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[ENT] Jammer's Review: "Rajiin"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Warning: This review contains significant spoilers. If you haven t seen the episode yet, beware. In brief: Plot pieces set in motion reasonably, but there s
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 10, 2003
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      Warning: This review contains significant spoilers. If you haven't seen the
      episode yet, beware.


      In brief: Plot pieces set in motion reasonably, but there's still something
      missing here.

      Plot description: Archer rescues an enslaved woman from an alien spaceport,
      but she harbors a hidden agenda.

      -----
      Star Trek: Enterprise - "Rajiin"

      Airdate: 10/1/2003 (USA)
      Teleplay by Paul Brown and Brent V. Freidman
      Story by Brent V. Freidman and Chris Black
      Directed by Mike Vejar

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

      "Some of our calculations may have been slightly off." -- T'Pol after the
      lab blows up
      -----

      The general sense in "Rajiin" hints that the writers -- at least for this
      week -- envision the Xindi storyline arc as the perfect canvas for a
      comic-book space opera. This is an episode far better than "Extinction," not
      nearly as good as "Anomaly," and probably about on the level of "The Xindi."
      Already, I think, I am beginning to sense what "average" will look like in
      the Delphic Expanse.

      If "Rajiin" has a strength -- and it does -- it's that it indicates that the
      Xindi arc is at least moving in some sort of a direction. Its drawback is
      that even while it manipulates characters, action, and plot pieces, it
      nevertheless feels kind of empty. The people do not have any chance to
      emerge as defined characters in the process of running around the ship.
      Sure, we have Archer being Deadly Serious as has been the case so far this
      season, but there's no *take* on the fact that he's so serious. He just is.

      The main problem, I think, is that the principal villains, for the moment,
      are not invested with enough depth to come across as anything more than a
      run-of-the-mill super-threat. We see them in their roundtable meetings, and
      we even see how they disagree with one another, but we don't understand
      exactly what's going on here or why. For now, at least, the problem is one
      of motivation: The Xindi do not have one. *Why* must they destroy Earth, and
      why are they so urgent about it?

      The one motive that we were supplied courtesy of Future Guy -- that humanity
      would allegedly destroy the Xindi homeworld 400 years in the future -- was
      seemingly quickly debased in "The Xindi." Consequently, we're left with no
      motivation for these guys. They seem to think it's awfully important that
      the Enterprise be stopped and that humanity be wiped from existence.
      Assuming that this is not because they are Pure Evil, why are they going to
      all the trouble? This might be a mystery to be solved with some interest
      further down the road, but the flip side of that coin is that for now we
      have conflict that rings pretty hollow. It is essentially Us vs. Them. Them
      are the Evildoers, and Us are the Good Guys. Us vs. Them doesn't make for
      particularly interesting drama. It kind of just sits there waiting around
      for the action to get rolling. "Rajiin" as a result is lacking.

      But I'm getting ahead of myself, because I haven't even brought up the title
      character, Rajiin. Rajiin is, in what the trailers were so helpful in
      explaining, a "beautiful alien sex slave" exclamation mark. (Leave it to UPN
      trailers to blow things out of proportion in order to appeal to the base.)
      Archer and the away team rescue Rajiin (Nikita Ager) from her owner in a
      western-like spaceport while tracking down a contact who has the formula for
      Trellium-D, the substance that we learned in "Anomaly" can insulate
      starships from the dangerous Delphic Expanse anomalies. There's a barter
      sequence here that's mildly amusing, in which Trip trades black pepper and
      other assorted seasonings for the Trellium-D formula. "On my planet, wars
      were fought over these," he explains. The quirky alien trader (Dell Yount)
      sneezes and cackles with enthusiasm.

      Archer takes Rajiin back to the Enterprise where alarms in most audience
      members are probably sounding by now, even if they haven't seen the
      trailers. Is Rajiin the innocent slave-since-childhood she claims to be?
      Will Enterprise win an Emmy for writing?

      Rajiin has a mental power that is hinted at but never quite explained, and
      as a function of story, that kinda works. There's a scene where she seduces
      Archer, but the seduction is not quite what it seems to be, and indeed the
      scene gives us the distinct impression that it might not have really
      happened at all. At the very least, Archer can't be sure; it's like he lost
      a few crucial seconds of time. Rajiin, meanwhile, seems to be stealing
      something directly from Archer's body. What, exactly? We find out at the
      end, and the way this pays off is actually kind of clever.

