of 4: **1/2
"I don't like pushing the engines this hard. The injectors are running at
"They're rated for 120."
"Yeah, and my underwear's flame-retardant. That doesn't mean I'm going to
light myself on fire to prove it."
-- Trip, T'Pol
Lukewarm indifference can be an awful feeling when experienced for a
prolonged period. I look at my last four reviews in a row now: 2.5 stars,
2.5 stars, 2.5 stars, 2.5 stars. I tell myself that at least it means
competently constructed television, but somehow that's cold comfort. I want
a spark of life and ingenuity in my entertainment, and not simply
responsible messages inside bland containers.
"Cease Fire" is more average Trekkian fare that inspires more indifference
from me. The story is reasonable enough -- don't get me wrong -- but it's
presented in perhaps the most by-the-numbers way imaginable. It's
forensic-like in its approach to plot points: Point A, Point B, Point C. All
that's missing are the "Law & Order" location-and-date cards and that
SHUTTLEPOD CRASH SITE
PAAN MOKAR/WEYTAHN SURFACE
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2152
The message: Peace requires patience and compromise on both sides. Archer is
able to bring the two parties to the table so they listen to each other and
compromise. By the end, problems may not be completely solved, but things
are nicely wrapped up for the moment and we have cause for hope. If only the
real world were so hopeful, I'd have that Middle East thing solved in an
hour. Maybe two. At least the Star Trek universe is still hopeful of such
Of course, that doesn't change the fact that getting from A to B to C is
like watching the construction of some hoary storytelling techniques at
work. It's gotten to the point that I wonder if the problem is not the
material, but the reviewer who is tired of some of the material. Am I jaded
and cynical? I hope not. Maybe it's just the fact that "Cease Fire" employs
in its arsenal of storytelling techniques things that fail to move me
because they don't have any freshness to them. Things like hostage-taking,
obstinate Vulcans, traitors in plain view, shuttles being shot out of the
sky and thus crashing to the ground, and bloodless shootouts with unseen
enemies that seem to go on forever. No amount of reasonable dialog or good
intentions is going to make elements like that feel new or exciting (or, at
least, not in this case). It makes me thirst for a clever plot with a clever
The indispensable Jeffrey Combs returns as the ever-serious Andorian leader
Shran, who has requested Archer mediate a dispute between the Andorians and
the Vulcans. The dispute is over a seemingly worthless rock of a planetoid
called Paan Mokar by the Vulcans -- Weytahn by the Andorians --
uninhabitable until the Andorians began terraforming (Andoriaforming?) it a
century ago. The Vulcans then annexed the planet on the account it was so
close to their homeworld, and subsequently used force to remove the Andorian
colonists from the planet. They justified these actions with their belief
that it was obvious the Andorians were setting up a strategic military base
that could threaten Vulcan interests. A treaty was put in place forbidding
occupation of the planetoid. Now Shran has reoccupied the vacant colony and
taken hostages from the Vulcan security forces who were sent in to remove
him. Tensions are on the verge of escalating into a more serious armed
Of course, any story about a long-standing quarrel over a small territory
between two strongly opposing sides with stakes in the matter will
immediately remind us of the endless tensions of the Israeli/Palestinian
issue. And like that situation, "Cease Fire" takes two parties whose
solution lies only within the ability for both to make concessions neither
wants to make. Enter Jonathan Archer as a neutral party to urge both sides
to compromise. The Vulcans grudgingly accept him because they have little
choice; Shran accepts him because Archer has shown in past dealings an
ability to see things from a fair and neutral perspective.
I have to admit that the Vulcans continue to baffle me. I always figured
they were governed, even in this century, by enlightened logic and a desire
for peace in the galaxy -- and yet they display the intolerance we saw in
last week's "Stigma," and here it's revealed they annexed a world on
suspicion of Andorian military planning (apparently not proven; the episode
is murky on this point). Somehow, I always figured the Vulcans as more
diplomatic than that, but perhaps they simply have no reason to trust the
Andorians. Also, perhaps the writers want to reinvent the Vulcans as a
flawed society in need of some repair.
I must admit that the mechanics of the plot did not much interest me. The
hostage holding, mistrust, threats of violence, and ensuing action are put
forward with a sense of clockwork routine that the episode can never really
overcome. Shran's trusted lieutenant is a voice of Andorian skepticism when
it comes to trusting the Vulcans. Her name is Tarah, played by the ever-tall
Suzie Plakson (6-foot-1.5, according to the IMDB), another familiar Trekkian
face (she played K'ehleyr on TNG and also the father of Q's child in
Voyager's "The Q and the Grey"). The fact that she is Shran's trusted
lieutenant should not, under any circumstances, lead one to believe she is
trustworthy; the plot point of her betrayal can be predicted half a dozen
scenes in advance.
The idea is to get Vulcan Ambassador Soval (Gary Graham) and Shran in the
same room with Archer so they can hammer out an agreement. Archer, Soval,
and T'Pol take a shuttlepod to meet Shran on his terms. En route, the
shuttlepod is shot down by Andorian militants who are not so keen on Shran's
initiative of negotiation. Archer et al now find themselves in hostile
territory where they must evade/engage armed Andorians who are not obeying
Shran's orders in regard to the peace process.
These passages consist of fairly boring, protracted action material. I may
be in the minority, but I'd favor a juicy scene of heated negotiation with
specifically detailed points and good dramatic acting over any dozen scenes
of Archer doing somersaults with phase-pistol in hand and then engaging in
fisticuffs with Tall Tarah. But that's just me.
Tarah, by the way, is the one who willfully undermined Shran by ordering the
attack on the negotiating party. Tarah's role in the plot is far too
obviously telegraphed for my tastes, but the point being made here is a
valid one: The leadership often has to combat the attitudes of the people
they lead in an effort to gain the support for an unpopular initiative.
(Disclaimer: This paragraph does not constitute my endorsement of a U.S. war
One character moment that caught my attention in the midst of otherwise
bland action was an exchange between T'Pol and Soval regarding her evolving
attitudes as a result of being a part of the Enterprise crew. He asks her
why she has remained aboard Enterprise instead of taking a path that
would've provided her more career advancement by now. She responds with, "I
find the work gratifying." There's more to the dialog, and it proves to be a
nice exchange that shows T'Pol's loyalty to the Enterprise's mission.
Some exchanges that got slightly annoying, on the other hand, were ones
involving the Andorians' term for humans, "pink-skins." Apparently they are
not aware that not all humans have the same color skin. Of course, I suppose
this is only fair since I'm making the same assumption in thinking all
Andorians are blue.
The negotiations at the end are generic, unspecific, and somewhat
underwhelming, but that's probably okay. They do convey the point of this
episode, which is that the only workable solution in a conflict like this is
when all parties walk away from the table partially unhappy. It also
demonstrates the other theme of the episode, which is that humans will
become more important on the galactic canvas through diplomatic events like
While I can't quite recommend "Cease Fire" on the whole, I can recommend one
sentiment at the core of the episode, which is aptly summed up in some
dialog by Archer: "Maybe we're not out here to just scan comets and meet new
species. Maybe we're out here to prove that humanity is ready to join a much
larger community. I intend to do that." Well said. Now if only we can get
rid of the pointless phaser shootouts and the fisticuffs, and depict the
solutions with a little more interest, we'll be in good shape.
Next week: The crew discovers a new front in the temporal cold war.
Copyright 2003 Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved.
Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.
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Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...