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[ENT] Jammer's Review: "Exile"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Warning: This review contains significant spoilers. If you haven t seen the episode yet, beware. In brief: Quite respectable, although not transcendent. Plot
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 29, 2003
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      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
      sphere.

      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
      right track.

      --
      Next week: A rerun of "The Xindi," and thus a week for me to slack off
      already.

      -----
      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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