Saturday, March 29, 2014

“Journey To Babel:” The Prequel – “Babel One”

The Good: Good conspiracy story, Decent acting
The Bad: Light on character development
The Basics: Moving toward the founding of the Federation well, “Babel One” puts the Andorians, Tellarites, and Romulans in play in an intriguing way!

As a prequel series set in the Star Trek Universe, one of the purposes of Star Trek: Enterprise was to explore how the Federation was founded. The implication – made by correlating timelines mentioned in prior episodes – was that the Federation was founded in the wake of a war between Earth and its allies and the Romulans (despite the humans not seeing a Romulan until “Balance Of Terror,” reviewed here!). “Babel One” creates a reasonable foundation for both the war and the Federation that would result in its aftermath.

Much like the Star Trek episode “Journey To Babel” (reviewed here!), “Babel One” finds an Enterprise crew ferrying diplomats when it finds itself in the midst of political intrigue and conspiracies. The fundamental difference (other than scale): “Journey To Babel” was smart enough to balance the political story with a deeply personal one – with Spock and his father, Sarek, being given extensive backstory that plays off the political story. “Babel One” is much more plot-focused.

After Shran’s ship, the Komari, is attacked by a Tellarite ship, Archer and Sato find themselves preparing to meet the Tellarite Ambassador in advance of peace negotiations between the Tellarites and Andorians. When Ambassador Graal comes aboard, Tucker finds the Tellarites fascinating, while Arher and T’Pol are baffled by their confrontational nature. When the Enterprise rescues the survivors of the Komari, the implication that the Tellarites are involved threatens to derail the peace talks. Archer and Shran discuss how war may be inevitable between the Andorians and Tellarites.

When the Enterprise is attacked by an Andorian ship, which refuses to respond to Shran’s authority, Shran tries to rescue the StarFleet ship and when his technical knowledge does not save the ship, it appears there is a conspiracy in the sector. Shran posits that the Andorian ship was not actually an Andorian ship and amid the Tellarites fearing that the Andorians and StarFleet are working together, T’Pol discovers that the ship that attacked the Enterprise does not have and Andorian power signature and that the power signature is identical to the Tellarite ship that attacked the Komari. Tracking the alien ship, they discover an alien vessel that does not match either Tellarite or Andorian design. Beaming over to the alien ship, Reed and Tucker become stranded when the Romulans controlling it remotely attack the Enterprise. The Enterprise crew struggles to rescue its crewmembers from the alien ship while keeping the peace negotiations on track!

The writers of “Babel One” are remarkably perceptive. In addition to creating the clever idea of Romulans using remotely controlled vessels (which adequately explains why there would be a war with the Romulans without the humans ever seeing one), “Babel One” maintains internal continuity well. T’Pol identifies the vessel as Romulan from its power source, which they compare to the mines from “Minefield” (reviewed here!) and that makes a good deal of scientific sense.

“Babel One” features almost no real character development in main characters. Despite T’Pol’s divorce coming through (and how the hell did Tucker and Reed learn about it when she only told Archer?!) and Tucker and Reed talking about the possibility of Reed pursuing her, the main characters do not actually grow or change. Instead, “Babel One” is a big episode for recurring character Shran. In this episode, Shran is given growth as he has developed a love interest with Talas and lost his ship of twelve years. Outside Shran, the characters in “Babel One” are merely tools for the plot progression.

Despite the lack of complication, “Babel One” is a good plot-based episode. The plot is somewhat familiar, but the conspiracy concept is a good one and it lays the framework of both the Federation and the subsequent episode(s) well.

The performances are all good, though none of them are exceptional. While it is refreshing to see Archer developing into a more familiarly moralistic StarFleet captain, Scott Bakula’s monologues do not yet come with a sense of realism. Bakula is not bad, but his performances – even in “Babel One” lack a zest or memorability of many of the other Star Trek captains. No one in “Babel One” gives a bad performance, but no one stretches, either.

“Babel One” is the first part of another three-part arc in the fourth season of Star Trek: Enterprise and it sets up the arc and its larger place in the Star Trek franchise well.

The three biggest gaffes in “Babel One:”
3. In Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (reviewed here!), the notion that Sarek had a wife before Amanda is treated as audacious and uncommon. Given that T’Pol manages to get a divorce in this earlier time period, it seems like that would be an utterly unsurprising revelation for a Vulcan,
2. The sophistication of the Romulan technology presented in “Babel One” make it unlikely that even the combined forces of the humans, Vulcans, Andorians, and Tellarites could defeat them in all-out war,
1. Despite the issues with it being present in “Minefield,” the Romulans had cloaking technology in the episode. Why the remote control vessel would not have one (when it has ample power for a self-destruct mechanism and a holographic generation system) is illogical.

[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 Lee Arenberg, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Once Upon A Time - Season 1
Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World’s End
Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl
Cradle Will Rock
"Juggernaut" - Star Trek: Voyager
“Bloodlines” - Star Trek: The Next Generation
“Force Of Nature” - Star Trek: The Next Generation
“The Nagus” - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine


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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