Star Trek: Enterprise: Marauders
March 4, 2019 9:31 AM - Season 2, Episode 6 - Subscribe

Captain Archer annoys some Klingons, purportedly for the greater good.

Memory Alpha has some details:

Background information:
> The evasive techniques T'Pol teaches the colonists are drawn from the Vulcan martial art Suus Mahna, which is named after Mike Sussman.
> Among the recycled phasers used by the deuterium miners are Jem'Hadar hand phasers, Bajoran phaser rifles, and the Klingon sniper rifle from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.
> A Kreetassan merchant recommended the colony, probably when Enterprise visited the Kreetassan homeworld in the previous episode "A Night in Sickbay".
> We learn that Phlox's osmotic eel (seen in "Broken Bow") is a female. In "Minefield", however, it was stated to be male.
> This episode was inspired by the 1960 feature film The Magnificent Seven, which itself was inspired by the 1954 Japanese film Seven Samurai. The colony represents the village in that film; the deuterium represents the rice; the Enterprise crew represent the seven heroes, etc.
> Both Larry Cedar and Bari Hochwald guest-starred in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. Cedar played Nydrom in DS9: "Armageddon Game" and Tersa in VOY: "Alliances", while Hochwald played Doctor Elizabeth Lense in DS9: "Explorers" and Brin in VOY: "Friendship One".

Memorable quotes
"Klingons carry disruptors, but they prefer to use bladed weapons in combat. The two most common being the bat'leth, a curved, bilateral sword, and the mek'leth, two-pronged dagger. The bat'leth can decapitate its victim with one stroke, while the mek'leth is typically used to slash the throat… or disembowel."
- T'Pol, to the miners

"You won't hurt me."
"It's not you that I'm worried about."
- T'Pol and Mayweather, demonstrating Vulcan self-defense tactics to the miners

"I can get my deuterium anywhere! Yours isn't even fit for a garbage scow!"
- Korok, to Tessic

This Week In:
* Pointless STO Comparisons: Star Trek Online features the ability to send the unimportant members of your crew on independent missions. They’re unavailable for a set period of time, and then you get paid when they’re done, (or they may end up in Sick Bay if things go wrong). One of the key mission types Klingon players may engage in is Marauding, which includes missions exactly like the one seen in this episode and yield minor loot drops. By contrast, Diplomacy is more likely to actually cost you small resources to attempt.
* Vulcans Are Superior: In canon, Vulcans possess a laundry list of enhanced abilities. For once, the writers seem to remember this about T’Pol.
* Non-Catastrophic Equipment Failures: They didn’t pack enough deuterium for the trip, assuming they’d be able to get some even though they appear to have no refining capability on the ship.
* Aliens Outclass Enterprise: Averted. The NX-01 outclassed the Klingon ship for once.

Poster’s Log:
I suppose I’ll begin with the good:
- As mentioned above, the writers remembered T’Pol should be pretty impressive in a fight.
- Hoshi got some character development.
- Archer and the gang are doing the right thing for the right reasons for a change.
- While Vulcans already had a martial art, it’d be weird for T’Pol to know tal-shaya. There's no way they knew that, but the detail still checks accidentally.

Given that, this episode definitely rises above the likes of, well, last week’s. Unfortunately, that’s about all I can say in its favor because this is still a bloodless, zero stakes hour of nonsense.

The first problem is simply that their plan to deal with the Klingons is completely detached from reality. On another show with less advanced tech - say Firefly or the like - this could all make sense because the bad guys would just be some thugs with guns, who would have to personally come into town to cause trouble and might be dissuaded from that by the promise of sufficient resistance on future visits. Unfortunately, this is Star Trek: these Klingons have Star Trek technology. Surrounding them with fire does nothing to prevent them from just coming back an hour after Enterprise leaves and beaming a few of the miners into space or the brig. Or using even the smallest ship-mounted disruptor to level the entire settlement in moments, still from the comfort of orbit. In fact, it encourages retaliation because they know nobody's just going to vaporize them.

Enterprise would never even know, because by Tucker’s own admission, they’re probably never coming back.

So treating this like some sort of Old West standoff... it doesn’t merely not track, it’s someone writing for an entirely different show and rejecting the premise of this one. (Which, I guess to be fair, is ENT's hat so far.)

