Star Trek: Enterprise: Extinction   Rewatch 
August 12, 2019 12:50 AM - Season 3, Episode 3 - Subscribe

An Away mission goes poorly.

Memory Alpha is a little thin here:

Background information
> This episode saw the series' title change from Enterprise to Star Trek: Enterprise in the opening credits, though in the DVD, Blu-ray, and syndicated releases of the series, "Star Trek" appears in the title of all season three episodes.
> This episode was dedicated to the memory of Jerry Fleck, the show's first assistant director. This was the last episode on which he worked before dying in his sleep at the age of fifty-five.
John Eaves notes in his blog that an earlier version of this episode's script called for a new Vulcan shuttle design, but was written out by the time it was filmed. He did, however, post sketches of the unseen shuttle, as illustrated by himself, on his website.
> According to Trekweb, LeVar Burton went to the producers and told them he was "ashamed" that he had directed this episode.
> Ten years after this episode aired, Brannon Braga called "Extinction" "one of the singularly most embarrassing episodes of Star Trek I've ever been involved with." ("In a Time of War, Part Three", ENT Season 3 Blu-ray special features)
> This episode shares similar plot elements to TNG: "Identity Crisis", where Geordi La Forge is transformed into another species in an extremely short timespan, as well as TNG: "Genesis".
> Ensign Mayweather enjoys a brief period as ranking bridge officer on board Enterprise when all his seniors are off ship in the fourth act.

Memorable quotes
"You sure this is safe? I mean, has anyone ever tried it on a Human before?"
"Not to my knowledge. The risk of paralysis is minimal."
- Tucker and T'Pol, during a neuropressure session

"You're saying these alien bio-signs could be our people?"
"From what we've seen of the Expanse, it's a possibility we have to consider. The laws of biochemistry on this world may be just as unpredictable as the laws of physics."
- Tucker and Phlox

"Your ship is in restricted space."
"Sorry. It wasn't very well marked."
- Tret and Tucker

This Week In:
* Pointless STO Comparisons: Mercifully, none that I can think of.
* Vulcans Are Superior: Vulcans 'K' cells stop the mutagen. However, (and not for the first time), the script seems to forget that Vulcans are immensely strong.
* Non-Catastrophic Equipment Failures: Nothing specific, but the NX-01's sensors leave something to be desired for the umpteenth time.
* Aliens Outclass Enterprise: The Loque'eque have genetic engineering skills far beyond anything Starfleet can handle.

Poster's Log:
I'm going to have to agree with Brannon Braga: this is one of the most embarrassing episodes of Trek I can recall, and I could barely sit through it this time. I don't have a single positive thing to say.

A few thoughts in no real order:
* So the Loque'que were advanced enough to create the virus, but people who turn into them hop around like monkeys. Okay then. (Though not racist against anything in particular, the trope of 'foreigners have bestial body language' is certainly discouraging to see in spirit, much like ENT's lengthy use of 'foreigners smell funny.' Just a red flag out of people who use it.)
* Mutant-Archer pawing at T'Pol the whole time was horrifying.
* So the containment guys will murder anyone who gets infected, but nobody has declared Exterminatus on the entire planet and scoured it of life? I call shenanigans.

Anyway. Yeah, this was godawful.
posted by mordax (13 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Huh. It's been a while, but I sure don't remember hating this one or even thinking it was sub-par for Enterprise. I found the whole series kind of B+, but offhand I don't remember any episodes that were just embarrassing. In that regard I guess it actually beats the other Trek series, which were generally much better but also had a couple of real howlers each.

I'm not quite getting what's supposed to be so awful about this one. There's the stuff in the "few thoughts" up there that does admittedly sound iffy, but it doesn't sound as bad as so-bad-it's-great Trek like Angel One or the space hippies episode of TOS, or so-bad-it's-agony episodes like the TNG one with the planet of the 1940s Racial Stereotype Tribal Chieftans. This one's dialogue excerpts on Memory Alpha don't sound incompetent. I read the plot summary and the only questionable aspect that jumped out at me was T'Pol insisting that they take the infected Reed back to the Enterprise, when she'd have reason to worry it might just spread the virus. But even that is kind of the standard MO for a Trek show. It all sounds like relatively solid Trek, even down to Archer's bleeding heart decision to preserve the virus sample because it's all that's left of an entire race. What is it about this one that's so terrible?
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:34 AM on August 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

Well, I don't think that it was really the most embarrassing episode of ENT, and maybe not even the most embarrassing episode this season, and nowhere near as bad as the S1 TNG episodes that UH mentions. (I'll disagree that TOS' "The Way to Eden" was particularly bad; I think that it sort of works as an allegorical critique of some of the communitarian/separatist movements of the sixties, although the failure of Severin's group is oversimplified; AFAIK, none of the real-life movements failed because the local flora killed them.) But it does fail, for some of the aforementioned reasons and one big, glaring one:

- The hopping around; Bakula, Park, and Keating probably all meant well, but they come off as every failed audition for a Stone Age-set movie ever. It sure doesn't say much for the Loque'que's genetic engineering, although that may explain why their last-ditch gambit to save their people didn't work.

