Friday, April 4, 2014

Exploring The Andorians More “The Aenar” Works!

The Good: Moments of character (especially Tucker!), Special effects, Acting
The Bad: Very predictable plot, A little light on character overall
The Basics: “The Aenar” finishes off the big Andorian and Romulan arc well and foreshadows important events aboard the Enterprise.

Even though Brannon Braga had left Star Trek: Enterprise by the time the Federation-founding arc of the series , some of the episodes have a Braga-esque feel to them. Brannon Braga was known for episodes of the Star Trek franchise that featured a reversal at the very end of the episode. “United” (reviewed here!), which preceded “The Aenar” featured a reversal at the end of the episode that was very Braga-esque. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to discuss “The Aenar” intelligently without revealing that last-second reversal. Knowing that the Romulans were using what appeared to be an Andorian was a decent way to end “United” and it set up “The Aenar” well.

“The Aenar” is the third part of an arc that has served to foreshadow the impending Romulan War, which would lead to the creation of the United Federation Of Planets. Given how little was known about the Andorians before Star Trek: Enterprise, “The Aenar” enhances the Andorian race without actually contradicting anything from the rest of the franchise – at least as far as Andorian culture and physiology goes.

As peace talks between the Andorians, Vulcans, Tellarites and humans become serious, the Romulan leadership becomes frustrated with the result of the drone ship’s mission. As the Romulan Senator, Vrax, exerts pressure on Valdore, the Enterprise crew and Shran analyze the data brought back by Reed and Tucker. When Phlox reveals that the drone ship’s pilot was closely related to the Andorians, Valdore plans to launch a second drone ship to fight the growing alliance. When Shran reveals that the brainwave belonged to an Aenar, the Enterprise heads to Andoria to try to find the reclusive subspecies of Andorians. When Shran is hurt exploring the ice caves in which the Aenar live, his best chance for survival becomes the pale, telepathic, Andorian subspecies.

At the Aenar compound, Archer meets with the Speaker of the Aenar, who reads his thoughts. The Speaker is shocked to realize that Archer might be telling the truth about an Aenar piloting the Romulan drone ship and she genuinely wants to help the Enterprise stop the drone ship. After testing the telepathic remote control technology on T’Pol, Shran and Archer have to avoid ice worms and convince the captured Aenar’s sister to join their cause. Jhamel is more able to adapt to the telepathic remote control and as the Romulan drone ships race toward Enterprise, she becomes the best hope for stopping the Romulans.

“The Aenar” is one of the rare episodes in the Star Trek franchise where the guest character and guest star is given the chance to shine. On one of the bonus features to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, actor Jeffrey Combs discusses the broad range of roles he has played in the Star Trek franchise. He muses about, but writes off, the possibility of him ever becoming a Star Trek captain. In “The Aenar,” he plays with enough emotional range to defy his own prediction. As Shran, Combs is emotive and smart and plays the character as a natural leader. In “The Aenar,” the only real defect to the performance is more of a writing problem; Combs fails to have the death of Shran’s Talas resonate into this episode. Given how important Talas was characterized as being in “Babel One” (reviewed here!), the fact that Shran does not mourn more is frustrating. Even so, Combs is a wonderful actor and “The Aenar” gives him a chance to give a truly well-rounded performance. His physical performance, wherein he is constantly off balance as a result of the events of “United” is brilliantly presented.

It’s not made clear enough in “The Aenar” how a doped-up Aenar is an effective tool for the Romulans. While the idea that the Aenar might fit into a Romulan-developed technology is interesting, to control the controller seems like he would be less adept than they would need to manipulate the controls.

The real character work in “The Aenar” is a brief arc involving T’Pol and Tucker. Tucker takes a very defensive stance toward T’Pol when the Vulcan first officer attempts to use the experimental remote control technology. Tucker claims to be acting professionally, but his interest in T’Pol is obviously personal. Tucker’s request for a transfer is an interesting one that actually enhances his character; he’s not a guy who deals with loss well and that plays out well in “The Aenar.” The rest of the characters pretty much do what is expected of them; Phlox lets Jhamel determine her own fate and Archer is predictably heroic in trying to establish peace and understanding.

The acting in “The Aenar” is homogenously good and Brian Thompson’s Valdore is a decent-enough antagonist to realistically have starships named after him, which attentive viewers know will happen given that the main Romulan ship in Star Trek: Nemesis (reviewed here!) is called the Valdore.

The resolution to “The Aenar” is frustrating, less for its predictability and more for its military stupidity. The fact that the entire Romulan War could have been averted by StarFleet recovering one of the drone ships makes it inexplicable that the Enterprise crew would help destroy it! That said, “The Aenar” is a decent episode and a good end to the three-part arc begun in “Babel One.”

The two biggest gaffes in “The Aenar” are:
2. The use of remote control holographic drones in this time period makes it ridiculous that a race like the Romulans, with closed borders, would ever risk their personnel on starships in the future in episodes like “Balance Of Terror” (reviewed here!) and “The Defector” (reviewed here!),
1. Given Archer’s experience with Shran at the Aenar colony, Captain Pike should never have been fooled by the Talosians in “The Cage” (reviewed here!). Telepaths obscuring the truth should have become something that StarFleet built a defense against.

[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!


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