Past that, being unwilling to kill the Klingons is absurd. I went back and looked at the transcript to make sure I had this right:
ARCHER: So that's it? We just take our deuterium and leave? They work their asses off to provide for their families and then the Klingons just stroll in and rob them blind. Does that seem right to you? Malcolm tells me that Klingon ship isn't much more than a freighter. I'd lay odds they're no match for Enterprise.
T'POL: And if they withdraw? What will keep them from coming back after we've gone?
ARCHER: We could try to contact the Klingon High Council. We saved Klaang from the Suliban, we pulled one of their battle cruisers out of a gas giant. I say they owe us a favour.
T'POL: I doubt these marauders answer to the High Council.
ARCHER: I already know where Vulcans stand on interfering with other cultures but this isn't a culture. Seventy six settlers are being preyed upon. If this were an Earth colony I'd be grateful if someone showed up to give me a hand.
T'POL: Captain, this may surprise you, but I agree. However, short of killing the Klingons any action we take will only make the situation worse.
ARCHER: I just hate the idea of turning our backs.
They assume these Klingons are operating outside the purview of the High Council, (I guess because their ship isn't military grade). That means that killing them is probably not an interstellar incident in the making: Klingons get into fights all the time, and presumably lose too many of them to make a stink about each individual one. All they have to do is lay a trap for the Klingon vessel, maybe a mine or two for maximum irony, and prevent their escape. Or kill the crew on the ground, and attack in orbit. Or... you know, anything someone like Reed could dream up for situations like this.

T’Pol then points out that any nonlethal resistance will make the situation worse because they can simply come back later, and... the point is simply never addressed. At all. They don’t even really make it clear why they’re not cool with just blowing that ship out of the sky: no moral argument is given, no reference to ‘some kind of directive.’ Nada. It’s just... off the table because a freighter might elude them maybe.

I’m also baffled why none of the settlers want to kill the Klingons. I would want to kill the Klingons.

This is further nonsense on this show because Klingons have been nothing but dicks. In Unexpected, the Klingons took special pains to warn Enterprise they wouldn’t be nice on future encounters even though Archer had gone out of his way to help them. In Sleeping Dogs, they specifically intended to take Enterprise for the crew’s crime of boarding their ship and saving their lives, and only left because they were too damaged to fight. Nobody actually won a moral argument with them.

There is absolutely no reason to think nonviolence will do anything but egg them on.

Past that, nothing else really makes sense here either. In no particular order:
* This is not how deuterium works.
Deuterium is processed from water, not oil fields. I suppose that sounds nitpicky, but it reminds me of the time Captain Janeway claimed that rain comes from ‘radiogenic particles’ in Caretaker. I don’t expect science fiction authors to be actual scientists, but either five minutes with an encyclopedia or making up a nonsense word instead of using a real one doesn’t feel like a big ask, especially when the technology is so old compared to the show. Deuterium processing’s been around since the 1940s, old literally before I was even born. (Sort of like how astronauts peeing in space was a solved problem before ENT came on. I knew both things as a kid, and there’s no reason a science fiction writer on a show where they actually invented the word technobabble shouldn’t be a tech enthusiast.)

* We have another implausibly small population.
Trek features a lot of really small numbers for people. Supposedly giant colonies with 5000 residents. Terrible space wars killing ‘hundreds of thousands’ instead of billions. Here we have seventy six settlers who have moved so far from home that they can’t get backup. That’s not a stable, self-sustaining population. It isn’t even as many people as were on stupid Terra Nova. What is even the plan, here? Why are they so far from home? Why is nobody checking on them? Are they dissidents of some kind? Did they already have trading partners lined up or were they hoping someone would just stumble upon them needing deuterium instead of having the ability or supply chain to handle it within their own organization? Why is winter a problem for them? Do they grow crops? What do they eat, anyway? Who’s teaching the kid? Can they spare someone for a tutor?

* There isn’t any real dramatic tension here.
We aren’t given much reason to care about the settlers beyond one cute kid. They’re sympathetic, but mostly in the abstract, since we don’t get to know them or see them bond with the crew or learn about why they’re living such a harsh lifestyle or anything. It’s possible some of them could’ve died, but I couldn’t have told you any of their names.

* On a lighter note...
It’s hilarious that they expect us to believe Enterprise managed to get information from a Kreetassan merchant without Archer having to do the Dance of Shame or something. They could’ve and should’ve picked pretty much any other race. (I guess my personal feeling is that if they did learn about the colony this way, the Kreetassan was simply trying to get them to trade with someone else.)

