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[ENT] Jammer's Review: "Demons"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Note: This review contains significant spoilers. In brief: A good Trekkian allegory, although the storytelling is awfully rigid. Plot description: After
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 9, 2005
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      Note: This review contains significant spoilers.

      In brief: A good Trekkian allegory, although the storytelling is awfully

      Plot description: After returning to Earth for a conference that may
      establish a new alliance between Earth and several alien societies,
      Starfleet becomes aware of a human isolationist movement that plans to
      derail the proceedings.

      Star Trek: Enterprise - "Demons"

      Airdate: 5/6/2005 (USA)
      Written by Manny Coto
      Directed by LeVar Burton

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

      "You're behind this." -- Detective Charles Tucker III

      "Demons" tells a pretty good story in an exceptionally average way. The
      ideas are here, but the juice is lacking. As I look over my notes, I see
      that they outline a pretty decent -- but not great -- story. "Demons" at
      least has the temerity to have a point, unlike "Bound" or "In a Mirror,

      I guess the real problem is that, as Enterprise winds to a close and Star
      Trek is about to go away, I don't have many strong feelings about this
      episode at all. Maybe it's just my typical end-of-season malaise. It
      happens. If Star Trek is out of gas, then so am I.

      Which is maybe sort of unfair to "Demons." After all, here's a story that's
      about Earth and its internal problems, which is a relevant thing to consider
      before Earth can become a part of an interplanetary alliance. There's a
      conference being held on Earth in which the Vulcans, Andorians, and
      Tellarites have all arrived to work on a historic alliance. The Enterprise
      crew looks on and applauds, but Trip grumbles over the fact that Minister
      Groener (Nathan Samuels) has all but taken full credit for the conference
      and has left Enterprise out of the story. "I'm sure history will reflect our
      contribution," Archer says. "Not if he's the one who's writing it," Trip
      responds. Perhaps the exchange is a reference to the fact that Enterprise,
      as a prequel series, was not known by any of its sequels.

      But away from the negotiation table, trouble is brewing. A radical
      isolationist movement called Terra Prime is plotting ... something. It
      involves their custody of a six-month-old Vulcan/human child and a hotbed of
      radical plotting at the Orpheus Mining Facility on the moon, which is owned
      by John Frederick Paxton (Peter Weller), leader of the Terra Prime movement.
      The plot thickens when a Terra Prime member abandons the movement, is shot
      dead by her own people, but not before revealing the existence of the child
      to Archer -- and the fact that it's the offspring of Trip and T'Pol.

      Archer immediately opens an investigation. Meanwhile, Trip and T'Pol are
      baffled: T'Pol has never been pregnant, so how can this be their child? The
      mystery of the child and Terra Prime prompts Archer to send Reed back to
      Agent Harris (Eric Pierpoint) to get Section 31's leads. Is this a good
      idea? After all, it's Archer who forced Reed to choose one side or the other
      in "Divergence." Now Archer sends him back to Harris, who seems likely to
      strong-arm Reed back into the agency. This might've been an interesting
      setup to a thread if the show were coming back for a fifth season.

      Archer has his own shrewd methods for getting information; he subtly
      blackmails Minister Samuels with exposure (Samuels had briefly and
      misguidedly joined Terra Prime at age 18) if he doesn't open up more
      investigative avenues. Subsequently, Archer sends Trip and T'Pol to the moon
      to investigate leads at the mining colony.

      The episode's wild card is a reporter named Gannett (Johanna Watts), who is
      an old girlfriend of Travis. She wants an inside scoop about the Enterprise,
      and she also wants to get with Travis again. Travis is less enthusiastic;
      their relationship obviously didn't end on the best note. I've bemoaned for
      years the lack of characterization for Travis, and this episode seems to at
      least make an effort to give him something to do.

      But let it also be said that the episode is very obvious in following the
      rule that no guest character can be inconsequential to the main plot. Is
      Gannett just a reporter looking for a story? Please. Eventually, Travis and
      Gannett are making out in a shuttlepod. Subsequently, Travis gets laid and
      pumped for information. These scenes might've worked better if the actors
      weren't so wooden about them, but the actors seemingly exist only in a plot
      and not in the moment. I didn't buy any emotional history between these two.
      What I did buy is that they are a function of a bigger puzzle. It comes as
      no surprise that by the end of the episode Gannett is in the brig, charged
      with being a Terra Prime spy.

      The best aspect of the show is the idea of isolationists and the allegorical
      themes. The enemy in the story is Earth's own xenophobia (particularly since
      the Xindi attack). Even before the attack, Terra Prime believed Earth to be
      humanity's domain, and humanity's alone. Like many radical groups, Terra
      Prime simply believes what they are doing is right. Paxton has a moment
      where he reflects upon the "misunderstood" Colonel Green, made famous in the
      aftermath of World War III because Green "euthanized" millions who suffered
      from radiation poisoning. Paxton views it as an act of mercy that spared
      generations from genetic defects. Green is generally remembered as a
      butcher, and Paxton wonders if he will have a similar legacy.

      Paxton sees interbreeding between humans and aliens as an unhealthy
      corruption of DNA. He and Terra Prime are essentially the 22nd-century
      equivalent of white supremacists or racial purists. (There are black actors
      portraying prominent lieutenants in Terra Prime, and I wonder if that irony
      was a deliberate casting choice.) Terra Prime also uses the sort of
      anti-government rhetoric that's similar to that of current-day extremists.

      Paxton's lunar mining facility doubles as a spaceship, which he pilots to
      Mars and uses to take control of its verteron array, normally used to
      deflect asteroids and comets throughout the solar system. From this station
      he can fire on any ship or facility in the system. He makes an ultimatum:
      Either all non-humans in the system leave, or Paxton will use the verteron
      array as a weapon. (Shouldn't this thing have been under much heavier

      What I like about "Demons" is that the villain is ourselves -- at least, a
      subset of ourselves via a particular way of thinking. What I find lacking is
      the somewhat mechanical advancement of the plot. It's too routine to be
      exciting, and too pat to be believable. Paxton is a villain of ideology,
      yes, but not a particularly interesting one. He doesn't rise above adequacy.
      Peter Weller's voice suggests plentiful arrogance, but more as a stylized
      presence than as a real demagogue. This is an episode that always feels
      scripted, even though the script itself is pretty good.

      Next week: Two finales for the price of two.

      Copyright 2005, Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved.
      Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.

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      Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...
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