Star Trek: Enterprise: Rogue Planet   Rewatch 
December 3, 2018 10:15 AM - Season 1, Episode 18 - Subscribe

Captain Archer’s girlfriend goes to a different school planet. You wouldn’t know her.

Memory Alpha sheds some light on the situation:

Background information
Story and script
> Though he went uncredited for his work on this episode, it was Enterprise Story Editor André Bormanis who provided the genesis for this installment. He did so by pitching a story regarding a sunless, orphaned planet which is nevertheless "Class M" due to having extreme geo-thermal vents. Added to this concept was the notion of doing some kind of a "safari show" and the idea of the Yeats poem Archer quotes, having him somehow emotionally touched by some form of alien creature. The use of the poem was suggested by Executive Producer Rick Berman, after which the episode continued to develop into its final form. The plot, especially the inclusion of alien hunters, allowed writer Chris Black an opportunity to focus on the enigmatic character of Reed. (Star Trek: Communicator issue 143, pp. 29-30)
> This episode was not meant to be an anti-hunting story, as Chris Black pointed out, his father having hunted for years and the issue not being one that the younger Black felt particularly strongly about. He recalled, "We didn't want it to be a preachy episode […] It's only when it's revealed that they're hunting intelligent species that it becomes an issue." Black also planned for Reed's assurance to Archer that he would not kill anything to be a genuinely intended guarantee. (Star Trek: Communicator issue 143, p. 30)
> The first draft of this episode's script was submitted on 6 December 2001. Thereafter, blue and pink change pages were issued on 10 December and 13 December respectively. The final draft of the script was issued on 14 December 2001.

Cast and characters
> Much like his character in this installment, Reed actor Dominic Keating appreciated the presence of the group of male visitors to the series. During the making of this episode, Keating reported, "We have three guest stars on this week who are playing hunters, and they are hysterical! So sometimes it's really work, but in amongst that we're just laughing like hyenas." (Star Trek: Communicator issue 138, p. 63)
> Dominic Keating put a spin on Reed's promise that he wouldn't kill anything. "Dominic actually delivered that line a little more slyly than I intended; you're not entirely sure he means it!" exclaimed Chris Black. "Which was something that Dominic did […] It wasn't really in the script, but his take on the character was 'Well, he might like to take a shot – you never know.'" (Star Trek: Communicator issue 143, p. 30)
> Conor O'Farrell previously played Jeff Carlson in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Little Green Men" and later played D'Jamat in the Enterprise third season episode "Chosen Realm". Eric Pierpoint also guest-starred in DS9, as Captain Sanders in "For the Uniform", and appeared as Section 31 agent Harris in fourth season Star Trek: Enterprise installments "Affliction", "Divergence", "Demons", and "Terra Prime".
> Keith Szarabajka previously played Teero Anaydis in the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Repression".
> Stephanie Niznik previously played Lt. Perim, the Trill helmsman of the USS Enterprise-E, in Star Trek: Insurrection.

> Dominic Keating found the set for this episode's planetary environment to be unpleasant. During the installment's production, Keating reported, "We're standing in a smoky dusty set on Stage 9 at the moment. It's dark, it's dank, we're in some forest – this planet has no light and we're in some dark, dingy, blue-lit infested forest. You turn the torch on, and all you can see are particles in the air, and we're breathing it in 15 hours a day." (Star Trek: Communicator issue 138, p. 63)

> This is the only time the crew of Enterprise use their green-glowing night vision gear.
> In Act One, Archer is mistaken in his captain’s starlog when he says Tucker and Reed are bringing Sato back to Enterprise, because Tucker was not a member of the first landing party to Dakala. Only Reed ferries Sato back to Enterprise, but then Tucker returns with him to the surface.

