[ENT] Jammer's Review: "United"

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Jamahl Epsicokhan

Mar 2, 2005, 7:53:44 AM3/2/05
Note: This review contains significant spoilers.

In brief: A TOS story channeled reasonably through modern Trek

Plot description: Archer attempts to form an alliance in order to neutralize
a threat from a common enemy, but instead finds himself in the middle of a
fight to the death with Shran.

Star Trek: Enterprise - "United"

Airdate: 2/4/2005 (USA)
Teleplay by Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens
Story by Manny Coto
Directed by David Livingston

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
Rating out of 4: ***

"Is this your homework, Larry?" -- Walter

There should be a tally somewhere (and come to think of it, there might be)
of just how many societies in the Star Trek mythos have employed a fight to
the death as a matter of honor and/or custom.

But first things first. The Romulans are busy causing mayhem with their
remote-controlled drone, as they themselves sit in a control room on
Romulus. Occasionally, an unhappy senator checks in on them, flanked by two
Remans, in a nod to the movie that was the nail in the coffin of the TNG
film franchise (snark). They destroy a Rigellian ship while masquerading as
the Enterprise. They apparently want to do more than drive a wedge between
the Andorians and the Tellarites. It's an attempt to "destabilize the entire
region," says Archer -- a line that seems rooted more in news headlines than
in Star Trek.

The Romulans are loath to man these ships, because they want to cause this
mayhem without the possibility of it being traced back to them. The Romulans
seem to believe -- for reasons beyond my comprehension -- that the drone can
absolutely not be traced back to them. Obviously they have severely
underestimated the fact that their technology is recognizable -- enough for
T'Pol to have easily put the pieces together in last week's "Babel One."

Because of this common threat to the region, Archer's mission is to hunt
down and stop the drone, with a search radius that will require a small
fleet. He thus attempts to forge an alliance between all the involved
parties -- the Andorians, Tellarites, Vulcans, and Rigellians -- with the
Enterprise coordinating the search as the command ship since it seems the
humans are the most neutral of everyone involved. This is a bit simplistic,
I will admit, but it serves its purpose as a hint of the kind of obstacles
and eventual cooperative efforts that will pave the way to the founding of
the Federation. (Manny Coto said his idea of a fifth season, had the show
not been canceled, would've had focus on the formation of the Federation as
a United Nations-like case study. That could've been interesting.)

But of course it's not going to be that easy. Talas ends up dying from the
phaser wound she suffered at the end of the previous episode. This results
in a bereaved Shran demanding the Tellarite who killed her answer for his
crime in a traditional Andorian Ushaan -- a fight to the death using
traditional (and wicked-looking) Andorian ice-cutting blades. The scene
where Shran demands the Ushaan is a nice showpiece for Jeffrey Combs, who
walks into the room and starts off quiet before unleashing the yelling and
histrionics. Combs does a good job here of overacting without it coming
across as bad acting.

The fight to the death storyline has "original series" written all over
it -- especially once it becomes clear that Archer is going to stand in for
the Tellarite under the death match's right of substitution rule. Now we
have a match between two people who are essentially friends -- reminiscent
of "Amok Time" -- although this whole Andorian notion seems awfully
Klingon-like in terms of honor, respect, etc.

What I like best about this idea is the way Archer is boxed in by the pure
logic of the situation. If the match is prohibited, the Andorians will pull
out of the alliance. The Tellarites refuse to participate, and even if they
hadn't, any outcome would likely end in the withdrawal of one party. So
Archer volunteers to fight, since he knows Starfleet will go forward with
the alliance effort even if Archer dies. Noble, logical, and brilliantly

What I thought was painfully lame, however, was the script's way of getting
out of this with both Archer and Shran still alive. The fight scene itself
is adequately staged as action/fun, but the loophole that allows Archer to
defeat Shran without killing him completely lacks imagination. We learn
after the commercial break that the rules say the match ends "when one
fighter is rendered defenseless." That's so disingenuous on the script's
part that it's not even a loophole. How can the fight be a death match if
the rules themselves don't specify that the fight only ends when one fighter
is, well, *dead*?

With the fight settled, the alliance can proceed, marking the first time
these species have worked together in a common effort. It's not the founding
of the Federation, but it's a start.

Meanwhile, Trip and Reed are trapped aboard the Romulan drone and attempt to
override the controls. When that doesn't work, Reed goes for a lower-tech
solution: sabotage by overloading his phase-pistol. Apparently, the overload
feature is actually in the phase-pistol manual, hopefully in a chapter
called Blowed Up Real Good. The Romulans struggle to regain control of the
damaged drone, and in one scene, they lock Trip in a room and expose him to
deadly levels of radiation. I'm not sure if radiation exposure works like
this; my thinking is that if you're doubling over in pain because of
radiation poisoning, the damage to your body is already done. Removing you
from the room isn't going to reverse the damage like giving a suffocating
man oxygen. Call it the plot-device version of radiation poisoning.

The drone itself is agile and erratic, making the dogfights a little more
interesting as it darts here and there and tries to make people dizzy. At
one point, Trip and Reed go to an airlock and are ejected into space and
somehow thrown clear of the drone. I suspect this works much like when
someone is "thrown clear" during an auto accident -- ejected from the
vehicle and yet somehow, miraculously still okay. The drone then escapes
back to Romulan space.

"United" somewhat challenges conventional structure if this is to be
considered part two of a trilogy, because the central storyline involving
the formation of the alliance is wrapped up here. Indeed, the episode ends
on yet another twist, as it's revealed that the pilot hooked into the drone
is not Romulan but what resembles an albino Andorian. It's a bizarre
revelation that does not follow from anything we would've expected from
watching the story unfold. Think of the last five seconds of "Zero Hour,"
but in a way that's intriguing instead of merely distracting.

Next week: Who are the white Andorians?

Copyright 2005, Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved.
Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.

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