WARNING: Marauding gangs of spoilers for ENT's "Marauders" are hiding behind the next spoiler warning. (They're right behind the vicious gangs of "Keep Left" signs.)�
In brief: Pretty generic.�
"Marauders" Enterprise Season 2, Episode 6 Teleplay by David Wilcox Story by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga Directed by Mike Vejar Brief summary: The Enterprise helps teach a mining colony to protect itself from the repeated depredations of a Klingon raiding party.
Up until now, this season has been one of extremes. There's been "Shockwave II," "Minefield," and "Dead Stop," all of which I liked quite a bit ... and "Carbon Creek" and "A Night in Sickbay," both of which I disliked rather strongly.
"Marauders" stands in contrast to both of the above groups. It provoked little reaction in me other than the occasional bout of laughter that I suspect was unintended by the episode. It stands as almost a textbook case of how to do generic television.
It's not even generic Trek, plentiful though that's been at times as well. It's just generic television.
Consider the plot: the Enterprise crew stops at a mining colony for supplies, finds out that they've been victims of a group of Klingon marauders for four seasons, and convinces them to stand up for themselves, driving the marauders off presumably for good.
Apart from the words "Enterprise" and "Klingon," that could apply to an awful lot of shows. "Visitor teaches town to stand up to the local bullies" is the plot of an awful lot of Westerns, of some large fraction of "Kung Fu" episodes, of a good percentage of episodes of "The Incredible Hulk" or "The Fugitive" ... hell, with all the traveling they did, there's probably an episode of "The Partridge Family" built around the same thing, albeit with stranger outfits and musical interludes.
The basic story is not, to put it mildly, groundbreaking. That doesn't make it bad per se, but it means that there's not a lot there to make the viewer sit up and go "oh, neat!" (If the viewer is one who slavers at all things Klingon, of course, you've already assured yourself of their attention ... but most are not in that category.)
An oft-repeated truism, however, is that it's not just the story so much as how it's told. I tend to agree: you can do a lot with a shopworn plot if there's some good character study or something that adds to our understanding of a person, a situation, or a past story. (As an example, B5's "Infection" had a plot that was very by-the-numbers, but the Sinclair/Garibaldi scene where Garibaldi notes Sinclair's apparent death wish and calls him on it is worth at least half of the monster-of-the-week boredom.) Thus, one might expect "Marauders" to have some big character moment to help the story along.
The big character revelation? Well, I'll let Archer say it: "I've never liked bullies, Trip. Not back on Earth, and not out here."
Wow. Meaty stuff there. Er ... okay, maybe not.
Every character, whether one of the colonists or one of the regular cast, came off as awfully generic. We had the engineers who bond over their repairs, the token Plucky Kid [TM] who lost his father to Klingons and wants to fight, the leader who wants to scorn help but is unsure of his own leadership, etc. Okay, so maybe a *few* cliches were left untouched -- there was no romance between Archer and the desperate-but-attractive doctor, for instance, and the unsure leader wasn't *actually* killed off the way I'd expected him to be -- but that doesn't change the fact that a lot of the dialogue could be (and was) called in advance.
Even that might be okay if the show showed any sign of self- awareness. Lots of shows do just fine by taking a lot of the standard tropes and then somehow twisting them -- "Buffy" did it on a regular basis and still does on occasion, just to use one genre example.
"Marauders," on the other hand, invited laughter because it was just ... well, just so gosh-darned earnest about itself. When Archer gives us his big "I don't like bullies" speech or trots out the old "give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day; teach him to fish, he'll eat for a lifetime" chestnut, it's like watching the adventures of Captain Dudley Do- Right. I give the actors credit for not breaking out into hysterical laughter (well, on the take we got, anyway), but that's about it. All of this felt about as interesting as watching the Bush administration claim Yet Again that "no decision has been made about military action" in Iraq. (More believable, though.)
In fairness, most of the plot hangs together reasonably well. (That's easier to do, I suppose, when you're just changing character and place names from stories that have been done so often.) Having Archer find a way to help without revealing the Enterprise's presence to the Klingons is a decent enough premise, and the deception he used to do so, while not without a serious flaw or two, is okay enough from a "fine, let's see where it goes" standpoint. (More on those flaws later.)
Scripter David Wilcox must have been at least somewhat aware of how generic all the dialogue sounded, because the show's got a lot less dialogue than usual. Alas, what takes its place is scene after scene after scene of "the colony breaks down to move, the colonists get combat training, the colony rebuilds itself a little ways away." Instead of generic dialogue, we get only slightly less generic montages.
