Monday, April 15, 2013

Armin Shimerman Is Rolling In His Grave: “Acquisition.”

The Good: Good acting
The Bad: No character development, Exceptionally basic plot, HUGE continuity issues, Jolene Blalock’s performance/T’Pol’s character
The Basics: When four Ferengi take over the Enterprise, even favorite recurring guest stars cannot save the episode “Acquisition” from the ire of the fans!

One of the actors in the Star Trek franchise who I respect most is Armin Shimerman. Shimerman appears on the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine DVD set to talk about how one of the things he liked most about the job was the chance to do right by the Ferengi. The Ferengi were first embodied by Shimerman and several others as awkward little monkey-like barbarians and as the writers refined their culture, Shimerman regretted the initial way he played the early Ferengi. It’s interesting to hear him talk about his experience; he makes it almost sound like he believes that the Ferengi were a real race who deserved the respect of viewers and, thus his initial performance was almost something racist and his subsequent performances as Quark could redeem that. In addition to appreciating that perspective and respecting the fact that he was the head of the Screen Actor’s Guild, Armin Shimerman is a wonderful actor.

The writers of “Acquisition,” an episode of Enterprise that features the Ferengi, did not have the same respect for the Ferengi that Shimerman did. Come to think of it, they did not do right by the Vulcans in the episode either. Having heard the producers discuss the episode, the justification for “Acquisition” is, rather simply and ridiculously, that the Ferengi never identify themselves as such and thus it’s fine for them to appear in the episode.

Wow, what a bunch of horse shit!

But then, that’s what “Acquisition” is or how it treats the fans.

Enterprise is completely incapacitated, dead in space, when a Ferengi shuttle approaches it. The crew, entirely knocked out, has been gassed and that allows the Ferengi shuttle carrying Krem, Muk, Grish, and Ulis to dock with Enterprise. Once aboard, they begin stealing everything they possibly can. Trip Tucker, however, was in the decontamination chamber when the Ferengi knocked everyone out and he leaves the chamber. Scouting around the ship in his underwear, he quickly determines that the Enterprise has been boarded.

Fortunately for Trip, he is not alone very long: the Ferengi capture Archer and awaken him, demanding to know where, exactly, the ship’s vault is. When he realizes Trip is still awake, he begins to stall. Conscripted to load the Ferengi shuttle, Archer begins to drive a wedge between Krem (the youngest and lowest paid Ferengi) and Ulis (his cousin and the leader of the boarding party). With Trip and the recently-revived T’Pol working together, the three Enterprise officers thwart the Ferengi and their plans to steal everything possible!

“Acquisition” is an enjoyable (gut level) episode that is incredibly simple and has been done to death in the Star Trek franchise. Unfortunately, many of the most enjoyable aspects of the episode are the very ones that rob the episode of even a passing respectability for fans. So, for example, T’Pol lies to the Ferengi about her status on the ship (claiming she is a slave) and she taunts Archer when she has the chance to free him after the crisis has passed. While these are amusing moments, they make no rational sense; Vulcans are not supposed to lie or have much of a sense of humor. In fact, Spock’s inability to even stretch the truth caused him and Captain Kirk innumerable problems, even in trying to outwit lesser beings in “A Piece Of The Action” (reviewed here!). Yet, in “Acquisition” T’Pol lies openly and is ironic as well. And, as is her form, actress Jolene Blalock once again smirks her way through T’Pol, not even managing to keep a straight face when her character is supposed to be unconscious!

Outside the exceptionally standard “diffuse the hostage/hijacking” plot, “Acquisition” is riddled with continuity problems and issues both within the series and within the larger Star Trek franchise. Nog on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine once mentioned that the Ferengi only achieved warp flight by buying the technology from the Romulans. Given the resolution to “Acquisition,” if the humans encountered the Ferengi first, their first encounter with the Romulans ought to leave them believing they are simply up against the Ferengi! Moreover, given how the episode resolves itself, it is utter nonsense to believe that Archer would not ask Krem about his race.

Within the episode, there is a level of preposterousness that can only be explained by the writers and producers saying, “You just can’t think about it too much” to which, I respond, “Have you ever met a Trekker?!” First, Trip brought an artifact back from a lunar colony he had just visited. That artifact is what released the gas responsible for knocking out the crew. Of all the times for Enterprise not to call for help, “Acquisition” is the most ridiculous. When Trip awakens, he says that his decontamination cycle was only supposed to last 20 minutes. So, little over twenty minutes away from a StarFleet colony, the Enterprise doesn’t even send a distress call?! Come to think of it, why Trip didn’t turn the ship around and head it back to that colony . . . and why the crew didn’t take the Ferengi there after they retook the ship so they could stand trial or such makes no sense either. And hey, just because the crew has been incapacitated, why wouldn’t the ship still be moving away from the colony?! And what kind of lame quarantine system can be released by the person in quarantine?!

So, there are a ton of problems with “Acquisition.” Outside Jolene Blalock, one of the problems is not the acting. Three of the Ferengi are played by Trek alums Ethan Philips, Jeffrey Combs, and Clint Howard and the fourth is played by the ever-wonderful Matt Malloy (who is, admittedly, underused in the episode). Scott Bakula is charming and funny as Archer and Connor Trinneer actually rises to the occasion as Trip Tucker. Unfortunately, Bakula and Trinneer have had great banter and the ability to play their characters as friends who can improvise off one another before, so while they give decent performances, they do not advance their characters at all.

But that is “Acquisition;” it’s a lot of flair and fun, but nothing sensible or enduring.

The three biggest gaffes in “Acquisition:”
3. The Ferengi in this episode are more like the evolved, refined Ferengi from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, not the barbarous initial Ferengi from Star Trek: The Next Generation,
2. In “The Jem’Hadar” (reviewed here), Quark mentions that the Ferengi never had slavery. Yet, in “Acquisition,” the Ferengi want to capture the females to sell at a slave market,
1. In “The Last Outpost” (reviewed here!), the U.S.S. Enterprise (NCC-1701-D) has its first encounter with the Ferengi. That encounter happens out near the Farpoint Station, the farthest point the Federation had explored at that point. Given how StarFleet had only had one encounter with an unfamiliar alien ship, which turned out to be Ferengi, before that and they had only heard rumors and second-hand knowledge of the Ferengi before that, it seems utterly unfathomable that a team of four Ferengi could penetrate so deeply into human-explored space two hundred years prior!

[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 Clint Howard, please visit my reviews of:
Fun With Dick And Jane
How The Grinch Stole Christmas
“Past Tense, Part 2” - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
“The Corbomite Manuever” - Star Trek


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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