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4-04 Borderland

reviewed by Kevin Thomas Riley

Yes, the hype about Star Trek: Enterprise taking a new and positive direction definitely holds up. Borderland is the first instalment of a three episode mini-arc, of which there will be many this season. And it was just awesome. On my patented 1-10 scale, I grade it a 9- (or possibly an 8+). It still had some very minor faults but overall it was extremely good. But I have to restrain myself since I now firmly believe we'll see a lot of even more excellent Trek as the season progresses.

First of all, at first I was a little worried about Brent Spiner's guest spot. His Data character on Star Trek: The Next Generation never touched me the way Spock did in the original and I was afraid that we would simply get a Data redux character in Dr Arik Soong. But I was very pleasantly surprised. Spiner played Soong perfectly. He wasn't a cardboard villain and he managed to make Soong a believable character on his own, without having it scream "Noonien Soong" (Arik's supposed grandchild), "Lore" or "Data". He even avoided the Okun geek stereotype from the movie Independence Day.

The so-called augments (genetically engineered superhumans from the Eugenics Wars) might be a bit of a rehash from Khan's gang but I really don't care. At this point, almost anything in Trek will be somewhat of a "rehash". And that goes especially if you want to make every effort to connect ENT with the original series and make it a true prequel. As long as you tell a good and entertaining story I'm a happy camper.

I liked the augments and the way they were portrayed was actually quite compelling. I was a bit surprised when I felt myself developing some sympathies for them, and I had to remind myself that they were the bad guys. Now if you can do that, you have created a good story and good characters. I could feel the rebellious nature and eagerness of Malik when he seized power. They had an interesting dynamic amongst themselves - referring to each other as brothers and sisters and calling Dr Soong father. I wonder though how they will eventually feel about Soong since he's not an augment himself, even if he was responsible for their creation. I liked Persis too. She was pretty nice to look at, even in, or perhaps because of the, ragged clothing.

I also liked how they tackled the thorny issue of genetic engineering. While the concept of creating superhumans is abhorrent they never hit you over the head with it. Instead even Dr Soong had some arguments about how diseases could be cured with the help of genetic tampering. But it was left to the attentive viewer to ponder and figure out the rights and wrongs. This is how moral dilemmas are best solved on Trek. Whenever it gets too preachy (in either direction) I cringe somewhat.

There was a big detour in the story featuring the Orions (another nice nod to the original series). The much anticipated revisit to the Orion Slave Girls was a bit disappointing though. Not because of the green gal, because she was smoking hot, but because it was so little of it. Basically we had Captain Archer and Soong trying to rescue some captured crewmembers, including T'Pol, from an Orion Slave Market. It was good to see Orion males (played by a couple of "professional" wrestlers) for the first time. Those guys were huge - and sort of incredible hulk-ish. They dwarfed poor T'Pol, but she still managed to kick one in the groin. You go, Polly! And the slavery scenes were convincingly scary. It showed that space is still a creepy and dangerous place to be in. The slave auction was a hoot, especially with the Orion slaver tossing around T'Pol as a rag doll and getting a huge sum for her (well, duh). If I may digress here I was disappointed that we didn't get to see our favourite Vulcan lady in a Slave Girl outfit. And the real Orion Slave Girl scene was way too brief. And I also thought that it dragged a bit when Archer and Soong set the slaves free and chaos ensued with everyone just running around.

I find the concept of the Orion Syndicate and the volatile Borderland region very interesting and they really should have made that an arc all by itself instead of cramming it into the Soong storyline. As much as I enjoyed seeing it it served only one purpose in Borderland, and that was to show what a sneaky guy Soong can be. But I hope we'll get a chance to revisit the Orions (and their women) later. You hear me, Manny!

It was also nice to see that the sad events of the previous episode Home haven't been forgotten. You can see how much it hurts Trip and T'Pol to be in this situation. He asks about her honeymoon and in the end she makes a point of telling him that there's no such thing on Vulcan and that she went to meditate - alone - right after the wedding ceremony. Oh the angst they have in store for those two! It was sad but sweet and poignant at the same time. The intraship gossip must be going haywire, especially considering even Dr Soong seemed to knew about them, as his little jest on the Transporter platform suggested.

T'Pol is also now commissioned in Starfleet but thank God they're keeping the catsuits. There's is a T&A real world answer for that of course but if I may be so bold and suggest a Trekkian answer; T'Pol has a special commission, much like some foreigners had that served in the American Revolutionary War, and is thus allowed certain privileges, like the choice of uniform to wear. Ah, who am I kidding, I just hate those Starfleet "flight suits". Archer gave her a nice gift too, an old 20th century compass. Presumably a nod to her finding the right path in the future, and perhaps also a consolation for what happened to her on Vulcan (Being her CO I'm sure he knows about all that).

The visuals were great and the special effects and CGI looks better than in previous episodes but that's probably due to them being in space where it's, well, darker. The look of the Orion Slave Market was sufficiently alien.

The end might have been a bit clichéd with the augments boarding the Enterprise and setting Soong free but I didn't mind it that much and went along with the flow. But it really wasn't very wise to dock with that Klingon ship now was it? Archer knew that the augments had stolen a Klingon Bird-of-Prey (and a very cool looking vessel at that), it was the very reason they came to the Borderland area in the first place. And letting Malik into the Ready Room was sloppy.

But those are minor nit-picks. Even Kirk had bad judgement calls, notably in Space Seed. Besides, I'm all excited about how this arc will unfold in the coming episodes. Stay tuned, I believe this is going to be the greatest Trek season in a long, long time.

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