WARNING: Spoilers for ENT's "Bounty" lie ahead, unjustly imprisoned.�
In brief: One of the season's worst: appallingly bad.�
"Bounty" Enterprise Season 2, Episode 25 Teleplay by Hans Tobeason and Mike Sussman & Phyllis Strong Story by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga Directed by Roxann Dawson Brief summary: While Archer is taken prisoner by a bounty hunter, T'Pol is infected by a pathogen which unleashes her mating urges.
Back in the fall when I reviewed "A Night in Sickbay", I mentioned that the show made me embarrassed to be a regular viewer of the series, because I was apparently considered part of a demographic consisting of horny junior-high-age (or at least junior-high-mentality) boys who were drooling to get a further look at Jolene Blalock's body.
Well, guess what, folks? The adolescents have taken over the show again -- and unlike "Cogenitor," when a leering preview suggested a show entirely different than the decent one we got, "Bounty" is if anything living down to its preview and dipping lower still.
But there is another story here, and one which is technically the "A" plot given that it's the one mentioned in the title. The "bounty" plot is the one that gets going first: Archer and company run across a ship belonging to a Tellarite, one Skalaar, who initially acts friendly only to kidnap Archer at the first opportunity.
It turns out that Skalaar is acting on behalf of the Klingon Empire, who want Archer returned to them after his escape from Rura Penthe. Skalaar has his own motives: with the money he'll get for this job, he hopes to buy back his own freighter, impounded by the Klingons when he trespassed in their territory a ways back. He tells Archer that "I'm sure you're not a bad person, just an unlucky one," but he's got no interest in helping Archer at the risk of his own life.
Gee ... y'think Jon is going to find some way to play on all that and get Skalaar on his side? Does a sehlat crap in the desert?
Most of the bounty-hunter plot isn't so much bad as it is tedious. We know Archer's not going to get recaptured and executed, and Archer's already been imprisoned or kidnapped so many times in two years that Stockholm Syndrome's in danger of being renamed. The "money-grubbing businessman who actually winds up caring about right and wrong" portrait's been done (genre examples including Han Solo and Quark, just to name two), and there's really not much to the story beyond that.
The plusses to this storyline? Well, one is the sheer fact that the Klingons are still ticked off at Archer and willing to act on that. I don't find Skalaar's claim that Archer is "the only person to ever escape from Rura Penthe" even slightly believable, but I'm certainly willing to believe that the Klingons feel they've lost face after Archer's escape and would like to correct that little problem.
I'm also willing to give Michael Westmore and company a bit of credit for making the Tellarians' appearance as plausible as it was. Tellarians were among the single goofiest-looking races we ever saw in the original series, and Westmore did a good job of capturing that general look while keeping Skalaar from looking like he was wearing a particularly ill-fitting mask.
Lastly, Jordan Lund did a perfectly serviceable job as Skalaar. It's not as though the character was given much to do other than jump through the standard smuggler-with-a-heart-of-gold thing, but Lund lent enough energy to the scenes to make Skalaar at least watchable.
That's about it. There's a small subplot involving a second bounty hunter who wants Archer and who's willing to fire on Skalaar's ship in order to get him, but all that really does is slow the plot down: it's not as though that gives Archer an extra break or even does a thing to change Skalaar's mind. You could argue that were it not for Kago's attack, Archer would have gotten to the Klingon ship too early for Enterprise's last-minute save, but that's an argument of convenience more than anything else.
The biggest problem with "Bounty"'s main plot comes at the end, where Archer uses a lockpick that the reformed Skalaar's given him to break out of his Klingon cell, make his way to an escape pod in a firefight, and escape just in time for Enterprise to pick him up. What problem, you ask? Well, okay, the Klingons are perhaps not the best of tacticians, but this smacks of complete idiocy on their part. First, they don't search their prisoners, change their handcuffs, or even check their handcuffs for lockpicks. Second, they don't post guards outside their prison cells. Third, we have a situation here where Archer's running down the hallway, two guards spot him *with the advantage of surprise*, fire, miss, and proceed to have Archer nail them both. I sincerely hope these two fell on their swords right after this whole affair -- I was certainly ready to throw them on one.
Basically, the ending was filling up the episode with the requisite phaser blasts and fistfights, but only at the cost of pulling a serious Archer-as-Superman riff. The man can outfire two Klingon warriors and outfight one who's a foot taller than he is, even after being held captive and forced to crash-land on a planet. By the end of the show, I was yelling at the Klingons to just shoot the escape pod and give all of us a break.
And speaking of yelling at the television, this might be a good time to segue to the show's other plot, namely the wonderful world of Vulcan Flesh.
Was this "pathogen" anything other than a naked attempt (pardon the pun) to keep Jolene Blalock as unclothed, sweaty, and panting as possible? Anything at all? Was there even an attempt at a "real" plot?
