Star Trek 689: North Star

689. North Star

FORMULA: Spectre of the Gun + The 37s + Patterns of Force

WHY WE LIKE IT: The last action sequence. The look.

WHY WE DON'T: Where did the clothes come from?

REVIEW: Another high concept side-trip in the style of Impulse, North Star is essentially a western. Enterprise encounters another of those human "colonies" created by alien abduction, and in the intervening 300 years since that abduction, though the humans have overthrown their alien masters, they haven't progressed beyond their old west trappings and attitudes. Does it take some kind of critical mass for a society to evolve? But that's a secondary consideration, since North Star is a throwback to those old TOS episodes where the "past" could be explored on an alien planet. The justification was usually even thinner.

As a western, the episode indeed does work. The bleached look and varied shutter speeds fully embraces that other genre (even of Star Trek grew out of the western tradition), but also creates an arid land under a harsh sun. In an effort to bring an authentic flavor, the episode does make use of some clichés, especially in the irredeemable character of Deputy Bennings. There isn't a lot of gray in a character that quits his job when it stops including harassing the Scagaran underclass. The sheriff is a lot more ambiguous, a duty-bound lawman practically willing Archer to interfere and stop the madness. The final shoot-out has its share of cliched gags, but once the phase pistols come out, the Starfleet crew shows its technological advantage: Reed stuns a hostaged T'Pol out of the way and Archer collapses a balcony to get at one of the goons. Archer makes a fine action hero here, as badass when he's defusing tensions in the saloon as he is wrestling with Bennings under a horse (with a gory shotgun wound to boot!).

North Star isn't just TOS-like in its use of a historical setting however, it also revisits the theme of intolerance at the heart of many Star Trek stories. Does it have anything new to say though? I'm not sure. It works for what it is - though turnabout is fair play, the humans have been oppressing the "Skags" for centuries, over-penalizing them for their ancestors' crimes. The episode is a bit manipulative about its opinion on the subject, presenting us with Skag children and a teacher with a heart of gold, as opposed to the human Bennings and a 10-year sentence on Bethany's head for teaching fractions. There was never any real moral dilemma.

One of the questions the episode makes us ask though is just where Enterprise got 19th century attire and weapons. Middle of the Expanse, no replicators... Either they stole them (which would have deserved a mention) or the ship is staffed by tailors and gunsmiths (unlikely). Clothes aren't such an issue, really, but the gun wouldn't have been one if Trip and T'Pol didn't need to buy a horse with it. And I don't know what purpose that scene has beyond the very slight humor of 22nd-century characters trying to ride a horse. In any case, when the cavalry arrives, it's a shuttlepod. Shocking after so much Trek based around not showing your technology to the natives, this is a really cool show of force, made even cooler when the shooting starts and Archer doesn't even duck.

LESSON: Earth used to be the Ivory Coast of the galaxy.

REWATCHABILITY - High Medium: Though it's a major break in the Xindi storyline, North Star is still a fun stand-alone episode. Another one to watch for style and action rather than content.


De said...

The issue of the clothes is answered in "Carpenter Street". The guns remain a mystery.

hiikeeba said...

This is my favorite Enterprise episode, even with its flaws. Why didn't the humans progress beyond the western stage. And after centuries of being on the planet, wouldn't styles have changed some. And don't get me started on the language, like "Terra Nova." I guess it's my favorite because of the ending where the sheriff raises his hand to see the photo of the Wright flyer. And just why does Enterprise carry history text books?


Blog Archive


5 Things to Like Activities Advice Alien Nation Aliens Say the Darndest Things Alpha Flight Amalgam Ambush Bug Animal Man anime Aquaman Archetypes Archie Heroes Arrowed Asterix Atom Avengers Awards Babylon 5 Batman Battle Shovel Battlestar Galactica Black Canary BnB 2-in1 Books Booster Gold Buffy Canada Captain America Captain Marvel Cat CCGs Charlton Circles of Hell Class Comics Comics Code Approved Conan Contest Cooking Crisis Daredevil Dating Kara Zor-El Dating Lois Lane Dating Lucy Lane Dating Princess Diana DCAU Deadman Dial H Dice Dinosaur Island Dinosaurs Director Profiles Doctor Who Doom Patrol Down the Rabbit Hole Dr. Strange Encyclopedia Fantastic Four Fashion Nightmares Fiasco Films Within Films Flash Flushpoint Foldees French Friday Night Fights Fun with Covers FW Team-Up Galleries Game design Gaming Geekly roundup Geeks Anonymous Geekwear Gimme That Star Trek Godzilla Golden Age Grant Morrison Great Match-Ups of Science Fiction Green Arrow Green Lantern Hawkman Hero Points Podcast Holidays House of Mystery Hulk Human Target Improv Inspiration Intersect Invasion Invasion Podcast Iron Man Jack Kirby Jimmy Olsen JLA JSA Judge Dredd K9 the Series Kirby Motivationals Krypto Kung Fu Learning to Fly Legion Letters pages Liveblog Lonely Hearts Podcast Lord of the Rings Machine Man Motivationals Man-Thing Marquee Masters of the Universe Memes Memorable Moments Metal Men Metamorpho Micronauts Millennium Mini-Comics Monday Morning Macking Movies Mr. Terrific Music Nelvana of the Northern Lights Nightmare Fuel Number Ones Obituaries oHOTmu OR NOT? Old52 One Panel Outsiders Panels from Sheena Paper Dolls Play Podcast Polls Questionable Fridays Radio Rants Reaganocomics Recollected Red Bee Red Tornado Reign Retro-Comics Reviews Rom RPGs Sandman Sapphire & Steel Sarah Jane Adventures Saturday Morning Cartoons SBG for Girls Seasons of DWAITAS Secret Origins Podcast Secret Wars SF Shut Up Star Boy Silver Age Siskoid as Editor Siskoid's Mailbox Space 1999 Spectre Spider-Man Spring Cleaning ST non-fiction ST novels: DS9 ST novels: S.C.E. ST novels: The Shat ST novels: TNG ST novels: TOS Star Trek Streaky Suicide Squad Supergirl Superman Supershill Swamp Thing Tales from Earth-Prime Team Horrible Teen Titans That Franchise I Never Talk About The Prisoner The Thing Then and Now Theory Thor Thursdays of Two Worlds Time Capsule Timeslip Tintin Torchwood Tourist Traps of the Forgotten Realms Toys Turnarounds TV V Waking Life Warehouse 13 Websites What If? Who's This? Whoniverse-B Wikileaked Wonder Woman X-Files X-Men Zero Hour Strikes Zine