> Chris Black thought that Dominic Keating's delivery of Reed's promise not to kill anything improved that line. "I told him later I thought [it] was wonderful," noted Black. (Star Trek: Communicator issue 143, p. 30)
> Star Trek Magazine's "Ultimate Guide" rated this episode 2 out of 5 arrowhead insignias. (Star Trek Magazine issue 164, p. 79)
> The unofficial reference book Beyond the Final Frontier (p. 366) comments about this outing, "Probably the weakest episode of the season, it's not bad so much as anti-climactic." The book goes on to suggest that the episode should not even have been commissioned because it seems too much like an installment of Star Trek: Voyager, opining, "This has 'unused Chakotay story' written all over it."

Memorable quotes
"Captain Archer in command."
"Give it a rest, Trip."
- Tucker, while trying to take a picture of Archer for a portrait to be hung at Starfleet Command

"Maybe they wanna be left alone. A single ship on a dark planet. Maybe they're on their honeymoon."
- Tucker, on a ship located on the surface of Dakala refusing to answer hails

"I used to say I could land a shuttlepod with my eyes closed."
"Well, the proof's in the pudding, captain."
- Archer, while trying to find a break in the canopy to land in the dark with Reed's response

"Why don't you let me play captain for a while, Malcolm."
- Archer, on Reed's readiness to lead the landing party

"How many merit badges?"
"Twenty-eight. You?"
"Oh. That's not bad, sir."
- Archer and Reed, after they discover they were both Eagle Scouts

"We spot any more creatures like that and we'll earn our exobiology badges."
"Actually… I already have that one."
- Archer and Reed

"I promise I won't kill anything, sir."
- Reed, to Archer prior to joining the Eska on a hunt

"I wonder if you would be so determined to find this apparition if it were a scantily-clad man."
- T'Pol, on Archer's behavior

"What are the chances you'd encounter a half-naked woman, who you think you know, dozens of light years from your home world?"
- Damrus, to Archer

"She may just be something I envisioned a long time ago but I'll be damned if I'm gonna let anyone shoot her."
- Archer

"Strange… but we never failed in the hunt before you arrived."
"I guess we must be bad luck."
- Damrus and Archer, after then failed hunt of a "masked" Wraith

"Never stop seeking what seems unobtainable. Goodbye, Jonathan. Don't forget me."
"I won't."
- Wraith bids Archer farewell and transforms back into its true appearance (last lines)

This Week In:
* Pointless STO Comparisons: There are a number of missions set in dark environments for atmosphere, but the MMO doesn’t have any nightvision options. The character is generally offered a hovering flashlight, or left to fumble around depending on the circumstances.
* Vulcans Are Superior: The message there felt a little muddled. Traditional Vulcans are vegetarians, but Archer also tosses out this line:
ARCHER: Hunting went out of style on Earth over a hundred years ago.
So that means Earth gave up on hunting before 2051, or prior to the end of WWIII. That both seems unlikely, and reduces how extra cool Vulcans are, so I dunno what to make of it.
* Non-Catastrophic Equipment Failures: Skipped, but this is another episode where nobody uses or even mentions a transporter, even though that would’ve gotten Burzaan to Dr. Phlox much faster than taking him by shuttlepod.
* Aliens Outclass Enterprise: The Eska are described as being too well armed to confront directly, and their nightvision gear and scanning equipment are better than Enterprise’s.

Poster’s Log:
This was indeed a dull installment, in my opinion. Some scattered thoughts:

* The Founders also lived on a rogue planet.

Per a lot of prior backstage notes, ENT only paid sporadic attention to prior Trek. Due to that, I suspect this detail is coincidental. Still, just feels like shoddy craftsmanship to me. Wraith shape shifting is also described by the Eska as being similar to Founder powers - spoofing sensors - even though Phlox describes it as a chromosomal process that should presumably continue to make it scan as life, even if it might be able to confuse a sensor about what kind of life.

* It’s weird the hunters don’t explain Wraiths sooner.
The Eska teasing Archer instead of warning him feels a little strange given how seriously they take Wraiths. Like, I could see them teasing first, then immediately clarifying, but letting it go seems like a recipe for disaster.

