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[ENT] Jammer's Review: "Regeneration"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Warning: This review contains significant spoilers. If you haven t seen the episode yet, beware. In brief: A deviously clever premise, with the best-executed
    Message 1 of 1 , May 9, 2003
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      Warning: This review contains significant spoilers. If you haven't seen the
      episode yet, beware.


      In brief: A deviously clever premise, with the best-executed action of the
      season.

      Plot description: A research team on Earth discovers the frozen, century-old
      wreckage of an alien vessel and its mysterious inhabitants -- humanoids
      laden with cybernetic implants.

      -----
      Enterprise: "Regeneration"

      Airdate: 5/7/2003 (USA)
      Written by Mike Sussman & Phyllis Strong
      Directed by David Livingston

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

      "As I recall, Cochrane was famous for his imaginative stories. He was also
      known to be frequently intoxicated." -- T'Pol, debunking crazy theories
      -----

      I can't help myself. I like the Borg too much to frown on "Regeneration,"
      recycled as some of it may be. And although I will say that Enterprise is
      doing itself few favors by reaching into the obvious Trekkian bag of tricks
      like this, I will also say that the way the writers handle the plot for
      "Regeneration" is too clever to dismiss. Let's just hope that after this the
      creators have gotten the Borg out of their systems and can move on.

      The way the Borg are brought into this series' time frame is some sort of
      simplistic genius. It simultaneously makes perfect sense ... and is
      colossally absurd. I love it. The premise is the kind of thing the fans
      would come up with, and you'd expect the professionals would dismiss it on
      their belief that the general audience would be too confused by the
      continuity references. It's good to see the writers going forward with this
      sort of ingenious, reckless abandon. Well, this time, anyway.

      The idea is this: A human research team inside the Arctic Circle on Earth
      finds buried in the ice the wreckage of the Borg sphere that was destroyed
      in "Star Trek: First Contact" and has been preserved there for the last
      century. How a crash site so large has gone undetected for the last 100
      years is a question best left unasked. Naturally, the researchers have no
      idea what they've found, because they've never heard of the Borg, let alone
      seen one. To the researchers, these are unknown humanoid corpses filled with
      cybernetic implants. I laughed at an exchange where one researcher urges
      caution and suggests re-freezing the bodies to halt the resumed activity
      within their nanotechnology:

      Researcher A: "There's no reason to assume they're hostile."
      Researcher B: "They don't exactly look friendly."
      Researcher A: "Keep them here for now; we'll see what happens."

      It's funny precisely because we know what they do not -- that these are
      *Borg*, for crying out loud -- and Researcher A, who does not heed the
      monster movie rule of taking adequate precautions, is obviously going to be
      the first Dead Meat. Or, rather, Assimilated Meat.

      One may be tempted to question the latitude the writers permit themselves
      here by alleging that the Borg wreckage, blown up by the Enterprise-E a
      century ago, could've crashed to the surface of the Earth without being
      incinerated ... AND that intact Borg corpses could be so conveniently
      preserved. I'm not here to argue against whatever convenient fates protected
      the Borg wreckage; stranger things have happened on Star Trek. Besides, this
      simply makes too much sense on its terms for me to quibble over. This is a
      franchise tie-in that allows the Borg onto this series in the only
      acceptable way.

      Crucial to the impact of "Regeneration" is the way it plays the story
      straight, like a mystery, as if no one has heard of the Borg -- which, come
      to think of it, they haven't. The story employs a device that's been used on
      this series before, sometimes unsuccessfully, which is that of something
      being new to the characters in the story but not new to us in the audience.
      We've seen the Borg many, many times, and the question is whether this
      particular encounter -- the first encounter by these characters in this time
      frame -- will be effective. I'm reminded of the unsuccessful "Sleeping
      Dogs," where the Enterprise crew got their first glimpse of the inside of a
      Klingon vessel. In that case, it was not enough that the Klingon ship was
      new to them, because the story itself was not interesting.

      But here, with the Borg, the writers pull it off. A big part of this is
      because of the clever tie-in with "First Contact" and the details shown in
      the researchers' discovery. The rest of it lies in our curiosity of how far
      the Borg will get and what they will do now that they've essentially been
      allowed out of their ice prison. The story is able to conjure a nice sense
      of dread.

      The first act is a refreshing change of pace, taking place entirely on Earth
      and featuring an array of guest actors. The snowy research facility gives
      this typically enclosed series some much-needed breathing room. It's nice to
      get a sense that there's Starfleet activity outside the crew of the
      Enterprise. Once the Borg are loose, they assimilate the research team and
      escape the planet in the team's transport vessel. Conveniently, they are
      headed in the direction of the Enterprise. The only remaining question is
      how they come so close to the Enterprise so quickly. By now, you'd think the
      Enterprise would be many months away from Earth, even at maximum warp.

      Starfleet orders Captain Archer to pursue the vessel, investigate the
      threat, and retrieve the kidnapped research team, if possible. What ensues
      is all action and nuts-and-bolts plotting -- chases and firefights (inside
      and outside both the Enterprise and the Borgified transport ship), and
      struggles to avoid being injected with invasive nanoprobes, which seem to
      facilitate the Borg assimilation process to the point that it might as well
      be a really, really, really bad virus you absolutely don't want to get.

