Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Hoshi Sato Aids Continuity And The Psychology Of Her Character In “Vanishing Point!”

The Good: Psychology, Linda Park’s performance is fine, Most of the special effects
The Bad: Some clunky line deliveries for the technobabble, Make-up effects, Very predictable plot
The Basics: When Hoshi Sato’s fear of transporters is brought front and center for an episode, the result is a very Braga episode of Enterprise!

Every now and then, the writers and producers of Enterprise seem to recall that the series is part of a larger franchise and they actually make an effort to show some respect for continuity. To that end, “Vanishing Point” seems to exist for one purpose: to make a single line from the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Realm Of Fear” (reviewed here!) make sense. In that episode, Lieutenant Barclay self-diagnoses his issues as transporter psychosis. However, there has not been a case of transporter psychosis for 200 years. Enter “Vanishing Point,” which is set about two hundred years prior to Star Trek: The Next Generation and writers Rick Berman and Brannon Braga work to try to make that line true in-context.

A rare episode focusing on Ensign Hoshi Sato, “Vanishing Point” is a psychological exploration episode and outside the purpose I just mentioned, it seems to have very little point. As an unfortunate side effect of that, the viewers are stuck with an episode that belabors a process (transporting) that was treated as largely mundane by the characters in the hundreds of hours of Star Trek prior to this episode and the actors struggle to make it through the episode with performances that indicate they have any idea what the point of the episode is. In fact, almost immediately, “Vanishing Point” is plagued by clunky line deliveries (especially of the technobabble) that makes the viewer feel like they are watching something more akin to a b-rate horror film than a polished episode of Star Trek.

That said, the episode is smart enough to largely maintain the character-driven focus on Sato and, until the Braga-esque reversal in the episode’s final moments, it succeeds well at exploring all of Sato’s insecurities.

Trip and Sato are exploring ancient ruins on a planet when a series of poleric energy storms swoop in. Unable to get back to the shuttlepod in time, Archer insists Reed beam the pair back to Enterprise. Clearly having trepidations about the process, Sato waits for Tucker to beam back first and then she is beamed up. After approaching Phlox for an examination to set her mind at ease, Sato returns to her quarters to get a good night’s sleep. She is awoken after missing the first three hours of her shift to learn that Trip and Mayweather have been taken hostage by aliens on the planet’s surface, despite the fact that no aliens were present there. Unable to understand the alien’s language, she returns to her quarters in disgrace where she continues to feel unsettled.

When Sato visits the mess hall, she learns that Crewman Baird has been put in charge of communications and the hostage crisis has been resolved. Confused (because Baird is not much of a linguist), Sato visits with Phlox and Trip to discuss how unsettled she is as others ostracize her. When her body begins passing through objects and her own reflection becomes ghostline, Sato freaks out. T’Pol and Trip come looking for her, but are unable to see her even though she is in the room with them. Sato follows Trip around as he and Phlox essentially pronounce her dead and she hallucinates the alien language she heard on the bridge, but still does not understand. Soon, she sees the aliens aboard the ship, planting bombs that will destroy Enterprise. In her non-corporal state, Sato desperately tries to warn Archer and stop the aliens to save the ship.

One of the nice aspects of “Vanishing Point” is that its resolution gets away from the nitpicks one might have about ghosts being immaterial to all walls, but able to walk on the floor. In that regard, “Vanishing Point” covers itself well.

In a similar fashion, outside the obvious elements of fear explored – Sato’s insecurity about the transporter – “Vanishing Point” is psychologically smart when it focuses on Sato. Sato has real insecurities about leaving the ship (so she talks her way out of going back down to the surface), being invisible to her peers (which she literally becomes) and insecure in her job position (she was not active StarFleet when the show began, having found herself more suited to the university than space exploration). So, the manifestations of her fear work well to flesh out the character some in a decent way. Similarly, her psychological defense mechanism, trying to inform her subconscious, is presented smartly as well. The aliens on the dead planet become an increasing menace and that plays well in “Vanishing Point.”

Sadly, neither of the positive aspects of the episode explains adequately how Sato hallucinates the Tosk (from “Captive Pursuit,” reviewed here!), which is what the aliens she sees seem to be. They also do not explain why Scott Bakula, especially, delivers one of the stiffest, most awkward performances of his career or why director David Straiton seems obsessed in the episode with getting actress Linda Park undressed.

Ultimately, “Vanishing Point” is predictable, but not horrible and sometimes, that is the best we can ask for from Enterprise.

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Enterprise - The Complete Second Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the sophmore season here!

For other works with Keone Young, please visit my reviews of:
Men In Black 3
“If Wishes Were Horses” - 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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