Friday, May 3, 2013

Enterprise Does Alien With “Vox Sola”

The Good: Decent sense of pacing and plot progression
The Bad: No real character development, Pretty terrible special effects, Nothing at all superlative in the episode.
The Basics: After an alien race leaves Enterprise abruptly, the ship is invaded by a creature that ensnares some of the crew!

At the point that “Vox Sola” comes up in the first season of Enterprise, it is hard not to have the feeling that part of the reason the franchise went the path of the prequel was because they did not want viewers watching the other episodes in the Star Trek franchise. After all, if something is derivative of something else in the franchise, viewers could easily look up the earlier (produced) episode and if it is superior, the result is likely to be “Well, they already did that already, so why did the new series just remake it?!” Star Trek: The Next Generation ran into this sort of thing early on. “The Naked Now” (reviewed here!) was a direct rip-off of “The Naked Time” (reviewed here!) and the crew of the Enterprise-D made explicit references to the episode of Star Trek. “The Naked Now,” Tasha Yar’s seduction of Data aside, remains one of the least popular episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation as a result.

“Vox Sola” benefits solely from appearing early in the franchise and not being able to allude to any number of similar episodes that followed. The story is a very familiar and somewhat obvious alien invasion/”absorption” plot. There is a lack of a feeling of a real and deep threat, though, as the entity in the episode is contained rather quickly in the ship’s cargo bay (which, to achieve the goal the entity has, is a location that makes no real sense for its point of invasion).

Opening with the humanoid aliens, the Kreetassans, storming off Enterprise, offended, the Enterprise is invaded by a somewhat ethereal organism. It takes up residence in the cargo bay and while Archer is off sulking for the Kreetassans leaving and Hoshi is feeling like she failed because of the language differences between the humans and Kreetassans. When two crewman, Archer, Trip and a security officer enter the cargo bay, they are ensnared by the amoeba-like creature and its many tendrils. Reed falls back and they seal off the deck and the organism absorbs the captured members of the Enterprise crew.

Inside the cargo bay, Archer and Trip realize they are beginning to share one another’s memories, a condition that is fully understood by Phlox and Reed when they try to forcibly remove the crewmembers from the weblike organism. The organism has absorbed the crewmembers and is linking their neurological systems with its own. Fearing they will die soon, Hoshi and T’Pol work together to determine the organism’s language while Tucker tries to find the Kreetassans to learn where the organism came from.

While the cocooning of the crewmembers reminds science fiction fans almost instantly of Alien (reviewed here!), structurally “Vox Sola” is very much like Star Trek: First Contact (reviewed here!) without the time-travel element. Instead of a technological monster, the creature in “Vox Sola” is entirely biological and it is surprisingly like the Changelings from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Regardless of the specifics, “Vox Sola” feels derivative and overly familiar of any number of invasion or possession episodes of science fiction.

In fact, much of the purpose of “Vox Sola” seems to have little to do with the creature itself; as is the habit with early Enterprise, the purpose of the episode is often to illustrate a “first” in the Star Trek Universe (i.e. how familiar technology to the fans came to be utilized or developed). “Vox Sola,” then, is the first shipboard force field, which would later become a standard security device.

On the character front, “Vox Sola” serves only to create a little bit of character for Archer; we now know he likes water polo. Unsurprisingly, Trip likes football. What makes no real sense on the character front is that Trip, who revealed a love of comic books to Reed in an earlier episode, seems surprised by the entity. Creatures that absorb humanoids for sinister purposes is one of the most common plots in comic books and science fiction. Are we meant to believe that Trip loved comic books growing up, but never encountered a single storyline where people shared thoughts or that he read such a book and did not understand it or its relevance to the predicament they currently find themselves in?!

The acting in “Vox Sola” is all right, save Jolene Blalock, who continues to portray T’Pol with an inordinate amount of emotion. What drags the episode down quite a bit is the computer generated effects. “Vox Sola” has terrible special effects that look entirely cheesy. Ultimately, it is an unmemorable episode.

The two biggest gaffes in “Vox Sola:”
2. The alien life form in “Vox Sola” makes any number of hive-mind, non-corporeal, or “giant microscopic” entities encountered in later Star Trek series’ entirely unsurprising. So many subsequent alien encounters should have seemed mundane as a result of encountering this life form so early,
1. If Reed essentially develops the force field in “Vox Sola,” why does it take until the Star Trek: The Next Generation time period for them to be deployed aboard the starships?! In the original Star Trek, the shuttle bay had to be depressurized completely and repressurized; use of force fields inside the starships there were limited entirely to the brig. In the 24th Century, though, security pops up force fields at pretty much any juncture. But, following “Vox Sola,” StarFleet has the technology and they have ample evidence that there are practical reasons to employ such technology.

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Enterprise - The Complete First Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the premiere season here!


For other Star Trek episode and movie reviews, please visit my Star Trek Review Index Page!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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