The Great Star Trek Enterprise Rewatch: Borderland

When a Klingon Bird-of-Prey is hijacked by a group of genetically enhanced human beings, Archer is assigned to track them down. In order to assist him, he takes on board Dr Arik Soong, a scientist, convicted criminal, and the very man who raised the genetically enhaced humans in the first place. But Soong is less interested in bringing his ‘children’ to justice, than he is in ditching the Enterprise crew and rushing to join them.

This episode marks the start of Enterprise’s final attempt to reinvent itself. It had tried an overarching and recurring grand storyline in the form of the Temporal Cold War – and no one cared. It spent time on episodic stories that needed to stand on their own merit and the strength of the main cast – and they were mostly dull and derivative. It went for a grand season-long arc – but only succeeded in turning Archer into an arsehole and making the audience feel even more distant from the action. So, the show did the only thing left to it. It tried to bring back the fans by packing in as many references to past series and storylines as it could.

Back in the day, it sounded hopeful. Surely this would be the thing that would revitalise this flagging franchise. We all knew what we liked about Star Trek, and now Enterprise would finally be bringing us more of it.

Unfortunately, despite the show’s best efforts, ultimately, it still sucked.

Take this episode, for example, a bold step into this brave new world. Brent Spiner shows up to play a member of the Soong family, and he is excellent. His character is brilliant in every scene. My viewing companion comments, “he’s so much better than anyone else in this”. And he is – which just goes to highlight how lacklustre everything else is.

There’s a section in which T’Pol and some other crew members are kidnapped by the Orion Syndicate and sold off as slaves. It’s deeply uncomfortable, and is in no way present to raise Star Trek’s usual brand of difficult modern questions. Instead, it acts as filler – since this is a three-episode arc – and something of a throwback to TOS. Except it’s a throwback to things that were acceptable on screen in the sixties, and now just feel a bit awkward.

With regards to the Augments – the genetically engineered humans – things feel equally atavistic. These young Greek Gods conform to all the stereotypes- the well meaning leader whose followers perceive him as weak; the aggressive rival who supplants him, even the wily seductress. Give me some credit here; not only can I cope with more complex characters than this, I would even welcome it.

Franchise Nods

  • Dr Arik Soong is an ancestor of Dr Noonien Soong, roboticist and creator of Data, Lore and B4.
  • The genetically enhanced humans started out as embryos from the Eugenics Wars. One of my favourite games is to tell people who are too young to remember the mid-nineties that the Eugenics Wars and Khan’s rule actually happened.
  • This is the first reappearance of Orion Animal Women since TOS (I’m not including the animated series of events therein).

Notes and Observations

  • Enterprise is finally fully repaired and upgraded, having been flying around with great holes in the hull since Azati Prime.
  • I think this may be the first time we get to see a male Orion. They aren’t nearly as attractive as the women.

Summary – Borderland: Ol’ Yellow Eyes is back…sort of.

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