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[ENT] Jammer's Review: "The Forgotten"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Note: This review contains significant spoilers. In brief: More standout stuff. Has the season perhaps turned the corner? Plot description: As Tucker tries to
    Message 1 of 1 , May 5 5:44 PM
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      Note: This review contains significant spoilers.


      In brief: More standout stuff. Has the season perhaps turned the corner?

      Plot description: As Tucker tries to come to terms with a personal loss,
      Archer attempts to prove his case to Degra and solidify an alliance.

      -----
      Star Trek: Enterprise - "The Forgotten"

      Airdate: 4/28/2004 (USA)
      Written by Chris Black & David A. Goodman
      Directed by LeVar Burton

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

      "The letter -- how's it going?"
      "I got as far as 'I regret to inform you.'"
      "That's a little dry, sir."
      -- Taylor, Trip
      -----

      "Azati Prime," "Damage," and now "The Forgotten" form a successful troika of
      episodes that represents some of Enterprise's most involving storytelling to
      date. Surely, in the past three shows we've seen more pure substance than in
      any three shows from the rest of the season. And when I say substance, I
      mean not just plot advancement (although there's plenty of it) but also a
      reasonable level of thematic relevance. I'm tempted to wonder why we had to
      sit through so many vapid episodes ("Extinction," "Harbinger," "Carpenter
      Street," "Hatchery," etc.) in order to reach this point. But I suppose when
      you have 24 episode slots you need to fill, there are going to be some
      casualties in the midst of all the setup.

      On a thematic level, "The Forgotten" refers to the Enterprise's casualties
      (a better title might've been "The Remembered" given the point here). When
      the tally is finalized, the battle in "Azati Prime" has claimed 18 crew
      members. In a crew of less than 100, that's a significant blow.

      "The Forgotten" is both commendable and necessary because it humanizes and
      faces up to the subject of death rather than ignoring it as a throwaway
      piece of action plotting. Earlier in the season I mentioned that the issue
      of fatalities had been rather superficially glossed over -- especially
      considering that the first two seasons saw *zero* fatalities (at least as
      far as we were shown). You'd think the first deaths aboard Enterprise
      would've been something of a tragic milestone -- but then maybe not
      considering there had already been 7 million killed in the Xindi Swath.

      The episode begins with Archer giving a speech in the engine room, promising
      that the mission will go on in the name of those who died on Earth and also
      "for the 18." It's an effective way to start the show, on a solemn but
      determined note that follows up the past two episodes and makes this feel
      like a legitimate piece of an actual trilogy, with the ship going through an
      extended recovery.

      The story's structure involves two basic threads -- one regarding the
      nuts-and-bolts plot involving the Xindi negotiations, the other regarding a
      more intimate character theme. The two threads at times cross over
      relevantly into each other's territory. In Story A, we have Archer making
      the arranged rendezvous with Degra inside the cloaking field of one of the
      spheres. Archer's goal is to present evidence that convinces Degra that the
      sphere-builders are the real enemy manipulating everyone. In Story B, we
      have Trip coming to terms with personal loss. Archer has assigned him to
      write a letter to the family of Crewman Taylor, one of Trip's engineers.
      Trip cannot face this task, because Taylor's death reminds him of his sister
      Elizabeth, who died in the Xindi Swath.

      Degra, along with the unnamed Xindi council member who is always flanking
      him (Rick Worthy), comes aboard the Enterprise, where Archer walks them both
      through the evidence. He shows them the Xindi reptilian corpses brought back
      (forward?) from Earth 2004 and put into frozen storage since then (I admit
      that I'd written them off as long forgotten). He shows them the
      bioweapon-development technology that they were using. He shows them the
      scans of the sphere-builder that perished aboard the Enterprise. (Degra:
      "Perhaps your atmosphere was toxic to him." Phlox: "I believe our *universe*
      was toxic to him.")

      What I especially liked about these scenes was Archer's cold -- and yet
      cool -- response in the face of what could've been endlessly frustrating
      skepticism. Not convinced? Well, then, follow me into this room and take a
      look at this. Still skeptical? I have something else to show you over here.
      Scott Bakula has refined to a near-science Archer's utterly serious
      determination, and here plays him as a man who is going to show the Xindi
      what's what, is certainly not going to smile about it, but is also
      completely rational and calm in going about it. It's an interesting
      performance that keeps us right there with Archer in his attempt to let the
      facts speak for themselves.

      Trip, however, makes things a little more personal. In a tense but
      respectably restrained scene, Trip confronts Degra over the mass-scale death
      Degra's weapon caused on Earth, including the death of his sister. It's a
      dramatically effective scene, not just because of what it contains but also
      because of what it does not contain. Trip is angry but does not lash out
      over the top. Archer and T'Pol both shut him down but not without a certain
      understanding. Degra takes his licks and then takes them to heart. There are
      uneasy emotions at work here, but there's also a certain amount of civil
      rationality that is maintained, and it makes the scene credible.

      Later, there's a wonderful and subtle moment that I cherished. After Trip
      and Reed extinguish a fire on the hull of the ship, which leaves Reed
      injured, Trip finds another opportunity to lash out (again, understandably)
      at Degra. A disquieted Degra walks solemnly out of the room. Just before he
      walks through the door, he pauses for the briefest moment, as if he might
      say something. But he instead silently steps through the door without
      turning around. This is just about perfectly played. Degra, I have no doubt,
      wanted to express some sort of regret. But what could he possibly say that
      would be of any value to Trip? In this case, it's perhaps better to say
      nothing. (The writers have done an excellent job of humanizing Degra in the
      past half-dozen or so episodes, and it's no coincidence the series has been
      looking better during that same period.)

      Trip's dilemma of writing the letter is played out explicitly in a dream
      sequence where he talks to the deceased Crewman Taylor (Kipleigh Brown) and
      explains how difficult it is for him to come up with the right words. She
      tells him: "Just remember me. Is that asking so much?" "Yes," he responds.

      Of course, it's overly obvious that his inability to confront his sister's
      death is the psychological root of his inability to confront Taylor's death,
      but it still makes for a couple well-acted, well-directed, substantive
      scenes. It also supplies some welcome closure for an issue that was
      prevalent early in the season before being set aside.

      T'Pol, meanwhile, helps console Trip, which is an appropriate choice;
      earlier in the episode we saw her telling Phlox that she can no longer
      suppress her emotions, even after her Trellium-D detox. Phlox likens her
      situation to that of a genie being released from its bottle. She may have to
      learn to live with her emotions.

      I guess what I'm saying here is that "The Forgotten" tells its story with
      the sort of conviction that was not apparent earlier in the season. Now that
      we're facing crunch time, the pieces are much more easily and effectively
      falling into place. Degra reaches his personal turning point when the issue
      is forced: A reptilian ship appears and threatens to derail the Enterprise's
      alliance with him. Reluctantly, he agrees to team up with the Enterprise and
      attack the reptilians. He even destroys them to keep them from reporting the
      alliance and derailing the plan, which is to have Archer meet with the
      council and show them the evidence.

      All of this is accomplished with solid and efficient storytelling, good
      performances, and a respectable balance of plot and character. Right now is
      about as optimistic as I've felt about Enterprise in as long as I can
      remember.

      --
      Next week: Tomorrow's Enterprise meets Today's Enterprise. (No mention of
      Yesterday's Enterprise.)

      -----
      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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