Warning: This review contains significant spoilers. If you haven't seen the
episode yet, beware.
In brief: Quite respectable, although not transcendent.
Plot description: A telepathic alien agrees to help the Enterprise crew
locate the Xindi, but only under the condition that Hoshi keep him company
during his search.
Star Trek: Enterprise - "Exile"
Airdate: 10/15/2003 (USA)
Written by Phyllis Strong
Directed by Roxann Dawson
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
Rating out of 4: ***
"Son of a bitch!" -- Trip, as the shuttlepod floats away
"Exile" is a tale of two lonely people -- one far lonelier than the other,
although the other might be more lonely than she would ever admit to anyone,
including herself. The concept reminded me somewhat of Voyager's
third-season outing "Alter Ego," in which an alien taps into a holodeck
character and through virtual reality becomes enamored with Tuvok. That
episode might be more relatable to the real world, since the Internet has
turned many of us into virtual conversationalists. "Exile" has more extreme
(and ultimately less relatable, since it's clearly a fantasy) implications,
because here an alien is able to tap directly into Ensign Sato's mind and
read her thoughts.
With all due respect to my guilt-inducing three-star award to last week's
all-execution, no-content "Impulse," the hour that is "Exile" is a much
better, more rounded, more respectable three-star-rated episode, with actual
storytelling and characters and advancement of the larger story arc ... and
yet still only a three-star show. Funny how that works. This show is in no
danger of transcending its material, although the material itself is clearly
better than that in "Impulse."
I guess I have a soft spot for Hoshi. She's probably this series' most
down-to-earth character, and seems like someone whom not only might you
actually meet in the real world, but would want to. She's a real person with
a real-world mix of vulnerability and strength (although she's certainly
more brilliant than most when it comes to linguistics), and when there's a
show focusing on her (all too rare, I would argue), you can be reasonably
certain it will be a worthy character outing and not simply a
testosterone-fest where people are thrown into holding cells and then freed
in convoluted firefights. "Exile" plays like a throwback of sorts to kinder,
gentler Trek, when manners could actually triumph over action sequences,
rather than the other way around.
In "Exile," Hoshi is contacted by a telepathic alien who lives a life of
seclusion on a desolate world. His mansion stands tall among a landscape of
mountains and windy nothingness. The alien's name is Tarquin (Maury
Sterling), who first appears on the Enterprise to Hoshi in her mind, leading
to a series of familiar Hoshi-themed scenes pointing in the direction of
That Darn Hoshi Is Imagining Things Again. These scenes remind us of similar
scenes in "Vanishing Point" (a vastly underrated episode, in my opinion),
where the only person convinced that something strange is happening here is
the victim herself. These scenes are thankfully brief, and not overplayed,
allowing us to quickly move forward with the story.
Meanwhile, sensors detect another storm of violent anomalies like the one
encountered in "Anomaly," only stronger this time around. T'Pol runs a
vector analysis of the distortion fields, or however the technical
explanation goes (I draw the line at revisiting technical dialog), which
indicates that the mysterious man-made sphere found in "Anomaly" --
theorized as the source of the anomalies in that episode -- might have a
nearby sibling. This is an interesting discovery that plays as good
continuity, and it should be noted that the jargon and computer graphics
used to explain the discovery come across as straightforward, sensible, and
refreshingly plausible. Captain Archer's response to T'Pol's discovery is a
genuinely refreshing dose of understated excitement; he's able to show some
enthusiasm in seeing a possible piece of the puzzle slide into place. It's
nice to see his tone lightened when appropriate.
So the Enterprise briefly detours away from its new destination of this
sphere to stop by Tarquin's planet. Tarquin has told Hoshi that he may be
able to use his telepathic powers to help the Enterprise crew find the
Xindi's homeworld (and, indeed, what he ultimately finds -- a colony where
part of The Weapon might be under construction -- keeps the plot arc moving
forward). Tarquin, however, has a very specific interest in Hoshi, and makes
it a condition that she remain as his guest while he conducts his telepathic
Google search. Meanwhile, the Enterprise ventures ahead to investigate the
At the crux of "Exile" is that Tarquin, who has been reading Hoshi's mind
for several days, has come to know her quite intimately, leaving Hoshi at an
extremely uncomfortable disadvantage. Tarquin knows things that she has
never admitted to anyone. Furthermore, Tarquin is actually looking for a new
companion; after years of loneliness (his previous companions have died of
old age), and centuries of exile from a population that expels its
telepathic minority, he has found Hoshi, whom he says has a "unique mind."
