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[ENT] Jammer's Review: "Home"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Note: This review contains significant spoilers. In brief: A step in the right direction, although it still has some obvious flaws. Plot description: The
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 26, 2004
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      Note: This review contains significant spoilers.


      In brief: A step in the right direction, although it still has some obvious
      flaws.

      Plot description: The Enterprise returns home for refit while its crew takes
      shore leave and finds that being a part of Starfleet has new meaning on
      Earth.

      -----
      Star Trek: Enterprise - "Home"

      Airdate: 10/22/2004 (USA)
      Written by Mike Sussman
      Directed by Allan Kroeker

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
      Rating out of 4: ***

      "Seen any good movies while I was gone?"
      "Another World War III epic. Swept all the awards."
      -- Archer and Hernandez
      -----

      In what could end up being one of the most necessary and yet overlooked
      episodes of the season, "Home" takes a crack at supplying the coda for
      season three by showing us the Enterprise's homecoming after its grueling
      mission in the Delphic Expanse. In the parlance of our time: If "Zero Hour"
      was season three blowing its wad, then "Home" is the pillow talk that
      follows. (Don't ask me where that leaves "Storm Front" in terms of that
      metaphor. You probably don't want to know.)

      The results of "Home" are good but not wonderful. I'm glad the writers did
      this episode rather than launching straight into a new plot line. But I also
      think they could've pulled this episode off better than they did. "Home"
      supplies some welcome things I was happy to see, but it doesn't go about it
      in the best ways. Some ideas are ham-handed in execution.

      It starts with a heroes' welcome in San Francisco, where Archer acknowledges
      the dedication of his crew and especially the 27 crew members who did not
      return from the mission alive. It's good to see this moment on-screen rather
      than to hear about it in throwaway dialog. Similarly, it's also good to see
      the continuing construction of the Columbia, the Enterprise's new sister
      ship, which is nearly ready to launch. It even has a newly appointed
      captain, Erika Hernandez (Ada Maris), an old friend of Archer's.

      In an episode that has a number of good ideas, the best is the introduction
      of Hernandez and the Columbia; I hope we see them again and that they become
      an actual part of this series' fabric. The notion that Starfleet is
      expanding its warp-5 fleet beyond the Enterprise is crucial to conveying the
      continuing growth and development of Starfleet.

      Another idea I liked was Archer's mission debriefing. Honestly, the
      debriefing itself could've been an entire episode, possibly a fascinating
      one. We get a taste of the debriefing here: Soval, in his typically
      skeptical tone, begins asking Archer about the events of "Impulse," which
      ultimately ended in the destruction of the Vulcan ship Seleya and its crew.
      Archer tries to explain, but he doesn't like the implications of Soval's
      questions, and eventually Archer launches into a dramatically charged tirade
      against Soval that I must admit had me nodding in agreement: "I got more
      help from the Andorians than I ever got from the High Command! This planet
      would be a cloud of dust right now if we'd listened to you!"

      What's interesting about Archer's admittedly unprofessional outburst is that
      we, as witnesses to Archer's ordeal over the past year, can understand the
      feelings and logic behind it. He's right that Soval has always been an
      obstinately uncooperative skeptic -- and now Soval has the nerve to question
      Archer about the loss of the Seleya?

      The debriefing is suspended and Admiral Forrest tells Archer he is out of
      line and orders him to take a few days to cool off. Archer decides to go
      mountain climbing in seclusion so he can clear his head. He unexpectedly
      runs into Captain Hernandez, who has followed him out here, no doubt sensing
      Archer could use an ear to rend. Is there some rule somewhere that says
      starship captains must inevitably turn out to be rock climbers?

      Archer vents his doubts about space exploration in light of the vast amount
      of conflict and battle he's experienced. He suggests that Starfleet will now
      be more about defending Earth than exploring space. Hernandez thinks Archer
      is overreacting. "That's not the mission either one of us signed up for,"
      she says. "Maybe you'll feel differently after you've delivered a few dozen
      eulogies," he responds.

      Some of this works well, like when Archer talks about how his initial
      objections to weapons on the Enterprise were ultimately wrong, or when he
      confesses that during the mission in the expanse, "I lost something out
      there, and I don't know how to get it back."

      Some of this is simply overstated, as when Archer says, "Maybe the Vulcans
      were right; maybe we weren't ready," and suggests that 7 million people
      might still be alive if the Enterprise hadn't been out "stirring up
      trouble." I simply don't buy that Archer honestly believes those words, even
      for a minute. He talks here almost like he's buying into the role of devil's
      advocate despite the actual truth. I can understand his doubts, particularly
      those about the ethical corners he cut (he specifically mentions the
      incident of torture as well as having marooned an innocent crew), but I
      think the writers, in putting forward the argument through Archer, vocalize
      more doubts than are actually believable given all the facts.

