WARNING: The following article contains valuable spoilers for ENT's "Precious Cargo." Break the seal and they may escape.�
In brief: I tuned in for this?�
"Precious Cargo" Enterprise Season 2, Episode 11 Teleplay by David A. Goodman Story by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga Directed by David Livingston Brief summary: When a repair mission turns into a trap, Trip finds himself stuck protecting a high-and-mighty princess who was being held hostage.
First, my apologies for being so behind with this review -- two and a half weeks is about as late as I've ever been with such things. This time, though, I've got a good reason -- in the series of storms that hit the Bay Area in mid-December, my house was one of the lucky ones that lost power for a full week. Needless to say, in light of situations like that reviews can't be a top priority (especially when it's also the last week of classes) ... but I figured it was worth taking a moment to explain.
Hell, I could explain the situation for an hour and it'd be more worthwhile than sitting through "Precious Cargo" again. Back in November, I said that "Marauders" wasn't much more than generic television -- were I sufficiently paranoid (and unaware of an episode's lead time in filming), I'd wonder if "Precious Cargo" were made just to show me what generic television *really* is.
Actually, "generic" isn't quite the right term here, as the show was pretty clearly aiming to recall a very specific dynamic. You've got the get-his-hands-dirty pilot and engineer who rescues a princess. The princess, who was kidnapped while on a diplomatic mission, initially feels nothing but scorn for this common scoundrel, but he wins her over during some of the unlikeliest of moments.
Hmm. Where could I possibly have seen that before?
Oh, that's right. "Precious Cargo" was, from all appearances, assembled according to the following recipe:
"Take every Han/Leia conversation in the original 'Star Wars' trilogy. Then remove any traces of chemistry between your two lead actors, and suck any and all wit out of the dialogue. Leave enough catchphrases in that it'll be obvious you're doing the Star Wars bit, though."
No, that's not a description of the romantic dialogue in "Attack of the Clones" -- even "Precious Cargo"'s dialogue didn't manage to be *that* bad. That's damning with awfully faint praise, though -- "Precious Cargo"'s main character interplay was basically a pale knockoff of scenes and dialogue almost every regular Enterprise viewer is going to know fairly well, and neither of the leads could do anything but look awful in light of their predecessors. Connor Trinneer, game though he may be, is no Harrison Ford ... and the less said about Padma Lakshmi's performance here, the better.
Actually, since Lakshmi was so important to the success or failure of the show, I think it's important to look at her performance a bit. Unfortunately, the news isn't good: at least ninety percent of the time, there was absolutely no sense from her dialogue or her demeanor that the character was in the slightest danger, or even aware of her surroundings. Naturally, in reality, they're all actors on a soundstage reading lines ... but if we're made consciously aware of that fact something's significantly wrong. Lakshmi's obviously quite young and fairly new to the acting biz, so I'm inclined to cut her a little slack -- but were I in her position, I don't think I'd be adding any of this episode to my demo reel any time soon.
(In fairness, it could be that she's a perfectly decent actress who just can't rise above material this lousy -- I'm usually fond of Natalie Portman's work, for instance, but even I didn't buy the "Attack of the Clones" dialogue. If so, though, she'd be advised to find good material sometime Real Soon Now to let her show that she can actually do the job. This episode won't do it.)
But enough about the "bickering opposites fall for each other" approach a la Star Wars, Cheers, Moonlighting, and scores of other cases. Was there a decent framework setting up that dynamic at least?
Well ... no, not really. The Enterprise answers a distress call sent by two aliens whose every line screams "we're being dishonest and evasive," yet no one seems to be suspicious in the slightest. (There's no sign of decon needed either, despite the fact that we've never seen these aliens or their ships before ... but apparently the decon chamber is only needed when one or more of the participants is suitably ... er ... endowed.) Once Trip's taken captive, what we instead get is a lengthy sequence where Archer tries to trick Firek Plinn (one of the two crooks, who's left behind on Enterprise) into revealing his ship's warp frequency so they can be tracked. Plinn's informed by a stern yet subdued Archer that the judicial administrator on board, T'Pol, is known for her harsh punishments, and that the only way for him to avoid a lingering death is to cooperate posthaste.
