Star Trek 695: Harbinger

695. Harbinger

FORMULA: The Icarus Factor + 1/10 The Trouble with Tribbles + Looking for Par'mach in All the Wrong Places + Future Tense

WHY WE LIKE IT: Reed wanting neuropressure from Trip. "Settling it."

WHY WE DON'T: All subplot and no plot.

REVIEW: There isn't so much a plot in this one as there are three competing subplots, merely advancing various storylines. Certainly would account for that unsatisfying feeling. The first of these explores the tension between Major Hayes and Malcolm, the latter sure that the former is after his job. We've been a little undersold on this conflict - barely a couple scenes at the start of the season - but it still manages to boil over here. The backdrop of Hayes' Maco training sessions allows for some action (and the worst of it is, Hayes OWNS Reed), but predictably ends with a fist fight. Not a bad one, but a long one. Best bit is still the way they "settle it" upon a single order from Archer. Who knew military discipline could be this hilarious?

The second thread deals with the Trip-T'Pol relationship, throwing a hot Maco at Trip, which in turn makes T'Pol jealous. Jealous? Is that possible? Well, if you're looking for evidence that T'Pol's emotions are still out of whack since Impulse, this might be it. She repeats Sim's declaration of love to Trip, which makes him jealous of himself. And then bang, T'Pol's naked booty shot (Canadian viewers saw it before the DVD release, thank you very much) and their mutual attraction is consummated. Later, she lets him down a little hard by calling it an experiment (and yet leading us to believe she hasn't finished her research - in denial much?). Naysayers might find the subplot dubious, but more on T'Pol emotional welfare will be revealed only later. Amusing parallel between Vulcan neuropressure and Pulp Fiction's foot massages though.

So the "A-plot", I suppose, must be the one that has to do with the Xindi arc. This introduces a couple of elements that will have an impact later. First is the strange, bubbling anomaly growing at the intersection of five spheres' influence. Inside the massive distortion is a pod with an alien in it, which Archer believes is a "canary", a test subject whose condition will tell the Sphere Builders that the area's conditions are suitable to their type of interdimensional life. Are they "terraforming" the universe for their use? It takes a while to really get those answers, few are corroborated and some are only inferred, which is part of this episode's frustration. In the end, it just turns into a chase with an intangible man (pretty much the one thing the Maco training can't help you with - not that it gives Reed's people a chance to shine).

While I don't mind a character-driven episode in a frankly very plot-driven season, the script isn't that tight. The A-plot isn't interwoven with the B and C plots at all well. And the dialogue uses the same trick once too many times. I've gotten pretty sick of characters throwing lines back at the face of others. It makes me crazy how much "ironic" repetition there is in Harbinger.

LESSON: Vulcans are strong. Jealous Vulcans are savages.

REWATCHABILITY - Low Medium: It's like they threw every subplot in search of a main story into the same episode. The Maco stuff is particularly unmotivated.



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