Overall, this was a weird, frustrating episode that could’ve been solved with a little phaser fire or a serious discussion about why they couldn’t. (The settlers are religious pacifists who won't have blood shed! Killing the Klingons will encourage retribution by a Great House because their leader is some jerkwad prince slumming as a pirate! Just.. something? Anything?)
posted by mordax (6 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I appreciated this episode looking back to the roots of Trek, and making a western in space. It's the old "gunfighter coming to town and helping the townfolk with their problems" trope, and it's usually solid enough to carry a TV episode or a movie. Except when you take away the climactic gunfight, wherein the oppressed stand up and deal enough violence and death to convince their tormentors to get out and stay out. It turns out removing that pretty much creates a huge problem with the story because the tormentors have just been incentivized to return with even crueler tortures.

I seem to recall that is often the arc of many of the movies that use this - (1) we see the tormentors come and torment; (2) we see an attempt at resistance which actually makes the problem worse; (3) then we see the final fight in which the baddies are killed, maimed, and run off; this episode ends at step 2 and so we never get the release from the dread. Instead the Klingons - warriors who prefer to die in battle - give up and leave after being surrounded by a ring of fire (and seriously, wouldn't their transporter notice that the coordinates for beam down are different this time? Doesn't it reference things more permanent than the middle of a camp that is designed to move?)

I've been trying to come up with ways to improve these episodes, rather than just carping about them, but I'm struggling with this one. The nonviolent way to end this would be to have Archer & the crew reveal that they now had information about these Klingons that would be embarrassing if it got out, something that would ensure they would leave and never come back - but there's no way to make that work, in the absence of a Federation and actual diplomatic ties with the Klingons.
posted by nubs at 11:28 AM on March 4 [3 favorites]


To the degree that this was a homage to Seven Samurai / The Magnificent Seven, I was okay with this not making sense insofar as there's a good reason for it to not make sense: if they changed everything to fit the realities of spaceflight, it wouldn't work as a homage. Thematically, it felt very in keeping with the original TOS framing of Star Trek as a space-western, and I could see this working (with some modifications) as a TOS-era plot -- it's one of the more prequel-y episodes in terms of the show's tone, if not in its production design or explicit call-backs.

Outside of that context, it doesn't really show its work: a mining colony too far away from their home planet to even communicate with it, that also isn't spaceflight-capable (but got here...somehow?), and also isn't self-sustaining in terms of resources in the short term (they need to trade to 'get through winter') nor self-sustaining on a population level in the long term. Why does this place exist?

And wouldn't the Klingons come back to assuage their honor? Or run through the flames? Or decide to be immolated? That seems more likely that them never returning; in that respect, I (for the umpteenth time in this series) feel like it would have made sense to have almost anyone but the Klingons in this ep -- if you have to make it a known species, the Ferengi come to mind as people who could actually be scared off and inclined to ignore the planet once it no longer looked profitable. You could also have totally different aliens, though: maybe they have a ship that Enterprise can't beat, so they need to have the colonists be able to scare them off on the ground? Or trick them into thinking the wells are all dry?

But that aside, the core tension of the episode -- how to prevent raids on the colony -- was a good one, and one that keys off of the show's big constraint of not letting the Enterprise stay in one place for too long. The real problem isn't so much these specific Klingons per se as it is the colony's inability to defend itself: they're teaching the colony to fish, not feeding them for a day.

This was an okay episode, but not more than okay. It checked a lot of boxes in terms of giving (most of) the whole crew something significant to do, and no one suggested that anyone else needed to get laid; the stakes felt real, if not terribly high.
posted by cjelli at 11:34 AM on March 4 [2 favorites]


This is definitely a Ten Percent Problem episode, for all the reasons you've listed. Even the precipitating issue, the deuterium shortage, should have had a better explanation, since the Bussard collectors are supposed to mitigate that very thing. Also, the idea that it's something that's pulled out of the ground like oil; as with the cans of "warp plasma" sitting around at room temperature in "Dead Stop", this is bad science. It's cool that they wanted to make it something more personal than a space battle, but, again for the reasons you listed, it should have been a space battle, or at least had a plausible reason why it wasn't.

