The Cynics Corner

Enterprise

"Civilization"

by David E. Sluss

18 November 2001

 
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THE BOTTOM LINE
: I rather enjoyed this episode, despite its by-the-numbers nature and a lot of my usual hobbyhorse issues; it's probably come the closest to capturing the sense of "Old School Star Trek" of any episode to date.

CYNICS CORNER RATING: 8.0 (B-)

NEW GEOGRAPHY OF THE WEEK: Since we got both a date and an odometer reading this week, we know for sure that things still don't add up in terms of time, speed, and distance traveled. It's been clear since "Broken Bow" that this series was going to play fast and loose with the issue, but let's run it down anyway:

  • Enterprise launched around April 16, 2151 (log entry from "Broken Bow").
  • This week's adventure ended on July 31, 2151, according to the log entry; that gives us a total of 15 weeks of real time so far in this series, much of that time taken up by stopovers, backtracking to serve child support papers on alien sexual predators, etc.
  • Archer told Riann that Enterprise had traveled 78 light years to get to her planet.
  • Enterprise's top speed is 100 times the speed of light, which amounts to around two light years per week.

Do the math...

NEW TECHNOLOGY OF THE WEEK: Since when do phase pistols, which according to Reed in "Broken Bow" have exactly two settings (stun and kill), have all sorts of spinning dials and beeping controls on them, including a convenient "heat liquid to explode" setting?

NEW TECHNOLOGY OF THE WEEK RUNNER-UP: It's interesting to note that this Enterprise has aft torpedo launchers, something Starfleet vessels in Kirk's era never seemed to have, at least not until the Reliant in Star Trek II. Also, for sharp-eyed nit-pickers, you will note that in the climactic battle, when Enterprise was preparing to use the Malurians' reactor as a bomb, Reed told T'Pol that he had loaded the starboard torpedo tube, and we were shown the starboard tube being loaded, but the torpedo was actually launched from the port side.

WEIRD TECHNOLOGY OF THE WEEK: I know, I know, I should just accept the Universal Translator as a Suspension of Disbelief issue. And I suppose that it's not realistic to expect this TeeVee show to have the crew spending weeks programming the translator or mastering the alien language. Still, it's a little disappointing to see how well the device works in this series. It had a minor, unexplained malfunction this week (giving Archer, who has apparently forgotten the lessons of "Unexpected," the chance to kirk the babe of the week), but all told the translator seemed to work about as well as 24th century models. More generally, while this problem isn't specific to Enterprise, I've never understood how the translator could be used secretly. It doesn't seem possible, for instance, that Riann would fail to notice that Archer's lips were out of sync with what she heard him say. Time to let it go. Maybe...

CONTRIVANCES OF THE WEEK: Let's go through a few of these:

  • As we see at the end, the Malurians have a perfectly functional transporter; why didn't they use it to transport the crates rather than bring down a shuttle that the natives might see?
  • How is it that Riann had observed the crates being carried outside the village and knew where they were being taken without ever seeing the Malurian vessel pick them up before? Is she chicken?
  • Even if the Malurian vessel in orbit can hide from Enterprise's sensors by being on the opposite side of the planet, shouldn't the sensors have detected the shuttle picking up ore at the Captain's position, and determined where it was going, or at least reasoned that a Malurian vessel was in the area?
  • Since the presumed purpose of the Malurians' dampening field was to hide their operation from other aliens, rather than the Akali, who would have no way to detect it, why wouldn't they do something to mask the neutrino emissions, which space-faring visitors would be bound to detect?

DECK-STACKING OF THE WEEK: Star Trek rarely allows shades of gray to interfere with their alien characterization, and this episode is fairly typical on that score. The cartoonish Malurians are of course nasty, cavalier about their operation's effect on the Akali (and carrying it out for the purpose of making weapons), stupid (continuing their shipments even after they knew that alien explorers were nosing around the antique shop), and - naturally - ugly and reptilian, while the Akali, from what little we can make, out are a Decent, Promising Species, with only minor deformations of the forehead. It's stock characterization, straight out of the Star Trek Script Generator. I don't know why they can't put a different spin on these episodes every once in a while. You know: "Good heavens, we were mining for a rare substance needed for medicine and had no idea what effect it was having on the Akali environment; we'll suspend operations and begin an immediate clean-up."

RECYCLING OF THE WEEK: Is the use of Enterprise's Cave Set required in all scripts, or what?
  

Previous: "Breaking the Ice"
Next: "Fortunate Sun"
NEXT WEEK: Travis is mad as hell at Archer's recklessness and he's not going to take it anymore.

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This review is copyright 2001 David E. Sluss
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