Thursday, April 20, 2017

Episode Review - A Night in Sickbay (Enterprise, Season 2)

For those who are new to my episode reviews, you can find the post where I establish my point criteria here

Overview – In trying to get a plasma injector for Enterprise, Archer unwittingly offend the Kreetassan people. To add to Archer’s frustrations, his dog, Porthos, has taken ill after being on the Kreetassan planet. Archer chooses to spend the night in sickbay to be with his sick pet. As Doctor Phlox exhausts every avenue to save Porthos, Archer receives advice from the Doctor that may suggest a reason for the Captain’s irritability.

Score: 6/10 – This was a difficult episode for me to score. It wasn’t a horrible episode. There were some great moments, such as the funny quirks of Phlox. There are also some questionable moments. Archer really acted out of character, there was another infamous gel-rubbing scene, and the whole “Archer is attracted to T’Pol and sexually frustrated by it” never went much further beyond this episode. So while this episode was not terrible, it also was not very memorable.

Relevance - 1 point. One point scored for Phlox discussing his large family. His three wives was mentioned earlier, while we would eventually meet one of those wives when she comes aboard the Enterprise.

Continuity - 2 points. Story continuity works. In the next episode, “Marauders”, it was a Kreetassan merchant that suggests the planet the Enterprise visits next, so this fits. Universe continuity works as well. I am taking a point off for character continuity, however, in the very un-Archer like manner that the Captain is acting in. Archer is a trained diplomat who admittedly has a temper, but the level he takes it to in this episode is a bit far. Especially when it is suggested that his moodiness stems from a lack of sexual intimacy. I would suspect that one of the most important figures in Starfleet at this time would be able to keep a calmer persona when he is not finding success with the ladies.

Character Development – 1 point. Definitely an Archer episode (although one that destroys a lot of his diplomacy cred in the eyes of a lot of fans). He acts in a much exaggerated form of what we are accustomed to. As I mentioned in the Continuity section, it was a bit far for him as a character to get so moody. There is also some good interactions with Archer and Phlox, revealing his training in veterinary medicine and psychology. We also see some good development between T’Pol and Archer, as it is suggested that the source of Archer’s behaviour is due to sexual tension between himself and the subcommander. Despite this hint, it is not developed any further within the series. Due to the great inconsistencies with Archer’s temper tantrums and the fact that the source of his behaviour is never mentioned again, I can’t say that this episode really moved any characters along well.

Social Commentary – 1 point. The Social Commentary was a bit weak for me on this. Was it about taking care of your pet? Making sure you deal with sexual frustration before you create a diplomatic offense? Not really. I think the main message is about swallowing your pride and controlling your temper, especially when it is for the greater good. I would like to have had more, but sadly this is as good as it gets.

Cool Stuff – 1 point. There is definitely cool stuff in the night that Archer spent in sickbay. We learn about Phlox’s ever-fast-growing toenails, and his enormously long tongue that needs a good nightly scraping. Phlox is one of my favourite characters on Enterprise, and the more we get to learn about him (and Denobulans in general), the better.

Rank – Lieutenant (12 points). I do not think that this episode deserves much of the negativity it often receives on the internet, but likewise it is not the greatest of episodes. If you are Doctor Phlox fan, then you will likely want to catch this episode. If not, you could likely skip this one without missing much.

If you would like to read other reviews from Star Trek: Enterprise, please click the following link.

If you would like to read an episode review from any of the Trek series, click the following link to get to the series catalog. If the episode you want reviewed has not been done yet, then feel free to request it in the comments and I will see what I can do.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Best Plot Twists of Star Trek

Nothing helps make a story more compelling than a good old fashioned plot twist. Sometimes these come near the end of the story, sometimes not. Quite often it is unexpected and blindsides us. These story telling devices can be used to completely change the direction of the story or to reveal great mysteries that has kept the audience guessing up until the big reveal. When done right, it can make the episode one of the best. When handled poorly, it can turn the audience off. Star Trek has had its fair share of great plot twists, and I would like to highlight ten of the best ones in the different series. These are in no particular order. Oh, and case it hasn’t been obvious to you yet, major spoiler alerts ahead.

