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[ENT] Jammer's Review: "United"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Note: This review contains significant spoilers. In brief: A TOS story channeled reasonably through modern Trek sensibilities. Plot description: Archer
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 21, 2005
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      Note: This review contains significant spoilers.


      In brief: A TOS story channeled reasonably through modern Trek
      sensibilities.

      Plot description: Archer attempts to form an alliance in order to neutralize
      a threat from a common enemy, but instead finds himself in the middle of a
      fight to the death with Shran.

      -----
      Star Trek: Enterprise - "United"

      Airdate: 2/4/2005 (USA)
      Teleplay by Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens
      Story by Manny Coto
      Directed by David Livingston

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

      "Is this your homework, Larry?" -- Walter
      -----

      There should be a tally somewhere (and come to think of it, there might be)
      of just how many societies in the Star Trek mythos have employed a fight to
      the death as a matter of honor and/or custom.

      But first things first. The Romulans are busy causing mayhem with their
      remote-controlled drone, as they themselves sit in a control room on
      Romulus. Occasionally, an unhappy senator checks in on them, flanked by two
      Remans, in a nod to the movie that was the nail in the coffin of the TNG
      film franchise (snark). They destroy a Rigellian ship while masquerading as
      the Enterprise. They apparently want to do more than drive a wedge between
      the Andorians and the Tellarites. It's an attempt to "destabilize the entire
      region," says Archer -- a line that seems rooted more in news headlines than
      in Star Trek.

      The Romulans are loath to man these ships, because they want to cause this
      mayhem without the possibility of it being traced back to them. The Romulans
      seem to believe -- for reasons beyond my comprehension -- that the drone can
      absolutely not be traced back to them. Obviously they have severely
      underestimated the fact that their technology is recognizable -- enough for
      T'Pol to have easily put the pieces together in last week's "Babel One."

      Because of this common threat to the region, Archer's mission is to hunt
      down and stop the drone, with a search radius that will require a small
      fleet. He thus attempts to forge an alliance between all the involved
      parties -- the Andorians, Tellarites, Vulcans, and Rigellians -- with the
      Enterprise coordinating the search as the command ship since it seems the
      humans are the most neutral of everyone involved. This is a bit simplistic,
      I will admit, but it serves its purpose as a hint of the kind of obstacles
      and eventual cooperative efforts that will pave the way to the founding of
      the Federation. (Manny Coto said his idea of a fifth season, had the show
      not been canceled, would've had focus on the formation of the Federation as
      a United Nations-like case study. That could've been interesting.)

      But of course it's not going to be that easy. Talas ends up dying from the
      phaser wound she suffered at the end of the previous episode. This results
      in a bereaved Shran demanding the Tellarite who killed her answer for his
      crime in a traditional Andorian Ushaan -- a fight to the death using
      traditional (and wicked-looking) Andorian ice-cutting blades. The scene
      where Shran demands the Ushaan is a nice showpiece for Jeffrey Combs, who
      walks into the room and starts off quiet before unleashing the yelling and
      histrionics. Combs does a good job here of overacting without it coming
      across as bad acting.

      The fight to the death storyline has "original series" written all over
      it -- especially once it becomes clear that Archer is going to stand in for
      the Tellarite under the death match's right of substitution rule. Now we
      have a match between two people who are essentially friends -- reminiscent
      of "Amok Time" -- although this whole Andorian notion seems awfully
      Klingon-like in terms of honor, respect, etc.

      What I like best about this idea is the way Archer is boxed in by the pure
      logic of the situation. If the match is prohibited, the Andorians will pull
      out of the alliance. The Tellarites refuse to participate, and even if they
      hadn't, any outcome would likely end in the withdrawal of one party. So
      Archer volunteers to fight, since he knows Starfleet will go forward with
      the alliance effort even if Archer dies. Noble, logical, and brilliantly
      foolish.

      What I thought was painfully lame, however, was the script's way of getting
      out of this with both Archer and Shran still alive. The fight scene itself
      is adequately staged as action/fun, but the loophole that allows Archer to
      defeat Shran without killing him completely lacks imagination. We learn
      after the commercial break that the rules say the match ends "when one
      fighter is rendered defenseless." That's so disingenuous on the script's
      part that it's not even a loophole. How can the fight be a death match if
      the rules themselves don't specify that the fight only ends when one fighter
      is, well, *dead*?

      With the fight settled, the alliance can proceed, marking the first time
      these species have worked together in a common effort. It's not the founding
      of the Federation, but it's a start.

      Meanwhile, Trip and Reed are trapped aboard the Romulan drone and attempt to
      override the controls. When that doesn't work, Reed goes for a lower-tech
      solution: sabotage by overloading his phase-pistol. Apparently, the overload
      feature is actually in the phase-pistol manual, hopefully in a chapter
      called Blowed Up Real Good. The Romulans struggle to regain control of the
      damaged drone, and in one scene, they lock Trip in a room and expose him to
      deadly levels of radiation. I'm not sure if radiation exposure works like
      this; my thinking is that if you're doubling over in pain because of
      radiation poisoning, the damage to your body is already done. Removing you
      from the room isn't going to reverse the damage like giving a suffocating
      man oxygen. Call it the plot-device version of radiation poisoning.

      The drone itself is agile and erratic, making the dogfights a little more
      interesting as it darts here and there and tries to make people dizzy. At
      one point, Trip and Reed go to an airlock and are ejected into space and
      somehow thrown clear of the drone. I suspect this works much like when
      someone is "thrown clear" during an auto accident -- ejected from the
      vehicle and yet somehow, miraculously still okay. The drone then escapes
      back to Romulan space.

      "United" somewhat challenges conventional structure if this is to be
      considered part two of a trilogy, because the central storyline involving
      the formation of the alliance is wrapped up here. Indeed, the episode ends
      on yet another twist, as it's revealed that the pilot hooked into the drone
      is not Romulan but what resembles an albino Andorian. It's a bizarre
      revelation that does not follow from anything we would've expected from
      watching the story unfold. Think of the last five seconds of "Zero Hour,"
      but in a way that's intriguing instead of merely distracting.

      --
      Next week: Who are the white Andorians?

      -----
      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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