10/23/11

Star Trek: Asterisk "North Star"

Vital Information
Series: Enterprise
Episode: S03E09
Air Date: November 12, 2003
Written by: David A. Goodman
Directed by: David Straiton

Premise
The crew finds an old Western town on a planet in the middle of the Delphic Expanse.

Review
The other day I was just watching a few episodes of Firefly and remarking on how much I love the combination of the sci-fi and western genres. The glory of writing sci-fi is that you can pretty much justify anything you want. If you want to do a western story set in the future, do it! You can use time travel, alien transplanting, hostile alien take-over within the period, or, if you're really good, you can explain how humanity has colonized the galaxy and returned to their western ways. The only stipulation is that, whatever explanation you use, it should make sense.

In "North Star," Star Trek: Enterprise not only has fun with a western setting, but also uses the setting to hammer another nail into the coffin of prejudice. This is clear from the beginning when a lynch mob hangs a man that they call a "Skag" who appears to be an alien. (Although, it is difficult to tell, what with Star Trek aliens all being so humanoid.) The Skagarans appear to be second class citizens in this town. And the deputy seems to have a lot of fun giving them trouble. Especially the one who helps out around the bar.

Archer, Trip and T'Pol are walking around in period clothing trying to figure out why there's a western town all the way out in the Delphic Expanse and more than 300 years out of period. One of the best things about Star Trek is seeing them awkwardly trying to get around in primitive conditions. For example, when Trip decides to ride a horse.
"Hand me the rear stabilizer!"
What Trip and T'Pol check out stuff outside of town, Archer hangs out in the local bar where a Skag teenager helps serve. While there, Archer learns about Cooper Smith, the hero who saved them from the Skags. Apparently, for this western story, they used the alien transplant story. The Skagarans went to Earth in the 1860's, grabbed a group of Humans and took them inside the Delphic Expanse in order to use them as slaves. After a while, they couldn't take it anymore, and revolted with Cooper Smith leading the charge. After that, the Skags were kept uneducated and under thumb. A tense classic western bar scene ensues...

Archer doesn't much like the fact that the Skags are being harassed by the deputy, so he interferes. As a result, he's forced to leave. And that's when he meets the local teacher. He asks her about the Skags since she seems to know more than the other idiots in town. That's where she reveals all the story that I just said in the previous paragraph. She then invites him to come with her to meet some more Skags to get to know them better. Archer follows her to a group of Skag children who the teacher is teaching in the middle of the woods. Aaaaaaand then the deputy shows up.

Since it's illegal to teach Skags, the deputy brings the teacher to the jail and locks her up. And then Archer breaks her out. They make a run for it and in the middle of the heart-pounding action, the teacher gets shot. The deputy and his men ride up on them to finish the job, and Archer is forced to beam up with the teacher in full view of the crowd.
I've never beamed two people from one location onto one pad before!
According to Memory-Alpha.org, that really does mark the first time chronologically that someone has asked a beam-up while specifying how many people to beam. Why is this important? Because trekkies need to know every fine detail of the Star Trek franchise.

After that, Archer decides it's time for these townfolk to know that Earth hasn't given up on them. While the teacher is being treated by Phlox (who, by the way, figures out that she's one quarter Skagaran), Archer takes a shuttlepod down and completely freaks everyone out! Ok, that's not entirely true. But they do look a little shocked to see it. And when Archer comes out in full Starfleet uniform, he greets the sheriff and tells them what's up. As a result, the sheriff decides to loosen the laws on Skagarans and wait for the time when Starfleet can send more ships to pick them up and bring them home.

And here, my friends, is the proposed reason that, in 300 years, the culture and technology of this group of humans hasn't advanced past the dude ranch era. While looking down on her planet from aboard the Enterprise, the teacher says to Archer: "You must think we're barbaric. All the things humanity's accomplished – building ships like this, traveling to other worlds – and we're still down there shooting each other." So apparently the struggle with the Skags is what kept them riding horses and wearing Stetsons.

Overall Thoughts
Really? Culture and tech remains stagnant for 300 years? Bullocks. Other than that, this was a really fun episode! I love space westerns. Now I'm going back to watching Firefly. :D