·         Bashir the Changeling – In season 5 there was a great two-part episode arc (“In Purgatory’s Shadow” and “By Inferno’s Light”) that saw Worf and Garak captured by the Domonion. In addition to the revelation that General Martok was still alive (albeit minus an eye), they are shocked to discover that Doctor Bashir has been a prisoner of the Dominion for at least a month prior. Among the many implications, this means that the Changeling infiltrator had both delivered the O’Briens baby boy and performed surgery on Captain Sisko to have him lose his visions. It is a bit odd that he did not try to heal the baby changeling that Odo had found in “The Begotten”.  The scene where Julian emerges from solitary confinement is a great “Wha-a-a-a-t?” moment that probably caused many of us watching this for the first time to drop whatever it was we may have been holding.

·         Sela, daughter of Tasha Yar – The Next Generation episode “The Mind’s Eye” had Geordi LaForge captured by the Romulans. While he is being brainwashed, a mysterious female figure stands in the shadows, overseeing the procedure. We never see more than an outline, and we hear her voice which is surprisingly familiar. Later that season, in the finale “Redemption” we again meet this stranger. At the end of the episode, in the big reveal, we see Denise Crosby, in full Romulan make up and uniform, emerge from the shadows, giving us the line “Humans have a way of turning up when you least expect them”. In a throwback to the classic “Yesterday’s Enterprise”, we have to wait until the start of the next season to learn that this blond Romulan is Sela, the daughter if Tasha Yar. This led to a great character that provided a continuation of Tasha’s story. I only wish that we had more of Sela and her story. Sadly, aside from the well-received “Unification”, Sela was never seen again. So while the follow up dropped the ball, the twist that was the revelation of Sela was excellent.

·         Momma Horta – In the classic episode “Devil in the Dark”, the Enterprise is investigating the series of murders among miners on the planet Janus VI. When the culprit is discovered, we think this is going to become the typical “fight the monster of the week” episode. Ultimately, however, it is discovered that not only is the monster intelligent, it is a mother protecting its offspring. When Spock mindmelds with the Horta, we learn that anguish and sorrow is not limited to humanoid life forms. The crew then turn their attention to seeking a peaceful resolution, in typical Trek form. The twist put the crew on a different approach to solving the issue that brought Kirk and company to Janus IV.

·         Seska – Voyager had many crewmen that could have been well fleshed out throughout the series. While I feel that the potential was largely wasted, one notable exception is Seska. Introduced as a Bajoran member of the Maquis, she is a key member of Chakotay’s group. She was a friend to Torres and a lover to Chakotay. She had distanced herself from the crew and had been involved in several attempts to steal alien technology, eventually aligning herself with the Kazon. All of that was intriguing enough, and nothing else seemed out of place. Then, when her secretive dealings were eventually uncovered, she is revealed to have been a Cardassian operative from the beginning. This provided the Voyager crew with one of their own as an adversary that would torment them again and again for the rest of the season (and then some).

·         The Real Chief O’Brien,– O’Brien gets tortured at least once a season. I think that is in the DS9 Bible or something. In the episode “Whispers” this takes on a whole new life. O’Brien is finding life on the station to be mysteriously strange. People he once thought of as friends and family are suddenly acting very suspiciously around him. As his paranoia grows and those he thought were allies appear to turn on him, he takes it upon himself to figure out what is going on. He soon finds himself being pursued by his crewmates and heading to an alien world, where upon reaching the source of his suspicions, he is mortally wounded. As he lays there, dying, he sees Chief O’Brien in the very room he was trying to enter. It turns out that the Miles O’Brien we had been watching the entire hour was a programmed replicant, likely one designed to assassinate someone in the upcoming peace talks. We, the audience, felt very much like the replicant O’Brien had felt, wondering what the heck was going on. I am not sure if anybody figured out this mystery until the big reveal at the very end.

