Star Trek: Enterprise Rewatch

Star Trek: Enterprise Rewatch: “Borderland”

Written by Ken LaZebnik
Directed by David Livingston
Season 4, Episode 4
Production episode 080
Original air date: October 29, 2004
Date: May 17, 2154

Captain’s star log. A Klingon Bird-of-Prey captures a transport shuttle containing two humans. The humans are taken prisoner but then they suddenly attack the Klingons, killing the entire crew and taking over the ship.

Archer visits Dr. Arik Soong in his prison cell on Earth. Archer informs him that the Klingons are hopping mad. The bodies of the Klingon crew, which were sent out into space, had traces of human DNA—specifically humans who were genetically augmented.

Twenty years ago, Soong, a proponent of genetic engineering even though it’s illegal, stole twenty embryos of genetically engineered humans—Augments—left over from the Eugenics Wars. Ten years ago, he was arrested for that theft (among other crimes), but refused to reveal where the embryos were. It turns out that he unfroze them and raised them, at least until he was arrested. And now they’re taking over Klingon ships.

Archer’s orders are to take Soong along on a mission to find the Augments. Soong doesn’t particularly want to go, but he isn’t given a choice, either. He’s outfitted with a transponder that will enable Enterprise to track him anywhere.

Enterprise has been repaired and refit, complete with comfy new chair for Archer on the bridge. They set out for the Borderland, an area between Klingon and Orion space.

Upon arrival, two Orion interceptors attack and use transporters to kidnap nine members of the crew, including T’Pol. They’re placed in prison cells, with neurolytic restraints placed on their necks. A Tellarite pays really good money for T’Pol.

Soong has a relationship with the Orions—he used them to get supplies—and he can get them onto Verex III, the nearest slave processing station. But he can’t get the crew out. Archer says one step at a time.

Screenshot: CBS

On the Klingon ship, the Augments’ leader, Raakin, is not happy with Malik for enacting this plan to take over the ship. Malik tries to get Persis on his side, but Persis is dating Raakin and she later tells Raakin that Malik is plotting against him. But that turns out to be a double bluff, as it prompts Raakin to try to take out Malik, only to discover that Malik has already turned the other Augments to his side. Malik successfully takes over as leader, killing Raakin.

Archer is able to buy Pierce, and also bribes the Orion guard to deactivate the restraint but leave it attached. Once back on Enterprise, Phlox is able to remove the restraint and our heroes are able to determine the code that will deactivate all the restraints. Archer and Soong go back to the surface and do so, causing a major-ass riot. T’Pol takes advantage of the opportunity to kick the Orion slaver in the nuts.

However, Soong escapes in the confusion, using a cattle prod belonging to one of the Orion overseers to deactivate his transponder. However, Archer still has the remote control to Soong’s handcuffs. He cuffs Soong, hampering the scientist’s movements. Then, when Soong is using his cuffed hands as a handle to pull himself up a wall, Archer undoes the cuffs, causing Soong to fall down and be recaptured.

Archer accuses Soong of having planned the whole thing. Soong neither confirms nor denies, but instead tries to appeal to Archer’s better nature. Genetic engineering could have saved his father, who died of a very painful disease. Soong also says that his Augments are the future of humanity.

Enterprise is again attacked by Orions, but a Klingon Bird-of-Prey drives them off. It’s, of course, Malik’s BOP, and he boards the ship and, after briefly pretending to talk and be reasonable, Malik takes Archer hostage, has his people board the ship and free Soong, and then bugger off with their “father.” On the way out the docking port, Soong recommends that Archer go home and learn how to speak Klingon.

Screenshot: CBS

To be continued…

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Soong is not allowed any manner of electronic devices after he used a padd to open all the doors in the prison. 

The gazelle speech. After all the angst in “Home,” Archer is happy to be back on the bridge of Enterprise surrounded by his trusted crew. It’s actually kind of sweet. He also very cleverly uses Soong’s handcuffs against him when chasing him.

I’ve been trained to tolerate offensive situations. T’Pol has officially joined Starfleet and is now a commander. Archer gives her a compass as a present.

Because the standard Starfleet uniform isn’t sufficiently male-gaze-y for the producers of this particular TV show, she still wears more form-fitting outfits that accentuate her figure and are also in brighter colors.

Florida Man. Florida Man Rebounds From Girlfriend’s Rejection By Rebuilding Captain’s Chair.

Screenshot: CBS

Optimism, Captain! While Phlox doesn’t agree with the human ban on genetic engineering—Denobulans have been doing genetic engineering for ages—he doesn’t think much of Soong, either.

The Vulcan Science Directorate has determined… The Vulcans are attempting a diplomatic solution with the Klingons.

Qapla’! The Klingons are threatening war with Earth because some humans that don’t claim Earth citizenship (and vice versa) stole a ship and killed their crew. Sure.

Better get MACO. Even though the Xindi crisis is over, there are still MACOs assigned to Enterprise. They guard Soong while he’s on the ship and Malik when he boards as well, and they prove as useless as ever in repelling a hostile boarding party, as the Augments take them down in seconds flat. 

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. Tucker asks T’Pol how the honeymoon went, and is inexplicably surprised to learn that Vulcans don’t really honeymoon, and somewhat less inexplicably surprised that she spent the aftermath of her wedding meditating on Mount Seleya alone. A romantic, she ain’t, at least not with Koss…

More on this later… This three-parter serves to partially explain why the genetic engineering ban remains a thing into the twenty-third and twenty-fourth centuries (as seen in SNW’s “Ghosts of Illyria” and “Ad Astra per Aspera” and DS9’s “Dr. Bashir, I Presume?” respectively). It doesn’t do it very well, but the whole notion was dumb to begin with…

I’ve got faith…

“We can’t let past mistakes hold us back.”