This play-acting isn't horrifically bad, but it's played so incredibly broadly that anyone with the intellectual capacity of an eight-year-old or higher should see through it for the ruse it is. Plinn, however, seems to have the intellectual capacity of a seven-year-old, and so babbles like a brook. Does the thought of such a deception give T'Pol any pause? Does anyone have a word with Archer about the way he deals with other species, both before and after a crisis of this sort? Not that we're told -- because oh, it's so much more fun to hear Trip do original things like call Princess ... pardon, First Monarch Kaitaama things like "Your Sovereignty."
Now, in fairness, "Precious Cargo" doesn't seem quite as bad to me as "A Night in Sickbay" or "Carbon Creek" did, though I've got friends who'd disagree. PC didn't go out of its way to offend me or establish character idiocies with long-term impacts, unlike its predecessors -- it was just so all-fired stupid that it actively sought out brain cells to destroy. In the right mindset, that provides more entertainment than the other two episodes above ... because if you're of a mind to give an episode the MST3K treatment, there are few better candidates. Suffice it to say that Lisa and I indulged ourselves. For example:
Archer: "Meet me in Docking Port 2." Me: "Don't wear anything ... complicated."
Trip (still dealing with the language barrier): "I'm from a starship. Enterprise." Lisa, as the princess: "Enterprise? I've heard of you people! <WHACK>"
Princess: "What will we do about food?" Me, as Trip: "Why d'ya think I brung ya? I oughta last at least a week on those legs alone."
Archer: "Her punishment can be ... severe." Lisa: "Yeah -- you might have to come back and guest star EVERY week."
Princess: "Now I spent my personal time in the company of my father's advisors." Me: "One of them's named Grima, and the other one keeps talking about his secure undisclosed location all the time. You know the guys?"
The pair lands in the swamp. Lisa: "Oh, Yoda's gonna kick your sorry asses..."
And when the Princess tells Trip to take off his uniform and starts looking through the medical kit, we both came up with things pretty instantly. Lisa went with the classics, going into the "nine packs of chewing gum, three lipsticks, three pairs nylon stockings ... shoot, a fella could have himself a pretty good weekend in Vegas with all this stuff" riff from Dr. Strangelove, while I simply went with one sentence: "Hey ... this is decon gel."
Other minor observations:
-- So Trip's going to try to come back in 246 days when the princess becomes First Monarch. Does anyone else have the sinking feeling that he'll come back to find he's fathered a kid? (It might even be ... wait for it ... Trip-lets. Sorry.)
-- A different friend of mine lost it from the moment the princess ripped her skirt getting into the escape pod. "Okay, so any normal person would've hiked the thing up," were her exact words, if I'm not mistaken...
I'm not sure there's that much left to say -- I suspect I've already put more time into writing this review than was spent on the episode. "Precious Cargo" may not be quite the offensive drivel that "A Night in Sickbay" was, but it was a lot more forgettable and trite -- and in the long run, that may prove even more damning.
As I said last episode: I remain convinced that _Enterprise_ can succeed at far above the level of basic subsistence. I remain worried that no one's going to bother making it do so.
Writing: Um ... show me some and I'll comment. Direction: Nothing particularly horrid, but there's only so much you can do with the material. Acting: Apart from a line or two that Trinneer salvages, there's nothing here to see. Avoid.
OVERALL: 3. No, thanks.
Enterprise is taken over, forcing Archer to consider the ultimate solution. (No, not showing a rerun of this week...)
Tim Lynch (Castilleja School, Science Department) tly...@alumni.caltech.edu <*> "You're my only hope of surviving here." "Oh, COME ON..." -- the Princess and every viewer watching -- 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.