Sunday, June 16, 2013

Enterprise’s Anti-Bullying Episode: “Marauders” Hits Mediocre

The Good: Decent acting, Good message, Fine effects
The Bad: Obvious, Somewhat simple plot, Mischaracterizes the Klingons.
The Basics: The Enterprise episode “Marauders” is a straightforward, but oddly inconsistent, episode that has an obvious anti-bullying message.

Every now and then when I am watching Enterprise with her, my wife will laugh at one of the absurd lines in the show. Today, when watching “Marauders,” the line was, “I’ve never liked bullies.” She started laughing and noted that no one actually talks that way and, to illustrate, she mockingly said, “I’ve always loved bullies . . . no, wait, that’s not it.” The writing for “Marauders” is like that; it’s so focused on making its point that it is both strangely obvious and riddled with little flaws that make is a better theme episode than an actually entertaining hour of television.

So, “Marauders” starts with references to “Minefield” (reviewed here!) and “A Night In Sickbay” (reviewed here!), which allows director Michael Vejar to get around actually showing a Kreetassan, but as a result the episode starts with one of the least-compelling teasers in the history of the franchise.

The Enterprise arrives at a colony that has deuterium they diligently mine. The Enterprise desperately needs deuterium to power their warp drive and they need it in quantity because the Kreetassans provided them with warp plasma manifolds that require the fuel. But when they arrive at the colony, they meet Tessic who is reticent to part with any of the colony’s deuterium. While they enlist Trip to fix one of the deuterium pumps and negotiate for additional medical supplies that they should not reasonably need, Archer gets the bare minimum of deuterium he can afford to leave orbit with.

Soon, the reason for the miner’s apprehension makes itself obvious when a Klingon ship arrives in orbit. The Klingons beam down and extort the miners for all of their deuterium, which Tessic begs for more time to mine and refine. Given four days to get their deuterium together, Archer and T’Pol work with Tessic and the colonists to train them for hand-to-hand combat. With the Enterprise crew moving the colony as part of an elaborate trap and training the colonists to fight back, the clock is ticking for the return of the Klingons and their inevitable attack on the colony.

“Marauders” is odd in that it belabors the use of T’Pol – who oddly seems to be advocating for killing the Klingons as opposed to any sort of negotiation – over Malcolm Reed. Reed, who is the armory officer and seems like he would be the natural choice for training an army to lead an insurrection is relegated to training colonists on firearms (a scene stolen by Hoshi Sato in a callback to a b-plot of a first season episode). T’Pol then trains the colonists for hand-to-hand combat using Vulcan martial arts and it seems like a strange use of the science officer.

Archer is given a straightforward role in “Marauders,” which is mostly to lecture Tessic on how he needs to stand up to the Klingons (though he openly acknowledges that the Enterprise crew will not be around to deal with any of the consequences of the colonists standing up to their Klingon oppressors). Tessic seems appropriately cowed by the Klingons, but the part wears thin in the face of the support delivered from the Enterprise crew.

When the Klingons arrive, they are presented as more clownish than compelling. First, the Klingon Captain Korok continually acknowledges that he can get the deuterium for his ship anywhere, that it does not have to be this particular colony. So, when the Klingons beam down to the moved facility and cannot find anyone there, why they do not just beam back to their ship and kill everyone from orbit makes little sense. Even worse is that when they cannot find anyone at the colony, not one of them reaches for their tricorders to scan for lifeforms. And yet, almost all of the Klingons have tricorders hanging around their necks (ironically, Star Trek fans will notice that the Klingons actually have 24th Century Bajoran tricorders around their necks). They are lured into the final conflict with the colonists in the most ridiculous way possible.

The themes in “Marauders” are good, but the characterization is weird. The Klingons do not appear as military governors or honorable warriors, they are just silly bullies and the difference is all the difference for making the episode rewatchable. While none of the acting is terrible, it is not superlatively good either and the result is a mediocre episode that continues a loosely serialized arc that is hardly satisfying.

The three biggest gaffes in “Marauders:”
3. T’Pol knows the names of handheld Klingon weapons, which implies a conflict between the Vulcans and Klingons that has never before been implied, much less detailed. Moreover, it raises the question of how it is that the Vulcans can recognize by sight and name Klingon handheld weapons, but not Klingon starships . . . like they fail to recognize in “Sleeping Dogs” (reviewed here!),
2. Deuterium in “Marauders” is mined. In Star Trek: The Next Generation, deuterium is explicitly explained as hydrogen gas. While hydrogen gas is supposedly out in the vacuum of space, it is explicitly plentiful in virtually every nebula in the galaxy. So, why deuterium is so rare and needs to be refined in “Marauders” seems like a ridiculous conceit,
1. T’Pol characterizes the Klingons as slow to adapt in combat. Given their warrior code and how important victory is to them, this seems like a gross mischaracterization of the Klingons and contrary to what we’ve seen of their adaptability in other Star Trek series.

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