“It’s your responsibility as a scientist to learn from past mistakes.”

“Now what makes you think I haven’t?”

“I can read.”

–Soong and Phlox arguing ethics.

Screenshot: CBS

Welcome aboard. Alec Newman (Malik), Abby Brammell (Persis), and Joel West (Raakin) play the Augments with speaking parts. WWE wrestler Big Show plays the Orion slaver, Dave Power plays Pierce, Bobbi Sue Luther plays the Orion slave woman, Dayo Ade plays the Klingon weapons officer, and old pal J.G. Hertzler makes a surprisingly brief guest turn as the Klingon captain, his third Klingon after Kolos in “Judgment” and Martok on DS9 and Lower Decks. Hertzler has also played the Saratoga captain in DS9’s “Emissary,” Rittenhouse in DS9’s “Far Beyond the Stars,” Laas in DS9’s “Chimera,” a Hirogen in Voyager’s “Tsunkatse,” and a Drookmani captain in LD’s “Terminal Provocations” and “A Mathematically Perfect Redemption.”

The big guest, of course, is Brent Spiner, playing another member of the Soong family, Arik, having previously played Soong’s descendant, Noonian, in TNG’s “Brothers,” “Birthright, Part I,” and “Inheritance.” Spiner will later play one of Arik’s ancestors, Adam, in season two of Picard, as well as another of his descendants, Altan, in Picard’s “Et in Arcadia Egotwo-parter and “The Bounty.” Spiner, of course, is best known for playing Data on TNG and Picard. He also played Lore in TNG’s “Datalore,” “Brothers,” and the “Descenttwo-parter and in Picard’s “The Bounty,” “Dominion,” and “Surrender,” and he played B-4 in Nemesis.

Newman, Brammell, and Spiner will return in the next episode, “Cold Station 12.”

Trivial matters: This kicks off a three-part story, only the second three-parter in Trek history up to this point (following DS9’s “The Homecoming,” “The Circle,” and “The Siege”), but which will form the template for much of the first two-thirds of Enterprise’s fourth season, as this is the first of three three-parters over the course of the following dozen or so episodes.

The Eugenics Wars were established in the original series’ “Space Seed,” with this episode establishing the term “Augments” to refer to the genetically engineered humans seen in that episode, led by Khan Noonien Singh. Earth’s ban on genetic engineering in order to prevent another Eugenics War was established in DS9’s “Dr. Bashir, I Presume?

It will be revealed in Picard’s “Farewell” that Soong’s ancestor Adam was involved with the development of the Augments who started the Eugenics Wars, among them Khan.

Big Show is the third WWE wrestler to appear on Trek since UPN acquired the rights to that wrestling federation’s broadcasts. The others were Tiny Lister in “Broken Bow” and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in Voyager’s “Tsunkatse.”

This episode won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Stunt Coordination.

Screenshot: CBS

It’s been a long road… “If you don’t sell as a slave, I will sell you as food.” On the one hand, I love that Enterprise chose to embrace the more flexible storytelling notions of two- and three-parters in this fourth season. It gives some of the stories more room to breathe.

On the other hand, this story is kind of nowhere.

It manages to be a fun hour, which is entirely on the back of a snottily charismatic performance by Brent Spiner. For all that his most famous role is as a placid, deadpan android, Spiner’s best mode as an actor (when he’s not playing a Starfleet android, anyhow) is as a snide jerk. Soong’s acid commentary throughout the episode livens things considerably.

And they need livening, as the scenes he’s not in are pretty leaden. The worst is the casting and writing of the Augments. In 1967, the producers of “Space Seed” understood that the harbingers of a world war would include people from all around the world: Khan’s people were of multiple ethnicities. This was missed in 1982’s The Wrath of Khan when Nicholas Meyer inexplicably decided to make all of Khan’s people be blond-haired and blue-eyed (and also way too young).

In 2004, the producers of “Borderland” paid more attention to the 1982 movie than the 1967 episode, giving us three spectacularly boring white people as our primary Augments. Worse, these supposedly superior beings are doing a tired love-triangle dance that had whiskers on it when Sir Thomas Malory compiled La Morte d’Arthur in the fifteenth century.

I’m not familiar with the work of Alec Newman or Joel West outside this storyline, but I’ve seen Abby Brammell in other things, and she wasn’t dreadful, so I’m willing to give Newman and West the benefit of the doubt that they were failed by poorly written parts, but man, all three of them are incredibly nowhere.

Still, the episode sets things up nicely for the remainder of the story, and I especially love the way Archer was able to use the remote-controlled handcuffs (which were established within seconds of Soong first appearing on screen at the top of the episode) to capture Soong. Plus there’s a J.G. Hertzler cameo, which is always a good thing.

Warp factor rating: 7

Keith R.A. DeCandido urges you all to support the Kickstarter for Grandma Got Kidnapped by Aliens (and Other Holiday Disasters), edited by Hildy Silverman for Crazy 8 Press. This anthology of holidays gone horribly wrong will include stories by fellow Trek scribes Peter David, Michael Jan Friedman, Robert Greenberger, Paul Kupperberg, Glenn Hauman, Aaron Rosenberg, Geoffrey Thorne, Derek Tyler Attico, and Howard Weinstein. If the book makes a stretch goal, Keith will do a story as well! Please consider supporting.


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