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[ENT] Jammer's Review: "Terra Prime"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    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.
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 9, 2005
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      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
      conference."

      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
      sinks.

      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.

      Star Trek: Hypertext - http://www.st-hypertext.com/
      Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...
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