Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Only Original To The Non-Fans: “Cogenitor.”

The Good: Decent acting, Special effects, General concept
The Bad: Entirely recycled plot
The Basics: Obvious and already-done, “Cogenitor” is a ridiculous oversimplification of gender issues and nothing that fans of the Star Trek franchise have not already been familiar with.

When it comes to Star Trek as metaphor, the only thing more insulting about Enterprise than when it completely neglects to present a plot that is smart and conceptually complex enough to include a metaphoric level is when the series simply recycles a metaphoric plot. Only those who are not fans of the rest of the Star Trek franchise will find the Enterprise episode “Cogenitor” to be at all original. After all, “Cogenitor” is an unfortunately cheap retread of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The Outcast” (reviewed here!). While “The Outcast” used a genderless race as a metaphor for homosexuality and sexual identification, “Cogenitor” finds an alien race that has three genders and that is used to tell a story of gender equality rights that is not at all impressive.

Despite the issues with the plot and recycled metaphor of “Cogenitor,” there is a real simple thrill for genre fans in this episode: it marks one of the last on-screen appearances of the great Andreas Katsulas, who played G’Kar on Babylon 5 (reviewed here!). Presented here with minimal make-up, Katsulas plays a Vissian Captain and lends his strong bearing and amazing voice to make Drennik appear to be a fully-realized and credible alien captain.

The Enterprise arrives at a hyper-giant star where they discover another ship, which is able to get much closer to the phenomenon than they are. The ship is Vissian and they are technologically advanced compared to the humans on the StarFleet vessel. As Reed works with familiarizing himself with the visiting women and Archer explores with the Vissian Captain Drennik, Tucker becomes intrigued by the Vissian engineer’s family. The Chief Engineer’s family includes a Cogenitor, a third gender who is used for reproducing in Vissian society. Tucker begins to become concerned with how the Cogenitor is treated and comes to believe that it is treated poorly.

After teaching the Cogenitor how to read, Tucker begins to advocate for the Cogenitor’s rights. While Reed gets fresh with another Vissian and Archer is thrilled to explore a spatial phenomenon no other human has ever seen before, Tucker throws himself into a social upheaval when the Vissians discover the Cogenitor has learned to read. The Cogenitor asks for asylum and Archer returns to the Enterprise to find that the Cogenitor is asking for rights of its own.

“Cogenitor” has a truly wonderful performance by Andreas Katsulas and he plays off Scott Bakula’s Archer incredibly well. The debate that comes up as a result of Tucker’s meddling is well-presented, though the fact that it takes Archer a scene to stand up against what could easily be interpreted as sexual slavery is somewhat appalling.

What makes no real sense is the cultural design of the Vissians. The Cogenitors represent approximately 3% of Vissian society. Because they are necessary for Vissian reproduction, it seems strange that they would not be treated as cherished members of society instead of chattel. Given how enlightened the rest of Vissian culture appears to be, it seems strange that Drennik and the Vissians would resist the idea of giving Cogenitors equal rights. In other words, “Cogenitor” seems like a forced moral issue instead of an organic one.

As a result, much of the rest of “Cogenitor” and the moralizing seems pedantic and overdone, as opposed to realistic or engaging.

That said, Connor Trinneer gives one of his best performances of the series as Trip. He is emotionally well-rounded in the role and for a change, Trip does not dumb or unsophisticated. In fact, it is a rare thing that Tucker is given the chance to shine as a moral and well-rounded character who is layered and complex. Trinneer rises to the challenge and that is refreshing to see.

“Cogenitor” also makes decent use of the special effects on the series. The episode has a pretty cool spatial phenomenon and the Vissian ships, though looking like a derivation of the Kazon ships, look very different from many of the familiar Star Trek ships!

Ultimately, “Cogenitor” seems like another desperate, late in the second season attempt to get back the audience that made Star Trek into a worldwide phenomenon (which the Enterprise producers were happy to mortgage at the outset of the series) and it is unfortunately far too close to other episodes to truly excite the viewer.

The three biggest gaffes in “Cogenitor:”
3. The Vissians are yet another alien race living in the heart of what will be Federation space that are never seen again in the Star Trek franchise,
2. Reed mentions some of the technology on Enterprise works on multiphasic technology, but that technology is being developed in “Suspicions” (reviewed here!) in Star Trek: The Next Generation,
1. In Star Trek: The Next Generation the periodic table of elements is vastly expanded from what it is now. However, it is nowhere near as big as having 270 (or more) elements, which the Vissians mention they have discovered and utilize. How the Federation and StarFleet have not made such a leap in two hundred years is utterly inconceivable.

[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 F.J. Rio, please check out my reviews of:
“Repentance” - Star Trek: Voyager
“The Ship” - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
“Hard Time” - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
“Starship Down” - 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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