Sunday, July 14, 2013

Ugh! “Cease Fire” Is So Close To Being Good!

The Good: Decent plot and themes, Generally good character elements
The Bad: Awkward directing/special effects, A lot of terrible acting.
The Basics: Riddled with continuity and form problems, “Cease Fire” is a very direct episode that advances the ongoing plot of Enterprise.

When it comes to Star Trek: Enterprise there are some severe issues that come from the way the show interacts with the rest of the franchise. One of the best examples of that in the second season is “Cease Fire.” “Cease Fire” is another in a chain of episodes that follows the conflict between the Vulcans and the Andorians. The interactions between the Andorians and Vulcans is pretty much unique to Enterprise and “Cease Fire” follows up on the events of “The Andorian Incident” (reviewed here!) and “The Shadows Of P’Jem” (reviewed here!).

Unfortunately, “Cease Fire” does not just fit in poorly with the rest of the franchise for continuity issues, but is also plagued with effects and acting issues. While the episode holds up in terms of gelling with the rest of the series (so far), it continues to perpetrate problems with the Vulcan culture and is clunky on its own.

On a dark and desolate world, Andorian commander Shran makes the decision to call for Captain Archer to come negotiate at the disputed world. Archer soon receives a hail from Admiral Forrest, who is excited that the Vulcans seem to need the help of humans for a change. At issue is a world claimed by both the Andorians and the Vulcans. While the Andorians made the planet Weytahn habitable, the Vulcans claimed it as Paan Mokar. When the Enterprise arrives, they discover that Shran has taken hostages and Archer negotiates to get them released so the peace talks might begin.

While Shran works for peace, the Vulcan Ambassador Soval arrogantly declares that the Andorians cannot be trusted. When Archer and T’Pol head toward the surface with Soval, their shuttlepod is shot down. Soval blames the Andorians while Shran’s trusted lieutenant insists the Vulcans shot the shuttlepod down. In working to find the truth, Archer carves out a niche as a negotiator.

“Cease Fire” returns Jeffrey Combs to Enterprise and it also provides Suzie Plakson with another guest starring role (she is the Andorian Tarah). One of the awkward issues in “Cease Fire” actually has to do with the direction of the two of them. Combs is not one of the tallest actors working today, while Plakson is one of the tallest character actresses getting good roles. When director David Straiton has the two characters in a shot, he tries to minimize the height difference. Unfortunately, it looks like he made the attempt between (at least) two different takes and the reframing is distracting as Shran suddenly looks much less short by comparison.

As she frequently is, Jolene Blalock is much more expressive as T’Pol than a Vulcan ought to be. In fact, in scenes with Archer on the shuttlepod, she seems remarkably emotional and for a Vulcan character this is a huge performance issue. Blalock’s brief time on screen and her issues there are accented by how well Gary Graham performs as Soval and the memorably stony performance by John Balma as Soval’s colleague Muroc.

On the character front, “Cease Fire” has some moments of redemption as Archer moves to being a leader that is able to bridge the gap between different races. As Archer starts to pound out a peace between the Andorians and the Vulcans, there is the sense that his character is moving. For the first time, the idea that Daniels insinuated in “Shockwave, Part II” (reviewed here!) that put Archer in a position to be instrumental in the founding of the Federation is made plausible.

Archer’s minimal character development is the most substantive character development in the episode. “Cease Fire” fills in some of Soval’s backstory and has Shran put in a place to trust and build more of a trust in Archer. The episode is not much of a character episode, though. Plot-heavy and utterly unsurprising – it is almost laughable when Tarah asks Shran how long she has been his loyal lieutenant considering that this is the first time she has appeared in an Enterprise episode – “Cease Fire” also features super-clunky use of stunt doubles. Straiton cuts the scene with the big fight between Archer and (won’t spoil it!) in such a way that it is obvious that he is using stunt actors. So, there are painfully cut moments when Archer reacts to the person he is fighting jumping out of frame before a stunt actor kicks him in the face and then another stunt actor (for Bakula) falls to the ground.

Better in-context of Enterprise alone, “Cease Fire” is still far from perfect and those paying attention are much less likely to enjoy it than the casual fans.

The three biggest gaffes in “Cease Fire:”
3. Soval accepts alcohol, which is uncharacteristic of Vulcans. As an Ambassador, he should have no problem with a symbolic move like drinking with Shran because no matter how alcohol affects Vulcans, their mental disciplines should easily allow them to shrug off the effects of a small drink,
2. The Vulcans are characterized as relocating the Andorians using force, which is decidedly un-Vulcan. In fact, there is little logic in retaining the Andorians on the planet once they are contained,
1. The Andorians continually refer to the Vulcans as liars and that completely contradicts the cultural stereotypes of Vulcans in the rest of the franchise.

[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 Suzie Plakson, please check out my reviews of:
Red Eye
“The Q And The Grey” - Star Trek: Voyager
“Reunion” - Star Trek: The Next Generation
“The Emissary” - Star Trek: The Next Generation
“The Schizoid Man” - 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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