Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Episode Where Enterprise Lost Me: “The Andorian Incident”

The Good: Well-directed, Plot progression, Tension
The Bad: Terrible acting, Huge continuity/sensibility issues, Light on character development
The Basics: “The Andorian Incident” creates a huge continuity problem in the Star Trek franchise and is reason enough to give up on Enterprise.

During the first run of Star Trek: Enterprise, it was a real hassle for me to find the show. My local television station did not carry it, so I had to use my father-in-law to tape the new episodes and watch them on my VCR. Wow, times changed pretty quick. It was a minor inconvenience for my father-in-law, but I was not eager to use him in that way any longer than I needed to. As it happened, I did not need him to continue taping Enterprise all that long. When “The Andorian Incident” aired, the show lost me. It is not that “The Andorian Incident” is a bad hour of television, but it is absolutely terrible Star Trek.

With a story by Rick Berman, Brannon Braga and Fred Dekker (who actually wrote the script), “The Andorian Incident” is the ultimate “fuck you” to fans of the Star Trek franchise. At this point, the Vulcan culture is reduced to a joke, a reworking of the race that is so bad that the episode actually acknowledges it in when Dr. Phlox calls T’Pol out on how illogical the Vulcan sense of xenophobia is in Enterprise. “The Andorian Incident” recharacterizes the Vulcans as a bunch of liars and the result is frustrating to anyone who is invested in the Star Trekfranchise.

A Vulcan monastery is taken by four Andorians, causing a hostage situation that puts the Vulcans on edge. This happens very shortly before the Enterprise arrives at P’Jem, the planet housing the Vulcan monastery. Before arriving, T’Pol expresses reservations about the visit, but she allows Trip and Archer to accompany her to the three thousand year-old Vulcan monastery. Shortly after their arrival, T’Pol notes artifacts out of place and Archer observes a blue-skinned alien in the reflection of a bowl and he and Trip incapacitate the Andorian before they themselves are captured.

Beaten and interrogated by their leader (Shran), Archer learns that the Andorians believe that P’Jem is housing a massive sensor network to spy upon the Andorians. While the Vulcans deny the accusation, they are protective of the catacombs beneath the monastery. As Reed plans to beam down with a strike team to rescue the hostages, Archer and Trip try to learn the truth and defuse the hostage situation.

“The Andorian Incident” is a wealth of problems, even though it is fairly entertaining. The Vulcans, humans, and Andorians are all presented as idiots. In fact, the only one who comes out looking good is Dr. Phlox. John Billingsley presents Dr. Phlox as smart, compassionate and willing to cut through everyone’s bullshit (in this case T’Pol). He is interesting, funny, and well-portrayed, making for an interesting character. Shran, the Andorian Commander, makes an auspicious debut for Jeffrey Combs in Enterprise, which provides a decent performance among several stiff or surprisingly emotional performances (from actors playing Vulcans). Combs is compelling and impressively violent in a way his Star Trek: Deep Space Nine characters never were.

While Roxann Dawson directs the episode well, she is saddled with a poor script.

The Andorians are presented in a way that makes no sense. The Vulcan monastery has hidden passages that the Andorians do not find. It makes one wonder what the hell the point of their antennae is. Later in the series, Andorians have a sense of sonar or use their antenna for balance. The biology of the Andorians is poorly generated in “The Andorian Incident;” the Andorians should have been able to detect the hollow walls ridiculously easily.

The Vulcans are presented as illogical and as liars.

While I like Lieutenant Reed, he is presented as somewhat moronic in “The Andorian Incident” (though Dominic Keating is fine in his performance). When Reed mounts his rescue attempt, he uses explosives to blow out a wall. The wall already has three holes in it and he is leading a team of three people, all armed with phase pistols. So, why doesn’t Reed use his phase pistol with the two other officers to shoot three of the four Andorians while they are surprised? They should have been able to take out all four using the element of surprise rather than explode a wall and damage the monastery. It also would have prevented them from coming under fire themselves.

So, yet again, Enterprise chooses action over character and a sense of spectacle over any sensibility. “The Andorian Incident” illustrates Brannon Braga and Rick Berman’s commitment to creating something new, of their own, regardless of how it fits in with Star Trek continuity. Fans deserve a lot better, as does anyone who enjoys decent television.

The three biggest gaffes in “The Andorian Incident:”
3. Vulcans are logical. The Andorians take a Vulcan monastery, which is a spiritual retreat with sacred relics. Spirituality where artifacts are placed above philosophy (in this case, explicitly Infinite Diversity In Infinite Combinations) is illogical,
2. Vulcans are neither xenophobic or racist, yet they are characterized as both in “The Andorian Incident.” For example, T’Pol continues to refer in derogatory terms about humans and how they smell. T’Pol’s illogical racism reaches a height in “The Andorian Incident” when T’Pol tries to refuse a blanket to keep warm when she is physically suffering because of the way Archer smells (which is more of a psychological discomfort),
1. Vulcans do not lie. They don’t exaggerate, they don’t obfuscate; Spock, a half-Vulcan was the first to start doing that . . . almost a hundred years after this. “The Andorian Incident” makes no sense because a cultural conception of a people does not remain in the collective conscious for decades if in one of the earliest encounters with the people, it is entirely disproven.

[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 works with Bruce French, please visit my reviews of:
Mission: Impossible III
Mr. Deeds
Star Trek: Insurrection
“Caretaker” - Star Trek: Voyager
“The Drumhead” - Star Trek: The Next Generation


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.
| | |

No comments:

Post a Comment