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[ENT] Jammer's Review: "Extinction"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Warning: This review contains significant spoilers. If you haven t seen the episode yet, beware. In brief: I think not. Plot description: While investigating a
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 26, 2003
      Warning: This review contains significant spoilers. If you haven't seen the
      episode yet, beware.

      In brief: I think not.

      Plot description: While investigating a crashed Xindi vessel on a jungle
      planet, four of Enterprise's crew members are infected with an alien virus
      that causes severe mutations.

      Star Trek: Enterprise - "Extinction"

      Airdate: 9/24/2003 (USA)
      Written by Andre Bormanis
      Directed by LeVar Burton

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

      "You never say please. You never say thank you."
      "Please don't be an idiot. Thank you."
      -- Bayliss and Pembleton

      When Archer, Reed, and Sato get transformed into savages and start jumping
      around like the guys from the Tim Burton version of "Planet of the Apes,"
      there's only one course of action: Remind yourself that at least a new "Law
      & Order" will be on later tonight.

      As it happens, this episode coincides with the renaming of this series,
      which now includes the franchise branding. The new name is apparently "Star
      Trek: Voyager."

      "Extinction" plays like a bad Voyager episode. There's nothing about this
      episode that couldn't or wouldn't have happened (or, rather, can't or won't
      happen in the future 24th century; wink, nudge!) in the Delta Quadrant, as
      opposed to the Delphic Expanse. More to the point, this is an episode that
      borrows so much from the Voyager bag-o-tricks that it more resembles
      bad-tier Voyager than bad-tier Enterprise. Three episodes into season three,
      coming off the impressive and focused "Anomaly," this is not what I had in
      mind. Writer Andre Bormanis, one of the few Voyager veterans who came to
      Enterprise, plunders the archives of his previous series. Unfortunately, he
      plunders mostly unsuccessful material.

      Most notably, we have Fun With DNA [TM], a trademark I get to dust off after
      years of non-use (an archive search shows that season four of Voyager was
      the last time). Voyager practically reinvented Fun With DNA by way of the
      infamous "Threshold," and DNA trickery persisted in episodes well after that

      The trick assumes that a person's DNA can be "rewritten," like a hard drive,
      or perhaps a rewritable CD, and that can thus transform them into something
      else -- often anything else. Another infamous example is TNG's "Genesis," in
      which the entire crew devolved into creatures (or, as the episode so
      brilliantly put it, "de-evolved"). In "Extinction," an away team shuttles
      down to a jungle planet and is infected by a virus that rewrites their DNA
      and turns them into aliens. For all dramatic purposes of the show's first
      half, however, the virus "de-evolves" them: Archer, Reed, and Sato become
      instinct-driven savages who run around in a confused frenzy. T'Pol, however,
      is not severely affected by the virus because she has Plot-Driven Vulcan
      Immunity, which, of course, is the key to the eventual cure that will
      ultimately reverse this unfortunate condition. (Curing someone's rewritten
      DNA is apparently like formatting a hard drive and then restoring the
      original person from backup DNA, replete with their original memories, etc.,

      As you can probably guess, I never bought into the whole Fun With DNA thing,
      and I'm not going to start now. DNA is not magic. If your DNA is being
      rewritten, I don't expect you to survive the process, especially as new
      bones grow under your face. I also find it amusing that the episode
      initially attributes radically altered biology to the Weird Properties of
      the Delphic Expanse (as if Voyager ever needed Weird Properties to have Fun
      With DNA).

      The problem with this episode isn't simply that the sci-fi is more "fi" than
      "sci"; the bigger problem is that the episode's alien oddities are too
      clunky and boring for too long. Call it a bias, but I just don't find much
      entertainment value in watching savages run around while T'Pol tries to get
      through to them. Once the Universal Translator allows them all to
      communicate, we then must sit through tedious scenes where T'Pol gradually
      tries to gain their trust. These scenes and their lame dialog are DOA.
      Basically, the mutated away team wants to go to a place called Urquat. But
      not before cracking open eggs filled with grubs and fighting over them. (The
      goofy savagery coexists with their ability to think on a higher plane, and
      it has no consistent foundation. It's random, disjointed, and silly, with
      dialog in one scene and then animal instincts taking over in the next.)

