In the first of a trilogy Tony Wilkins reviews the Augment story arc from the final season of Enterprise.
It is safe to say that by the end of Season 3 of Enterprise Trekkies everywhere had become polarized by the show. They either loved it or hated it. Now I will confess I struggled to keep up with the episodes being aired here in the UK because it was the only Trek not to appear on the BBC instead appearing on Channel 4 which is notorious for never keeping a regular timeslot for shows like this. They did the same with Angel and Babylon 5 and it hurt ratings accordingly. This coupled with my general lack of enthusiasm from some of the episodes I had watched and my total boredom over the Temporal Cold War arc meant that Enterprise fell off my radar with my Trek times instead being covered by repeats of DS9 and TNG. In all honesty Enterprise was not the first of my beloved Trek that I lost interest in as there were many episodes of Voyager’s last series that I missed because that seemed to have run out of steam for me as well.
Anyway, skip forward about six years after Enterprise died (almost unnoticed by myself) and I find Season 4 on sale in a bargain DVD price bin and so I thought Why not. Having endured the God awful first episode with it’s only saving grace being the end of that Temporal Cold War arc, my hopes were not high for how much I would enjoy this series. Then I hit “Borderland”. Boy did my opinion change.
“Borderland” continues to tell the story of the Augments such as Khan and the subsequent Eugenics Wars; a topic frequently discussed by Trekkies everywhere. DS9 had touched on the topic with Bashir and his group of misfits but that was in a 24th century context and didn’t really address the past. Now in a way my loss of interest when this first aired was an advantage as by the time i got the DVDs I had no idea about the story and more importantly no idea who was the main guest star. So from the moment the teaser starts and we see the two Augments kill an entire crew of Klingons in spectacular fashion I knew that if anything was going to change my mind about Enterprise it would be this. After the much loathed opening credits we then see the man himself Brent Spiner as Arik Soong. I was admittedly dubious about this at first as I wondered if I was only going to see Data the whole time but to Spiner’s credit I knew this was another character altogether after only a few lines of dialogue. Brent Spiner and Scott Bakula (Captain Archer) had wonderful screen presence in this episode. Watching the two of them working off one another was a real treat and I admit from the moment they left Soong’s cell I was intrigued. I was glued to my screen and nothing was going to get me away from it.
From there on however the episode concentrates more on rescuing crewmembers taken prisoner by the Orions for being sold as slaves. At first I was a little annoyed by this as it distracted from the far more interesting story of going after the Augments but as the episode played out I realized it was necessary in order to give us time aboard the captured Bird-of-prey to get to know our Augments. So what do I think of them? The only thing I didn’t like was their costumes. They looked like they had been pulled off a Mad Max movie and I kept thinking that if they are as smart as they are supposed to be then surely one of them could sow. That was my only complaint though. Other than that I thought they were brilliant and while clearly an homage to Khan and his crew from “Star Trek II” they had their own dynamic which I liked. Malik was a true megalomaniac in the style of Khan himself although with a tad more recklessness. It’s clear that Alec Newman had a lot of fun playing him. Abby Brammell is insanely beautiful and deadly as Persis but at the same time she does have that vulnerable side to her and we will see more of that in later episodes involving Soong. At this point I should mention the ship which I think looked both mean and accurate for being a predecessor of the Bird-of-prey we first saw in “Star Trek III”. I would have preferred a more smoother D7-esque design to help establish a design lineage but that is nitpicking.
I know I said earlier that I wasn’t that happy about the Orion slave rescue story but it was fun to watch. The Orions are old school favorites and their appearance in this episode is the first of a massive assault by the Enterprise writers in Season 4 to get the show to feel more like Star Trek (oh if only they had done that in Season 1). The rescue is comical at times particularly how Archer stops Soong from escaping. I did like how Soong was portrayed by the writers and Spiner. I genuinely felt like Soong was familiar with the Orions and not just saying so. I am not a wrestling fan but I guess I should mention that ‘Big Show’ appeared as one of the Orions picking up Jolene Blalock’s relatively tiny frame when she was on sale. To be honest he was a lot of fun to watch and really threw himself in to it.
After the rescue they finally meet up with the Augments and Archer comes face to face with Malik. I have always loved Star Trek when there are two actors working off one another debating a good topic. That’s what Star Trek is about; philosophy. To prove this one of my favorite episodes of Trek ever is the DS9 episode “Duet” where Kira is interrogating a Cardassian war criminal. It was beautiful. In this episode we had two great scenes like this first with Archer and Soong and now with Archer and Malik. It is topped by Malik with the great line;
To quote one of your philosophers, Nietzsche: “Mankind is something to be surpassed”
The episode of course ends with Soong being rescued by his ‘children’ and the threat of all out war with the Klingons now seeming unavoidable. If that wasn’t bad enough then we find out Soong’s plan is to recover the rest of his ‘children’ at Cold Station 12. It was such a dark note to end on and I loved it. This really was the episode that revived my interest in Enterprise. It had action, drama, a familiar face and some philosophy rolled into a well paced episode. One final note; when I watched “Star Trek Into Darkness” for the first time I couldn’t help but feel like this followed on from the Augment episodes. Now that can’t be bad since in the new timeline only Enterprise remains canon because it happened before Nero destroyed the Kelvin.