      Still, it's good to see Archer questioning himself, and Hernandez turns out
      to be a loyal friend who offers her support in Archer's time of need.
      Indeed, it turns out that these two once had a relationship where they were
      more than just friends, and the episode indicates that they still have some
      more-than-friends feelings (although whether it will go anywhere is
      unlikely, since both are, as Hernandez puts it, "already married to
      Starfleet").

      But it's not just Archer who has changed. Earth is also going through its
      own post-trauma, although this area of the story isn't as appealing. The
      whole situation with the barroom bigot and the ensuing brawl is handled with
      all the subtlety of a nine-iron to the temple. The setup comes when Reed
      warns Phlox to be careful while on Earth, because the Xindi attack has left
      people a bit jittery and xenophobic. Perhaps not an awful concept (I suppose
      it will do as an echo of some similar feelings in the U.S. following 9/11),
      but you'd think that 22nd-century sensibilities would draw the distinction
      between Xindi attackers and other aliens who are obviously non-hostile.

      But, sure enough, while Reed, Mayweather, and Phlox are minding their own
      business in a bar, a patron (Joe Chrest) comes up and starts suggesting that
      Phlox should find somewhere else to drink. This is handled with such lazy,
      superficial contempt that it feels forced. Something more subtle would've
      been better. Reed and Mayweather end up in a bar brawl coming to their
      crewmate's defense. The scene ends with Phlox puffing up like a blowfish,
      which is so odd and unexpected that it's almost effective.

      The idea that the Xindi attack has shaken Earth is fine, but I think there
      are better ways to demonstrate it than with witless bar fights.

      That leaves the last strand of the story involving T'Pol and Trip, which is
      less interesting than what's happening on Earth but actually proves to be
      the most complicated from a character point of view. Of course, leave it to
      UPN to promote "Home" as if it was going to be a fun-n-festive Vulcan
      wedding show (which, thankfully, it isn't). The trailer couldn't be more
      misleading. The wedding itself doesn't happen until the very last minute of
      the show, and even then it's barely seen. And it's certainly more solemn
      than it is festive.

      But this is not really about a wedding at all. It's about fulfilling family
      obligations and following old traditions -- values that may seem as baffling
      to many Enterprise viewers as it does here to Trip. While modern American
      society tends to emphasize the individual over tradition, there are
      societies that still commonly practice arranged marriages (India in
      particular comes to mind), and what we have here is a human-Vulcan culture
      shock (right down to the fact that the *guests* are expected to make
      breakfast). What complicates things is that T'Pol finds that she has
      ventured recently toward human thinking and away from Vulcan traditions.

      T'Pol returns to Vulcan to visit her mother (Joanna Cassidy). Trip, who has
      no hometown or family anymore (destroyed in the Xindi attack) tags along. We
      can see that T'Pol's relationship with her mother is somewhat strained, with
      T'Pol leaning toward individuality where her mother leans toward tradition.
      The tension between them is played fairly well, especially by Cassidy, who
      understands that Vulcans need not sound like robots to sound like Vulcans.
      When T'Pol starts to show cracks in her emotion-controlled facade, her
      mother asks, "What's happened to you?" in a tone that is just about perfect.

      Things don't get any better when T'Pol's former fiance, Koss (Michael Reilly
      Burke), comes calling. He wants to resume the marriage plans. T'Pol doesn't.
      From here, the family negotiations begin, as it turns out that T'Pol's
      mother, who lost her teaching position because of the political fallout of
      T'Pol resigning from the High Command, can regain her job with the help of
      influence from Koss' family -- if T'Pol agrees to marry him.

      I'm not sure what to make of all this back-room maneuvering. Indeed, I can't
      claim to understand the terms of the marriage at all. What's the point of
      Koss marrying T'Pol if she's obviously just doing it out of obligation and
      to help her mother? I can wrap my brain around the concept of an arranged
      marriage, and even T'Pol's selflessness, but I don't understand where Koss
      sees himself in this. I guess he's willing to wait for T'Pol to maybe come
      around.

      This, of course, leaves Trip sidelined. Trip realizes here that he's
      actually in love with her, although the sentiment doesn't really work,
      mainly because the way these two ostensibly got together was presented as so
      meaningless (see "Harbinger"). This is really the first real look we've had
      at the relationship. I would guess this represents a turning point in their
      relationship, which is kind of strange considering T'Pol marries someone
      else.

      "Home" has its flawed rough edges. But what I appreciate about it,
      especially after the largely concocted and irrelevant "Storm Front," is that
      it puts us back in the legitimate Star Trek universe, where things are
      happening on Earth and the story services the characters. That's a step in
      the right direction for season four.

      --
      Next week: Brent Spiner, Klingons, Orion slave girls, eugenic soldiers. Does
      this signal the beginning of the Coto era?

      -----
      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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