·         The Imagined T’Pol – In the third season of Enterprise, we had a great episode called “Doctor’s Orders”. The entire crew has to be put into comas as the ship goes into a region that is deadly to humans. Phlox, being Denobulan, has to look after the ship during the four days it will take the ship to pass through the radiation cloud. During this time, he has several conversations with T’Pol, who, being the only other non-human crew member, seems to be the only one awake. During this time, Phlox begins to have hallucinations about the crew and the Xindi. At the end of the episode, Phlox escorts T’Pol to her room, only discover that T’Pol has been in a coma with the rest of the crew the whole time. Phlox had been talking to a figment of his imagination the whole time. It was very “The Sixth Sense” like.

·         Species 8472 – When Species 8472 broke onto the scene, it looked as if the Borg had met their match. Within minutes of the episode “Scorpion”, we see a fleet of cube vessels decimated by this unseen force. While this arrival of a new threat forced the Voyager crew to start working together with the Borg (and in the meantime introduce us to Seven of Nine), the real surprise came when we learn that their arrival was caused by the Borg attempting to invade their fluidic space to assimilate a highly evolved species. Instead of assimilating Species 8472, they let a force loose on the quadrant that is determined to purge the galaxy of imperfection.

·         Enter Locutus of Borg – For this, I am referring to the scene in “Best of Both Worlds, Part I” when the rescue team sent to recover Captain Picard encounter him on the Borg vessel. They find him as Locutus (although his name was not given at this point). It was an iconic scene complete with music that literally struck a chord of intensity that we had never before seen in Star Trek. The image of Picard, completely integrated and assimilated by the Borg, sent chills down my spine (and it still does, almost 30 years later). This, for many fans, was a defining moment in Star Trek, not only capping off a strong third season but establishing a season finale trend of cliffhangers that, sadly, has never been matched.

·         The Cardassians Join the Dominion – I earlier referenced the DS9 two episode arc beginning with In Purgatory’s Shadow. In the second episode of this story, “By Inferno’s Light”, we begin with a major twist right out of the gate. Before the opening credits begin, we learn that Dukat had been secretly negotiating with the Dominion to have the Cardassian Empire join them. We had just gotten used to the crew working with Dukat, and were even starting to like him, but when he flies his ship to join the emerging Dominion fleet, we were as shocked as Sisko and Kira were. This is the moment when the whole Federation vs the Dominion really takes turn, and the tone for the rest of the series is set. As far as the overall story that was Deep Space Nine, this was the major game-changer.

·         Captain Edison – In the latest film, Star Trek: Beyond, we are introduced to the deadly and ruthless Krall, an alien who is hell-bent on destroying the Federation. He destroys the Enterprise, captures most of the surviving crew members, and launches a devastating attack on Yorkton. While this may have seemed like a typical power-hungry bad guy intent on wreaking havoc as a bloody conqueror, we eventually discover that Krall is actually a former human Starfleet Captain named Balthazar Edison. He was a decorated war hero of the Romulan and Xindi wars who resented the peace made with his former enemies. When he discovered the energy transference technology on the planet Altamid, it mutated his body into the frightening creature that became Krall. It may not be often that a Starfleet Captain goes rogue, but when Edison does, he does so in spectacular fashion.

So, did I miss your favorite plot twist? Feel free to mention it in the comments.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Episode Review - Doctor's Orders (Enterprise, Season 3)

For those who are new to my episode reviews, you can find the post where I establish my point criteria here

Overview – En route to Azati Prime, the Enterprise encounters a trans-dimensional disturbance in their path. The disturbance would be deadly to humans and would add an additional two weeks to their journey to if they attempt to fly around it. Instead, a plan is devised to keep the entire crew, except for Phlox, in a comatose state. The normally sociable Phlox, meanwhile, finds himself alone for four days, having to deal with the solitude. During the journey, he starts to question as to whether the disturbance is having an unexpected effect on him as well.

