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

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Note: This review contains significant spoilers. In brief: An aimless, unsatisfying wrap-up to this inconclusive three-episode arc. Plot description: Archer
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 21, 2005
      Note: This review contains significant spoilers.

      In brief: An aimless, unsatisfying wrap-up to this inconclusive
      three-episode arc.

      Plot description: Archer and Shran attempt to recruit an individual from a
      telepathic Andorian subspecies in order to combat an enemy ship piloted by
      remote control.

      Star Trek: Enterprise - "The Aenar"

      Airdate: 2/11/2005 (USA)
      Teleplay by Andre Bormanis
      Story by Manny Coto
      Directed by Mike Vejar

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
      Rating out of 4: **

      "It's never been all that hard to figure out what I'm thinking." -- Shran

      Earlier this season, we had the Augments trilogy and the Vulcan trilogy. Now
      comes the conclusion to ... uh, *this* trilogy, whatever you want to call
      it. "The Aenar" is a messy epilogue in a three-parter whose most significant
      story arc was wrapped up in last week's "United." Watching the rather
      aimless "Aenar," I wasn't sure what this episode was supposed to be about,
      and by extension, the trilogy itself lacks a concrete through-line.

      I think the main problem is that the show focuses fairly heavily on the
      Romulans and their meddling in the affairs of others, but we never really
      get the sense that this show is actually *about* the Romulans. The Romulans
      are more like arbitrary placeholders to drive the plot. We learn very little
      about them; they're sketchy people doing bad things for half-baked reasons.
      And if you stop and think about their genius plot, you're left amazed by the
      sheer stupidity of it all.

      Most disappointing is the fact there's not much to suggest that this episode
      contributes to the prequel agenda that has been the selling point of this
      season. Unlike the Vulcan trilogy, which told a mostly coherent prequel
      story, we're left in a vacuum here wondering if we're going to see the
      Romulans again. If so, I'd hope for something more substantial. If not, then
      that's the way it goes and I guess the notion of Romulans sneaking around is
      all Enterprise intends to give us. Either way, "Aenar" has mostly wasted our

      Not that "The Aenar" is all bad. It's never unwatchable and it has its
      moments. There is a scene, for example, where the Romulan admiral, a former
      senator, explains how he was cashiered from the senate for questioning the
      Romulan "precept of unlimited expansion." It would seem that reasonable
      people who question authority are quashed. Too bad this scene is never
      followed up.

      It turns out the pilot of the Romulan drone is actually an Aenar, one of an
      Andorian subspecies who are blind and have strong telepathic abilities. The
      Romulans' remote-controlled drone is designed to respond directly to the
      telepathic signals sent by this Aenar, a man named Gareb (Scott Rinker),
      whom the Romulans abducted from Andoria about a year ago.

      Shran explains that the Aenar were considered mythical for centuries until
      they were officially discovered "50 years ago." Even so, very few Andorians
      have ever met an Aenar, who are staunch pacifists, very secretive, and live
      only among themselves. Oh, and they can also read minds.

      Frankly, much of this strikes me as quickly concocted Civilization Lite.
      These two species have lived on the same planet forever and only a few
      decades ago realized that the other even exists. But the story gives us
      little reason to believe these are real cultures that live on a real world.
      The Enterprise travels to Andoria to recruit their own Aenar to tap into the
      signal and stop the drone. But once there, we don't even see Andorian

      Andoria is represented by empty ice-tunnels which, according to Shran,
      "branch off for thousands of kilometers." (The cities are all underground,
      with access from these tunnels.) You'd think there'd be a better way than
      walking to traverse thousands of kilometers of treacherous ice tunnels. I
      for one hope they brought a map. In any case, it strikes me as great fortune
      that Archer and Shran happen upon the Aenar as quickly as they do. Even
      greater fortune that it happens so quickly after Shran has accidentally
      impaled himself through the leg.

      I suppose the notion of expanding this series' canvas of societies with the
      Aenar is commendable. Still, I wasn't all that riveted by them. The main
      selling point here is the decent characterization between the
      always-suspicious Shran and the innocent and well-intended Aenar named
      Jhamel (Alexandra Lydon), who, as it happens, is the sister of Gareb, the
      Aenar who was abducted by the Romulans. This gives her and her alone the
      motivation to break from her people's pacifist ideals to attempt to stop the
      Romulan drone.

      Not that I understood how this was physically supposed to happen. You see,
      Trip has rigged up a remote-control chair/device on the Enterprise --
      similar to the one the Romulans have -- which I guess has all the right
      frequencies and encryption codes needed to break in and interfere with the
      Romulans' remote-control system. One would think a remote-controlled war
      drone wouldn't be so easy to tap into, but then one would be wrong.

      Whatever; that's one of the overall problems with this episode -- too much
      meaningless tech and mechanical plot and not nearly enough emotion or
      relevance. I should care about Jhamel's plight to help her brother, but I
      don't. It's a perfunctory "human" tack-on to a remote-controlled plot filled
      with technobabble and explosions. The climax, where Jhamel is able to
      contact Gareb by telepathy and get him to turn the drones against each
      other, is overly simplistic -- underwhelming at best, hokey at worst. Gareb
      expresses guilt over the people the Romulans forced him to kill, which made
      me wonder why he didn't just make the drones return to Romulus and start
      strafing the city. Oh, never mind; he's a pacifist. (Truthfully, he's just a
      weak pawn of the plot.)

      Meanwhile, I'm asking myself: Why would the Romulans even design
      remote-controlled war drones that require a telepathic pilot, of all things?
      Couldn't they just design remote ships that, you know, used keys or a mouse
      or a joystick or something, *anything*, but telepathy? Even more silly: (1)
      These drones require an Aenar to pilot; (2) The Romulans were apparently so
      shortsighted as to kidnap only one Aenar to fly them; (3) the Romulan
      admiral forces the Romulan scientist to push the pilot to the limits of
      brain damage, saying his health is "of no consequence"; so (4) I guess when
      he dies, their brilliant plan is to mothball the drones.

      Really, this whole thing is more often than not a Swiss-cheese plot. Just
      what are the Romulans actually trying to do, anyway? Cause general chaos as
      a prelude to an invasion? The story never says. It's just a vague
      pseudo-threat -- the Romulans out here stirring up trouble for trouble's
      sake. Not exactly enlightening, particularly in prequel terms, and it's to
      the detriment of the first two episodes in this trilogy, which were sold
      mostly on their setup and mystery, which now has not been lived up to.

      The show's best scene comes at the end, when Trip asks to be transferred to
      the Columbia, and Archer reluctantly grants that transfer. It's a payoff
      that was set up in several scenes earlier in the episode, centering on the
      simple fact that Trip realizes he's in (unrequited) love with T'Pol, and
      finds that it's affecting his work. This Archer/Trip scene is a quiet one
      that explores actual characters and the relationships and personnel
      realities of a starship. I like that Trip can't confess the reason for his
      request to Archer, and that Archer doesn't force him to.

      As for much of the rest of this episode, I'll quote Archer: "Looks like we
      went all the way to Andoria for nothing."

      Next week: Klingons, medical mysteries, and shadowy intelligence agencies.

      Copyright 2005, 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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