Monday, July 29, 2013

Nearing The End Of The First Phase Of Enterprise Shows A Lack Of “Judgment!”

The Good: Cool special effects, Moments of performance
The Bad: Entirely derivative, Lack of genuine social commentary, While there is some character reflection, there is no real development.
The Basics: “Judgment” is yet another episode of Enterprise that might be fine on its own, but has a distinctly dungy appearance after so much other Star Trek . . . which it shits on.

Enterprise was a conceptually-plagued television show that, arguably, went through three iterations. The first, Enterprise was an attempted prequel to Star Trek that exhibited a distinct lack of regard for the decades of works that came before it. The second phase was the third season, which was a self-contained, heavily-serialized adventure in a pocket universe that was entirely ironic in that it had absolutely no connection to the rest of the Star Trek universe, but was the first season to be called Star Trek: Enterprise. The final phase of the show was the fourth season, which was written by people who actually gave a damn about the franchise and spent a year trying to connect the crap that came before with all of the beloved Star Trek works that followed (at least in terms of in-universe chronology). As the writers and producers of Enterprise labored near the end of the second season, there was a certain irony to their direction. Even as viewers continued to abandon the series, the writing progressed with more stories that seemed to be a big “fuck you!” to the loyal fans who made the Star Trek franchise into multi-billion dollar enterprise it was.

One of the big “f-u” episodes near the end of the second season was “Judgment.” In addition to completely undermining Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (reviewed here!), “Judgment” is a particularly cheap rip off of the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episodes “Tribunal” (reviewed here!) and “Rules Of Engagement” (reviewed here!). The narrative technique is essentially stolen from “Rules Of Engagement” and the concept is largely a cheap rehash of “Tribunal.”

Opening with Archer imprisoned on a Klingon world, under suspicion of conspiracy, Archer finds himself waiting for his trial. Archer meets with the defense attorney, Kolos, who lets him know that the charges will be given at the trial. There, Archer and Kolos discover that Archer’s recent rescue of colonists who are subjects of the Klingon Empire, which resulted in an attack by Captain Duras and his ship the Bortas. Archer defended against the Bortas and in rescuing the colonists, he manages to raise the ire of the Klingons.

Kolos defends Archer only after Archer pushes him to actually do his job. Kolos recalls better times for the Klingon Empire and he pushes to have Archer regarded as a nuisance instead of a criminal against the Empire. Despite Kolos’s advocacy, Archer is condemned to life on Rura Penthe.

If virtually everything in “Judgment” had not been previously done in other incarnations of Star Trek. “Judgment” is a fine Klingon episode that fleshes out the idea of Klingon culture very nicely, however, it presents several of the same concepts as “Tribunal” without the larger social commentaries relevant to human society today. This is somewhat insulting as Enterprise had a forum to attack current social problems under the Bush Administration under the guise of the bloated and problematic Klingon Empire. Instead, “Judgment” just focuses on the plot-based ideas of the issues that plagued the Klingon Empire.

Kolos having his moral awakening is way too thin an allegory for standing up against the injustices of the Bush Administration.

Instead, “Judgment” – at the same time it is spitting on the Star Trek history that makes things like a jailbreak from Rura Penthe utterly inconceivable – makes some very clever prequel references to the Star Trek franchise. “Judgment” is basically a heady prequel to the Klingon arc on Star Trek: The Next Generation. The Klingon arc on Star Trek: The Next Generation features the Duras family, which was a dishonorable Klingon family that allied itself with the Romulans. “Judgment” makes some fun references to “Redemption” (reviewed here!) and “Sins Of The Father” (reviewed here!) in that the Klingon captain (turned weapon’s officer) Duras is the son of Toral (it was the opposite way in “Redemption”) and his ship was the Bortas, which was the Klingon flagship introduced in “Redemption!”

The resolution to “Judgment” is insulting beyond belief. Without spoiling the episode entirely, the lack of sophistication to the jailbreak from the tightest jail in the galaxy is ridiculous.

“Judgment” features the sole Enterprise appearance by Star Trek franchise veteran J.G. Hertzler. Hertzler plays Kolos and he makes for a perfectly credible litigator. Hertzler speaks with passion about the Klingon Empire in a way that makes it seem like Kolos deeply cares about the fate of the Empire and its past glory. It is almost like Hertzler is emoting the disappointment of the fans in seeing how the franchise has been degraded by Enterprise. Regardless of the subtext, Hertzler plays Kolos with a strength and dignity that he is known for and he performs the one-shot role exceptionally well.

Also making his final appearance in the franchise is John Vickery, who plays the Klingon prosecutor Orak. Vickery is good in the role, though he is not given much opportunity or freedom to actually perform beyond playing the part of a generic antagonist.

One of the things “Judgment” does have going for it are the special effects. The brief space battle in “Judgment” is impressive and makes the episode initially engaging. As well, John Billingsley’s brief role in the episode’s early scene is one of his more engaging ones. It characterizes Phlox as somewhat smarter and more devious than Archer and Billingsley sells it.

Unfortunately, it is not enough to save “Judgment.” “Judgment” lacks depth, sophistication, and originality that fans of the Star Trek franchise want and expect. Those who only watch Enterprise might enjoy it, but those who have been fans of all the Trek that came before are much more likely to be insulted by the lowbrow nature of this episode.

The three biggest gaffes in “Judgment:”
3. Archer’s Klingon food is served to him cooked, not alive or freshly killed,
2. If Captain Archer had been tried in a Klingon court, the novelty of the sense of Klingon jurisprudence would not have endured for the next hundred years,
1. In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country no one had ever escaped from Rura Penthe.

[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 John Vickery, please check out my reviews of:
“Tacking Into The Wind” - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
“When It Rains . . .” - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
“The Changing Face Of Evil” - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Babylon 5
“Night Terrors” - Star Trek: The Next Generation


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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