Score: 9/10 – This is a fabulous episode that puts Phlox front and center. It is a mixture of comedy, suspense, and thrills. It is nice to see Phlox take command of the ship and be the hero. There are a few funny moments (the idea that if there was nobody else on the ship that Phlox would occasionally do his rounds in the nude). A few moments that make you jump as Phlox starts to hallucinate. Oh, and just in case you haven’t seen it yet, BIG SPOILER AHEAD! One of the best parts of the whole episode was the setup of the big plot twist. T’Pol is seen with Phlox for much of the episode as his only sentient companion. The end of the episode reveals that T’Pol has been in a coma like the rest of the crew the whole time, making the T’Pol that Phlox had been talking to was another hallucination. The set-up was well done. While we initially buy the idea that T’Pol is real, if you watch her closely, she never touches anything. When Phlox offers her a bowl of his Denobulan soup, she never touches it. When in engineering during the crisis, T’Pol becomes unable to operate the controls, using an excuse of the radiation affecting her more than anticipated. It is a well-executed plot twist.

Relevance - 2 points. One point scored for the Phlox’s letter to Doctor Lucas. This was introduced in “Dear Doctor”, and will be followed up again. It also lets us know what Doctor Lucas was up to since the Xndi attacked Earth. A second point is scored for the reference to something Phlox told Hoshi Sato about how Denobulans think it is healthy to have hallucinations a few episodes back in “Exile”. In this case, having the hallucination of T’Pol was definitely beneficial.

Continuity - 3 points. Everything checks out. T’Pol’s odd behaviour can easily be overlooked as it was not really T’Pol that we were seeing. This keeps character continuity in check. Archer having the utmost confidence in Phlox, Tucker being ready to take on death if it meant saving the ship and its crew (a forshadowing of the series finale). Universe continuity also works here, as everything that has been previously established stays intact. We also can score a point for story continuity. While this episode is in the middle of the Xindi story arc, it does well on its own or as a chapter in the season-long saga.

Character Development – 2 points. With everyone else being in a coma, it is hard to develop anybody other than Phlox. He is the main star, with everyone else being there to help further his development.

Social Commentary – 1 point. How does one deal with isolation? How does one deal with stressful situations? Well, in all honesty, there is not much being said on any topic really. While this does not diminish how great the story and the episode is, I cannot give more than a single point for this section.

Cool Stuff – 2 points. The whole story is cool and gives us a cool moment, especially the reveal at the end. I am also giving a point for showing a clip of the movie “The Court Jester”. It showed that good comedy will transcend the centuries.

Rank – Captain (19 points). I think this is a wonderful episode. Even if you are not into the Xindi storyline, “Doctor’s Orders” is a strong episode that highlights the character of Doctor Phlox and the acting of John Billingsley. It is great storytelling that keeps you guessing, mixing the humor with some scares. Definitely an episode to watch, perhaps even a few times.

If you would like to read other reviews from Star Trek: Enterprise, please click the following link.

If you would like to read an episode review from any of the Trek series, click the following link to get to the series catalog. If the episode you want reviewed has not been done yet, then feel free to request it in the comments and I will see what I can do.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Episode Review - The Void (Voyager, Season 7)

For those who are new to my episode reviews, you can find the post where I establish my point criteria here

Overview – Voyager gets pulled into the Void, a region of space where there are no stars, planets, or other special anomalies. Upon arrival they find themselves attacked by an alien ship and have much of their deuterium and food supplies. It soon becomes apparent that there are several ships in the Void, and in order to survive ships attack new comers for their supplies. Janeway seeks to establish an Alliance between different ships, seeking to work together to find a way out. Meanwhile, the Doctor befriends a member of a mysterious new species who learns to communicate through music.