This begs the question: Isn't Tarquin's telepathic invasion of Hoshi's
privacy ... well, just plain creepy? Let me tell you: If someone were
reading my thoughts at will and knew things that I'd never confessed to
anyone, I'd feel extremely violated, even if it was by a really attractive
person who said she wanted to sleep with me (which, by the way, Tarquin is
not). Much has been made of this story's "Beauty and the Beast" parallel,
but that's not really much of an issue here (aside from Tarquin's seclusion
and the fact that he has a nice dining room setup).
It is perhaps a measure of the story's civility, performances, and direction
that we accept Tarquin's telepathic invasions at the level that Hoshi
does -- one of mild, rather than massive, discomfort.
Tarquin, as performed by Sterling, comes across as a well-intended but
desperate man in need of a cure to his loneliness. Despite Michael
Westmore's intentionally extreme makeup design, we never see Tarquin in
anything but emotionally human terms -- which is the point here. Given his
powers and his predicament, Tarquin is as restrained and benign as he
probably can be under the circumstances -- and while he becomes aggressive
in his attempts to persuade Hoshi to stay with him, he never pushes so far
as to turn completely unsympathetic. Hopelessly unrealistic, yes -- but not
unsympathetic. (Although, the way he threatens the Enterprise at the end is
probably pushing us to the limits of our sympathy; I could've done without
the jeopardy notion altogether.)
What's also interesting here is that the episode gets into Hoshi's own
personal feelings, which Tarquin cites in his efforts to convince her that
he has something to offer her. It would seem that Hoshi is somewhat
self-isolated; she doesn't feel that she's truly understood by many people
and as a result is somewhat closed-off. Linda Park turns in a good
performance in an episode where Hoshi listens far more than she's required
to take action. She is patient and careful with Tarquin even in the face of
what must be sheer awkwardness -- sort of like being on a date with someone
you are desperately waiting for the right opportunity to feed the line,
"Let's just be friends."
It's perhaps worth noting, however, that the episode doesn't venture as far
as it could've and perhaps should've. For all of Tarquin's dialog about
Hoshi's repressed feelings, Hoshi herself is mostly silent on the subject.
I'd have welcomed a reflective coda aboard the ship where Hoshi talks about
all this, but we don't get it; the episode would rather scratch the surface
of Hoshi's character without venturing too deep into her feelings. It's a
bit of a shame. But even though we don't reach quite a satisfactory
conclusion, the interaction between Hoshi and Tarquin works because of solid
performances. Scenes like the dinner-table scene between Hoshi and this
alien-looking but human-seeming person are the types of conceptual scenes
that Star Trek is known for.
The B-story also works, and turns out to be of significant story-arc
interest. Tucker equips a shuttlepod with Trellium shielding, permitting
Archer and Tucker to investigate the sphere in a region where the
unprotected Enterprise cannot venture. A mishap disables the shuttle's
sensors and forces them to land on the sphere to make quick repairs.
This prompts an admittedly irrelevant but nevertheless great scene that's
kind of brilliant in a Three Stooges kind of way. Trying to fix the sensors,
Trip inadvertently triggers a thruster on the landed shuttlepod, which then
begins to lift away from the surface of the sphere as Trip and Archer look
on with surprise. They must then shoot down the shuttle by knocking out the
thruster with a phaser beam. My thinking was: This is something I haven't
seen before. It's a thoroughly fresh and amusing take on the uh-oh
situation, warranting the best yet invocation of the Tuckerian exclamation,
"Son of a bitch!" -- which pretty much says exactly what needs to be said,
and in the best way one could've said it.
T'Pol's subsequent analysis of the shuttle data indicates that these spheres
are a part of a vast network of at least 50 spheres throughout the expanse.
This conclusion in turn leads to the inevitable and sensible theory that
perhaps the entire Delphic Expanse was artificially created by these things.
And since this is the prequel to a Star Trek where the Delphic Expanse
apparently does not exist, one could conclude that this series will at some
point document how the spheres are turned off and the expanse is effectively
dismantled. That, I must say, is a pretty neat story idea, with clues set up
nicely here and in "Anomaly." Now all they have to do is execute it.
"Exile" represents a good balance between standalone storytelling and
advancement of the ongoing story arc. Both story threads work on their own
and within the larger context. If "Extinction" was an example of how not to
plot this season of Enterprise, then "Exile" is an example of being on the
Next week: A rerun of "The Xindi," and thus a week for me to slack off
Copyright 2003 Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved.
Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.
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