Not really, so far as I'm concerned. For starters, the idea that pon farr means T'Pol has to mate with anyone, "Vulcan or otherwise," or die is completely doing away with anything and everything we've learned about pon farr in the past. Remember, in "Amok Time" Spock had to very specifically get back to Vulcan -- to the bride he'd been telepathically bonded with decades earlier. Whether it's crucial to be with someone you've been bonded to or not, I don't know, but pon farr has always seemed to be something with a strong telepathic component, not just some sort of primal lust needing to get an itch scratched or else. You want to argue that "hey, maybe it's different for Vulcan females," go ahead -- but it's arguing on behalf of pre- adolescent fantasies. (Yep, pre-adolescent -- having taught 12-to-18- year-olds over the past eleven years, most of them have outgrown fantasy material this juvenile by about eighth grade.)
And, of course, there's another installment here of Everyone's Hot For T'Pol. When she's stuck in decon with Phlox and first gettin' the urge, she asks Phlox "don't you find me attractive," to which he responds, "of course I do, but that's not the issue." Is there *any* male on that ship who doesn't find T'Pol attractive? Are there times when Travis can't get up from his console for a shift change? Is Chef secretly slipping oysters into T'Pol's vegetarian dinners? Does Porthos follow T'Pol around hoping to hump her leg? Are the odds good that we'll find out the answer to at least one of those next season? Spare me.
(Oh, wait -- we'll also find out that Hoshi is gay or bisexual and hot for T'Pol herself. Can't leave out the idea of *two* Trek women gettin' nekkid at the same time, can we?)
I suppose it's worth giving slight thanks that everyone else rightly sees T'Pol's behavior as way beyond her normal ways and doesn't take advantage, but some of them seem to have been infected with the Stupidity Virus. As usual, Phlox is somewhat bright, lying to T'Pol about the door's lock code in order to keep her from attacking him, but rather than sneak up on her with the hypo I'd have rushed for a phase pistol (and don't tell me he doesn't have one in sickbay after the events of "Regeneration") Reed is far worse -- clearly Phlox has given enough information that the security team knows that T'Pol is ill and not acting like herself, and there's been enough first-hand evidence of her strength that Reed should be in "stun first, ask questions later" mode. It would have deprived us of one more edition of T'Pol writhing and coming on to a colleague (with the usual "how long has it been since you've mated?" question that she's seemed fond of ever since *last* season), but y'know, that's a sacrifice I'm willing to make.
(And yes, I realize that all of my proposed solutions this time around are violent. This episode provoked that for some reason.)
Lastly, of course, there's every indication that we might get this *again*. Why? Because this was a "premature" setting off of T'Pol's mating instinct -- Phlox gave her a little something and made it all better (double-entendre intentional, I assure you), so next year we could be in for the "Pon Farr: We Mean It This Time" episode. I can't wait until we find out that the only way she can avoid going back to Vulcan is to get together with Trip and Archer at the same time. Won't that be provocative?
Ahem. Anyway, some other notes:
-- I get the sense that a scene was edited out. One moment Archer's sabotaging Skalaar's ship, and the next time we see them Skalaar's already gotten to his brother's station. Presumably he repaired it, but the idea of making that clear appears to have fallen by the wayside.
-- At least there's a curtain now in the decon chamber. Of course, the implication that it's only there for Phlox's benefit is a bit ... interesting. (And it's not really very helpful if the second person in there still needs to apply the gel, now is it?)
-- T'Pol: "I'm hungry!" Phlox: "Our meals will be here shortly." Me: "Gee, let me guess..." T'Pol: "I wasn't referring to food." Me: "I-yi-yi."
I think that's more than enough. With a season featuring such gems as "A Night in Sickbay," "Precious Cargo," and now this, it's clear that the season is not exactly firing on all cylinders despite its occasional successes. Cutting out the pandering to twelve-year-olds might be a good start.
Writing: Step right up -- one tedious plot and one insulting one, all in the same package! Directing: Poor Roxann Dawson. This must remind her of the worst days of "Voyager." Acting: Slight praise to Billingsley for doing what he could, and to Jordan Lund for a decent Skalaar. That's it.
OVERALL: 2: 1 point for the "Klingons want Archer back" idea, half a point for decent Tellarite makeup, and half a point for Jordan Lund. The rest is too-bad-to-be-MSTable territory. Not again, please.
A new alien changes the rules.
Tim Lynch (Castilleja School, Science Department)
"You can either be quiet, or spend the rest of the trip unconscious.
Which would you prefer?"
"Well, hell, I know which *I'd* pick for the next hour..."
-- Skalaar and me
Copyright 2003, Timothy W. Lynch. All rights reserved, but feel free to ask...
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