The Cynics Corner


"Strange New World"

by David E. Sluss

14 October 2001

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: Reasonably entertaining, but it could be a long season if they've already pulled the "Naked Time" club out of the bag.


LAUGH LINE OF THE WEEK: Archer: "You're familiar with mind-altering agents"; a standard question when one interviews for a writing position, I'm told...

FREUDIAN LINES OF THE WEEK: Crackling, multi-layered dialog it's not, but they brought a smile:

  • Archer to Trip (as T'Pol vamps in the background): "Pitch your tent, Commander."
  • T'Pol to Trip: "Something about... splitting me in two?"

TARDINESS OF THE WEEK: It's a little late to try to cash in on Blair Witch, isn't it? Paramount used to be on the ball better than that...

RECYCLING OF THE WEEK: By Star Trek dogma, every series has to have at least one or two (or ten) episodes featuring crew members whose personalities are subjected to mind-altering agents. Projecting their own "altered states" onto their characters, Star Trek's writers use this as a contrived and somewhat lazy way to explore characters' latent personality traits or to create phony conflict between them. And so the Star Trek Script Generator program took bits and pieces of the original series' "The Naked Time," Next Generation's rip-off "The Naked Now," and DS9's "Dramatis Personae" (and probably a half-dozen Voyager episodes that I can't be troubled to look up) and churned out this variant, in which pollen makes Trip and company paranoid and delusional. This plot is simply ancient. And another problem, of course, is that we are supposed to be alarmed by the characters' abnormal behavior, but with only two previous episodes, we don't necessarily know what's supposed to be normal for them. Fortunately, good direction and acting (even from the guest stars) make the episode watchable, and it's novel to see an actual attempt to explore an actual planet, something which, oddly enough given the Franchise's charter, hasn't been seen on Star Trek in years, even if this world wasn't nearly strange enough to deserve this portentous title.

CLICHES AVOIDED OF THE WEEK: Let's give equal time to the cliches that didn't make it into this script: The shuttle didn't (quite) crash, and the redshirts (disguised in this episode as blueshirts) lived. With regard to the latter, though, the survival of Porcupine Pete after the transporter mishap and Phlox's dire diagnosis, noted barely in passing at the end of the show, seemed a bit unlikely. Perhaps his death would have provided Archer with a much-needed lesson about the dangers of space exploration, since he couldn't be bothered to listen to T'Pol's reasonable advice.

CHEAPO PROPS OF THE WEEK: I know we don't want this series to look too advanced, but those tents were strictly off the shelf...

WEIRD SCIENCE OF THE WEEK: Don't they ever learn? Wouldn't it have been enough for Phlox to say, "The pollen turned out to have toxic side effects?" Instead we hear BS about an "extra neutron" shed by the substance being the culprit. The best you can say is that it's good disinformation for Osama and company...

CONTINUITY WATCH OF THE WEEK: I wouldn't swear to it, but the drug used to treat the survey team, Inaprovaline, struck me as being strictly a New Trek invention.

TECHNOLOGICAL ANOMALY OF THE WEEK: The transporter accident was, I suppose, a worthwhile reminder that this technology is not exactly ready for prime time, but frankly, given what Reed reported, that the transporter couldn't separate the unfortunate blueshirt from the debris, the result should have been a lot more deadly (and grisly) than a few leaves and branches stuck to the skin.

NAIVETE OF THE WEEK: I realize that the point of this series in part is that humans are new at deep space exploration, but some of the things Our Heroes did this week were simply stupid, idiot-plot contrivances. Like not checking the weather before stranding the away team with nothing but cheapo tents. Like letting Porthos mark the planet before doing any study at all on exactly what sort of lifeforms might be around; will Starfleet's first redshirt be a canine? Like forgetting the food and water packs at the campsite. Things that any middle school scout would know better. Between this episode and "Fight or Flight," which saw Our Heroes deliberately contaminate a planet's ecosystem with a non-native species, there may be a good reason why no one in the other, future, series seems to know anything about this Enterprise...

Previous: "Fight or Flight"
Next: "Unexpected"
NEXT WEEK: Gratuitous nipple shots, and it's not T'Pol! Looks like the dog I've been waiting to sink my teeth into, and I don't mean Porthos...



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This review is copyright 2001 David E. Sluss
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