Star Trek: Enterprise Rewatch

Star Trek: Enterprise Rewatch: “Civilization”

Written by Phyllis Strong & Mike Sussman
Directed by Mike Vejar
Season 1, Episode 9
Production episode 009
Original air date: November 14, 2001
Date: July 31, 2151

Captain’s star log. Archer shows up for the morning briefing on nearby phenomena for them to possibly investigate. While he’s inexplicably unenthused by a supernova remnant or a cluster of three neutron stars, he’s over the moon at the Class-M planet with five hundred million people living on it.

They head there, discovering that it’s a preindustrial society, as T’Pol is picking up no EM emissions whatsoever. They see sailing ships on the oceans, and also that the people are humanoid. Archer wishes to beam down and observe them more closely, which T’Pol advises against, as they’d be recognized. However, Archer thinks Phlox can surgically alter their faces so they’ll pass.

Sato uses the acoustic relay to pick up the languages being spoken—she detects ten different ones. The people are called the Akaali, and Sato is able to build a translation matrix.

T’Pol detects a concentration of neutrino emissions, which are out of place in a preindustrial world like this. That is worthy of investigation, so Archer, T’Pol, Sato, and Tucker head down in a shuttlepod—after being surgically altered to look like Akaali. T’Pol also wears a long-haired wig to hide her tapered ears.

The landing party sees people with lesions on their skin. They localize the neutrino emissions to a curio shop. Archer and Tucker break into the curio shop after hours and find an energy field keeping them from opening a rear door. They’re caught by Riaan, an apothecary who has also been spying on the curio shop, which is owned by a person named Garos. According to Riaan, people started getting sick in the last two months, which is also when Garos arrived. Archer and Tucker insist that they aren’t in league with him—and then T’Pol stuns her with a phase pistol.

They get her address from her papers, and Archer brings her home and makes sure she’s okay. When she awakens, he says she just collapsed unexpectedly and he took her home. He claims to be an investigator, and he’s looking into Garos, but can’t say more. He takes his leave, saying he’ll want to ask her more questions when she’s feeling better.

Reed informs the landing party that the energy field under the curio shop is strong enough to withstand a torpedo barrage. Tucker suggests bringing a sick Akaali to Enterprise for Phlox to examine, but T’Pol points out that aliens kidnapping natives is a hilariously terrible idea.

Star Trek: Enterprise "Civilzation"

Screenshot: CBS

Archer and Tucker speak to Garos in the curio shop when it opens, and they each realize that the other is not Akaali. Garos is a Malurian. He claims to be on a survey mission, and the generator they detected is a fabricator to create clothes and food. Garos has heard Riaan’s accusations, but he assures them that it’s just a coincidence. He deflects their requests to see the reactor, aided by customers coming in and Archer and Tucker not wanting to cause a scene.

Archer and T’Pol visit Riaan, the former questioning her further about her suspicions regarding Garos while the latter surreptitiously scans Riaan’s equipment and the samples she’s taken. Riaan has seen people dropping off and picking up crates at the curio shop at odd hours.

Phlox examines what T’Pol ganked from Riaan and reports that the water has been contaminated with tetracyanate 622, an industrial lubricant, which simply must be coming from Garos.

Archer joins Riaan in her spying on Garos. They see the crates being put out as Riaan had said, and they follow someone who takes the crates to a clearing. A small craft flies down and uses a tractor beam to pull in the crates, and then it returns to orbit.

They’re ambushed, and Archer manages to subdue the person, discovering that he’s also a Malurian. Using a device purloined from the Malurian, Archer and Riaan are able to gain ingress to the reactor room. According to Archer’s scans, it’s powering a mining operation: the Malurians are gathering a veridium isotope from Akaali. Archer can’t risk using a phase pistol on the reactor, so he tries to bring down the dampening field that kept them from scanning the curio shop so T’Pol can use the transporter to get rid of the reactor.

Star Trek: Enterprise "Civilzation"

Screenshot: CBS

Unfortunately, he fails his saving throw versus understanding alien tech, and an alarm goes off. Garos’ ship confronts Enterprise, with Garos telling them to leave orbit and that Archer is dead.

Archer manages to finally disable the dampening field, then gets into a firefight with the Malurians. T’Pol orders Tucker to beam the reactor into space next to the Malurian ship and detonate it.

With the reactor gone, Garos and his cronies have no means of mining the veridium, and they leave via transporter. Riaan is gobsmacked by all this, and promises to keep the existence of Enterprise and the Malurians secret. “Who’d believe me, anyway?” Phlox also provides a cure for the tetracyanate poisoning, and Archer says that the Vulcans have promised to look in on the Akaali from time to time to make sure the Malurians don’t come back.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? The Universal Translator in the communicator apparently works in such a way that the people they talk to think they’re speaking in their language. It’s not clear how that works, exactly, though at one point Archer’s communicator fails and he has to reboot it.

The gazelle speech. Archer gets to lead a landing party, kiss a pretty woman, and get into a firefight. It’s the Trek captain trifecta!

I’ve been trained to tolerate offensive situations. T’Pol orders Mayweather to prepare to leave orbit, which angers Tucker, who orders one of his engineers to vent the nacelles so they can’t abandon the captain. T’Pol patiently explains that she just wants Mayweather to be ready to leave orbit as a backup plan and she has no intention of abandoning Archer.