- The containment guys. Nuking the planet from orbit would have worked, but then again they're all-around incompetent; not only are they not able to do in sixty years what Phlox did in a few hours (although they weren't lucky enough to work with Vulcan DNA), but the whole question of warning buoys is lampshaded but never really answered.

- And the sort of uber-meta-question: Why are they even doing this episode at all, when it really doesn't have anything to do with the Xindi arc? (There's some mention of the Xindi-Arboreals at the beginning, but it's about the most perfunctory tie-in imaginable.) It could have been done, with minor modifications, in any of the TNG-era series, and maybe even TOS. It's as if they can't quite give up the habit of these one-off, species-and-problem-of-the-week episodes.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:13 AM on August 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

This episode is so pointless I don't even have a drink for it.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 8:31 AM on August 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

What is it about this one that's so terrible?

Reading the notes isn't enough here. My problem with this one is mostly body language:

- Normally, when T'Pol is humiliated, it's for a little while. Here, Archer paws and sniffs at her like an animal for almost the entire runtime. So it's not 'Mars needs women' for like one unfortunate moment, it is basically the entire episode. And seriously, he paws, he sniffs, he grabs her arm like he's a child. He strangles her at one point. He tries to feed her worms.

- The hopping and animal noises are similarly not restricted. In similar episodes (like Geordi's, or the one where the whole 1701-D turn into monsters), we don't have to watch them try to inhabit the role of 'animalistic primitive' constantly. It's the entire first half of this episode.

- Adding to this: we finally get an episode with Hoshi, only for her to stuck like this the whole time, and mostly being mean to T'Pol for, again, no good reason.

So it's like everything I might normally complain about, but constant instead of for a few minutes in an otherwise normal story.

On top of that, these episodes usually have something fun going on to counterbalance it. Like, the last time I was this mad was Cogenitor, but that one had an interesting side trip with Archer and Andreas Katsulas that was more or less disconnected from the offensive portion of the story.

This doesn't really have any redeeming features. As Jack and Homo neanderthalensis point out, it's pointless for the overall S3 story or Trek at large. The antagonists are completely nonsensical, with holes in logic a child would notice.

Also, Archer's decision at the end does smack of everything I hate about unthinking liberals: when Earth was threatened with destruction, he was willing to go kill every Xindi. It's mentioned here: T'Pol points out that the Xindi they're after might not be involved, but Archer doesn't really care. The containment guys were almost killed off by the virus, but Archer sympathizes with the Loque'que instead, leaving the danger intact someplace out of guilt without even recognizing the parallel in the situation: the Loque'que are the Xindi to the containment guys. It would be better if he took this opportunity to reflect on 'maybe I have become like the stupid containment guys,' even if he didn't change any basic decision here. But he can't reflect. Archer can't be introspective.

The whole 'it's okay when I do it' thing... it's upsetting to see that vindicated in fiction because it represents something I perceive to be dangerous IRL.

That said, if you thought it was mostly fine... I get that. It's fine. This is not a hill for me to die on, (unlike some episodes).

This is just the tl;dr of why this was a 'punch the screen'-quality episode for me.
posted by mordax at 8:47 AM on August 12, 2019 [4 favorites]

I guess to use a shorter parallel: to me, this episode feels like they stretched the creepy ending of Threshold out into an entire episode, and ditched all the parts that were actually fun.

(Per our earlier talks, I actually like 90% of Threshold.)
posted by mordax at 8:50 AM on August 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

This episode is so pointless I don't even have a drink for it.

Pointless, eh? How about pairing it with a neat glass of alcohol-free vodka, which is a thing I just discovered exists?
posted by traveler_ at 5:49 PM on August 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

Don't most series with a big arc, including the various Treks, take breaks from it for one-off episodes? Supernatural, for example, used to be rather annoying in this regard. There was a lot of, "Yes, if we don't stop the big bad pronto the world will end, but let's take a week off to deal with some random werewolf in Indiana." In this case they paid lip service to the main plot and then got sidetracked when everybody turned into monkey people, and that seems about par for the course with serialized genre TV.