* The objectification dance continues.
For once, we were spared T’Pol being objectified or humiliated in any way, but we got the Wraith as a replacement, appearing as a beautiful mysterious woman to try and get Archer to help. Strangely, the show actually has T’Pol lampshade this, but it doesn’t go anywhere further with the notion. The Wraith couldn’t have been his dead father? A childhood friend? Rumpelstiltskin? Okay, definitely not the last one that was dumb too. But even so: it didn’t have to be a pretty woman in a nightgown, and we definitely didn’t need this exchange:
ARCHER: Last night I walked into an alien jungle, alone, chasing a woman who couldn't possibly have been there.
TUCKER: That might qualify.
ARCHER: It was like I was being drawn to her. Like I didn't have any control over what I was doing. I can't explain it.
TUCKER: She must have been some woman.
The Eska never describe the Wraith as having any kind of mind control ability, meaning these two were just espousing the notion that men can't control ourselves. Didn’t need that. Moreover, the parallel between this story and Civilization feels pretty icky, especially in the context of Dear Doctor: Archer’s helping the downtrodden... because he has a connection with a woman he’s attracted to. In the situation where he does not, he leaves them all to die. (It could be argued that Civilization and Rogue Planet also both involve conflicts between a pre-warp and post-warp civilization, but I’m not inclined to give anybody involved the benefit of the doubt.)

The whole thing is just pretty gross.

So yeah. Didn't much care for this one, although I suppose it says something about S1 overall that it wasn't egregiously bad compared to the really problematic stories. (I'm also amused by the idea that they wrote a pretty anti-hunting story specifically without wanting to - the behind the scenes stuff here really emphasizes how muddled ENT was thematically at this time.)
posted by mordax (10 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The not-telling-Archer-about-the-Wraiths thing is pretty bad; Archer's running off after her in the woods, in the dark, where about half of the only other people around are camouflaged hunters with guns is even worse. Archer is always on T'Pol about how Vulcans should trust humans more, but this is how the captain of a starship behaves on an away mission regarding someone or something that couldn't scream "It's a trap!" louder than if Admiral Ackbar was leading a Mon Calamari chorus line right behind him? He's lucky that it wasn't just some telepathic giant Venus flytrap that was feeding him his heart's desire, a la the Black Mercy from DC Comics. And the idea that she's somehow Archer's ideal woman, formed out of his subconscious desires and preferences, meant to lure him in as a means for an endangered species to save itself? Where have we seen that before?

It's a darn shame that they didn't put a little bit more work into this, because this could have been, if not great, at least a pretty good episode. There's a bit of implicit social commentary in the hunters not only all being guys, but having a certain uniformity about them that suggests that they might have all been ex-military who became corporate executives but still got together for these trips; there's also a bit of self-conscious rationalization in their insisting that the Wraiths weren't really sentient, "not like us", and that they wouldn't hunt the planet's primates. The humans could have related the story that a lot of people on Earth did hunt for food once, but that it fell out of fashion in the post-atomic horror because of the accumulation of radioactive isotopes in higher animals, which in turn led to the development of protein resequencers. And the Wraith could have slowly taken form throughout the episode and started showing up gradually, out of the corner of Archer's eye, and eventually in full form, but maybe not, you know, in a nightgown.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:12 AM on December 3, 2018 [4 favorites]

Your occasional reminder that the Enterprise crew kind of bumbling around, making mistakes, and not having any set protocols when they encounter new alien stuff is sort of the premise of the series.
posted by runcibleshaw at 11:31 AM on December 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

The Wraith were on Star Trek???

Oh, I thought you meant those Wraith. Never mind.
posted by Servo5678 at 11:37 AM on December 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

Or the Dire Wraiths, also shapeshifters but with a more, uh, unpleasant way of assuming a form.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:56 AM on December 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

OT: Article on being the token black cast member on a 90s show; one of the people interviewed is Phil Morris, who had various roles on different Trek series. His roles on Trek aren't counted as the token roles, but he does offer the interesting tidbit that, when he auditioned for Jackie Chiles on Seinfeld, one of his competitors for the role was Michael Dorn.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:54 PM on December 3, 2018 [3 favorites]

Should also mention that that's an FPP on the blue.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:03 PM on December 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

"This has 'unused Chakotay story' written all over it."