      About here is where a decontamination vessel (from a stock Voyager-type
      alien race) arrives. The decon commander (Roger Cross), informs Trip aboard
      the Enterprise that the planet has been under strict quarantine for decades
      because of this nasty virus, which aims to biologically mutate people into
      Loque'eque, the race that created the virus centuries ago. Why did they
      create it? Because the Loque'eque went sterile and had no other way of
      reproducing. Ain't science grand: They can create a virus capable of
      mutating multiple alien species into Loque'eque, and yet they can't find the
      cure to their own sterility. In a word: Doubtful. The only other question,
      which the episode has no answer for (because it doesn't ask it): Where are
      the Loque'eque now?

      The quote of the week is Trip's, about the planet's quarantine status: "It
      wasn't very well marked." My thoughts exactly. If this is such a dangerous
      world holding such a dangerous virus capable of wiping out entire
      populations in favor of its own, why is it not surrounded by armies of
      blockades to prohibit curious folks like our gallant Enterprise crew from
      taking shuttles down to the surface? (Or, even better, why not destroy the
      planet or make it uninhabitable so the quarantine is unnecessary?)

      From a structural standpoint, the episode also blows its central mystery by
      showing us certain cards at the wrong time. Consider: Mutant Archer feels
      drawn to a place called Urquat. So the story's central would-be mystery is
      finding out what Urquat, in fact, actually is. But it doesn't remain a
      mystery for long, because on the other end of the plot we're given the full
      explanation from the decon commander about how the virus makes those who are
      infected feel drawn to the Loque'eque's home city of Urquat. With ill-timed
      over-explanation, the show destroys all mystery surrounding both Mutant
      Archer's dream sequence (one of few good scenes of any interest) *and* the
      scene later on where the mutated away team finds the ruins of Urquat. What
      might possibly have been interesting and puzzling is instead painfully
      obvious because we're supplied all the answers from the outset. Most of the
      last half of the hour, consequently, becomes completely predictable.

      We get the usual conflicts between the decon commander, who wants to
      incinerate the away team ("We're going to contain this outbreak!"), and
      Tucker, who needs Phlox to find a cure before the alien decon vessel opens
      fire on the Enterprise. Will Phlox find a cure in time? I'm on the edge of
      my seat here...

      If only it didn't all feel so forced. Of course the decon commander is
      utterly against the possibility of the Enterprise looking for a cure; after
      all, a cure obviously doesn't exist since his people haven't found one in
      all the decades of dealing with the virus. And, of course, our brilliant
      doctor can find the cure in a few hours flat, despite having never
      encountered the virus before. But of course even these few hours will be too
      long for the decon commander to wait, because we must have our dose of
      forced conflict/action rather than allow the characters to listen to each
      other and exercise a reasonable level of patience and restraint. The cure is
      found and administered just in time to prevent a major incident, allowing
      Archer to walk onto the bridge with perfect timing. Too perfect, if you ask

      I have a serious problem with the ending. Archer orders Phlox to save a
      sample of the virus, on the rationale that it is all that remains of the
      extinct Loque'eque that created it. Archer's logic goes something like this:
      The Xindi intend to destroy humanity, but while we're in the expanse looking
      for them, we're going to be Better Than That by not destroying all that rema
      ins of the Loque'eque, i.e., the virus that could repopulate them.

      Um, excuse me?

      With all due respect to your Evolved Human Sensibilities, captain, are you
      on freakin' crack? (1) This is not a remnant of an alien culture, it's an
      extremely dangerous *contagion* responsible for infecting tens of millions
      of people who had to be destroyed to prevent the total annihilation of
      another society. The virus might as well be the biological equivalent of a
      Borg scourge, assimilating everything it comes in contact with, destroying
      whatever existed before. (2) No character here so much as questions the
      morality of a race that created a virus to, yes, save their society, but at
      the cost of *genocide* to others.

      And Archer wants to put it in cold storage?

      I'm sorry. There comes a point where common sense must wake up and smell the
      coffee. This is a misguided ending to a misfire of a show.

      "Extinction" on UPN, by the way, was brought to us in part by Nextel, who
      was at least kind enough to supply us a hilarious commercial depicting a
      30-second performance of "Romeo and Juliet." This is a concept, and
      execution, far more entertaining than anything in "Extinction" itself.

      Thanks, Nextel.

      Next week: Beautiful Alien Sex Slave!

      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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