Sunday, June 30, 2013

If The Food Network Dumps Padma Lakshmi, She Can Always Do Star Trek Conventions . . .

The Good: The acting is generally fine
The Bad: No real character development, Bland plot, Lascivious direction
The Basics: “Precious Cargo” has Trip and an alien woman figuring out how to get along when they escape from an alien ship together.

Sometimes, in making a prequel, the writer and producers of a show just make a mess of things. In the case of Enterprise, that happened more frequently than not. Ironically, with “Precious Cargo” the mess was made when the series stepped into it. In Star Trek: The Next Generation, there were two worlds called Krios – one in “The Perfect Mate” (reviewed here!), one in “The Mind’s Eye” (reviewed here!). For a long time, there was debate as to whether they were two different worlds or not and, to be fair to “Precious Cargo,” the episode makes enough of an effort to establish a difference between Krios and Krios Prime. Unfortunately, while Krios Prime is supposed to be the Krios from “The Mind’s Eye,” Kaitaama (the Kriosian in “Precious Cargo”) has the Trill-like spots of the Kriosian from “The Perfect Mate.”

“Precious Cargo” is an episode of Enterprise that keeps delaying becoming something more than what it initially appears to be. The moment Kaitaama and Trip begin to communicate, the episode falls into a somewhat ridiculous antagonistic affection episode that is vaguely titillating and seems to have little purpose other than to show off Padma Lakshmi’s legs and smile. For the scenes set in the escape pod, director David Livingston frames the shots to focus on Lakshmi’s physical attributes more than her performance.

Trip is called back to duty from his off hours when a Retellian cargo ship comes into range. The Retellians are transporting a woman whose stasis pod is malfunctioning. They ask for assistance and after Tucker tries to fix the pod – after Sato translates the Retellian controls for him - it malfunctions. The Retellian captain Firek Goff abducts Trip and the alien woman and Enterprise pursues the cargo ship, though they use a cloud of dilithium gas to get away. When Tucker and the woman get the ability to communicate using the universal translator, he learns that her name is Kaitaama and she is the First Monarch of Krios Prime.

While Archer tries to get information out of the Retellian left aboard Enterprise, Trip helps Kaitaama break out of the cargo bay. The two escape in an escape pod. There, Trip finds Kaitaama to be a pain in the butt and he and the other escapee work to navigate the escape pod. The two struggle to get along as Kaitaama is privileged, but inexperienced, and Trip is a bit rough around the edges for her. The two crash on a nearby alien world and there they await rescue.

Kaitaama is an unfortunately whiny antagonist and the episode is not strong enough to make one actually care about how she and Trip relate. In fact, their coupling is more of an inevitability than a surprise. This is not entirely the fault of Padma Lakshmi, who plays the Kriosian; the character is just written that way. At every opportunity, Livingston focuses on Lakshmi’s calves or full legs, so the softcore tease is obvious and cheap. On the plus side (I suppose), Lakshmi plays whiny and annoying credibly.

“Precious Cargo” does not advance the character of Trip Tucker – in fact, it illustrates well that he has not truly learned anything from “Unexpected” (reviewed here!) or “Two Days And Two Nights” (reviewed here!). He’s just happy to score.

Sadly, “Precious Cargo” seems to advance the character of T’Pol, but not in a believable way. Aboard Enterprise, Archer used T’Pol to playact as a legal arbiter who participates in the subtle manipulation of Firek Plinn. While this could show that T’Pol is learning and growing as a character (time will tell on that one), she has in the past been entirely unsuited to lying, acting, and (especially) improvising. Dr. Phlox, on the other hand, could have been reasonably used in this capacity, but is noticeably absent from the episode. T’Pol assists in deceiving Plinn and that does not fit her character at all. Moreover, the ruse only works because the Retellians are, apparently, unfamiliar with Vulcans.

In short, “Precious Cargo” is not a painful to watch episode, but it does lack finesse or a sense of purpose or larger statement that one wants out of Star Trek. The result is just another somewhat pointless alien encounter that does not build to anything bigger.

The three biggest gaffes in “Precious Cargo:”
3. Enterprise has frequently been shown to be cramped, yet there is a big empty room that Archer and T’Pol use to torment Firek Plinn in. At least as important, Archer mentions starting with a crew of 81, but being down to 76 crewmembers. There have been far more than 81 different background actors on Enterprise. Boo!
2. T’Pol being called upon to lie and improvise is ridiculous. Even Spock, who was only half-Vulcan, had an inability to pull off a ruse – like in “A Piece Of The Action” (reviewed here!) where he can only make literal, non-lying statements like having never calculated the odds of a Royal Fizbin. T’Pol actively lies in the scene and consciously deceives the Retellians.
1. Kaitaama is being taken to Krios Prime, which was featured in “The Mind’s Eye.” Given that Enterprise is one of only a few existing Warp 5 vessels (and thus the Retellians must be going noticeably slower than that, Warp 2 to be specific), a five month journey in the Retellian ship would not take it very far. “The Mind’s Eye” had Krios Prime as a Klingon colony, which once again suggests that the Klingon Empire and the heart of the Federation are dramatically closer than they should be, especially given that Krios prime was a significant enough distance from Risa in Star Trek: The Next Generation.

[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 Leland Crooke, please visit my reviews of:
Angel - Season 5
The Master Of Disguise
“Honor Among Thieves” - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
“One Little Ship” - 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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