Friday, October 4, 2013

Recreating Absurdity: “Extinction” Continues A Bad Star Trek Trend.

The Good: Moments of physical performance
The Bad: Terrible concept, effects, plot, Lack of character development
The Basics: “Extinction” is a lousy Star Trek: Enterprise episode that recreates elements of two terrible episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager and manages to make them worse!

For as much as I love the Star Trek franchise, the various series’ of Star Trek have a bad tendency to reuse some of their worst ideas. It does not take a very scholarly interpretation to see that Star Trek: The Motion Picture (reviewed here!) bears a strong resemblance to “The Changeling” (reviewed here!) and Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (reviewed here!) is just “The Way To Eden” (reviewed here!) redressed. Neither “The Changeling” nor “The Way To Eden” has ever been called one of the most popular episodes (both have, at various points, been in the bottom ten Star Trek episodes when fans have been surveyed). With Star Trek: Enterprise, Brannon Braga’s obsession with ignoring the original Star Trek seems like it might have made it easy for him to not make the same mistake.

And yet, with “Extinction,” Star Trek: Enterprise seems to prove the franchise will just keep making the same mistakes. Ironically, considering the mutation-special “Threshold” (reviewed here!) from Star Trek: Voyager and how poorly it was received by the critics and fans, it is ironic that Braga would make another mutation episode. “Extinction,” though, has even less appeal and emotional resonance than “Threshold.”

After an alien is burned alive on an alien planet, Charles Tucker visits T’Pol in her quarters for more meditative therapy. Their session is interrupted by Archer, who informs T’Pol he may have found a planet visited by the Arboreal Xindi. Detecting a ship, Reed, T’Pol, Archer, and Sato take a shuttlepod down to the surface. There, the Away Team begins to mutate into another form of life. Acting on instinct, Sato, Archer, and Reed attack T’Pol (whose mutations are occurring at a slower rate).

Tucker – smartly wearing an environmental suit – is saved from an attack by the mutated Archer by T’Pol. Recovering Reed, Tucker returns to the Enterprise where Dr. Phlox determines that with T’Pol’s K-cells, he can synthesize an antibody to restore the mutated crew members. When two alien ships return to the planet and menace Enterprise, Tucker is put in an untenable position. While Archer dreams of a city on the planet, the visiting alien Tret tells Phlox about how the virus was created as a weapon and Phlox works to counteract its effects.

“Extinction” lacks the emotional tether of similar mutation episodes in the Star Trek franchise. After an act of three actors leaping around spouting gibberish, the universal translator kicks in and instead of anything remotely character-centered, “Extinction” uses the dialogue for excessive plot exposition. The mutated Archer becomes obsessed with finding a city which – through his dreams – he is able to actually find (although not in the condition he recalled).

“Extinction” lacks any genuine character development outside the first five minutes. It is hardly developing the characters to have T’Pol and Tucker continue their meditations. Instead, it just seems like a cheap excuse to have Connor Trinneer take off his shirt.

The special effects in “Extinction” are a wash. While the make-up effects are good, the CG transformation of the characters as they mutate are pretty terrible and the computer-generated effects do not hold up on high definition. Even worse, the bluescreen shots are painfully obvious.

“Extinction” also features a number of serious continuity or detail errors. How much DNA does a Vulcan really leave from taking a bite out of a peach?! Cracking the faceplate on Tucker’s helmet does not leave him infected, yet a small tear on the arm of one of the aliens’ environmental suits is excuse enough to execute him!? Even more disturbing; Archer begins harvesting biological weapons and his weak assertions to Phlox hold up with the doctor! Moreover, what is the point of having only one vial-sized stasis compartment?! The prop department truly fell down for creating something sensible for “Extinction.” Archer, Reed, and Sato act completely animalistic, but they understand complicated concepts like dreams and once the universal translator comes online, they speak in sufficiently articulate ways to make it absolute nonsense that they would act like animals in the prior scenes.

The only points I can muster up for “Extinction” come from the physical acting of Linda Park and Scott Bakula. Bakula transforms his entire bearing into an animalistic one and the abrupt, weird, movements are completely different from his usual performance. Similarly, Linda Park stands around in one of the least organic or sensible postures of any Star Trek performer ever and that convinces the viewer she actually has been completely transformed.

Sadly, it is not enough to sell the episode or convince the viewer of the “reality” of the episode.

The biggest gaffe in “Extinction,” relative to the rest of the Star Trek franchise is: Given how similar these conditions are, the mutation from “Genesis” (reviewed here!) should have been cured in about five minutes by any of Dr. Crusher’s nurses.

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Enterprise - The Complete Third Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the penultimate season here!

For other works with Roger R. Cross, please visit my reviews of:
The Chronicles Of Riddick
World Trade Center


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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