Florida Man. Florida Man Commits Mutiny But Suffers No Actual Consequences.

Optimism, Captain! Phlox gets to do surgical alterations to make humans and Vulcans look like Akaali and also cure the poisoning. Because he’s just that awesome.

Star Trek: Enterprise "Civilzation"

Screenshot: CBS

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. When Archer’s Universal Translator goes on the fritz, he covers by kissing Riaan. She does not respond by kicking him in the nuts, because as we all know, Star Trek captains have magic kissing powers that make women go all woobly. (Sigh.)

More on this later… Vulcan protocol is to not make contact with a species until they’ve achieved faster-than-light travel. Tucker snidely says that’s a Vulcan protocol, not a human one, but we all know that it will become Federation policy in the future.

The Malurians were established as being wiped out by Nomad a century hence in the original series’ “The Changeling.”

I’ve got faith…

“A farm?”

“It’s remote and sparsely populated. If you’re exposed, there’s a reduced risk of cultural contamination.”

“This must be why aliens are always landing in corn fields…”

–Archer and T’Pol discussing landing sites while also explaining most alien-abduction stories in general and the opening of “Broken Bow” in particular.

Welcome aboard. Diane DiLascio plays Riaan, while the wonderful-voiced Wade Andrew Williams plays Garos, having played the equally great-voiced Trajis in Voyager’s “One.”

Trivial matters: The Akaali will be seen again a thousand years hence in Discovery’s “The Examples,” where it will be established that in the millennium since Enterprise stopped by, they achieved space travel and set up a colony on an asteroid.

The Malurians are seen again in regular commenter Christopher L. Bennett’s Rise of the Federation novels taking place after Enterprise’s finale, and also in the manga story “Communications Breakdown” by Christine Boylan & Bettina M. Kurkoski in the comics anthology Kakan ni Shinkou.

The first day of filming on this episode was on the 11th of September 2001. Production was halted due to the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. that day, and resumed the following day.

Star Trek: Enterprise "Civilzation"

Screenshot: CBS

It’s been a long road… “That’s the second lie you’ve told me—you’re not very good at it.” This is a perfectly serviceable first-contact episode, though it doesn’t really go much beyond that. There’s a certain perfunctory quality to it that I found frustrating, though I’m willing to give the show a mulligan for this particular episode given that it was filmed during one of the worst weeks of the last few decades. A native New Yorker, I distinctly remember not just the day of the 11 September attacks, but the days after. It was a nightmare, and I’m not surprised that the performances by everyone in this episode were a bit subdued.

Not helping matters is a paint-by-numbers script that has a bunch of head-scratchers, starting at the very beginning with the briefing. The lack of enthusiasm for investigating the supernova remnant or the triad of neutron stars makes absolutely no sense, and once again sets up humanity as a bunch of jocks wanting to do the cool-sounding stuff and not boring science stuff like the nerd Vulcans. It’s a dynamic that was already dated by the time Enterprise aired, and once again makes humans out to look worse than the producers intended.

Then we have Archer smooching Riaan without her consent in order to cover up that his translator went on the fritz. While I loved that the communicator, in essence, needed to be rebooted (since we’ve all had to do that with our computers, our smartphones, our tablets, etc.), my main thought upon watching it was, “I’ll take ‘Scenes That Have Aged Badly for $200’.” It’s yet another tired throwback to the original series.

And then there’s T’Pol telling Mayweather to prepare to leave orbit, with Tucker responding mutinously. What’s worse is that Tucker’s mutiny has absolutely no consequences, except to create artificial tension between T’Pol and the humans, even though she’s the one acting sensibly. Plus, of course, I kept thinking of a great line from Major Marks on Stargate SG-1 when told by Dr. Daniel Jackson that he should prepare to fire weapons: “Just for the record, I’m always prepared. I just push this button.” Pretty sure that Mayweather, with the ship under fire and all, had an evasive course laid in already…

I do like that the impulses of the entire crew is to help the Akaali, even if it’s in secret. While T’Pol thinks Archer’s general idea of landing on Akaali is a bad idea, she’s right there with him when it comes to finding out where the neutrino emissions are coming from and later why the Akaali near that generator are getting sick.

But the script also pulls writer tricks to take the easy way out—both in this episode and retroactively in “The Changeling.” T’Pol’s initial concerns were legitimate ones, but the presence of the Malurians overrides that problem, thus avoiding the other possible moral dilemmas. And while it’s cute that they let us see the Malurians who were wiped out off-camera by Nomad, making them assholes undercuts the tragedy of the original series episode.

Ultimately, a relentlessly average first-contact story, hence the relentlessly average rating…

Warp factor rating: 5

Keith R.A. DeCandido reminds everyone that he also has a Patreon, on which he reviews TV shows (recent reviews include The Shield, My Life is Murder, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Under the Vines, and Star Trek: Prodigy) and movies (recent reviews include Luca and Encanto), creates vignettes featuring his original characters, presents excerpts and first drafts of his works in progress, and posts tons of cat pictures. It’s all reasonably priced, too, and you get some great stuff—check it out!


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