Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Predicting The Future Of Healing, “Home” Is A “Necessary Evil” Episode Of Star Trek: Enterprise.

The Good: Character explorations, Place in the series, Moments of Connor Trinneer’s performance
The Bad: Overly familiar to fans of the Star Trek franchise, Ethical issues, Some truly unimpressive performances
The Basics: “Home” was an episode of Star Trek: Enterprise that made perfect sense to be produced, but it is riddled with problems for fans of the Star Trek franchise.

One of the nice aspects of serialized television is how big events in a series have effects and after the climactic moments, most good television has a tendency to reflect upon those events. In the case of the Star Trek franchise, on the rare occasions the show has returned to Earth, they have usually been for reflective episodes. For example, after “The Best Of Both Worlds, Part 2” (reviewed here!), Star Trek: The Next Generation had “Family” (reviewed here!). Following the seasonlong arc of the third season of Star Trek: Enterprise (reviewed here!) and the two-part season premiere for the fourth season, Star Trek: Enterprise took time to explore the ramifications of events in the Alpha Quadrant while the Enterprise was in the expanse with the episode “Home.”

“Home” is a fairly small, character-centered episode that reflects back and prepares viewers for the original plotline threaded throughout the fourth season of Star Trek: Enterprise. The fourth season of Star Trek: Enterprise was preoccupied with rectifying the series with the rest of the franchise, most notably making early Federation history align with Star Trek. The original plot in the fourth season of Star Trek: Enterprise that does not have to do with realigning the series is a plotline about the rise of xenophobia on Earth. “Home” introduces that plotline. As far as looking back, “Home” references “Impulse” (reviewed here!) and with the return of the Vulcans, the fact that the lone third season episode that focused on Vulcans has consequences makes some sense.

Opening with Captain Archer addressing StarFleet, the Enterprise’s return to Earth as heroes has the citizens of Earth relaxing for the first time in a year. While Archer reunites with Captain Erika Hernandez – who is commanding the second NX starship, still in spacedock under construction – T’Pol prepares to leave for Vulcan, inviting Tucker along. When Archer debriefs StarFleet Command, he ends up being interrogated heavily about the destruction of the Vulcan ship Selaht inside the expanse and he loses his temper with the Vulcan representatives. Ordered to go on vacation following his outburst, Archer finds himself rock climbing with Hernandez and talking to her about the reality of space travel.

As T’Pol and Tucker get a very cold reception from T’Pol’s mother, T’Les, who wants T’Pol to marry Koss, Phlox, Reed, and Mayweather encounter humans who loathe Phlox on sight. Phlox helps the others out of the bar fight by the racists while Tucker ingratiates himself to T’Les by fixing her household appliances. As Archer tries running from his responsibilities, T’Pol mortgages her relationship with Tucker to save her mother from the dishonor of having to resign because of T’Pol.

Fundamentally, “Home” is a good episode and a smartly necessary one. However, it is regrettable that “Home” has Archer’s arc as virtually identical to the one Picard had in “Family.” While Picard had to decide to stay in StarFleet and did so through a reunion with his family, “Home” has Archer reconnecting with a lost love in order to make virtually the same decision. Given that the plots and character-focused nature of the two episodes are so similar, that Archer recovers with such a similar progression to Picard is unfortunately unimaginative.

As well, “Home” has a troubling outlook on both xenophobia and torture. Phlox is remarkably understanding about the outright racism he faces on Earth. In fact, both he and Archer make separate arguments that in the wake of the Xindi attack, a xenophobic outlook is reasonable, which is troubling coming from a franchise that openly espouses the value of diversity. Moreover, when Archer begins to open up about his feelings for his bad actions in the third season of Star Trek: Enterprise, Hernandez brushes it off with a very underwhelming reaction. According to writer Mike Sussman (through the characters in this episode), the ends truly do justify the means.

On the acting front, “Home” is a study of underwhelming and bad. Jolene Blalock makes no attempt to play T’Pol as even trying to restrain her emotions. Instead, T’Pol comes across as impulsive, childish and petulant in “Home.” While that might be bad enough, the usually wonderful Joanna Cassidy is not nearly as dispassionate as a Vulcan as one might expect her to be and T’Les has an unremarkable entrance into the series. Even Scott Bakula plays Archer’s emotional journey with a stiffness and restrained anger that feels more forced than organically emotional.

Ironically, while there are bad performances and very unremarkable performances (Dominic Keating and John Billingsley do fine, but aren’t given enough to shine with in the episode), Michael Reilly Burke and Connor Trinneer give excellent portrayals of their characters. Burke plays Koss and while the name might not be overly Vulcan, the actor nails the cold, logical, unemotional façade one expects of a Vulcan. And Connor Trinneer plays Tucker, finally admitting his love for T’Pol in a heartbreaking fashion.

The end result is an episode more erratic than incredible and one that viewers might feel the need to labor through once for continuity, but never again for enjoyment.

The three biggest gaffes in “Home:”
3. In “Amok Time” (reviewed here!), the crew of the Enterprise is shocked to learn Spock is subject to an arranged marriage. Tucker knows all about T’Pol’s arranged marriage and given the events of this episode, it seems unlikely that would have been kept as a cultural secret for a hundred years,
2. T’Les lies to T’Pol, which is very un-Vulcan,
1. Archer references “General Casey;” StarFleet is based upon the naval tradition, so there are no Generals.

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

For other works with Joanna Cassidy, please visit my reviews of:
Heroes - Season Two
Larry The Cable Guy: Health Inspector
Six Feet Under
Dangerous Beauty
Blade Runner


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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