Monday, June 3, 2013

More Humor Than Substance, “Carbon Creek” Revises Star Trek’s Memorable First Contact.

The Good: Fair acting, Good humor
The Bad: Somewhat preposterous concept in the overall franchise, No real character development.
The Basics: T’Pol tells the real story of first contact between humans and Vulcans.

One of the most consistent aspects of Star Trek: Enterprise was that the producers had absolutely no problem with saying to hell with the history of the Star Trek universe. Every now and then, their sense of revisionist history created an episode that was interesting on the surface, but when one scratches at the surface of it, it becomes far less pleasant. “Carbon Creek” is one such episode. While the episode is generally enjoyable, even in the context of the episode there are some truly annoying facets for those who actually appreciate the Vulcans. Chief among these issues is that the Vulcan Stron says many things are “impossible” when they are anything but (if Spock can assemble a working computer in the 1940s, Stron should be able to use 22nd technology and 1950s tech to build a subspace transceiver.

Beyond that, “Carbon Creek” is the negation of the significant climax to Star Trek: First Contact (reviewed here!). The episode hinges on the idea that the official First Contact between humans and Vulcans was not actually the first contact between the two races. While the Star Trek franchise does comedy from time to time well, “Carbon Creek” is not one of the better Star Trek comedies. As well, the ultimate resolution to the episode is somewhat hard to buy and seems cheap as opposed to meaningful.

While talking about the crew evaluations, T’Pol is asked by Archer and Trip to share a story. Archer is curious as to why T’Pol would take leave in Carbon Creek, Pennsylvania during her tour of duty on Earth. T’Pol tells the story of her great grandmother, T’Mir. T’Mir was part of a four-person Vulcan ship that was damaged in 1957 near Earth. The ship sets down near Carbon Creek and the three Vulcan survivors including T’Mir, Mestral and Stron. After going through their rations and days of starving, the Vulcans opt for visiting the nearby settlement. There, T’Mir and Mestral meet with citizens and earn enough money for food by playing pool.

Stuck on Earth for months, Mestral starts watching television and dating the local bartender, Maggie. When the local miners are caught in a cave in, the Vulcans assist in rescuing them. T’Mir, influenced by Mestral’s example, helps Maggie’s son Jack get the funds to go to college.

“Carbon Creek” features Vulcans who hardly act like Vulcans and it is hard to complain about the acting as the writing for the Vulcans is so problematic. Mestral has an interesting character arc and if the character was anyone other than a Vulcan, who is trained from early childhood to repress their emotions, it would work. Strom, on the other hand is a decent Vulcan.

Jolene Blalock plays T’Pol’s great grandmother T’Mir well, though without any distinctive performance differences from how she plays T’Pol. Ann Cusack and J. Paul Boehmer give decent guest starring performances as Maggie and Mestral. Even Hank Harris does all right as Jack, though the young actor is not given a character with an exceptional amount to do.

Ultimately, “Carbon Creek” is a fun on the surface episode that is largely unremarkable and, at the same time, works so hard to undermine the established history of the Star Trek universe.

The three biggest gaffes in “Carbon Creek:”
3. The Vulcans in the episode use an inordinate number of contractions. While that is not a hard and fast rule with the Vulcans, Spock seldom used contractions and for Vulcans, there seems something illogical about creating a language that would require or encourage a simpler form of speech, like contractions. Perhaps more substantively, T’Pol constantly complains about how humans smell; not one of the Vulcans in the episode even note that.
2. Mestral lies repeatedly in the episode. Vulcans aren’t supposed to lie . . . even to one another!
1. T’Pol tells Archer and Tucker the story of Vulcan’s real first contact with humans in the 22nd Century. How does this secret remain secret then through (at least) the 24th Century when the Enterprise-D’s crew still attribute first contact to Zephram Cochrane. This concept becomes less and less logical as time passes as keeping such a secret becomes more of a liability than a “state secret.”

[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 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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