[ENT] Jammer's Review: "Terra Prime"
- Note: This review contains significant spoilers.
In brief: Like part one, the underlying storyline is sound, but the
execution is a little on the clunky side.
Plot description: Terra Prime, a group of radical isolationists, seizes
control of a deadly weapon on Mars and demands the immediate withdrawal of
all non-humans from Earth's solar system.
Star Trek: Enterprise - "Terra Prime"
Airdate: 5/13/2005 (USA)
Teleplay by Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens & Manny Coto
Story by Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens & Andre Bormanis
Directed by Marvin V. Rush
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
Rating out of 4: ***
"Earth men talk about uniting worlds, but your own planet is deeply divided.
Perhaps you're not ready to host this conference." -- Andorian ambassador
John Frederick Paxton blames Starfleet for Earth's relationships with alien
species, so in his ultimatum demanding all non-humans to leave Earth, he
makes Starfleet Command his first target. He'll blow it up if his demands
are not met on deadline.
Elsewhere on Earth and far away at the Vulcan and Andorian embassies, Terra
Prime members are protesting, in what is part of a larger coordinated
effort. Soval makes an interesting point: "The fact that Paxton has the
support of so many of your people is ... troubling." And the Andorian
ambassador is similarly concerned: "Earth men talk about uniting worlds, but
your own planet is deeply divided. Perhaps you're not ready to host this
To me, this notion is at the core of "Demons" and "Terra Prime." Archer,
Starfleet, and the government powers-that-be want the conference to go
forward. But what do the people want? Is public opinion really so
fragmented? Is this simply a matter of a vocal minority? If there is this
dramatic divide on Earth, is Earth ready to move forward and become
something bigger than itself?
All good questions that the episode poses, although it admittedly doesn't
deal with them in a whole lot of detail. The story is more about stopping
Paxton from carrying out his doomsday scenario, and, when successful,
looking ahead to addressing these tough questions in the future.
To that end, "Terra Prime" is successful up to a point. It has moments of
thoughtful dialog and debate. It also has moments of clunky action
execution. Like "Demons" before it, this episode can never really overcome
cliches or convention to qualify as great Trek.
In an effort to approach Paxton's ship on Mars without being detected, the
Enterprise hides behind a comet and deploys a shuttlepod with an armed
boarding party to follow the comet as it crashes to the surface. Perhaps I'm
misinformed, but wouldn't a comet impact of this magnitude be disastrous? At
the very least, shouldn't the shuttlepod be vaporized in the blast? (Perhaps
not. I'm no expert, so maybe I shouldn't question the science.) In the
episode's best touch, the shuttlepod flies over a fenced-in piece of history
on the Mars surface: "Carl Sagan Memorial Station" reads the inscription on
the stone, which sits next to NASA's Mars rover.
Meanwhile, T'Pol and Trip, who were captured during their investigation in
"Demons," face off in a war of wills against Paxton. Paxton calls the baby
and everything she represents a threat to humanity, saying humanity will be
destroyed as alien species are brought into the genome. For Paxton, anything
"impure" represents the road to annihilation. He is, of course, a
narrow-minded fool, and T'Pol explains the opposing point of view with a
statement that is sublime in its succinctness: "Life is change."
But I was never quite sure *why* Paxton had this child cloned in the first
place. Apparently it was meant to be the poster child for the destruction of
humanity, but as such a poster child, it seems awfully ineffective. Why
create something you hope to prevent, unless its creation compellingly
demonstrates your point of view? (This child doesn't.) Furthermore, why use
DNA from Trip and T'Pol (acquired, by the way, by a Terra Prime agent hiding
on the Enterprise)? Was Terra Prime using them as an example because they'd
had a sexual relationship in the past? It's a point the episode never makes;
it's not even revealed that Terra Prime *knew* about the relationship. So is
this instead supposed to be an ironic coincidence?
Speaking of Terra Prime agents, it turns out that Gannett isn't actually an
agent of Terra Prime, but rather an agent of Starfleet Intelligence sent to
find the *real* agent aboard the Enterprise. So at least Travis wasn't
played as a total pawn in the previous episode. Gannett has an exchange with
Travis here that would qualify as characterization, but again (and alas),
Anthony Montgomery's performance is so hopelessly wooden that the scene
On the bridge of the Enterprise, Hoshi is in charge of Plan B, which is to
destroy the verteron array if the away team doesn't take control of it
before the deadline expires. It's trial by fire, and in a situation
reminiscent of "The Doomsday Machine," Hoshi must contend with an authority
figure who's practically salivating to take control of the situation from
her as things go down to the wire.
Paxton ultimately is exposed as a hypocrite using alien medical treatments
to keep himself alive. (You'd think someone in all these years would've
recognized Paxton's condition if T'Pol can figure it out after observing two
seconds of his hands shaking.) What is it about individuals who think they
know what's right for everyone else and yet they themselves live in
hypocrisy? In real life, these people make my skin crawl. In "Terra Prime,"
the plot machinations are moving too fast to permit that.
The action showdown that averts the crisis is clumsily handled. First we
have Trip conveniently MacGyvering his way out of a holding cell. And then
we have a wrestle for domination of the control room, where Archer simply
has to stun Paxton and everything would be over, but instead he hesitates,
permitting the window behind him to shatter because of the air pressure,
etc., allowing Paxton to make one last move, etc. Amusingly, the verteron
array actually ends up *firing* -- hitting nothing because Trip reprogrammed
it, but making Archer look rather incompetent as action heroes go. (And
didn't the dialog say that the air pressure on Mars due to terraforming was
essentially Earth-like? Why, then, would the window explode?) Then there's
the business regarding the Terra Prime agent aboard the Enterprise, which
exists only to tidy up loose ends of the plot.
So, no, "Terra Prime" is not sold on its action or Archer's would-be
heroics. It's sold on its concept of humanity striving to be better, and on
Archer's attempt to not only see this alliance through, but to see it
through for the right reasons. The uncertainty sparked by the events of
Paxton's plan puts the talks on hold (no doubt to give room for the series
finale), but the story itself is hopeful that things will get back on track.
Archer has a speech near the end that is nice, traditional, old-fashioned
Star Trek, and it even includes the cliche of the Gradual Applause
Crescendo. Given the way "These Are the Voyages" ends, this moment in "Terra
Prime" is much more satisfying as a send-off for the Enterprise crew.
The eventual death of Trip and T'Pol's child (due to an errant cloning
process) is tragic -- perhaps unnecessarily so. But it's well played, and
reveals depth to the bond between Trip and T'Pol -- a depth that has rarely
been demonstrated in the year-plus since their relationship began. It bodes
well for their future. Too bad I've seen the finale and know what their
future is. But, for this moment, it works.
Next: Riker. Troi. The holodeck. Oh, yeah, and the NX-01 crew, too.
Copyright 2005, Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved.
Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.
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Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...