5/29/11

Star Trek: Asterisk "Strange New World"

Vital Information
Series: Enterprise
Episode: S01E04
Air Date: October 10, 2001
Written by: Mike Sussman & Phyllis Strong
Directed by: David Livingston (I presume)

Premise
Hallucinogenic pollen gives Tucker a bad Trip, and makes him question T'Pol's loyalty.

Review
Oops... I seem to have skipped over episode 3. Ah, well, I'll make it up next week.

So we were apparently supposed to go to a nebula, but we stopped on the way to check out a Class M planet that reminds the crew of home, except there's no intelligent life. Archer, T'Pol, Reed, Mayweather and Tucker take a shuttle down to the planet with a couple of redshirts: Cutler and Novakovich. Cutler tries to make friends with T'Pol, but Novakovich tells her she has a better chance making friends with a housefly. Which really isn't saying much because she's an entomologist. She's probably made friends with several houseflies.
One small trot for man's best friend
When they get down to the planet's surface, they take pictures and look around like star-struck tourists in New York. Except for T'Pol who is not only accustomed to new planets, but wouldn't even show so if she wasn't. Oh yeah! There's one more member of the away team. Upon arriving on the planet's surface, Porthos promptly runs off to piss on his first non-terrestrial tree, marking his territory several lightyears away from any dog that could possibly challenge his claim. In the Human universe, this planet ends up being called Archer IV, but around canine circles, it will always be known as Porthos Prime.
Can we talk for a minute...
About Porthos? I know Star Trek is no stranger to pets on board starships. Data's cat, Spot, was the first full-time pet in The Next Generation, and, of course, the tribbles were the awesomest pets to ever receive special episodes. (Three, to be exact. One in The Original Series, one in The Animated Series, and one in Deep Space 9.) But Porthos, despite his unfortunate placement in this, the worst series of the franchise, is probably my favorite ship's pet. I love that he even gets a nod in Star Trek (2009) by Scotty who had, apparently, involved him in a transporter accident. I love that Archer decides to bring the little guy along and let him play around on new worlds. And I love that he makes T'Pol uncomfortable. Spot was great and the Tribbles were fantastic, but for a story about people who are excited to visit new places and meet new people, Porthos is the perfect starship pet.
LOOK AT THAT FACE!
And that was the highlight of the episode. Yes, a dog romping off into the trees and happily returning to his master was the best it got. After that, things took a turn for the worst. Trip and Mayweather ask to stay behind and do a little camping. T'Pol, Cutler and Novakovich stay behind as well for more study. And then Mayweather tells some kind of ghost story which could actually have been a real episode and might have been a lot more interesting than this one. At least the writers probably thought so, because for the amount of time they spent on it, that might as well have been the episode. The whole campfire sequence goes on for so long you might think it had something to do with something. Anything.

What follows the campfire is the actual episode.  Where a storm starts brewing and people start seeing things. When the winds get too rough, the away team takes shelter in a cave. Novakovich, the redshirt, sees some movement in the back of the cave and when Mayweather says he saw people outside, Novakovich goes crazy and runs out.

At this point it's pretty clear that what Mayweather and Novakovich are seeing are hallucinations. And if that wasn't enough proof, when Mayweather and Trip go looking for Novakovich, they see a face in a rock. Yeah, the storm is carrying some hallucinogens. But now we have to go through most of the episode pretending we don't know that.

I'm taking you with me, Novakovich!!
So they look for the redshirt, but they don't find him. He's out in the middle of a terrible, hallucinogenic storm, and he lives. They decide, having exhausted all other options, to beam the redshirt up to the ship. The transporter is still in the early stages of its development and they're not sure if it'll work, but they have no other choice. They beam him up, the transporter screws up and implants some foliage in his face... and he lives. Flox fixes the redshirt up, surgically removes the foreign objects, says he's going to be fine, then later discovers that he's carrying a deadly toxin and might die... but he survives.

Just so we're clear. A guy who no one has ever heard of, who is named Crewman Novakovich, who is never heard from again, who easily illustrates the dangers of the planet by going through them; a man who does not literally wear a red shirt, but follows in the tradition of so many redshirts that have gone before... survives. I don't even know what to say about this. What are they teaching people in the academy these days?

I don't want to spend a lot more time on this episode, because once you understand that it's a hallucinogenic pollen in the wind, the rest of the story is just kind of boring. Basically, the episode is a transparent attempt to address trust issues between Trip and T'Pol. Except they don't actually address them. Everyone thinks that T'Pol is having secret meetings with these alien rock creatures and they fight a lot while they're high on pollen, but afterwards, it's all just like it was a bad dream and they ignore the issues that had brought them to that point.

I do like, however, how Archer talks Trip into cooperating with T'Pol by elaborating on his rock monster delusions, though. That's a fine bit of captaining right there. But, in the end, nothing is changed. Everything is just as it was at the beginning of the episode. Except Novakovich has a few scars. We slap a name on the planet and move on.

Yay.

Overall Thoughts
Why did I skip over episode 3 to watch this one? I should have skipped over this one and never come back.