Voyager being pulled into the Void

Score: 8/10 – I really enjoyed this episode. It is an interesting, if not ironic episode. The original premise of Voyager was the ship would find itself flung to a strange area of space and have to scavenge for supplies. Well, in the Void, they must do that to the extreme. I like how when the crew find themselves in this situation, they just roll up their sleeves and get to work without much angst or panic. I also liked how the values of the Federation win out in the end, and that cooperation between different species is what gets them through this trial. I also really liked the concept of Fantome and his species. While it is a little far-fetched, it is a creative deviation from the norm. Having the Doctor take him under his proverbial wing and discover that his species can communicate via musical notes is a nice change.

Discussing among allies

Relevance - 1 point. We see the Hierarchy again, using their espionage tools to help Voyager and their new alliance. Other than that, this episode could almost stand alone.


Continuity - 3 points. Character continuity was a bit hard for me on this. While I totally get Chakotay voicing a concern that trying to establish a version of the UFP in the Void was risky, Tuvok sharing those ideas surprised me at first. I would have expected him to fully support Janeway without question as Tuvok is a long-standing Starfleet officer. Reflecting further upon it, however, Tuvok does show a great deal of support once the Captain has made her mind up, so I can ultimately score the point here. Story continuity and universe continuity also are upheld here.

Anari captain Valen

Character Development – 2 points. Janeway shows that she will seek to uphold Federation values and standards wherever she finds herself. She faces some doubt and second guessing again, but this is one of Janeway’s most endearing qualities. She shows conviction, even when Chakotay and Tuvok are united in a suggestion that the Federation way of doing things may not be the best. Even when faced with a failure and setback, Janeway kept her faith in the values of the Federation. The Doctor also gets some good moments as the mentor of Fantome, helping him discover a love and use for music.

The Doctor has learned to communicate with Phantome

Social Commentary – 3 points. While the message is not very subtle, it is very important, especially today. The United Federation of Planets is based on the idea that different cultures can work together in spite of their differences. In today’s world we seem to need this message even more. We are becoming increasingly divided along national, ethnic, and political lines, and yet when we need to recognize that we are stronger when we come together in peaceful cooperation.

Welcoming a new alliance member

Cool Stuff – 1 point. Fantome gets a point. He is played by Johnathan Del Arco, who we previously saw as the Borg who found his identity, Hugh. His ability to quickly adapt musical notes and transform it into a language, which he then teaches to other members of his species, is quite impressive.

The Allied fleet

Rank – Captain (18 points). A strong episode for Voyager’s final season. After having seen on past occasions the attempts at alliances falter, it is refreshing to see it work. Definitely one to watch, although if you do miss it you don’t lose track of the overall story.

The Void

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Episode Review - Broken Bow (Enterprise, Season 1 - Pilot)

For those who are new to my episode reviews, you can find the post where I establish my point criteria here

Episode Overview – Captain Johnathon Archer takes command of the first NX class starship, the Enterprise. He assembles a crew of the best that Starfleet has to offer. His first mission is to solve the mystery behind a strange alien known as a Klingon that was discovered in Broken Bow, Oklahoma. Having to deal with the disapproving Vulcans insisting that one of their officers be assigned to the crew, Archer and company soon find themselves embroiled in a dangerous web of a temporal cold war that could result in their first mission being their last

Trying to understand Klingon

Episode Score – 9/10. This was a very exciting episode. I enjoyed the storyline and the new characters. Lots of action, some mystery, and setting up a very cool (at first) idea of a temporal cold war. The cold war never really took off after this episode, but the pilot established it as something interesting that had great potential. I liked look of Enterprise, being futuristic but yet very connected to what we know now. The bridge is smaller, engineering is more cramped, and the ship looks like what we would have designed first.

Tucker and Mayweather in the "sweet spot"

Relevance – 3 points. The pilot episode often sets the tone for the rest of the series, and this pilot lays the groundwork Enterprise. In addition to the introduction of the main characters, we also meet Soval, Forrest, and Silik, all of whom would be recurring characters throughout the series. Silik was a Suliban, which was going to be the new antagonistic race for the series. We also see the first encounter between Earth and the Klingons. There is the traditional “major character guest spot in the pilot episode” moment. With Enterprise occurring before the Original Series, it was clever to use James Cromwell to reprise his First Contact role of Zefram Cochrane. The Temporal Cold War was intended to be the big multi-episode storyline, and this episode establishes it. While the Temporal Cold War eventually fell flat, it was given a promising beginning. Basically, as far as relevance to the Trek Universe, a pilot episode will almost always score high.