And it's a damn shame, because the Seven Samurai/Magnificent Seven set-up is a very appealing one, with the heroes not only being bad-asses themselves, but helping the villagers get in touch with their inner bad-ass. Given that The Magnificent Seven is itself an adaptation, it's pretty easy to make it fit other genres; Stephen King used it in his Dark Tower book Wolves of the Calla, and it's also the basis (mashed up with the fable of the ant and the grasshopper) for A Bug's Life.

P.S. It's already well-established that "T'Pol does fanservice" is basically the "dog bites man" of ENT, but it still made me roll my eyes that, given that we've seen Vulcans wearing all sorts of flowing robes on their own planet, she wore a skintight body suit when she was on a desert planet; at least she got to wear more practical clothes for her ass-kicking scene.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:44 AM on March 4 [2 favorites]


To the degree that this was a homage to Seven Samurai / The Magnificent Seven, I was okay with this not making sense insofar as there's a good reason for it to not make sense: if they changed everything to fit the realities of spaceflight, it wouldn't work as a homage.

I'm not willing to let them off the hook that easily because other, better Trek just makes up excuses for this stuff. Like, in Blood Oath on DS9, they wanted our intrepid heroes to kill everybody with bladed weapons, so they set up a technobabble field to prevent energy weapons from working, then the heroes went in and kicked ass in hand-to-hand.

For this? The planet's atmosphere could've interfered with transporters or orbital weapons locks. Or they could've built the settlers a jammer. Or... dunno, a dozen different nods to 'yeah we ever actually thought about this for five seconds, just work with us.'

I (for the umpteenth time in this series) feel like it would have made sense to have almost anyone but the Klingons in this ep -- if you have to make it a known species, the Ferengi come to mind as people who could actually be scared off and inclined to ignore the planet once it no longer looked profitable.

Yeah. that would've worked too. Ferengi wouldn't have wasted a shot blowing the place up from orbit. For Klingons, that's actually a religious conviction. So yeah, just not using Klingons would've worked fine in lieu of my suggestions.

P.S. It's already well-established that "T'Pol does fanservice" is basically the "dog bites man" of ENT, but it still made me roll my eyes that, given that we've seen Vulcans wearing all sorts of flowing robes on their own planet, she wore a skintight body suit when she was on a desert planet; at least she got to wear more practical clothes for her ass-kicking scene.

*facepalms*

Thank you. It's a testament to how normalization works that I didn't even notice it at this point in the show's run.
posted by mordax at 12:41 PM on March 4 [3 favorites]


Overall, this was a weird, frustrating episode that could’ve been solved with a little phaser fire or a serious discussion about why they couldn’t. (The settlers are religious pacifists who won't have blood shed! Killing the Klingons will encourage retribution by a Great House because their leader is some jerkwad prince slumming as a pirate! Just.. something? Anything?)

Sometimes I feel like this show insists on giving even the most disagreeable Klingons the same unending benefit of the doubt that we'd expect from the crew of the Enterprise-D, seemingly forgetting the vast gulf in time. As if the creators (Berman and Braga wrote this story) fear that audiences will get mad if Klingons are used as full-on enemies.

Nausicaans would've been great here instead.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 7:08 AM on March 5 [3 favorites]


P.S. It's already well-established that "T'Pol does fanservice" is basically the "dog bites man" of ENT, but it still made me roll my eyes that, given that we've seen Vulcans wearing all sorts of flowing robes on their own planet, she wore a skintight body suit when she was on a desert planet; at least she got to wear more practical clothes for her ass-kicking scene.

Thanks for pointing that out, because I was apparently blind to this in the course of being thankful that the episode wasn't as bad as A Night In Sickbay. And they even give the rest of the crew desert-appropriate non-ship clothes, too!

As if the creators (Berman and Braga wrote this story) fear that audiences will get mad if Klingons are used as full-on enemies.

We know that they were somewhat forced by executives higher up to include the Klingons in the ENT pilot, and I've assumed -- with no real evidence, mind -- that their inclusion here and elsewhere runs along similar lines: that they were under pressure to include Klingons occasionally, and wrote them in where they sort of fit, rather than writing for Klingons and then backing off of that. They did make the Klingons in earlier episodes a bid more enemy-ish -- they demanded the Enterprise surrender in Sleeping Dogs, for example. They do keep portraying the crew as wanting to befriend the Klingons, and assuming that's possible, which doesn't flow easily into TOS unless something drastic changes in the meantime (which now has, in DSC's first season.)
posted by cjelli at 8:42 AM on March 6 [2 favorites]


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