      The crew must contend with two Tarkaleans that they attempted to rescue from
      attack by the Borg-hijacked transport; the Tarkaleans of course have already
      begun the transformation and then try to begin assimilating the Enterprise.
      Meanwhile, Phlox is infected by nanoprobes and must race to find a cure for
      himself before he becomes another one of these cybernetic beings. Reed works
      on upgrading the phase pistols to pack more punch. And some people get blown
      out into space.

      Basically, if you're looking for meaningful or subtle character interaction,
      this is not the place to find it (save perhaps a very brief moment between
      Hoshi and Phlox).

      The simple fact is, this is one of Enterprise's most engaging action
      episodes to date; it's a superior hardware show. This story moves forward at
      a relentless pace. There is scarcely a dull moment. Some of the material may
      be quite familiar (we know how the Borg operate when trying to take control
      of a ship, and such action here is straight from the Borg Assimilation
      Handbook), but that's okay, because the plot flow and David Livingston's
      direction is dead-on. Brian Tyler's music score is terrific. The overall
      sense of the episode is: The Enterprise crew has a problem, and they need to
      address it, RIGHT NOW. There's a sense of urgency that never lets up or
      releases our attention.

      David Livingston, known for sometimes pushing the envelope of cinematography
      in episodes like DS9's "Crossover" and Voyager's "Distant Origin," again
      does so here, with a camera that is not content to sit idly during the
      action. I liked the results. While I found I was aware of the director's
      hand at times, the shots are fresh and interesting and add to the episode's
      aggressive tone when the Borg are on the offensive.

      There's also one novel nugget of information that explicitly references this
      story's "First Contact" connection, but without letting the characters in on
      the joke: Archer finds an archived speech (one that was later recanted)
      where Zefram Cochrane had talked of cybernetic beings trying to prevent his
      warp flight, and humans from the future who had stopped them. T'Pol's
      response that Cochrane was known for his "imaginative stories" and frequent
      drinking is perfect. Nice touch.

      The plot itself manages to make sense and hold together believably on its
      terms. (Although, the ease by which the Borg can assimilate people and
      technology with their magical nanoprobes makes you wonder why they didn't
      just start marching around Earth and infecting as many people as they could
      find.) After the crew is able to destroy the threat and Phlox cures himself
      by irradiating all the nanoprobes (afterward, John Billingsley is excellent
      depicting a very fatigued man who looks like he's really just been bombarded
      with radiation), the crew discovers that the aliens sent a homing signal
      aimed deep into the Delta Quadrant -- where presumably they came from. It's
      apparently the precursor to an invasion ... but it will take the signal 200
      years to reach that area of space. But by the 24th century, they will know
      where we are...

      I enjoyed this ending. It raises some continuity questions, yes, but it
      still works on a couple different levels. On level one is the conveyed sense
      of ominous dread when Archer gains this knowledge. On level two is the
      ironic humor; it made me laugh out loud because we have so much more
      information than the characters. The invasion Archer is worried about has
      essentially already happened -- it happened 100 years ago and 200 years from
      now, basically simultaneously. He's worried about it, but we can simply
      laugh in retrospect.

      To look at the facts, I presume this explains why the Borg became interested
      in our area of space to begin with. Of course, TNG's "Q Who" already had
      answered the question of why the Borg headed for Earth, but "Regeneration"
      might explain why the Borg were already on our doorstep in "Q Who" and why
      they were scooping up remote outposts along the Romulan neutral zone in "The
      Neutral Zone," as opposed to still being in the Delta Quadrant (their origin
      as established from Voyager's third season on). There's probably some
      fudging here, and I'm certain that not everyone watching is going to buy
      into this (I'm not sure even I do), but I found the attempts to tie things
      together here to be enjoyable.

      What's important, though, is that the episode works on *both* levels -- as
      an hour of action in its own right as well as something that assembles these
      various franchise fragments. That it does; "Regeneration" contains more pure
      entertainment than most of this season's episodes of Enterprise. My one
      qualm is the implied sense that the creators had to fall back on the
      franchise's most reliable villains in order to get there.

      So, then, how to account for the fact that these unknown alien aggressors
      will *still* be unknown in the 24th century when they begin their invasion
      against the Federation? I have an explanation. It's quite simple, really:
      When the TNG crew first encountered the Borg in "Q Who," that was *before*
      they followed the Borg sphere back in time to Earth and destroyed it, a full
      century before its wreckage would be found in the Arctic Circle. So, you
      see, none of this had happened yet when the TNG crew first encountered the
      Borg. Of course they wouldn't have heard the stories of a possible invasion
      of cybernetic beings. Those stories didn't exist. Yet.

      Smile, wink, nod.

      --
      Next week: Two episodes, one night -- Enterprise's original intended captain
      (hmmm) and T'Pol in heat (hmph).

      -----
      Copyright 2003 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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