Laurie's No-Nonsense Review
Tonight's episode began with a warning: "Sponsored by 8 Mile".
Even more ominous: the ads described "8 Mile" as "now playing
everywhere". Not in my apartment, I hope, or really anywhere I
happen to be going.
The show actually had a great premise, but they could have done so
much more with it than they did. It started with Archer, Sato, and
Reed returning from a visit to a pre-warp culture. They peeled off
their prosthetics, reminisced, but as they turned in their equipment
Reed slowly realized that his communicator was missing. Since its
discovery could completely change the future of the people on the
planet, Archer & Reed got in the shuttle and headed back.
I was a little irritated by Archer's response to the whole thing.
Reed felt just awful and made it clear that whatever disciplinary
action was coming his way was well-deserved. Now I know they've set up
that Reed is a strict stodgy Navy-type, and that Archer's command
style is more relaxed than Reed would like, but this time Archer was a
little TOO relaxed. He SHOULD have reprimanded him and disciplined
him! Picard or Janeway would have made him feel even worse, and that
would have been fine. Just call him Captain Wussypants.
They walked into a bar, tracked the communicator, but got arrested
by not-so-secret police in the process. Of course they'd brought more
communicators and some phase pistols with them, so the problem was
only getting bigger. Then their prosthetics fell off in a fight, the
aliens discovered their red blood -- oh my! -- and the beating-filled
interrogation was under way.
In the meantime, Trip & Mayweather were trying to get the Suliban
stealth ship up & running for a rescue. They struggled with the
cloaking device until a little accident cloaked Trip's right arm below
the elbow. That was actually a fun little diversion, I enjoyed all the
associated effects as well as Trip's frustration. I just like that
guy, the more scenes they give him the better.
& Reed didn't do so well in their interrogation. Once the doctor who
examined them convinced everyone they were aliens, they got the
not-so-bright idea to claim to be working for The Alliance, enemies of
the people they were with. They said they had secret weapons and that
they themselves were prototypes for genetically enhanced soldiers. I
have no idea why they thought this would (a) get them out of a jam;
(b) not have a negative effect on the planet for generations. Their
interrogators decided to execute them by hanging, so they could
dissect them afterwards.
The Enterprise team finally got the stealth ship working and
arrived just in time for a rescue. They jumped out of the invisible
ship and picked off the bad guys one by one, then rescued Archer &
Reed. As T'Pol pointed out at the end, those army guys now thought The
Alliance had genetically enhanced soldiers, laser weapons, and
invisible ships. D'oh!
And that's my big issue for today: once the damage was done, and
Archer & Reed were captured, they should have weighed the damage a
little better. They knew they were going to influence this culture in
a way they shouldn't have, so was it better to make them think their
enemies had insane secret weapons they should try to copy or steal, or
would it have been more inspirational to show them that some people
traveled through space and weren't at war? Bad call, Enterprise crew.
I did like Archer's brief moment of bravery, when he told them not
to execute Reed because he was full of tactical knowledge. Again, that
wasn't SUCH a great idea, since Reed would have either coughed up some
tactical theories or been executed anyway, but it was
well-intentioned. I also liked that by the end of the show, Trip had
decloaked to the point that he had a tiny little hole in his hand.
To sum up: good premise, some nice moments along the way, but it
just didn't live up to its potential. I would have liked to have known
more about the people they were visiting, too -- did you notice that
we didn't see ONE woman? Even the bar they went to didn't have any,
which is probably why the bartender was disappointed to see Hoshi
didn't return with Archer & Reed. I also think that what they SHOULD
have done was just BEAM UP THE COMMUNICATOR! So what if it gets screwy
in the transporter, if they could find it they should have been able
to beam it up. Oops.
And a final note: take another look at Benjamin Bratt as the
Captain. Please? Just think about it.
Land of Laurie
Lynch's Enterprise Episode Review
WARNING: Spoilers lie ahead for ENT's "The Communicator."
In brief: A fairly involving story ... so long as you don't think
Enterprise Season 2, Episode 8
Teleplay by Andre Bormanis
Story by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga
Directed by James Contner
Brief summary: When Lieutenant Reed loses his communicator on a
landing mission, he and Archer return to retrieve it before it
contaminates that planet's culture.
"The Communicator" continues the slow improvement that
_Enterprise_ has seen since the depths of "A Night in
like some of its predecessors it's an episode that's less successful
more deeply you look at it. It's not so much that you can enjoy it
without serious thought; it's that you need to avoid such thought to
have even a hope of enjoying it without reservation.
The idea behind the show works just fine from where I sit. Having
Reed lose his communicator is entirely plausible, and Archer's heard
enough complaints from T'Pol about "cultural contamination"
he'd naturally be inclined to retrieve it. Most of what happens from
there consists of matters going from bad to worse, when Archer and
Reed's attempt to get the communicator results in the pair of them
getting arrested as spies.
In principle, no problem -- and this is also a story that's more
plausible in _Enterprise_ than in chronologically later series, as a
century or two down the line one could presumably just find the
communicator and beam it out. In practice, there are several instances
of Stupid Plot Syndrome, where the story only continues because the
characters (either our heroes or the villains) act like morons.
