Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Light On Character, “The Forgotten” Still Succeeds!

The Good: Moments of character, Generally decent acting, Good plot continuation
The Bad: Thematically heavy-handed on the Tucker/Taylor front.
The Basics: “The Forgotten” has Tucker coming apart at the seams trying to hold the Enterprise together while Archer negotiates with Degra and Jannar to stop them from deploying the Xindi weapon.

Continuing a heavily serialized storyline is a risk for any television series, but when a show truly commits to it, it can pay off wonderfully. With the third season of Star Trek: Enterprise, by the time “The Forgotten” was produced, the show was floundering, so the producers redoubled their efforts to tighten the story arc. As a result, “The Forgotten” plays significantly less well for those who have not seen “Azati Prime” (reviewed here!) and “Damage” (reviewed here!). “The Forgotten” is a direct follow-up to those episodes and while it might be largely plot-based, it is still entertaining and well-presented.

While “The Forgotten” has minimal character development for the main characters of Star Trek: Enterprise, there is some evolution for the character T’Pol and there is a decent amount of expansion for the adversaries Degra and Jannar. While the initiating incident for T’Pol’s continued degradation might have been one of the more contrived messes of the third season, the idea of sustaining the consequences to it plays well in “The Forgotten.” As well, having both Degra and Jannar appear as genuine leaders and men of reason makes the episode flow well.

Following the attack that left eighteen aboard Enterprise dead, the Enterprise is still severely damaged and Archer pushes Tucker to get as many repairs done before the Enterprise has to make a rendezvous with Degra in ten hours. T’Pol meets with Phlox, who reveals that her Trellium poisoning might make her susceptible to emotions for the rest of her life. When the Enterprise arrives for its meeting with Degra, it encounters a spatial anomaly before Degra’s ship arrives and has the Enterprise follow to a safe point, near one of the Spheres. When Archer confirms that the Xindi weapon is not currently being launched, he brings Degra and the Xindi Arboreal Jannar aboard. While they want proof of his time traveling abilities, he is only able to show them the corpses of the Xindi Reptiles brought back from Earth’s past.

When Archer brings Degra and Jannar to the Xindi toxin he recovered in the past, Degra seems convinced, but Jannar remains skeptical. Phlox relieves the exhausted Tucker before Archer has him share information with the two Xindi about the transdimensional alien that visited and died aboard the Enterprise. That seems to shake Degra, though Jannar wants something much more tangible. When Tucker confronts Degra about the weapon he built, the contrast between him and Archer is tangible. As Archer works to gain Degra’s trust, Reed and Tucker have to go out onto the surface of the Enterprise to fix a plasma conduit rupture before the ship is destroyed.

On the character front, “The Forgotten” has Archer getting more and more desperate, but retaining a level head for conversation the way one tends to expect Star Trek captains to behave. The more significant character arcs are Tucker and T’Pol. Tucker has not slept in two days, since the attack and his exhaustion during the repairs leads him to hallucinate. As Tucker agonizes over writing a letter to the family of an engineer who died in the attack, his character wrestles with a great deal of guilt over the death of his sister. That leads Tucker to his outburst with Degra and in addition to being good television. The only thing that could have strengthened this arc would have been if Taylor (the dead crewman) had actually been featured in prior episodes.

T’Pol’s arc in the episode is a bit more subtle. She shows genuine concern for Tucker and the idea that she might be stuck with emotions is an intriguing twist. Actress Jolene Blalock starts playing T’Pol with more facial expressions and with obvious concern in her eyes whenever she delivers lines about characters being in peril.

“The Forgotten” is also notable in that it features a cameo appearance from Seth MacFarlane, creator of Family Guy (volume ten is reviewed here!). Sadly, though, it is a “blink and you miss it” appearance. More impressive is the performance by Randy Oglesby as Degra. As the episode progresses, Oglesby is given an opportunity to play the character as shaken and when he transitions the character from disturbed to resolved, it comes across completely organically. Oglesby is a wonderful actor and having the long arc to play Degra allows him to illustrate more range than he has on any of his other Star Trek guest starring roles.

“The Forgotten” has some decent special effects for the starships, but the computer generated people on the hull of the Enterprise move awkwardly. It is not enough to sink the episode, but it hardly enhances the episode.

The biggest gaffe in “The Forgotten” is that the Enterprise suffers from a plasma fire, which threatens the ship. It is venting a fire into space, but in “Disaster” (reviewed here!), the plasma fire clearly needs air to burn. In “The Forgotten,” the plasma fire burns out into space in a way that it ought not to.

[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 Star Trek episode and movie reviews, please visit my Star Trek Review Index Page!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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