Monday, April 22, 2013

Enterprise Does A Guantanamo Bay Episode With “Detained.”

The Good: Decent message, Good acting, No real continuity problems with the franchise
The Bad: No real character development
The Basics: “Detained” fleshes out the Suliban in an episode that is not yet dated enough.

Enterprise was interesting in its first season in the way it both tried to distance itself from the Star Trek franchise and simply rewrote episodes from it. “Oasis” (reviewed here!), for example, only really works for the new audience who might never have seen “Shadowplay” (reviewed here!). And for a show that was trying to distance itself from the smart, politically-aware Star Trek audience, it seems odd that the series would bother with smart, current event-themed issue episodes. “Detained” is the first big politically relevant episode. While the episode references the Japanese internment camp in the United States in World War II (Manzanar), it is a clear allegory for the Guantanamo Bay internment camp in Cuba.

“Detained” is not quite like “A Private Little War” (reviewed here!) where the allegory was clearly one for the Vietnam War and the arms race against the Chinese. The intellectual argument in “Detained,” though, is one that is relevant in that it has a situation that is virtually identical to the unjust detainment of non-Taliban Middle Eastern “enemy combatants” by the United States at Guantanamo Bay. Given that Guantanamo Bay remains open, it is not like “Detained” reached a mass audience and make a difference of any kind in the world at large.

Travis Mayweather and Captain Archer awaken in a small cell on an alien world. There, they discover they are imprisoned with Suliban and the more familiar-looking Tandarians. There they find that Colonel Grat of the Tandarians is running a detention center for the Suliban that his people are at war with. In talking with the Suliban, Danik and Sajen, Archer and Mayweather quickly determine that the Suliban at the detention center are not members of the Suliban cabal who have attacked Enterprise in the past.

When Grat learns of the extensive history of interactions between Enterprise and the Suliban, he becomes more suspicious than before and decides to hold Archer beyond the promised release date. When Enterprise contacts the facility, Grat tries sending the ship to Tandar Prime, but when Archer’s hearing is delayed, T’Pol steers Enterprise toward the facility. When Archer sympathizes with the captured Suliban, he and Enterprise’s crew stage a jailbreak!

“Detained” was notable for its reuniting of Scott Bakula and Dean Stockwell, who both made it big together on Quantum Leap. In “Detained,” Bakula and Stockwell play adversaries as Archer and Colonel Grat, respectively. Grat, however, is a comparatively minor part (nothing as well-conceived for a villain, unlike – for example - Kurtwood Smith’s role in Star Trek: Voyager) and he and Bakula are not given the chance to really play off one another in a significant way that stretches their acting abilities. While they are good (actually, Bakula’s portrayal of Archer is underwhelming in “Detained”), the opportunity to reunite the two seems like a missed one.

The Tandarians are a largely pointless alien race in the larger Star Trek franchise, making “Detained” have less of an impact in the overall scheme of the Star Trek Saga. It’s not like the Federation has sinister origins by including the Tandarians in the original mix. In fact, outside an episode or two of Enterprise, they might not even be referenced again, making it yet another pointless alien race in Enterprise.

That said, the message in “Detained” is a good one, if it is a bit obvious. The Suliban are just good people who have been prejudicially associated with the extremist Suliban cabalists. The episode is odd in the way it presents the obvious conflict; Mayweather becomes the voice of the prejudiced human and this is an odd choice for the show. Mayweather has had no memorable interactions with the Suliban in the prior two episodes in which they have appeared. And yet, in his interactions with Sajen, Mayweather is forced to admit that he prejudged the Suliban as villains before he learned about them.

Also, rather oddly, “Detained” has some weird inconsistencies. The detention facility gets cold and while the place is shown to be in the middle of a desert, Suliban are seen in the background collecting firewood to keep warm. Where the hell did they get dry firewood in the middle of nowhere?!

Ultimately, “Detained” is a decent message episode, but not one that is memorable in the longterm. It does not have a fresh quality to it that makes one feel like they are seeing something truly new and it is not as clever as, for example, “A Private Little War” from Star Trek.

[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 Christopher Shea, please visit my reviews of:
“Think Tank” - Star Trek: Voyager
“The Magnificent Ferengi” - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
“Rocks And Shoals” - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine


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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