Friday, November 16, 2018

Episode Review - Northstar (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 – While searching the Delphic expanse the crew of the Enterprise discover a planet that has a colony of humans that live in a late nineteenth century American wild west society. They live among a smaller group of aliens, called Skagarans, or “Skags” as many humans call them. Archer learns that the Skagarans kidnapped several humans from the United States west to serve as slave labor for a new colony. The humans revolted and overthrew their captors, and since then the humans have formed a society that treats Skagarans as second-class citizens. Archer befriends Bethany, a teacher in the community who teaches Skagaran children. Archer soon becomes entangled with the local law enforcement and soon confronts the citizens of North Star with the truth of their home world.

Score: 8/10 – I have to say that a good old fashioned wild west episode is a lot of fun. One of Star Trek’s (and science fiction’s in general) strengths is the ability to interact with different genres. The concept is intriguing and is not the first time we learn that humans from Earth’s past have been abducted by aliens (Voyager’s second season opener “The 37s” being another notable example). While some of the North Star residents seem to be taken right out of the western genre’s cookie cutter, they are still developed with some real humanity. While the blatantly racist deputy Bennings is two-dimensional, the characters of Bethany and Sherriff MacReady are given some good depth. This is especially true of Sherriff MacReady, played brilliantly by Glenn Morshower (in his fifth Trek appearance). We see a man who seems to feel that the law must be upheld, but secretly hides some sympathy for the “Skags”. When he is shown that humans have come from Earth and have overcome many of their past prejudices, he is open-minded enough to reconsider many of the anti-Skagaran laws. Some of the editing of scenes in this episode is a bit clunky, but overall the episode is well shot and a lot of fun. One other complaint is the make-up of the Skagarans. In the opening scene it is difficult to see that the man being hung is indeed different from the humans due to the dark lighting. Afterwards, in better lighting, the difference is more noticeable, but the makeup could have been more noteworthy.

Relevance - 0 points. Looking at how the Xindi arc ends Season 3, and that Season 4 ends, there is no further mention of the inhabitants of this planet. I hope that Archer remembered to inform Starfleet about this colony, but we do not hear anything about it. It’s unfortunate, but sometimes that is the nature of good episodes.

Continuity – 3 points. Character continuity checks out as nobody doers anything unexpected. There is a part in one of the gun fights near the end where a townsmen grabs T’Pol and holds a gun to her head, telling Malcom Reed to drop his weapon or T’Pol will die. Reed takes a second to assess the situation and stuns T’Pol with his phaser, taking her out of the equation. Good old practical Malcom Reed. Universe continuity is also good as we have already established that aliens have been known to kidnap humans pre-warp drive. Finally, story continuity is also good. There were a few editing choices that made the story a bit rough at time, but everything progressed as we would expect it to.

Character Development – 2 points. It is quite interesting to see many of the characters interact in the old west. Tucker is a bit awkward with horses, and Archer seems to have fit easily in the scenario. Mostly we see Archer throwing himself into the mix to right a wrong that was being perpetuated among the Skagarans. He seems to be able to think well on his feet. So while we see many of our characters get some attention, nobody gets any real significant development. Enough for 2, but not 3 points.

Social Commentary – 3 points. The Skagarans were created to provide a parallel to the way Native Americans were treated in the old west. The story does work with that, but the Skagaran situation brings the idea of racism to the forefront. In this story, there is a valid reason for humans to have a beef with Skagarans, and yet it is obvious that the humans have taken things too far. It is very noteworthy here that at some point the sins of the ancestors should not be held against their descendants. There needs to be a balance between sensitivity towards the long-lasting impact of past historical wrongs with not committing more wrongs in retaliation.

Cool Stuff – 2 points. The shootout between the former deputy and his posse with Archer and his people was quite enjoyable. In particular, there is a character who shows up often who is never really given a name, but in the script goes by S. Money. She is played by long-time stunt actress Dorenda Moore. She stands out in this fight as an individual who is someone you don’t want to mess with, making a huge impact on the overall outcome. That scores a point in this section. I also will score a point for how authentic the wild west set and story felt. It just worked on many levels.

Rank – Captain (18 points). There have been several “wild west” themed episodes in Star Trek over the years, but I think this is one of, if not the, very best. It has a lot of heart and fun in it. While the overall search for the Xindi is the main theme of this season, “North Star” gives us a pleasant diversion.

If you would like to check out my other episode reviews for Enterprise, simply click here.

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.

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