Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Reworking The Prequel Well, “Cold Station 12” Continues The Augment Arc!

The Good: Good acting, Engaging story, Decent special effects
The Bad: Irksome flaw in Soong’s character, A little light on character development
The Basics: “Cold Station 12” is one of the strongest middle acts in a longer arc of Star Trek: Enterprise and it puts the Enterprise crew in a compelling dilemma.

The fourth season of Star Trek: Enterprise did not take very long to get going with its stated purpose. The show sought in its fourth season to realign Star Trek: Enterprise with the rest of the Star Trek franchise. Almost immediately, the show had an arc that dealt with the genetically-engineered humans, who were left over from Earth’s Eugenics Wars. In the previous series’s in the franchise, the left over genetically-engineered humans were all full-grown and sent away on sleeper ships, unfortunately revived through a mistake hundreds of years later. With the arc that began in “Borderland” (reviewed here!), that is retconned.

Following directly on the events of “Borderland,” “Cold Station 12” has Archer going toe to toe with the Augments. In this case, the Augments are genetically-engineered humans reanimated from fetuses stored after the Eugenics Wars. The existence of Eugenics Wars-era fetuses does not contradict anything previously established in the Star Trek franchise, but it does make it seem strange that Dr. McCoy (at least) would not have been better able to identify Khan when the Enterprise first encountered him in Star Trek.

Opening with a flashback to eleven years prior, where Dr. Erik Soong tells the Augment children of their importance and greatness, the young Malik is excited to learn there are more Augments in the Universe, which Soong tells him the youth must one day rescue. In the present timeline, Soong, having been liberated from the Enterprise by the surviving Augments, charts a plan to rescue the remaining Augments from Cold Station 12. Soong charges Malik with the task of rescuing the Augments without killing any of the humans at Cold Station 12. The Enterprise arrives at the Augment’s colony and there they find Ludar (Smike), a young man who is not an Augment, but is unwilling to help Archer track down the Augments. On the Klingon Bird Of Prey, Malik plays Soong by lying to him about how Raakin died and he confides his distrust of Soong to Persis.

When Tucker realizes that Soong and the Augments took incubators, Archer fears that Soong is going to grow the 1800 remaining Augment embryos to maturity if he can reach Cold Station 12. Archer also learns that Phlox’s associate, Dr. Jeremy Lucas, is now on staff at Cold Station 12. Soong’s Augments hijack a Denobulan ship which they use to gain access to Cold Station 12, where Soong imprisons most of the staff and begins interrogating Dr. Lucas. Soong tortures Lucas as Archer and a team infiltrate Cold Station 12.

“Cold Station 12” might be one of the better episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise, but it has some flaws that are irksome for fans of the larger Star Trek franchise. The first big one is that Dr. Soong is characterized as brilliant, yet he resorts to torture not only once, but twice. Torture has never been a reliable means of gaining information, which Picard notes quite potently in “Chain Of Command, Part 2” (reviewed here!). Soong gets an explicit example of how torture does not work when Malik tortures one of the scientists on Cold Station 12 to death without breaking Dr. Lucas. Yet, he allows Malik to do the exact same thing a second time and expects a different result.

Sadly, Dr. Lucas’s character – which is instantly compelling and smart by how internally strong he is – is diminished when Lucas breaks. Dr. Lucas has to realize that the Augments must not be allowed to leave Cold Station 12 with the fetuses and he ought to have been trained to resist longer. Barring that, why Lucas did not sacrifice himself, his crew, and the fetuses when the facility came under siege is somewhat disappointing. Come to think of it, one of the whole purposes of Star Trek Enterprise was to illustrate how hard life for the early explorers was supposed to be: when the Augments note that another ship might be along soon and be less reasonable than Archer, that is an unfortunate leap on their part; there are no other StarFleet ships as fast as Enterprise or in the area that could realistically menace the Augments. As a result, Lucas should have been more willing (not less) to destroy the facility to prevent the Augments from taking the fetuses.

That said, “Cold Station 12” is a pretty wonderful action-adventure episode of Star Trek: Enterprise. On the character front, Archer starts to illustrate some real characteristics of a traditional Star Trek captain. He treats Smike with compassion and tries to connect with him on a very personal level. He talks about a philosophy, consistent with Roddenberry’s ideals of self-determination, where Smike would not be held accountable for his parents’ crimes. Archer is good in the episode, though Brent Spiner’s Dr. Arik Soong steals the show.

In “Cold Station 12,” Spiner illustrates what viewers might have hoped in “Borderland.” Soong is a villainous idealist, much like a James Bond villain, and in “Cold Station 12,” he plays Erik Soong as a misguided idealist working to correct wrongs of the past with his own philosophy. While that philosophy is ridiculous – Soong seems to think the Augments were merely the product of bad training and poor education as opposed to having a genetic defect that heightened their aggression in addition to their ambition to an unhealthy level, as evidenced by Soong’s failure to correct the genetic problems associated with Khan – it is present. Spiner plays Soong as more smart and desperate than angry and as such there is not a hint in his performance of Lore, which is nice.

Alec Newman also overshadows the performers in the b-plot (T’Pol and Tucker attempt to remotely detonate Cold Station 12 from the Enterprise when Archer’s diplomacy fails) as Malik. One suspects he watched Ricardo Montalban’s performance as Khan to make Malik resonate and the performance works. Newman is a credible Eugenics Wars-type character.

On the continuity front, “Cold Station 12” actually has some clever aspects. Sure, T’Pol is still not in a StarFleet uniform and the transporter is now being used pretty frequently, but writer Alan Brennert actually manages to make something very subtle in the episode. In Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan, Saavik quotes a general order to Kirk about having shields up when communications with an approaching StarFleet vessel cannot be established. “Cold Station 12” provides an explicit reason (by inference) for why such a directive would be necessary in the future! That’s pretty smart retconning.

Ultimately, “Cold Station 12” is a fast-paced, relatively smart action-adventure episode that leaves viewers eager for the next episode in the arc!

The three biggest gaffes in “Cold Station 12:”
3. Cold Station 12 has a security parameter that allows the station’s crew to be incapacitated by a gas. In the original Star Trek, in episodes like “Wolf In The Fold” (reviewed here!), no such protocol existed; Spock releasing a gas through the environmental control systems took quite a bit of time and was a serious hassle,
2. Given this incident with Augments and how it would have been part of StarFleet records, Khan should have known about the ability to remote-control StarFleet facilities by Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan (reviewed here!). In short, Kirk and Spock’s gambit to drop the Reliant shields should not have worked because Khan should have known that StarFleet vessels and facilities could be destroyed remotely,
1. Archer has quite a bit of specifics for Smike pertaining to the young man’s parents and he notes that they have quite a bit of information on them. This directly contradicts assertions in “Space Seed” (reviewed here!) and other episodes that mention how records from around the Eugenics Wars and World War III were lost and fragmented. As a result, there is no reason Archer should have such records, but Kirk, Picard, etc. would not.

[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 Fernando Chien, please visit my reviews of:
Iron Man 3
Red Dawn
The Mummy: Tomb Of The Dragon Emperor


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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