Star Trek 708: Borderland

708. Borderland

FORMULA: Space Seed + Blaze of Glory + The Pirates of Orion

WHY WE LIKE IT: Brent Spiner. The martial arts. The Orions.

WHY WE DON'T: Not enough slave girl!

REVIEW: The first of Enterprise's 3-part stories for this season - a good idea that essentially creates 2-hour movies for bigger stories - the Augment arc is representative of what Enterprise will be doing in its fourth and final season (and perhaps what it should have been doing all along). The arc uses established continuity as fuel for stories, adding pieces to the puzzle that will take us from First Contact to TOS and beyond.

Sure, bringing back Brent Spiner to play a Soong, this one a brilliant criminal interested in genetically improving humanity (are all Soongs mad scientists? it obviously runs in the family), is something of a stunt. However, you have to admit that it makes us more interested than if he were just a guest-star of the week. And all is forgiven thanks to his darkly witty performance. Soong reminded me of Lex Luthor in the best Superman stories, much smarter than the heroes and fully aware of it. His leading Enterprise to the wrong part of space just so it can be waylayed by Orion pirates and giving him a chance to escape is well played, and a bit of turnabout for a crew that uses such tricks a lot.

His "children", raised from embryos stored since the Eugenics Wars (what to do with them is a rather believable controversy), are called Augments, a new term, but tons better than DS9's "mutants". The Augments are of Khan's bent, not only engineered for superior brains and brawn, but for superior ambition as well. And judging from the pretty incredible martial arts on display, were tweaked even further by Soong. The excellent Dune mini-series' Alec Newman plays Malik, the most ambitious of them all, and fans of The Unit will retroactively recognize Tiffy (I mean, Abby Brammell) as Persis. She betrays the current leader (a bit of a peacemonger) to Malik for love and power. Great Augment scenes include their total ownage of a Klingon vessel (made even more shocking by the inclusion of J.G. Hertzler as the captain - you wouldn't think "Martok" would be killed off that quickly) and Malik's warning to Archer before he grabs him by the throat, a chilling show of speed and ability. The Macos didn't have a change.

Of course, most of the episode takes place in the Borderland, a buffer zone between Klingon and Orion space. It's our first live-action look at the Orion males and they are impressive. Professional wrestler Big Show plays the lead slaver and he is HUGE. Seeing shake T'Pol in the air as she's being auctioned off is pretty incredible. When we see Orions again, they may suffer like the Hirogen did when they couldn't all be played by Tiny Ron. A slave girl makes only a cameo, and it's too bad, because she is hot enough to make me forget Vina. Whoa, Nelly. One thing's for sure, the make-up department has really mastered the previously difficult colors of blue and green. Nice tones! The Orion ships are raptor-like, with a toothiness that might recall the primitive effects of TOS and the orange beasts of the cartoon, but in green like that, they look too much like a Romulan, or at first I though Klingon, design. And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the word "Syndicate" which seemed anachronistic to me. They should only get "syndicated" later when other species join the network. Still, it's great to see the Orions at all, like the Tellarites and Andorians, one of the great ignored species of TOS.

A few notes on cosmetic changes made to the show, now that Enterprise is back in Near Space and all fixed up. T'Pol has been granted a Starfleet commission, but isn't wearing the uniform, only the rank insignia (now a "commander"). Somewhat odd, but maybe you have to earn a jumpsuit at the Academy. She looks to be avoiding Trip after the awkward way Home ended. You might also notice a new captain's chair and transporter room set, but these changes are altogether minor.

LESSON: Kidnappers keepers.

REWATCHABILITY - High: Spiner is a delight, the Augments charismatic and scary, and the Orions make a grand entrance.



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