So what's left to appeal to the viewer? Well, the answer in the production offices appears to be "when in doubt, change T'Pol's costume." Apart from a few minutes where T'Pol is dressed like a colonist in order to masquerade as one, she's in a catsuit that is, if such a thing is possible, even tighter than the usual gray affair, and bone-white. Apparently we as viewers cannot be trusted to pay proper attention to said character's ... assets ... unless there are neon signs alerting us to the presence of the Resident Babe's Body Parts.
From *my* point of view, the main appeal the show had was all the times it managed to hilariously remind me of other situations or invite good rebuttal. For example:
-- As Archer et al. initially leave the planet, there's the standard "come back, Shane" moment where Trip sees the kid's still looking at him. All well and good ... except that the way Mike Vejar set up the shot, Lisa's and my immediate response was "don't flatter yourself, Trip: he's not looking at you. He's watching T'Pol wiggle as she walks!" (I have enough respect for Mike Vejar that I have to assume he did that intentionally; directors need their moments of fun, too.)
-- Everything involving the town moving a little distance away and then rebuilding itself called up so many "Blazing Saddles" images that we couldn't keep straight faces for the rest of the show. We kept expecting to see Trip saying, "People! There's no people!" or Korok complaining that "someone's gotta go back and get a shitload of dimes!" Man, what I'd have given for guest appearances by Cleavon Little, Slim Pickens and Gene Wilder in this show. They'd have shown us all a good time. :-) (If you've never seen the film and have no idea what I'm referencing, go find a copy immediately.)
Apart from its sheer "been there, done that" air, the only real flaw "Marauders" has is with its ending. The "town drives off the local bully" works well in your typical Western, but in your typical Western the local bully doesn't have weapons that can turn your whole town into kindling in less than two minutes. Admittedly, Archer's not exactly an expert on Klingon psychology, but if I were Korok and had just been humiliated, I'd come back with the ship a week later and turn the whole colony into a big ol' fireworks display. It'd stop other people from getting the deuterium, and it'd get revenge on the people who made him lose face. Archer's tactic works fine when the firepower is even, but in this case I think it's entirely likely that it'd risk putting the colonists in a much, much worse place. In some ways, I'd love to see Archer find out later on that that's exactly what occurred.
There's really not much left to say other than a few specific observations: the show was, for all intents and purposes, about as deep as the commercials it filled space between.
So, some other quick notes:
-- I like the fact that the Klingons' technological superiority to Earth isn't across the board. Their transporters are better (or at least the crews are more willing to use them), but their sensors clearly are not.
-- When Archer and company first head back to Enterprise, Reed says something about sending a pod for them. Why? The trio *came down* in a pod, and there's never any indication that it's out of commission.
-- Science nit of the week: the colony doctor's line about "deuterium can burn almost as hot as plasma when it's ignited" is meaningless. Plasma is a state of matter, not a specific thing. When gaseous deuterium ignites, it for all intents and purposes *becomes* a plasma. Not a big deal by any means, but just thought I'd note it.
-- Jolene Blalock, for all that I gripe about the outfit, did an okay job in her one quiet scene shipboard with Archer (where she agrees with him about wanting to help).
That's really about it. This is a substantially shorter review than usual, but there's not much to comment on. Since "Marauders" was pretty generic, I can use two oft-quoted lines myself to sum up the show:
Gertrude Stein's "There's no *there* there," and Abe Lincoln's "If you like that sort of thing, it's the sort of thing you'll like."
Time to wrap up:
Writing: Not much bad other than the ending, but nothing especially good either. Direction: Apart from the one time Mike Vejar got to have fun at Trip's expense, nothing stands out. Acting: Nothing horrid, but nothing that rises beyond a stock performance either.
OVERALL: 4. It filled an hour.
A classified mission reveals T'Pol's dark secret.
Tim Lynch (Castilleja School, Science Department) tly...@alumni.caltech.edu <*> "No, no. Don't shoot him. If you shoot him, you'll just make him mad." -- Gene Wilder, "Blazing Saddles" -- Copyright 2002, Timothy W. Lynch. All rights reserved, but feel free to ask... This article is explicitly prohibited from being used in any off-net compilation without due attribution and *express written consent of the author*. Walnut Creek and other CD-ROM distributors, take note.