I haven't seen this one since it aired, and it's not impossible I'd find the monkey people acting cringey. Maybe I did, when it aired. But if so, that part didn't linger in the memory.

I wouldn't describe Archer's decision to preserve the virus as unthinking. I'm not at all sure I'd agree with him, but the argument could be made that we're seeing some of his better, more Starfleet-y side, here. This virus just fucked him up in a big way, and he wants to preserve it anyhow because it's all that's left of a dead race. There's a certain nobility in that and I can see Picard or Kirk making that same decision. It would have been a good opportunity for him to reconsider his xenophobia about the Xindi, but I guess it would have come too early in the season if they wanted to stretch out his development that way. It's just been too long for me to remember how I felt about Archer this season. The earlier seasons were pretty bland, so even if I questioned stuff in this era I was also glad to see things getting a little more gritty.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 6:35 PM on August 12, 2019

UH, I would strongly suggest rewatching, at least the last episode of last season and these first few ones. Archer's compassion for a viral civilization (and, per mordax's comment above, you can consider the Loque'que as genocidal, since their virus not only physically changes other species into them, but erases their memories; if Phlox hadn't found an antidote, Archer, Reed, and Sato would have been gone) doesn't jibe with his willingness to torture the pirate last episode just to get some equipment back.

Also, WRT having a "break" episode in the middle of a longer arc, sure, it can work, if it's done well; I'd proffer "Take Me Out to the Holosuite" from DS9, or even "Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang." But those episodes were not only well-placed in the season, but they would not have been nearly effective if they'd been done in any other show with any other crew. (If TNG had done the first one, Data would have pitched a no-hitter.) The genericness of this episode is highlighted by the fact that T'Pol, who is far stronger than the other three, didn't simply knock them out and haul them back to the ship.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:39 AM on August 13, 2019 [2 favorites]

In fairness, all of the Treks after TOS were pretty inconsistent about the Vulcan strength thing. I suspect that the writers just forgot T'Pol was supposed to be super strong, but I can headcanon some explanations. Could it be that the virus gave them crazy monkey people strength, or that T'Pol was weakened by her exposure, or even just that she didn't want to hurt them?

It's pretty unlikely I'll ever rewatch Enterprise unless it's just on TV sometime and I get sucked into an episode. (And it never, ever seems to be in reruns the way the other shows are.) At the time I watched it mostly because I was a Trekkie and it was all the Trek we had left other than an occasional TNG movie. It wasn't terrible but I have very little nostalgia for it. I dip into these threads occasionally when somebody makes an observation that catches my eye, but the show itself is kind of a blur to me in a way that the other shows aren't.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:51 PM on August 13, 2019

Random off-episode topic note - The McElroy Brothers latest Monster Factory episode goes to Star Trek: Online.

If you're unfamiliar with the series, they go to video games where a large degree of customization in character design is possible, and make amazingly horrible characters and play the games for a bit. It's usually quite fun; however, everyone's mileage may differ.
posted by nubs at 4:45 PM on August 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Ten years after this episode aired, Brannon Braga called "Extinction" "one of the singularly most embarrassing episodes of Star Trek I've ever been involved with.

I guess he can take solace that he wasn't involved with Discovery.
posted by juiceCake at 8:01 PM on August 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

Random off-episode topic note - The McElroy Brothers latest Monster Factory episode yt goes to Star Trek: Online.

Heh. I will have to check that out. I've been playing that on-and-off since just before they introduced Romulans. It's only middling for actual gameplay, (far behind Elder Scrolls Online or Guild Wars 2 or the like), but taken as a weird, semi-canonical fanfic-like extension of the show's lore, it's positively fascinating. A number of scrapped plot points from Discovery made the game instead, and ENT's infamous Temporal Cold War gets wrapped up in-game. (It's still nonsensical, but they tried harder than ENT itself did.)
posted by mordax at 1:32 PM on August 18, 2019

Bakula and Park were at least game for all the primitive jumping around and physical acting that had no story reason to be there. They did a good job with a bad hand. Then there's just the continued problem of Trek not solving the species ≠ culture problem.

I like the basic setup of this episode, though. It's grim and bleak and sad; plus, ruined dead cities are always going to be worth some bonus points.

Also somehow Trip showing up for Vulcan acupressure with some apologetic peaches, but not having taken a shower since morning made me laugh.
posted by fleacircus at 11:45 AM on November 5, 2019

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