Archer recruits Sato

Continuity – 3 points. Character continuity is always tricky in a pilot episode. Since no characters have been encountered by this point, everyone has a fresh canvas to work with. I also have to cut them a bit of slack in this regards as characters are often going to change and evolve over time, so I am giving them the point for this. Story continuity gets a point, as does the universe continuity. I liked how when Zephram Cochrane states the famous line “Where no man has gone before”, he says “no man” instead of “no one”. This keeps it in line with how the Original Series stated it compared to how it was said from TNG onward. His whole speech is a reworking of Kirk and Picard’s open lines in the main title sequence of the two shows, and it makes those opening sequences mean something a little bit more.

Soval and Starfleet observing the Klingon

Character Development – 3 points. Again, pilot episodes get a bit of an advantage in this category as they are the first time we get to meet almost all of the main cast. We learn a bit about each of the new crew. Phlox is the unconventional and brilliant alien physician. Hoshi is a brilliant linguist but insecure in her abilities. Travis is a “boomer”, one who has lived most of his life traveling in outer space. Malcolm is the by-the-book security officer who takes his role and training seriously. Trip is the engineer, a friendly, down-home southern boy who is fiercely loyal to the captain and Starfleet. T’Pol is the Vulcan science officer who was assigned to the ship, contrary to the wishes of Captain Archer. Archer is the first captain of an NX-class starship. He is the consummate professional Starfleet officer who has an obvious grudge against Vulcans and knows how to recruit and motivate his crew. We learn some of each character’s backstory, with some having more than others. Naturally, Johnathon Archer gets the most development as he is the highly driven yet flawed captain. He learns to trust his Vulcan officer and begins the long path to overcoming his prejudices. This will eventually lead him to become the man who will lay the literal foundation for the United Federation of Planets.  

Optimism, Captain!

Social Commentary – 2 points. This has been a hard one for me to assign. When you are setting up an entire series, it is difficult to identify a major commentary on society right now. There is the whole Suliban with their genetic enhancements, but other than not wanting to wait for natural selection there is little that happens with that. I think, for me, the most compelling life lesson learned is about fighting for your dreams. Archer wanted to make his father’s dreams a reality, and after decades of pushing and fighting against the Vulcans, he finally makes it happen. He then learns to trust his Vulcan science officer, to the point where he sees the value in keeping her around and arranges to have T’Pol remain an integral part of the crew.

The Enterprise is space dock

Cool Factor – 3 points. Let’s score a point for the first time we see how Klingons and Earth are introduced to each other. The Suliban, with their genetic enhancements, have some great abilities that are fun to watch. I’ll give a third point for the scene where Zephram Cochrane gives the “Where No Man Has Gone Before” speech.

Zephram Cochrane's famous speech

Rank – Admiral (23 points). If you are going to watch Enterprise, then you are going to have to watch the pilot, there is just no getting around that. Having said that, “Broken Bow” is one strong pilot episode. While the rest of Season 1 is (understandably) shaky, the series gets a good, solid beginning.

A young John Archer and his father

Star Trek Episode Review Homepage

In the links below, you can find the catalog for every Star Trek live action series and their episode reviews. Because this is such a daunting task, I don't have all of them done yet. If you want a specific episode reviewed, please do not hesitate in asking and I will get on it as soon as possible. I will update the links as I add episode reviews.

For those who are new to my episode reviews, you can find the post where I establish my point criteria here

Star Trek: The Original Series

Star Trek: The Next Generation

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Star Trek: Voyager

Star Trek: Enterprise

Note: I am holding off on Star Trek Discovery for the time being. As one of my criteria is relevance in the Trek universe, there are tie-ins to future episodes that may not be revealed until later.