Exhibit A: Hoshi's scans suggest that the communicator might be in
a tavern where the three of them sat and rested, so Archer and Reed
head back there. That's fine, but what do they do once scans indicate
it's nearby? They get up *while the bartender is making their drinks*
and both head not-at-all subtly towards a deserted hallway. Is it any
wonder they were arrested? The sensible thing to do there would be
to do various non-threatening things, leave, and come back after the
bar has closed: that way you've got a better chance of getting to the
material without being spotted. (Sure, there's evidence of a break-in,
but that's not exactly something that will raise more than routine
suspicions.) Since it was clear in this case that everyone was on to
them anyway, this wouldn't have changed the outcome ... but it would
have made Archer and Reed seem an awful lot smarter.
(A corollary to this that you'd think Reed would already have a
devised in case they were arrested: he's generally so cautious in
of security that I'm surprised he didn't. But that's not a big deal.)
Exhibit B: Apparently it's standard procedure on this world for
accused spies to be held in the same cell without any sort of
monitoring. Pardon me? If this government were half as paranoid as
the episode makes it out to be, it would immediately separate the two,
interrogate them separately and look for contradictions in their
The only reason to keep a group together in this case is to bug the
conversation and hope they let something juicy slip out. No wonder
these guys have worries about "the Alliance" -- they're not
basic intelligence operations.
Exhibit C: When the pair go a while without responding, T'Pol
decides to hail Archer. Good plan, that -- now you've confirmed that
it's a transmitter *and* given away your existence. Beeping the
communicator would have been more than sufficient.
That said, however, the show's a decent cautionary tale about how
good intentions can make matters worse, and about how a suitably
paranoid culture can twist events to their interpretation all too
It's all a bit derivative, feeling like one part "Detained,"
"Civilization," and one part TNG's "First Contact"
(the episode, not
the film), but it's engaging enough.
I was particularly pleased to see that the pair were revealed as
different physically without much of a problem. Phlox's cosmetic
enhancements are rather clearly designed to let the user walk around
without incident, not to resist serious scrutiny -- and seeing a loose
of latex combined with red blood was a very plausible way to up the
ante. (I do wish that they hadn't been referred to as "surgical
alterations," though, since they were pretty obviously just latex
attachments and not surgical at all.)
After this, it's a race against time. Worried that the crew's
the planet will only get worse the more time and technology become
involved, T'Pol lets Trip work up a rescue plan ... while in the
meantime, General Gosis and his staff become more and more
convinced that they're dealing with aliens rather than simple spies.
Since Trip's rescue plan involves using the Suliban cell ship they
obtained back in the pilot, I'd normally be very pleased about
everyone paying attention to past history. On the whole, I actually am
pretty happy that they remembered that it was lying around ready to
be used (and I'm comfortable assuming that the events of
"Shockwave" happened so quickly that the Suliban couldn't
their ship). My only reason for reticence is that, yet again, it's put
Trip in the realm of comic-relief filler. Last week saw Trip play-
acting as Archer to appease some Vulcans, and this time he winds up
with a partially cloaked arm after something goes wrong with his
work on the cloaking device. Boy, wackiness just follows Trip
around wherever he goes, doesn't it? The Trip subplot also threatens
to derail the mood of the rest of the episode, which is pretty
consistently somber and worried the rest of the time.
I fully expect this episode to open up a can of worms about how far
officers should properly be expected to go in order to safeguard a
culture from their own effects on it, and I think that's a fairly big
to the episode. Archer's conversation with Reed in their cell about
consequences of revealing their true nature is a good one -- I don't
think it's meant to be a definitive statement on the subject, but it
the argument and highlights one facet of it. Personally, considering
the number of times Kirk did a lot more than leave a communicator a
century after Archer's time, I think Archer's viewpoint feels a little
of sync with 22nd-century attitudes, but it'd hardly be the first time
(I also wonder whether the communicator should even be considered
worth it. A pair of them, perhaps, since you can use one to let the
other function, but a single one is of no value short of whatever
technological innovations the inhabitants could glean from it. Would
those really be that great?)
Once their exotic physiology is discovered, Archer makes a split-
second decision to bluster like an Alliance agent. He and Reed
improvise a story about them being genetically enhanced prototypes
with new technology and new physiologies to make them the ideal
soldiers. Their captors find the story potentially plausible, but the
doctor argues that the only way he can do a more thorough
examination on their organs is if said organs are removed. General
Gosis immediately orders their execution by hanging, to take place in
just a few hours.
This sets up the final jeopardy angle well enough, but it's also
left turn right back into the land of idiot plotting, mainly on the
the bad guys.
Exhibit D: Archer's story is one that wouldn't have a prayer of
holding up once people think about it. Why would the Alliance send
all their prototype people *and equipment* on a single mission?
This is perfectly forgivable, though, considering that Archer
made up something in an instant of panic.