Yeah, my one-word review of this one is "dopey," which for ENT S1 is, at worst, below-average. I guess the only way it transcends "unused Chakotay story" is that it had potential to actually be pretty profound, as Jack and cjelli hinted at. Of course, we've previously circled around (in the VOY threads) the question of whether Potential Left Unrealized is more or less frustrating than No Real Potential At All, and IIRC we generally vacillated between
• "Trek is supposed to have ambition, so it's less frustrating when they try [and I would argue they ssssort of did here?] than when they simply throw some flashy futurey shit on the screen for us to stare blankly at, unless in 'trying' they wind up doing something crushingly offensive that they wouldn't have done in a Pure Eye Candy episode"
• "Trek is supposed to attain its ambition, so if the writers aren't up to the challenge, it's better for them not to try [and IIRC this is the path chosen by the ENT folks at least a few times, including one upcoming episode, arguably]."
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 5:58 AM on December 4, 2018 [3 favorites]

It’s weird the hunters don’t explain Wraiths sooner.
The Eska teasing Archer instead of warning him feels a little strange given how seriously they take Wraiths. Like, I could see them teasing first, then immediately clarifying, but letting it go seems like a recipe for disaster.

At first, I thought they were withholding the information about the Wraiths precisely because that was what they were hunting, and they knew/sensed that the idea of hunting a sentient species would be met with revulsion by the humans who no longer hunt anything, period. But then, because the script needs it, they go from being rather coy about what exactly they are hunting to just stating that hey, these things exist here, that's what you saw, that's what we hunt.

I had felt that the whole point of the hunters was to be a group that we were all going to be vaguely uncomfortable about until it became abundantly clear to Archer that what they were up to was No Good; instead we just get told when I felt the "showing" wasn't doing all that bad a job (I mean, it helps when you have people like Keith Szarabajka, who somehow can just ooze slimy menace. He did a guest spot on B5 back in the day and was wonderful).

It felt like an episode where the writers originally had something to say, and then either lost the courage of their convictions or it got edited out. Trek is strongest when it finds a moral and plays to it, even when that moral is suspect in itself (see "Dear Doctor" - not an episode I enjoyed, but at least the script and the actors had some meat to dig into - I dislike the episode because of what in concludes on the issue, not that it tackled the issue head on). The episodes can be heavy handed, but I guess I'd rather have that then this wishy-washy episode that ends with the Enterprise contributing to a technology race between the two species - the Eska developed technology to improve their odds before, and I suspect they will again.

Anyways, I'm learning from watching this series to this point that I have some pretty strong opinions about a lot of different things about Trek and what makes a show a "Star Trek" show; and I'd love to think that Enterprise is exploiting the time frame of being before the Federation to tell us some stories about how things were different, but it just feels like some folks wanted the trappings of Trek but not the foundation; I don't have a sense of a coherent plan that they were trying to work with around the idea of exploring this timeframe.
posted by nubs at 10:51 AM on December 4, 2018 [3 favorites]

I don't have a sense of a coherent plan that they were trying to work with around the idea of exploring this timeframe.

I learned over Thanksgiving that a relative is also watching ENT and is in Season 4, and it reminded me that the exact coherent plan you are asking for here does in fact manifest at the start of season 4, if not sooner. (Season 3 is…coherent but not quite what you're asking about, IIRC.)
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 11:28 AM on December 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

Those night vision headdresses looked both a little silly and incredibly uncomfortable.

This is a little fluffball of an episode but it doesn't seem hugely more fluffy than many episodes.

It was very strange to see Archer try to finesse his way around a problem when otherwise he is all ready to stick his chest out and raise his voice.
posted by fleacircus at 6:22 PM on October 13, 2019

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