Saturday, March 23, 2013

Two Pointless First Contacts Make For A Very Average “Civilization.”

The Good: Decent acting, plot, and special effects
The Bad: No real character development
The Basics: “Civilization” is a remarkably average Enterprise episode with no real consequences.

For a change, it is worth noting right up front that the Enterprise episode “Civilization” has no huge continuity issues with the larger franchise. In fact, the first contacts in “Civilization” have absolutely no lasting effects in the franchise, which makes it somewhat pointless. One of the writers of the episode, Mike Sussman, discussed his inclusion of the alien-of-the-week (the Malurians) as an in-joke from the Star Trek episode “The Changeling” (reviewed here!). Unfortunately, in trying to make a clever bit for the most dedicated of Star Trek fans, Sussman makes a ridiculous continuity problem. The Malurians are only referenced in that one episode and they are the subject of Federation study. In “Civilization,” they are more advanced than the humans . . . so it seems like they would be able to detect, well in advance, the Federation science team trying to study them a hundred years later.

That’s fine, as far as “Civilization” goes, but “Civilization” is an utterly unremarkable episode in so many ways. It is not bad, but there really nothing exceptional to it.

Enterprise makes a detour to a Class-M planet that has an actual humanoid population, which excites the humans aboard the ship. At the Akaali Homeworld, Archer decides to go in a different direction from the Vulcans and visit the pre-industrial civilization there, when they discover elevated neutrinos on the planet. Archer, Hoshi, Trip, and T’Pol take the shuttle down to the planet, disguised as natives. There, they discover that the people are dying mysteriously, which Archer learns when he and Trip break into an antique shop and are discovered by the native Riann.

Confronting the shop owner, Garos, Archer and Trip discover the planet has been invaded by a Malurian mining operation. Trying to compel Garos and the Malurians to leave, Archer and Riann get closer. They discover a subterranean Malurian mining operation and when they try to shut it down, it draws the attention of a Malurian ship, which outclasses Enterprise.

“Civilization” is a very basic first contact episode without a strong hook and without any significant follow-up. While there is the minor nit about including the otherwise absent-from-the-franchise Maurians, there is a pretty serious problem with “Civilization.” The Malurians have a huge underground mining operation, which is poisoning the groundwater on the Akaali homeworld. In the episode, it is stated that the Malurian mining operation has been going on for only a few months. How could the mining operation possibly have been started under the Akaali city without anyone noticing? The simple answer would be that the Malurians beamed out the rock to create the initial chamber in which their mining operation began, but then it begs the question why the Malurians wouldn’t beam out the ore once it was mined. Come to think of it, the whole “shuttle abduction” of the refined ore seems ridiculous when the Malurians beam out following their conflict with Archer.

There are also some strangely senseless moments where sensibility is sacrificed for action. When Archer takes on the Malurians, he has enough time to send images of the console to Trip and Hoshi to either deduce the engineering principles from or translate using Enterprise’s computers, but instead he randomly starts pushing buttons and gets into a phase pistol fight.

That said, the chemistry between Archer and Riaan (and actors Scott Bakula and Diane DiLascio) is convincing and makes for a sense of consequence that is sufficient enough to make viewers wish there was more of the Akaali. Jolene Blalock smirks her way through many of her scenes yet again, but otherwise the acting in the episode is fine. “Civilization” has no real consequences and no significant character development, but it is a fun exploration episode.

[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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