Exhibit E: Even if the examination is needed, there is no reason to
both of them. Perhaps you tell the prisoners that they'll be executed
unless they start singing a little more sweetly. Perhaps you separate
them (yes, that again) and tell each one that the other will be
if they don't cooperate more strongly. Perhaps you kill one of them
and keep the other alive for other information. To kill off both your
captives is to remove any chance that they can give information
beyond the content of their organs, and that's shortsighted beyond
Exhibit F: Okay, you've decided that you need to execute both
prisoners for whatever reason. Why tell the prisoners in advance
rather than keeping them in the dark? If they've got an ace in the
you've pretty much just guaranteed that they'll know now is a good
time to use it -- and that's not a way to keep your base safe.
(Similarly, sending an open communique that Enterprise can intercept
is not the brightest of moves.)
Exhibit G: On the Enterprise side, why does no one even for an
instant consider the transporter? It's obvious from later events that
they know *exactly* what building they're in. Beam a communicator
to the cell, then beam the prisoners up one at a time. A risk, yes,
they're about to be hanged anyway I'm not seeing how it's any more
risky than the mission they chose ... and it'd have a much smaller
impact on the populace. There might be any number of reasons why
this wouldn't work, but rejecting it outright is a lot more palatable
dramatically than simply forgetting its existence and hoping viewers
In the end, of course, Archer and Reed are rescued from the
hangman's noose in the nick of time, with the Suliban ship landing
right in the prison compound and a massive firefight ensuing. The
firefight itself is fine, but I was particularly fond of one of the
shots: as the ship leaves, we see Gosis standing there almost slack-
jawed amidst the wreckage of his prison complex. He wasn't evil or
railing against the injustice of it all -- just trying to comprehend
had just happened to him. In its own quiet way, it was very striking.
The closing Archer/T'Pol scene did everything but print its moral
the screen, but was a solid scene apart from that. Archer's relieved
be back, of course, and T'Pol glad to have him -- but she at least
recognizes that an awful lot more damage was done than simply
leaving the communicator be might have been. Thanks to all this, as
she and Archer collectively point out, this group now believes the
Alliance can create super-soldiers, particle weapons, and invisible
aircraft. Looking around at the state of Earth circa 2002, I think
obvious that that belief could be a seriously destabilizing influence.
wish the "you don't have to leave technology behind to
culture" line hadn't actually been said, as I think its message
obvious anyway, but it's a decent enough scene.
Other quick thoughts:
-- Tech gripe of the week: When Archer warns Reed that the
surveillance towers are coming up, Reed says, "The hull plating's
already been polarized." Um, great, Malcolm -- how the hell will
stop you from being seen? "Polarize the hull plating" is one
phrases that's simultaneously nonsense and a writer's crutch, since it
can apparently do almost anything. Bleah.
-- One wonders why the communicator isn't routinely equipped with a
failsafe that you could trigger (from orbit) to melt out all the
components. A random chunk of metal is hardly going to
contaminate a culture. Obviously no one would have thought of that
here in the 22nd century, but why isn't it standard two centuries
given the events of this episode and others like it?
-- As goofy as the "Trip cloaks his arm" plot was, I do
like that he
couldn't just figure out the cloaking device without problems. That
technology seems awfully far ahead of 22nd-century Starfleet work,
so it's not something he should decipher without a serious fight.
-- T'Pol is avid that any contamination be avoided. Discuss in
the revelations about her ancestor shown in "Carbon Creek."
That more or less does it, I think. "The Communicator"
has a solid
core that I like very much, but a lot of plotting gaffes that keep
in the way. That's a step up from shows which are complete fluff, but
I'm definitely hoping for better.
So, wrapping up:
Writing: Major "idiot plot" moments marring a potentially
Direction: Apart from one or two good shots (the final one of Gosis,
for instance), nothing especially striking in either direction.
Acting: I was more impressed with the guest cast than usual; the
regulars were fine but not riveting.
OVERALL: Call this one a 7 or so. Fine, but not one you'll want to
come back to and pore over.
Time for a mysterious disease!
Tim Lynch (Castilleja School, Science Department)
"One problem that recurs more and more frequently these days
books and plays and movies is the inability of people to communicate
with the people they love: husbands and wives who can't
communicate, children who can't communicate with their parents, and
so on. And the characters in these books and plays and so on -- and
in real life, I might add -- spend hours bemoaning the fact that they
can't communicate. I feel that if a person can't communicate, the very
least he can do is to shut up."
-- Tom Lehrer
Copyright 2002, Timothy W. Lynch. All rights reserved, but feel free
This article is explicitly prohibited from being used in any off-net
compilation without due attribution and *express written consent of
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Where to Watch - Local channels
VHS, Laserdisc and DVD availability.
Scott Bakula as Captain
Connor Trinneer as
Chief Engineer Charles
Jolene Blalock as Sub-commander
Dominic Keating as
Lt. Malcolm Reed
as Ensign Travis
Linda Park as Ensign
as Dr. Phlox
Francis Guinan as Gosis
Tim Kelleher as Lt. Pell
Brian Reddy as Dr. Temec
Dennis Cockrum as Alien Barkeep
Jason Waters as Alien Soldier
Directed by: James Contner
Story by: Rick Berman
& Brannon Braga
Teleplay by: Andre Bormanis