      Rajiin is really an operative employed by the Xindi reptilian species, who
      have on their own accord, without the approval of the rest of the Xindi
      council, sent Rajiin to get bio-scans of the humans so they can begin work
      on a bio-weapon (the show's opening moments show a frustrated scientist who
      explains that it will take quite some time to complete the orbital weapon
      that can destroy Earth; the bio-weapon is proposed as an alternative).

      Once Rajiin's true motives are discovered, she's chased down and thrown into
      the brig and questioned about the Xindi by Archer, who this time opts not to
      resort to methods of interrogation involving the airlock, perhaps because
      Rajiin is more sympathetic and cooperative than the surly prisoner in
      "Anomaly," but probably because the audience would quickly turn on Archer if
      he were to use similar tactics on a woman.

      About this time, two Xindi ships appear and their boarding party storms the
      Enterprise to retrieve Rajiin, leading to a final act of action that makes
      it a priority to establish a slightly different take on hand-held weapons.
      The action is competently staged, if a little hokey at times. However, I
      find myself somewhat annoyed by the fact that the crew casualties are not
      mentioned in dialog. The thing about sci-fi violence is that we don't know
      exactly where we stand when someone gets hit by an energy beam. Are they
      dead? Knocked out? What? I'm pretty sure the first crew fatality on this
      series came just a couple weeks ago, in "Anomaly," and I'm at least hoping
      that the increased action-oriented drive of this season doesn't turn our
      crew into action props. So if someone gets killed, I'd at least like an
      acknowledgement. We don't get that here. I guess I'll just have to assume
      they're dead.

      (Speaking of sci-fi violence, it occurred to me that maybe the Enterprise
      crew should keep around some conventional projectile firearms. Sure, a Xindi
      can absorb an energy beam with his sci-fi suit or whatever, but can he take
      a bullet? I'd be interested in knowing.)

      As a piece of the Xindi arc, "Rajiin" is reassuring in that it follows some
      pieces that were placed before it and sets up pieces that can be built upon
      later. The search for and subsequent attempts for synthesizing Trellium-D
      grow nicely from "Anomaly," and the way the Xindi ships escape into a vortex
      is the same visual as when the Xindi probe emerged from nowhere in "The
      Expanse." These are decent continuity touches.

      On the character front (albeit not especially significant), there's
      follow-up on the issue of T'Pol's treatment sessions for Trip. As much as I
      hated the transparent and spectacularly unbelievable presentation of their
      first session in "The Xindi," I'm certainly not going to keep harping on the
      point. In fact, now that the writers have settled down a bit and made these
      scenes somewhat more plausible, I won't really object, so long as it doesn't
      stagnate for the next six months. There's a relevant point brought up here,
      about the fact that "people are talking" about all the time Trip spends in
      T'Pol's quarters. This I can believe. It acknowledges the sexual
      undercurrents that the writers so completely sidestepped in "The Xindi" (and
      why, consequently, the scene came off as an utter crock).

      Several people have offered me their prediction that the bio-weapon story
      thread will inevitably tie back to last week's misguided "Extinction." The
      logic goes like this: Since there's Phlox's early dialog about Archer having
      not completely finished staving off all the alien DNA-mutation effects, and
      because Rajiin took her bio-readings from Archer, T'Pol, and Sato -- all of
      whom (conveniently) were infected by the alien virus -- the bio-weapon will
      be based on those readings and will not work on normal humans. I applaud the
      foresight and audience predictions, but I don't think I would applaud the
      idea itself if it turns out to happen that way. It strikes me as pretty
      anticlimactic to base the solution to a major plot line on an arbitrary
      sci-fi technicality and not on something more substantially dramatic. So put
      me on the list of people who would rather wait and see rather than predict
      how this scenario will play out.

      In terms of advancing the bigger picture, "Rajiin" isn't bad, but nor is it
      all that interesting or enlightening. The Xindi council scenes are going to
      get really old really fast if the writers can't come up with dialog that's
      better than the cardboard comic-book lines ominously uttered here. It seems
      to me the writers have slightly miscalculated regarding the Xindi by showing
      us either too much of them or not enough. They've showed too much for the
      Xindi to remain a mystery, and they've not shown enough for the Xindi to be
      villains we can understand or care about, except in the most simpleminded
      ways. At the moment, they simply exist as a threat. I'd prefer an
      *interesting* threat. It's quite possible we will still get that.

      Until then, shows like "Rajiin" are simply average space-opera adventures.
      The characters march around, the action is in the spirit of comic books, and
      the dialog moves us along without getting us too wrapped up in anything or
      anybody. There's nothing really wrong with that. Nothing great about it
      either.

      --
      Next week: Vulcan girls gone wild!

      -----
      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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