Friday, April 5, 2013

Lessons On Klingons Start In “Sleeping Dogs”

The Good: Generally good performances
The Bad: No real character development, Mediocre plot, Stupid continuity issues within the episode, Robs the viewer of the joy of discovery
The Basics: “Sleeping Dogs” provides Enterprise fans with a more well-rounded view of the Klingons.

The Klingons are a fan favorite of those who love the Star Trek franchise. It is, therefore, natural that Enterprise would seek to do the occasional Klingon episode and “Sleeping Dogs” is the first big Klingon episode of the series. It is odd to me, then, that the writers who would seek to use the Klingons would not present them in a terribly robust way. In fact, “Sleeping Dogs” might be one of the lamest possible ways to introduce the Klingons to new fans of the series.

The disappointment fans of the Star Trek franchise are bound to feel is the result of how the Klingons are not explored, but rather told about. T’Pol has, apparently, collected a ridiculous amount of information on the Klingons (yet does not remember the class of vessel from the Vulcan notes on Klingons) and she presents that information as exposition. In other words, in “Sleeping Dogs,” viewers do not see Klingons presenting their culture or beliefs, most of the episode simply has T’Pol and Archer telling viewers about what Klingons think and believe. As far as continuity goes, much of the episode seems like it would be a hugely roundabout way to introduce the Klingon neurotoxin used as a cure in “The Tholian Web” (reviewed here!). The episode does not quite commit to that, though.

While Lieutenant Reed wrestles with a head cold and helping Hoshi Sato with her target practice, the Enterprise encounters a Class 9 gas giant (which is distinctly different from the four gas giants in the Sol system). In studying the gas giant, the Enterprise finds a derelict ship recognizable to everyone but the crew as a Klingon ship. After Sato volunteers to join the Away Team, she, Reed, and T’Pol take the Shuttlepod to the adrift ship and discover it is Klingon. There, they encounter Bu’kaH, the only member of the Klingon crew not incapacitated by a neurotoxin that knocked out most of the crew.

When Bu’kaH steals the shuttlepod, Enterprise recovers it and Archer begins to try to understand the Klingons. Phlox cures the Klingon woman while Reed, T’Pol, and Sato work to get the Klingon ship online before it is crushed by the pressures of the gas giant.

“Sleeping Dogs” once again illustrates a lack of sensibility for people who are supposed to be early explorers. In addition to exposing themselves to an environment that contains a neurotoxin, the StarFleet officers (and T’Pol) witlessly remain stripped down during their attempt to explode their way out of the atmosphere. It seems like common sense that if one is on a ship where hull breaches are imminent and one is blowing up missiles in order to create a shockwave that might blow another hole in the ship, one would at least put their environmental suit on so that if there was an atmospheric decompression (that the structural integrity survived) they would be able to breathe.

To make the episode work, the Away Team witlessly does not include Trip Tucker, the chief engineer. While the episode acknowledges that they should have brought him along, it does not provide a reason why he was left behind. In fact, T’Pol is far less necessary to the Away Team than Trip would have been, making his absence feel all the more forced for plot.

In addition to being exposition-heavy and having character elements that quickly negate original characterization – Sato is no longer fearful of everything in the galaxy, which is pretty fast for a woman who was expressly not an explorer five months prior – “Sleeping Dogs” is simply not very exciting and affords no opportunities for great performances. Dominic Keating, Linda Park, and even Jolene Blalock give adequate performances that present their characters well-enough, but not in any remarkable way. Scott Bakula is still fairly stiff as Jonathan Archer, but he makes it almost seem plausible that he could suddenly try to “think like a Klingon” despite the fact that he and StarFleet know almost nothing about the alien race.

Ultimately, “Sleeping Dogs” could have been tense, like “The Ship” (reviewed here!) and when Reed realized what a huge tactical advantage recovering the Klingon ship would give StarFleet, the fact that it does not go in that direction at all is disappointing. The fight for survival is oversimplified and given that Reed notes that it would be a shame to lose the shuttlepod (as opposed to caring as much about the three officers who might be lost), it seems to be a glaring problem with the episode that Reed does not strongly advocate for recovering the Klingon ship for the technology (unconscious Klingons aboard notwithstanding). In the end, “Sleeping Dogs” is a banal introduction to the Klingon culture that does service neither to them, nor their human explorers who are learning about them.

The three biggest gaffes in “Sleeping Dogs:”
3. In “A Matter Of Honor” (reviewed here!), the notion of gagh – Klingon serpent worms eaten live – is still clearly a novelty and not something humans are familiar with. Yet in “Sleeping Dogs,” T’Pol knows all about it and shares that information with her human comrades,
2. “Sleeping Dogs” happens five months into the journey of the Enterprise; if the Klingon homeworld and the Klingon Empire’s presence spans so very close to Earth, it seems somewhat ridiculous that the Klingons never conquered or even attacked Earth . . . especially now, when the Klingons have so many styles of ship that T’Pol cannot keep track of them and Earth is defended by a single Warp 5 capable ship with only three phase cannons and a couple of missile launchers,
1. T’Pol asserts that Klingons do not use escape pods. This is directly contradicted by Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s “Penumbra” (reviewed here!), where Ezri has to rescue Worf’s escape pod from the Badlands. Equally important, Worf – several times – advocates for living to fight another day as opposed to dying pointlessly.

[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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