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[ENT] Jammer's Review: "Hatchery"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Note: This review contains significant spoilers. In brief: Big, long, deep sigh. Plot description: At the possible expense of his mission, Archer goes to
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 1 8:55 PM
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      Note: This review contains significant spoilers.


      In brief: Big, long, deep sigh.

      Plot description: At the possible expense of his mission, Archer goes to
      excessive lengths to protect a hatchery filled with unborn Xindi insectoids.

      -----
      Star Trek: Enterprise - "Hatchery"

      Airdate: 2/25/2004 (USA)
      Teleplay by Andre Bormanis
      Story by Andre Bormanis & Mike Sussman
      Directed by Michael Grossman

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
      Rating out of 4: **

      "Not the sort of thing they trained us for at West Point." -- Major Hayes,
      on command scenarios complicated by sci-fi circumstances
      -----

      In my "next week" comments, I like to belittle UPN trailers and offer up
      sarcastic comments. It's just a fun thing to do. And when I was dismissive
      in my "next week" comments for this episode, I was of course just kidding
      around, because I don't take the trailers seriously (often, how can you?).
      Even when I do, I usually try to poke fun rather than be serious.

      "Mutiny aboard Voyager! I mean, Enterprise!" I wrote. Kidding.

      Rest assured, come episode time, I was in serious, open-minded mode. In all
      honesty, I was looking forward to an episode that I hoped would supply some
      genuine tension, serious clashes of thought, and some meaty characterization
      and/or tough choices.

      Well, now, after having seen "Hatchery," I can only report that this take on
      the mutiny plot is indeed about as authentic as any of the supposed mutinies
      that happened on Voyager ("Repression" comes to mind) -- which is to say,
      not at all. There are some reasonably decent situational dynamics here, but
      the story is built on a cheat plot's foundation, where the mutinous behavior
      arises *only* because a Strange Alien Influence has compromised one or more
      of the characters -- in this case, Captain Archer.

      Boooor-ing.

      Sorry, but this is exactly the wrong kind of routine story to be telling.
      Andre Bormanis, who wrote "Extinction" earlier this season, which I said was
      an episode that made all the typical Voyager mistakes, has basically done it
      again. This is not an Enterprise episode; it's a Voyager rehash. It's the
      mutiny show done the only way Voyager could ever do it, with abnormal
      behavior caused by an outside influence and therefore having no lasting
      significance to the people who participate in it.

      What's worse, the whole show is telegraphed from the very beginning,
      rendering the hour painfully obvious. While an away team investigates a
      crashed Xindi insectoid vessel on a barren world, Archer is sprayed by a
      Xindi insectoid egg sac -- and the whole plot instantly reveals itself as an
      exercise in going through the motions. Phlox examines Archer in sickbay and
      determines that the venom poses no lasting danger. By this point, I'm
      rolling my eyes and talking to the TV screen: What are you, stupid? (Phlox
      obviously has not seen enough Star Trek episodes.)

      Immediately afterward, Archer starts exhibiting strange behavior, none of
      which tracks with his usual opinions. All season long, Archer has been only
      about the mission to save Earth; it has been Priority No. 1. Now he begins
      to be protective of this hatchery to the point of monomania, and he gives
      new orders to do whatever it takes to bring the damaged Xindi vessel back on
      line so the hatchery can be made operable and the hatchlings will survive.
      Archer argues that such a good-faith display would show the Xindi that
      humanity is not the threat they think it is. (Considering the Xindi
      preemptively killed 7 million people, I wouldn't be so optimistic.)

      Unfortunately, to do this will necessitate a delay in the trip to Azati
      Prime and, worse, expend one-third of the Enterprise's antimatter fuel
      reserves. When T'Pol confronts Archer with reasonable logic, and explains to
      him that the Enterprise (and humanity) cannot afford compromising the
      primary mission, Archer relieves her of duty and confines her to quarters
      for insubordination.

      Now it's up to Trip to talk Archer out of this plan. Archer isn't
      particularly receptive, and after an incident that leaves an attacking Xindi
      ship destroyed, Archer blames Reed (wrongly), relieves him of duty as well,
      and then puts Hayes in charge of the bridge. With Hayes in charge of the
      MACOs and Trip in the tough position of trying to do what's best for the
      mission, the situation quickly begins heading toward a showdown between
      Trip's Starfleet followers and the MACOs. Archer stays off the main stage,
      obsessing over the hatchery in increasing mind-altered-behavior fashion.
      (Does it strike only me as a little sci-fi convenient that his behavior
      shift is initially so subtle that it seems reasonable as he argues his
      position? Of course, by the end he's a borderline loon.)

      It's really too bad that all of this stems from a hollow contrivance,
      because some of the dynamics here are interesting, and some of the responses
      to this problem make sense. We have, for example, the idea of T'Pol voicing
      the first of the objections -- and then when she's confined to quarters, she
      has a meeting with Trip that starts the talk of undermining the captain.
      (The MACO posted outside her door buys a lame story pretty easily; he should
      be fired.)

      Later, there's respectable urgency to the T'Pol/Trip/Reed plotting, as,
      faced with a deadline, they discuss what needs to be done and who can be
      trusted to take control of the ship.

      I also liked some of the earlier character interaction between Reed and
      Hayes, who after beating each other up in "Harbinger" are seen here as
      having reached a level of coexistence but without the added cliche of having
      become best friends; they still have an edge of competition. At one point
      Hayes shows Reed a battle simulation, and Reed finds himself expressing
      skepticism almost automatically. I like that he catches himself doing this
      and apologizes for it.

      One important question when it comes time to stage the mutiny is whether or
      not Hayes can be trusted to also turn against the captain (the mutineers
      decide the answers is no). Hayes, with a more military background, is more
      inflexible than the Starfleet personnel in his regard for the chain of
      command, and the point of character analysis here suggests that Hayes is
      more likely to simply carry out the orders given to him rather than question
      those orders under special circumstances. That's a dynamic that's somewhat
      interesting as a demonstration of the differing philosophies of the MACOs
      versus the Starfleet officers. (Although one hopes there are limits; just
      how out of control would Archer have to be before Hayes would acknowledge
      there's something wrong with his decisions?)

      Belying the actual details of the mutiny -- which work to some degree as we
      see Trip, T'Pol, and Reed making their plans -- is the inescapable
      fundamental problem here: I just didn't care about the end result. The whole
      episode is built upon the fact that none of it ultimately matters beyond the
      execution of the plot points. Since Archer is not in control of his
      faculties, there are no actual choices being made here. We're just watching
      a "mutiny" that's seizing control of an artificially created situation.
      There is no actual conflict of ideology here. It's just your garden-variety
      retake-the-ship episode, where our characters are retaking the ship from
      each other.

      As a result, the show is a disappointment because there's no need for
      anybody to be accountable for anything. The mutiny is ultimately viewed as
      it must be: a necessary measure to get the mission back on track after the
      captain is held hostage by his mind-altered state, which is laid out for us
      by Phlox in a tedious scene of medical exposition. There's nothing
      interesting about it. We've seen it too many times, and it's a dramatic
      cop-out. Who cares?

      Why not have a *real* story where it's Starfleet versus the MACOs, with a
      real cause arising from real issues and real opposing views and having real
      consequences? You know, a premise that makes us think about what is
      happening and where something is genuinely at stake? Is that so much to ask
      for?

      --
      Next week: It looks as if the crew finally reaches Azati Prime.

      -----
      Copyright 2004 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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